Editor’s Note: This is an expansion of Kyle Smith’s list of the 10 best films of the 1980s published here in June. I’ve asked Kyle to expand his series as PJ Lifestyle begins offering more lists, articles, essays, and blog posts exploring culture, art, technology, and history by decade. Do you disagree with Kyle’s choices? Do you have your own ideas for lists of movies or other cultural subjects? Which years and what subjects would you most like to see covered at PJ Lifestyle? Email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] gmail.com Also check out Kyle’s top 10 movie picks for the ‘30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ‘70s, ’90s, and the ’00s before he expands them to top 20s.
20. Arthur (1981)
A throwback to ’30s screwball comedies, this light confection about a drunken playboy (Dudley Moore, in his prime) and the caustic butler (Oscar-winner John Gielgud) who serves as his counselor, nanny and father figure showcased Moore’s comic gifts but was also an oddly endearing buddy movie.
This article was originally published in two parts last year on September 13 and 14, recounting a discussion I’d engaged in on that year’s anniversary of 9/11. I hope you might find it useful as some of these ideas and arguments no doubt reemerge again tomorrow. Warning: just a few bits of profanity and sexually profane insults flung at me…
Dear Adam Bellow,
I’d like to congratulate you on building and launching Liberty Island. You’ve assembled an extraordinary team of writers — 25 so far profiled at PJ Lifestyle – with several of them beginning to contribute blog posts and freelance articles here. I’ll call them out, these are some really great writers and fascinating people: many thanks to Pierre Comtois, Jamie Wilson, Roy M. “Griff” Griffis, Michael Sheldon, Clay Waters, David Churchill Barrow, and David S. Bernstein. And Karina Fabian too is about to make her debut shortly with a wonderful piece that I’m scheduling for tomorrow. Updated: don’t miss “10 Excuses For Why We Don’t Get More Done (And Why They Are Excuses).”
I can’t wait to get to know more of the Liberty Island writers and continue collaborations.
I appreciated your recent manifesto, “Let Your Right Brain Run Free,” at National Review and really only took mild issue with what seemed to me your overemphasis on the novel and pooh-poohing of film’s greater power to hypnotize viewers:
What about Hollywood? Many conservatives talk about the need to get into movie production. I agree this is very important, but it requires a massive investment of capital, and more to the point, I think people on the right are over-impressed with the power of film. To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards. Sure, a successful Hollywood movie can have a major impact. But as a vehicle for political ideas and moral lessons, movies are simplistic and crude compared with the novels on which many are based.
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.
In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.
I will write novels someday. And I still enjoy reading good ones. Recently my wife pushed on me her newest obsession, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
The vivid narrative is a fictionalization of the author’s life and tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America and develops a career blogging about her discoveries among races and cultures. A wise excerpt from Page 273:
The movie rights have, of course, been acquired, with Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt starring. I can’t wait to see it.
So real life inspires blogging, blogging inspires a novel — the highlights of which are the blog posts in it — which in turn inspires a movie. I wonder how they’ll depict blogging in the film. Maybe they’ll update it and make her a vlogger on YouTube instead? Part of my wife’s enthusiasm for the novel was because the character was also part of the online “natural hair community,” black and mixed race women who share YouTube tutorials about methods for giving up straightening their hair with destructive chemicals and switching to natural styles and products instead. From page 13:
My wife in her art has called them a counterculture:
My interdisciplinary work concentrates on the Ebony woman, Gen-X leaning Millennials, and our hair. Social media and video-based tutorials have influenced many Millennial women to embrace natural representations of their ethnic hair. These young women have become pioneers of the Millennial Natural Hair Movement, an expanding and informed counterculture responding to painful trends that date back to the early twentieth century.
Here’s an example of a video she made depicting the kinds of tips that circulate on YouTube amongst Natural Hair vloggers (she gave it an artsier spin):
I think this is an expression of the paradigm for today — that the various mediums of novels, film, and online media are blending back and forth together and the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs more too.
Recently when April and I made our move to South LA this summer in our packing and unpacking I had the opportunity to go through the DVD collection I’d accumulated over the last 15 years and assess the titles that still had the most value to me. As we’ve discussed and you know I’ve written about, so many of the movies and filmmakers that I once loved as a nihilistic postmodern college leftist I now regard with varying levels of disdain, disgust, and embarrassment.
But these are ones that I continue to regard with affection, that I still return to, and that I think can offer inspiration for your growing team of counterculture crusaders looking to change the world with their art. Some of them I’m a little bit more critical of than I once was, but they all still have some usefulness in some capacity or another…
(Note: this is a version 1.0 of this list, future editions will incorporate newly discovered films and suggestions from readers…)
There are bad games, alright games, good games, and great games. Great games are the ones where everything is firing on all cylinders — gameplay, story, music and graphics are all top notch. The following 10 are the best games the NES has to offer.
10. Rad Racer
What is it?
Rad Racer is an on-rails racing game where you dodge cars to reach the goal.
What’s so great about it?
This game has pretty much everything going for it, considering it was among the earlier waves of NES games released for the system. The graphics took advantage of a parallax scrolling technique which simulated a horizon as players drove through the various stages and their terrains. The in-game music, which was composed by Final Fantasy veteran Nobuo Uematsu, was catchy on its own, but there was the option for silence if someone wanted to use their own tunes while they played.
The gameplay is especially intense because the NPC cars seemed to appear out of nowhere, meaning that if you were going too fast you’d crash and waste precious time trying to roll back over. Too many mistakes like this and you won’t make it to the checkpoints in time, leading to a game over. Most of the fun comes from seeing just how far you can get.
How can I play it?
Unfortunately, Rad Racer can only be played legally with a physical copy of the game and an NES console.
Check out the previous installments in James Jay Carafano’s ongoing series exploring war films: The 10 Best Movies to Watch to Understand the Cold War, 10 War Movies Guaranteed to Make You Cry, America’s First Wars in 10 Movies, 10 Movies For Understanding the Civil War.
“Is America a weakling, to shrink from the work of the great world powers?”
Having asked the question, Teddy Roosevelt proceeded to answer it: “No! The young giant of the West stands on a continent and clasps the crest of an ocean in either hand. Our nation, glorious in youth and strength, looks into the future with eager eyes and rejoices as a strong man to run a race.”
Teddy was chomping at the bit for America to go out into the world. But not everyone was “bully” about it. Between the Civil War and World War II, the U.S. had been involved in more than a few scraps. Often called “small wars,” few Americans were itching for bigger ones.
Hollywood hasn’t paid much attention to the Small Wars Era, a largely forgotten part of American military history. Finding 10 films was tough. Still, there is a cinematic and martial legacy worth noting.
10. The Wild West
Not all of America’s small wars occurred overseas. The U.S. military spent a good deal of its days after the Civil War conducting constabulary duties in the western territories. As military historian Andrew Birtle notes, “The Army has spent the majority of its time not on the conventional battlefield.”
Perhaps the most iconic movie of the “Indian Wars” period is Fort Apache (1947). This John Ford film stars John Wayne and Henry Fonda in a fictional story that borrows from historical events, including the Fetterman Massacre (1866) and Custer’s Last Stand (1876). An American classic, this film should not be missed.
Horace Silver was born Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva on September 2, 1928, in Norwalk Connecticut. Shortly afterwards, his father changed the family last name to Silver. As a child, his father taught him the folk music of his native Cape Verde and his mother sang in a local church choir. In his recordings these can be heard, along with Gospel, African and Latin-American rhythms. Originally, he played Tenor Saxophone (influenced by Lester Young), but then switched to piano (influenced by Bud Powell). Silver’s big break came in 1950, while performing at the Sunset Club in Hartford Connecticut, backing up saxophonist Stan Getz, who liked the sound of Silver’s band so much that he took them on the road with him. It was with Getz that Silver made his recording debut, on the album The Stan Getz Quartet.
1. “Penny” (1951)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlGqBooKj5Y Later in 1951, Silver moved to New York City. On Monday nights, he would perform at the famous Birdland jazz club, where various musicians would arrive and informally jam together. During that year, while working as a sideman there, he met several executives from the Blue Note label and eventually signed with them, an association that lasted for nearly thirty years. Shortly afterwards, Silver co-founded Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where he remained for four years.
11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.
Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.
In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville concluded that fractious republics were little good when a “nation must defend itself against other nations.” Still, he thought America would get along fine since in the new world, man “has no enemies other than himself. To be happy and free he has only to wish it.”
Boy, did Tocqueville miss the boat on that point! Even on a continent protected by two oceans, Americans have always found it necessary to fight for our freedom.
Most Americans give scant thought to the sacrifices made by the fighters who forged our nation. Filmmakers aren’t much different. But when it saw the chance to make a buck, even Hollywood couldn’t resist cranking out a few film gems that remind us of the heroism of the early republic.
10. The Shot Heard Round the World
Few Americans can name even one serious revolutionary war movie other than The Patriot (2000) with Mel Gibson. But four decades earlier, Hollywood produced a doozy: The Devil’s Disciple (1959). During the Saratoga Campaign, “Gentleman” Johnny Burgoyne (Laurence Olivier), the British general, takes time out from battling the Continental Army to root out revolutionaries in Websterbridge, New Hampshire. A brooding, black-sheep colonial (Kirk Douglas) finds his courage, risks his life, defies the British and puts the American cause above his own.
See the previous installment in Susan’s Dudeism series: How to Become an Official Dude in 10 Easy Steps
Warning: Given that the f-bomb is dropped in The Big Lebowski over 200 times, some of these clips will most likely be NSFW.
10. Abiding is a science as well as an art.
Patience is an inherent aspect of abiding. Other definitions include “to endure without yielding,” “to accept without objection,” and “to remain stable.” In the world of the Internet and social media technology, abiding is an anachronistic action. We have been shaped by our media to function at rapid speeds. One of the biggest goals of Common Core is to increase the speed at which students mentally process information. Not study, analyze and comprehend, but process and regurgitate the way they would like and share a Twitter or Facebook post. Abiding flies in the face of today’s high-speed reactionary culture.
If you own a computer, you’re going to find yourself in need of a “techie” someday. Your computer will slow down and stop working efficiently, or worse, it will crash completely and you’ll be visited by the black screen of death. When that day comes, you’ll call an IT guy (or gal) and hand your computer and all its precious — and very personal — data over to a complete stranger.
I’m not an IT person, but I happen to be married to the guy who gets the computers after all hope is lost — after the local computer shop has told you it can’t be fixed (and after they charged you an exorbitant amount of money for not fixing it). My husband (Gary) has a day job as a programmer and senior systems analyst for a Fortune 500 company, but by night, he becomes the Computer Whisperer, bringing systems back from the abyss. He rarely charges anyone (unless you count the cookies and other treats he receives from grateful friends) but considers it a hobby and a personal challenge to rescue lost computers. I’ve seen with my own eyes the deep magic of data recovery and the resurrection of a system that had been left for dead, so I’d like to offer a few things I’ve learned from watching him in action these many years.
Here Are 10 Secrets Your IT Guy Won’t Tell You:
No matter what the dream, to make it come true takes leadership. Luckily, Hollywood can help. Here are 10 films that teach important lessons for leading in tough times.
10. How to Turn Failing into Winning
Twelve O’Clock High (1949) is set in the early days of the American daylight bombing raids over Nazi Germany. The Allied bombers are getting clobbered. Meet Gen. Frank Savage (Gregory Peck), who has just been put into command of a bomber wing that is falling apart. To make matters worse, the previous commander was well loved by all. Savage has to earn their respect, instill the unit with vision and purpose, and turn his beleaguered bombers into a war-winning machine. Because the film is a realistic portrayal of the dynamics of turning around a failing organization, the U.S. Navy and Air Force still use it in leadership training.
Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.
10. Harry Potter
When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),
Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.
Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.
Last week I shared my picks for the most overrated destinations in the South, and this week I’m presenting the flip side of that list. Here are ten destinations that don’t always make the list of great places to visit down here in Dixie. Hopefully some of you will consider these places when you book your next vacation. Enjoy!
10. St. Petersburg, FL
On the north side of Tampa Bay, on a peninsula bordering the Gulf of Mexico, sits St. Petersburg. Like its sister city, Tampa, St. Pete boasts beautiful beaches, vibrant attractions, and nightlife. But deep down, St. Petersburg is a funky arts and architecture town masquerading as a mid-sized city.
The architecture of this city encapsulates much of the 20th century’s notable styles, yet nearly all the buildings look like they belong in a city by the water – quintessentially Floridian. The arts scene in St. Pete is strong – museums and bohemian arts communities are nestled all over the city, and one museum in particular holds the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s works in North America.
With an exciting city core and a beach rated number one in America, St. Petersburg has a lot to offer its visitors.
9. McLintock! (1963)
The Duke’s version of The Taming of the Shrew (co-starring his sparring partner from The Quiet Man, Maureen O’Hara) is one of his broadest comedies, an easygoing romp that showed Wayne being more overtly political in the role of a cattle king with family troubles. As a joke on Hubert Humphrey, the governor of the state for whom McLintock has nothing but contempt is named “Cuthbert H. Humphrey.”
As a lifelong Southerner, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s plenty to love about this varied region I adore. But I’ll also admit that certain areas of the South are simply overrated. Here’s my list of the ten most overrated destinations in the South.
10. Cherokee, NC
Let me start this entry by admitting that I love Cherokee. Growing up, we went there a lot for camping trips and vacations, and my mom’s family did too a generation before me. There’s a lot to enjoy about Cherokee: the history – especially the Trail of Tears play Unto These Hills – and the breathtaking scenery. But beyond that, most of what Cherokee has to offer is kitschy tourism which has changed little since the mid-20th century.
What has created the hype that has made Cherokee overrated? Harrah’s, of course. Harrah’s promotes Cherokee as some sort of amazing resort destination, but that’s not what Cherokee is. If you’re looking for history, natural beauty, and tacky retro-tourism, Cherokee’s your place. If you want to gamble and party, go to the casino and nothing more, because you’ll come away disappointed.
I’m so sorry for your troubles this week. I hope this list can help. Here’s some streaming sunshine with potential to provoke more positive moods via a variety of genres.
20. New Girl
I was very shocked at just how effective, funny and likable this sitcom was. Starring Zooey Deschanel as a perky, klutzy young woman moving in with three guys, the show has a sense of lightness and Deschanel is immensely sympathetic and entertaining. I don’t really watch sitcoms these days, but New Girl is done so well and is so consistently funny episode-to-episode that it’s worth checking out.
Maybe you’ve never considered spending your hard-earned vacation time in Cleveland. It’s certainly understandable because many people only know the city as the “Mistake by the Lake” or the home of the burning Cuyahoga River. But things have changed on the North Coast, and you might be surprised at all the cultural attractions the city on the shores of Lake Erie has to offer — great food, museums, theater, and more. The RTA buses run between most Cleveland locations and Uber just announced that they’re starting service in Cleveland, which will make getting around even easier.
Here are the Top 10 Things to Do in Cleveland:
10. Little Italy
Historic Little Italy is on Cleveland’s East Side, located on “Murray Hill” not far from Case Western Reserve University. It features charming restaurants and bakeries, art galleries, and frequent festivals and art shows. Our favorite restaurant there is Trattoria on the Hill. If you go, try the Shrimp & Gnocchi Trattoria, which features their gnocchi served in Trattoria’s homemade cream sauce with mushrooms, scallions, and a hint of cayenne pepper. If you’re not in the mood for pasta, try the Spinach & Prosciutto Pizza with black olives, white garlic sauce, and feta cheese.
For dessert, stroll down Mayfield Road to Presti’s Bakery for a cannoli or a delicious gelato.
The Feast of the Assumption is the biggest event of the year in Little Italy. Held in August to commemorate Mary being taken to heaven, the festival is an unusual combination of Catholic religious ceremonies, carnival rides, fireworks, lots of incredible Italian food, and heavy, heavy drinking.
10. The Romulans
What exactly do the Romulans have that justifies their defining quality, their arrogance? They’re among the most boring species in all of Trek, the kind of evil twin to the Vulcans, known for their deceitful and warlike nature.
Their only redeeming feature seems to be how cool and genuinely intimidating their warbird ships are:
The rumors of a forthcoming Star Wars land at Walt Disney World keep raising their heads from time to time. So I thought it would be fun to put myself in the Imagineers’ shoes and (to use their term) blue-sky some ideas for a Star Wars land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here’s what I came up with…
One of the prevailing rumors surrounding a potential Star Wars land at Walt Disney World (and other parks) concerns a restaurant based on the Chalmun’s Cantina at Mos Eisley. A.J. Wolfe over at Disney Food Blog has discussed the idea of a Cantina-based quick service space potentially coming to Disneyland Paris as well as to Orlando.
This idea has a ton of potential. I can picture an animatronic version of the band playing music from the films and dishes themed to the Cantina, along with menu items that conjure up life on Tatooine. Of course, a Walt Disney World Cantina would have to be much more family-oriented than in A New Hope, but I imagine how much fun a Cantina could be for fans of all ages.
So I finished reading Cowboys and Indies and I still don’t understand how the recording industry works.
Some guy gets 50 percent of another guy’s 20 percent. At least three famous, powerful music biz “suits” were literally tone deaf. And don’t even get me started on all the different varieties of “rights.”
It was like reading a Swahili textbook on algebra.
What I did learn was that there’s no mystery as to why some talented performers wallow in obscurity while their inferiors succeed. Don’t believe people who tell you they’ve cracked the “hit record formula.”
The real reason? “Independent promoters,” a.k.a, payola, plays a big part.
So that’s depressing.
What follows are my picks for ten songs that should have been bigger than they were:
If you’d asked the director of any of these Top 10 Film Noir Classics just how he’d personally define “film noir” he’d most likely have responded “film wha?” But way before these films were noticed and dissected by “arty” types and given a French name (“Film Noir” French for “black film”), we the people loved them. These were dark and shadowy Saturday afternoon movies — films filled with hard boiled cops, tough-talking private eyes, cruel and evil “bad guys” and dangerous women, oh yes, especially dangerous women. And that’s exactly what we loved about them.
Studios turned them out by the score – many pure dreck – largely just to fill theater seats on dreary afternoons. Back then they were called “melodramas,” “mysteries” or even just plain old “B movies.” But among the many there were more than a few that proved to be much more than “cheap thrillers,” films that have stood the test of time. Truly great films filled with memorable characters, scripts that bordered on brilliant, and dark, visually compelling, stories one can watch over and over again even after one knows how the underlying mystery has been solved.
So, call them whatever you wish. Here’s our list of the Top 10 Film Noir Classics…
10. The Big Sleep (1946)
How could one not include a film that has one of the most cynical private eyes ever to stand before a camera? We’re talking about Humphrey Bogart as Phillip Marlowe. Add to this a femme fatale so sultry (actress Lauren Bacall playing playgirl Vivian Rutledge) that during the film’s shooting she won over, not only that hardened detective’s heart, but actor Humphrey Bogart’s as well.
Thoroughly entertaining, witty, and with several dark mysteries waiting to be revealed, The Big Sleep has a place on any list of essential film noir.
After my post a few weeks ago debunking myths about the South, the idea came to me to look into different inventors from Dixie.
I found that, as with many regions of the country, most Southern inventors came up with products we don’t use anymore or don’t really think about. But some really fascinating inventions and innovations originated in the minds of Southern men and women.
From agricultural advances to technological breakthroughs to revolutionary beverages, the South can claim quite a few innovations. Here are fourteen of them…
17. The ArcLight movie theater at the Galleria.
Where: 15301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA
Our theater attendance tended to drop the last few years as my wife’s graduate school workload increased, but when we really wanted to see something projected well and make a nice date of a movie this was our preferred indulgence.
10. Almost Famous (2000)
Cameron Crowe’s reflection on his years as a teen Rolling Stone correspondent has all the warmth, directness and immediacy of a candid first novel — but, critically, Crowe didn’t make it until many years later, giving the film an additional layer of bittersweet nostalgia and emotional depth. The film wriggles with youth and echoes with maturity at the same time.