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Edna Mode is a fashion designer to the stars, and by stars I mean super heroes. She is the bespeckled wonder responsible for suiting up The Incredibles and she has one golden rule: no capes. Clearly no one in a certain galaxy far, far away cares to follow this little nugget of common sense. There are capes nearly everywhere you look. Every dramatic exit is done with the flourish of a cape. So even though we can all agree they’re a stupid sartorial choice, let’s indulge ourselves with an ode to Star Wars’s sweeping capes and the people who wear them.
[By the way: did you know Sean and are watching 24 hours of Star Wars movies? What else could inspire such a post?]
10. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill): Luke is not normally prone to capes and yet this teeny tiny glimpse of one could just as easily held the #1 spot as #10. It’s part of his big reveal and proves a flair for the dramatic runs in the family.
9. Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits, Episodes I-III): as a Senator, Bail Organa indulges a certain stateliness. This guy’s got more than one cape in his closet and he doesn’t care who knows. You might start to think that the Rebel Alliance might have been more successful had they only cut all the capes – I bet you could build a death star or two for the price of their dry cleaning bill.
8. General Grievous (Episode III): I can’t help but feel that this dude wears such a suspiciously huge cape that someone should have guessed that he was hiding something underneath. In fact, I am routinely surprised and disappointed by what the so-called Force fails to pick up. Some pretty big stuff, to be honest, that even your average intuition could have detected. It doesn’t take a jedi knight to figure out that big cape = big trouble.
7. Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie, Episodes VII-VIII): I never watched any Star Wars growing up but even I couldn’t fail to pick on some of the iconic images so persistent in popular culture. I recognized storm troopers as the bad guys of Star Wars long before anyone told me they were but to be honest, as a kid I always imagined that they were robots. I wasn’t cured of this delusion until The Force Awakens, when I learned there were humans inside that molded plastic. The uniformity of their uniforms (if you’ll forgive my redundancy) spelled machine to me – perhaps being a woman I just have an innate fear of wearing the same thing as someone else (who wore it best?) and Captain Phasma feels me. It’s hard to really distinguish yourself in a suit of armour but she accessories with this somber one-shouldered garment.
6. Padme (Natalie Portman, Episodes I-III): Padme also has an awful lot of capes, even when you sort them from the similar appeal of the long jacket, the cloak, the robe, and the poncho. No matter how you slice it these folks sure like to have a piece of cloth flowing behind them, announcing arrivals and departures. Is it dangerous around all these ship engines? Definitely. Awkward in battle? Absolutely. And yet: total capetown.
5. Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One): I think Krennic’s capes are a direct reflection of his lack of confidence. He’s insecure, so he tries to impress people with his vestments. He certainly looks important but capes don’t make you competent.
4. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Episodes VI-IX): Kylo Ren is a lot like his father – petulant and temperamental with a well-developed emo side. It’s no surprise that the cape appeals to him as well. It helps a young guy who perhaps isn’t fully respected yet cut an imposing figure.
3. Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch, Episodes V-VI): for some reason, lots of little boys were absolutely taken with Boba Fett because of his ‘cool armour’ which is baffling to me. Boba Fett is a boring, unnoteworthy character as far as I’m concerned. But he’s got this little torn piece of canvas dangling from his shoulder, so he’s not without vanity. He may never show his face, but he wants you to know he’s an individual.
2. Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams, Episodes V-VI): this dude may be a scoundrel and a cheat but he’s charming and well-dressed and let’s face it, a bit of a scene-stealer. We learn in Solo: A Star Wars Story that the Millennium Falcon has a cape room in it, that’s how much Lando loves his capes, so it’s hard to pick just one. Plus, Williams has a knack for using them in a commanding but flashy way. He wears the cape, the cape doesn’t wear him.
- Darth Vader: production designer John Barry and costume designer John Mollo have my utmost admiration for having come up with perhaps THE most iconic look of the 20th, and maybe even 21st, century. Darth Vader is immediately intimidating, the cape makes him broader, more imposing, and it follows the same lines of his helmet. Darth Vader is scary as heck and in a series of films full of costumes the likes of which we’ve never seen before, his is the most memorable.
I think this list will vary wildly depending on when you were born and what Disney movies were most precious to you as a kid – the ones that get you in childhood are destined to hold the greatest impact. Also, though Disney now owns both Marvel and Star Wars, both of which are of course replete with the baddest of the baddies, I’m sticking to Disney-Pixar here for simplicity’s sake.
10. Man/The Hunter, Bambi. I still remember being flooded with shame when we find out that our friend’s greatest enemy is humans. Humans! I myself was a tiny human, quaking with guilt by association. He is faceless, unnamed, unknown, and yet his presence is vile and antagonistic, instilling liquid fear into all the beating hearts in the forest. Their panic was contagious and though we see only his shadow, the score identifies him quite clearly as predator. And as if killing Bambi’s mother wasn’t enough, he also sets fire to their home, forcing all the animals to flee. It’s an awful legacy to inherit as a child and clearly I’m still not over it.
9. Lady Tremaine, Cinderella. I think the scariest thing as a kid is learning that your parents could die, and Disney liked to press the orphan button more than most. With her mother already dead, Cinderella’s kind but useless father remarries a bitter woman rather than take on being a single dad. Lady Tremaine, the archetype for wicked stepmothers, is the worst kind of villain: the kind who lives right in your house! When Cinderella’s father also dies, there’s nothing left to stop her from treating Cinderella like the help. Worse than the help, really, because she isn’t even paid. She’s abused and neglected in her own home, threatened continuously with homelessness. Lady Tremaine goes out of her way to make sure Cinderella knows she isn’t loved or cared for, and her stepsisters only reinforce these points, both by comparison, and by their own poor behaviour. As children we have very acute sense of justice, particularly when it comes to siblings, and to see Cinderella treated like a second class citizen is unnerving. But to understand that your mom and your dad could die, leaving you with a hateful old woman? That doesn’t bear contemplation.
8. Governor Ratcliffe, Pocahontas. Ratcliffe is based on a real historical figure, but he’s also just colonialism personified. He’s greedy, manipulative, and power-hungry, but worst of all, he’s crippled by xenophobia. He’s not going to just take the Indians’ gold, he’s going to take their land and their lives as well. And he feels entitled! They’re not even people to him, they’re just obstacles to his success and he has no moral qualms whatsoever about mowing them down to get what he wants. Like Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, what makes these men truly fightening is how much they believe themselves to be in the right. Their moral authority and superiority make them impossible to argue with, and their outlook allows them to reclassify people as sub-human when convenient, a truly terrifying concept, and not just for children.
7. Lotso, Toy Story 3. A big, pink, strawberry-scented teddy bear, Lots-o’-Huggin Bear is the surprising villain of Toy Story 3, running the Sunnyside Daycare like a prison – as one toy describes him to our pal Woody, “The guy may seem plush and huggable on the outside. But inside, he’s a monster.” There are two things that make Lotso a truly memorable villain as far as I’m concerned. First, that he starts off friendly and welcoming. A devil in disguise, he’s the most horrifying kind of bad guy, the kind on the news, the kind your mother warns you about, the ones you can’t spot with the naked eye. Most other Disney villains wear black and dark purple and blood red. They have sharp features and mean eyes and you know what’s what. So when his true self is revealed – a sadistic dictator fueled by rage – it’s a truly terrifying transformation. But what really sets him apart in my opinion is his back story. We know very little about the previous villains on this list – the dark spots in their hearts, their motivations, the root of their malevolence. But with Lotso, we know. We know he was once the beloved toy of a little girl named Daisy. And one day he was lost – through no fault or lack of affection on Daisy’s part, but Lotso took it hard. Still, devoted to his kid he somehow makes it back to her home where he finds that he’s been replaced by a brand new Lotso. Something inside of Lotso is broken in that moment, and his anger and bitterness breed evil. It’s brilliant story-telling, and you might even draw parallels with the new Joker movie, but at the end of the day, Lotso is a complex villain stuffed with nihilism.
6. Jafar, Aladdin. Jafar looks like a proper villain. He has a proper villain sidekick and proper villain goals and a delicious theatricality. He wants money and power. He’s willing to sacrifice a street urchin to get them. As the sultan’s “most loyal and trusted” vizier, his deviousness and duplicity are legendary. He too presents one face to the royal court while another is revealed in his underground lair. He’s manipulative, employing hypnotic powers to keep the sultan under his control. And while murder and greedily wanting world domination are of course very bad in and of themselves, I didn’t fully appreciate Jafar’s nefarious depths until I watched Aladdin as an adult and noticed the particularly troubling relationship with Jasmine. Who, let’s remember is a 15 year old girl. And whom he schemes to marry to gain status, and when that fails him, he literally has her in manacles, and treats her like a sex slave. It’s disturbing.
5. Captain Hook, Peter Pan. This is one case where the villain may outshine the hero in his own movie. Though a bloodthirsty pirate, Hook has abandoned the high seas to devote himself (and his ship) to being the scourge of Neverland and exacting revenge on Peter Pan. Peter may just be a boy, but he once cut off Hook’s hand and fed it to a crocodile. Fantastically, that crocodile haunts Hook, following him around with the awful threat of his tick-tock-tick-tock. I like to believe that the croc has simply got a taste for human flesh and wants more of where the hand came from. Sure he’s up for slaughtering children; he’ll even murder members of his own crew. But his temper leaves him vulnerable and his single-minded revenge is often his undoing. Plus that damn crocodile – that strange reptilian relationship alone is the source of almost comedic relief, a rarity for Disney’s villains. Thus, Hook is nearly a sympathetic figure, destined to be forever thwarted, forever chased by his own hand, haunted by the memory of his own amputation.
4. Cruella De Vil, 101 Dalmatians. Cruella is an interesting villain because she doesn’t have any powers or magic lofty ambitions. She’s a spoiled heiress who simply insists on having everything she wants, even if it means stealing the last 15 puppies for a dalmatian coat she’s been dying to add to her already stuffed fur closet. She is reckless and impetuous and eventually driven into a mad, frothing fury due to her own relentless pursuit of said dogs. She’s an attention whore, rude to others, thoughtless when it comes to anyone else. She’s among the more stylish of the Disney villains, and considering we’ve got be-feathered Hook and heavily-accessorized Jafar on this list already, that’s saying something. She’s got signature half-black, half-white hair, green-coated eyelids, and red opera-length gloves. She’s almost always got a cigarette holder in one hand, leaving behind a trail of vile smoke. Her current coat (mink, I believe) is larger than life while her own frame is skeletal. She’s a lot of fun and became even more dynamic when played by Glenn Close in a live-action remake (and she will be again when Emma Stone reprises the role in a movie devoted to the villainess).
3. Gaston, Beauty and The Beast. Frankly, I’m surprised he’s not my #1. He’s boastful and vain – he’s the Kanye West of Disney villains. I admit this: I am a little bit (lotta bit) attracted to arrogance. The incel vibes are a total turn off though, and Gaston has that in spades. He’s an excellent gambler, an excellent shot, and roughly the size of a barge. So he’s baffled to be rejected for the first time in his life, by the town’s beauty, Belle. And once he’s set his sights on her, he can’t possibly settle for anyone whose affections are reciprocal. Now, when Gaston, who is already a huge jerk, finds out that the woman who spurned him is falling for a beast, that just blows his gasket and he is filled with a murderous rage, a rage so visceral he immediately forms a mob with actual pitchforks and storms a goddamned castle.
2. Scar, The Lion King. I’m not sure that Scar is my #2, but in a recent Twitter poll, he was almost universally voted #1. Markus volunteered “Scar is smart, conniving, and has an amazing voice. Gaston is just a douchey beefcake.” Wait – douchey beefcake – is THAT my type? Anyway, if you like Jafar’s penchant for theatrics, you’re gonna love Scar. Had he studied theatre and moved to NYC, his destiny would have been much different. But alas, he languished in the jungle with only hyenas for an audience, and they don’t applaud well on account of their paws. Scar is the Claudius to Mufasa’s King Hamlet, and if fratricide isn’t terrible enough for you, he pins it on an innocent little cub and then orders his murder too. And it’s not even like Scar was suffering – he had a cushy royal life. He could have been living it up like Prince Harry with all the perks and none of the responsibility. But no. Murder. BUT he does have a truly excellent musical number.
1. Ursula, The Little Mermaid. I have serious #UrsulaGoals. I want to be her when I grow up: commanding, stylish, large and in charge. Perhaps just a tad less soul-sucky. Ursula is actually based on a drag queen named Devine. Her shock of white hair, blood red lips, even a bold blue eye – this witch has been to Sephora and you know she’d kill it on Instagram if she could access it underwater. She’s conniving and manipulative, with a sadistic streak as thick as her lipgloss. Disney may not be ready to give us a thicc princess, but Ursula is unapologetically curvy, rocking a body-conscious, cleavage-baring, backless dress and vamping at every opportunity. I’m not an opportunistic cannibal (at least not yet), but otherwise, Ursula is pure inspiration from Disney’s dark side.
My little heart is swollen with song lately, because I’ve discovered that Disney has put 90s-era soundtracks out on vinyl and I’m acutely here for it. I’ve got The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and Aladdin, and I’m just fluttering around my home like a goddamn Disney princess, fully expecting a bird to tie a bow in my hair at literally any moment. I’m at Disney World, looking for any excuse to blow my wad (of money), quite possibly scouring its shops, hundreds of shops, for more soundtracks to add to my collection.
Admit it – you’ve got a favourite Disney song. I’ve got dozens. So just know that to whittle the list down to 10 was excruciating.
10. When She Loved Me, Toy Story 2. Written by Randy Newman and performed by Sarah McLachlan. I don’t even like Sarah McLachlan, like at all, but this song is perfect as it backs a montage wherein Jessie reveals her melancholy to pal Woody. How her previous owner outgrew her and ultimately left her forgotten at the side of the road. I don’t know many people who made it through the song dry-eyed and I’m sure I don’t know ANYONE who survived it without some pretty definite pangs of guilt for our own neglected toys. It’s seriously one of the saddest songs ever written for film, especially when you hear it as a metaphor for children growing up and leaving their parents as well:
And when she was sad
I was there to dry her tears
And when was happy so was I
When she loved me
So the years went by
I stayed the same
But she began to drift away
I was left alone
Still I waited for the day
When she’d say I will always love you
Big gulps. Oddly (in my opinion), this movie didn’t win the Oscar that year – it went instead to You’ll Be In My Heart, from Tarzan, which is a good song, but you’ll not see it on this list.
9. Remember Me, Coco. Written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Performed in the film by Benjamin Bratt, Gael García Bernal, Anthony Gonzalez, and Ana Ofelia Murguía. Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade do the pop cover that plays over the credits. It’s used several times throughout the movie. We first hear it as Ernesto de la Cruz’s big hit song, a plea to his fans to revere him always, and then come to realize that it’s actually Hector’s song, a special lullaby for his baby daughter. The song is then used by Miguel to reach his great-grandmother, Coco, through the webs of her dementia. It’s a song that crosses multiple generations and unites them all.
I hold you in my heart
I sing a secret song to you
Each night we are apart
8. You’re Welcome, Moana. Moana overflows with beautiful music. How Far I’ll Go is an absolute treasure and We Know The Way is absurdly good, but for my money, it’s You’re Welcome every time, because it’s the one that my nephew, no more than 2 or 3 at the time but already a rock star in his heart, would break into randomly. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s performed by Dwayne The Rock Johnson, who, in case you haven’t noticed, is not a singer. But Miranda crafts the perfect song for his talents, and the perfect song for Maui to sing boastfully while hoodwinking Moana.
I know it’s a lot, the hair, the bod
When you’re staring at a demigod
What can I say except “You’re welcome”
7. Colors of The Wind, Pocahontas. Written by lyricist Stephen Schwartz and composer Alan Menken, this song was lauded as one of Disney’s best in many years. Vanessa Williams provided the pop cover that would be released ahead of the film, while Judy Kuhn did the singing in the movie. Inspiration was drawn Native American poetry, music and folklore, with an emphasis on the beauty of nature, and the special relationship that Pocahontas and her people had with it. The song is also in part a confrontation with John Smith regarding his Eurocentrism. It is philosophical rather than humourous, which was quite a departure for Disney at the time (1995) but it went on to win the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, the Grammy for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, and the Oscar for Best Original Song, beating out Bruce Springsteen’s Dead Man Walkin, Bryan Adams’ Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman, and Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend In Me from Toy Story.
You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew
6. He Mele No Lilo, Lilo & Stitch. Lilo & Stitch has an absurdly fun soundtrack, brimming with great Elvis tunes. But this song, written by Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu and Alan Silvestri, and performed by Ho’omalu and the Kamehameha Schools children’s chorus, has a distinct Hawaiian flavour that needs and deserves to be savoured.
5. Why Should I Worry, Oliver & Company. I swear my tail is wagging already. Written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight, and performed by Billy Joel, it’s sung by a street-wise dog to a kitten named Oliver who’s recently joined his gang of merry thieves (the movie is based on Oliver Twist). It’s got a bluesy feel to it, and it sounds exactly like the kind of song Billy Joel would sing if he was a dog. Or even if he wasn’t. Which he’s not.
4. A Whole New World, Aladdin. Truly I could have just as easily picked Friend Like Me, which is such an excellent use of Robin Williams’ many talents, but honestly, this ballad is the stuff Disney dreams are made of. I love that it’s a duet between Aladdin and Jasmine; it sounds like a musical discovery, full of wonder and awe. You can hear and taste the freedom. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice, Disney had another insta-, mega-hit on their hands. Performed by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga in the film, and by Peobo Bryson and Regina Belle on the radio cover, it went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song, and earned a Grammy for Song of Year. Song of the whole freaking Year! – the first and only time a Disney song has done that. It also went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, bumping Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You out of its 14 week stranglehold.
3. I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, The Lion King. 3 out of 5 songs nominated for Best Original Song at the 1994 Academy Awards were from The Lion King. This isn’t one of them. Oh sure, Elton John can belt out a ballad, but this song sounds so joyous to me. Simba is still a naive little cub, and he can only think of the perks of the job, like when a kid imagines that as an adult, he’ll eat ice cream for dinner every night, and doesn’t realize that it’s really about the bills, bills, bills. With music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, the song is performed by Jason Weaver, Laura Williams and Rowan Atkinson in the film. This may be The Lion King’s underdog song, but it’s catchy, bouncy, festive, goddammit, it’s happy. Simba’s dad is still alive, his uncle is only just plotting murder, he doesn’t yet have a flatulent roommate, and he’s still living the bachelor lifestyle. Life is good.
2. Kiss The Girl, The Little Mermaid. It was nearly impossible for me not to pick Part of Your World; my sisters had mermaid choreography to this song that they performed daily, hourly, in our pool. But Kiss The Girl is so interestingly atmospheric in unexpected ways. It’s definitely the only ballad on this list performed by a calypso crab deeply, oddly invested in a smooch between a mute and an oblivious prince. Written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman and performed by Samuel Wright, it was nominated for both the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Original Song but lost both to another song from the movie, Under The Sea.
1.Be Our Guest, Beauty and the Beast. Once again, Beauty and The Beast managed 3 Oscar nominations for Best Original Song from a single film, and though this one was nominated, it lost to the titular enchanting ballad sung by Celine Dion. But Academy voters were wrong. Be Our Guest is superior is every conceivable way. Beauty and the Beast is a super magical movie that is way problematic if you stop and think about it for even a millisecond so DON’T. Do not. Hang on to your whimsy and just enjoy. An anthropomorphic candelabra is a fine dining advocate, and an entire dinner service comes alive just to get some hot soup into a waif. It’s magnificent.
Sean and I are at Disney this week, so stay tuned to be inundated with the happiest place on Earth.
10. The Land of Steady Habits: Nicole Holofcener directs some layered, complex performances, especially from Ben Mendelsohn, who plays a man flexing his cringe-worthy mid-life crisis. The film ends up achingly authentic and deeply bittersweet.
9. Blockers: Kay Cannon is the woman behind one of the few comedies I laughed at in 2018, and its box office makes clear I wasn’t the only one. It’s both a teen comedy and an empty-nest one, and manages to be funny, irreverent, and modern about both. Cannon’s cast is loose, and the jokes land handily, the script smart and quick.
8. Outside In: Lynn Shelton gets some moving and tender performances out of Jay Duplass, who plays a man just released from prison, and Edie Falco, who plays his high school teacher who hastened his release. Their story is absorbing and empathetic, and Shelton teases some naked tension out of it, keeping us in her grip.
7. Private Life: Tamara Jenkins sneaks us behind closed doors to see witness adulthood and marriage as they are rarely seen. In the throes of fertility struggles, Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti give truly fine, heartbreaking performances.
6. What They Had: Elizabeth Chomko delivers a film that’s hard to look away from. Blythe Danner plays a woman with Alzheimer’s while her family (Robert Forster, Michael Shannon, Hilary Swank), swell and melt around her. It’s a real family drama that’s familiar and necessary.
5. The Kindergarten Teacher: Sara Colangelo justifies her American remake by packing a real punch and eliciting a wonderful performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal. This is one film that kept unfolding itself even after it was over, as it stayed in my thoughts for days.
4. A Wrinkle In Time: Ava DuVernay bravely adapted a beloved children’s book and ended up modernizing it, giving it relevance, and making an enduring, beautiful film that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.
3.You Were Never Really Here: Lynne Ramsay deals us a real swift punch with her gutsy, bold film, and proves she has a bracingly unique cinematic eye. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is riveting.
2. Leave No Trace: Debra Granik dares to mold this dramatic story into a quiet, low-key film that demands little yet accomplishes much – everything. Leads Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie have terrific chemistry that sprinkles the film in authenticity.
1. Can You Ever Forgive Me: Marielle Heller promises a lot with her premise, but manages to deliver even more. This movie worked for me on so many levels. The story is compelling. Melissa McCarthy is at her very best. It’s frequently laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a platonic LGBTQ love story with the unlikeliest, unlikable heroine, yet she’s always treated with dignity and empathy, and we can’t help but adore her, even in her crankiness.
10. Nick Offerman, Bad Times at the El Royale: To be honest, this slot could have gone to any cameo that Nick Offerman was doing, such is my love for the man. But having him appear in this tiny role is a brilliant move, because it signals to viewers that this piece of film will be more important than it seems, and it heightens the reveal when we start putting the pieces together.
9. Terry Crews, Sorry To Bother You: I hardly recognized him with all this hair! I love Terry Crews, and this cameo was superbly well-timed for the climate of 2018, only adding to the movie’s timeliness and social necessity. Crews plays Sergio, Cash’s uncle, who is losing his house but still allowing Cash to live there, despite the constantly missing rent. Sergio is to Cash what Crews is to all of us – affable and dependable.
8. Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic World: Though his screen time is small, his impact is big. Of course this is the cameo we all wanted and needed when Jurassic Park was getting a reboot. We had to wait for the sequel of course – was it worth it? No! We wanted more. And to be honest, this second Jurassic World could have used a stabilizing effect. Long live Jeff Goldblum, best-selling jazz musician, fyi.
7. Mike Myers, Bohemian Rhapsody: To be honest, I’m 100% over Mike Myers, like miles and miles past, and yet even I had to admit this was good casting. It’s a tiny role, but an interesting one. He plays a record executive who tells Queen that Bohemian Rhapsody is worthless. “We need a song teenagers can bang their heads to in a car. Bohemian Rhapsody is not that song.” Mike Myers is, of course, one half of Wayne’s World, the movie that sent Bohemian Rhapsody back up the charts doing that exact thing.
6. Dave Franco, If Beale Street Could Talk: I’m not sure how Dave Franco came to be in Barry Jenkins’ film, but I understand why they kept it under wraps. He’s one of the more recognizable names in the young cast, but no one wants to take away from the leads and their impressive accomplishments in this film. Franco’s scene is among my favourite (though admittedly, it’s a looooong list). He’s showing apartments to he young, expectant couple, who are imagining their lives there. Fonny recruits him to do the pretend heavy lifting as they move in the invisible furniture and dream of their future.
5. Goldie Hawn, The Christmas Chronicles: The minute Kurt Russell as Santa Claus starts referring to the Mrs. (Claus, that is), we start hoping for a Goldie cameo, and by god we got one. It’s a Christmas miracle! And just like Russell gives us hot Santa, Goldie makes Mrs. Claus into a real babe. And to round out the family experience, Goldie’s son Oliver Hudson has a small role as well.
4. Brad Pitt, Deadpool 2: Pitt actually considered playing Cable until scheduling conflicts meant he couldn’t commit, but fans loved his ultra-brief role as The Vanisher. Pitt wasn’t the only cameo, just the only recognizable one: buddy Matt Damon also appeared, but under heavy prosthetics. That guy loves a good cameo!
3. T-rex, Ready Player One: It was tough for Steven Spielberg to direct a book adaptation that referenced himself and his movies so heavily. He edited many out (and his production team left some in, as Easter eggs), but a few were undeniable, and for me, the T-rex was superbly done and a thrill to see. Seriously though, probably everyone has a favourite cameo from this movie, and there are hundreds to choose from.
2. Samuel L. Jackson, Life Itself: This was an indulgent little pleasure right at the beginning of the movie that establishes Life Itself as something to question constantly and watch apprehensively. But it’s Samuel L. Jackson, a man that can lend his coolness to any project he chooses.
1. Stan Lee, Ralph Breaks the Internet: Stan Lee made plenty of cameos in 2018, as he’s done for many years, but since Ralph is animated, and not a Marvel movie, I wasn’t expecting to see him pop up in this. We saw this screening just 3 days after he died, and his cameo inspired a theatre-wide hush in respect for the great man, fallen.
10. Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), Burn After Reading: We don’t often get to see Brad Pitt being funny, but as Burn After Reading’s dumb blond, he’s hysterical. He’s charming, his enthusiasm is infection, and he’s dumb as rocks. But that little dance of his isn’t a meme for nothing.
9. Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), O Brother, Where Art Thou: Clooney feels loose and slick in this movie, with slightly wild eyes and patter to match. This one is crowded with memorable characters, and so many have juicy moments, but Ulysses is the beating heart with a zest for oral hygiene, and you have to love a man for that.
8. Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: The film’s opening chapter draws us in with horseback song and fancy gun slinging. The two combined are a sight to behold, so well-choreographed you can only whistle along in admiration. But when sudden violence hits and the tone shifts astronomically, it’s a signal to us all that this film is going to take us for a ride.
7. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), Inside Llewyn Davis: Llewyn is a gentle creature, writhing with pride, jealousy, determination, dejectedness, and so much more, always evident in the crinkles around Isaac’s eyes. It’s a heartbreaking movie in many ways, and less an ensemble than many Coen films, but Isaac, a relative unknown at the time, carried it, and sang like honey, so you’d want to curl up at his feet and purr yourself into sweet oblivion.
6. Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), Hail, Caesar!: Hobie Doyle was Ehrenreich’s breakout role, playing a successful western movie star just starting to transition to more dramatic roles. His wide-eyed cowpoke ways are refreshing and unexpected in Hollywood, and Hobie feels guileless and forthright. He’s a genius with a lasso but it’s his signature flubbed line that every single person found themselves repeating as they left the theatre – “would that it were.”
5. Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), The Big Lebowski: I challenged myself to pick only one John Goodman role, or else he easily could have taken over half this list. But Walter will always be near and dear to my heart. He’s a self-righteous, judgmental, controlling moron with a passion for rules without ever overthinking them. What’s not to love?
4. Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), Fargo: Undeniably an asshole, Macy makes us feel sympathy for Jerry, and even more amazingly, he keeps him funny, despite the fact that he just keeps digging and digging until he’s so far deep in the hole he can’t even tell he’s in a hole anymore. Jerry is riddled with anxiety, desperate to be more than he is, and just can’t seem to understand that you can’t be only a little bit bad. Once you crack the door, violence comes barreling in, and Jerry is laughably unprepared.
3. Edwina McDonnough (Holly Hunter), Raising Arizona: I just love how Hunter can swing between wild emotions in this – nurturing to violently defensive, ecstatic to complete meltdown. It’s emotionally exhausting to watch so I can only imagine how intense it was to play such a character, but that’s what makes Edwina so iconic. Raising Arizona is such a fun and funny film, but Hunter has the skill to keep Edwina’s need and her love pure and honest and painfully apparent.
2. Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), The Big Lebowski: Lebowski is a philosopher at heart. So many wild and zany characters bounce off him in this film, memorably so, and in other hands, Lebowski may have been overwhelmed. But along comes Jeff Bridges, and he’s perfectly laid back, unflappable really, but still engaged in the world around him, still curious and questioning. It was so note-perfect a performance that it was instantly iconic, eminently quotable, and beloved to this day. What could possibly top it?
1.Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), Fargo: Thank you holy cheeses for giving us this backwards-talking, nine-month-pregnant, slow moving, fast thinking, admirable as shit character. The world needs Marge Gunderson, and we’ve been doubly blessed having Frances McDormand to play her. Is anyone else even worthy? Marge sees people on their blackest day, the world at its worst, but she does her part to make it just a little better, and then she comes home to dinner with her husband, cozy and domestic as all get out.
There’s nothing better than a frantic, fast-paced, pulse-pounding car chase.
The kind that sticks you directly in the middle of the action at a hundred miles an hour, keeping you at the edge of your seat as the mayhem unfolds.
The kind that keeps you coming back to re-view (and in my case, “review”) time and again, just to relive it.
The kind that brings something new to a very crowded genre.
The kind that I’m crazy for not including in my top ten list. Well, did I miss any?
10. Bank Heist (Fast Five)
This would rank even higher if two Mustangs had been involved instead of two Dodge Chargers, but it’s still fantastic to see Vin Diesel and Paul Walker double-team the streets of Rio de Janeiro with a gazillion ton bank safe in tow.
Bonus points for the fact that when the safe opens, it’s to Danza Kuduro so I’m reminded of every Caribbean vacation I’ve taken since 2010.
9. Mall Escape (Terminator 2)
Normally, if you’re choosing between a dirt bike and a big rig tow truck for chase purposes, you’d take the truck, right? But what if the dirt bike also comes with an assist from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800?
What makes this chase all the more awesome is that if you go in to this movie cold, you cannot be sure which killer robot is on little John Conner’s side – a masterstroke by James Cameron which the movie’s trailers spoiled for anyone who’d seen them.
8. Mall Break-In (The Blues Brothers)
You expect a crash or two as part of a chase. Maybe a car even flips over once in a while. The Blues Brothers took crashes to an entirely different level.
A total of 103 cars were wrecked during the film, many of them during Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi’s wild ride through a shopping mall. That triple-digit destruction was a record until Blues Brothers 2000 deliberately smashed one more car during its production. But it’s the original receiving the crown that matters, namely a spot on this prestigious list.
7. San Francisco Tour (Bullitt)
Steve McQueen takes a spin in maybe the most iconic Mustang ever and tames the streets of San Francisco and a rival driver in a Dodge Charger.
But it’s not only the car, it’s also that McQueen made sure to keep his head in view of the camers so you knew it was him doing the heavy lifting the whole time.
6. World’s Worst Valet (The Rock)
This is mostly about the car, as Nicolas Cage borrows a beautiful yellow Ferrari F355 Spider to chase down Sean Connery in a Hummer H1. And fucks it up badly.
Michael Bay puts his own spin on a San Francisco chase, complete with a runaway trolley car, and reminds us that at Bay’s peak his set pieces were as good as anyone’s.
5. Catching the Train (The French Connection)
The French Connection’s chase is iconic for good reason. This claustrophobic subway/car chase was filmed without a permit in real Brooklyn traffic, causing real car crashes that were left in the film (the producers paid for the repairs, but still).
While the choice to film on uncleared streets is one that would never be allowed by a Hollywood studio today, the camera angles used by director William Friedkin and his crew are still being used today.
4. Bellbottoms (Baby Driver)
It’s rare to have a car chase open a movie, but when it’s done right, why not?
Here, Edgar Wright gets the opening chase scene SO right, in part because he’d been dreaming of making this very car chase (complete with accompanying song) since the 90s. It was worth the wait!
3. Chasing a Black…Tank (Batman Begins)
Christopher Nolan can do it all, can’t he? You’d think the streets of Gotham City would be perfect car chase fodder but only Nolan got it right.
Nolan also got a Gotham chase right in The Dark Knight, but for my money the chase from Batman Begins is the best one since it shows us how bewildering it would be for the cops trying to keep track of a superhero’s black…tank as it defies the laws of physics.
2. Fourth Quarter Magic (Drive)
As good as Baby Driver’s opening is, the opening sequence in Drive wins out for Nicolas Winding Refn’s patience and subtlety.
This chase feels like it actually could have happened, and more importantly sets the tone for the rest of the film with its gritty realism, a hint of the pulsing synth soundtrack, and amazing attention to detail (only after seeing the chase play out do we understand why Ryan Gosling’s character is such a big basketball fan).
1. The Whole Enchilada (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Mad Max: Fury Road is essentially a two-hour long chase scene, so on that measure it has to be number one.
But what is most impressive is that I couldn’t pick just one short sequence of that chase to focus on because it’s all fantastic. The madness and desperation in Max’s world lend an unmatched urgency to the chase, and George Miller never takes his foot off the accelerator even for a minute – fitting for the best car chase scene of all-time.
10. Duck Butter: While I dislike the title with an intensity I’ve rarely known, I very much like this movie, about two young women (Alia Shawkat, Laia Costa) who decide to buck the normal dating bullshit and spend a very intimate 24 hours together in a sort of romantic, quasi-social experiment.
9. The Death and Life of John F. Donovan: Kit Harington plays Donovan, a teen heartthrob who is no longer a teen himself, but has hidden away his true self in servitude to his leading man roles. And while fame always comes with a cost, so too does hiding your real identity.
8. The Joneses: A beautiful documentary about transgender family matriarch and all the healing and understanding it’s taken to get her family all living together under the same roof, in America’s bible belt.
7. Colette: Keira Knightley plays a real-life writer who was oppressed and overshadowed by her husband. But it’s not just her professional life that suffers – in the shadows, Colette prefers women, and this movie is about her emancipation, in more ways than one.
6. Disobedience: Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns to the Orthodox Jewish community that shunned her for her attraction to a female childhood friend and finds that their passion is just as they left it, only Esti (Rachel McAdams) is now a married woman and mother.
5. Transformer: Janae Marie Kroczaleski was born Matt and known to the power lifting community simply as ‘Kroc.’ Her transition means giving up the thing she loves most in the world, which she struggles to be accepted by her parents and kids, and to form her own identity outside the gym.
4. Boy Erased: When Jared’s (Lucas Hedges) parents find out he’s gay, it’s off to gay conversion camp for him, so that the religious wackos there can beat it out of him. The nice thing about this film is that Jared, though religious, and a good son, never buys into their bullshit and his self-discovery is really empowering.
3. McQueen: A documentary about a guy whose background and upbringing made him an unlikely haute couture success, but he turned his name into a brand that is recognized around the world today. But his personal life never mirrored the success of his professional one; Alexander McQueen was a tortured, brilliant man.
2. Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Yes, this is a movie about literature and forgery, but it’s also a buddy romance between a cantankerous lesbian and a witty gay man. Their devotion is worthy of any love story. Although their sexualities are never exactly in the spotlight, this is the kind of sweet, platonic, taking-care-of-each-other relationship that’s common in the gay community and almost unheard of in Hollywood.
1. Love, Simon: Many of the movies on this list are better, but have any had the same impact? Simon is just a regular high school student. His coming out is bigger in his head than it actually is in life. He has a loving support system. But most of all, it’s nice to see a big-studio romance with a queer lead, and I hope it means we’ll get to see many more. There’s a lot of catching up to do.
Groundhog Day has recently been resurrected as a Broadway musical, and Bill Murray went to see it on Tuesday. And Bill Murray went to see it on Wednesday. Is Bill Murray fucking with us?
By all accounts he enjoyed the show, laughing and pumping his fist during musical numbers. Not all of us are destined for NYC this summer, but the good news is, you can catch Groundhog Day pretty much any old time, and here are but a few reasons why you should revisit this classic over and over again.
- Director Harold Ramis originally wanted Tom Hanks for the role but realized Hanks was “too nice” and went knocking elsewhere. Michael Keaton turned it down. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin, Howie Mandel, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and John Travolta were also considered before Bill Murray was cast.
- Harold Ramis has a cameo in the film as Phil’s neurologist. Also appearing, if you watch dedicatedly enough: Michael Shannon in his big screen debut – he’s Fred, one of half of the young couple who’s supposed to get married that day.
- Although a family of groundhogs was raised specifically for this movie, when Bill Murray was severely bitten not once, but twice, he had to receive rabies treatment, which are rather painful injections.
- Although set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the film was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, just 50 miles from Murray’s hometown, Wilmette. Tourism in Punxsutawney spiked after the film’s release, but it’s in Wilmette where you’ll find a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Phil continually steps in a puddle, and another marked “Ned’s Corner” where Phil perpetually meets Ned the insurance salesman (Stephen Tobolowsky).
- There are 38 days depicted partially or in full in the movie. Ramis said originally he wanted about 10 000 years worth of days and ended up with what he considers to be a decade’s worth which is still a really, really, sad, lonely long time to be reliving the same day.
- Bill Murray was offered a “spit bucket” for the scene in which he gorges on pastries. That was a terrifically bad idea on his part…guess who got a tummy ache?
- In one scene, Phil throws the alarm clock, destroying it. In real life, Murray’s throw did little to damage the thing so the crew took baseball bats to it to smash it up. And yes, it really did keep playing that stupid song, just like in the movie.
- Murray was going through a divorce at the time and compensated by becoming obsessed with the movie, calling up Ramis with all kinds of questions. Ramis tired of it and sent the writer (Danny Rubin) to sit down with him and iron out all the wrinkles. This caused a rift in their friendship – Murray didn’t speak to Ramis for many years.
- When Phil is at the piano teacher’s house, it’s actually Bill Murray playing. He can’t read music but plays by ear, and learned that passage by heart to play it in the movie. [It’s Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini, fyi]
- Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Stephen Tobolowsky have all served as honourary Grand Marshals in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
- In Swedish, the movie’s title is translated as “Monday Every Day” – although in 1993, when the movie came out, Groundhog Day was on a Tuesday. The specific day of the week is not mentioned in the film.
- In once scene, Phil throws himself from a bell tower. The building is actually the opera house in Woodstock, Illinois, where local legend has it that the ghost of a young girl haunts the building ever since she fell off a balcony section and died.
- The famous line “Don’t drive angry!” was improvised by Murray when the groundhog in his lap was aggressively trying to escape by climbing over the steering wheel. [Yes, this was one of the times when Bill got bit]
- In the final shot, we see Phil carry Rita over the gate before climbing over it himself. This may seem romantic but was unscripted: in real life, the gate was simply frozen shut.