In our present year of 2021, I will be honouring film history by posting a monthly Reel Anarchy article detailing up to four films from the past that are celebrating an anniversary. I try to pick films that are at least 10 years old, but the emphasis is on films that are at least 20 years old. You might see some high-profile classics show up, but you might also see some more obscure picks as well.
In the history of film for the month of April . . .
The Bad News Bears
This 1976 sports comedy classic from Paramount Pictures reigns head and shoulders above the rest of its sequels and reboots. The legendary Walter Matthau stars as Morris Buttermaker, a one-time minor league baseball player (and alcoholic) that sees him recruited to coach a struggling youth baseball team. The rest of the cast includes Tatum O’Neal, Chris Barnes, Vic Morrow, Jackie Earle Haley, and Joyce Van Patten. The Bad News Bears was directed by Michael Ritchie and written by Bill Lancaster (son of Burt Lancaster).
Lancaster won the Writers Guild of America award for his work and Matthau was nominated for a BAFTA award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy. The film also sports a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Matthau would also perform a skit on Saturday Night Live based on the movie called The Bad News Bees with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. It would be the final appearance of the recurring bee suits from the duo.
Although modern audiences might be appalled by what Rolling Stone referred to (in a 2016 article) regarding the kids’ behavior as “unwashed, obnoxious, cynical, fractious, gleefully profane, unrepentantly juvenile, and deeply untrusting of any sort of authority,” the film’s performances and storytelling rank it among the best baseball films ever.
Excalibur is a British epic medieval fantasy from 1981 based on Le Morte d’Arthur, a 15th-century Arthurian romance. The film is directed, produced, and co-written by John Boorman (Rospo Pallenberg also shares a screenwriting credit). The retelling of Arthurian legend stars Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi, Paul Geoffrey, and Nicol Williamson. The film was shot entirely in Ireland, helping launch the careers of Irish actors like Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds, Patrick Stewart, and Gabriel Byrne.
Boorman and Pallenberg initially wrote a three-hour screenplay about Merlin back in 1969, but the studio declined it and instead offered Boorman the opportunity to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. They decided not to move forward with that opportunity and went back to Arthurian mythology, changing it to Excalibur. The movie was originally three hours long, per Boorman, and two different versions of the film were released initially on home video with one being rated R and 140 minutes long, while the other being rated PG and only 119 minutes. The 140-minute version wound up being the wide release version and featured on HBO.
The cinematographer of Excalibur, Alex Thomson, was nominated for Best Cinematography at the 1982 Academy Awards. There are also two behind-the-scenes documentaries about the film: the 1981 Neil Jordan documentary, The Making of Excalibur: Myth into Movie and the 2013 version, Excalibur: Behind the Movie. The movie was also referenced and alluded to in the 2016 superhero film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with director Zack Snyder having previously stated that Excalibur was his favorite film.
Iconic director, writer, and producing duo, Joel and Ethan Coen – more commonly referred to as The Coen Brothers – brought this dark crime comedy to life back in 1996. The Minnesota / North Dakota film stars Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, and Peter Stormare. Acclaimed cinematographer, Roger Deakins, was behind the camera and longtime Coen Brothers composer, Carter Burwell, worked on the film as well.
Fargo was nominated for seven Academy Awards, such as Best Picture and Best Director. The film won two of those categories: Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress (Frances McDormand). In 1998, the film made the 100 Greatest Films in American History list by the American Film Institute and in 2006 it was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
As someone that grew up and still resides in that area, I can appreciate the work of fellow Minnesotans, Joel and Ethan Coen, even more.
This animated 20th Century Fox comedy celebrates its 10th anniversary this month. Rio centres around a male Spix’s macaw named Blu (a rare, endangered bird species), whose journey takes him from Minnesota to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil as he meets a female Spix’s macaw. The two eventually fall in love and, after being captured, attempt to escape the clutches of Nigel the cockatoo.
Rio was directed by Ice Age: The Meltdown’s Carlos Saldanha and starred Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Jermaine Clement, Leslie Mann, George Lopez, and Jamie Foxx. The film’s theme song, “Telling the World” came courtesy of Taio Cruz. However, it would be a different song featured in the film, “Real in Rio” that would be nominated for an Academy Award (Best Original Song). After making $484 million worldwide, a subsequent sequel, Rio 2, would debut in 2014.
If you are looking to watch an underrated animated film, Rio would be a movie I recommend. It is too bad that the Macaw only exists in captivity, but if all else fails, their legacy will live on in this film.
Do you agree with my list? Are there any other films you would have placed on here instead? Make sure to let us know! Thanks for reading and if you haven’t already, check out my picks!
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