by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
The Neverending Story. I probably rented this because the Music Box Theatre was playing it around the time I was following along with their calendar. I’ve never been 100% on board with The Neverending Story (I often get second act fantasy fatigue with these types of movies where my mind wanders), but I do remember liking it more than not liking it. I always want to love these movies unreservedly, but I think I appreciate the idea of them more than the actual movie that’s on screen usually. What are your thoughts on The Neverending Story?
Rob: I watched The Neverending Story quite a bit growing up, and though I haven’t revisited it in years, I do remember it being the source of some of my scariest childhood memories. There’s Artax the horse’s tragic swamp death, of course, which I know messed a lot of us right the hell up. But I’m talking more about moments like Atreyu passing through the deadly Sphinx gate or those close-ups of the Empress desperately crying, looking right down the barrel of the lens and pleading for help. The creature designs (especially the rock monsters and the wolf) were unsettling, as well. The worst was definitely the existential concept of The Nothing — an inescapable force of negativity and despair. Thanks, Germany! This is a film for children! I bought it on Blu-ray a few years back, but I think I’ll wait for my son to be old enough before I revisit it. I’ve heard it hasn’t aged well, though. I guess we’ll see.
Rob: I like the Lars Von Trier movies I’ve seen, and I can generally get on board with him as a provocateur looking to make challenging statements through his art. Actually, Antichrist is one of the few movies I had to pause and take a break from before I could finish. It’s just so oppressive and hopeless (speaking of The Nothing). I like Melancholia quite a bit, though. The presentation is a little softer — it’s probably the wedding festivities and pretty people being pretty — and the metaphors are a bit more relatable. I agree with its central thesis, as you mentioned, and I think it presents depression with nuance, variety, and, quite frankly, beauty. I’ve been meaning to revisit this one, too. I remember it being one of the movies I watched the day I got my first good HDTV. The end of the world in 1080p!
Rob: Believe it or not, this was the first Robin Williams movie I watched after his death. I hadn’t seen much of Bobcat Goldthwait’s directorial work before World’s Greatest Dad, but I was inspired to watch it after he made a very emotional appearance on the Harmontown podcast when Williams (his best friend) passed away. Like you, I tend to resist forced cynicism (especially in comedies, where it often comes off as lazy), but the difference here is that the rebellion in its soul feels earned, measured, and necessary. The world is horrible, but Williams’ character wishes it wasn’t. He’s not trying to make things worse — at least, not at first. He’s willing good things into existence, trying to squeeze hope out of darkness, but he’s still kind of an asshole. There’s a very striking final moment with Williams (which I won’t spoil) that tends to be my go-to image whenever I think about him. It’s cathartic. I like this movie a lot.
Re-Animator and Showgirls for the first time), and at some point, he showed us this funny bowling movie with strange slacker-type characters that ends in a tournament. I remember thinking it was hilarious — I didn’t get half the jokes, but I faked it in that adolescent-boy-trying-to-impress-his-friends way — and thereafter, whenever I saw the VHS cover for Kingpin at Blockbuster, I would think, “That movie’s great! It’s got The Jesus! And Donnie! And the boobie trampoline ladies!” Of course, what I had actually seen was The Big Lebowski. Womp womp. I think we should watch Kingpin next time we get together so I can fill this gap and close an embarrassing chapter in my personal history.
Adam: Sounds good. That story’s sad. You need to see Kingpin! Ok, next is Spike Lee’s He Got Game, which gets better every time I see it. I didn’t own it on DVD or Blu-ray at the time, which explains the Netflix rental. I go through Spike Lee moods about once every year where I watch two or three of his movies. I haven’t done my run yet in 2019, but I think I’ll go with Crooklyn, Summer of Sam, and Inside Man. Anyways, back to He Got Game. It’s great. I just revisited it for a 20 Years Later last year and I was really impressed how enlightening it is on the college recruiting process. It’s something we hear about all the time on ESPN, etc., but so rarely see as a process. I’d love to watch a He Got Game-style movie focused on teams trying to land big league free agent megastars like LeBron James or, more recently, Bryce Harper & Manny Machado. What do you think of He Got Game? I love Denzel Washington when he’s in full jerk mode and this is one of his best.
The Fifth Element and thinking, “Oh wow, she’s really good in everything!” So, while I wouldn’t call He Got Game a blind spot, it’s definitely something I need to revisit.
Adam: Fun fact: I got He Got Game on Blu-ray as a reviewer for DVD Verdict before I abruptly quit because I realized I had taken on too many writing assignments. Next up is Batman Returns, which, if memory serves me, was another movie I rented as I followed the Music Box Theatre calendar. My mind changes on Batman Returns every time I watch it. Sometimes I think it’s underrated and other times I’m bored and/or put off by the miserableness of it all. I know I’m supposed to say Michelle Pfeiffer is the best part of Batman Returns, but I think it’s Danny DeVito as The Penguin. If you compare this performance with his other work, his performance in Batman Returns is an amazing transformation. He’s pretty scary, which is impressive considering Batman villains are more often campy than threatening. Do you like Batman Returns?
Batman & Robin. It’s dark and gothic and violent and weird and somehow it was released by a major motion picture studio. I respect the fact that Tim Burton pulled a fast one on General Audiences and got rich doing it.
This was great! Our All Pacino series returns next week with a look at 1979’s ...And Justice for All. I’ve never seen it, but Young Al is always a treat. That sounded weird. You know what I mean. Until next time…
Adam: These seats are reserved.