January 1998
s m u g
feed hollywood
by Brian Thomas

Top Tension

Itís a compulsion parodied year-round by David Letterman. Whether youíre Mister Blackwell or Otto Schindler, thereís some sort of basic human need to make lists, a futile effort to make some sense of a chaotic universe. At a randomly chosen point in the Earthís orbit around the Sun - about a week after a more logical point we celebrate the fact that that orbit continues without an annoying collision with another planet by adding a number to the list of successful orbits. This celebration takes the form of extreme inebriation and the making of lists.

One of the most common lists made of the previous yearís events is the Top Ten Films list. Seeking a common platform, these are almost always lists of ten, so that we can easily write a list on our toes to carry around with us. Otherwise, I canít see why we canít have a Top Seventeen for a good year or a Top Three for a particularly unproductive year.

Well, I love to buck a random trend, so Iíve decided to respond to the annual pressure to write up one of these things by throwing a monkey wrench into the works and presenting my first annual Top Eleven Movie List. This should really make me an outcast with the cultural accountants who like to keep their figures clean. Why eleven? Well, itís a much neglected prime number. Plus, as rock legend Nigel Tufnel has pointed out, "Itís one more." Adding to my infamy, Iím cheating and sneaking in a couple more titles. Some will claim that Iím wimping out, man by listing the films in alphabetical order rather than by which-oneís-best order. They can meet me out in the parking lot for a fistfight after reading the column. Now, if youíre quite ready, let us begin:

BOOGIE NIGHTS

Heavily influenced by Quentin Tarantino (whose Jackie Brown narrowly missed the list), writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (not to be confused with Paul Anderson, who gave us Event Horizon this year) creates a funny, frightening, and touching portrait of the glory days of disco porn. Extra points for dedicating the film to the late Ernie Anderson: Ohio horror movie host, ABC network announcer, and Tim Conwayís old partner.

CHASING AMY

People often ask me (well, not that often) what comic-book artists are really like. Now I can finally show them a movie that gives them an accurate picture. We commonly find cartoonists buying their stories on the black market, confusing their sexual preferences and screaming at each other in the rain.

CONTACT

First contact stories are big favorites in science fiction. This is one of the best ever movies on the subject. And Jody Foster is the scientist Iíd most like to sit under the stars with.

FIRST STRIKE and OPERATION CONDOR

These are old movies so they count as one. Theyíve been chopped by editors, but given improved soundtracks for American consumption, so itís hard for me to decide which version of each is better. But I donít want to do anything to discourage the release of more Jackie Chan flicks here. Miramax, New Line - keep Ďem cominí.

GROSSE POINTE BLANK

This one rocked me totally on so many levels. I liked Romy and Michelleí s, but I really hoped my own high school reunion would be more like this one. As it turned out, I didnít get laid or attacked by assassins at mine. Cusack says heís writing a sequel.

MOTHER

Those that prefer fart jokes over any other variety often fail to Ďgetí movies by Albert Brooks, but I love the way he tickles my mind as well as my funny bone. This is his most accessible, subtly blended work. I recommend it to everyone whoís ever had a mother. Narrowly beats out Private Parts to get on the list.

THE PILLOW BOOK

Not for the impatient, this tale gets more and more twisted with every frame. Some day, writing on the human epidermis could replace e-mail.

THE FULL MONTY

To be followed by a sequel in which out-of-work strippers open their own steel mill. The second movie on my list with a whip-it-out thing going on. Please donít read too much into it.

SCREAM and SCREAM 2

A lot of people think that horror movies have been less successful the past ten years or so because the public doesnít like them any more. Now they should know it was because most of them were unimaginative, derivative, formula crap.

STARSHIP TROOPERS

War is hell in space, but itís worth it for full citizenship. Explosions, gore, nudity, alien monsters Ė whatís not to like here?

TITANIC

Shot on location aboard the real Titanic. Half the movieís awful, but itís two movies in size and the other half is amazing. Much better than any of the Airport movies. I hear it cost over 30 million dollars to make.

I also want to make special mention of the poorly titled Freeway, which got negligible theatrical play and debuted on video recently. Itís a minor classic and deserved much more attention.

Double Dippers Those hogging the silver screen spotlight this month include: Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Downey, Jr., Robert DeNiro, John Cusack, and Robin Williams.

brian@smug.com

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