Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

My entertainment choices, based on old receipts

Not too long ago on Facebook, the latest thing to pass the time while we waited to go outside again was to write about concerts you had seen – first, last, loudest, best, worst, that sort of thing (by “not too long ago” I mean last spring, as it’s taken me some time to complete this). I did not participate, because I didn’t feel like it and I was offended by a friend of mine saying that the worst concert he ever went to was Marillion, because I paid for his ticket, so he saw them for free, which I think ought to mitigate his response somewhat. (The story is: Marillion almost never tours the States, but they did in 2012, but they were not playing in Arizona. They were playing in Los Angeles, but I don’t know many people in Los Angeles, and they were playing in Philadelphia, and I do know people there. So I asked some friends if they would be willing to go even though they aren’t fans of the band, because I didn’t want to go alone. I offered to pay for their tickets, too, because they weren’t super-expensive. I also bought a ticket for my sister, who was a fan from way back in the day. So four of us went to the concert, and we had some drinks before, and we all had a good time. My friend wasn’t familiar with their music, so he didn’t have the best time, I get that, but he spent the evening with his friends out in the city and barely spent any money, so I was offended that he said it was the “worst” concert he’s been to. Seeing it for free has to mitigate a bit, right? Anyway …) I did start to think about various entertainment options I’ve utilized over the years, however, and because I am a ridiculous pack-rat, I tend to keep receipts/ticket stubs when I go see something. So I figured it would be fun to go over them a bit. Hence, this post! Let’s take a look, with the realization that this is not complete (although it is, as you’ll see, exhaustive), as I know I have lost receipts over the years. But it’s something!

My grumpy friend is in the middle; does he look like he’s at the worst concert ever?

Anyway, this is … a lot. It doesn’t begin until I went off to college in 1989, either because I didn’t save the receipts from earlier than that (which isn’t likely, as I’ve always been a pack-rat), or my mother threw them away, which seems a lot more likely (she is quite possibly the least sentimental person ever, except for maybe my father) and she likes things clean, damn it! So yes, it’s very long, but I’ll … add commentary along the way? How’s that sound?

2 November 1989: On the Verge at the Pavilion Theatre, University Park PA. ($3.00) When I read the description of this play, I vaguely recall it, but I don’t remember much else. It seems fun.
30 November 1989: The Imaginary Invalid at the Pavilion Theatre, University Park PA. ($3.00) This is a Molière musical, if you can believe that. I actually do recall this quite well – it’s a weird show about a hypochondriac, and I remember the actor in the lead role doing a very good job. I could have sworn I saw this with my future wife, but I hadn’t met her yet.
14 January 1990: Bob Dylan at Rec Hall, University Park PA. ($18.00) I think I saw this with my girlfriend at the time (she didn’t go to Penn State; we were together in high school and were trying a long-distance relationship, as she was attending the University of Delaware), but you’d have to ask her. The show was very good, as Dylan was full of energy (the dude was 48 at the time), but he sang a lot of new stuff, which I didn’t know, and you couldn’t understand him anyway. I’m still glad I went.
13 June 1990: Marillion at Pulsations, Glen Mills PA. ($13.50) I definitely saw this with my girlfriend, as she bought me the tickets for my birthday. The venue, however, was an “over-21” place, and when we got there, they weren’t going to let us in. We were grumpy about it, especially my girlfriend, because they hadn’t said anything about it when she bought the tickets (my girlfriend was, and still is, kind of awesome). Finally they let us into a balcony seat almost directly over the stage, but they said we couldn’t leave our seats and go downstairs to the bar area. During one song, Steve Hogarth, the lead singer, actually climbed up on some amps and shook my hand – that’s how close we were to the stage. So that was pretty keen. It was a neat show, and it’s one of the better presents I’ve gotten in my life. (And, to prove that you can find literally anything on the internet, here’s the set list for that night!)

30 June 1990: RoboCop 2 at 309 Cinema, Montgomeryville PA. ($4.50) Look at that price! That wasn’t a matinee, by the way – I will list when the movie was a matinee, because I’m swell like that. I don’t remember much about RoboCop 2 – wasn’t this the one with the kid who’s evil? He was fun. I know it doesn’t have a good reputation, but I don’t know if it’s valid, because I don’t remember much about it either way. Maybe I should re-watch it. As for listing the movie theater … yeah, I’m going to do that where I can. The 309 Cinema was not too far from my house, so I saw a bunch of movies there. It’s still there – it’s on 309 where it cuts across Welsh Road and Lower State Road, in case you’re interested.
1 August 1990: St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia PA, Section 310, Row 7. The Phillies won 11-10! Yay! Dykstra and Daulton hit home runs! ($9.00) I used to go to the Vet with my grandfather, mostly, usually to the Wednesday “Businessman’s Special” (back before they became “Businessperson’s Specials”), which were the day games on Wednesdays that were normal back in the day (I don’t think they’re a thing much anymore). The Vet was a toilet, basically, but I have fond memories of it. The best memory I have was seeing the Philadelphia Stars play there on a Monday night in either 1983 or 1984, and it pouring down rain but everyone in the stands dancing around in the rain (wildly drunk, no doubt) while the Stars won (looking at their schedules, they played only two Monday night home games and won both, so they obviously won the one I went to). Good times. I saw a lot of Phillies games at the Vet, but never an Eagles game. Weird. Anyway, I don’t remember this game, but the Phillies won!
23 October 1990: The Main Event: G. Gordon Liddy vs. Timothy Leary, Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park PA. Before the damned PC Police destroyed college campuses forever (like they’ve done in real life and not in the wild imaginings of crazy right-wingers!!!!), there was this very odd lecture tour. Liddy, out of prison and feeling fine (damn, Liddy turned 90 in November!), went around with Leary arguing about shit. I don’t remember the content, but I remember that it was very entertaining. Despite their differences, the dudes seemed to like each other, and while they insulted each other a lot, it was more like when your friends and you bust on each other. Fun times! [I typed this early in the morning of 30 March. About eight hours later, I learned that Liddy died on that day. According to the dude who posted about it on Facebook, I obviously killed him. You’re … welcome?]
17 January 1991: Satanism: Dangerous Dabblings: A Presentation by Jon Rittenhouse, Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park PA. On the other hand, I remember going to this, but not much else about it. I know I went with a few friends just to see what the hell was up, and I seem to recall it being your typical “Satan will tempt you with the video games and the whores!” kind of thing that was a big deal in the Eighties. Man, the Eighties were awesome.
22 February 1991: Hamlet at 309 Cinema, Montgomeryville PA. ($5.50) I actually dig the Mel Gibson Hamlet quite a bit, despite Mel being too old for the part (he was only 33/34 when playing it, but he felt older, didn’t he?) and despite Glenn Close being only 9 years older than he was, so they really leaned into the weird incest subtext of the play. But the cast is stacked, the scenery is terrific, and it’s a brisk retelling (most versions of Hamlet are cut because it’s a long damned play; this one feels cut more than others). I had read Hamlet in school, but this, I think, is the first time I’d seen it. IT WOULD NOT BE THE LAST!!!!!
25 February 1991: The Pirates of Penzance at the Playhouse, University Park PA. ($4.50) Man, I don’t remember this at all. You’d think I would, as it’s, you know, famous. But I don’t.
17 April 1991: The Children’s Hour at the Pavilion Theatre, University Park PA. ($3.50) I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve seen the play!
2 June 1991: Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia PA, Section 575, Row 6. Pittsburgh won 5-3. BOOOO!!!!! Bonds hit a home run! ($9.00) Bonds hitting a home run will become a trend at games I see with him in them.
19 July 1991: Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey at 309 Cinema, Montgomeryville PA. ($4.50)
27 July 1991: Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey at 309 Cinema, Montgomeryville PA. ($4.50) This isn’t the first movie I saw more than once in the theater, obviously, but it’s the first one for which I have proof! I love the first movie and have seen it probably more than is healthy, but when I watched these recently with my daughter (who digs Keanu, because who doesn’t dig Keanu?), I was surprised by how much I liked this one on a re-watch. It doesn’t have the first one’s sense of utter insanity, and it’s not quite as quotable, but it’s a better story than the first one, and it’s just as funny. I still haven’t seen the new one yet, but I’ll get around to it!
10 August 1991: The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia PA. The Frankin Institute is awesome. Just another reason why Philly is a Top Ten City of the World. Yes, THE WORLD!!!!!
14 August 1991: Lollapalooza at Stanhope NJ. ($25.00) This is the first iteration, for those people who think I’m just a square. I WAS AT THE O.G. LOLLAPALOOZA, BITCHES!!!!! Famed comics writer Jason McNamara was there, too, but I think he was at the other day at Stanhope, because I definitely saw Siouxsie and the Banshees play and I think he has mentioned that she was sick the day he went. Anyway, this was a pretty excellent concert. Weirdly, Nine Inch Nails played before it was complete darkness, which kind of defeats the purpose. Jane’s Addiction was the major draw, of course, but NIN was excellent, Ice-T was fun and angry, Living Colour was great, Siouxsie was appropriately weird (I’ve never been a big fan), and my friends and I had a blast.

29 September 1991: Public Enemy and Anthrax at Stabler Arena, Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA. ($18.00) Speaking of cool-ass concerts, my friends and I went on a road trip to Lehigh to see these two bands tour, and it was fun as all get-out. PE famously shouted out Anthrax in “Bring the Noise,” as Anthrax was an early white-boy band that embraced hip hop, and they tore it up at this concert. Good stuff!
9 October 1991: God’s Country by the University Resident Theatre Company, The Playhouse, University Park PA. ($4.50) This is an excellent play about white supremacy. It’s just too bad it’s no longer relevant!
2 November 1991: Jesus Christ Superstar by Penn State Thespians, Schwab Auditorium, University Park PA. ($7.00) This is my favorite musical of all time, so I’m glad the acting troupe at Penn State put it on while I attended. I actually tried out for this and did not get cast. Oh, the theater lost such a major talent that day!!!!! My wife likes to tell my daughter that when we were driving across the country in 1993, I put the soundtrack into our tape deck and sang EVERY SINGLE LYRIC to her. I can still do it today! If you want me to do a podcast of just me singing along to the JCS soundtrack, click “Like” to subscribe!
17 November 1991: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Rec Hall, University Park PA. ($17.00) This is, I guess, a legendary tour (especially after Smashing Pumpkins left the bill and Nirvana joined), and I’m glad I got to see it. I found out a few years later that my future wife was there, too, but we didn’t know each other then. RHCP were the headliner, as Blood Sugar Sex Magik was a big deal then, but Ten had been released a few months earlier, although it wasn’t as huge as it would be, and Gish had come out a few months before that, and Smashing Pumpkins wasn’t as huge as they’d be in a year or so. So it was a great time to catch all three bands, especially the two “opening” acts. I remember a lot from this concert, but two things stand out: Billy Corgan being an absolute asshole, which I guess was his schtick at that time (what a stupid schtick!), and Pearl Jam playing every single song on Ten … except “Black” for some reason, which pissed me off because it is, of course, the best song on the album. Why, Eddie, WHY?!?!?!? What a fun time, though!
10 January 1992: Prospero’s Books at Ritz 5 Theater, Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA. ($3.50 – matinee) Peter Greenaway directed this oddball telling of “The Tempest,” and John Gielgud dazzles as Prospero. As you might expect, it’s bizarre and full of nudity, but also quite excellent. I saw this in downtown Philly because such weird-o movies rarely made it to the suburbs! Check out that great matinee price! A lot of these matinees are at 5 o’clock or so – I can’t recall every time on the tickets, but I noticed as I was going through. I love going to movies in the morning, but often I’d go around 5 and then get dinner afterward with whomever I was with. I have a feeling I saw this with my best friend, who shares my enjoyment of askew movies (he got me into many of them, actually). I was not at school at Penn State on the 10th of January 1992 (the 10th was a Friday that year, and I imagine classes had started on Monday the 6th) because I was going to study abroad, and I didn’t leave until February. So I had a longer Christmas break than usual!
12 January 1992: The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Franklin Mills, Philadelphia PA. ($3.75 – matinee) This was supposed to be Rebecca DeMornay’s big comeback movie (well, this and Backdraft, in which she had a small role), but it never really worked out. Still, she’s terrific in this movie, but what sticks in my mind is Julianne Moore’s death scene. So sad! I didn’t realize Curtis Hanson directed this. No wonder it’s a cut above your usual thriller!
18 January 1992: Rush at 309 Cinemas, Montgomeryville PA. ($4.50) I have written about my celebrity crush on Jennifer Jason Leigh, so of course I was going to see this! This is a depressing movie about two undercover cops who get addicted to drugs while trying to ensnare a drug dealer, and Leigh kills it in the role, but she was, sadly, not even nominated for an Academy Award. WHO DO I HAVE TO KILL TO GET JENNIFER JASON LEIGH AN OSCAR?!?!?!? It’s very unfair. Anyway, I remember liking this movie, but man, I don’t want to see it again, because it was brutal to watch.
7 February 1992: The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia PA. I’m not sure if I emphasized enough how much the Franklin Institute FUCKING RULES.

Okay, so on Valentine’s Day, 1992, I arrived in Melbourne to begin a semester at the University of Melbourne. So for almost the next five months, I was in Australia, doing my thing, and I saw a bunch of movies but the ticket stubs don’t say at which theaters they were shown. You’ll just have to live with that!

18 February 1992: Cape Fear, Melbourne. I didn’t have much to do for about a 10 days or so, and I hadn’t gotten to know the other people who were there, so I went to the movies. I like this flick, probably more than the original. No, I don’t like Juliette Lewis all that much (I’m not really a big fan of hers in general), but De Niro is terrific.
21 February 1992: Freejack, Melbourne. Freejack is a terrible movie, but I didn’t know that going in! Emilio Estevez is a race car driver who “dies” in the present, only to find himself plucked into the future, 2009, where rich people grab people at the moment of their deaths and place their minds into the new bodies so they can live on. Rene Russo is Emilio’s girlfriend, and of course she doesn’t age a bit in the 17 years between the beginning of the movie and the future, because movies! Mick Jagger is the heavy, Anthony Hopkins is the rich dude who wants Emilio’s beautiful young bod, and I’ve spent far too much time writing about this. It’s bad. Let’s move on!

14 March 1992: Dead Again, Melbourne. Kenneth Branagh’s best movie? Discuss.
23 March 1992: JFK, Melbourne. I love JFK. Peak insanity from Stone.
11 April 1992: Black Robe, Melbourne. This is a brilliant but brutal movie about a French missionary in the 1600s wandering through Canada. When I saw it, I thought the portrayal of the Indians was very well done, because they’re not just nobles like they are in so many movies of the time, where they can do no wrong or, if they do, it’s completely justified. In this movie, there are a lot of Indian roles, and they’re just people, and they do good things and bad things. I heard the novel was much harder on the Indians, but I haven’t read that. This is another movie that I probably wouldn’t want to see again because it’s rough, but it’s good to see once!
14 April 1992: My Own Private Idaho, Melbourne. I’ve only seen this movie this one time, but I cannot stress how much I love it and I really ought to watch it again. Phoenix is tremendous, Keanu absolutely kills it, and every other actor – from Udo Kier to Flea – is wonderful. The story is brilliant and tragic and powerful, and even the “directorly” touches – Keanu’s sex scene, the magazine covers coming to life – are clever enough to not be pretentious. The campfire scene (see below) is one of the most amazing things you’ll ever see. And the song that plays over the end credits is the Pogues’ “The Old Main Drag,” which is why this movie reminds me of one of the few regrets of my life (which I wrote about in my Phonogram post, but I’m repeating myself!). I saw it with some friends, and they didn’t know the Pogues or didn’t like the band (sacrilege!), so I stayed behind when I realized the song was playing over the end credits while they went on ahead. I noticed someone also standing there, quietly singing along. It was, of course, a cute-as-heck young lady, and we chatted for a few minutes about our love of the Pogues and what an appropriate song it was and how good the movie was. Did I immediately ask her out? OF COURSE I DIDN’T, BECAUSE I WAS EXTREMELY STUPID!!!!! We parted when the song was over, and it remains, I kid you not, perhaps my only regret. I have no idea if anything would have happened, and not long after this, I got together with another young lady for the remainder of my time in Melbourne (a woman I’m still friends with, even though she currently lives a bit over 8000 miles away from me), and later in 1992 I met the woman I married, so it all worked out, but I think that stupidity and timidity helped me a few months later, when I met the woman I married. I wasn’t stupid with her, I can tell you that much! (She may tell a different story, so let’s not ask her.) Anyway, My Own Private Idaho is a superb movie. Go see it with someone you love!

16 April 1992: Prince at Flinders Park Tennis Center, Melbourne. ($47.70) Prince live is awesome. At this point, he was 33 and still at the top of his game. This was an excellent show.
7 May 1992: Collingwood vs. Carlton “Centenary Match,” Melbourne Cricket Grounds, Melbourne. ($1.00) I’m not sure if I realized it at the time, but this match was exactly 100 years to the day after Collingwood and Carlton first played each other in Australian Rules Football, and many of the people we had become friends with supported one or the other team, so we went down to the MCG to check it out. As it’s an “important” match, you can find it on YouTube, and apparently Carlton won, but we Yanks had no idea what was going on, we just liked the whole scene. Aussie Rules Football is quite fun – more interesting than rugby, to be sure – and the MCG is a very cool stadium. After the match people could actually go down on the pitch and hang out, which we did (apparently you can’t do this anymore, presumably because some loser screwed it up for everyone by being a douchebag). It was a good night.

9 May 1992: A Shakespeare Season, VCA School of Drama, Grant St Theatre, Melbourne. I have no recollection of this at all. But I like Shakespeare, that’s certainly clear!
9 May 1992: Basic Instinct, Melbourne. Yes, it’s a ridiculous movie, but Stone kills it in probably her only great role (no, Total Recall doesn’t count, and she was fine in Casino, but not great), and Douglas plays “douchebag” quite well (he’s rarely a villain, but he’s often a douchebag-with-a-heart-of-gold, which he’s quite good at), but man, Jeanne Tripplehorn is lousy (Tripplehorn is not a good actor, and this is her first movie, and remember how people kept trying to make her a thing in the early 1990s?), which brings the whole thing down. I haven’t seen this in a long time (I think I’ve seen it one other time than this one), so maybe I should watch it again just for fun. [Since I wrote this, I have watched it again, and yep, still ridiculous and still fun.]
16 May 1992: Grand Canyon, Melbourne. I wrote about this movie here. I really dig it.
22 May 1992: Bacchaean Ball, San Remo Ballroom, 365 Nicholson, North Carlton, Melbourne. So in Melbourne, I lived at a “college” (technically a “Baptist” college, although a great deal of “un-Baptist” behavior went on there!). This is more like a dormitory than a college in American vernacular, as we think of “college” as someplace you take classes. That’s “university” in those British-y type places, while a “college” is just someplace you live. It’s kind of halfway between a dorm and a fraternity/sorority – it’s a bit more organized than a dorm, as our college, at least, encouraged people to think of themselves as a member of the college in a way that an RA in a dorm does not, but it certainly wasn’t as formal as a fraternity/sorority. Anyway, each “college” of the university tended to have a ball, where everyone got dressed up and went to a ballroom and drank and danced and probably hooked up. I’m not quite sure if this one was ours – I went to two, as they were open to all students whether you lived at the college or not. I had a blast at both of them (I have never been a huge drinker, so while I know I drank, I didn’t get stupid drunk), and I remember walking back from it across northern Melbourne with a bunch of friends and even then thinking how you could never walk so far in an American city while drunk and dressed really nicely and not get accosted. Maybe you can now, but my point is that Melbourne back then was a really safe city.

Look at the studly 21-year-old in the back row, second from the left!

29 May 1992: The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Melbourne. Yep, I saw it again!
13 June 1992: Beauty and the Beast, Melbourne. My daughter has watched this so many times on DVD that I forgot I saw it in the theaters when it came out. It’s a pretty good movie (not Oscar-worthy, but whatever), and damn, Angela Lansbury singing while Belle dances with Robby Benson gets me in the feels every single damned time.
19 June 1992: Sydney Explorer. ($15.00) After the term was over but before I went back to the States, I had some time for traveling. I didn’t do much when I did arrive in places, mainly because I didn’t really have places to stay and I didn’t know anyone and I wasn’t even really sure what to do in Sydney and Brisbane, the two cities I visited. I took the bus around Sydney for a while, checking places out, then walked around. I had taken the train from Melbourne overnight (so I could sleep), and I only spent one day in Sydney before taking the train to Brisbane overnight. Earlier in my sojourn in Melbourne, I had spent a long weekend driving around Tasmania with friends, but I guess I didn’t keep the receipts of what we did. I also spent time with my parents touring around when they visited me (it was their 25th anniversary that year, so they decided to combine that with coming to see me, which was nice) and I spent a day or two in Adelaide with some friends, but again, I have no receipts. I wish I had spent more time in Sydney and Brisbane, but I was a callow 21-year-old who didn’t know anyone, so I had no idea what to do except explore a bit. And see movies – see below!
20 June 1992: Batman Returns, Brisbane.
20 June 1992: Alien3, Brisbane. Brisbane is a beautiful city, and I actually had a nice morning wandering around checking it out, but by the afternoon, I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I saw two movies. I actually like Alien3 quite a bit. Deal with it!
27 June 1992: Batman Returns at Capri Twin Cinemas, Shepparton, Victoria, Australia. After I spent a few days in the north, I went back to Victoria and hung out with my girlfriend at her farm for about a week. She lived in northern Victoria, near Shepparton, so we went into town to see Batman Returns. Yes, I had just seen it a week earlier. It was Batman, man!

I got back to the States in mid-July. Let’s move on!

16 July 1992: Batman Returns at 309 Cinema, Montgomeryville PA. ($4.50) I hadn’t seen Batman Returns with my friends yet!
5 September 1992: Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates, Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh PA, Section 632, Row D. The Pirates won 6-1 and Bonds hit a home run. ($8.00) What, you might ask (if indeed you’ve even gotten this far!) was I doing in Pittsburgh over Labor Day in 1992? Well, a friend of mine went to the University of Pittsburgh (affectionately known by PSU people as “Pitt,” which they don’t want to be called anymore), and so my roommate – one of my oldest friends – and my best friend from home went out to see him. I had only been to Pittsburgh once, in 1984, and remembered it as a yucky city, but by 1992, they had done some urban renewal, and it was a really nice place (I don’t know what it’s like now). We hung out, went to the game (where Bonds, you’ll note, hit another home run), and ended up drinking 40s of malt liquor and taking Percocet, which mellowed us out a whole lot. I actually got in an argument with my best friend because I thought he was wasting his life (he had dropped out of college and didn’t know what he was doing next), and I swear we would have fought each other if either of us could get out of our chairs. We made up later, but it was close!

That’s not the dude I argued with, but that’s the aftermath of our evening, just to show you

12 November 1992: The Comedy of Errors at The Playhouse, University Park PA. ($5.00) This was probably the first play I saw with my future wife as a couple. We officially became a couple on the 10th, and I don’t know if we had planned to see this before that (we were friends for a few months before we got together). Anyway, SHAKESPEARE!!!!!
5 December 1992: Aladdin. ($5.50) I remember the outside of the theater and the weather (it was cold), but I don’t quite remember where this was. Somewhere near the Penn State campus, but I’m not sure.
1 January 1993: A Muppet Christmas Carol at 309 Cinema, Montgomeryville PA. ($4.50) What a terrific movie!
9 March 1993: The Crying Game at United Artists Oxford Valley, Langhorne PA. ($6.00) I adore this movie, and I kind of wish it was more lauded. Forest Whitaker is superb, Miranda Richardson is superb, Stephen Rea is superb, and of course Jaye Davidson is amazing. I should re-watch this soon.
3 April 1993: Ballet Hispanico at the Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park PA. ($16.00) A date with the future wife. I don’t remember much about it, but she tells me it was neat. (She doesn’t necessarily have a better memory than I do, as she doesn’t remember some of the things on this list, but we remember different things well. Teamwork!)
11 May 1993: Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia PA, Section 251, Row 9. The Pirates won 8-4. BOOOO!!!!! But the Phillies won the pennant that year! ($12.00) I don’t remember anything about this game. But the Phillies in 1993 were tons of fun.
24 May 1993: Sliver at United Artists Theatres. ($5.50) I thought this might be trashy fun like Basic Instinct, but hoo boy, this is a terrible movie, and no fun at all. Avoid this if possible!
4 June 1993: Much Ado About Nothing at 309 Cinema, Montgomeryville PA. ($6.00) Branagh and Thompson were on top of the world when they made this movie – they were both around their peak hotness, and they were a couple, and all was right in the world. This is a terrific movie – it was filmed in Tuscany in the late summer, it’s very funny but also occasionally tragic, it’s very romantic, and it sports a dynamite cast: Branagh and Thompson are superb, and then there’s Kate Beckinsale, Imelda Staunton, Brian Blessed, Denzel and Keanu, Robert Sean Leonard, and Michael Keaton (who’s hilarious). Even Keanu gives it the old college try!
4 July 1993: Sleepless in Seattle at United Artists Theatres. ($5.50) This is the movie Hanks made right before Philadelphia, for which he won his first Oscar and which basically turned him from comedic/romantic guy into serious guy (not completely, but essentially). I miss comedic/romantic Tom Hanks occasionally. Anyway, this is the second of the three movies he made with Meg Ryan (I think?), and I dig it. I’m not a big fan of how doormatty Bill Pullman is in this movie, but otherwise, it’s a good flick. And I don’t know if you can still see the houseboat Hanks and his son “lived in” in the movie on a boat tour of Lake Washington in Seattle like I did in the late 1990s, but you could once!
26 July 1993: Much Ado About Nothing at the Regal Theatres, Huntingdon Valley PA ($6.00) Look at me, seeing this twice in the theaters!
29 August 1993: The Fugitive at the Orpheum, Flagstaff AZ. ($3.00 – matinee) In early August 1993, my future wife and I packed up a Honda Accord and drove west, young man. She wanted to attend graduate school at Lewis and Clark College in beautiful Portland, Oregon, and she also wanted to get far away from her family (her family is/was very nice, but they’re all Italians and are therefore a lot to take). I didn’t have anything, really, keeping me in Pennsylvania, so I went with her. I figured if things didn’t work out I could always go back to my parents and regroup. Things did work out, though, so that was nice. We drove in a zig-zag route across the country, and on 29 August we were in Flagstaff, and it was raining (it does rain occasionally in Arizona!), so we saw The Fugitive. You may have heard of it.

We arrived in Portland in September, found a place to live, got jobs, and settled in. Portland in the 1990s was a superb place for the arts. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a theater company, and they had a lot of movie theaters that didn’t just play blockbusters. We didn’t want to have kids right away, so we went to a lot of movies and plays. Buckle in!

9 October 1993: M. Butterfly at Act III Theatres. ($5.50) I dig this movie, even though it could be better. Jeremy Irons is good, as is John Lone, and Cronenberg is Cronenberg, even if he’s not quite as adept with this as he is with some other movies. Irons has always been a fearless actor, which is why his movies don’t always do well but they’re usually always interesting.
13 November 1993: Fearless at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) This is part of Peter Weir’s incredible 20-year run as a director, and I love it. Jeff Bridges could have won an Oscar as a man who survives a plane crash and becomes both unafraid of death and somewhat detached from life. He’s indifferently cruel to the widow of his friend, who died in the crash, and seems to have no interest in his wife, played fiercely by Isabella Rosselini. He becomes a bit obsessed with Rosie Perez, playing another survivor whose baby died in the crash. The cast is superb, the story doesn’t go where you think it’s going, and it’s just a superb film. That it was nominated for only one Oscar (Perez for Supporting Actress) is ridiculous. 1993 was a frickin’ ridiculous year for movies. Schindler’s List (see below) was always going to dominate, but the other nominees were The Fugitive (see above, and it probably deserved it, but this movie is better), In the Name of the Father (see below), The Piano (see below), and The Remains of the Day (which I have seen, just not in the theater). That’s a murderer’s row of great movies, so it’s not too surprising that Fearless was left out. All the directors were nominated except Andrew Davis for The Fugitive (not too surprising), with Altman for friggin’ Short Cuts (another great movie) sliding in. What’s Love Got To Do With It, Six Degrees of Separation, The Age of Innocence, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – just a killer year, was 1993.)

15 January 1994: The Piano at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) I love this movie, but for two things: nobody needs to see that much of Harvey Keitel’s unclothed body, and this movie made me hate Anna Paquin because her character is so very evil (she was great as Rogue, though, so I guess I’ll forgive her). It’s a gorgeous movie, and the cast – Holly Hunter (who won an Oscar), Sam Neil, Keitel, and Paquin (who also won an Oscar) – is wonderful. It gets bleak, but it’s not too tragic, which is nice. (Apparently this is probably the last movie Kurt Cobain ever saw. Fun trivia!)
22 January 1994: Philadelphia at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) I don’t mind Hanks winning the Oscar – I’m much more grumpy about his next win – but let’s face it, he has a showier role, not necessarily a better one than Denzel, who deserved it more (and wasn’t, needless to say, even nominated). It probably wasn’t racism – Fishburne was nominated for Best Actor in the same year – but it’s still annoying, because Denzel’s arc is much harder to pull off, and Denzel does it wonderfully. #JusticeForDenzel!!!!!!
5 February 1994: Schindler’s List at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) We watched this a few years ago with my daughter. Yep, it’s still great. Tommy Lee Jones stole Ralph Fiennes’s Oscar!!!!
5 March 1994: In the Name of the Father at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) I don’t care that this is historically sketchy, because it’s a terrific movie. Day-Lewis and Postlethwaite are excellent, but Emma Thompson as the lawyer on the case is sublime, and her speech at the end that gets Day-Lewis out of prison gets me every single damned time. Thompson is great, y’all. She’s won one (1) Oscar for her acting, which is a goddamned crime.

9 April 1994: The Paper at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) Ron Howard movies are all like this – well made, usually cast very well, some comedy, mostly drama but nothing too deep. So it is with this flick, which has a great cast (Keaton, Close, Duvall, Tomei, Robards, and even Randy Quaid not being too crazy!) and is kind of slight despite attempting to navigate some touchy subject matter (race, basically). It’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours.
14 May 1994: The Crow at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) Man, Brandon Lee is good in this movie. So is Michael Wincott, who never became a big star even though he’s usually magnetic in any movie in which he appears. I love this movie, and the soundtrack rules.
21 May 1994: Maverick at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) This is perfectly enjoyable, and I’m sure no one held a gun to Jodie Foster’s head to get her to be in this movie, but she is really miscast. Some actors move between comedy and drama easily, but Foster doesn’t seem to have it in her to be comedic. She’s fine, I guess, but Mel and Garner are really having fun with this, and Foster looks like she’s acting.
28 May 1994: Four Weddings and a Funeral at Act III Theatres. I’ve seen some of the movies Hugh Grant made before this, but I saw them after this, so I think this was the first time I saw him, and he’s very charming. Andie MacDowell is, of course, luminous, but of course Kristin Scott Thomas and John Hannah steal the movie, Hannah with his recitation of Auden’s “Funeral Blues” and Thomas in every damned scene she’s in. Thomas is another actor who’s never won an Oscar and who never became as big as her talent seemed to indicate she would be. Oh well – she’s brilliant here!
11 June 1994: Speed at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) Everyone rightly says Die Hard is kind of the platonic ideal of an action movie, but Speed comes close. You know there are, like, three action movies in this? The first hostage situation, the bus, and the train. Good stuff!
25 June 1994: Little Buddha at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) Keanu as Siddhartha? Sure, why not? What a weird movie – Bertolucci certainly takes chances, and generally, this is a pretty good flick. I miss Bridget Fonda, though – I think she’s very underrated, and it’s kind of a bummer that she retired.
9 July 1994: The Lion King at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) My wife and I are seeing these movies years before we have children, I should remind you.
15 July 1994: Forest [sic] Gump at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) The movie stub I own reads “Forest,” which kind of cracks me up. Anyway, this is a perfectly decent movie that has been hugely overrated because it won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay. If you squint, you can make the case for Hanks (Travolta probably should have won, but Freeman and Hawthorne would have been acceptable), but the Best Picture nominees were Pulp Fiction (which should have won, despite what Jeff Nettleton says), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Quiz Show (see below), and The Shawshank Redemption (see below) … all of which are better than it; the Best Director nominees were Allen for Bullets Over Broadway (see below), Tarantino, Redford for Quiz Show, and Kieslowski for Red … all of which would have been better choices; Best Adapted Screenplay should have gone to either The Madness of King George (see below), Quiz Show, or Shawshank. Forrest Gump is fine, but not the classic everyone seemed to think it was.
16 July 1994: Rose Festival Airshow at the Hillsboro Airport. My parents must have been in town, because I doubt we would have gone here without my mom thinking it was something cool to do. I don’t remember it, if you can’t tell.
22 July 1994: True Lies at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) Even when I was a young, dumb, “un-woke” person, I could tell that this movie, the last pretty good movie James Cameron has directed (how sad is that?), was a bit regressive with its treatment of women. The middle section is actually kind of dull, with Bill Paxton providing some comic relief that isn’t really needed at all and Jamie Lee Curtis getting gaslighted heavily, but Tia Carrere doesn’t come off particularly well either, and the misogyny could easily be lifted out and you’d get a tighter, leaner, better movie. I mean, Schwarzenegger has underrated comic timing, Tom Arnold is humorous in small doses, and Curtis is also underrated as a funny actor. So the middle section, where most of the misogyny shows up, doesn’t need to be there. I don’t mind the cartoonish Arab villain as much, simply because I can accept the action movie trope of a cartoonish villain, but I get that he’s also not great. Sigh. This has good action, though, and I do wish Cameron had leaned a bit more into the family comedy angle. It’s fun, but not as good as it could be.
July 1994: Portland Scottish Highland Games at Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham OR. Every July, Portland has the Scottish Highland Games, and we usually went, but I only have the ticket stub for this year and 1996 (see below). We were in Portland for eight summers, and we probably went to four or five of these. We’ve been to one (possibly two?) in Mesa after we moved to Arizona, but it’s not quite as good, sadly. Anyway, it’s a good time – we get to see people throwing heavy objects (the Scots like throwing heavy objects), listen to some keen music, eat some good food, and buy some cool shit. The weather is usually nice, and it’s a nice setting. So we enjoyed it!

10 August 1994: It Could Happen To You at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Is this movie racist? It’s charming enough, as Nicolas Cage, pre-Oscar, plays a cop who promises to leave half his winnings in the lottery to his waitress because he doesn’t have enough for a tip. Of course, he wins, and he does give half of the $4 million to Bridget Fonda. And of course they fall in love. I didn’t love the way the movie shows Rosie Perez as his shrewish wife in 1994, and over the years, as we’ve become more attuned to this sort of thing, the fact that she’s Puerto Rican and plays into some stereotypes while her Anglo husband ends up leaving her for an Anglo waitress is more bothersome (they make sure that Cage doesn’t do anything with Fonda until Perez dumps him, because he’s a good guy). I don’t know if anyone has revisited this extremely slight romantic comedy, but I doubt if it holds up well these days.
13 August 1994: Barcelona at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) I adore Barcelona, the second of Whit Stillman’s “early Eighties” trilogy that he did over the course of 8 years in the 1990s (I saw Metropolitan at Penn State, where they used to have recent movies for a buck in various auditoriums around campus; I saw a lot of movies that way, but the ticket stubs were just the kind you can buy in bulk and weren’t customized, so therefore I don’t have them listed here). It stars some of the people from his first movie, with Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman both showing up, while Mira Sorvino stars as one of the objects of their affection. Stillman has had a very odd career, barely working in movies but doing marvelous work when he does, and this movie is excellent.

18 August 1994: Indigo Girls at Edgefield Winery, Troutdale OR. ($20.50) This was a good show – outdoors at a winery near the Columbia River, so the setting was gorgeous, and the Girls were kind of at the height of their powers about now. My wife and I like to joke that we were the only non-lesbian couple in the audience, but we didn’t care!
30 August 1994: Natural Born Killers at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I liked this when I saw it, but it’s impressive how relevant it still is, 28 years later. It’s kind of a sad statement on society, I think.
24 September 1994: Quiz Show at Regal Theatres, Huntingdon Valley PA. ($6.25) Redford’s examination of the quiz show scandals of the 1950s was never going to win awards, because it’s a bit too staid even for Academy voters, but it’s better than Forrest Gump, for crying out loud. Fiennes is superb as the cheating Charles van Doren, Turturro is amazing as the smart, smarmy guy who’s too “ethnic” for the show’s producers, Scofield is wonderful as Fiennes’s outraged father, and this is probably Rob Morrow’s best movie role? This is just a very entertaining and smart movie, and it’s too bad it kind of gets lost in the margins.
1 October 1994: Ed Wood at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) It’s kind of sad to think that this might be Tim Burton’s last great movie – he’s made entertaining ones since this, but great? Big Eyes, I suppose, is considered quite good, but I haven’t seen that. Anyway, Depp is great, Landau is a good Oscar winner (although he beat Samuel L. Jackson, so he probably wasn’t the best choice), Jeffrey Jones is there to make us all retroactively uncomfortable, and D’Onofrio kills it as Welles. Just a wonderful, goofy movie, and possibly the best from Burton.
15 October 1994: Pulp Fiction at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I love this movie, and while we should feel pity for Jeff Nettleton because he thinks it’s no good, the fact is that even if Tarantino stole shit, so did Shakespeare, and this is a transformational movie in so many ways that I can’t even get into it. I’ve seen this a whole bunch of times, and I dig it every single time. It’s so much better than Forrest Gump that Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis probably even think so. Also, if you have not seen Maria de Medeiros as Anaïs Nin in Henry & June, you really should. She doesn’t have much to do at all in Pulp Fiction, but she’s amazing in that.
5 November 1994: Bullets Over Broadway at Act III Theatres. ($3.00) It’s a shame that Woody Allen is so obsessed with casting himself, because on the rare occasions when he doesn’t, we’re reminded about what a brilliant filmmaker and writer he is. John Cusack is the Allen surrogate in this comedy about 1920s New York theater, as a playwright whose plays don’t make money so he “sells out” to a mobster, played by Chazz Palmienteri, who finances his next play on the condition that his ditzy girlfriend (played brilliantly by Jennifer Tilly) gets the lead. Cusack, meanwhile, is trying to get a legendary star, Dianne Wiest, on board, and he has to bang her in order to land her (my wife and I still say “Don’t speak!” to each other in Wiest’s breathy voice). It’s very, very funny, and Allen makes some excellent if somewhat obvious points about art and commerce, and because he’s not there mucking up the joint (I’ve noted before that Allen is a better actor than everyone thinks, because everyone used to think he was basically playing himself before we found out what a monster he is), it works a lot better.
12 November 1994: Interview With a Vampire at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) This is fine – it’s not Neil Jordan’s best work, but he’s a good director, so even trashy pulp like this is beautiful to look at. It has a good cast, it’s nice and bloody, and everyone seems to be having fun chewing the scenery. I’m not entirely sure if this was the first Brad Pitt movie I saw – I can’t remember when I saw Thelma & Louise or True Romance for the first time, so maybe this was the first movie I’ve seen with him in it, even though I knew who he was by now. It would not be the last, as I would soon have a celebrity crush on Mr. Pitt that hasn’t completely abated even now.
23 December 1994: Pulp Fiction at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) Once more, with feeling.
14 January 1995: Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorothy Parker, getting screwed out of an Oscar once again (she wasn’t even frickin’ nominated).
?? February 1995: Immortal Beloved at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) Gary Oldman, clearly Oscar hunting (he wouldn’t be nominated until 2011 and wouldn’t win one until 2017), plays Beethoven in love and chews up the scenery wonderfully. This isn’t a great movie, but it is thunderously entertaining, so there’s that. My ticket stub was smudged, so I’m not sure when I saw this, hence the question marks.
4 March 1995: The Madness of King George at Act III Theatres. Another wildly entertaining movie, with Nigel Hawthorne’s Oscar-nominated turn as George III anchoring the movie, but with Ian Holm’s righteous doctor stealing the show, Rupert Everett’s put-upon Prince of Wales doing nice work, and Helen Mirren dazzling as Hawthorne’s queen. She has to be understated in the swirl of craziness around her, and she’s amazing. Good stuff all around.
5 March 1995: Hideaway at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) My wife has no memory of seeing this, and frankly, I don’t remember much of it. Why did we go see it? Well, Jeff Goldblum is always entertaining, and the ads looked fun. Heck, it could be good, for all I know – I just don’t remember much about it. I should see if it’s streaming and watch it.
19 March 1995: The Shawshank Redemption at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) Thanks to TNT/TBS, I’ve seen this, I think, eleventy billion times. Still good, though!
25 March 1995: Queen Margot at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I don’t remember too much about this movie, but I do remember Isabelle Adjani ripping through it as the title character, Marguerite de Valois, and Jean-Hughes Anglade doing a decent job as her doomed brother, Charles IX. It’s a bloody, sexy film, and it’s fun to watch, even if it’s not truly great. (We named out cat “Margot” after the movie because she acts like a queen.)
19 May 1995: R.E.M. at Memorial Coliseum, Portland. ($34.00) This concert was on my 24th birthday, but it wasn’t a birthday present for me, because my wife is the bigger fan of R.E.M. than I. Still, it was a pretty good concert!
20 May 1995: The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) This is a very nice romantic comedy about a dude (Hugh Grant) who visits a Welsh town in 1917 to survey a hill, which the townspeople want to be classified as a mountain because there aren’t any “mountains” in Wales. They keep him in town while they concoct a scheme to make the hill taller, and he falls in love with Tara Fitzgerald, who’s a fairly underrated actor. It’s a silly movie, but it’s very charming and beautiful to look at.
16 June 1995: Batman Forever at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) At least it’s not as bad as Batman and Robin? (And look, I get why they would cast Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, because he was a bigger actor than Billy Dee Williams, and Williams was a bit older – he would have been 58 when the movie premiered. But dang, Williams could have played such a smooth Harvey Dent side that I think his split personality would have been even better. But Schumacher was making a cartoon, and Jones was fine as a cartoon character. Still, what could have been!)
4 August 1995: Angels in America: Perestroika at the Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. ($20.00) The night before, we had seen the first part of this, but for some reason I don’t have the ticket stub. This is brilliant, and well worth the long running time. I haven’t seen the movie, though!
5 August 1995: Virtuosity at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) I wrote about this movie here. It’s still bananas!
2 September 1995: The Usual Suspects at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I love this movie, and will watch it whenever it happens to be on, no matter where I begin it.
29 September 1995: Seven at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Another movie I love and will watch from wherever I happen to start if I catch it on television. Despite the bleakness, and boy howdy is it bleak. This is when my Brad Pitt man-crush began, because he’s so good and so stupid in this movie. You don’t deserve Gwyneth Paltrow, ya jackass!
18 October 1995: New Orleans Aquarium. In October 1995 my wife and I went to New Orleans for a quasi-honeymoon. We hadn’t gone on one in July 1994, when we were married, because we didn’t have the money and couldn’t take time off work anyway. By this time, however, we had saved some money and been able to get time off, so we went to NO. It’s a beautiful city, and we enjoyed it, but I would never want to live in the Deep South, mainly because they have not and apparently refuse to reconcile with slavery. One tour guide we had went out of his way to tell us how Louisiana had a slave code that was not as horrible as elsewhere in the South. I get it, dude, but they still owned human beings! It’s okay for people to admit that their ancestors might, just might, have been racists. It doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person! But in New Orleans, at least, they seem vaguely defensive about it, and I imagine that’s one big reason we still have racist problems today. Yeah, I’m dropping some sociology and psychology on you! Deal with it! (Speaking of the aquarium, we saw a short film while we were there, and they played “Why Should I Cry For You?” over some of the scenes. Whenever I hear that song, I’m reminded of the New Orleans Aquarium, so well done!)
18 October 1995: Cajun Queen Harbor Cruise, New Orleans. The tour guide on the boat kept telling us, “Now, point your cameras over there” whenever we came upon something noteworthy (the site of the Battle of New Orleans, for instance). Twenty-seven years later, my wife and I still say it occasionally, when it’s warranted.

The site of the Battle of New Orleans!

?? October 1995: To Die For at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) This isn’t a great movie, but it’s still pretty good, mainly because the cast is terrific. Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, and Illeana Douglas are all wonderful, and Nicole Kidman was absolutely robbed out of even an Oscar nomination. (Kidman wasn’t nominated until 2001, despite the fact that between 1989 and 1995 she did Dead Calm, Flirting, Malice, and this movie, which is a quartet of amazing performances.) It’s an entertaining movie, and I really should watch it again.
5 November 1995: Get Shorty at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) Travolta took his Pulp Fiction-career burst and ran with it, giving a terrific performance in this flick, which is a very funny and clever story. Hackman, Russo, Lindo, DeVito, and Farina are great, too, but Travolta really makes the movie, as he’s the utter calm inside the madness of Hollywood and the mob. Travolta’s renaissance didn’t last forever (Battlefield Earth stopped it dead in its tracks, even though he’s made some good movies since that), but he made some cool movies in the mid-1990s!
23 November 1995: Toy Story at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Still the best one!
22 December 1995: The Nutcracker by the Oregon Ballet Theatre, Civic Auditorium, Portland. ($35.00) I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this. More than five, most definitely. I always liked the first act, where things actually happen, to the second, where everyone just dances. MOVE IT ALONG, PEOPLE!
25 December 1995: Heat at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) I don’t know if this is the first movie my wife and I saw on Christmas Day or if I lost a ticket stub, but for years we would go see a movie on Christmas Day, mainly because we were 3000 miles away from our parents and didn’t have much to do after opening what few presents we got for each other. We loved seeing movies on Christmas, as the theaters were usually not very crowded. Anyway, I love Heat. It’s playing right now on one of the cable channels, so I have it set up to record, and I’ll watch it again in a few months or so (I’m so far behind on my DVR!). Such a good movie, although De Niro is an idiot at the end.
5 January 1996: 12 Monkeys at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Another movie I love and need to watch again soon. It’s not Gilliam’s best movie (that would be The Fisher King), but it’s still superb. For some reason, Kevin Spacey was up for Best Supporting Actor (as opposed to Best Actor) for The Usual Suspects, and he was a worthy winner, but Pitt, who was also nominated, is absolutely brilliant in this. My man-crush on him continued!!!!
13 January 1996: Gauguin exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. ($7.50) I mean, it’s Gauguin. What are you going to do? The Portland Art Museum wasn’t huge, but it had some damned good exhibits!
?? January 1996: Leaving Las Vegas at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) It’s always interesting when actors shamelessly troll for Oscars, especially when it works, like it did for Cage. Shue is arguably better (she lost Best Actress to Sarandon in Dead Man Walking, which is fine even if Shue is better in this movie than Sarandon was in that), but Cage is good too, and I love that he won his Oscar and stopped giving a shit immediately. Prior to this movie, he had done some very weird, interesting work: Valley Girl, Raising Arizona, Vampire’s Kiss, Wild at Heart, Honeymoon in Vegas, Red Rock West, Kiss of Death among others, and after this, he jumped into The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off (literally his next three movies), Snake Eyes, and Gone in 60 Seconds. Listen, I love all of those movies (as I’m typing this, I’m wearing my “many moods of Nicolas Cage” T-shirt, which has a picture on it of Cameron Poe with the breeze in his hair), but there’s not a ton of heavy lifting involved. Cage wanted all the moneys, and he went for it! (My wife once refinanced Cage’s mortgage about a decade ago, and she had a grand time checking out the European castles – plural – he owned. When you have stupid money, you spend it on stupid things!) Anyway, I love this movie, but you could not pay me to watch it again, because calling it bleak would not quite get across the sense of how much of a bummer it is. It’s FUCKING BLEAK, is what I’m saying.
9 February 1996: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Portland Center Stage. ($15.00) Portland had its own Shakespeare company. Shakespeare is awesome. You do the math!
10 February 1996: “Mozart ‘Til Midnight” by the Oregon Symphony, Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland. ($18.00) Exactly what it sounds like. I can’t remember when it began, but the symphony played Mozart tunes until … 12 a.m.!

I guess it began at 7.30!

16 February 1996: Broken Arrow at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) John Woo’s second American movie is fun as all heck, as Travolta absolutely hams it up as a psycho who steals two nukes so he can blackmail the government into giving him a fuckton of money. His Air Force partner, Christian Slater, is trying to stop him. Howie Long has a blast, Bob Gunton is an asshole as usual, Frank Whaley is fun as the government wonk, Delroy Lindo gets the thankless job of Officer Who’s Coordinating Shit, and Samantha Mathis, who’s been working constantly for 30 years but has never become a big star, is awesome as the park ranger who helps Slater (I dig Mathis, but she’s rarely in things I watch). This is just a fun action movie, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
17 February 1996: Richard III at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) Ian McKellen blasts his way through this fascist-tinged adaptation, which I haven’t seen in years but given what’s going on in American politics is probably still pretty relevant. He’s so good that it’s hard to believe he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, but such is life (McKellen has never won an Oscar, somewhat incredibly). He dominates the proceedings because that’s how Shakespeare wrote it, but it’s a terrific cast – Annette Bening, Nigel Hawthorne, Maggie Smith, Robert Downey Jr., Jim Carter, Jim Broadbent, and Kristin Scott Thomas all show up. I do like how in most adaptations of this play, they get an older dude to play Richard so it feels like the weight of years is on him – McKellen was 55/56 when he played the role. The real Richard, of course, died when he was 32 years old.

2 March 1996: Dead Man Walking at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) Another bleak as fuck movie, as Sarandon plays a nun who tries to get Sean Penn to feel bad about the murders he committed. Sarandon is good in her Oscar-winning role, and Penn is trying so hard to win one, too, but he would have to wait until Mystic River to get his. It’s another movie I would not want to watch again, but those two performances are riveting. Tim Robbins, weirdly enough, decided to direct a few movies – he’s made three, and they’re all very different and very excellent (this one, Bob Roberts, and Cradle Will Rock). It’s weird that he never did more.
16 March 1996: The City of Lost Children at Act III Theatres. Jean-Pierre Jeunet hasn’t made a ton of movies, and I’ve seen three: this one, Delicatessen (which he made before this and is pretty great), and Alien: Resurrection, which job he got based on this movie, I assume, and which is wildly underrated. Jeunet’s story here isn’t too great – a dude rescues his brother from a mad scientist – but Jeunet, like someone like Terry Gilliam, is far more concerned with design and mood than anything, and this movie is gorgeous to look at. Ron Perlman is perfectly cast as a circus strongman, and the rest of the cast is fine, but it’s just a movie that you watch to enjoy the look of it. I’ll have to watch this again sometime.
23 March 1996: Fargo at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) This isn’t the best Coen brothers movie (that would be Miller’s Crossing), but dang, it’s really good. McDormand deserved the Oscar, as did the Coens for Screenplay. And shockingly, someone else has managed to make four seasons of television out of the same kind of vibe that the movie has. That’s impressive.
6 April 1996: Bottle Rocket at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I’ve kind of fallen away from seeing Wes Anderson movies, for any number of reasons, but his first movie is terrific – a heist movie as only Anderson can do it. It’s the first movie for the Wilson brothers, too, and while both Luke and Owen have done good work throughout their career, I’m not sure if Owen, in particular, has ever been better than he is as Dignan, the would-be thief whose bark is far bigger than his bite. Caan is terrific, too, doing his late-career schtick that works so well. Rushmore is probably a better movie, but I think I like Bottle Rocket more.

12 April 1996: Flirting With Disaster at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Speaking of strong early movies, I like Spanking the Monkey, David O. Russell’s first movie, but this one really takes him another level, one he topped with his third movie, Three Kings, which I think is still his best one. This one, however, is extremely funny – Ben Stiller, in perhaps his perfect role, plays an adoptee who decides to search for his birth parents. Hilarity ensues. The cast is phenomenal – Patricia Arquette is Stiller’s put-upon wife; Tea Leoni is the most inept adoption agency worker in history (Stiller crushes hard for her, of course); Josh Brolin is a dude who really like Arquette, in a very unusual way; Richard Jenkins is … odd; Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin are superb as Stiller’s birth parents; and George Segal and Mary Tyler Moore absolutely crush it as Stiller’s adoptive parents. It’s occasionally uncomfortable (in the funniest possible way), and it’s just impressive how well Russell makes it work. If you haven’t seen it, you should!
20 April 1996: Detective Story by Stark Raving Theatre at the Main Street Playhouse, 904 SW Main, Portland. ($10.00) I don’t remember much about this play, sadly. I assume it’s the same 1940s play that was made into a Kirk Douglas movie?
27 April 1996: James and the Giant Peach at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) Such a weird, fun movie.
18 May 1996: The Hobbit at NW Children’s Theatre, 1819 NW Everett, Portland. ($11.00) By now, you may have stopped wondering why my wife and I, two people in their 20s with no children, are seeing so many so-called “children’s movies” (answer: because they’re awesome). Or you may have stopped reading altogether, because this post is so damned long (I’m not sorry!!!!!!). But you may be wondering why we saw a play for children, which was staged in this venerable building. Well, we thought it would be neat, and it’s The Hobbit – how on earth are they going to stage that? It turns out, with SUPER-FUCKING-AWESOME-AMAZING PUPPETS, that’s how! This remains one of our favorite performances, because the costumes were terrific, and the puppetry was simply astounding. They had a giant Smaug that slithered across the stage, and the goblins were giant, lunky things … it was beautiful. The many kids who were there seemed to love it, and I assume most the adults were as blown away as we were. We own a nice poster from the show, which hangs in my daughter’s bedroom. It was just a very cool idea, executed brilliantly.

Look at that cool-ass poster!

22 May 1996: Mission: Impossible at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I’m not sure if this is the best M:I movie (M:I 3 and Ghost Protocol are the other two contenders), but it’s pretty darned good, as De Palma does his De Palma thing very well. It starts with a bang, as Cruise’s team gets wiped out, and I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me because big names like Emilio Estevez and Kristin Scott Thomas were not featured prominently in the advertising, so I should have known they were doomed. Still, a very good movie, and boy, did Cruise turn it into a franchise!
6 June 1996: The Celluloid Closet at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) This is a really fascinating documentary about gay actors hiding who they are and how homosexuality has been portrayed on film throughout the years. It was extremely interesting and, of course, a bit depressing.
9 June 1996: The Rock at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) This is Bay’s second feature (Bad Boys was the first), and maybe his best? Yes, it’s the full-on Michael Bay experience, but Cage and Connery and Harris make it work. It’s too long (the subplot with Connery’s daughter – the always-looks-like-she’s-weeping Claire Forlani – is unnecessary, although the chase through San Francisco is fun) and it’s melodramatic as hell, but dang, I love it. Just big, stupid fun. And the cast is stacked with manly man actors – John Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Michael Biehn, John C. McGinley, Tony Todd, Bokeem Woodbine – and I’m sure all the dudes here don’t mind Vanessa Marcil in pigtails one little bit. And it gave us one of the many things my wife and I quote at regular intervals: “What kind of FUCKED UP tour is this?” There should be Oscars for Best Bit Player, and that dude should have won one.
22 June 1996: The Imperial Tombs of China at the Portland Art Museum. ($12.00) Yet another cool exhibit at the Portland Art Museum!
22 June 1996: The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Just thought I’d point out that in the book, Frollo is 36 years old, and the only character who doesn’t come to grief “marries” a goat. So … yeah.
29 June 1996: Lone Star at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) I didn’t know much about John Sayles when I saw this; I knew he had written Piranha, and I had seen The Secret of Roan Inish, the movie he directed right before this one, but I hadn’t seen his other movies. Lone Star made me a fan, because it’s absolutely brilliant. Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Peña do career-best work (I have a soft spot for Peña’s work in Jacob’s Ladder, but she’s not as good there as she is here), Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Morton, and Ron Canada are all terrific, and the younger actors playing Cooper and Peña (Tay Strathairn and Vanessa Martinez) are quite good, too. The story is terrific – it’s a murder mystery, it’s a romance, it’s social commentary – and the way Sayles tells it is superb, too. I really can’t say enough good things about this movie! (As an aside: we saw a play in Portland for which I do not have the receipt based on some of Sayles’s short stories. The first one, the longest, is about a trucker who’s on too many drugs monologuing, and it was mesmerizing. The entire show was good, and the “theater” was, I shit you not, a repurposed garage. The Portland theater scene in the Nineties was awesome, y’all.)
4 July 1996: Independence Day at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Man, I love this big, stupid movie so much.
July 1996: Portland Scottish Highland Games at Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham OR. Hey, there it is again!
13 July 1996: Welcome to the Dollhouse at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) This is a very uncomfortable movie (like all of Todd Solondz’s movies), and Heather Matarazzo as Dawn, the awkward seventh-grader, is amazing. This was Matarazzo’s first movie after a few televison roles, and she’s superb. Still, it’s one of those movies that I really don’t want to see again, but I’m glad I saw it once!
21 July 1996: Tori Amos at the Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland. ($26.50) Seeing Amos at the concert hall was great because it was all very civilized. She was alone on stage with a piano, and we all had seats because it’s, you know, a concert hall! She was very good, of course.

?? August 1996: Trainspotting at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) I haven’t seen this since 1996, and I think it’s the kind of movie I like more in retrospect than I liked at the time, mainly because I don’t remember it as well as I should. If that makes sense. What I mean is, I remember thinking it was pretty good, but not loving it, but the fact that everyone else loves it and the cast is so good make me think that it’s a better movie than I thought it was at the time. We saw it because a year earlier, we had seen Boyle’s Shallow Grave, which is a twisty, evil little thriller and which I still think is a better movie than this (and Ewan McGregor is better in that, too). So I haven’t seen the sequel, although I suppose I’ll have to watch both close together at some point.
24 August 1996: The Island of Dr. Moreau at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) David Thewlis claims he wants to write a book about the production of this movie, but fears he’ll never work again if he does. GIVE IT TO US, THEWLIS!!!! This a garbage movie, but it’s strangely compelling. I don’t want to write too much about it, but it’s weird to consider how wildly it went wrong. Brando was crazy, but Brando had been crazy for years; Kilmer is a decent actor; Thewlis was only a few years removed from Naked, for which he should have won an Oscar; Temuera Morrison had just made Once Were Warriors, in which he’s brilliant; Fairuza Balk and Ron Perlman are interesting actors; John Frankenheimer – who was brought on to save the picture – has made some very good movies but was probably the wrong guy for this job; and Richard Stanley, the original director, had made the excellent sci-fi thriller Hardware. How it went so wrong is probably the greatest book about movies never written, and I want Thewlis to get to it!!!!!
13 September 1996: Feeling Minnesota at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I don’t remember much about this movie – we saw it because Keanu is in it, and who doesn’t love Keanu? – but I know it doesn’t have the best reputation. I seem to recall it being one of those post-Tarantino movies that tried too hard to be quirky and violent, but didn’t quite pull it off. But I could be wrong.
5 October 1996: The First Wives Club at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I’m not sure why we saw this movie – my wife is not a big fan of any of the actors, and it’s not completely my thing, but we went, and it’s a fun movie. It’s not going to win any awards, but Hawn, Midler, and Keaton sink their teeth into it nicely, and Sarah Jessica Parker shows some good comedic chops, and Dan Hedaya, Victor Garber, and (yuck) Stephen Collins are good as the different-yet-basically-the-same husbands. It’s a goofy but perfectly entertaining movie.
12 October 1996: The Ghost and the Darkness a Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I really like this movie. I know it doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but I really dig it. Douglas and Kilmer chewing the scenery (in wildly different ways), lions killing people, beautiful setting? Excellent. I read a book not long after I saw this about Africa, and the author mentioned the lions, which did act very weirdly, although they weren’t quite as supernatural as they seem to be in this movie. Anyway, I’ve seen this maybe three times, but not in a long time. I’ll have to rectify that! [I’ve been working on this post for so long that I have re-watched it since I typed this, and yep, I still dig it!]
2 November 1996: Romeo + Juliet at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) We loved Claire Danes from My So-Called Life, and we had seen DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and The Quick and the Dead, but he hadn’t blown up yet, so this was a good showcase for him. This is a fun-ass movie, I have to say. Baz Luhrman knows how to make a spectacle!
9 November 1996: Othello by Tygres Heart Shakespeare Company at the Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($22.75) One of the better Shakespeare companies in Portland at the time doing some good jealousy porn. Come on, Othello, don’t listen to Iago!
15 November 1996: Looking for Richard at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) Pacino got the directing bug, so he did this quasi-documentary about Richard III and what the play means in the modern world, all while performing parts of the play with other actors who, I assume, he’s buddies with. It’s a pretty terrific movie.
22 November 1996: The English Patient at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) Thanks to Elaine Benes, this film has kind of become shorthand for “boring melodrama,” but I like it. It won Best Picture, despite being probably the “weakest” of the five nominees, and Anthony Minghella won Best Director simply by pointing the camera at the desert and his two attractive stars and saying “Go!”, but neither Thomas nor Fiennes won, neither of which was too controversial (McDormand won for Fargo, which was totally deserved, and Rush won for Shine, which was a showier role). (Speaking of Oscars, this was the year Gooding Jr. won for Jerry Maguire, which, given the competition, remains one of the weirder choices. Best Supporting Actor/Actress is such a weird award.) Anyway, I haven’t seen this since, so maybe I’d hate it today.
30 November 1996: Secrets and Lies at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I wrote about this movie here. It’s so good, and it got shut out at the Oscars, even though you could make a case that it should have won all five for which it was nominated. Mike Leigh made some superb movies in the 1990s.
7 December 1996: Hype! at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) This is a documentary about grunge, and it’s pretty great. It has a superb soundtrack, as you might expect, and it doesn’t just cover the big bands, but smaller ones like Mudhoney and the Fastbacks. There’s the famous sequence about a journalist calling people in Seattle and one dude just making up terms, which the journalist dutifully reported. It’s a funny, strange movie about a weird moment in time, when Seattle, of all places, was the center of the American cultural scene.
14 December 1996: Mars Attacks! at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I mean, this isn’t a great movie, but the fact that Burton was able to make it and it was released wide tells you all you need to know about the “new auteur” era of the mid-1990s.
29 December 1996: Microcosmos at Act III Theatres. ($3.00 – matinee) I use this movie to prove that before we had children, we went to a LOT of movies. This is a documentary about insects, and it’s amazing (the camera work was cutting-edge at the time). It’s really neat, but I can’t even imagine seeing it in a theater today, after the children were born. Our time is precious, and we can see insect documentaries at home!
1 January 1997: Scream at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) I had seen New Nightmare, Craven’s first attempt to go metatextual, and enjoyed it, but dang, Scream really is a superb movie, ain’t it? It’s clever, funny, brutal when it has to be, bloody, and both a satire of slasher flicks and an excellent one in its own right. The cast is amazing, from Barrymore to the Fonz. This also may have been the first time my wife and I started using “low-rent _____” to describe an actor, as Skeet Ulrich is totally a low-rent Johnny Depp. We’ve been doing it ever since! (This does not comment on the quality of the actor, just that they don’t cost as much as the bigger star.) Anyway, the sequels weren’t quite as good, but this is a wonderful flick.
4 January 1997: Shine at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I know Rush won the Oscar for this, his first big role, and I know Armin Mueller-Stahl is excellent, but I don’t remember much about this movie. I guess I should watch it again!
25 January 1997: Jerry Maguire at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I love the hell out of this movie, and it’s one reason I will always be fascinated by Cruise, even as he gets weirder and weirder as a human. I love the story, I love Zellweger (it’s not her first big movie, but it’s her big breakout role), I love Jay Mohr, I love Kelly Preston, I love Bonnie Hunt (everyone should love Bonnie Hunt!), and while Gooding Jr. might not have deserved a damned Oscar, he’s still excellent. Regina King is in this movie! When you’re watching Watchmen and thinking, “Damn, Regina King is a good actor,” and then you realize she’s been good since she was 20 or so, and it’s just neat. And the ending of this movie, with Jerry coming home and giving the speech and Zellweger doing the “You had me at hello” line … Cameron Crowe is a good writer, is all I’m saying.
15 February 1997: The Magic Flute by the Portland Opera, Civic Auditorium, Portland. ($45.00) My wife worked for a company in Portland whose boss had a lot of money but not the best taste, and she would get stuff like opera tickets and then not want to use them. So she would give them to my wife, and we got to see The Magic Flute on opening night. So that was pretty keen. It’s a good opera, so even though I don’t love opera, it was a nice night out!
21 February 1997: Star Wars at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) This is the remastered version, which was in theaters after Lucas got done neutering it, and I hadn’t seen it in a while, so we went. It’s a good movie, but I suspect most of you knew that.
2 March 1997: Hamlet at Act III Theatres (Movie House). $3.00 – matinee) Branagh has made better movies, but this is still his masterpiece because he wanted to film the entire play, and he did, goddamnit! The fact that he was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay when he famously insisted he wasn’t changing a word is hilarious (Sling Blade won, meaning that the Academy thinks that Billy Bob Thornton is a better writer than WILLIAM FUCKING SHAKESPEARE). Anyway, this is a marvelous movie – yes, it’s bombastic, but it works, and it looks amazing. We saw it at a theater in Portland that had once been a Woman’s Club building, and it was a superb place to see a movie. They let us bring food in for this movie (it’s four hours long), and we saw on a rainy afternoon, and they let a homeless dude with an entire pizza crash there. Portland in the Nineties was awesome.

9 March 1997: Absolute Power at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) Man, I know I’ve seen this movie, but I remember almost nothing about it. C’est la vie. Boy, that’s a good cast.
15 March 1997: Sling Blade at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Thornton had been in a bunch of stuff prior to this, but he hadn’t become a star, so he figured he’d direct this himself and turn himself into a star, and it worked! This is another movie that I know I liked, but I don’t remember much about it. I remember John Ritter playing a gay man and doing a wonderful job, with many people commenting on the irony. I gues I’ll have to watch this again so I can remember it better!
19 April 1997: Waiting for Guffman at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) You know what you’re going to get with a Christopher Guest movie, and what you get is hilarity and a great cast doing weird things. I haven’t seen all of his movies, but I think this is my favorite (Best in Show is very good, too). I think this is a bit better than that because there’s the slightest twinge of sadness about the performers, whereas in Best in Show, you either like the people or hate them, but you don’t really pity them. And I have always loved Parker Posey (she kills it in Party Girl, The House of Yes, and Clockwatchers), so I love her in this movie, naturally.
26 April 1997: When We Were Kings at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I mentioned this recently when I reviewed the comic about the “Rumble in the Jungle,” because this is a documentary about that fight, and it’s magnificent. It won the Oscar for Best Documentary, and it deserved it (I didn’t see the other nominees, but I can’t believe they would be better, although the Academy didn’t give Hoop Dreams an Oscar, so who the hell knows what they’re thinking?). Ali is at the top of his game, Foreman makes a sympathetic “villain,” and the filmmakers get into the whole weirdness of the situation, because it was weird. I’ve seen plenty of documentaries, and this is in my Top Three all time (Hoop Dreams and Incident at Oglala are the other two).
3 May 1997: Grosse Pointe Blank at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Another movie I love. Cusack is great, of course, doing his Cusack thing, but Minnie Driver is terrific (although it’s a bit weird that Cusack has as much chemistry with her as he does with his sister, who’s excellent as his facilitator), and Jeremy Piven steals every scene he’s in. Plus, it has a great soundtrack.
9 May 1997: Arcadia at World Trade Center, 25 SW Salmon, Portland. ($27.00) This is my wife’s favorite play EVAH, and for me … it’s up there. I’d have to think about it, but it’s in the running. It’s by Tom Stoppard, and it’s about math and physics and chaos theory and historical mysteries and lost love, and it’s just brilliant. The production we saw was excellent, and it took place in the “World Trade Center” at 1st and Salmon in downtown Portland, which is a typical city skyscraper and a very unlikely place to find a theater. But it’s Portland, so they stick theaters everywhere!

10 May 1997: Chasing Amy at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I really like this movie, and don’t quite get the hatred for it. I mean, I guess some people are angry that it seems like Smith is saying that a lesbian can “change,” but I know a lesbian who fell in love with a man and married him, and she has said that she is still attracted to women, but she fell in love with one person who happened to be a man. Sexuality is weird, man, and Smith understood that long before a lot of people did. The thing I really dislike about the movie is that Affleck can’t get over Joey Lauren Adams’s past, which wrecks their relationship, but even that is done in a way that you get it, even if it’s infuriating. I dunno – I just really like Joey Lauren Adams and get bummed that she was never a bigger star, and the comics stuff makes me laugh. It’s a good movie, even if you don’t think so!
17 May 1997: The Fifth Element at Act III Theatres. ($6.00) I enjoyed this when it came out, but it seems like it didn’t have the greatest reputation until much later, as it’s now quite highly regarded. Maybe I’m misremembering. Anyway, this is a cool flick.
20 June 1997: Batman and Robin at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Two minutes into this movie, Chris O’Donnell says the first line OF THE MOVIE: “I want a car. Chicks dig the car.” And George Clooney responds, “This is why Superman works alone.” And my heart sank, and I knew we were in for a long evening. It’s not that I want Batman movies to be all Frank Miller-ized all the time, but camp is hard, actually, and this gets it wrong in so many ways, beginning with O’Donnell’s whiny delivery and Clooney’s exasperated response. This is the only time I’ve ever apologized to my wife about the movie choices we made, because no one should be forced to sit through the dreck that is Batman and Robin, and she only did it because I wanted to. She enjoys a lot of “guy movies” (things blowing up and people getting killed), but this was a bridge too far. I felt bad for me, but I felt worse for her!
28 June 1997: Broken English at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I love this movie, which is basically a modern Romeo and Juliet riff, in which a Croatian girl living in Auckland falls in love with a Maori boy much to the consternation of her father. It’s not perfect, certainly, but Aleksandra Vujcic and Julian Arahanga (who’s best known in the States for playing Apoc in The Matrix) do a nice job as the lovers, while Rade Serbedzija as her father is excellent, as Serbedzija makes every movie he’s in better. It’s a nice movie that doesn’t have the best reputation, but I still dug it!
3 July 1997: Hercules at Act III Theatres. ($6.50) Is Meg the best Disney leading lady of all time? Discuss.
12 July 1997: Face/Off at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) God, I love this stupid movie. I love Cage’s introduction as a horny priest, I love Alessandro Nivola as Pollux, I love Gina Gershon, I love Cage and Travolta trying to one-up each other as each other, I love the damned doves because John Woo loves him some doves! This is just brilliantly stupid, and I love it to death.
18 July 1997: Men in Black at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) This is good until the ending, because the bug just isn’t that compelling. Prior to that, though, Vincent D’Onofrio is having a blast as the jerk who gets his body taken over. Plus, Linda Fiorentino is in this movie, and the fact that Linda Fiorentino has never become a huge star sucks. But I’ll have more to say about her down below!
1 August 1997: The History of the Devil at Miracle Theatre, 425 SE 6th, Portland. ($10.00) This is a Clive Barker … book? that he turned into a play? I think? Anyway, it’s by Clive Barker, and it’s quite good. It seems like it’s still being performed periodically, so if you get a chance, check it out!
2 August 1997: Contact at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Here’s another movie I remember seeing and remember liking, but I don’t remember much about. Oh well. One day I’ll re-watch it!
23 August 1997: Cop Land at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Cop Land, on the other hand, I adore. Stallone is marvelous, and his scene with Annabella Sciorra when he’s flirting with her is sad but amazing. De Niro is terrific, Keitel is terrific, and I love that Janeane Garofolo just peaces out halfway through the movie because she doesn’t want to get killed by crooked cops. Stallone was mad that he gained weight for the role because it took him forever to get action roles again, but come on – the dude turned 51 before it came out (He’s 14 years older than Sciorra but was playing someone who was in high school with her), so he shouldn’t be doing action roles anyway! The story in this movie is nothing to write home about, but the cast is superb, which elevates the material very well.

30 August 1997: Career Girls at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Katrin Cartlidge and Lynda Steadman play college friends who reunite after some years apart and renew their friendship. This is a Mike Leigh movie, so that’s about all we get in terms of plot, but Steadman is quite good and Cartlidge is magnificent as usual. She and Leigh made three movies together, and they’re all terrific (Naked and Topsy-Turvy are the others). I haven’t seen this in years, but I finally got the DVD, so I’ll have to watch it again soon!
20 September 1997: The Full Monty at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) We re-watched this recently because we thought my daughter would like it (she did), and it holds up nicely. The economic aspect of the movie will, sadly, always be relevant, and the cast is strong. The scene where Mark Addy finally tells his wife, Lesley Sharpe, what he’s doing is heartbreaking and beautiful. I don’t think their scheme will really help them all that much (how much money could they really make?), but it’s still a good flick!
27 September 1997: Don Giovanni by the Portland Opera, Civic Auditorium, Portland. Another free opera. This one is pretty epic, I must say.
28 September 1997: Prince – “The Jam of the Year” at the Rose Garden, Portland. ($39.50) My second Prince concert. As good as the first!

4 October 1997: L.A. Confidential at Act III Theatres. ($6.50) I mean, this is a superb movie. Everyone is good, from Crowe and Pearce and Spacey to Basinger and Cromwell and DeVito and Strathairn and even Matt McCoy and Simon Baker. (Basinger probably didn’t deserve her Oscar – Minnie Driver and Julianne Moore were both better than she was – but she’s not embarrassing or anything.) The story is terrific, and Curtis Hanson directs the hell out of it. It’s just a terrific movie that got swamped by Titanic and frickin’ As Good As It Gets (which I haven’t seen but which looks terrible). It’s definitely better than the boat movie!
11 October 1997: The Game at Act III Theatres. ($6.50) Otherwise known as the movie David Fincher made between his two masterpieces, Seven and Fight Club! I was disappointed by this movie because it wasn’t as good as Seven, but it’s not a terrible movie. The biggest problem, honestly, is that it’s meaningless. Douglas goes through all of this and doesn’t really learn anything, isn’t really changed in any way, and isn’t even in any peril, as it turns out. It’s a very well constructed movie, and Douglas and Penn are good (although Deborah Kara Unger, of all people, steals the movie), but it’s still just a shiny puzzle box.
1 November 1997: Boogie Nights at Act III Theatres. ($6.50) I had seen Hard Eight, Paul Thomas Anderson’s directorial debut, prior to seeing this movie, but I’m not sure if I knew it was the same guy. That would have made me more interested in seeing this, because Hard Eight is a pretty good movie, and Anderson just improves on this, which is a marvelous flick. Mark Wahlberg has never been better, Julianne Moore was probably a better Supporting Actress Nominee than Basinger, Burt Reynolds would have been a better Supporting Actor than Robin Williams (but Robert Forster – see below – would have been better than either), and the Screenplay is better than Good Will Hunting (a movie I very much like even if it’s a bit overrated). The way Anderson shows the decline of the porn industry is tragic, with the final act really gutting you, as Reynolds and Heather Graham (also never better) fall hard. I haven’t seen as many Anderson movies as I should, but he’s excellent – I should watch some more of his movies!
15 November 1997: Gattaca at Act III Theatres. ($3.50 – matinee) I love this movie, and I’m a bit surprised it doesn’t have a better reputation. Oh well. Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman are all wonderful (this was Law’s first big movie, and he’s very good), and I dig the retro-futuristic look of the film. It’s also ahead of its time, and its themes of identity manipulation and an all-seeing state are still very relevant. This is Andrew Niccol’s first movie, and he hasn’t done much since, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking this out!
22 November 1997: The Ice Storm at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I love this movie, and I’m a bit surprised it got nominated for zero (0) Academy Awards and seems to have been a bit forgotten. What’s wrong with it? Yes, it’s bleak as all hell, but sometimes, it’s not horrible that a movie is bleak as all hell (see Waves, Breaking the, which holy shit is bleak), and this movie is terrifying in its banality and the dazedness of its excellent cast. It’s absolutely gorgeous, too, as the cinematography is amazing. I’m just not sure why this movie doesn’t have a better reputation. It’s weird.
27 November 1997: The Wings of the Dove at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) For some reason, I recall that a reviewer of this movie was very jazzed that Helen Bonham Carter got nekkid. Man, men are weird. Anyway, I remember seeing this movie and I remember some images from it (including, yes, Bonham Carter getting nekkid), but I don’t remember much else. I know I liked it, but not much else. Oh well.
29 November 1997: Alien: Resurrection at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) The fourth Alien movie isn’t a great movie, but it is better than most people think, and I like that the studio kept hiring weirdo directors – Fincher first, then Jean-Pierre Jeunet for this one – and letting them make their own damned movie, unlike studios today that hire weirdos and force them to make boilerplate movies (Jeunet, as I noted above, made Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children before this one). This is a weird movie, but it looks great and I like that they were trying to explore the “xenomorphs” and their life cycle a bit more instead of just having them be evil killing machines. People get mad when studios make the same movie over and over, but if you deviate too much from the template, they get made too. Make up your minds, sheeple!
26 December 1997: Scream 2 at Act III Theatres. ($3.50 – matinee) Most sequels don’t come close to their antecedents in quality, and Scream 2 certainly doesn’t buck the trend, but it’s not bad. The fact that they made a “movie” out of the first one, the fact that Jamie Kennedy gets killed, the fact that Craven mocks the “black person dies first” thing – it’s kind of fun. It couldn’t be as good as the first one because of that one’s “shock of the new” it had going, but this is still pretty good.
17 January 1998: Jackie Brown at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) Pulp Fiction is still Tarantino’s best movie (although I haven’t seen his last three, so maybe they’re better), but Jackie Brown comes close, as it’s a terrific flick. Grier had never really gone away, but she wasn’t a big name anymore, and she kills it in this movie (unrecognized by the Academy, of course), while Forster was in the same boat, working for years in dreck before this came along (and at least he got nominated). Jackson is excellent, Bridget Fonda is quite good, De Niro was in the middle of his “weird” phase, where he was playing all kinds of oddballs, and the story is just fun to follow. Tarantino would soon spiral into cartoons and “historical” fiction, making this his last (as of now) movie set in a present-day realistic world. That’s just strange.
24 January 1998: The Sweet Hereafter at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I’ve only seen two Atom Egoyan movies – this and Exotica – but those are two excellent movies. This one, in which Ian Holm stars as a lawyer who comes to a small town to “help” the people who have been devastated by a school bus accident in which many kids die, is amazing. Holm is excellent, Sarah Polley is brilliant, and the entire movie is just a masterclass of acting and painful beauty and emotions. It was nominated for two Oscars but lost both (Egoyan lost to Cameron for Titanic, which I don’t mind, and he lost to L.A. Confidential for Adapted Screenplay, which I also don’t mind). I should watch this again.

31 January 1998: Wag the Dog at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) You’d think this movie, which is essentially pre-internet (not quite, of course, but enough that it doesn’t factor into the movie), wouldn’t be relevant today, but dang, it might be even more relevant in the post-truth world in which we live. It’s a very dark comedy, and while I’ve read some reviews that call it “one-joke,” that’s kind of the point, that the PTB would go to such lengths to distract the public and will ruin/kill anyone who stands in their way. This might be De Niro’s most horrifying role, because he seems like such a swell guy but he’s such a monster. Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve seen it and I’m misremembering how sharp it is, but such is life. It’s not the movie’s fault that real life has lapped it in the last two decades.
February 1998: The Apostle at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I know what this movie is about, but I remember almost nothing about it. Duvall is good, unsurprisingly.
6 March 1998: Good Will Hunting at Act III Theatres. ($6.75) I dig this movie, but it’s still overrated. I mean, it’s such obvious Oscar bait, and the Academy fell for it, even though the wrong people won Oscars for it. Williams has been better in other movies, and the screenplay is fine but kind of banal. Driver would have been acceptable as Best Supporting Actress, and van Sant would have been good for Director. Affleck’s speech about Will not being home one morning could have gotten him a nomination all by himself (as usual, the showy roles – Damon and Williams – got nominated, while the more interesting roles got snubbed). Anyway, this is a good movie, just not as good as its reputation.
14 March 1999: The Big Lebowski at Act III Theatres. ($6.75) I have seen this movie just this once, and I didn’t love it. I know its reputation, and I know some people say that you have to see it more than once to really appreciate it, and I do want to watch it again, but I just haven’t yet. Oh well.
27 March 1998: Welcome to Sarajevo at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I like this movie, although I guess it doesn’t have that good a reputation. It seems to get the madness of war – and more specifically how journalists cover wars – fairly well, although it does feel like two movies welded together a bit. I should watch this again and see what I think.
28 March 1998: Tosca by the Portland Opera, Civic Auditorium, Portland. More free opera tickets!
3 April 1998: Splendors of Ancient Egypt at the Portland Art Museum. ($12.00) My lovely wife has always been fascinated by ancient Egypt, so any chance we got to see cool stuff from ancient Egypt, we took!
4 April 1998: Macbeth at Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($30.00) MOAR SHAKESPEARE!!!!!
11 April 1998: Dark City. ($3.00 – matinee) I LOVE Dark City, possibly more than The Crow, Alex Proyas’s previous movie (which I also love). I love the weird plot, I love Rufus Sewell (adding Rufus Sewell to your movie/show makes it 10% better than it would be otherwise – it’s science!), I love Jennifer Connelly, I love William Hurt, I love Kiefer Sutherland doing his best Peter Lorre, I love the motherfucking creepy kid, because who doesn’t love motherfucking creepy kids? Proyas has directed very few movies, but with the exception of I, Robot (which, blech), they’re all worth a look. And yes, I’m including Gods of Egypt in that, because that movie is so wonderfully batshit insane (and Sewell is in it, so it’s 10% better than it would be otherwise). Anyway, Dark City is frickin’ awesome.

25 April 1998: Cloud Tectonics at Miracle Theatre, 425 SE 6th, Portland. ($11.00) I only vaguely remember this play. I think I liked it?
2 May 1998: Titanic at Act III Theatres. ($6.75) I’ve often said that Cameron deserved Best Director, but the movie shouldn’t even have been nominated for Best Picture, because it’s garbage (despite John Layman’s weird love of it). Cameron deserved Best Director because it’s a technical masterpiece, and just getting it done and making it look as good as it did is an astonishing achievement. But let’s face it – the movie is garbage. The best thing about it is Winslet getting nekkid, and that’s really not enough to make it good. She’s fine, DiCaprio is terrible, Zane is having way too much fun as the cartoonish villain, and everyone else is just picking up a paycheck. It’s a remarkable movie to watch … once. Then you can forget all about it!
9 May 1998: The Butcher Boy at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) This is a small Neil Jordan movie in between Interview with the Vampire, Michael Collins, and In Dreams, and it’s quite good. It’a a harrowing portrait of a boy growing up in 1960s Ireland (hey, like Jordan himself!), and Jordan doesn’t pull any punches. It’s not for the faint of heart! However, I remember this movie for a completely different reason. As you can see, we saw a lot of movies back in these days, and so we interacted – silently, usually – with a lot of audience members. At this time, there had been some movies we had been going to see where the audience members were not very polite. For instance, when we watched Titanic, some dude near us explained (“mansplained,” I suppose, although that wasn’t a term then) the entire fucking plot to his date, who was either dumb as a post or far too polite to tell him to shut the fuck up. There had been other incidents, and I was getting sick of it. Then, at this movie, some dude right behind us kept talking during this movie, and I’m not sure he was even paying attention to it (I can’t remember if he was criticizing the movie or just talking because he was bored). I hate confrontation, but I had reached a boiling point. A few times I turned around and asked him to be quiet, but he didn’t stop. My wife shushed him, and he told her to “shut up, bitch,” and I lost it. I stood up, turned around, and said something to the effect of “shut the fuck up or I’ll shut you up.” I have no idea what I would have done if the guy wanted to fight, but he was too shocked to say anything, and he kept his damned mouth shut the rest of the movie. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to a fight in my adult life. It’s one of the last times I’ve yelled at a stranger, too, because, as I noted, I’m just not that confrontational. But it felt pretty fucking good, I must admit.
24 May 1998: Men With Guns at Act III Theatres. ($3.25 – matinee) I don’t remember much about this movie. I remember seeing it and liking it, and I remember that it was mostly (all?) in Spanish because John Sayles just ain’t care, but other than that, I don’t remember much. Sorry!
23 June 1998: The Last Days of Disco at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) This is the third of Whit Stillman’s “early 1980s” trilogy, and it’s a very good movie, like the other two. Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny are wonderful, the dialogue is excellent, and the plot, as usual in Stillman movies, is almost nonexistent. But it’s so fun to listen to the people talk!
7 July 1998: Clockwatchers at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I wrote above how much I dig Parker Posey, so of course we saw this movie, and while nobody seems to remember it, I like it quite a lot. Toni Collette, Lisa Kudrow, Alanna Ubach, and Posey play temps working at a faceless corporation, and the film follows them as they navigate their jobs. That’s about it, but the performances are terrific, and the film really nails the drudgery of office work and the terror of temping. It’s not a great movie, but it is a very good one.
16 July 1998: The Truman Show at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) For a while, Jim Carrey wanted an Oscar so badly, and this was probably his best chance … and he wasn’t even nominated (he has never been nominated). Spielberg was always going to win Best Director for Saving Private Ryan (see below), but Peter Weir, at the end of his remarkable two-decade run of superb movies, wouldn’t have been a bad choice, either. This is a cool flick and it still feels ahead of its time.
18 July 1998: Incorruptible at Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder, Portland. This is a farce about the Middle Ages, set in a monastery in the 1250s. I remember it being very funny, but I don’t remember too much more about it.
15 August 1998: Smoke Signals at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) I re-watched this movie not too long ago and wrote about it here. It’s quite good.
25 August 1998: Pi at Act III Theatres. ($6.25) This is Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film, and you can tell it’s someone early in their career, as he tries really hard to make it weird. It’s not a bad movie, just a bit pretentious, but Aronofsky films it in black and white, so it looks very neat. It’s a thriller about math, basically. It’s not bad, but it’s very much a “first movie.”
29 August 1998: Saving Private Ryan at Act III Theatres. ($6.75) Yes, Spielberg could have stopped filming after the first sequence and still won Best Director, as the Normandy landing is that frickin’ good. Yes, the plot is ridiculous. Yes, it’s a bit moralistic. But dang, it’s powerful. I haven’t watched it since I saw it in the theater, because it’s so damned bleak, but I really should, because it really is a good movie.
9 October 1998: When the Blues Chase Up a Rabbit at Miracle Theatre, 525 SE Stark, Portland. ($12.00) I don’t remember this play, and it’s very hard to find anything about it on-line. Weird.
16 October 1998: How I Learned to Drive at Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder, Portland. This is a play about incest and pedophilia. It’s a comedy! (No, not really.) I remember very little about this play, because I’m old and decrepit!
31 October 1998: Pleasantville at Act III Theatres in Tigard. ($7.00) I’ve always liked this. Interesting concept, well acted, good resolution. Why Jane Kaczmarek at the end doesn’t ask Tobey more questions about where the hell Reese Witherspoon went has always bugged me, but other than that, it’s a good movie.
13 November 1998: Red at Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($36.00) I don’t remember anything about this. There’s a play about Mark Rothko called Red, but it premiered in 2009, so I don’t think this is it. This is also not a Bruce Willis movie about old spies. I wonder what this is.
19 December 1998: Elizabeth at Act III Theatres in Tigard. ($7.00) This is the Cate Blanchett movie. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember her being pretty good, which isn’t too damned surprising.
20 December 1998: The Nutcracker by the Oregon Ballet Theatre, Civic Auditorium, Portland. ($40.50) The second (but not the last!) time this is on this list!
6 January 1999: Shakespeare In Love at Act III Theatres. ($6.50) This gets a bad rap simply because it won the Oscar over Saving Private Ryan, which isn’t the fault of anyone in the movie, after all. It’s a very good movie, after all, and comedies (or even quasi-comedies like this) hardly ever win Oscars, so it’s not the traveshamockery of Titanic winning Best Picture. Fiennes is terrific, Paltrow is terrific, Rush, Wilkinson, Dench, Callow, Staunton, Firth, Everett, and even Affleck are fun, and the movie really does a nice job with the playmaking process, as goofy as it is at times. Hate the game, not the players!
16 January 1999: Waking Ned Devine at the Regal Theater on Broadway. ($6.50) A dude in a small Irish town wins the lottery and then dies of shock, so the townspeople decide to fool the lottery inspector who comes to give the winner his money so they can get it and split it. It’s a comedy! This is a charming movie, full of fun performances, mostly by oldsters (Ian Bannen and David Kelly, the two leads, were 69/70 when this was filmed, while Fionnula Flanagan was only in her late 50s), and while it stretches credulity just a bit, it’s still very nice.
20 February 1999: A Simple Plan at Act III Theatres. ($4.00 – matinee) I’ve seen this on some cable channels recently, and I thought, “I should watch that, because it always sounded neat and I know a lot of people like it.” Turns out I did see it! I don’t remember anything about it, though. So sad!
6 March 1999: Rushmore at Act III Theatres in Tigard. ($4.00 – matinee) I love Rushmore, despite the creepiness of Jason Schwartzman’s character romancing Olivia Williams’s, which probably hasn’t aged well and which was pretty creepy even in 1998, when Kevin Spacey could win an Oscar for fantasizing about banging high schoolers. It’s a weird movie, but not as weird as Anderson would get in some of his later movies, and it marks, really, the beginning of the Bill Murray Renaissance – not that Murray hadn’t been working steadily before this, but this (and Wild Things, to a lesser degree) marks the beginning of his transition to odder, more serious roles. Plus, the soundtrack is amazing, with that superb use of “Ooh La La” at the end (see below). Sara Tanaka is excellent in this movie, too, and I wondered what happened to her, and it seems she became a doctor. Good for her!

13 March 1999: Analyze This at 309 Cinema, Montgomeryville PA. ($6.50) I guess in March 1999 I was in Pennsylvania for some reason! I enjoy the hell out of this movie, as De Niro has probably never been funnier and Crystal is excellent as the terrified therapist. It’s a slight movie, sure, but a lot of fun.
27 March 1999: An Escher Celebration at the Portland Art Museum. ($6.50) Who doesn’t love Escher? The Portland Art Museum, coming through with another interesting exhibit!
3 April 1999: The Matrix at the Regal Theater in Tigard. ($4.00 – matinee)
17 April 1999: The Matrix at the Regal Theater on Broadway. ($6.50) Dang, I love The Matrix. As evidenced by my seeing it twice two weeks apart! Just such a great movie, and it’s made even greater when you contrast with the next two movies in the trilogy!
24 April 1999: As You Like It at Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($32.00) SO MUCH SHAKESPEARE!!!!!
25 April 1999: Life Is Beautiful at the Regal Theater on Broadway. ($.375 – matinee) This is overrated, and it won Benigni an Oscar mostly because it’s a “feel-good” movie (yes, I know what it’s about) that is also about the Holocaust (see?), which is a tough trick to pull off. I haven’t seen Affliction, for which Nolte was nominated, but Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), McKellen (Gods and Monsters), or Norton (American History X) would have been better winners. Hanks probably didn’t win because of his two previous wins (although he’s better in Ryan than in those other two), and neither McKellen nor Norton has ever won an Oscar, which is kind of ridiculous.
15 May 1999: eXistenZ at the Regal Theater on Broadway. ($6.75) I love this weird-ass Cronenberg movie, in which Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law go into a virtual reality game where people use flesh guns and you use wires stuck in extremely vaginal-like ports on your body to enter the game and it’s all very strange. I would love to re-watch this, so I might have to track it down somewhere. It’s very odd.
12 June 1999: The Misanthrope at Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder, Portland. Shakespeare isn’t the only olde-tyme playwright whose work can get updated, as this version of Molière’s classic features a disaffected rock star (modeled a bit on Kurt Cobain) in the present day. It was quite good, as far as I can recall.
19 June 1999: Election at the Regal Theater at Lloyd Center. ($7.50) I really liked Alexander Payne’s second movie, Citizen Ruth (I haven’t seen his first), and Election, his follow-up, is superb, one of the funniest and most savage satires I’ve ever seen. Matthew Broderick as the sad-sack teacher who tries to thwart Reese Witherspoon’s election as class president is a terrific angle, as it shows that the pettiest things can also be the most hotly contested and it shines a light on the stupidity of our political system without being overly obvious about it (I mean, it’s obvious, of course, but not obnoxiously so). Witherspoon, who won an Oscar for playing Johnny Cash’s wife (a movie I haven’t seen), has never been better (in things I have, you know, seen), and she did this, Pleasantville, American Psycho, and Legally Blonde in the space of about three years, showing incredible range in the process. This is a fantastic movie.
26 June 1999: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me at the Regal Theater in Tigard. ($7.50) We had seen the first one (in the theater, despite the lack of a ticket stub to include in this post!) and loved it, but man, this is a terrible movie. First, you knew they had to get rid of Elizabeth Hurley, but they did it in the stupidest and unfunny way possible. Then they simply recycled jokes from the first movie, which is just lazy. I haven’t seen the third one, and I guess Myers is working on a fourth, because why not be creatively bankrupt and still make money?
3 July 1999: The Winslow Boy at The Regal Theater on Broadway. ($6.75) I love when David Mamet does slightly unusual stuff like this, as he usually does more hard-edged stuff. But he’s not bound by it, and so we get fascinating movies like this, where a teenager in early 20th-century England is expelled from the naval academy for stealing and his father takes the government to court because he believes that his son is innocent. Nigel Hawthorne, in his very late career renaissance (which began, oddly enough, with Demolition Man), gives a strong performance as the father, Gemma Jones does well as the boy’s mother, Jeremy Northan is good as the lawyer who takes their case, and Rebecca Pidgeon is excellent as the progressive-minded sister of the expelled kid. (Pidgeon is a terrific but odd actor, someone who’s never going to win an Oscar because she refuses to do things that get her noticed by the Academy, but she’s always very interesting, even in throwaway parts like the CIA agent who wants Bruce Willis dead in Red.) This is a neat movie about class and politics and bucking the system (in the most British way possible, of course).
25 July 1999: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace at the Regal Theater on Broadway. ($6.75) Yep, I saw it (so did you all!!!!) and yep, Jar Jar is painful, and yep, Darth Maul is the coolest part of the movie even though he and Boba Fett could start a “Went Out Like a Chump” support group. Let’s move on!
5 August 1999: The Blair Witch Project at the Regal Theater in Tigard. ($7.50) We saw this the night before we left for a Caribbean “cruise” (on a small sailing ship, not a big cruise liner), and so the fact that I couldn’t sleep that night is a mixture of excitement about going on vacation and creeping terror from this movie. This remains one of the scariest movies I’ve seen, and that shot near the end where they’re coming down the stairs … brrrr. I know this spawned a terrible sequel and a cottage industry of “found footage” movies, but we shouldn’t blame this movie for that, because this is really well done, and it helped keep me awake the night after!
20 August 1999: Bowfinger at the Regal Theater in Tigard. ($7.50) I wrote about this movie a bit here. Eddie Murphy was ROBBED of an Oscar, you know it’s true!
27 August 1999: Eugene Emeralds at Portland Rockies, Civic Stadium, Portland. ($6.50) My best friend Ken (the one with whom I almost fought in Pittsburgh) was in town, and we went to a minor league baseball game with him and a few friends. The English lady we went with knew nothing about baseball, so when the top of the first inning ended, she asked in her awesome accent, “Why are they running away?” when the Rockies came off the field. Good times!

That’s my British friend in the front, my wife, a local friend, Ken, and his boyfriend

21 September 1999: Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde at Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder, Portland. We’re fans of Wilde, so we went to see this, and it was pretty danged good!
2 October 1999: Mystery Men at the Regal Theater at Lloyd Center. ($7.50) Now that superhero movies rule the world it seems like this weird relic would either not get made or would be significantly altered to be less weird, and that would be a shame, so I’m glad it got made when it did, because it’s a fun movie full of cool actors committing hard to the weirdness. And then Claire Forlani shows up and looks like she’s going to cry in every scene (Forlani has Resting Sad Face). But other than that, this is a fun movie!
8 October 1999: Blood Wedding at Miracle Theatre, 425 SE 6th, Portland. ($14.00) This is a Garcia Lorca play, and it’s pretty heavy. I remember it being very good, though.
9 October 1999: Run Lola Run at the Regal Theater at KOIN Center. ($6.75) I love this movie, with its three different stories (sort of) and Franka Potente running all over the place to save her boyfriend who, frankly, doesn’t deserve her. Come on, Lola, you can do better!
15 October 1999: Hamlet at Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($33.00) MOAR SHAKESPEARE!!!! I’ll have more to say about this particular performance below. Bear with me!
16 October 1999: The Sixth Sense at the Regal Theater in Tigard. ($7.50) This still gives me the chills, as we watched it not too long ago with my daughter. Not Shyamalan’s best movie (that would be Unbreakable), but undeniably excellent nevertheless.
22 October 1999: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. This is a very funny play.
30 October 1999: American Beauty at the Regal Theater in Tigard. ($7.50) This is the kind of movie that’s dazzling when you first see it, because the actors are quite good and the film looks amazing, but the minute you start thinking (or “looking closer,” which is what the poster says), you begin to see the problems. Spacey is not liberated; he’s a creep. Benning is horribly stereotyped, as is Cooper. Wes Bentley is super-creepy, too. Thora Birch (who had to get her parents’ permission to film her topless scene, as she was under 18) and Mena Suvari are objects, there simply to stoke the males’ passion. Birch and Suvari do wonders with the roles, but the roles are still icky. Of course, Spacey’s real-life behavior informs this, but well before that, I think the film had lost some luster as people began to see that these are not admirable people. I get that they’re not necessarily supposed to be admirable, but it seems that Spacey is supposed to be, but damn, he ain’t. Anyway, it’s a beautiful movie, but it’s still pretty overrated.
6 November 1999: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($33.00) Okay, so we saw Hamlet at the same theater a few weeks earlier, and the company then switched to Stoppard’s play and used the exact same cast as Hamlet, which was an interesting experience. Sure, the main characters from Hamlet aren’t in this too much, but it was still neat. This is a good play, too, so that helps. Theater companies in Portland were always pulling weird shit like this, and it was one of the reasons we loved living there.

13 November 1999: Being John Malkovich at the Regal Theater in Tigard. ($7.50) I love this movie, even though I haven’t seen it in years. It’s so interesting and funny and tragic and weird but humanistic, and everyone does such a good job in it. Catherine Keener lost Best Supporting Actress to Angelina Jolie, of all people, and while I haven’t seen Girl, Interrupted, so I don’t know how good Jolie is in it, the fact that Keener doesn’t have an Oscar is pretty annoying. Spike Jonze lost Best Director to Mendes for American Beauty, and the less said about that, the better. The biggest Oscar crime with regard to this movie was Best Screenplay, which went to Alan Ball for American Beauty. Here are the nominees: American Beauty, this movie, Magnolia, The Sixth Sense, and Topsy-Turvy. That’s a killer line-up, and literally every screenplay listed is better than American Beauty. Sheesh. Anyway, Malkovich also didn’t even get nominated, which is ridiculous. He got nominated for playing a generic-as-fuck villain in In the Line of Fire a few years earlier, but he doesn’t get a Supporting Actor nod for this? What a joke. I really do have an entire post in me about the stupidity of the Academy Awards, I swear!
27 November 1999: Sleepy Hollow at the Regal Theater, Schuykill Mall, Frackville, PA. ($6.50) I watched this recently, and I still like it. No, it’s not great, but it’s pretty good. I mean, it’s creepy that Depp romances a teenager (and even if you excuse the fact that it’s the 1790s, Ricci looks much younger than 18/19, while Depp does look like he’s in his mid-30s, so it’s modern-day creepy as well), and it’s somewhat easy to figure out what’s going on, and seeing Jeffrey Jones in movies is retroactively icky, but visually it’s wonderful, and it’s nice to see a horror-ish movie that takes itself seriously but also knows that some things in life are funny, even in the middle of death. And even a mute Walken is a good Walken. This is, sadly, the last Burton movie that I really liked (I haven’t seen Big Fish or Big Eyes, both of which I know have good reputations), which is too bad, because he’s such an interesting director. Oh well.
?? December 1999: Luray Caverns, Luray VA. You’ll notice that I saw Sleepy Hollow in beautiful Frackville, Pennsylvania, at a mall that doesn’t exist anymore, because we were visiting our families at the time and my wife’s family lives in the area. Then we visited my sister in northern Virginia and went to the Luray Caverns. They’re pretty keen.
11 December 1999: Dogma at the Regal Theater at KOIN Center. ($6.75) Another Kevin Smith movie I really like, as he did try to do some different things before he got too, too weird. I like the fact that he’s trying to tackle organized religion and its toxic effects on people, and doing it in a comedy, no less. It’s a very ambitious movie, and Smith mostly pulls it off. However, there’s a big Linda Fiorentino-shaped hole in the middle of the movie. Fiorentino is kind of dull in this movie, and it’s too bad, because Fiorentino can be such an interesting actor. She got absolutely shafted out of an Oscar for The Last Seduction, which was ineligible because it aired on HBO before going to theaters (funny how times change, ain’t it?), because she’s brilliant in the movie, but she never really did much in Hollywood, as Dogma is really her last big-time movie, and she doesn’t seem to work in the business anymore. It’s weird to think of how careers go – she’s the best thing in Jade and Unforgettable, two terrible mid-Nineties movies, but who knows what she would have been doing had she won an Academy Award or even been nominated for one (for the record, 1994 was not a particularly strong year for Best Actress – Jessica Lange won for Blue Sky, which I haven’t seen, but Fiorentino is so good I can’t imagine she wouldn’t have won). I don’t know why she’s not very good in Dogma, but it’s too bad, because she’s dismissed from the Men in Black sequel without even showing up and this movie was fairly high-profile, so I wonder if people don’t realize how good she could be with the right material. Oh well.
17 December 1999: The Limey at the Regal Theater at KOIN Center. ($4.25 – matinee) As a follow-up to the terrific Out of Sight, Steven Soderbergh made this movie, which is gripping but not as good as the movies he made around it, as this was when he decided to make some money and show everyone how to make excellent blockbuster-type stuff. Terence Stamp is amazing as the title character, dominating the Los Angeles scene as he looks for revenge for his daughter’s death, but Peter Fonda doesn’t really match him, although you could argue that Fonda is deliberately downplaying to add a nice layer of “the Sixties betrayed” vibe that the movie seems to be going for. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but knowing what Soderbergh is capable of, it’s the tiniest bit disappointing.
18 December 1999: A Christmas Carol at Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($18.00) Perhaps you’ve heard of this.
25 December 1999: Princess Mononoke at the Regal Theater at KOIN Center. ($4.25 – matinee) I don’t watch too much anime, but this is pretty keen. Especially the giant boar.
23 January 2000: Mansfield Park at the Regal Theater Movie House. ($4.25 – matinee) I always thought Frances O’Connor would be a bigger star. She works steadily, but she’s never become that big, and she’s a good actor. Oh well.
29 January 2000: Oregon Zoo. ($6.50) I dislike zoos in general, but the one in Portland isn’t too bad.
27 February 2000: Egypt at the Omnimax Theater, OMSI, Portland. ($6.50) The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a very cool place, and we went there a few times. This time we saw a movie about Egypt. You can also go on a submarine there, which is keen.
4 March 2000: Magnolia at Century Eastport in Portland. ($7.50 – matinee) Man, I love this movie. Everyone – and there are a lot of them – does amazing work, the many stories are interesting and powerful, and Aimee Mann’s soundtrack is superb. Cruise got robbed of an Academy Award (frankly, it looks like everyone did – Caine won for The Cider House Rules, which I haven’t seen, but Duncan in The Green Mile, Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Osment in The Sixth Sense were all excellent, and Caine had already won one, for crying out loud), and Anderson’s screenplay, much like the one for Being John Malkovich, got swamped by American Beauty. Anderson didn’t even get nominated for Director, nor did this get a Best Picture nomination. It’s ridiculous, honestly, because this is a wonderful movie, with Moore, Hoffman, Hall, and Walters doing work that could have easily gotten them nominated. I mean, the movie should have been nominated just for the scene when the entire cast sings “Wise Up” at the same time, because that’s an awesome scene (as you can see below).

10 March 2000: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Eastside Performance Center, SE 14th and Stark. ($31.00) Look at us, going to see musical theater!
11 March 2000: American Movie at the Regal Theater at KOIN Center. This is a terrific documentary about a dude trying to make a horror movie. He’s just a dude, but he loves movies, and he was trying to finance his movie for years, and the movie is about his efforts to get the money and then film it, and it’s very funny, occasionally sad, but generally hopeful. It’s just a bunch of regular, relatively poor, probably unhealthy people trying to live their dreams. Who can’t relate to that?
19 March 2000: Stroganoff: The Palace & Collections of a Russian Noble Family at the Portland Art Museum. ($12.00) No paintings of beef, unfortunately.
25 March 2000: Topsy-Turvy at the Regal Theater in KOIN Center. ($4.25 – matinee) As I noted, this is another movie that got swept away by American Beauty, as it did not win for Best Screenplay despite having a good one. It’s Mike Leigh telling the story of “The Mikado,” and it’s a terrific movie. The cast is great, the writing is great, the technical aspects of working on a play are great, the Oscar-winning Costumes and Makeup are great. It’s a nifty flick. It’s also the last Mike Leigh movie I’ve seen. Man, I don’t go to the movies as much as I used to, and I’m sad.
8 April 2000: Wonder Boys at the Regal Theater on Broadway. Curtis Hanson followed up L.A. Confidential with this underrated movie about a writer who can’t finish his novel, the student he’s banging, the married woman he’s gotten pregnant, and the student he’s jealous of because the student is a better writer than he is. In someone else’s hands, the character might be a disaster, but Michael Douglas (probably robbed of a Best Actor nomination by … let’s say Hanks, because all he did for two hours was yell at a volleyball) makes it work, with a perfect combination of charm, sleaze, and patheticness. Frances McDormand is terrific as the pregnant woman (the chancellor of the university he works for), Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as Douglas’s put-upon agent, Katie Holmes doesn’t annoy as the student who lives with Douglas, and Tobey Maguire is superb as Douglas’s rival/compatriot. It’s a nice, complicated story that got a little lost, but it’s well worth a look.
22 April 2000: High Fidelity at the Regal Theater in Tigard. ($7.50) This is fine, but I don’t love it as much as some people do. Even though I’m five years younger than John Cusack (and I don’t know how old he’s supposed to be in the movie), I thought he was far too childish to take seriously, and he had very little chemistry with Iben Hjejle, who doesn’t do a very good job anyway. And I know they’re comic relief, but man, I wanted to punch Todd Louiso and Jack Black so, so much. And I didn’t think Tim Robbins was all that bad a guy, although he’s clearly meant to be not as great as Cusack. I don’t know. It’s fine. And whatever happened to Natasha Gregson Wagner? She was a cutie, and it seemed like she was poised to be big-time, but it never happened for her. I wonder why.
28 April 2000: St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia PA, Section 208, Row 13. The Cardinals won 7-4. BOOOOO! ($22.50) Man, the Phillies were not good during these years. It’s too bad, because they had Glanville, Abreu, Rolen, and Lieberthal, which isn’t a terrible nucleus, but their depth was terrible and their pitching was atrocious. So sad.
6 May 2000: Gladiator at the Regal Theater at Lloyd Center. ($7.75) I love this movie, so I don’t have too big a problem with the awful history, from Marcus Aurelius not dying that way to Commodus not dying that way (Commodus was a terrible emperor, sure, but he didn’t die that way). My biggest problem, honestly, is with how fast Russell Crowe gets from Germany to Spain. I mean, really. Anyway, I don’t have too huge of a problem with Crowe winning the Oscar, although I think Scott could have won Best Director and something else could have won Best Picture (Traffic, probably, for which Soderbergh won Best Director). This is just a terrific movie, although I refuse to watch it edited because the violence is so much a part of it and TBS usually cuts a lot of it out.
28 May 2000: Mission: Impossible II at the Regal Theater in Tigard. ($7.75) This is by far the worst M: I movie, which is too bad because John Woo knows how to make an action movie, but this and Paycheck (which is also bad) pretty much killed his American career, after he made Broken Arrow and Face/Off, two far superior movies. I don’t know why this movie doesn’t work – the cast is pretty good, the Australian location is beautiful, Dougray Scott isn’t the greatest actor but his villain ought to be compelling … Cruise and Newton (who’s now going by Thandiwe, which is her actual name) don’t have much chemistry together, which certainly hurts it (Cruise and Ving Rhames are, of course, the compelling life partners in this series), and the MacGuffin is weaker than in the first and third movies. It just doesn’t work as a whole, although parts are decent. (Maybe it’s Cruise’s terrible hair?)
3 June 2000: Saltimbanco by Cirque du Soliel, Portland. ($46.70) Cirque de Soliel does a bunch of different shows. We saw this one!

14 July 2000: X-Men at the Regal Theater on Broadway. ($4.50 – matinee) Yes, Blade exists, but this movie really kickstarted the superhero movie renaissance that we currently can’t escape, for good or for ill. Jackman is the catalyst, as he’s excellent, but Stewart and McKellen are good, too. Some of the choices are questionable – Marsden was a gamble like Jackman, but he didn’t rise to the occasion like Hugh did, and the less said about Halle Berry the better – but I think Anna Paquin did a pretty good job in kind of a tough role (I mean, she was an Oscar-winner already, and she remains the only one in the cast to pick one up). Yes, Bryan Singer is retroactively icky, but such is life. This is still a fine example of good superhero movie-ing, and it’s no surprise this renewed the genre after Joel Schumacher took it out behind the barn, violated it in unspeakable ways, and shot it in the head.
11 August 2000: Grimm Silence at Theater Theatre, 3430 SE Belmont, Portland. I don’t remember this, and because there was a fairly popular television show called Grimm, Google is no help. Oh well.
23 September 2000: Chinese Garden in Portland at NW 3rd and Everett. ($6.00) The Chinese Garden in downtown Portland is a very keen place to hang out for an afternoon. It’s “most tranquil,” not unlike ancient Greece when Bill and Ted visited.
24 September 2000: Nurse Betty at the Regal Theater on Broadway. I remember liking this movie quite a bit. Zellweger is quite good as the housewife who becomes delusional after her scumbag husband is killed, while Chris Rock and Morgan Freeman as assassins are funnier and more thoughtful than you might expect. I wonder what happened to Neil LaBute. His first feature was In the Company of Men, which is a searing indictment of toxic masculinity which was wildly misinterpreted, his second feature was Your Friends and Neighbors, which is another brilliant and uncomfortable movie with Ben Stiller in perhaps his best role, and then he made this movie. He was on a good roll, and he then did Possession, which is not great but not bad, and The Shape of Things, which I haven’t seen. Then he made The Wicker Man, and that seems to have killed his career. He’s directed some movies since, but he’s stuck to television (which isn’t a bad place at all, but it seems like a lot of directors prefer movies), and it’s odd. I wonder if he pissed off the wrong person. I still haven’t seen The Wicker Man (I mean, I’ve seen some of it, including Cage’s “The bees!!!!!” scene), but it’s strange that one ridiculous movie can kill a career. Anyway, this is an interesting, weird little movie that, it seems, no one remembers. And wait – Zellweger has won TWO Oscars? Really? I mean, I like Zellweger, but really?
13 October 2000: Almost Famous at the Regal Theater at Lloyd Center. ($5.25 – matinee) I love this movie. I love the cast, I love the writing, I love the story, and I love the music. Fugit, Crudup, Lee, McDormand, Hudson, Hoffman – they’re all great. Crowe won the Oscar for Best Screenplay, and it was well-deserved. Crowe is another director who made one disaster-type movie and lost his mojo. He directed Say Anything (a classic), Singles (better than you think!), Jerry Maguire (not quite a classic, but still very good), and this … and then he made Vanilla Sky, which is pretty dumb, and he’s never really recovered. Those four movies to begin a career (obviously, he wrote stuff prior to directing) are pretty good, though!

20 October 2000: The Devils at Newmark Theater. ($36.00) Who wouldn’t like a play about hysterical witch hunts set in 17th-century France? And according to that Wikipedia entry, Diana Rigg had a role when this play premiered in 1961. Good for her!
1 December 2000: Fabergé at Riverfront Arts Center, Wilmington, Delaware. We were back in Pennsylvania at this time for some reason, and my mother got tickets to a Fabergé exhibit in Wilmington, which was pretty keen. My mom really likes art exhibits, even more than we do!
1 December 2000: Best in Show at the Regal Theater at Warrington Crossing. As I noted above, I like Waiting for Guffman a bit more, but this is stil excellent. Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock steal the movie with their roles as the overly-hyper dog owners, and Willard and Jim Piddock as the commentators are wonderful. Christopher Guest makes good movies, is all I’m saying.
16 December 2000: Unbreakable at the Regal Theater at Lloyd Center. ($7.75) This is the best superhero movie ever, and it’s not particularly close. No other superhero movie gets the “origin” as right as Shyamalan, and no other superhero movie examines the nature of superheroes as well as this one does. Don’t bother arguing – you know it’s true!
25 December 2000: Quills at the Regal Theater at Fox Tower. ($5.00 – matinee) Philip Kaufman, perhaps trying to get rid of the awful taste Rising Sun left in his mouth, took seven years to follow that up with this entertaining movie about the Marquis de Sade. Sure, why not? Kaufman digs the sexytimes (prior to Rising Sun, he had directed the first NC-17 movie, the underrated Henry & June), so why not one about de Sade? Geoffrey Rush has way too much fun as de Sade, while Kate Winslett and Joaquin Phoenix do their usual good jobs. It’s not a great movie, but it is pretty good.
12 January 2001: Traffic at the Regal Theater at 82nd Avenue Cinemas. ($5.00 – matinee) Soderbergh was nominated twice for Directing (the other was Erin Brockovich), making him only the third person to be nominated for Directing more than once in a year (although the other two don’t really count – Frank Lloyd was nominated for three movies in 1929 and Michael Curtiz for two in 1938, but that was back when they really cranked out movies – Lloyd directed five movies in 1929 – so Soderbergh is unique in “modern” film history), and he won for this one. This is a pretty terrific movie, with strong performances all across the board (del Toro won Best Supporting Actor, although he’s as much a protagonist as any other of the vast cast). 2000 was Soderbergh’s annus mirabilis – he was nominated twice, both movies were up for Best Picture, and two of his actors got Oscars. Not a bad time for him!
28 January 2001: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the Regal Theater at Fox Tower. ($5.00 – matinee) I adore this movie. I love Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, and Chow Yun-Fat. I love the story, the cinematography, the choreography, and the scenery. It’s just wonderful.
9 February 2001: Oh Lost Weekend at Imago Theatre, Portland. Another play that I don’t remember all that well and which is hard to find on the internet. So weird.
10 February 2001: Closer at Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($37.00) We still haven’t seen the movie this was made into because my wife refuses to watch it because the play version was sooooo good. It really was, too. Maybe the movie is good?
12 Febrary 2001: Shadow of the Vampire at the Regal Theater at Fox Tower. ($5.00 – matinee) I dig this movie, with its very inspired plot – what if the title character from Nosferatu, the seminal 1922 vampire movie, was actually a vampire? The conceit is that Max Schreck, who played Count Orlok in F.W. Murnau’s movie, was so mysterious that nobody knew who he was, so he could have been a vampire, and Murnau (played with fun megalomania by John Malkovich) didn’t care as long as he got his masterpiece. Willem Dafoe is terrific as Schreck, and Udo Kier, Carey Elwes, Catherine McCormack, and especially Eddie Izzard do excellent work, too. It does help if you’re familiar with the original (which is a classic), but it’s not completely necessary. This is a very dark comedy, and it’s pretty darned good.
16 February 2001: Twelfth Night by Tygres Heart Shakespeare Company at the Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($23.00) SO MUCH SHAKESPEARE!!!!!!
18 February 2001: House of Mirth at the Regal Theater at Center 12 Cinemas. ($5.25 – matinee) I remember very little about this movie. I remember that Gillian Anderson is superb in it, but that’s about it. Oh well.
23 February 2001: Never the Sinner at Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder, Portland. This is a Leopold and Loeb play, but I don’t remember much about it.
March 2001: Revengers Tragedy by Stark Raving Theatre. This is an early 17th-century play (there are other Elizabethan/Jacobean playwrights than Shakespeare, you know!), and I seem to recall it being adapted into more modern English, but I could be wrong.

17 March 2001: Kiss of the Spider Woman at Miracle Theatre, 525 SE Stark, Portland. ($15.00) This is not the musical, but a play adapted from the novel. I’ve never seen the movie, but the book is astoundingly good, and I recall this play being pretty darned good itself.
24 March 2001: Empire of the Sultans at the Portland Art Museum. ($6.50) More cool stuff at the Portland Art Museum! This was an exhibit of Ottoman art, and it was very neat.
29 March 2001: State and Main at the Regal Theater at KOIN Center. ($4.50 – matinee) This is a terrific movie, despite the unbelievable cynicism at the heart of it (Philip Seymour Hoffman gets to clear his conscience and get the girl while Alec Baldwin gets off scot free for molesting a minor), and the performances are excellent. Hoffman is great, of course, and Rebecca Pidgeon actually gets to be a nice character for a change. William H. Macy is great, naturally, and Baldwin – one of the smarmiest actors ever – pulls off the smarm effortlessly. Clark Gregg is fun as the righteously indignant local politician, Charles Durning is wonderful as the town’s mayor (with Patti LuPone doing great work as his high-maintenance wife), Sarah Jessica Parker is perfect as the waffling star, and Julia Stiles, bless her heart, is weirdly miscast as the starry-eyed teen, because she looks so much older than she’s supposed to be, which is weird because she was only 18 during filming (I like Stiles, but for some reason, she just doesn’t fit very well in the movie, even though it’s clear she’s much less starry-eyed than she appears). This is just a funny satire with a lot more bite than it appears.
7 April 2001: You Can Count On Me at the Regal Theater at KOIN Center. ($4.50 – matinee) Laura Linney lost to Julia Roberts at the Oscars, which isn’t the worst thing, but while I don’t remember much about this movie, I remember Linney and Mark Ruffalo, in his first big role after a decade in the salt mines, doing excellent work. Linney and Ruffalo have each been nominated three times and haven’t won. They both probably deserve one!
29 April 2001: O Brother, Where Art Thou? at the Regal Theater at Fox Tower. ($5.00 – matinee) Best soundtrack ever? It’s certainly in the conversation!
6 May 2001: The Tailor of Panama at the Regal Theater at Lloyd Center. ($5.25 – matinee) Between his third and fourth (and final) Bond movie, Pierce Brosnan made this “anti-Bond” movie, playing a spy who’s far more realistic than Bond (still not too realistic, but more so) – he’s a jerk, he thinks nothing of using people and treating them poorly, and his devotion to his country is slippery at best. Geoffrey Rush is excellent as the hapless tailor that Brosnan uses to get intel on the Panamanian government, and Jamie Lee Curtis does a nice job as Rush’s wife. This isn’t a perfect movie by any means, but it’s still a cool and cynical little spy thriller. It’s also Daniel Radcliffe’s first movie, so there’s that.
9 May 2001: The Mummy Returns at the Regal Theater at Lloyd Center. ($5.25 – matinee) I saw this by myself on a Wednesday, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t working. I went to Phoenix in May to interview for a teaching job (which I got, hence our move to the Basin), and I know I quit at some point because we were going to move, so maybe this was after I quit? I think I stopped working in May, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, for some reason I had time on a Wednesday, so I saw this, because I loved The Mummy (which I did see in the theater, but I guess I lost the ticket stub) and wanted to see more! The kid is annoying as all get-out, but this was still a fun flick. Fraser and Weisz are really good together, Arnold Vosloo and John Hannah are good as usual, and The Rock is fine until he becomes the Scorpion King, at which point the CGI takes over, and it’s pretty bad. Oh well – it’s still fun!
19 May 2001: Memento at the Regal Theater at Fox Tower. ($5.00 – matinee) Hey, my 30th birthday! Memento is, of course, Christopher Nolan’s best movie (although maybe it’s Inception?), and I really ought to watch it again. I wonder why Carrie-Anne Moss never became a bigger star. She’s not a bad actor, and she often looks incredibly fierce, so it’s a mystery. You all, of course, remember her from Models, Inc., right?
20 May 2001: King Lear by Tygres Heart Shakespeare Company at the Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland. ($23.00) WHO WANTS MOAR SHAKESPEARE?!?!?!?
26 May 2001: Grouse Mountain Skyride, Vancouver BC. ($20.28)
26 May 2001: Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver BC. ($8.00 & $12.75) We went to Vancouver over Memorial Day, 2001, because we knew we were leaving the Northwest and we’d never been, so we really wanted to get there (we had been to Victoria, the capital of the province which they weirdly stuck on an island off the coast, but we had never been to Vancouver). Vancouver was a superb city – it’s in one of the most picturesque locations you’d ever want to see, and the city itself is very neat. While we were there, my car got robbed. It was parked in the hotel lot, but of course they’re “not responsible” if you leave stuff in the car, and I left my CD carrying case, so someone stole all my CDs. Oh well – I eventually bought them all back, and it wasn’t a huge deal. I was more pissed because I forgot to bring it up to my room, but whatever. Anyway, my wife and I still talk about the barbarian Canadians and their lawless ways, because some damned Canuck stole my compact discs!

The suspension bridge; it’s weird to walk on it because it sways a bit!

July 2001: Chinese Garden in Portland at NW 3rd and Everett. Back to the Chinese Garden for one more visit!
2 July 2001: Swordfish at the Regal Theater at Lloyd Center. ($5.25 – matinee) Yes, this is a garbage movie, and yes, Halle Berry is topless for a few seconds, and yes, it makes no sense whatsoever, but I can’t help but love its big, stupid plot and how it tries to make hacking exciting. Hugh Jackman, who had just hit the big-time in X-Men, sells this hard, because it’s clear he knew how lucky he had been and he wanted to show that damn it, he takes acting seriously!!!!! It’s garbage, but it ain’t boring!

6 July 2001: Atlantis: The Lost Empire at Century Eastport, Portland. ($5.25 – matinee) Man, I don’t remember this movie at all. Really. No memory. Dang.
12 July 2001: Seattle Space Needle. ($11.00) We went to Seattle for the same reason we went to Vancouver – because we were leaving the area and wanted to see it one last time, as we had been to Seattle quite often over the years. We went with my sister-in-law and her then-boyfriend, and as is my wont, I picked on my SIL a bit, because I insult those I love! Her boyfriend got very offended by it and told me to knock it off, which would have been fine except he was kind of a douche about it. I told him I had know my sister-in-law a lot longer than he had, and he should shut it. I actually told him I was going to stop on the freeway home and kick him out, which shut him up. Anyway, twenty years later, she’s not with him and I still pick on her and she knows I love her. So screw him.

The view of Seattle from the Space Needle

12 July 2001: San Francisco Giants at Seattle Mariners, SafeCo Field, Seattle. Section 339, Row 7. Seattle won 4-3 in 10 innings. Bonds hit a home run! ($20.00) Ten years after I first saw Barry Bonds hit a home run, I saw my third and final game in which Bonds played, and he hit a home run for the third time, so that’s pretty cool even though I hate Barry Bonds.
23 July 2001: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within at Century Eastport, Portland. ($5.25 – matinee) I thought this might be interesting, so I checked it out. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t very good. The uncanny valley effect was very strong, as this was early on in the attempts to render animation as realistically as possible. It hasn’t gotten much better in 20 years, but it’s slightly better than this.
2 August 2001: Sexy Beast at the Regal Theatres at the Barn, Warrington PA. ($8.25) My wife thinks this is just all right, which worries me about her, because I adore this movie. Ray Winstone is terrific as a retired gangster living in Spain, Ian McShane is excellent as usual, but it’s all about Ben Kingsley, who tears through this movie as the man sent to Spain to bring Winstone back to London for a heist that he doesn’t want to do. I haven’t seen Iris, so I don’t know if Jim Broadbent deserved the Best Supporting Actor Oscar he won over Kingsley, but I can’t believe it’s better than this, because this is the kind of legendary performance that people never forget, while most people don’t even know Broadbent won an Oscar! (Nothing against Broadbent, who’s a pretty damned fine actor himself.) I just dig this movie, and even when Kingsley isn’t on screen, it’s a gripping movie. I should really watch it again.

In August we moved to Arizona, where we’ve been ever since. We didn’t want to leave Portland (although I’ve heard it’s gone downhill a bit, so maybe we got out at the right time), but it’s expensive to live there, so we probably couldn’t have afforded a house, and I had gotten my Master’s Degree and wanted to get a “real job” (I was working at BlueCross BlueShield at the time), but I couldn’t find a teaching job. I could have gone to school for a few years and gotten my teaching certificate, but there was still no guarantee that I’d get a decent job and that we would be able to afford a house. I had just turned 30 and my lovely wife was 33, and we had started talking about having kids, but we wanted to be sure we could afford them. In Arizona at that time, charter schools were the hot new thing, and you could work at them without having a teaching certificate as long as you had a Master’s. So I got a job down here, and it was (and still is, despite some rising costs) far cheaper to live here than almost any other decent place in the country (Mississippi, for instance, doesn’t count), so we decided to move here. We miss Oregon to this day, but we were able to buy a good-sized house and have two kids, so it was the right move. Onward to my entertainment choices in Arizona!

6 September 2001: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back at the Harkins Theatres and Arizona Mills. ($5.00 – matinee) Yes, it’s idiotic. Yes, it’s juvenile. But Smith was spot on about internet culture, and it’s only gotten worse, and actors poking fun at themselves will always be funny (“Phantoms like a motherfucker!”), and this is just absurd enough that it works. I regret nothing!
8 September 2001: Planet of the Apes at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($5.00 – matinee) The ending is trash, but honestly … I don’t hate this. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. Last pre-innocence movie! Three days later we entered the paranoid 21st century!
20 October 2001: From Hell at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($5.00 – matinee) I re-watched this again a few years ago, and it’s just a frustrating movie, because it completely misses the point. I mean, a lot of movies do that, but that doesn’t make it less frustrating with regard to this one.
4 November 2001: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe AZ. Section 32, Row 32. The Eagles won 21-7. YAY! Brian Mitchell returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and we were off! ($45.00) Before the Cardinals moved into their new stadium, they played in the Arizona State stadium, which is a typical college stadium in that it kind of sucks. We got great seats for this game because the Cardinals were terrible and no one wanted to see them, so we weren’t too far up from the field. However, we live in the damned desert, so while it wasn’t too hot, the sun was beating on us all day (Arizonans scoff at shade!) and it got unpleasant (the heat sucks, but the utter lack of cloud cover for most of the year is what really gets you!). But it was the first Eagles game I had ever seen live, and I only had to move 2000 miles away to do it!

17 November 2001: The Real Thing at Herberger Theater Center, 222 E Monroe, Phoenix. ($36.00) The Phoenix theater scene is not close to as good as the one in Portland, but we do try to see plays occasionally, and this Tom Stoppard play was a good one to start with. It’s Stoppard, so of course it’s pretty good! Things would not improve too much over the coming years.
23 November 2001: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($7.75) And so begins our journey through the Harry Potter Cinematic Universe. My wife likes the books a lot more than I do (I think they’re fine, but she really likes them), so of course we had to watch the movies!
1 December 2001: Spy Game at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($5.00 – matinee) I don’t know if this movie has a good reputation or not, but I dig it. Redford as the old CIA dude, telling an inquiry how he recruited and trained Brad Pitt, who’s being held in a Chinese prison and the American government is trying to decide what to do about it. It’s a good, tense thriller, with some nice political subtext about what the CIA does and why they do it. Just a good, solid movie.
18 December 2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($7.75) Is this the best one? Two Towers is the worst, of course (not that it’s bad at all!), and most people think Return of the King is the best, but I’m not so sure. The early scenes of this when they’re on the road before they get to Rivendell are terrific. I don’t know. I love these movies and I’m so glad they got a good movie adaptation, although I can certainly do without Liv Tyler. And yes, I miss Tom Bombadil. I SAID IT!!!!!!
25 December 2001: Ocean’s Eleven at the Harkins Theatres at Scottsdale Fashion Square. ($5.00 – matinee) I love this movie, and will watch it whenever I happen upon it on television. Everyone is killing it, with Clooney and Pitt having more fun than should be allowed in a movie, and everyone else seeing to enjoy themselves, too. Weirdly, Roberts is the only one who seems like she’s not enjoying herself, and she’s kind of flat. She figured “Fuck it, I won a damned Oscar, so who cares?” Still, it’s a great movie.

26 January 2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($7.75) Yeah, I own the fancy DVDs, too.
3 February 2002: A Beautiful Mind at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($5.00 – matinee) This was an odd year for Best Picture, because nothing really stands out. Fellowship of the Ring was never going to win; Moulin Rouge! seems now like a test case for Chicago; and In the Bedroom (which I’ve never seen) and Gosford Park (which is excellent) feel too small. So this is a good choice, as it’s a good movie. Connelly is a worthy Oscar-winner, and Ed Harris and Paul Bettany are both good. I’m honestly shocked Akiva Goldsman wrote this (and won the Oscar!), but I guess a blind squirrel finds a nut every so often. John and Alicia Nash died in a car accident in 2015, by the way.
February 2002: Arizona Renaissance Festival, Gold Canyon AZ. ($15.00) Good times at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire! I went as a chaperone for the school kids I taught, as the Festival does a mid-week “school kids” day, and it was fun. I’m not sure why we’ve never been back.

24 March 2002: Gosford Park at the Harkins Theatres at Centerpoint. ($4.50 – matinee) It’s Robert Altman, it has a large and excellent cast, and it’s a terrific movie. Yes, Ryan Phillippe is in it. It’s fine.
3 May 2002: Spider-Man at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($7.75) In retrospect, this isn’t that good a movie – Maguire is fine, but too old for the role; I’ve always liked Dunst, so she’s all right; Franco is fine, as is Dafoe, but it doesn’t really come together too well. It did give us Simmons as Jameson, so that’s all right. It’s a decent movie, certainly, but not a great one.
21 June 2002: Minority Report at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($8.00) Spielberg and Cruise? What could go wrong? As it turns out, not a lot, as this is a terrific movie, with a good performance by Cruise and very good performances from Farrell, Morton, von Sydow, and McDonough, although Farrell’s stupidity when he figures things out is annoying because it’s the same stupidity these kinds of characters always exhibit. It’s just a cool, entertaining flick. I even liked the television show!
13 July 2002: Road to Perdition at Gilbert Stadium Cinemas. ($4.50 – matinee) Hanks can’t quite pull off the bad guy routine (can you imagine if this movie had been made in, say, 1984, when Hanks could play kind of an asshole? that would have been weirdly interesting), but this is still a very good movie. It’s Newman’s last feature film (he made some things for television and voiced “Doc” in Cars after this), and he’s excellent, as is Daniel Craig as his whiny son. And hey, it’s the current Superman as Hanks’s son! Good for him! The movie treats a legend like Jennifer Jason Leigh very poorly, but this is still a pretty cool movie. I saw this on a very hot weekday with my wife, a student of mine, and her dad. We had a grand time.
18 July 2002: Reign of Fire at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($6.00 – matinee) This has gotten some love on the interwebs recently as people reassess it in light of how well its stars did in subsequent years, but I’m going to be a hipster and say I liked Reign of Fire before it was cool, because I’ve always loved this dopey movie. What’s not to freakin’ love? Bale doing his thing, Gerard Butler doing his thing, and McConaughey showing up bald and bearded and talking in those weirdo koans that he should repeat, verbatim, in one of his car commercials, just to see if anyone notices. (As he drives his Lincoln through the desert, he can say, “But in the failing light they can’t focus. Magic hour!” and the interwebs would go nuts. He’d be crazy enough to do it, too.) The effects are terrific, the science is decidedly not, and it’s a blast and a half. I’m amazed it took people this long to catch up to its awesomeness!

19 July 2002: Eight Legged Freaks at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($6.00 – matinee) Now this isn’t a great movie, but it’s incredibly fun, and I’m astonished it doesn’t show up on SyFy or TBS all the frickin’ time. Where did it go? It’s a movie about giant spiders menacing an Arizona town peopled by David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer, and Scarlett Johansson, among others! It is, in fact, pretty awesome. (Again, why TBS doesn’t show Arachnophobia and this movie back-to-back every three months or so is inexplicable to me. Come on, TBS!)
27 July 2002: Undercover Brother ($2.00 – matinee) My wife worries about my taste in movies sometimes, and my love for this spoof is one of those times. I don’t care – it’s awesome (to be fair, she does like dumb spoofs, too, just not this one). Eddie Griffin is a 1970s crime-fighter trapped in the present (I mean, he just acts like a 1970s crime-fighter – he’s not actually from the Seventies) who gets recruited by a top-secret organization of black secret agents to fight “The Man” – who is never seen but has a major-domo played unctuously by Chris Kattan. “The Man” wants to ruin a viable black presidential candidate – played by Billy Dee Williams – by brainwashing him into opening a fried chicken restaurant rather than going into politics, and Griffin and Aunjanue Ellis have to stop him. It’s a hilarious movie, with Dave Chappelle playing an agent who believes every conspiracy in the world, Denise Richards playing the white woman who turns Griffin against his people, and Neil Patrick Harris playing the token white guy the secret organization has to hire. It’s dumb, sure, but it’s sadly relevant even twenty years later. It’s perhaps not surprising that it’s based on a web series by John Ridley, who writes pretty pointed comics about race and won a frickin’ Oscar for the screenplay for 12 Years a Slave. I bet that’s not as clever as Undercover Brother can be!
4 August 2002: Signs at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($6.00 – matinee) This is a decent enough movie, although it’s not anywhere near as good as Shyamalan’s previous two. The idea that aliens would come to a world with so much water when they’re vulnerable to it is not a new criticism, but it is a valid one. But other than that, this is pretty good. Phoenix and Mel are good, at any rate. And because Shyamalan likes filming near Philadelphia, a lot of the farm scenes were shot very near to my parents’ house in upper Bucks County at Delaware Valley University, while Newtown is a pretty keen place.
23 November 2002: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($6.00 – matinee) I’m not sure if this happens to anyone else, and it’s kind of weird, so I’m burying it in this long-ass post in case it’s too weird and no one wants to talk about it. So when you see an actor and you think they’re attractive, do you feel weird watching them when they’re young? I’m thinking of Bonnie Wright in this case, because she’s an attractive woman but she was only 11 or so when this was filmed, so when you watch something this, do you feel weird knowing that you’re watching a girl who’s far too young for anyone to have those kinds of thoughts but you know she grows up to be attractive? Is that just me? It’s an odd feeling, in any case.
30 December 2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers at Regal Theatres at the Barn, Warrington PA. ($5.75 – matinee) We were in Pennsylvania to get my first daughter baptized, which we did simply to make my wife’s very Catholic grandmother happy. By the time Child #2 was born, my wife was no longer kowtowing to her grandmother (who was, to be fair, a wonderful woman, she was just an old-school Catholic!), so my second daughter remains unbaptized and, presumably, on the fast train to H-E-double-hockey-sticks.
22 February 2003: Arizona Scottish Highland Games at Mesa Community College, Mesa AZ. Despite being held in February, it was still hot at the Arizona version of the Highland Games, because, as I mentioned above, Arizonans scoff at shade and the sun was, after all, still shining. The setting – the parking lots at the community college, which isn’t significantly better than the athletic field at Mount Hood CC, but Oregon does have the benefit of grass and trees – wasn’t great, but it was fine. It just didn’t feel the same, and we haven’t been back – not solely because of that, but because of the whole “raising kids” thing which took us out of commission for things like this for a while. But it was fine.
14 March 2003: Chicago at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($6.00 – matinee) Man, this was a lousy year for Best Picture, wasn’t it? I mean, this isn’t a bad movie, but Best Picture? It was up against Gangs of New York (which probably should have won, but isn’t a slam dunk), The Two Towers (which was never going to win, as it was clear the voters were saving their votes for the final one), and The Hours and The Pianist, two movies I haven’t seen but which weren’t such amazing movies that they had to win. I mean, this movie is fine. It’s not great, but it’s fine.
1 May 2003: X2: X-Men United at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($8.00) Yeah, this is a top-notch superhero movie that has kind of gotten lost in the MCU onslaught. It’s very good.
3 May 2003: Identity at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($8.00) This doesn’t have the best reputation, I guess, but I dig it. James Mangold is a pretty good director – everyone loves Logan, for instance – and he does a nice job with this story of a bunch of strangers trapped at a motel in the desert on an extremely rainy night where they all start getting murdered. The cast – headlined by John Cusack, but filled out with good actors like Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, John Hawkes, Rebecca de Mornay, Clea DuVall, Alfred Molina, John C. McGinley, Pruitt Taylor Vance, and Leila Kenzle (in, weirdly, her final role) – is solid, and while the final riddle is fairly easy to suss out, it’s a nice, twisty thriller that has some good shocks. It’s not a great movie, but it’s very entertaining.
26 May 2003: The Matrix Reloaded at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($6.00 – matinee) Man, the chase scene on the highway is great, isn’t it? The rest … eh. Not terrible, but not as good as the first one. Disappointing, I suppose, because the Wachowskis couldn’t leave it alone. They just had to get further and furher up their own assholes, and that’s no fun. The dance party/sex scene was when we should have all tapped out, but like lemmings, we continued over the cliff in the third one.
4 July 2003: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($6.50 – matinee) I mean, Kristanna Loken can stalk me and try to kill me any time, nowutimsayin? This really isn’t any good, which is too bad. And it seems that Nick Stahl has gotten his life together, which is good to see, because he really went way out there for a while and it didn’t look like he was coming back.
12 July 2003: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($6.50 – matinee) Man, some bad movies came out in the summer of 2003! I will say that I don’t absolutely hate this – the special effects at the end are garbage, sure, but the Nautilus is cool – but it’s a terrible adaptation of the comic, Shane West is not a good actor but this was when studios were trying to make him a thing, and it just feels like a missed opportunity. Oh well. It did force Connery into retirement, that’s how much he hated working on the movie!
10 October 2003: School of Rock at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($8.00) The coolest student in the class is “Rebecca Brown,” the bassist, who announced that they were non-binary and changed their name to Rivkah Reyes and is, perhaps unsurprisingly, still the coolest person in the cast. Except for maybe Joan Cusack, who is awesome.

11 October 2003: Lost in Translation at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($6.50 – matinee) I adore this movie, even though I haven’t seen it since 11 October 2003 – it shows up occasionally on cable, but I haven’t re-watched it. Johansson, all of 18, is superb, as is Murray, but Giovanni Ribisi and Anna Faris do low-key excellent work, too. Coppola deserved an Oscar for screenplay (none of the others really had a chance), and Murray lost to Sean Penn, which … I guess. I really need to watch this again.
20 December 2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($8.00) This went 11-for-11 at the Academy Awards, but no actors were nominated. That’s weird but not surprising for this kind of movie. Anyway, it’s great, you know it’s great, and it deserved all the Oscars. This was the first time, I think, that I had seen John Noble (he had worked a good deal, but in British television mostly), and this propelled him to his late-career renaissance, as he’s magnetic in everything he shows up in (Denethor tearing into that chicken or whatever kind of bird that is will never not be terrifying). I fell a little bit in love with Miranda Otto in these movies, and I’m kind of bummed she never became a bigger star. Oh well. This is great, and the lack of the “scouring of the shire” is a bit annoying, but not as much as the lack of TOM BOMBADIL!!!!!!
15 April 2004: The Girl Next Door at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($6.50 – matinee) This movie was supposed to be Risky Business for a new generation, but it never really took hold of the zeitgeist like that, probably because Emile Hirsch just doesn’t have the same magnetism that Cruise does. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a pretty terrific movie. Hirsch is fine – not great, but fine, and as this was during the time when Elisha Cuthbert was vying for the title of “hottest woman on the planet,” her presence in the movie is greatly appreciated. Plus, as we saw a few years later when she was in Happy Endings, she’s an underrated comedic actor, so she does well with the humor in what is not necessarily a comedy (I guess it’s a “dramedy,” because it’s not like it’s not funny in many places despite some menace in the story). Timothy Olyphant, who hadn’t quite hit the big time yet despite doing a good job in several movies, plays the menacing porn producer who wants Cuthbert to return to the fold with just the right mix of danger and charm, and it’s clear that as long as someone figured out what vehicle to put him in that he’d kill it, as he proved a few months later when Deadwood premiered. This is a much better movie than you might think, and it’s too bad it got lost in the sex movie craze of the late 1990s/early 2000s.
23 April 2004: Kill Bill vol. 2 at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($4.64????) Yeah, I’m not sure about that price. Whatever. I know we saw volume 1 of this epic in the theater (volume 1 is better than volume 2, by the way), but I don’t have the ticket stub, so oh well. This is a good movie.
8 May 2004: Philadelphia Phillies at Arizona Diamondbacks, Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field), Phoenix. Section 102, Row 21. The Phillies won 8-7. YAY!!! ($15.00) Brandon Webb lost this game for the Diamondbacks, in his last bad year before four straight good seasons before his body fell apart. Too bad. I just wanted to check out Bank One Ballpark, which is a nice place. I like checking out ballparks.
7 July 2004: Spider-Man 2 at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($8.50) As usual, the second in the series is the best, as Molina is better as a villain than Dafoe, and Maguire and Dunst are better in their roles. So there’s that.
17 July 2004: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($8.50) I guess people think this is the best one? I guess? I mean, David Thewlis is awesome, so there’s that.
28 August 2004: Hero at the Harkins Theatre at Arizona Mills. ($8.50) I love this movie. Jet Li shows up at the Chinese emperor’s court and tells him stories about how he defeated three assassins who were trying to kill said emperor. Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang, Donnie Yen – that’s a fine cast, and the movie is just gorgeous, as each story has a stunning color palette. Take a look!

11 December 2004: The Incredibles at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($8.50) Mirage is awesome. You know it’s true. And, um, #SyndromeWasRight.
9 April 2005: Sin City at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($8.50) I love movies that are all style and no substance, especially when the style is so cool. Sin City is ALL style and very little substance, and it’s fucking cool. I still haven’t seen the second one, and I don’t care to. But dang, I like to look at this movie.
17 July 2005: Batman Begins at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.00) This is the best Nolan Batman movie. YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE!!!!!!
24 December 2005: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe AZ. Section 32, Row 25. The Cardinals won 27-21. BOOOOO!!!! ($52.00) All you need to know about this game is that Mike McMahon started for the Eagles. Blech. Nice day, though.
31 December 2005: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($6.50 – matinee) Oh, Cedric Diggory – you’re so stupid. So very, very stupid.
19 March 2006: V For Vendetta at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($6.50 – matinee) Okay, it’s nowhere near as good as the comic, but I still dig it. It works because Weaving is terrific, Stephen Rea does a really nice job as the beaten-down cop, and I think Portman acquits herself well. It’s not a great movie, but it’s pretty good.
11 June 2006: X-Men: The Last Stand at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($6.50 – matinee) Gah, Brett Ratner. Sheesh. This is not good. Let’s move on.

Okay, in October 2006, the wife and I went to Egypt. My lovely wife has been very interested in archaeology forever, and especially Egyptian archaeology, so she was keen to go and look at all the cool stuff in the country. It had been 11 years since our last official vacation, so it was time. My parents came out to babysit our kids, and we were off! I don’t have the exact dates, but we went to Cairo, then Luxor, then Aswan, and finally Abu Simbel, then back to Cairo to fly home. According to my ticket stubs, we went to these places:

The Citadel of Salah al-Din. Saladin began building this in 1176, and it was the residence of Egyptian rulers until the 1800s. It’s pretty keen.

All of our ticket stubs from Egypt look like this, with different photos on them, obviously

The Egyptian Museum. Well, of course we went here. Tutankhamen is here!
Saqqara. The step-pyramid of Djoser is here, and we went to see it.
Mit Rahina. This is the site of ancient Memphis, and there’s a cool museum there.
Giza. The pyramids and the Sphinx. So of course!

Movies and television never show how close Cairo is to the pyramids, as you can see in the background of this photo of my lovely wife

The Valley of the Kings. Tutankhamen was found here!
Al-Deir al-Bahari Temple. This is a magnificent temple of Hapshetsut, one of the few female pharoahs. It’s a really cool site.
Karnak Temple. Very cool. Lots of Romanian tourists, for some reason.
Luxor Temple. We saw this in the evening, and the lighting is amazing.
Edfu Temple. A cool place between Luxor and Aswan.
Kom Ombo Temple. Another cool place between Luxor and Aswan.
The Unfinished Obelisk, Aswan. This is, well, an unfinished obelisk in a quarry in Aswan. It’s a pretty neat site, and the obelisk is lying on its side, half cut out of the rock. It cracked, so it was abandoned. It’s pretty keen.
Philae Temple. This is on an island just below the dam, and it’s cool to see.
Kalabsha Temple. This is right above the dam, and it’s one of the sites that was moved before the dam flooded it. It’s neat.
Wadi es-Sebua. We took a cruise on Lake Nasser and stopped at some places along the way (the ship we were on was wonderful – it was constructed to look like something from the 1920s, so it’s almost like you’re in an Agatha Christie mystery … without the murder, of course). This is one of them!
Amada Temple. Another neat temple along the lake!
Abu Simbel. I mean, of course we had to go there!

Nobody wants to see me standing near these monuments!

25 November 2006: Casino Royale at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) This is really the only good Craig Bond movie, and even it’s not that great, but it’s decent. It works because Craig is a good actor and Eva Green is wonderful, but the switch to poker from baccarat feels weird. It’s still a bit too brutal, but it’s not as dumb as the subsequent ones!
24 February 2007: Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art: Treasures from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam at the Phoenix Art Museum. ($18.00) I’m a big fan of Rembrandt, so I was happy to check this out. It was keen.
3 March 2007: Pan’s Labyrinth at the Harkins Theatres at Arizona Mills. ($9.50) I very much dig this movie – it’s creepy as hell, it looks great, and it doesn’t go where you think it’s going to go. Del Toro made this between Hellboys, so he was using the cachet from that very well!
15 April 2007: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson AZ. ($12.00) We went to Tucson! Did you know that there is a statue of Pancho Villa in Tucson? It’s true, and I can’t figure out why. Pancho Villa didn’t really have much to do with Tucson, and while he might be a big deal in Mexico, he’s not really a hero in the United States, as he’s the last person to successfully invade this country … but he did that in New Mexico, so I’m not sure what’s going on with the statue. It was given to Arizona by Mexico in 1981, which is kind of odd itself (Villa died in 1923, after all), and it’s been the subject of some controversy. I don’t care if Tucson wants to keep it up, I just find it weird. It’s like the Lenin statue in Seattle – it just seems weird in the United States.

There he is!

5 May 2007: Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music at the Dodge Theatre (now the Arizona Federal Theatre), 400 W Washington, Phoenix. ($18.00 x 4) In May 2007 our daughters were 4 and almost 2. You do the math!
19 May 2007: Spider-Man 3 at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) I will never not love Evil Tobey. You can’t make me stop loving him!

14 July 2007: San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks, Chase Field, Phoenix. Section 137, Row 37. Arizona won 5-4. Yay? ($12.50) I know there’s a reason I went to this game (which featured two teams I don’t care about), but I can’t remember what it was. Maybe I got free tickets? I’m not sure.
18 August 2007: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) This is when the books began to get hella long, and the movies began to take a lot of shortcuts so they wouldn’t be six hours long. The kids get better at acting and Dolores Umbridge is super-evil, but the movies start to feel both overstuffed but also a bit too slick, as they zip from plot point to plot point without stopping for breath. Plus, the wizards just get stupider and stupider about Voldemort, so there’s that.
11 January 2008: No Country for Old Men at AMC Ahwatukee. ($9.50) I love this movie. Bardem was an easy choice for Best Supporting Actor, as were the Coens for Best Movie, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay (they beat There Will Be Blood in every category, which was probably the only movie that could otherwise be considered). Jones is terrific, Brolin is terrific, Harrelson is terrific, and Macdonald is terrific. I love that you don’t really find out what happened to Brolin. I love that Jones gives that amazing speech at the end. This is just a wonderful, gripping movie.
25 January 2008: Monet, Matisse and More at the Phoenix Art Museum. ($20.00) Impressionists!
1 March 2008: Philadelphia 76ers at Phoenix Suns, US Airways Arena (now Phoenix Suns Arena), Section 220, Row 1. The Sixers won 119-114. Yay! ($45.75) The Suns were in the middle of their Nash/Stoudemire run and the Sixers were bad, but we got decent seats and it was a fun time, especially because Philly won. Andre Iguodala led all scorers with 32 points!
5 April 2008: The Wiggles at Jobing.com Arena (now Gila River Arena), Glendale AZ. ($18.00 x 4) My older daughter still loves the Wiggles. Yes, the Wiggles are still doing their thing, with three new members these days. We own many, many Wiggles DVDs.
17 May 2008: Iron Man at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) I already wrote about this, so let’s move on!
21 June 2008: Fish at Theater of Living Arts, 334 South St, Philadelphia PA. ($30.00) My good friend Dave got in touch with me and told me that Fish, the ex-lead singer of Marillion, was going to be playing in Philadelphia, and would I like to go? I live, I should reiterate, in Arizona. But hell, yes, I wanted to go! So I flew to Philly for the weekend (the 21st was, handily enough, a Saturday). My friends, who were not big fans, actually really liked the show, mainly because the guitar player was really good (they’re all good guitar/bass players). We had a grand old time. Prior to the show, we were at a bar near the theater and Fish came in for a photograph session with fans, so I got my picture taken with him. Good times! Here’s the set list!
June 2008: The New Hope and Ivyland Railroad, New Hope PA. I probably did this on the Saturday of the concert. The railroad is an olde-tymey one, and it’s pretty fun, especially on a nice summer day.
19 July 2008: Hellboy II: The Golden Army at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) The effects at the end weren’t great, but this was still a pretty neat movie. I know when it came out, a lot of people thought it was better than the first one, and that’s probably because “origin stories” do get kind of dull, but I don’t know which is better. It’s been a while since I’ve seen either one. I dig them both, though.
2 August 2008: The Dark Knight at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) I’m fascinated by movies that are really amazing the first time you see them but get dumber every subsequent time, because this movie could be Exhibit A. Yes, it’s thrilling to watch, but dang, does it fall apart the instant you stop to think about literally any of it. Ledger is a deserving winner, I guess (personally, I think Downey should have won for Tropic Thunder, but I don’t have a problem with Ledger), although the character he plays is not a very good Joker (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Leto played the Joker better), and the rest of the movie is made out of gossamer – don’t touch it, or it will dissolve! It was fun to see, though.
(I don’t know what happened during this year-long break in my ticket stubs. I’m sure we saw some things, but I just don’t have the proof!)
22 November 2009: Quantum of Solace at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) Man, I’ve seen this movie at least twice, but I don’t remember much about it. The weird place in the desert was pretty cool, though.
26 December 2008: The Nutcracker by Ballet Arizona Symphony Hall, 75 N 2nd St, Phoenix. ($47.00) More damned sugar-plum fairies!
28 December 2008: Slumdog Millionaire at the Harkins Theatres at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) I really enjoyed this movie. I’m not entirely sure it deserved Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, but the pickin’s seemed a bit slim that year. That’s not to say it’s not good, and the idea that a Bollywood-esque movie could win big at the Academy Awards is kind of neat.
12 March 2009: Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Tempe Diablo Stadium, Tempe. ($5.00) The Angels have Spring Training in Tempe, and a woman I had worked with said she had some tickets, so my 4-year-old daughter and I went with her and her family. We sat on the grass behind right field, and we had a pretty good time.
16 May 2009: Star Trek. ($9.75) Hey, it’s Thor! This was fine, I guess. I know it doesn’t quite work because time travel is annoying and should be avoided, but it was fine.
25 July 2009: San Diego Zoo. I always have a good rant about the San Diego Zoo, which has had a great reputation for as long as I can remember. We were in San Diego for the convention, and we had decided to make it a family vacation, with my parents coming along as well. So we spent the week in town and did some touristy things, including going to the zoo. I have not been a fan of zoos for a long time, since I began reading more about the way animals generally live in the wild and how zoos don’t do a good job replicating that, and I know zoos have tried to be better and that zoos occasionally are the only things keeping animals alive, but … I’m still not a fan. So anyway, we head on over to the zoo, and … there are probably four handicap parking spaces, and they’re all taken. I have joked in subsequent years that Target has more handicap parking than the goddamned San Diego Zoo, but it’s not really a joke, because it’s true. Now, if you’ve been to the zoo, you know that it shares a parking lot with a War Memorial, which is on the other side of the lot. I had to park over there, at the other end of the lot, and wheel my daughter all the way back over. It was a small thing, but an annoying thing. The actual zoo was disappointing. It’s very hilly, which can’t be great for older people and is definitely not great when you’re pushing a wheelchair. The little buses that take you around are very infrequent and don’t have a ton of room anyway. And it felt cramped, with what seemed like too-small enclosures for some animals that probably needed more room. All in all, not a great experience. The unheralded Phoenix Zoo, for instance, is miles better at everything. So that’s my rant. We had a nice time in San Diego overall, though, so that was cool.
1 August 2009: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at AMC Ahwatukee. ($9.75) This is where the movies being much shorter than the books started to get annoying. The “half-blood prince” stuff wasn’t great in the book, but at least it was explained. In the movie, it kind of comes out of nowhere. Come on, movie writers, do better!
14 August 2009: District 9 at AMC Mesa Grand. ($5.00 – matinee) I rewatched this a few years ago, and I still dig it. Neither Blomkamp nor Copley has done anything near as good, which is a shame.
18 September 2009: Whiteout at the Harkins Theatre at Arizona Mills. ($7.00 – matinee) I saw this because I dug the comic so much, and … it’s not very good. It’s not as bad as some think, but they try to combine the two comics and it just doesn’t work, and Beckinsale is far too … put together to play Carrie (I want to say “attractive,” but Carrie doesn’t have to be unattractive, just not as well groomed as Beckinsale looks in this movie, although Beckinsale probably rolls out of bed well groomed). It’s just okay. If it got Rucka and Lieber some good coin, I’m happy with it!
19 September 2009: Inglourious Basterds at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) Wow, as of this moment (I’m typing this on the 15th of October), this is the most recent Tarantino movie I’ve seen. And I really like Tarantino. Life, man, it gets in the way sometimes. Anyway, I dig this quite a lot. Laurent and Kruger are amazing, Pitt is excellent as usual, Michael F. Assbender is good, but of course, Waltz is breathtaking. That opening scene, man. Dang. I really have to watch Tarantino’s more recent movies.
25 September 2009: Surrogates at AMC Mesa Grand. ($5.00 – matinee) This is a good comic that the movie largely got wrong, although there are some nice moments in it. It’s not a terrible movie, just not great, but Rosamund Pike is probably the best reason to see it, as she kills in the role of “Bruce Willis’s wife.” Pike was nominated for an Oscar for Gone Girl, which she deserved, but she’s still, I think, a bit underrated, possibly because she is almost impossibly gorgeous, and she does marvelous work in a limited role here as the woman who thinks Bruce is crazy for giving up his surrogate. It could have been a better movie, but it’s still kind of interesting.
26 December 2009: Sherlock Holmes at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) I enjoyed this, and it’s a fun movie to watch whenever it’s on (which is a lot, thanks to TBS), but it’s still pretty slight. Downey Jr. and Law are fun, though. Kelly Reilly is currently killing it as the sole daughter in a brood of boys on Yellowstone, which is not a bad show.
21 February 2010: Shutter Island at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) I like how Scorsese likes to denigrate Marvel movies, but he did, after all, make this trashy horror movie. Not that this is a bad movie – far from it – but it’s still a “genre” flick, and it seems that Scorsese has an issue with Marvel movies because they aren’t “highbrow” enough. Jeebus, Marty, chill out. Anyway, I haven’t seen this in a while, but I really dig it. So there’s that.
27 June 2010: Toy Story 3 at the Harkins Theatre at Tempe Marketplace. ($7.00, $5.50 – matinee, child) So this is the worst Toy Story movie by a pretty wide margin, despite the critical gushing over it. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I will do so again, because it’s certainly not a bad movie, just not as good as the first two (I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the fourth, but it also seems better than this one). Two things annoy me about this movie: First of all, it’s a kid’s movie. People should never lose sight of that, although they often do. In kid’s movies, I wish filmmakers would try to figure out better things to do with the villains, especially if the villains aren’t that bad. Lotso is not that bad a bear, and his heart was broken because he thought he was a special toy and he couldn’t handle the fact that he was replaceable. His actions stem from trying to heal that hurt, or at least ignore it enough so it doesn’t destroy him. At the end, he has a chance to realize that love is important and people are willing to help, and he doesn’t take it, so he ends up paying the price by being stuck on the front of a garbage truck. I don’t like this because this is, after all, a kid’s movie, and I think it’s important to show kids that people can change if they’re shown a positive example. I have the same problem with the first Kung Fu Panda movie, because Tai Lung is also a villain whose heart was broken and who doesn’t know how to handle that. A good example of showing what happens when a villain isn’t truly villainous is Big Hero 6 (see below), where the bad guy just wants his daughter back and once she is, he stops being a villain (he goes to jail, but he stops trying to destroy the universe). You might think I’m silly, but my point is that these are movies for children, and while adults are bloodthirsty, do we really want to tell our children that if they do something wrong because of fairly decent reasons, they’re irredeemable? I don’t want to teach my children that. The second reason is the mawkishness at the end, when Andy gives the toys to Molly. In no universe does an 18-year-old act that way about their damned childhood toys. This is a movie written by middle-aged men who are feeling nostalgic for their childhoods, so they tack on that ridiculous ending, even though Andy would have left for college without even thinking about his toys. You know it, I know it, and if audiences could have stopped bawling for a moment, they would have known it too. That’s why the first movie is the best one – it wasn’t overly sentimental, and the sentiment in it feels earned. In movies 2 and especially 3, the filmmakers were trying too hard to tug our heartstrings, and it was annoying because it was too manipulative. I mean, yes, it’s sad when Sarah McLachlan sings about losing her childhood friend to puberty, but it’s also extremely manipulative. Anyway, that’s my rant about Toy Story 3. Aren’t you happy you’ve read this far?
16 July 2010: Inception at the Harkins Theatre at Tempe Marketplace. ($10.00) Nolan’s best movie? Perhaps, although I still think it’s Memento. Although why cast Marion Cotillard if you’re going to give her so little to do?
14 August 2010: Inception at the Harkins Theatre at Tempe Marketplace. ($9.50) Yep, had to see twice. I had to check out the top one more time!!!!!
2 October 2010: Let Me In at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) I still haven’t seen the Swedish original, but that’s the way it goes. This is a fine horror movie, with Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz doing wonderful work as the kids (yes, she’s an immortal vampire, but she’s still a kid) and Richard Jenkins adding a nice haunting presence to the movie. It’s a sad movie, to be sure, but it’s very powerful. One day I’ll see the original!
15 October 2010: The Social Network at the Harkins Theatre and Tempe Marketplace. ($9.50) I don’t know if this has aged well, because I haven’t seen it since, but I enjoyed it when I saw it! Knowing what we now know about Facebook, it has probably aged pretty well, and might actually be a bit too nice on Zuckerberg!
27 November 2010: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 at AMC Ahwatukee. ($10.00) In the home stretch!
17 December 2010: Tron: Legacy (in 3-D!!!!) at the Harkins Theatre at Superstition Springs. ($12.50) This is a pretty underrated movie, although it’s not as good as the original, mainly due to the void at the center in the shape of Pretty Boy Garrett Hedlund, who might be a good actor but doesn’t show it in this movie. But Bridges is fun (despite the “youthening” technology they use), Olivia Wilde is quite good, and Michael Sheen has a wonderful time chewing the scenery. The 3-D isn’t impressive, but such is life (I saw this with some dudes who really wanted to see the 3-D). It’s not a bad flick.
22 January 2011: True Grit at the Harkins Theatre at Tempe Marketplace. ($9.50) Speaking of Bridges, he’s superb here in the John Wayne role, and I wonder if he didn’t win the Oscar because he has just won it the year before and the Academy didn’t want to give it to him again (I mean, it’s not like he’s Tom Hanks or anything), because he really does blow Colin Firth out of the water (and I like The King’s Speech – see below). Steinfeld, in her first movie, was also nominated, for Best Supporting Actress (which makes no sense), and I haven’t seen The Fighter, but Melissa Leo is an excellent actor, so I assume she’s good in that. This got nominated for ten (10!) Oscars and didn’t win one, which has to be some kind of a record. And no, Matt Damon didn’t get nominated, but he’s excellent in the movie, too. This is just a really good movie. I should rewatch it.
19 February 2011: The King’s Speech at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) Speaking of which, I do like this, but it’s still a bit overrated. I mean, it’s Oscar catnip, which is why it got 12 (!!!) nominations and four wins, including Best Picture (fairly undeserved, as Black Swan, Inception, The Social Network, and True Grit are better), Best Actor (Bridges is better), and Best Director (Hooper is the worst of the nominees – even if I haven’t seen The Fighter – as Aronofsky, Fincher, and the Coens were all more deserving). However, even with all that, it’s a good movie – Firth is good, Rush is better, and the story is good. I don’t like denigrating movies that are good, but when they get overpraised, I have to call it out!
5 March 2011: The Adjustment Bureau at AMC Esplanade on Camelback Road. ($7.50 – matinee) This isn’t a great movie, but it is entertaining, and Damon and Blunt have good chemistry, which makes it work better than it might otherwise. Mackie, Slattery, and Stamp are good as the “agents,” although I was just reading that Shohreh Aghdashloo was supposed to play God, but her role was cut. Now, I don’t think we needed God in this movie, although Aghdashloo would have absolutely killed it in the role, but it wasn’t cut for story reasons – it was cut because the studio thought people would be upset that a Muslim woman was playing God. Just in case you think we’ve reached a post-racial society … we haven’t.
24 March 2011: Limitless at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($7.00 – matinee) This is another dumb-ish movie that I love, mainly because Bradley Cooper sells the main character so hard. He’s good as playing the sad-sack loser at the beginning, but he’s really good at playing the confident douchebag once he transforms. I don’t know much about Cooper, so maybe he’s a confident douchebag in real life (with that face, it’s probably hard not to be), but maybe it’s just good acting. Anyway, Abbie Cornish is pretty good in this, Bobby D is always good, and the television show they made based on this movie is actually quite good, even though it was canceled after one season. Check them both out!
8 April 2011: Source Code at the Harkins Theatre at Arizona Mills. ($7.00 – matinee) Man, 2011 was a good year for dumb-ish science fiction movies that I saw in the theater, wasn’t it? I re-watched this recently and I don’t quite get the criticism that Gyllenhaal “stole” the dude’s life. I mean, yes, technically he does, but it’s a new reality, man, so just chill out. I would be more upset, if I were Gyllenhaal, that I don’t look like myself anymore. That would be weird. And poor Michelle Monaghan – she’s always relegated to these kinds of roles in big movies, even though she’s certainly talented enough to be in different roles. I guess she’s doing her thing, though, so good or her!
18 May 2011: Thor at the Regal Theater in Warrington. ($9.50) In May and June 2011, I was in Pennsylvania, staying at my parents’ house while my older daughter was at a clinic in Bethlehem getting help with her eating problems (it didn’t help; in early 2012 we had to get a g-tube put in her). My wife had to work and my younger daughter was in school, so she stayed in Arizona. She still hasn’t forgiven me, because she had to deal with a 5-year-old by herself while I basically got to do nothing but have fun for six weeks because the clinic didn’t want parents hanging around all the time and I knew I would just be a distraction to my daughter. So I hung out, drove around the area, went out with friends, ate food my mom made for me, didn’t do laundry, and had a great time, basically. The day I saw Thor was a rainy day, so it was perfect for seeing a movie! I don’t know why I didn’t see more movies while I was there – I guess I just wanted to do other things. This was what I did, incidentally, on the last day of my 30s.
30 July 2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at the Harkins Theatre at Tempe Marketplace. ($9.50) We would see these movies with friends who live about an hour away, and once this ended, we had to decide what series to pick up next. I’m not sure if the one we picked was worthy, but it was up to my wife and the other woman, with no input from me and her husband. See below!
24 March 2012: The Hunger Games at the Harkins Theatre at Tempe Marketplace. ($7.00 – matinee) Yep, the ladies were fans of these books, so we saw the movies. I mean, they’re somewhat entertaining, and Jennifer Lawrence is a good actor and she’s easy on the eyes, so it’s not the worst way to spend a few hours, but these movies just aren’t that good. But I’ve seen them!
19 May 2012: The Avengers at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($9.50) Hey, I saw this on my 41st birthday! What do you know about that?
15 June 2012: Marillion at Theatre of Living Arts, 334 South Street, Philadelphia PA. (4 at $62.50 a pop) Hey, this is the concert I was talking about at the top of the post. Remember that? I know, it was so very long ago. I had a great time, and my friends did, too, even though they still claim it wasn’t a great concert. Is unfamiliarity with the material enough to make it a bad concert? I guess it is. This was, unfortunately, right after the band had released their two worst albums, so they played too many songs from those discs, but they did play two songs from the album they would release later that year, which was a nice comeback for them. They also did some excellent songs, so that’s nice, too. Here’s the set list, in case you’re interested.

My friend is a fool, A FOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!

17 August 2012: The Dark Knight Rises at the Harkins Theatre at Arizona Mills. (Free pass) Unlike the middle movie, which I liked initially but like less with each subsequent viewing, I didn’t like this when I saw it, but I still like it less each time I see it! It’s ponderous, too long, and kind of stupid. Marion Cotillard needs to stop starring in Christopher Nolan movies, because he doesn’t seem to know what to do with her, and Tom Hardy is just goofy. Oh well – we’ll always have the first Nolan Batman movie!
13 October 2012: Looper at the Harkins Theatre at Tempe Marketplace. ($9.50) I want to re-watch this, because I liked it when I saw it but haven’t seen it since, so I don’t know if I just dug the coolness of the concept or if the movie really does hold up. I don’t like the “Willisification” of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but what are you gonna do? It’s a nifty movie, but I still want to see it again!

1 January 2013: Argo at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($7.00 for the matinee) This seems like an unlikely – but not unworthy – Best Picture winner, because it seems like other nominees would have been more “Oscar-esque” – Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty, for instance – and also because Affleck wasn’t nominated as Director and nobody got an acting nomination, so it’s a bit weird. But it’s a good movie, and hey, Jack Kirby shows up, so that’s not a bad thing!
23 November 2013: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at the Harkins Theatre at Tempe Marketplace. ($9.50) Sigh. Yep.
23 November 2014: Big Hero 6 at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($7.25 – matinee) I saw this with my then 9-year-old daughter, and it’s honestly one of the best kid’s movies I’ve ever seen. The characters are terrific, it’s exciting, it’s funny, it’s sad without being mawkish, and as I mentioned above, there’s a good villain who has good reasons for doing bad things, and he’s not punished excessively for his actions. I don’t want you to think I think all villains in kid’s movies shouldn’t be punished – that damned peacock in Kung Fu Panda 2 is just a douchebag, and the Genghis Khan guy in Mulan is a dick – but it shouldn’t just be the go-to thing, and the makers of this movie understand that. So yeah, this is a terrific movie. And one of the characters is reading Chaykin’s Monark Starstalker comic, which is just bizarre but awesome.
Sometime in 2015: Mad Max: Fury Road. I don’t have a ticket stub for this, but I know I saw it in the theater when it came out. It’s awesome.
11 June 2018: ABBA Exhibit at Southbank Centre, London (£15.00). We went to England (with a day trip to Paris) in June 2018, but I have no receipts from the trip, because my wife booked everything and she did it all on-line. While we were there, we discovered the ABBA Exhibit, which told a bit about the band and contained a lot of very cool ephemera, like recordings of their pre-ABBA groups, for instance. My wife is not as big an ABBA fan as my daughter and I are (I know, how have we stayed married all these years?), so she hung out and had some tea while we went to the exhibit. A good time was had by all!

You might not have believed I went to this, so I have proof!

16 April 2019: Wicked at Gammage Theater. This is a good musical, full of spectacle but lacking some of the nuance of the source novel. Still, the songs are terrific, and the set design is amazing. It’s the kind of “crowd-pleasing” thing we get a lot in Arizona, where the theater scene is definitely geared toward old people and kids. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does narrow things down just a tad.
5 June 2021: F9: The Fast Saga at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. ($12.00 – matinee). I wrote about this here. I saw it with my daughter, who digs these movies (much to my wife’s chagrin). First time at a theater in a long time!
7 August 2021: The Green Knight at the Harkins Theatre at Chandler Fashion Center. I saw the trailer for this when I saw F9, and holy shit did it look awesome. And you know what? It is pretty awesome. It’s a weird retelling of the myth, with Arthur’s kingdom kind of decrepit, and Dev Patel playing a jerk who wants glory, so he foolishly accepts the Knight’s challenge. Then, when he has to go on the quest to get his own head chopped off, he encounters a lot of weird shit. Alicia Vikander is excellent in a couple of roles, and Joel Edgerton does nice work as the lord who lives near the Knight’s home. It’s not the greatest in terms of plot, as some things are just left completely unexplained, but it’s a wonderful movie of imagery and tone, and a nice rumination on what makes a person great. There’s also a moment where the movie really, really earns its R-rating, to the point where I actually had to discuss it with two different people to make sure it was what we thought it was. Anyway, it’s not for everyone, but it’s a very keen movie. I don’t know how it would fly at home, because some of the early scenes are so dark that it was hard to see on a big screen with no distracting lighting, so at home on a smaller screen with extraneous lights in the room might be too much. Come on, filmmakers, light your scenes better!
13 November 2021: The French Dispatch at the Majestic 7 Theater in Tempe. My wife claims that we saw The Royal Tenenbaums, but I don’t remember it (I know bits and pieces of it, but I don’t remember seeing the entire thing), so this is either the first Wes Anderson movie I’ve seen since then (2001) or since Rushmore (1998). It’s not that I don’t like Anderson, it’s just that his movies kind of fell through the cracks when we were raising kids. But now we’re trying to see more movies in the theaters, and this one is very good. It’s an anthology, as each mini-film is supposedly a story in the magazine that Bill Murray edits. Murray dies at the beginning of the movie, and these stories are from the final issue of the magazine, which they put out in tribute to him. Owen Wilson does a short piece about the town in which the movie is set (Ennui-sur-Blasé, because of course), and then we get Benicio del Toro as an insane artist whom Adrien Brody wants to exploit, Timothée Chalamet as a student revolutionary and Frances McDormand as the reporter who gets a bit too close to the action, and finally Jeffrey Wright as a food reporter who’s writing about a “police chef” who gets involved in a kidnapping. The cast is absolutely stacked, the entire movie is very funny, and the cinematography and set design are amazing. I’ve heard that Anderson has gotten a bit too weird, but this feels less quirky than his recent work, although that’s just from reading about it and not seeing it. Anyway, it’s a very good movie, and I’m glad I saw it!

Phew! You’ll notice that after Big Hero 6, there’s a big gap in years. We saw some movies in that time – we finished the Hunger Games series, saw the first Fantastic Beasts movie, and saw The Force Awakens and Rogue One in the theaters – but I can’t find the ticket stubs, and I don’t know if I had them and lost them or for some reason didn’t keep them. Those were years when we didn’t do a lot of stuff – our younger daughter wasn’t quite old enough to leave home alone, and finding a babysitter was becoming increasingly difficult, and when we did find one (or a few years later when my younger daughter could “babysit”), we usually went out to dinner. Seeing movies in the theater is not quite the habit that buying comics every week is, but it is a habit, and once you get used to watching them on television (especially in the age of streaming), it becomes more and more difficult to drag yourself to the theater. Especially when a matinee costs $12!!!!! (To be fair, we saw F9 on in the fancier theater that Harkins has, so it was a bit more expensive.) I’ve been wanting to go to more movies, but it’s still hard to find the time. As you can see, the Phoenix theater scene is not that great, so we don’t see plays that often anymore, and I haven’t been to a concert in a while. We went to the Caribbean in 2017 and England in 2018, but we’ve reached the age of paperless tickets, so I don’t have any ticket stubs from those expeditions (with the exception of the ABBA Exhibit; see above). Such is life. This list isn’t exhaustive even prior to 2014 – I know we saw some movies in theaters for which I don’t have ticket stubs, and we saw some plays that I remember but don’t have tickets for. Three in particular stand out: the one based on several John Sayles short stories, which I referenced above; a play about Gerard Manley Hopkins, of all people, which was also excellent; and a play about Henry IV of France, who was raised Protestant but famously converted to Catholcism so he could become king. I can’t find any information about these plays, mainly because I can’t remeber what they were called, but I remember seeing them!

I hope some of you actually read this thing – I know it’s long, but I thought it would be fun! I write a lot about pop culture, obviously, so many of you know the kinds of things I’ve seen, but I thought it would be interesting to track it a bit more minutely. I hope it wasn’t too annoying!!!!!


    1. Greg Burgas

      Ha! I have a fairly fancy box (it’s basically a sturdier shoe box) that I keep them in, and some years ago I sat down and put them in chronological order. I’m definitely not a hoarder, but I can see their encampment from where I am.

      And I referenced you in this piece. See if you can find where I did so!

  1. Bob Dylan was “only” 48 in 1990? Holy crap, he was an institution by then and I’m getting so close to that age now!

    Eventually I’ll probably read this whole thing, but I’m too busy laughing at your friend who hated the concert even though you paid for his ticket!

  2. Peter

    That’s an impressive collection of ticket stubs – I have a little tin with some stubs I kept from games and concerts attended in college and I did find a stub from “Encanto” in my jeans pocket yesterday, but nothing as comprehensive as this!

    Totally agreed on the relative merits of the Nolan Batman films and the travesty of American Beauty and Titanic winning so many blasted Oscars. Nolan’s best film is a tie between Memento and The Prestige, though (Inception is cool but it’s needlessly obtuse in many ways – the wild editing in those other two films is essential to their impact!)

    Big Fish is an excellent film in my opinion – if you’ve never seen it, I think you’ll find it’s a very fine latter-day Burton film. (Although I also love Toy Story 3 – so what do I know?)

    1. Greg Burgas

      Peter: I like Toy Story 3, don’t get me wrong – I just think it’s the worst of the four, and I think it gets overpraised for the wrong reasons. But it’s a good movie! 🙂

      I do like The Prestige. Hmmm …

  3. tomfitz1

    BURGAS: This was an extremely long post, and if I were honest – I’d seen, maybe less than half of your post. (not counting music bands or musical)

    I had some snarky remarks that I was going to write, but I’m nursing a sore foot. So you get a break from me today.

    However, I will say that I’ve never gone to see a film twice. I may rewatch it on Tv, DVD, or VHS (remember those?).

    I’m not as rich as you so I can’t exactly afford to see films twice and still buy comics!

    You have given me some ideas what to watch out for, though.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Tom: Well, I mean, I’ve gone to see these movies over the course of 30+ years, you know! And B.C. (before children), we had more disposable income!!!!

      You’ve never seen a movie in the theater twice? That’s bizarre!

  4. fit2print

    And the Oscar for longest-ever (mostly) movie-related post on the internets is…

    I have to confess I didn’t read every word (I’m definitely in the “non-ABBA fan” category, for example) but I enjoyed both your recollections and the effort to recall my own first encounters with these movies, the vast majority of which I’ve also seen. Regrettably, I don’t share your gift for near total recall but, surprisingly, the memories did return for a quite a few – even in the absence of “receipts.”

    As an added bonus, the next time I catch flak for the fact I’ve kept a written record — formerly in a ratty old paper notebook, now on a ratty old MacBook — since high school of every movie I’ve seen and every book I’ve read, I’m gonna point them to this post and say, “See, I may be a little (or a lot) too OCD for my own good but look, this guy tops even me!”

    1. Greg Burgas

      I barely mention ABBA!!!! 🙂

      I don’t have that great a memory for this stuff – I remember quite a bit, but as you can see, I forget a lot, too. Some of this was certainly helped by IMDb, as occasionally I read that and thought, “Oh, yeah, dang, I remember that now!”

      There’s nothing wrong with keeping a written record of every movie and book! If I had thought of that when I was younger, I definitely would have done it. It seems a bit too late these days!

  5. Darthratzinger

    I kept my concert tickets until my early twenties and pinned them to my door but then I changed my tastes (or as I thought at the time “became cool”) and only went to small underground concerts and got kind of embarrassed by displaying Aerosmith or Nirvana tickets (last Nirvana-concert) so they had to go.
    I have a story similar to Your friend who hated on the free Marillion-concert. Three years ago when Slayer were on their farewell-tour two friends and I decided to see them in Erfurth, a three-hour drive from here (short trip for a concert in the states, slightly longer here). We bought a ticket for another friend for his birthday. Jörg is basically the slacker of our group (never finished school, never held a job, lives on welfare, appartment got cleaned for the last time about twenty years ago by a friend who couldn´t take the garbage anymore – I haven´t set foot in there for years now because it´s too disgusting) dislikes anything commercial. Anyway we drive there, enjoy the concert but Jörg didn´t even go past the lobby and complained the entire time about the size, the audience, merchandise prices and so forth. Needless to say, that was my last birthday present for him. Dammit, now I´m angry again three years after the fact.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Why would you be embarrassed by Nirvana? I can see Aerosmith (in a “I want to be cool” kind of way), but Nirvana? 🙂

      That sucks about your friend. Mine had a good time, as far as I know, he just didn’t like the music. But he didn’t complain!

  6. Edo Bosnar

    Jackie Brown is far and away Tarantino’s best movie – seriously, as good and/or entertaining as some of the others are, they just don’t come close to it.
    And he’ll never top it.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Yeah, if I’m feeling a bit contrary, I’ll say it’s better than Pulp Fiction. Those two are really, really good, but I’m a big fan of Tarantino (despite missing his last few movies), so I’m fine with people saying any one of his movies is his best.

  7. Eric van Schaik

    Whoa! Maybe your longest post ever?
    I’ll do my best to make this answer not as long as your post. 😉

    If I collected my tickets it would have been in a very large box.
    My mother took me and some school friends to the cinema at an early age. Bugs Bunny, Road Runner and that kind of stuff. I watch those dvd’s from time to time and pass over my love for cartoons to my kids.
    My earliest recollection is seeing Jungle Book when it came out (me 4 years old).
    I had a lot of concert tickets but lost them years ago. 🙁
    I think the early ’80 was the period I saw the most concerts. I always bought a tour shirt but all of them are gone now. Ozzy Osbourne had a really beautiful one for the Bark at the Moon tour.

    My neighbor was a grest fan of The Golden Earring and took me to a lot of shows before I was 146 My taste for heavier music developed and my father was kind enough to bring me to concerts in Holland. I think Saxon opening for Judas Priest was propably the first in ’81.

    Here are some of my thoughts of your post:

    Robocop 2 was such a disappointment after Verhoeven’s classic. I saw it years later on tv and it sucked even more.

    No fan of Siouxsie & the Banshees? SHAME ON YOU!! 🙁
    I discovered NIN years later but haven’t been able to see them.

    Bonus point to you for liking Anthrax. I liked the first albums.

    Agree with you about Freejack. Had high hopes.

    Star Wars (A New Hope) was the first movie with multiple viewings. The last time was when they showed the first trilogy with the premier of Return Of The Jedi (worst of the 3).

    I saw Back to the Future 2 two times the same evening!
    We would see each other at the arcade and I bought the tickets in advance. I waited and waited but they didn’t show up. I sold the other tickets and enjoyed the movie. When I came out I saw my friends. They felt sorry for me and decided to pay for my ticket. Great palls.

    Alien3 is ok but I found the beginning of the movie really dumb. Ripley would have checked out the spacecraft after killing the queen to make sure that there were no eggs before going to sleep. The extended version on Bluray is my favorite version of the movie.

    Agree with you about Ed Wood. I’ll have the dvd and my wife must see this movie pretty soon.

    I’ve seen Tori Amos a few times, but the first one in Belgium (Torhout Werchter in 1998) was the best. After Tori came Garbage and Bjork was the closing act with a lot of fireworks. Great festival.

    I saw The Fifth Element in the sneak preview. I don’t know if it is known in the states, but on sunday you bought a ticket but you didn’t know which new movie that would premier on thursday the next week. It happened 1 night that after seeing the Disney logo some people left the theater (it was Hercules). Strange, because you wouldn’t get a refund.

    Batman & Robin. I feel your pain.

    L.A. Confidential and The Game were also both sneak previews and I liked both of them. Great way to start a week.

    Do you like Delicatessen? I saw the trailer and had to see the movie. Saw it recently on Bluray. Still a great movie.

    I see dead people when I’m at work, 🙂 and The Sixth Sense is a great movie (Unbreakable too).

    We’ve been to Egypt too, and in april we’ll go again.
    It was our first vacation together in ’19. We went to Luxor and saw the valley of the queens.

    When I walked out of the theater I knew No Country For Old Men would win best movie.

    I’ve paid a few times for concerts. The first time I had to take my oldest son to see Kaizers Orchestra. It was stunning for him but he liked it. The middle one wanted to see Judas Priest and that made it kind of full circle. Because of his autism the experience was too much and halfway through the show he needed a place to sit and listen to the rest of the set. With my daughter we went to see Blonde Redhead in Paradiso, Amsterdam (a famous dutch rocktemple).
    A year before I would meet my new wive I bought 2 tickets to see Ayreon in Tilburg. She’s a fan now and follows Arjan Lucassen (composer) in Facebook.

    We watched Looper last thursday and all of us (Hidde, my youngest son and my wife) liked it a lot.

  8. Darthratzinger

    Greg, how much spare time do You have? I´m now only at July 1997 and I´ve been reading for what feels like an hour. I could comment on about two-thirds of the movies You mention but only reading it already takes so long. Anyway, this is a brilliant post that I will revisit over the next couple years due to the number of movies I´ll have to re-watch and the ones I don´t know but sound interesting.
    One movie comment: Chasing Amy is my favorite Kevin Smith-movie and one of the few movies that I saw in the theater twice. Once in my hometown and a week later with a friend when we were visiting Berlin. That experience will forever stick in my mind because after the movie we were mugged with a gun shoved at my throat. Since we were both a bit drunk at the time we were not as traumatized as I would be nowadays. Also, the other guy, one of my oldest friends is now completely anti-vaccination. Ironic considering how many chemicals he put in his body in his younger years.

    1. Greg Burgas

      As I noted, I began this post in March or April (whenever that meme was going around Facebook), so it did take a while. I only work one day a week (very rarely two days) and my kids are still in school, so I have most days to write crap on the internet! So yeah, this did take a while, but I have more free time than a lot of people. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

      I still like Clerks the best, but Chasing Amy is right up there. That’s an awful experience for you, sir. That sucks.

      And yeah, the anti-vax people who put all sorts of stuff in their bodies crack me up.

  9. Jeff Nettleton

    I also paid money to see Freejack. I forget why I went, other than maybe I had seen everything else out, at the time. Still not as bad as having gone to see Exterminator II. of course, I wanted to see Highlander; but, my brother didn’t, so I suggested this. I was still reading Mack Bolan, at the time and thought it might be like those. It wasn’t. I should have known better; it starred The Paper Chase Guy (Thank you MST3K!)

    I saw Chasing Amy after coming home to find my gay roommate in tears, because I had spent the night with a female co-worker, thereby shattering his illusion that I might be gay and return his attraction for me. It was a mess; but, after he spent time with his mother and I returned after giving them space (he also came out to her, because he had to talk with someone), we both decided to catch the new Kevin Smith film, to take our minds off of things. We loved Clerks and Mall Rats; so, this would be good, right? As the plot unfolded, I sunk lower and lower in my seat, as Holden and Banky’s relationship seemed to parallel what had been happening in our lives. My roommate, to this day, doesn’t remember seeing the film, since he was doped up on his anxiety meds. It was a long time before I could watch the film, again and had said, at the time, if I ever met Kevin Smith, I would punch him. He’s safe now. I had to move out, so my roommate could move on, but we remained friends and he started dating others and was doing well, the last time I spoke to him.

    1. Greg Burgas

      That’s a sad story; I’m sorry to hear that. It is interesting to me how certain pop culture things can get tangled up in your own memories, and that forms intense emotions toward it. Human memory is weird, man.

      And I picked on you in the post and you didn’t rise to the bait! Well done! 😉

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