makes one a Chewer? It isn’t just reading CHUD.com regularly, although
that’s a great start. It definitely isn’t being an expert at
mastication. Being a Chewer requires a certain sensibility that’s
outside of the mainstream. Sure, a Chewer can hold his or her own in a Star Wars
OT vs PT argument with a standard movie geek, and sure, a Chewer can go
with the rest of the film snobs to an Ozu revival, but a Chewer also
gets really, really excited about the DVD release of The Manitou.
the next few weeks we’re going to be bringing you The CHUD.com
Essential Films Collection – the films that would be in our dream
Chewer DVD Box Set. These are 50 movies that we think every Chewer
should see and love. This is by no means the definitive list of movies
that make one a Chewer, but it’s a good start. It’s also in no order –
the first films that we list are just as essential as the last ones.
And it’s a list that will leave off the obvious as much as possible –
you don’t need us to tell you to see Lawrence of Arabia or Seven
fire up your Netflix or your Amazon accounts – every day we’ll be
bringing you two movies that are worth seeing, and probably worth
owning as well. Chew on, Chewers.
Rock star/neurosurgeon/ samurai/physicist/explorer/ inventor/adventurer Buckaroo Banzai and his band of hard-rockin’ scientists, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, are the only things standing in the way of an invasion of beings from the 8th dimension – aliens from inner space.
Why it’s Essential: I don’t even know where to begin with this. Why is it essential? Why would you have not seen this movie, is the real question. And why would you not love it? Buckaroo Banzai is a bizarro masterpiece, the kind of movie that nobody ever made. Combining action, sci-fi, comedy, satire and romance, Buckaroo Banzai’s greatest strength is that it never tells you which element you’re watching. You get to decide if what’s on screen is funny or thrilling, goofy or great. And to be honest, it’s usually both.
And then there’s the cast. Before he became the metal arm of the law in Detroit, Peter Weller’s Buckaroo defined what cool is – sadly for the rest of us it involves operating on brains and inventing devices that let you travel through solid matter. Plus he’s so cool that he has Jeff Goldblum – back when he was just quirky and not yet utterly creepy – and the eternally kick-ass Clancy Brown as his main men in the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Pitted against Banzai and his men are the two best casting choices ever made for insane aliens – John Lithgow as Dr. Emil Lizardo (who has the 8th dimensional alien John Whorfin living inside him) and Christopher Lloyd as the perfectly named John Bigboote.
The movie is perfect in the way that it combines all of its elements, but what I think makes it really special is how so very 80s it is. There’s a lot of talk about movies getting dated, but I don’t understand that – movies are a product of their time, and should reflect that. I love that the Hong Kong Cavaliers are a bunch of skinny tie New Wavers. I love that every frame of this movie announces in what decade it was filmed. And it really feels like director WD Richter was in on the joke at the time – he saw that the trends and styles of the 80s were just as hilarious and outlandish as everything else in his movie.
A lot of fans have clamored for the sequel, Buckaroo Banzai Versus the World Crime League, but the truth is that I’m glad it never happened (I say that after years of wishing for it, though). The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a perfect little anomaly of a film, a one-off treat that would only be cheapened by returning to it. The movie is one of many post-Raider and Star Wars that took on the faux serial concept, but I think it’s the only one that truly made it work, and I like to imagine an alternate universe where there is a whole series of these adventures, and we’re just lucky to have this one escape to this dimension.
A coming of age story from left field (music by Peter Gabriel), Alan Parker’s 1984 sleeper tells the story of two young men and their unexpected friendship both growing up in the city and after Vietnam leaves them both with scars of varying visibility. Nicolas Cage is Al, a meaty well-intentioned caveman of a guy who softens after meeting Matthew Modine’s Birdy, a nerdy and skinny guy obsessed with our fine feathered friends. Together the two do really stupid stuff, resulting in some of the more memorable movie moments of my youth in the first mature film I ever fell in love with and some of the most poignant. I defy you not to be choked up after Birdy nurses his little bird back to health only to have it…
Anyhow, it’s a really wonderful film about a lot more than friendship, and it showcases two actors who are still working today at a time where they set themselves up as two of the more talented people in their generation. You decide if they delivered on that promise.
Why it’s Essential: There’s a moment where Birdy and Al are on a double date, one which is obviously of much more importance to the latter, which perfectly sums up the amazing oddness and clarity of Birdy’s vision as well as the bond of friendship between the two. Finally coerced into going on the date and presented with the two exposed hooters of the girl he’s with, Birdy tests the heft and feel of the breasts with an almost medical approach, and after not being impressed, moves on with his train of thought. Part of it’s in Modine’s spot-on portrayal of obsession and childlike wonder, but part of it is just due to the fact that you’re in the company of a unique and wonderful little oddity from the 80’s. There are quite a few reasons why this is and always will be an underseen classic but the scene above, the lovely line delivery of “Fuckers fucking fuck!” by Al’s father, and the pitch perfect ending (my favorite of all time) are good starting points. Alan Parker was making great films a lot earlier than you thought he was.