Thursday, June 12, 2014

Riske Business: Talking Movies with my Dad

by Adam Riske
In honor of Father’s Day this week, I thought it would be fun to write up a recent conversation I had with my dad about a variety of different movie topics (many of them F This Movie! favorites) including James Bond, Quentin Tarantino and the horror genre. Read on, some fascinating opinions follow. Some are spot-on and thought provoking and others are probably going to make your head explode.

First, here’s my dad’s movie dossier to give you context:
Favorite Movie: Exodus

Favorite Movie Franchise: The James Bond series

Favorite Actors: Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Tom Hanks

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep

Favorite Directors: Martin Scorsese, John Huston

Favorite Genre: Westerns

Favorite Western: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence

Favorite Recent Movies: Silver Linings Playbook, both Hunger Games movies, the Daniel Craig Bond entries (even Quantum of Solace)

Favorite Sports Movies: Field of Dreams, Miracle

Favorite Soundtracks: Urban Cowboy, Top Gun, The Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof 

Guilty Pleasures: Point Break, Silverado, Soul Surfer, Old Yeller, Fiddler on the Roof

Junesploitation Likes: Cops! Cars! Revenge!

Junesploitation Dislikes: Slashers! Zombies! Vampires!

Better Then:
Mr. Riske: The importance of actors, dialogue and story was much greater in the time I was growing up through being middle-aged. Now they’re so reliant on technology that story is second and I hate that. The fact that there is a proliferation of comic book movies is proof that Hollywood has gotten lazy about coming up with original ideas and fallen back to where they can pull a character from people’s childhoods and find a way to combine it with technology to make money.

Adam: Yeah! And Transformers suck, too.

Better Now:
Mr. Riske: When technology is used properly and doesn’t overshadow the actors or the story. The Harry Potter series, for example, used technology to co-exist with characters and story. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. I also appreciate the ability to bring the theater experience to your house without having to deal with people kicking your chair or talking during a movie.

Adam: Yup. Though I’ll never stop going to the theater. It’s in my DNA even if I hate it sometimes.
Burton or Nolan Batman:
Mr. Riske: Slight edge to the Nolan Batman movies, but I did like the first Burton one.

Adam: They both have their problems, but I think The Dark Knight and Batman Begins are the two best Batman movies. I recently re-watched the original Burton Batman and it works for the first 30 minutes but gets weak after that point.

Life Story You Want to See as a Biopic:
Mr. Riske: A movie about Quentin Tarantino’s life and how he developed into a filmmaker would be interesting because he is so far out of the realm of the conventional. I also would want to see a movie about Bruce Springsteen if it were a real picture of his life, positives and negatives, like how music was always the most important thing to him, more than friends etc. That’s the impression you get reading about him.

Adam: I want to see both of those movies right now. Tarantino would totally play himself if they did a fictional movie about his life.

On Audrey Hepburn:
Mr. Riske: Underrated actress.

Adam: She’s my favorite actress. Everything about her in movies was magical, from the way she talked, looked, acted. She was a total babe but one you didn’t want to ever do anything to because you would just not be good enough for her. That’s a backwards way of saying that you can’t bone Audrey Hepburn.

(Mr. Riske looks at Adam as if to say “ok.”)
On Comic Book Movies:
Mr. Riske: I don’t like them.

Adam: Boom!

Mr. Riske: The most recent versions of comic book movies are just excuses to use computer graphics. I didn’t get into the Spider-Man, Iron Man or X-Men movies. If I were a fan of comics, I would think they demean the franchises they represent. The comics I liked when I was a kid were Superman, Batman and The Flash. I cared about what they said and did in those comics. As for the movies, at least with Batman, they haven’t destroyed the character. The earlier Superman movies focused on character but the latest ones will take any opportunity to go over-the-top that they can. The dialogue is also bad in comic book movies. Except for “with great power, comes great responsibility,” try to remember any dialogue from a recent superhero movie.

Adam: Then why don’t you love Spider-Man 2? You should love Spider-Man 1 & 2 for the reasons you state above and you don’t. That baffles me.

(Adam’s head starts smoking)

Adam: It’s funny because you called out Marvel for doing it wrong and many people think they’re doing those characters right.
On Current Events:
Mr. Riske: I think the attack on Benghazi in Libya and the subsequent investigation would make for an interesting movie if it was even-handed.

On Die Hard:
Mr. Riske: Really close between Die Hard and Raiders of the Lost Ark for best action movie ever made.

Adam: I love Raiders, but I’d go with Die Hard or maybe Point Break.

On The Godfather Part III:
Mr. Riske: If you take out Coppola’s daughter, it’s not really that bad.

Adam: Ok, two things. 1) I’m happy in a weird way that Sofia Coppola turned out the way she did in The Godfather Part III, because she ended up as a great director instead and 2) I don’t hate The Godfather Part III either. It suffers greatly in comparison with the first two and that’s its biggest crime. That being said, I don’t think Sofia Coppola is THE problem with that movie.

On Horror:
Mr. Riske: The subgenres I don’t see any redeeming value in are the slasher and paranormal horror movies (exception for Halloween). By paranormal, I don’t simply mean a movie with ghosts in it, but rather found footage like Paranormal Activity. Slasher and paranormal do not rely on story or acting but instead on how freaked out or grossed out they can get you. I made the exception for Halloween because it was built more on suspense and it still stayed in the realms of believability before Michael Myers was immune to fire and all other kinds of crap. That is rare in the slasher subgenre.

Adam: I love horror, but oddly enough your least favorite subgenres are also mine. However, there are many slasher movies that I enjoy such as the original Black Christmas, Sleepaway Camp, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Burning. It’s just that for every good slasher movie, there are ten bad ones.
On James Bond:
Mr. Riske: With the exception of Timothy Dalton, the Bond movies are my favorite series. They have had some pretty good actors taking the role and it’s a franchise that has really changed the character over time. The latest portion has made their way back to the beginning of the franchise where they emphasize the human side of James Bond as opposed to the gadgets.

Adam: So you like Roger Moore?

Mr. Riske: Yeah, they weren’t my favorite Bond movies but they were still good. The actors played Bond in a way to fit their personalities.

Adam: Why didn’t you like Dalton?

Mr. Riske: He was boring and he didn’t seem to fit on either the tough or whimsical side of James Bond. It was basically him not knowing where to go with the character.

Adam: I think you might break Patrick Bromley when he reads this.
On James Gandolfini:
Mr. Riske: Overrated.

Adam: WHA?????@@@!!!!

Mr. Riske: Because his whole career was based on The Sopranos.

Adam: Nuh-uh. What about Enough Said?

Mr. Riske: I didn’t even finish that movie. I think critics didn’t want to beat that one up because the guy just died.

Adam: You are so underselling James Gandolfini. He surely played the tough guy part, but he’s so great in Enough Said, Get Shorty, Not Fade Away, The Mexican, The Taking of Pelham 123, etc. where he plays against type. I dislike The Last Castle, but he’s not Tony Soprano in that either. I don’t know. I wholeheartedly disagree with you on this one.

On Jennifer Lawrence:
Mr. Riske: A beautiful talent.

Adam: Yeah, she’s pretty great. Always JLaw dancing in Silver Linings Playbook.

On My Weirdest Moviegoing Experience:
Mr. Riske: Your mom and I went to a documentary about what goes into the making of adult movies (don’t get grossed out; it’s like if Boogie Nights were a documentary) and one of the actresses was a former classmate of your mom’s.

Adam: Do you have her number? Cougar Sarandon?

Mr. Riske: No. Another story is when you wimped out during Arachnophobia. I kept asking you beforehand if you were going to be scared and you said you’d be fine. Then the first time a spider jumped in a jar you turned to me and said “I think we better go now.” Then because your mother and sister were already watching Ghost (which was sold out), we had to go watch that damn Jim Belushi-Cubs movie Taking Care of Business.

Adam: Why you gotta bring up old shit?

On Oliver Stone:
Mr. Riske: He was a good director that I lost respect for after he went over-the-top as a JFK conspiracy nut. From books I read, it really opened my eyes about him and Jim Garrison.

Adam: That’s why you shouldn’t read. I appreciate most Oliver Stone movies -- including JFK -- and think he’s just a sensational filmmaker. I don’t care for him as a talking head because, I agree with you, he is over-the-top. When you don’t have the filmmaking going hand-in-hand with his point of view, it can be overbearing and tedious to listen to.
On Quentin Tarantino:
Mr. Riske: He’s a genius turned violence pornographer.

Adam: What?????!!!!!!?????

Mr. Riske: After Jackie Brown, he decided “I have too much story and dialogue here. I need more extreme violence.” He’s become a violence writer. I love Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and you could be ok with the violence in those movies because the storytelling was good. Django Unchained was just ridiculous with the violence.

Adam: I see what you’re saying but I totally disagree. The storytelling and dialogue you enjoy in Tarantino’s early work is still all over his current movies, and I think he’s gotten even better at characterization. Look at Shosanna in Inglorious Basterds, Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill and Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained for examples. I can’t argue with you about the violence. It doesn’t bother me, but if it bothers you that’s valid. I just think it would be reductive not to debate back that Tarantino is still an excellent storyteller, extreme violence or not.

(Adam and Mr. Riske give each other “We’re not going to agree on this, let’s move on” faces)

On Vincent Price:
Mr. Riske: He’s creepy.

Adam: I love that guy. If I could have lunch with any actor, it would have been Vincent Price.

On Siskel & Ebert:
Mr. Riske: I liked Siskel more than Ebert. Siskel had a way of presenting himself as an everyday, common guy whereas Ebert was more heavily intellectual.

Adam: I think I am more of an Ebert, because he went with his gut and emotions first and that’s how I usually come to movies. Siskel I appreciate for different reasons. He was great at calling out interesting themes and subtext in movies and he was unafraid to go against the tide when he felt strongly about something. Plus he tells it like it is in his eyes. He once said that he reviewed movies in this way: “If someone asked you on the street what you thought of a movie, what would you tell them?” I’ve used that approach in my writing because it cuts through a bunch of bullshit and gets to the core of what you want to say. I couldn’t pick a favorite between the two, but I would say I probably agreed with Ebert more. I think Siskel was tougher to win over.

On Top Gun:
Mr. Riske: Good movie, great music, excellent home theater movie.

Adam: Yeah, I always have a soft spot for that movie. It’s exciting filmmaking, although the jingoism has started to bother me in recent years but that’s only after I think about it once the movie is over. It’s no worse than those awful Three Doors Down Citizen Soldier music videos.

On Westerns:
Mr. Riske: The best westerns are The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, the original The Alamo, The Magnificent Seven, The Searchers and The Comancheros.
Adam: I have only seen The Magnificent Seven. I know modern westerns much better than the classics. Where would you rank Tombstone?

Mr. Riske: Tombstone is great. You used to like Wyatt Earp more than Tombstone.

Adam: I’d have to go back and revisit Wyatt Earp. I love Tombstone now. It’s crazy entertaining.

On Work in the Movies:
Mr. Riske: Many people would be fired and/or many sexual harassment lawsuits would happen in real life if thing happened the way they did in movies.

Adam: Does money ever sleep?

Mr. Riske: American Hustle. It was boring and slow moving. I didn’t like the characters. The whole thing just seemed to drag. I kept looking at my watch.

Adam: That’s fascinating. I could understand a number of criticisms of American Hustle, boring is not one of them. Amy Adams?

(Mr. Riske makes a ‘meh’ face.)

Pacino or De Niro?
Mr. Riske: De Niro has had the better overall career.

Adam: The correct answer is Jack Nicholson. I think I would have to say that I am a fan of more De Niro movies but that I enjoy Pacino more as an actor.
Mr. Riske: The East. I hadn’t heard anything about it and I thought it was a pretty good movie.

Adam: I haven’t seen it yet but just put it on my DVR. I don’t love the cast; however, you are not the only person who has told me what a solid movie that is.

Thanks dad! You’re the best.

Comment away readers! My dad or I will answer back. Happy Father’s Day!


  1. What a wonderful post! Thanks so much Mr. Riske, for participating. It made me think about my father and his movie loves. His favorite movie is The Last Picture Show. He grew up in rural Montana, in a town very much like the one in the film, and has said that it is actually unnerving how accurate the movie is in its details. I remember we were talking about the George Peppard movie The Blue Max, which is another favorite of his. I asked him why he liked it so much, and he gave a brief dissertation about how it's not so much about war, but rather about class - a lower class infantryman dreams of rising above his station. I was surprised, because I was a stupid young man who was not looking at his father as, you know, an actual person with intelligence and opinions.

    I have a question for Mr. Riske - what do you think of war movies, and how they've changed over the years (particularly after Saving Private Ryan)?

    1. Mr. Riske says:

      The only really good recent "war" movies I remember seeing after Saving Private Ryan are The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. I thought both of them were well done and the filming was done in a way that I thought adapted to the change in the way in which wars have been and are currently being fought versus the days of World War II, Korea, Viet Nam and Desert Storm. We are no longer fighting nations and their armies, with large battles involving thousands of men (and women) and large amounts of equipment (planes, tanks, artillery, ships). Instead the battles, if you can call them that, are fought by smaller, individual units and therefore the wars have been brought down more to the individual level. The movies I mentioned have therefore likewise delved more into the lives of the individual participants. I know that focusing on individuals has been done in a great many other war movies over the years but to me they weren't as meaningful when you realize that they were only a small part of a much bigger picture. The wars today are being fought by the smallest portion of the population of the U.S. (about 1%) than in any other conflict. That's why focusing on the individual is so key. As for war movies in general I have seen a great many good ones over the years. The best ones are the ones that balance the heroism shown during war with the ugliness of war. Among my personal favorites are The Sands of Iwo Jima, Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, The Halls of Montezuma, The Sand Pebbles.

    2. Thanks for the response! I typically like more "big picture" war movies, but those are all World War II (The Longest Day, Tora Tora Tora, and A Bridge Too Far). My favorite war picture is probably A Bridge Too Far, which balances the "big picture" leaders with scenes featuring the men on the ground who have to do the actual fighting. That's one film that shows both the heroism and hell of war.

  2. This is great! As far as my father's favorites, he would surely name The Godfather as his favorite movie. He has seen it many times, and I bet he has the movie memorized, and often quotes his favorite lines. He's a big fan of mob movies in general, so I think he also loves Goodfellas. His favorite directors are probably Scorsese and Tarantino. He really doesn't go to see many movies in a theater, but he will ALWAYS go to see a new Scorsese or Tarantino movie.

    I am totally with your dad on American Hustle. I loved a lot of the acting, but found the story underwhelming and a lot less interesting than I had expected, but I also think I need to see it again.

    Finally, I'm not sure what movie that picture of Audrey Hepburn is from, but she looks amazing.

    1. Breakfast at Tiffany's. It's definitely worth watching if you haven't seen it.

    2. I am ashamed. I just realized that's where it was from and came back to publicly shame myself, haha. I have seen it, and it's great, it's just been a long time. :-/

    3. This is from my dad:

      The Godfather, that would have been real high on my list as well. The reason Exodus has stuck with me is because I remember that I first saw it when I was 11 at a private showing for students of various Chicago hebrew schools at the Cinestage theater downtown and the emotional impact on me at that age was so strong since the State of Israel was only a little older than I was.

    4. That's great! I'm glad he has a movie in his life with which he can emotionally connect so well. I know for a fact that I've never seen Exodus, so I can't really comment on it, but I enjoy a lot of Otto Preminger movies, and Paul Newman is always great to watch, so maybe I'll seek it out.

    5. I've never seen Exodus either even though I once borrowed it from him for over a year. I'm a bad Jewish person.

  3. "we had to go watch that damn Jim Belushi-Cubs movie Taking Care of Business."

    I love that the way that reads is that your Dad seems super pissed about this still!

    Great piece, Adam!

    1. Hell, now *I'm* pissed off again that I once saw that movie.

    2. He never lets me forget about the Arachnophobia debacle. That or when I made him take me to see Second Sight with Bronson Pinchot and John Larroquete.

    3. Whoa! That's bad, BUT, that rules that you saw that in the theater!

  4. Love this feature! Mr. Riske is wrong about Timothy Dalton (the third best Bond), but besides that he was making a lot of good points.

  5. Replies
    1. Mike, what would gentleman Timothy Dalton say to my dad?

  6. Great column Adam, I'm actually with you on Arachnophobia- while I did just barely get through the movie what made it bother me more was my uncle was bitten by a spider in my backyard and nearly died from it about a few days from seeing the movie. God I'd rather have to deal with a bear in the wild- not only do I feel like I would have a chance (thanks Anthony Hopkins in The Edge) but it would be a much cooler death.

    For about a year or two I used to drag my dad to the latest Jackie Chan film when they were releasing his older foreign movies on the big screen, he would call him Connie Chung a lot- is my Dad racist?!

    Also my Dad's fav Bond is Roger Moore, as Sylvester the cat's son would say "Oh Father!"

    1. Thank you Tom! It's weird because I was more afraid of being afraid than anything with Arachnophobia. I've since seen it and it was not even that scary to me. This viewing with my dad was before I got into horror other than the Universal Monsters. But I agree a bear death would be much cooler...and much more terrifying.

  7. Great conversation with your Dad - I like his style. My father and I have a lot in common but a love and appreciation for film as an art form isn't one of them. He can love movies, but very rarely and they have to be really good (SLP is a recent example) - and like comic book or general fantasy stuff, forget it. That being said, even if he doesn't entirely understand it, he's very supportive of my love of movies - heck, he just gave me a copy of "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" for my birthday. Very cool that you guys can have such an in-depth and interesting conversation about movies.

    Mr. Riske, your opinion of James Gandolfini is the sad realization I've always tried to repress. He's not overrated as Tony Soprano - I love that character and performance SO MUCH - but I've never found him that interesting in anything else and like you, I didn't finish Enough Said either!

    Riske the Younger - I think I have the same relationship with Emma Stone as you do with Audrey Hepburn. She's SUPER pretty and seems like such a cool person, but I have no interest in even seeing her naked, let alone boning her. I didn't even realize you could find someone "platonically attractive" until watching her in TASM2.