I don’t care what your agenda, politics, cause or reasons are. I don’t want to hear about sequels, prequels, reboots or recasts. I don’t care who’s offended, what’s offensive, or problematic, or should be cancelled.
I don’t want the following movies fucked with. Ever.
Beetlejuice is a perfect movie. Every member of the production is in peak form. Danny Elfman delivers perhaps his greatest musical score, easily above par with his previous work in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Back To School. The opening theme is a raucous oompah of spook-house merriment, and the film that follows is loaded with sublime musical gems, like the sincerely delightful “Travel Music”.
Director Tim Burton gathers a stellar and diverse cast, including Dick Cavett, Glenn Shadix, Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones, and displays his rare gift in capturing exquisite comic timing, both in dialogue and action. Michael Keaton portrays the titular ghoul with such nefarious glee that every scene he chews up is a provable scream. Beetlejuice could conceivably rub striped elbows with venerable horror icons like Freddy or Pinhead, so real was his game. I think I’m still making sense.
I also think it’s fair to presume that this was when a lot of us fell for Winona Ryder.
Although Beetlejuice is an enduring Halloween icon, and admittedly, this movie did offer myriad story opportunities that have thus far gone unexploited, I’m fine with this one film (and, I grant you, the somewhat decent cartoon) being the extent of his universe. It stands on its own as arguably Tim Burton’s greatest contribution to pop culture, and probable best movie. Even if you love Edward Scissorhands and Nightmare Before Christmas, you have to admit they don’t have quite the spooky punch that Beetlejuice has. Those movies are safe Tim Burton. Beetlejuice is the Tim Burton who scared you half to death with Large Marge in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
While we’re at it I also want that movie left the fuck alone. Not only is it perfect, it’s culturally significant for being co-written by the brilliant Phil Hartman, and even more so than Beetlejuice, it’s funny as fuck.
WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT
I was sixteen when Who Framed Roger Rabbit came out. It’s a time in my life I recall very fondly. Cartoons were explicitly created for the purpose of making people laugh. Their studios were many and plentiful, and would sometimes engage in friendly competition in the form of a crossover. Large breasts were considered attractive, even appealing. Names like Kathleen Turner and Amy Irving held unquestionable sexual power. 1988 was a wondrous era. We didn’t even know Bob Hoskins was British yet.
Once upon a time, the process of combining animation and live action was arduous, spoken of in reverent tones and utilized only on rare, often special occasions. Likewise, the basic format and conceptual dichotomies inherent in the “Looney Tunes” house style were held in greater esteem; the idea being, if you intend to play in that sandbox, you better be funny, because you’re walking in the footsteps of the funniest.
Thanks to director Robert Zemeckis, composer Alan Silvestri, and, shall we say, an insanely skilled animation department, we got this:
That’s hand-drawn animation, and that pitch-perfect fanfare wasn’t written in the 1940’s. This will sound like madness to you, but originally, Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Corp. were most well-known for the sky-high standards of their animation.
Until that becomes reality again, I don’t want this movie touched. I want it to stand as an example of the peaks of the medium, and the way things can be done better. I want the naughtiness of the film and its subsequent shorts left wholly intact, as a reminder of a time when we knew how not to take ourselves so seriously. And let’s be frank; Judge Doom is unbeatable as a rapid-coming-of-age moment. He’s like Large Marge’s nastier brother.
Joanna Cassidy, the hot naked snake-handling replicant that Harrison Ford shoots in the back in Blade Runner*, stars as brass-tough waitress Dolores. She was also great in the short-lived Dabney Coleman sitcom Buffalo Bill. Just a classic broad, and an excellent flesh-and-blood counterweight to the pulchritudinous ink-and-paint Jessica Rabbit.
*Do whatever you want with Blade Runner. Like the Alien franchise, it’s been fucked with to the point where it doesn’t matter anymore.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE
The overwhelming majority is on my side with this one; leave Princess Bride the fuck alone. It is unspoiled and flawless. It features performances that are irreplaceable by nature; literally no one can fill Andre the Giant’s shoes. Everyone remembers Peter Cook presiding over the ill-fated “mawwiage”. All of us want Peter Falk to be our grandpa, and read us a cracking bedtime story. Again. And again.
To this very day, I can’t believe that Robin Wright Penn was both Princess Buttercup and Jenny-with-AIDS from Forrest Gump. That gal was a female Lon Chaney back in the day. Every cast member shines, from lead heartthrob Cary Elwes, to Christopher Guest in a chilling heel-turn, to Billy Crystal and Carol Kane as a kvetching old couple. Wallace Shawn introduced his rare comic genius to the world, and Mandy Patinkin embodied one of the silver screen’s finest swashbucklers. Every line of dialogue is a gleaming, polished gem.
To quote this endlessly quotable masterpiece, remaking The Princess Bride for any purpose would be inconceivable. There is but one proper reaction to the idea.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
In 1985, when Back To The Future first came out, it was not uncommon to view it with older members of the family for whom the scenes set in 1955 were enjoyably nostalgic. The era was so authentically depicted that the movie was a hit with the parents and grandparents, too.
So leave the BTTF trilogy be, as a consummately nostalgic depiction of the 1980’s. A healthy and ebullient Michael J. Fox. Huey Lewis and his News. Pre-ironic DeLorean usage. Just as our folks enjoyed the return to 1955, we can enjoy returning to 1985, the way we knew it as kids. Alive with wonder and promise, in those precious few moments before the weight of adult obligation set in. The boundless possibilities inherent in a time-traveling super-lemon belong in our own personal imaginations, not rehashed on any screen or streaming service.
I read somewhere that either writer Bob Gale or director Zemeckis have to be dead and buried before this franchise can be trifled with or rebooted. God bless these men. Obviously they had access to actual time-travel equipment, because they clearly knew how bad things would get by 2015.
MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN
I do not consider any comedy film to be superior to this one. Not Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein or Animal House. Not even Caddyshack. Not even the same legendary troupe’s Holy Grail. Nothing. A funnier movie does not exist.
At 8 years old, this is where I gleaned a lifetime of sacrilegious and satirical savvy. This was where I first glimpsed a woman’s bush and furiously exploded into pubescence. This was where I learned of the uproarious impact of a sudden cock shot. Most importantly, this single film taught me that even when things are at their absolute darkest, to always look at the bright side of life.
If anything in Life of Brian offends you, it is scientifically provable that you have no sense of humor. You react to adversity with violence and anger. You believe that ideas contrary to your own should be censored and eradicated. Anyone offended by this movie is a bad person in dire need of psychiatric help. A hopeless ideologue, whom no one desires as a friend or companion. I can’t make it more clear than that.
This film contains a comedy routine as indelible as “Who’s On First”, a bit so show-stopping and hysterical, it would be folly to try speaking of it in hushed whispers. This single scene is funny to the point that I can only close this article with it. No words I can type could possibly follow it. If humor was fine art, this would be the Mona Lisa.
Don’t you dare fuck with it.