MOVIES THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: The Blues Brothers (1980)

They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.  Arguably the greatest musical action dramady of all time (it’s definitely the best bluesical ever), this 1980 oeuvre featured an all-star cast with such luminaries as Cab Calloway, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, and an outstanding backing band including the likes of Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn.  Oh yeah, and Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were also in this picture, too.

Sure, this movie’s got plenty of blues, soul and R’nB, but there’s more to it than that.  Although some of the special effects look a little cheesy some 30+ years later (ie the Illinois Nazis’ falling car or when Belushi “sees the light”), the chase scenes and action sequences are simply timeless.  I mean, the producers actually found an abandoned shopping mall, restocked and refurbished it, only to drive two cop cruisers and the Bluesmobile through the stores, completely trashing the place.  And those cars in the mall parking lot?  All brand-new, straight off the lot.  (There’s a reason why they didn’t hit ‘em!)  Yeah, I might have watched the special features a couple times…

This movie also delivers its share of comedy, with the rambunctious physical humour of Belushi duking it out with Aykroyd’s dead-pan wit.  And who can forget the hilarious one-liners, from “One soiled” to the omnipresent “We’re on a mission from God” to my personal favourite, “We got both kinds; country and western.”  I once used a modified version of the latter to respond to a request for reggae on my radio show.  “Dude, I play both kinds of music; stoner and doom!” ;)

What with all the belly-laughs, high-speed hijinks and groovy tunes, one hardly notices this movie is nearly two and a half hours long.  In fact, The Blues Brothers‘ official run-time is some 20 minutes shorter than the theatrical version of Clint Eastwood’s epic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Hey, I always did like Clint, but he never survived Bob’s Country Bunker…

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: One cannot help but be inspired by this uplifting tale.  Alas, when I put on my first major concert, I tried to hire a bunch of orphans to pass out flyers.  In 1980, that meant a packed house.  These days, it’s considered child abuse.  Oh, how the music business has changed!  Sadly, I do believe that Aretha’s the only one of the performing legends who’s still with us today.  (Aside from Dan Aykroyd, that is.)  Must be all those fried chickens… and a Coke. ;)

About these ads

MOVIES THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Dazed and Confused (1993)

This is not a coming-of-age story, one that concludes with one character going to college, another dying in a car crash, or any of that crap.  There is no Hollywood ending to this movie in which everything comes up roses (well, I suppose that’s debatable).  No, this is real-life, or as close at it comes to it, considering that the film features Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey and Ben Affleck–all before they were famous, mind you.  In fact, most of the aforementioned had minor parts in this film; you may have noticed that Jovovich is the only big name that appears on the poster, unless you count Rory Cochrane.  Whatever happened to that guy, anyways?

Cochrane, who would later appear in such other quotable films as Empire Records and the truly forgettable Sunset Strip, would go on to make it big on TV in CSI: Miami and 24, but is still perhaps best remembered as scene-stealing stoner Slater from this 1993 Richard Linklater joint.  Set in Austin, Texas on the last day of school, 1976, this film has often been considered a slightly-updated take on American Graffiti.  But while the latter was more about cars (and ended with one character going to college, another dying in a car crash), the focus of Dazed and Confused is definitely on the tunes, with a killer 70’s rock soundtrack.  Although the Zeppelin song that inspired the title isn’t heard at any time during this flick, you’ve still got your Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Seals & Crofts…  OK, so the latter is perhaps a little outta place on that list, but it still has its moment within the movie.

The music might have sucked me in, but opposed to, say, Detroit Rock City, which also cranks the classic rock as it weaves an inspirational tale around a KISS concert, there isn’t any glorious road trip that turns young boys into men here, just a buncha kids cruising around town, smoking a little weed and playing a little Foghat on their eight-track decks.  You do get the sense that Mitch Kramer, the freshman hero, will come one step closer to manhood by the end of the summer–but he’ll probably still get his ass busted on the first day of school.  Hell, some of the hazing scenes seem pretty harsh; you definitely could not paddle kids in the parking lot while the principal turned a blind eye nowadays, but hey, don’t mess with Texas, eh?

I mean really, there is no inspirational message to be taken from this movie that isn’t a total cliche (“Stick it to the man!”  “Let it Ride,” etc), but it offers an escape to a simpler time, when Aerosmith, not KISS, was the hottest band in the land (though it would only take the latter another couple summers), kids could buy beer at convenience stores and throwing a trashcan at your neighbour’s mailbox would get a gun pointed in your face.  Like I said, don’t mess with Texas!

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: So many life lessons were learned here, from “make sure your parents are gone before throwing a kegger” to “don’t get in a fight with a guy in a 50’s greaser uniform,” but were it not for Dazed and Confused, I never would’ve known that George Washington toked weed, man.  It was a good cash crop for the southern states, man!

MOVIES THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Almost Famous (2000)

Man, this movie is sorta like my slump-buster.  I was really feeling like shit the other day, early-onset SAD I guess, but I put in Almost Famous, and now it’s all good.  This turn-of-the-century film, an ode to Cameron Crowe’s days on the road as a teenage rock writer, really struck a chord with me the first time I saw it.  I didn’t sleep for days.  Once an aspiring rock writer myself, I thought this flick really romanticized the idea of going on the road with a buncha rock stars–and it was all loosely based on true events, Stillwater supposedly being stand-ins for the Allman Brothers, an early Crowe assignment.  (The DVD version I got includes some of his articles in the Special Features.  Not bad for a 16-year-old…)

Mind you, by the time I got into the game, zines and labels were reluctant to even send out CDs anymore (digital promos FTW), much less send writers out on the road with bands.  I read some of the stories from the Kerrang guys in that metal writers handbook, and was like man, I was Born Too Late.  Not that I consider myself a journalist, anyways, but when I was in journalism school, this movie was my holy grail.

A supurb ensemble cast, with excellent performances by Kate Hudson, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Frances McDormand, but the kid who steals the show is one Patrick Fugit, a rookie actor playing the Crowe character rechristened William Miller.  Dude has gone on to guest-star in three episodes of ER and act in a buncha movies I’ve never heard of, but he really brought this one to life.  Also, props go to Jason Lee and Billy Crudup, who captured the lead singer/lead guitarist dynamic to a T.

This classic road movie has several great scenes and memorable lines (“I dig music… I’m on drugs!” or “Greenville is so boring. You know, any other city in the world and you’d still be a virgin.”), but it’s the music that really makes this movie, tunes like “Search and Destroy” from The Stooges or “Tangerine” by Led Zep are well-placed throughout the film.  Even the original songs we hear from Stillwater are pretty sweet, not to mention “Tiny Dancer.”  This flick won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, but it shoulda got another one for Best Use of Tiny Dancer–and I’m not even an Elton John fan.  Not sure the soundtrack is better than sex, though.  I guess Nick Bradshaw must fuck a lotta 1o-dollar whores.  WTF is Timeout, anyways?

Pretentious critics and awards aside, this movie really captures the spirit of rock ‘n roll.  With the likes of Peter Frampton and Nancy Wilson playing big roles behind the scenes in addition to Crowe’s own experiences from the early 70’s, this movie’s about as real as it gets.  On the other hand, if you wanna watch a shitty-ass attempt at capturing the vibe, its antithesis would be Sunset Strip, set in the same era and released the same year.  I still can’t erase the memories of that one from my mind.  Hell, I might hafta go and watch Almost Famous again now that I brought it up…

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: Watching this movie made me develop a new-found respect for Sir Elton.  It also taught me that fact-checking is just an excuse for people to retract their stories, which is why I haven’t done anything with that Magazine Journalism degree besides putting it in a nice frame.

MOVIES THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006)

With a new season just getting underway, I thought it would be a good time to revisit my favourite hockey film: Bon Cop, Bad Cop, a bilingual action comedy starring Patrick Huard and Colm Feore as two cops from Les Deux Solitudes on the hunt of the Tattoo Killer, who is knocking off unpopular hockey personalities.  While they clearly couldn’t get the NHL’s permission for this, any true fan can figure out who they’re referring to (Marcel Aubut, Eric Lindros, Peter Pocklington, Gary Bettman).  In fact, the commissioner’s character, Harry Buttman, is played by Richard Howland, an actor who stands 4-foot-7, and bears a slight resemblance to the man he’s portraying.

The biggest Canadian blockbuster not named FUBAR or the Trailer Park Boys, Bon Cop, Bad Cop actually passed Porky’s as the highest-grossing Canadian film upon its release, though it’s since been surpassed by a movie that’s not particularly Canadian.  However, its place in modern-day Canadiana remains secure.  The movie, which was directed by a francophone and produced by an anglo-Montrealer, sees the forces of the fictional Ontario Police Service and Securité de Québec–the film-makers not receiving permission from the real agencies, either, for obvious reasons–combined when a dead man is found on top of the sign saying “Welcome to Ontario” on one side and “Bienvenue à Québec” on the other.  (I don’t think this sign really exists, either.)

Feore plays a middle-aged, by-the-book Ontario cop named Martin Ward who’s looking to be moved into a desk job, and just happens to speak French, since he took “Français Enrichi” at Upper Canada College, and lived in Paris for a year.  Huard’s character, David Bouchard, has probably never read the book–and like most Montrealers, is more or less bilingual.  What ensues is a high-speed, frenetic adventure in both official languages, with hilarious cameos from the likes of Pierre Lebeau (“Méo” from Les Boys franchise, in an unexpected turn as a police captain!) and Louis-José Houde, the superstar comedian who brings his signature brand of humour to a forensic scientist named Jeff.  Never have I seen a Canadian film that combines comedy and action with such aplomb–this is definitely one of my Top Five non-import films!

I gotta say that I’d seen this movie on both the CBC and Radio-Canada before I bought it on DVD.  While the francophone network showed the full, uncut version, CBC omitted the “Leçons de Québécois 101” scene, while also editing the best parts out of the “Vive le Québec libre” sex scene.  And they say that CBC is a liberal network, eh?

It’s also worth noting that Starbuck, the new Patrick Huard movie that reunites him with Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse, his daughter from Bon Cop–now legally old enough to ogle–was well received at TIFF, finishing as a runner-up for the Cadillac People’s Choice Award.  It’s currently screening with English subtitles at the Cumberland theatre in Yorkville.  Also opening this weekend in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal is French Immersion, the directorial debut from Bon Cop producer Kevin Tierney, which includes Colm Feore in its large ensemble cast.  I will hafta try to squeeze both in around all the football–not to mention the Flames’ season opener–this weekend.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: Although I learned all the French swear words in junior high, I never realized how much fun swearing en français was until I saw this film.  What’s especially great is that I can yell “calisse” and “tabarnak” to my heart’s content at the TV when the Seahawks give up a TD–without getting kicked out of the bar!

MOVIES THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: American Psycho (2000)

I swear to Satan, this has nothing to do with John Baird’s business card.  I watched American Psycho for the 1,980th time last nite after an incident from the nite before reminded me that it had been weeks, if not months since my last viewing.  There was a girl (early 20s, blonde) in my apartment drinking one of those Tim Horton’s yogurt parfaits, and I noticed it left a ring on my Chinese mahogany table, since I had forgotten to give her a coaster.  I asked her if she was ready to throw it in the garbage, then got up to grab a paper towel and proceeded to vigorously wipe down the area.  (It’s a good thing I don’t have a nail gun in my apartment!)

Mary Harron’s film, which was largely shot in Toronto, is without a doubt the most hilarious horror movie ever made.  They actually show it on Showcase from time to time, due to its Canadian content, albeit never before midnite–though I do have it on DVD now.  I did eventually read the book by Bret Easton Ellis, and while just about every scene from the film is lifted directly from Ellis’ work, the book goes a lot further, and is in fact quite disturbing.  On the other hand, Christian Bale’s performance in his breakout role as Patrick Bateman is nothing short of a laugh riot!

This is perhaps one of the most quotable movies of all time (provided that your only clear, identifiable emotions are greed and disgust), and still plays its part in pop culture today.  A couple months ago, Scouting New York took a look back at all the real-life bars and restaurants mentioned in the film, many of which are still open.  That said, 150 Wooster now sells baby carriages and Tunnel plays host to fashion shows.  And while Dorsia was a figment of Ellis’ imagination, one of the guys from Godsmack apparently opened a real-life Dorsia in Chelsea sometime around 2008.  Alas, the place didn’t last long–and any reviews of the restaurant quickly gave way to an American Psycho quotefest.  (Apparently they just opened one in London, though.)

Alas, while I always found the movie entertaining, it wasn’t until I started working in the financial industry that I realized how much it mirrors my real life.  Much like Patrick Bateman, the most stressful part of my day is getting to work in the morning, and the most difficult decision I have to make is where to go for lunch.  On the other hand, you won’t find any dead hookers in my closet.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: Whenever I don’t feel like going out for drinks with colleagues after work, I either Just Say No!, or I tell them “No can do, got an 8:30 res at Dorsia–great sea urchin ceviche!”