Whew, that was a breathtaking bout of writer’s block. Sometimes you have to re-charge the battery, and my reset button happened to be located somewhere in the midwest. I’m back in Los Angeles now and things are a little clearer, which makes sense because it feels like a family of hamsters moved out of my brain. This will be the first of a few ideas on the shelf that I’ll take down and share with you all.
It’s probably important I define what makes a movie “watchable”, and how that differs from adjectives such as “awesome” or “brilliant”. The truth is a “watchable” movie is often both “awesome” and “brilliant”, but it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around. Take for instance a movie like There Will Be Blood. You could use any number of adjectives to describe it’s greatness, but none of them would be the word “watchable”. Do you want to watch 158 minutes of slow, painful despair? Even one time takes some serious effort if you know what you’re getting into beforehand. 7 years ago I bought The Deer Hunter collector edition dvd off Amazon, and I still haven’t watched that shit to this day! What can I say? I can’t imagine voluntarily stressing myself out. “Watchable” is some type of perfect merger between simplicity and entertainment. A watchable movie has elements that will hold your interest, even if you feel like you might be breaching the grounds of a guilty pleasure. These movies weren’t award show darlings, but hold a special place in my heart for any number of reasons.
Forewarning: Spoiler alert
2nd Forewarning: These rankings are arbitrary
Robert De Niro has done plenty good in his acting career, with a handful of bad. Somewhere directly in the middle exists Analyze This. Before he was ever the overbearing Papa Focker (in a painfully unwatchable movie), he was paired with Billy Crystal in the first movie I ever saw that had mafia bosses with funny character flaws. I haven’t seen it in a few years, but watched it at least 25 times between the years 2000-2005. This is partially because it was on TV all the time, but that’s also a trait of a tremendously watchable movie. Would a network show a movie over and over if it wasn’t likable or painless to walk in on halfway through? I rest my case, America.
A borderline qualifier for this list because it comes from the critically acclaimed Coen braintrust. I would argue this is without a doubt their most “watchable” movie, and this is coming from somebody who puts The Big Lebowski firmly in his top 5 of all time. In my life, it is by far the most entertaining movie set in the 1930’s, and the most fun spin on Homer’s “Odyssey”. The brothers Coen always write and direct movies that look incredible on screen, and the actors they plug in always seem to try just a tad harder for them too. Adapting Clooney’s charm for a narcissistic fugitive on the run is worth watching alone. Add in the fact he’s leading a boneheaded team portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro, and you needn’t say any more. Can I also just say that, while I’m generally unaffected when a celebrity dies, I’m going to be way sad when John Goodman is no longer stomping around this earth. I challenge you to point out any role of his that wasn’t absolute quality.
A movie once recommended to me by S.O.H. contributor Adam Lukach due to it’s pure watchability. This is one of those movies that throws all of it’s soon-to-be-expiring ingredients into the crock pot with the hopes and expectations that a delicious stew will emerge. Well if you’ve ever cooked with a crock pot before, you’d know that this works nearly every time. There’s something magical going on in those devices, but don’t try to pinpoint it – just accept the phenomenon. The expiring ingredient in this feature is of course Josh Hartnett, whose shirtless poster adorned the bedroom wall of my girlfriend from 2002-2004, so I’m pretty glad he’s out of my life now. I’m assuming age was a cruel jest in his career, because his cinematic output since has been null. Slevin mixes equal parts comedy, action, sex and “twist” and out pops a stylish crime drama situated somewhere in between Boondock Saints and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It also features Lucy Liu being alarmingly hot, Bruce Willis dusting off a more sophisticated Butch and Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsly battling it out to see who’s the more endearing old man. It’s the big screen equivalent of a “fast read”, and it’s totally entertaining to boot.
Like many watchable movies before it, Boondock Saints is littered with flaws. But if you’re like me, and watched this for the first time around the age of 12 and weren’t fist pumping the air during the citizen interviews at the end, you had lost grip of your youth. The dialogue is mostly dumb, but there’s plenty to redeem it over the course of 100 minutes. There’s death by toilet, Willem Dafoe being Willem Dafoe while looking exactly like Jessica Walter, and Sean Connery’s character in 1996’s totally watchable The Rock revived with guns strapped to every corner of his bearded old man body.
If you’re a human being that wants to tell me Jurassic Park isn’t so awesome that you wanna high five all your friends, then we probably just don’t exist on the same wavelength. I don’t think there’s a movie out there that’s more soaked with 90’s nostalgia for me personally. Also, this is one of those situations where I spend the next 10 years trying to become more like one of the main characters. Tyler Durden. Winston Wolfe. Jack Vincennes. That character in Jurassic Park is Dr. Ian Malcolm played by the infinitely absorbing Jeff Goldblum. Goldblum might just have a spot saved on my actor Mount Rushmore next to Nic Cage, but that sounds like a post to store away for a rainy day.
Someday I’m going to compose a club banger with Dr. Malcolm’s laugh front and center.
If you were a self aware kid in the late 90’s, you were a fan of Adam Sandler. From 1995 to 1999, he played the same affable time bomb in Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy – All 100% “watchable” for their comedic effect. I would argue you could throw The Waterboy in that same group, because he was still the same character, only amplified (instead of doing his patented Sandler-yell when he became angry, he would annihilate them with an open field tackle). Granted, this character ran out of steam fast, and 10 years after Billy Madison, Adam Sandler roles are usually met with harsh critique for their failure to vary in any way. The fact remains, I still hear people quoting this movie in 2013 – a testament to it’s watchability.
If you’re a fan of the Beatles in any capacity, you will love this film. Help! dropped in 1965, which is a great transitionary year for the Beatles’ music, and this movie happens to showcase all of the admirable charm of the early Beatles while focusing on a turning point for their sound. It also happens to be really funny — so much so that you forget the plot about 4 different times. It’s really most valuable for it’s awesome music videos sprinkled throughout — my personal favorite being “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” while they saw through the floor around Ringo’s drumset in an attempt to kidnap him (which isn’t seen in the embedded video, but enjoy it anyway). Shouts to Emily Mozwecz for reminding me how watchable Help! is.
Godamn I wanna watch it right now just thinking about it. It’s so awesome. This is Nic Cage at his maniacal apex. It doesn’t matter that it’s the most implausible plot green lit in my life time (The Purge at a close second), Cage and John Travolta are fucking killing it man! They’re both good, and they’re both bad and it doesn’t really matter because I’m rooting for them both the whole damn time anyway.
Back to Cage, real quick. Is there a filmography that more explores every nook and cranny of a film stars career? He’s had roles that have been from laughably bad to stunningly great — all while being quintessentially “Cage”. The same guy who was in Ghostriders was in Raising Arizona. The same guy who was in The Wicker Man was in Adaptation. I’m almost positive he’s that guy off the set too. I love Nic Cage.
One of the most incredible (for better or for worse) opening scenes ever.
A few years back, I found myself in a group of friends who had great opinions. Some people have shitty opinions, but these cats had GREAT opinions. (dibs on Great Opinions as a band name, btw) I knew they were great because they would always reference people I wouldn’t know, and then when I waited till they were asleep to Google them, they too in turn, happened to be great. This was the case for bands, writers, stand up comedians etc. They almost uniformly hated Eddie Vedder, which I guess makes sense given that he is responsible for a whole wave of vocalists that tried to sound exactly like him. Anyway, one time I mentioned that I thought Robin Williams was really funny, and was met with gasps. Had they known that my nearly entire basis of enjoying comedy that Robin Williams is involved with is based upon my love for this movie, they would understand…because even they couldn’t deny the watchability of Mrs. Doubtfire.
Film highlight : Robin Williams get hammered on scotch while switching back and forth between a business meeting as a male, and a family dinner as a female roughly 30 yards apart. He also breaks into the kitchen, somehow manages to change into a third costume, this time a chef- and yet still gets away with throwing cayenne pepper on Pierce Brosnan’s shrimp, WHICH IN SOME STRANGE ALLERGIC REACTION causes him to choke on said dish. Just damn watchable, my friends.
The movie that inspired this post. To give you a little insight into how posts come to my brain, and why they can be generally infrequent, here’s how this one came about.
Yeah. That fucking happened, and I love everything about it. I am having a lot of fun inside my brain thinking about how this idea came to fruition.
Also, how many tween audience members was this reference lost on?
This is a sentimental favorite because it’s arguably the movie that got me into playing drums. My older brother was a drummer, and I wanted to be everything like him. But even the luster of an elder sibling didn’t shine like the reflection off of Guy “Shades” Patterson’s Wayfarers. Then there’s the fact that this movie is just fucking awesome. I know calling Tom Hanks underrated seems ridiculous, but his body of work is as watchable as anybody’s. A League of Their Own. Catch Me If You Can. I would even go out on a limb to call Castaway watchable. Steve Zahn is at his most Zahniest in this role, and this is definitely how I prefer to remember my Tom Everett Scott, and not the dude that would pop up in episodes of Celebrity Poker Showdown on Bravo (& as a result, I just watched 9 minutes of Maura Tierney playing poker trying to link a video of TES, so there’s that) or werewolf movies that have (awesome) Bush songs in their soundtrack.
P.S. Just watched it tonight and noticed a great cameo I never had before. Who’s that guy who precedes The Wonders on the Hollywood Television Showcase?
We’ll get back to pretentious music talk later in the week, with some incarnation of our best albums of 2013 (so far).