McCabe and Mrs. Miller (directed by Robert Altman) Robert Altman is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s a shame this movie doesn’t come up more often in discussions about westerns. It isn’t a cowboys vs. Indians shoot ’em up. Instead, it’s a bleak & hopeful melancholy love story. John McCabe (Warren Beatty) is a gambler that stumbles into a small Western Washington town. He quickly takes a position of prominence and control in a place populated mainly by lethargic miners. To keep control, he builds a brothel and pays for three sex workers from a few towns over to live there. One of them, Constance Miller (Julie Christie), has excellent business acumen, and the two become partners in building up the town. Unfortunately, their business decisions make them a target of more prominent, more powerful men, which can only lead to tragedy. In addition, opium comes to their home, and that serves to further complicate things. Altman referred to the picture as an anti-Western, and it’s clear because it completely subverts all the tropes you expect from such a movie.
Throughout 46 seasons, Saturday Night Live has had over 160 cast members. There are ones that are very memorable due to the show spotlighting more often than others. There are ones that were on so briefly most people don’t even know they were on the program (Ben Stiller, Damon Wayans, Robert Downey Jr.). Some cast members are incredibly overrated (looking in Kate McKinnon’s direction), while others are solid MVPs that never got the praise they deserved (did someone say, Ana Gasteyer?). Here are my top 10 favorite cast members (in order of joining the show) of Saturday Night Live with my thoughts on why I love them and a tiny sample of their work.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (directed by Stephen Spielberg) From my full review Raiders certainly holds up as a great adventure movie. The writing is sharp, and the characters are fully realized so that everyone has a personality without becoming an obnoxious exaggeration. Belloq could easily have moved into a farce of a French snob, but he is grounded and feels like a more realistic person. The same is said for the Nazi antagonists alongside him. They are both character types from genre films but also not grotesque cartoons. In modern cinema, we often get more exposition around villains to explain motivation and layout a master plan. While Belloq does have his own designs on the Ark, I don’t think there was ever a scene that felt like awkward exposition. His goals are clearly stated, and then the story moves on.
Funny enough, my first exposure to the narrative of Sunset Boulevard was an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. The episode was titled “Sepulveda Boulevard” and put Montana Max in the William Holden role while Elmyra played the Norma Desmond analog. Hampton the Pig served as the stand-in for Otto Preminger’s faithful butler. So when I was an adult, I already understood the general narrative of this fantastic film. Billy Wilder delivers a tremendous variation on the noir film by reframing it as a Hollywood movie.
Longtime readers of the blog won’t be surprised to hear what an influence David Lynch has had on me in my taste for media and artistic perspectives. I watched Twin Peaks during its original run at the age of 9-10. However, it wouldn’t be until college that I first saw the feature film prequel Fire Walk With Me, and I can’t say I enjoyed the film on my first viewing. Like many Peaks fans, I found it was very different from what I expected.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to have a lot of respect for David Fincher’s filmmaking. I know Alien 3 was my first encounter with him, but Seven was the first Fincher film to leave an indelible impression on me. I didn’t first see it until I was in college. I was able to pick up one of the special editions that came out in 2000; from what I gather, this was all the material from a Criterion Laserdisc transferred over to New Line Cinema. The bonus materials on a Fincher DVD are often very informative, allowing you to really dig into how he approaches the craft.
In honor of turning 40 years of age, I am presenting a list of my 40 Favorite Films in order. The long list was over 200 items so this has been pared down and mulled over considerably . The films that make up the bottom part of a list like this are often the “just made its.” They had some unique element, in some cases utterly indescribable, that qualified them for a spot over something else. We begin with Wet Hot American Summer, a film I saw in 2001 while a college student. I had become tangentially aware of The State through one of my friends Keith, the same friend who introduced me to Mr. Show and for whom I am incredibly thankful. These shows ultimately helped shape my personal taste in comedy in a significant way.
Beatty delivered one of his best performances near the end of his acting career as Lotso-Huggin’ Bear, the villain of the third Toy Story movie. By now, the shine of Pixar has faded a bit, but for the longest time, it seemed they could do no wrong. I was pretty skeptical going into a third Toy Story if the quality could be maintained, yet they presented one of the best outings yet. Helping that work was Beatty in the role of the antagonist. Lotso holds a grudge after he is left behind at a rest stop by his owner. This is made even worse when he arrives home and finds she’s had a replacement Lotso bought for her. Now he spends his twilight years in a daycare where he runs things with an iron fist when the humans go home. Beatty does a great job bringing layers to Lotso, showcasing his charisma and grandfatherly charm at the start. When things get dire, he doesn’t hold back on the villainy, and it is what makes the character one of the more compelling villains created by Pixar.
It’s my 2,000th post on PopCult, and I thought I should celebrate it by looking at the best performances of Richard Jenkins. His birthday is on Tuesday, May 4th, and this year he’ll be turning 74. Jenkins was born in DeKalb County in Northern Illinois. His dad was a dentist, and his mother was a housewife, giving Jenkins a reasonably typical childhood in the 1950s. Jenkins discovered acting in high school and pursued it in college at Wesleyan University and then worked with a theater company in Rhode Island. Jenkins stayed with the Trinity Repertory Company until 1994, making his time with them twenty years. The last four years of that time he spent as their artistic director. What I love about Richard Jenkins is how he is a consummate character actor. He rarely steals the spotlight, but when his characters are given a focus, you are floored. Jenkins does comedy just as well as he does drama which is a rare skill in performers. Here are some fantastic performances he’s given over the years.
The latest episode of the PopCult Podcast is here.
I change the format up by cutting the solo segments with me and keeping as all conversation between myself and Ariana. The episode clocks in at over an hour and a half so there’s a lot still there. We start things off by sharing our Top 5 Underrated Movies lists and then have a conversation about the highly controversial Them (Amazon Prime).
We’d love to know what you thought of this episode so leave your comments here or leave a voice message on our Anchor page. We might share your comment on an upcoming episode of the show.