Dan’s All Time Top 100 – #9

#9 A Fish Called Wanda”

Director: Michael Crichton

Screenplay: John Cleese, Michael Chricton

Stars: John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin

Original Release Date: 15 Jul 1988

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Tagline: “A tale of murder, lust, greed, revenge and seafood.

Oscars: 1 (Best Supporting Actor – Kevin Kline), 2 other nominations

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%                                          Berardinelli: 4.0, #10 of all Time

Metacritic: 80 critics, 8.3 users                          Ebert: 4.0 – #6 of 1988

IMDB Top 250: n/a

 

In film criticism, there is nothing more subjective than comedy . For me, A Fish Called Wanda is the funniest film ever made. Period. Full stop. I can’t tell you how many times I have screened this film and I laugh my ass off every time. It’s a comedy that knows it’s a comedy from start to finish and gives us its most legendary line in the closing scenes (“Here c-c-c-comes K-K-K-Ken….”).

Kevin Kline’s Otto is perhaps my single favourite character in film. I love this performance. An ex-CIA “weapons man”, Otto is arrogant, stupid, jealous, gullible and strangely resourceful. He wakes up and reads Nietzsche, but he could just a s soon be reading Dr. Seuss for his philosophy. He really believes he is smart and can speak Italian. He is a great combination of explosively violent and easily confused.

a fish called wanda apology scene

I am really really sorry. I apologize unreservedly.

Cleese plays Archie Leach (Carey Grant’s real name) who is the defence lawyer for George Tomlinson, a jewel thief. George’s “girlfriend” Wanda (Curtis) tries to seduce Leach to gather important information on the trial and the location of the hidden jewels so that she can leave George in prison and escape with Otto. The whole time, Ken, the stuttering loyal friend of George, is trying to kill the prosecutions key witness, and old woman who loves her dogs more than any person. Wanda knows that a pouty look and bit of cleavage and control just about any man, and well, she is right.

Funny is funny. I believe that anything can be funny in the right context. And in this film, we see jokes made about stuttering, torture with French fries (chips, sorry), being British, being American, foreign language fetish, public nudity, jealousy, little old ladies with heart conditions … the list goes on.

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I MIGHT ASK YOU THE SAME QUESTION!

Although the laughter in this film is primarily Otto’s, it is an ensemble cast where every character gets laughs. Consider the scene in Leach’s house, where Wanda is trying to seduce Leach, Otto follows her in a jealous rage (“Touch his dick and he’s dead!”) and Cleese dry as toast wife Wendy comes home unexpectedly. This scene has Marx Brothers timing and laughs from each and every character. “My father worked for the Secret Service Mr. Manfrensinjensen”.

A Fish Called Wanda was an instant classic on its release in 1988. It was shown in theaters with the blisteringly funny short “The Cat Came Back” from the National Film Board of Canada and the two combined left me needing oxygen. It’s the only time in my life that I have paid to see a movie in theatres two days in a row.

Wanda is that rare gem: a comedy that does not try to preach, teach and become an action flick or romance. It knows its place. It lives off the rule that funny people trying to be funny in funny situations is not funny. (At no time in the film is Otto in on the laughter he creates). It’s a brilliant script, genius timing and just offensive enough to ruffle almost any brow. I can’t recommend it enough.

Final word – buy and own this film. If you see a censored version on network TV or TBS, just pass it by. It’s not funny without the profanity.

 

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Sorry wrong answer. That’s a chip up the nose.

 

Favourite Quote:

Otto: You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, fuck-face, dickhead, asshole.

 

Trivia:

Michael Palin (Ken) based much of his character around his own father who stammered, including the fact that the stammer was less around people he liked and trusted (George and Wanda) and worse around those he didn’t (Otto).

 

This is the HD Version of The Cat Came Back from the National FIlm Board of Canada. One of the great animated shorts. I do not own or have rights to this clip. For your viewing pleasure only.

Dan’s All-Time Top 100 – #10

#10   The Lord of The Rings”

Director: Peter Jackson

Screenplay: Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens

Stars: Ian McKellan, Elijah Woods, Viggo Mortenson,

Original Release Date: 2001, 2002, 2003

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Oscars:

Fellowship: 4 (Score, Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound Effects), 8 other nominations

Two Towers: 2 (Visual effects, sound effects), 4 other nominations

Return of the King: 11 (Picture, director, screenplay, score, original song, visual effect, sound, editing, art direction, costume design, make up)

 

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, 96%, 94%                        Berardinelli: 4.0 stars for all three, #20 All time top 100, #1 of the 2000’s

Metacritic: 92, 88, 94                                                Ebert: 3.0, 3.0. 3.5

IMDB Top 250: 11, 16, 9

 

I have these movies as one entry for three reasons. First, they were filmed in one seven-year stretch and they tell one story. Second, I love them all. Third, it allows me the little cheat of adding two more films to my list.

Before we start for the record, if I entered them separately, Two Towers would be Top 10, followed by Return of the King in the 20s and Fellowship in the 40s.

I love the way these films seamlessly blend special effects into the plot and the leading edge use of CGI. Smeagol is purely CGI, but he is evil and good, creepy and sympathetic and 100% real. He is the key to the success of the series. Never for a moment in any of these movies do we feel that we are watching animation interact with Frodo and Sam. I would argue that no CGI character has ever had more depth.

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This is one of my favourite images from all three films combined.

The battle scenes are epic, relentless swashbuckling classics. The reason I love Two Towers the most is the Battle of Helms Deep. Yes yes yes I know it takes up a third of the film and 20 pages of the book. But in the film, it works. It’s not just the battles, but the stories within, the cuts to Isengard and to Sam and Frodo, the sense of utter helplessness then finally, the great White Rider appearing when all seems lost. A smidge hokey? You bet, but never dull and made with total conviction to the material.

The films are also brilliantly cast. I really cannot stand Orlando Bloom, but he is perfect as Legolas. Sir Ian makes Gandalf a wise advisor, good friend, skilled general and fearless warrior.

 

The conversation in Two Towers between Smeagol and Gollum has rightfully become a legend of its own

The conversation in Two Towers between Smeagol and Gollum has rightfully become a legend of its own

If you want to nitpick about the differences between the movies and the books, we could be here all day. Ebert did not like the way the movies took attention away from The Hobbits and towards Aragorn. Others did not like Gimli as comic relief. But again, in the movies, this works. Knowledge of the books is not required to enjoy the film adaptations. I read them afterwards. I love both equally.

The theatrical release was excellent but the extended version available on Blu Ray adds to the already epic adventure but there is nothing extraneous added. These are the versions I watch. The more I watch the more I understand why certain creative liberties were taken in the screenplay process. There is never a time when the movie seems choppy and they all stay true to the soul of the novels.

In creating Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson advances CGI and made fantasy a viable movie genre. Before that, most were flops, including some ill-advised LOTR adaptations. Now, it is common place and the technology used for Gollum was key in films like King Kong, Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

The-relentless-Uruk-hai-capture-Pippin-and-Merry-in-New-Lines-The-Lord-of-The-Rings-The-Two-Towers-2002-27-650x435

Uruk Hai from Two Towers on their relentless return to Isengard.

Lord of the Rings has its detractors because of the way it adapted a nearly unadaptable series of books. Oddly, my favourite book and movie is Two Towers and of the three, that film strays furthest from the book.

These films work best as whole, when the full vision is realized. I own the Blu Ray extended version box set and have gone coast to coast on it, on my own and with my kids, at least 10 times and will several more. This is one movie project where you can see $300 million on the screen.

 

Favourite Quote:

Treebeard: “You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.”

 

Trivia:

So much in these films, but here is some interesting casting trivia. Patrick Stewart turned down Gandlaf because he did not like the script. Both Daniel Day Lewis and Nicolas Cage turned down Aragorn. Uma Thurman was cast as Arwen but dropped out due to pregnancy. Lucy Lawless turned down Galadriel for the same reason. Christopher Lee was the only cast member to have met J.R.R. Tolkien and lobbied for the role of Gandalf but accepted Saruman because he wanted to be a part of the project.

Producer Harvey Weinstein’s vision of this project was two movies of two hours each. Disney who felt that there was no market for fantasy films turned this down.

Remembering Mork

Remembering Mork

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A Tribute to Robin Williams

From his appearance as an unknown on Happy Days in February of 1978 guest starring as Mork the Alien until his tragic and untimely death yesterday, Robin Williams became a part of American culture. For 40 years he was part of our lives and for many of my ilk, we cannot remember life without him and are still reeling at the thought of him being gone.

Why did we love him so much? He was a man of many personal demons. Battled drugs, alcohol and depression most of his life. He made more than his share of mediocre (and worse) films.aladdin-genie

But when Robin appeared on screen, the audience would all giggle in delight. You really never knew what to expect.

If you look his most famous roles – Mrs. Doubtfire, The Genie, Adrian Cronauer, John Keating – they are four wildly different men/women/entities. But they were all distinctly his. They all had his signature and they all worked.

In stand-up, he redefined the genre. In his early years, there was no-one like him, not even close. Hyper kinetic, stream of consciousness that could chase down any rabbit hole and find the humour. (Case in point, what 1982’s A Evening with Robin Williams and pay attention when an audience member gets up to go to the washroom).

Robin Williams could make anything funny – and perhaps that is what we liked about him. At the end of this article, I have some quotes from various topics and he could find the often-twisted humour anywhere. He even spoke openly about his own drug and alcohol problems and although there was a serious side, he let us all laugh along with him. Because sometimes, that’s all there is to do, right?

helloooo

Robin Williams always found a laugh, especially where it didn’t belong. After 9/11, he said that the Statue of Liberty should be changed to holding a baseball bat saying “You wanna piece of me??!!”. He has biting political humour and took on everyone.

If you look at Robin’s 10 highest grossing films, they really summarize his storied and legendary career.

Mrs. Doubtfire (2), Patch Adams (7), The Bird Cage (9) and Good Morning, Viet Nam (10) are pure schtick. The Robin Williams stand up comic, let loose is a star vehicle.

Aladdin (3), Happy Feet (4) and Robots (8) are his brilliant, incomparable voice over work. Only Eddie Murphy can compare.

Night at the Museum (1 and 5) and Good Will Hunting (6) are supporting roles. As the world grew familiar with his brand of humour, he was content to take these secondary roles and bring movies to life, if only for a small amount of time screen.

He also made several deep and thoughtful films. What Dreams May Come, Bicentennial Man, Awakenings, The Fisher King and Garp were all challenging films that explored themes of life, the after life, our purpose, marriage, love and friendship.

In total, there were 46 films with a total domestic gross of over $3 billion.

Although The Genie will rightfully takes its place in Hollywood legend, I will remember Robin the most for Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Viet Nam, the mercurial DJ on Armed Forced radio. This will full of vintage Robin Williams stand up, but also had depth and emotion to it that for the first time made me thing, holy crap, he can act!

Through all of this, Robin Williams maintained an accessibility and vulnerability to his audiences. He was the kind of guy you wanted to have over for a beer.

Although we will be denied Mrs. Doubtfire 2, Robin has 4 films yet to be released. So we will get a chance to see him on the big screen again.

Once shock of his death settles in and the tabloids leave him in peace, I hope we can remember Robin Williams as not just a funny man. A skilled actor, genius comic, all around nice guy and humanitarian.

If you want to celebrate his career, I encourage you to look beyond Aladdin or Patch Adams. Try What Dreams Will Come or World According to Garp. Perhaps Awakenings or his excellent work in The Butler.

Rest in Peace Mr, Williams. You’ve earned it.

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Great Robin Williams Quotes

 

On Marriage

Ah divorce. From the Latin word meaning “to rip a man’s genitals out through his wallet.”

 

On His Home, San Fransico

“A place where ‘God Save the Queen’ has a whole new meaning”.

 

On The Arms Race

‘A woman would never make a nuclear bomb. They would never make a weapon that kills. They’d make a weapon that makes you feel bad for a while’

 

On Drug Use

“Cocaine is God’s way to of saying ‘You make way to much money; “.

 

On Sports

“Cricket is basically baseball on valium.”

 

On England

‘In England, if you commit a crime, the police don’t have a gun and you don’t have a gun. If you commit a crime, the police will say, “Stop, or I’ll say stop again”‘

 

On Rehab

“I went to rehab in wine country, to keep my options open.”

 

On the Amish

And, if you’re ever in Amish country and you see a man with his hand buried in a horse’s ass, that’s a mechanic. Remember that’

 

When Accepting his Oscar for Good Will Hunting

Most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, “Wonderful. Just have a back-up profession like welding.”.

 

On Jonathon Winters

Jonathan Winters was my mentor. I told him that and he said, “Please, I prefer idol.”.

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Commentary – A Few Notes Before the Top 10

A few notes before I start to reveal the Top 10 tomorrow.

First and foremost, SPOILER ALERT! While I do intend to write reviews, some day The Top 100 are not reviews. These will be commentaries on the films; their history, story and what it is that make me value them so much.

All of them are well known films. Five are best picture winners and they range in age from 2003 to as old as 1951. Only one is a certified “blockbuster” but all the titles are well known. So if you haven’t seen one, I envy you. You get to see it for the first time. But read my entry after you do if you don’t want to know some key points of the film.

Second, my #1 selection has been just that for almost 20 years. That said, any of the top 4 could be #1. I love them all. All of the Top 10 are films with meaning to me. I remember when I first saw them. What I felt. What my reaction was. For the ones I saw theatrically, the experience in the theatre.

I will reveal the Top 10 one at a time, every few days. The 10 entries are written and for what its worth, I kinda like the dramatic effect.

I started this blog for a number of reasons. I always wanted to. I enjoy writing. I love film. I wanted to chronicle my favourite films.

But most of all, my hope is that a reader will be interested by a movie, seek it out and watch it.

If there is a movie in my Top 10 you have not seen, it’s a great place to start.

A lot of my top films appear on other bloggers and critics all time great lists. That’s just fine. I refuse to be weird for its own sake. These are all wonderful films. The great ones stand the test of time.

On to the Top 10. Entry #10 is precious to me. Very preciousssss….

Dan’s All-Time Top 100 – #11 to #15

15 “Platoon”

Director: Oliver Stone

Screenplay: Oliver Stone

Stars: Charlie Sheen, Willem DaFoe, Tom Berringer

Original Release Date: 06 Feb 1987

Oscars: 4 (Picture, Director, Editing, Sound), 4 other nominations.

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%                                          Berardinelli: 4.0 stars (Top 100 #48)

Metacritic: n/a                                                           Ebert: 4.0 stars (#1 Movie of 1986)

IMDB Top 250: #167

platoon

The winner of Best Picture in 1986, Oliver Stone’s Platoon changed the way we watch war movies. There is nothing cool or inviting about war in this film. There is no story arch or character development. Instead, Stone set out to make a film about his memories, what it was like to be in the war.

In Platoon, there are no battle lines drawn. The viewer is chucked into battle the same way the soldiers are. The enemies are never clearly seen. They are shadows, footsteps, rustles and anticipated, gripping fear.

Each soldier has his own way of dealing with things. From the drug-addled Elias (Willem Dafoe) to the tough as nails Barnes (Tom Beringer) who is a homicidal nutcase. Bunny, brilliantly played by Kevin Dillon, masks his fear in toughness and bloodlust.

With Platoon, the audience experiences the chaos and uncertainty of the Vietnam and Cambodian jungles. A bullet could just as easily hit friend as a foe. A wrong turn could mean death. Its gory and visceral and amongst the best war films ever made.

 

Favourite Quote:

Barnes: Do it.”

(You will know why I love this line when you see the film)

 Trivia:

Oliver Stone wrote the first draft of this script in 1971 and wanted to make the movie starring Jim Morrison. Morrison had a copy of the script with him at the time of his death.

 

 

14 “Fargo”

Director: Joel Cohen

Screenplay: Joel Cohen and Ethan Cohen

Stars: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy

Original Release Date: 050 April 1996

 

Oscars: 2 (Actress – Frances McDormand, Original Screenplay), 5 other nominations.

 

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%                                          Berardinelli: 3.0 stars

Metacritic: 85%                                                        Ebert: 4.0 stars (Top 10 of the 90s)

IMDB Top 250: #151

Fargo

During the critics screening of Fargo in Chicago, Gene Siskel climbed over a couple of seats to sit beside Roger Ebert and said “this is why I love going to the movies”. Fargo was both their picks for the #1 film of 1996 and has endured as an American Classic.

The Cohen Brothers are sometimes quirky for quirky’s sake, but not here. If Fargo, they have created real characters and a setting familiar and comfortable, but filled with edge and despair.

Frances McDormand won an Oscar here for Best Actress and deservedly so. But it is William H Macy as the pathetic Jerry Lundegard that will go down in legend. Jerry’s life is caving in around him. He has created a scheme to get his wife kidnapped, extort ransom money out of his grumpy father-in-law and split it with the kidnappers. Everything that could go wrong, does.

Fargo is a half comedy, half murder mystery. It is a movie that takes enormous risks, all of which work. It has a brilliant screenplay and cinematography so beautiful and compelling and sadly underrated.

It not just about the murder, its about the people’s lives involved in the case. It wraps up with one of the most genuine and brilliant closing scenes I have ever seen. Fargo keeps getting better as it progresses and its an infinitely watchable movie.

 

Favourite Quote:

Marge Gunderson: I’m not sure I agree 100% with your police work there Lou.

 

Trivia:

Almost every word and every mumble and stumble by William H. Macy’s character Jerry was scripted. Contrary to popular belief, he did almost no ad-libbing.

 

 

13-Days-Counting-Photo-from-www.techsavvyagent.com_-300x260 “Citizen Kane”

Director: Orson Welles

Screenplay: Orson Welles & Herman J. Mankiewicz

Stars: Joseph Cotton & Orson Welles

Original Release Date: 05 Sep 1941

Oscars: 1 (Screenplay), 7 other nominations.

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%                                       Berardinelli: 4.0 stars (Top 100, #11)

Metacritic: n/a                                                           Ebert: 4.0 stars (Top 10 of all time)

IMDB Top 250: #64

Citizenkane

It almost seems cliché to put Citizen Kane in your Top 100. It has so many accolades and so much praise and has been parodied so many times that it often forgotten how great it is.

Like my previous entry, Fargo, it is a movie that takes tremendous risks, all of which work. It was a staggering technical accomplishment at the time but it is more than anything, a truly compelling story.

Citizen Kane chronicles the life of Charles Foster Kane (played by Welles, based on William Randolph Hearst). It is told in a non-chronological manner, starting with his death and his enigmatic final word, “Rosebud”. The film shows clips of Kane’s life and interviews with those who knew him, trying to piece together who he was, what drove him and ultimately, what was Rosebud.

Citizen Kane is a technical masterpiece. Edited by Robert Wise (who went on to direct West Side Story) and filmed by Greg Toland, there are deep and rich images in this movie that have still yet to be rivaled. The famous hall of mirrors shot and some of the earliest and best uses of Deep Focus.

What is most amazing about this film is that it was almost never made. Its open mockery of Hearst and his mistress of the time meant that the film saw great resistance. Indeed, Hearst smeared Welles in his own papers, accusing him of being a communist. Citizen Kane was the establishment and ruin of Welles directing career at the same time.

Citizen Kane as stood the test of time better than almost any film ever made largely because it has seen more challenges. It is the great American tragedy both on and off the screen.

 

Favourite Quote:

Charles Foster Kane: You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in… 60 years.

 

Trivia:

The film, while critically praised on its release, was a box office flop. William Randolf Hearst forbade any reviews in his newspapers and openly accused Welles of being a communist. During the 1941 Oscars, the movie was booed when mentioned for every nomination.

 

 

12 “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenplay: Lawrence Kasden

Stars: Harrison Ford, Nancy Allen

Original Release Date: 1983

Oscars: 4 (Sound, Editing, Special Effects, Art Direction), 4 other nominations

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%                                       Berardinelli: 4.0 stars (Top 100 #8)

Metacritic: n/a                                                           Ebert: 4.0 stars (#6 of the 80’s)

IMDB Top 250: #30

raiders

With Raider’s, Steven Spielberg’s goal was to make a B-movie, popcorn flick, just do it better. He succeeded in spades. Indiana Jones, with Harrison Ford’s signature cool detachment, has become a movie icon and although bad sequels water down this film, it is in and of itself, a classic.

The plot is pretty simple. Indiana Jones is an archeology professor who for reasons that are never clearly explained, also seems to possess super-hero levels of power and killing skills. He is on a quest to find the Ark of the Convenant, the last know resting place of the tablets of the 10 commandments. His race is against a squad of sadistic Nazi’s who are trying to find this great prize for their Furher.

The film takes us on a thrill ride of snakes, fights, blood, death traps and seemingly inescapable peril. It the true tradition of its predecessors, Jones is relentlessly good, tireless and never loses his hat.

Raider’s does not try to teach, preach or be sentimental. It exists purely to entertain. With all of its relentless adventure, its surprisingly funny too. That what may set it above its ilk and make it a classic.

 

Favourite Quote:

Indiana Jones: It’s not the years honey. It’s the mileage.

 

Trivia:

The above quote was ad-libbed.

 Also, Harrison Ford was only cast three weeks before shooting started. The list of actors considered for the role were Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Tom Sellick (first choice), Nick Nolte and even Chevy Chase.

 

 

11 “This is Spinal Tap”

Director: Rob Reiner

Screenplay:

Stars: Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner

Original Release Date: 1983

Oscars: None

Critics and Users

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%                                       Berardinelli: 4.0 stars

Metacritic: n/a                                                           Ebert: 4.0 stars

IMDB Top 250: n/a

 Spinal Tap

With This is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner gave us the birth of the “mockumentary” and one of the funniest films ever made. Any musician reading this has seen this film, loved it and seen it over and over again. This film is a fictitious account of a Documentary Filmmaker Marty, following the mythical band, Spinal Tap as they launch a US tour well past their prime. Spinal Tap is a great throw back to the days of arena rock. As they tour and they realize that the interest in their misogynistic over the top glam rock is waning, we feel for these once world famous rockers. We follow then back stage, to kick off parties, to Elvis’ grave, to the painful experience of them hearing one of their early hits on the radio. Their album names are things of legend (“Shark Sandwich”, “Smell the Glove”, “Inter-Venus di Milo”, “And God Created Spinal Tap”). Their songs are sophomoric frat boy loudness (“Big Bottom”, “Lick my Love Pump”). Their drummers die the worst deaths. (Spontaneous combustion. Choked on someone else’s vomit. A bizarre gardening accident that the police said was best left unsolved).

McKean is David St Hubbens. St Hubbens, he explains, is the patron saint of quality footwear. He is the creative force behind the band, the lead singer, and songwriter. Guest is Nigel Tufnel the band’s diva lead guitarist whose overly long, incredibly self-indulgent solos are fabled. Shearer (better known today as C. Montgomery Burns) is  Derek Smalls , the laid back bass player with a killer stash and stuffed pants.

The three stars played and sang for real. The movie is a hysterical, sentimental valentine to an era gone by and to all of us who are past our prime and not yet ready to admit it.

And for those reading this who have seen the film, the irony just dawned on me that I have this movie in spot #11. Seriously.

 

Favourite Quote:

Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?

 

Trivia:

Guitarist “The Edge” from U2 said of this movie, “I didn’t laugh, I wept. Its so close to the truth.”

 All the main actors in this film play their own instruments and do their own singing.