So tonight is the Academy Awards…the Oscars. It’s the night where every armchair movie critic comes out of the woodwork and starts rooting for their favorite films like they’re the Chicago fucking Cubbies. I’ll level with you, I dislike The Oscars. Wait, no that doesn’t quite do it justice. I FUCKING LOATHE The Oscars. I hate most awards shows in general, but The Academy Awards Show is the “Grand Poobah” of shit and it always turns me into a poopy pants, sourpuss.
Here’s the deal, the Academy Awards aren’t for you and me. They’re meant to be a celebration of actors’/directors’/filmmakers’ skills in films that aren’t typically meant for the masses. It’s a way to reward small passion projects, and it gives incentive for filmmakers to not sellout and make soulless blockbusters. This is all well and good. However, in recent years January/February has become “Oscar Season”. As soon as the Academy spews out their list for “Best Picture” every brainless yokel goes running out to watch each and every one of these stupid fucking films. Films that these people, unless they were otherwise told we’re amazing, would never seek out in a million years. It encourages sheep mentality and I’ve always aggressively hated that. Also, if we’re being honest, many of the movies don’t hold up to repeated views. They’re sometimes excellent to experience exactly one time. I mean does anybody remember “The Artist”? Are you the one psychopath in America that owns it on Blu Ray and pops it in once a week to revel in its cinematic glory? Yeah I didn’t think so.
[Inner monologue – OK deep breathes, relax, we talked about this. Go to your happy place. Yes, wave hello to Godzilla. All your friends are here. Feel better? Good.]
OK I’m back. Since you’re all so eager to watch films from a list I’m going to help you. Here is a list of five genuinely great films that you should probably watch instead of [looks at Best Picture list] “La La Land”. Buckle up, grab ya popcorn, dim the lights, and let’s go!
Starship Troopers (1997) – Starship Troopers might be one of the most misunderstood genre films in the last twenty years. On a surface level it’s about vapid, empty, characters joining the intergalactic Earth army and fighting space bugs. It’s big, loud, and dumb. More importantly it’s one of the most scathing war satires to ever hit the silver screen. I love it. The film does almost too good of job because back in 1997 most critics skewered it for being a “pro war” film when that is exact opposite message of Starship Troopers. Director Paul Verhoeven did such a good job taking the piss out of big dumb action movies that people didn’t even realize what he was doing. Go watch this film, think about what it is saying about war, humanity, and a violence obsessed culture. Oh did I mention it’s got Doogie Howser in it???
The Game (1997) – This generic ass sounding film from the late 90s was completely miss-marketed. I remember seeing the trailers for it and thinking it looked like some dumb corporate thriller in the same vein as The Firm. The Game is actually one of the best mind-fuck movies from the past 20 years. Yes it does have some of that generic 1980s/1990s Michael Douglas corporate thriller bullshit going on, but don’t let that fool you. The Game actually uses this to its advantage and is part of its subversive blueprint. I don’t want to say anymore because this is a movie that is better to simply experience.
Turbo Kid (2015) – Movies that come out and try to recapture and fetishize the essence of 1980s cinema are a dime a dozen these days. No film comes as close to getting the formula correct than Turbo Kid. It’s a film that takes every generic 80s film trope and mashes it into one of the most entertainingly, charming, and enjoyable films in recent memory. If you grew up watching stuff like Gleaming the Cube, The Road Warrior, Cherry 2000, G.I. Joe, Transformers etc… then this movie is for you. It’s like your pajama wearing Saturday mornings from the 80s all grown up into a sugary, excessive, post-apocalyptic genre trip. An energetic and fun pleasure from start to finish.
Planet of the Apes (1968) – Are you one of those people that can’t watch “old films” because you find them to be too slow, or you find that the special effects don’t hold up? First off, fuck you. Secondly, sorry I lost my temper. Thirdly, go watch Planet of the Mother Fucking Apes. If you think the recent CG monkey shitfests with the same moniker that have come out recently are amazing, you owe it to yourself to experience the original. Trust me, it holds up and packs just as much of a wallop today as it did in the 60s. This is a legitimate classic and if you only watch one film from this list I highly suggest it’s this one. And yes I’m aware that it won some Academy Awards for makeup and such, but it certainly wasn’t on the Best Picture list. God, why are you people so difficult?
They Live (1988) – I’m not parting without recommending a film by John Carpenter. I could have inserted three or four other films here, but I’m going with They Live. Why? Because I think the themes and underlying political statements in the film are arguably more poignant and relative today than they were back in the 80s. The basic premise is that 1950s style alien invaders are already on Earth and have completely infiltrated our society. We just can’t see them because they’re disguised to look like us, unless you’re wearing some special sunglasses. Our hero is none other Rowdy Roddy Piper and he is a drifter who uncovers the alien’s nefarious plot. I won’t spoil too much, but the surface level action and -plot are entertaining enough on their own. The juicy, cynical core that Carpenter has crafted turns this from a good film to a great one.
In all seriousness, enjoy the Oscars, but I implore you to go out and discover some films outside your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to discover something off the beaten path that is weird, fun, or bizarre. Find something from an era where you weren’t alive. Find something in a genre you might not normally watch. Find something that is so amazing it becomes one of your all-time favorites. I recommended mostly genre films because frankly they don’t get the respect that they deserve. Yet, despite these films having what many consider “silly plots” they still have interesting themes and intelligent things to say. Give a few of them a watch and you might be surprised.