Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Things to do in Jersey when you wish you were dead

In between hacking up a couple of lungs today, I tried to cheer myself up by popping in my DVD of "Used Cars," one of the great underrated comedies of my lifetime. When we first got HBO when I was a kid, my sister Stacy and I would watch this movie over and over and over again. (Possibly the only movies I watched more during my childhood were "Just One of the Guys" and "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training," and that was just because they were on more.) To this day, we still quote lines like, "If I can build and install a pacemaker into this man's chest..." or "Twenty-four thousand dollars? That's too fuckin' high!" at each other.

"Used Cars" may hold up on repeat viewings for me, but it was a flop at the box office and remains fairly obscure. It's far and away the movie I take the most pleasure in introducing to friends, and without fail, they burst into some combination of laughter and applause by the time Rudy buys the 250 cars. (If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about; if not, go rent it already.)

So before I load up on Tylenol so I can get through "Idol," here's today's open question: What book/film/TV show/etc. do you love but have trouble finding someone else who's even heard of it? I'm not talking about something like "Freaks and Geeks" or the movies of Terence Malick, that have small but rabid fanbases; I'm talking about something that makes you feel like the lone voice in the wilderness.

39 comments:

Michaela said...

I feel that way about BASEketball. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's Airplane for pervs, with a goofy kind of heart to it.

Samsara said...

No one I know seems to remember Tribes, the teen soap-opera that aired in '89 or '90. I loved that show!

Big Mike said...

"Motel Hell". One of the funniest horror movies ever.

Corey said...

No one in the world (or at least my world) has seen Midnight Madness - the best scavenger hunt movie ever! And Michael J. Fox's film debut.

Adam said...

THE IN CROWD, starring Donovan Leitch, Joey Pants and a cast of nobodies from the mid-1980s. Shot and set in Philadelphia, it's basically an homage to the American Bandstand era.

SeriouslyNoWay said...

The Brady Bunch Movie
I told a large roomful of "Hollywood" people it was my favorite and you could hear crickets.

Carrie said...

Mine would have to be Kicking and Screaming. Not the new Will Ferrel one, but the Noah Baumbach one about twentysomethings just graduating from college. I adore that movie. It isn't even released on DVD yet, but I hope someday they will do it because my VHS copy is getting a bit tired.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Corey, I have a friend who actually owns a complete set of publicity stills and one-sheets from the premiere of "Midnight Madness." You are not alone. The only parts of it I remember are the theme song and the bit at the brewery.

And Carrie, Kicking & Screaming is another underrated favorite of mine. "Are you wearing makeup?" "No... yes."

Heather K said...

I love "Kicking and Screaming." I love the sign on the pike of broken glass.

My lone voice is the novel "Peel My Love Like an Onion." The only people I know who have read it (except one) are people I have given it to. It is by Ana Castillo and really beautiful.

caitie said...

The Tomorrow People. A Nickelodeon show from the '90s that was about kids transporting all over the place to save the world? Or something? It seems that my brother and I were the only people who watched it and we both barely remember anything (I know there were giant mosquitoes and a kid transported into the ocean and they drank orange juice from a huge machine). Seriously, no one remembers it.

BWC said...

I remember the Tomorrow People coming on after You Can't Do That on Television. I remember teleporting and telepathy and Dr. Who level sets.

I agree on Used Cars, by the way--I used to push it on people when I worked at a video store as a neglected classic.

But my own pick would be Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Nobody ever believes me when I say that the sequel to a mediocre 80's flick was one of the funniest movies of the 90's, and the closest live action approximation of a Looney Tunes cartoon I've ever seen (including Joe Dante's own Looney Tunes Movie a few years ago).

david j loehr said...

With books, it's not so much a voice in the wilderness as being the pusher. I've introduced so many people to Robertson Davies over the years, but they've never heard of him beforehand, perhaps because he's Canadian. The Deptford Trilogy and the Cornish Trilogy are the best, just dazzling feats of writing, tho "Slings and Arrows"--which I love--reminds me of--and could well be intentionally inspired by--his novel "Tempest-Tost," since they're both Canadian.

Having been literary up there, I can admit to loving "Hudson Hawk." It's not perfect--Sandra Bernhard brings out the worst in Richard Grant, who's trying to keep up--but it's just dumb fun if you love Bond/Flint/Etc movies. And David Caruso as an impish secret agent mime? Who'd've thunk it?

kmars said...

The one movie I feel that way about is Big Trouble. It's a hilarious movie, with a great ensemble cast, based on a Dave Barry book. I have no idea why it wasn't huge. Stanley Tucci's performance alone is worth the rental. Oh, and I agree that BASEketball is frickin' great.

Alan Sepinwall said...

bwc, "Gremlins 2" is awesome. I saw it with some friends in a theater in a very scary part of Washington, D.C., and when the film broke and Hulk Hogan charged in to save the day, we all went berserk, we were so amused. (The home video version of the gag isn't as funny, but what can you do?) Tony Randall does one of my favorite voiceovers ever as the smart Gremlin, and I even liked Gizmo when he turned into Rambo. One of those rare sequels that's better than the original, even if only five people saw it to know.

David, if you go into Hudson Hawk with zero expectations, it's not bad. (The same can be said of Last Action Hero, frankly.) The only gag that immediately comes to mind is when Bruce and Andie MacDowell are paralyzed, but I remember that when I finally rented this from our local $1 video store, I was amused.

david j loehr said...

Oh, I saw Hawk without any expectations, was dragged to see it in the theatre by a friend on opening weekend. He wound up disappointed, but I liked it.

But it's no "Strange Brew."

diana said...

I have never met another person aside from my sister who knew what "midnight madness" was. and I could watch "the in crowd" over and over again - "dell gave me some friction to read."

but does anyone remember "the peanut butter solution"? it was one of those short hbo movies on in an after-school slot.

Alan Sepinwall said...

David, what could be? "I've gotta take a leak so bad I can taste it!" is one of the most useful movie quotes of the last 50 years.

Jon said...

Two that are dry as dust: Slither with James Caan and Peter Boyle, and The Black Bird with George Segal.

david j loehr said...

Why, I'm proud to say that my four-year-old knows that line and routinely greets his grandparents with "Good day, eh." (We all speak fluent Canadian.)

Marsha said...

My we-just-got-HBO movie is a little James Caan/Sally Field movie called "Kiss Me Goodbye." My sister and I watched it dozens of times. The other movie that we saw repeatedly at that time was Tootsie. "Kiss Me Goodbye" is a fun little film. I also love "Dancer Texas, Pop. 81" which is much more recent and I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who has ever seen it, despite it having an excellent cast.

In TV, I fondly remember the Tony Randall/Diana Canova show called "Love, Sidney" and no one else I know even remembers it existing, much less watching it.

The movie I'm constantly surprised people my age haven't seen is "Better Off Dead" - perhaps the second most quotable movie of all time, after Ariplane.

Joey Smallwood said...

*Beautiful Girls - it's the small town setting of this film that I like so much. Well cast, too.

*The Cutting Edge - a formula movie, but I like formula movies if they stick to the formula, and cast likeable actors. I never thought I'd endorse a movie about figure skating.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Marsha, if it makes you feel better:

"Lane, this mountain is pure snow! Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is?"

"Lane, I've been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I'm no dummy."

"He snorts nasal spray? Know where I can score some?"

"That's a shame, throwing away a perfectly good white boy."

"Inspiring words from a man who knows how to ski."

And yet somehow, Marian hadn't seen it before she met me.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, I remembered another one I love that almost nobody knows about: "Diggstown." I only saw it because it was a really rainy night in Philly and it was the only movie playing at the nearest theater that none of my friends had already seen. Starts off very slow, but the last 45 minutes or so, with Lou Gossett Jr. winning 10 boxing fights in 10 different ways is great. Or maybe that's just my addiction to underdog sports movies talking. (This would also explain why I also like "The Cutting Edge" despite it being a definitive chick flick.)

One of these days I'm gonna dust off the rough draft of my Greatest Sports Movies of All Time post that I never finished sometime in the winter...

highbrow said...

I got sneak preview tix to Diggstown!

I LUFFED "Cupid" and only know of 2 other people who watched every episode - all 14 of them! (out of a hopeful 100!) - Jeremy Piven & Paula Marshall weren't even given a chance!

Also enjoyed Jason Bateman's other endeavours, "It's Your Move" and "Chicago Sons". (and okay, "Teen Wolf Too"!)

Marsha said...

Toepick!

Oh, Alan, if you weren't married and I wasn't married... my heart is all aflutter. You've already got my favorite and most used ("Inspiring words from a man who knows how to ski.") and there's always "I want my two dollars!" But don't forget:

"CRISSSSSS-MISSSSS."

"Fronch Bread! Fronch dressing! Fronch Fries!"

"She dates the basketball team, Lane. The WHOLE TEAM."

"Go that way, very fast. When something gets in your way, TURN."

"Tentacles. N-T."

"Sorry your mom blew up, Ricky."

"And dying when you're not really sick is really sick, you know. Really!"

porter said...

There was an MTV show a few years ago called "FM Nation" or something like that - basically cameras followed a few people around for a night in some mid-sized town, with the radio sort of serving as the soundtrack. It was great - very un-MTV, in that it felt real-real and not "Laguna Beach" real. It lasted one season and was never heard from again.

My movie choice would be "A Midnight Clear," a fine little WW2 film about a squad of US soldiers that comes across some Germans who want to surrender. Great cast - John C McGinley, Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise ...

Joey Smallwood said...

I remember "Love, Sidney", and I liked it. Tony Randall was the *man*, especially when he made those sporadic appearances on Letterman. Remember his appearance as a mud-caked Woodstock fan?

Going way off here, anyone see a mid-80s minseries called "WWIII" about a battle fought between US and Soviet forces at a remote outpost in northern Alaska? It starred David Soul. Totally great war flick. Around the same time there was a TV movie about terrorists who had a nuke onboard a boat in South Carolina. The movie was presented a breaking news report, a la CNN. I think the guy who played Flanders in St. Elsewhere was in it.

Anonymous said...

I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO HAD SEEN MOTEL HELL. CLASSIC.

DonBoy said...

Around the same time there was a TV movie about terrorists who had a nuke onboard a boat in South Carolina. The movie was presented a breaking news report, a la CNN. I think the guy who played Flanders in St. Elsewhere was in it.

"Special Bulletin".

dez said...

"The Cutting Edge" is great because it stars one of the most underrated actors of all time, D. B. Sweeney.

And I also saw every episode of "Cupid." What a great show!

jim treacher said...

Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Syndicated '80s cartoon with a genetically enhanced shapeshifting Clint Eastwood soundalike named Goose. Also Jerry Orbach as a guy with a laser cannon for an arm.

velvetcannibal said...

I'm late to the party but...

"Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins"

Fred Ward. Joel Grey.

I can't explain why. I just... enjoy it. And I love "The Cutting Edge" too.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"Chun, you know sometimes you can be a real pain in the ass."
"That's because it is the fastest way to your brain!"

I can't explain it either. A grossly-miscast Fred Ward (whom I usually like), Joel Grey as a Korean martial arts master, Kate Mulgrew there for no reason other than that someone felt the movie needed a girl (not that she and Remo even kiss)... so much cheesiness, and yet I bet I've seen it at least a dozen times.

Now, velvetcannibal, did you ever see the "Remo Williams" TV pilot?

What I'm pleased about with this thread is how many people are discovering that they're not alone with this stuff, even if it defeats my original premise.

velvetcannibal said...

I am so stunned that you have seen it too. And delighted. Wow.

Remo: There are times when I could really kill you.
Chiun: Good. We will practice that after dinner.

Sadly, I have not seen the TV pilot. And neither has anyone else, so I've heard. But I doubt I would have been annoyed by the preemption as a five year old.

Sunegrl said...

On MTV around 96-97, "Austin Stories" was great. I miss Howard, Laura, and Chip. Does anyone remember neckfurters?

And BTW, the best part of Better Off Dead (after $2 and Fraunch) was the Asian students who learned English by watching Howard Cosell.

Eric said...

The Tomorrow People - there were two series, one in the '70s and one in the '90s. I lived and died by the '70s version when I was a kid, but never watched the later episodes.

Does anyone else remember the super-early days of Nickelodeon? No commercials. Livewire, The Tomorrow People and those Marvel Super Heroes cartoons where they photographed and "animated" panels of the comics.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sunegirl, not only do I remember Austin Stories, I actually interviewed all three of them back in the day, since Howard was from Jersey. I still remember him having the straightest, whitest teeth I have ever encountered in my life.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you - Used Cars is one of my all time favourites, too...

Anonymous said...

Okay, quiz question

Who plays the bunny girl stripper on the car roof with Kurt Russell in Used Cars? and in which well-known, long-running TV programme was she in?