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Ponty wraps up his extended honorable mentions with this third part, and it’s the biggest one yet.
In reading through his lists, I’m struck by how many incredible films have come out in my lifetime. The 1980s through the early 2000s were surely a golden age for engaging storytelling on the big screen. Even crummier films from those decades are far more enjoyable (and significantly less “woke”) than much of the garbage coming out now. I’m not suggesting there are no good films these days—quite the contrary—but those years were sprinkled with fairy dust.
Ponty leaves no cinematic stone unturned. He told me he had spent four hours writing this list—and at that point, he wasn’t even finished! I don’t think I’ve ever spent four hours on a blog post. Kudos to him: this list is a true labor of love, and we’re all the beneficiaries of his pen.
With that, here is Ponty’s third and final installment of honorable mentions:
This weekend my older brother will be running the Myrtle Beach Marathon, which means we’ll be feasting on seafood and good times (and he’ll be running 26.2 miles, so he’ll have earned the festivities; I’m just driving him to the starting line). I’m hoping that’ll mean a trip to Player’s Choice, an amazing comics and collectibles store that is, improbably, the anchor store (essentially) for a failing mall.
The idea of picking up three comics for $7 (as I did when I scooped up Hawkworld in 2021) seems unheard of in this Age of Hyperinflation. I don’t know how much inflation has affected the price of used comic books, but the idea of getting three of anything for seven bucks seems like some kind of fevered fantasy these days.
I really enjoyed this comic and its storyline of a decadent empire in decline, and the message seems eerily prescient for us in these latter days of the American Empire.
We’re nearly there! Tomorrow I’ll be featuring my Honorable Mention flicks, and Ponty’s Honourable Mentions after that (in a pared down two-parter, according to Ponty, as opposed to the possible three-parter he originally envisioned). Then it’s on to our #1 picks. What will they be?
Until we find out, here are Ponty’s picks for slots 4, 3, and 2, and they’re all quite good:
Ponty picked an impressive film for his #2 slot, one that I wish had made it onto my list (it may end up as an honorable mention!). The Truman Show (1998) is a powerful, surprisingly dark comedy about materialism, consumerism, and mass media, exploring what happens when we take reality television to its logical extreme. What’s fascinating is that this film largely predates reality television, outside of the trash that aired on MTV at the time.
I won’t spoil Ponty’s review (he considerately offers a spoiler alert, but if you haven’t managed to see this flick in the twenty-five years since its release, you’re way outside of the “no spoilers!” statute of limitations), but he touches upon many of the troubling implications of enslaving an unwitting human in an artificial world and broadcasting the results of this forbidden experiment to the world. I, too, wonder how Truman would live outside of the show; a part of me suspects he might go back to the only world he’s ever known, though I hope he never did.
Talk about a lightning-in-a-bottle cultural phenomenon. The series is the kind that is profoundly a product of the age of streaming, yet it hearkens back to the horror miniseries of the 1980s and 1990s—rich, multi-episode arcs; tight story construction; and satisfying pay-offs that reward loyal viewing. I also appreciate that the show doesn’t overstay its welcome with bloated seasons. The Duffer Brothers tell the story they want to tell without stretching their material thin.
Ponty sent me this epic review of the first four seasons of the show (the fifth and, it seems, final season is coming soon), and it’s surely his reviewing magnum opus. Audre Myers wrote her own review of the series last year, which overlaps somewhat with Ponty’s, but they both bring different insights into the show.
I don’t have much left to add that Ponty hasn’t said better. With that, here is Ponty’s series review of Stranger Things:
A great joy of writing is that sometimes, our scribbled thoughts create inspiration in others—or other writers can inspire us! So it was that my delayed review of 1982’s The Thing provided a bit of inspirado for our dear Audre Myers.
I don’t think it was my purple prose that jolted her memory about this film; rather, the genius of The Thing reminded her of this flick, which is also set in a desolate Arctic wasteland, and which deals with some quite complex questions about humanity, biomedical ethics, and technology.
I’m adding it to my must-see list, and I suspect you should, too.
With that, here is Audre’s review of 1984’s Iceman:
My Number 2 pick is going to come as a surprise to Ponty, at the very least; it’s certainly a bit of a surprise to me. It’s not because I don’t love this film—indeed, it may be my favorite film of all time—but because it’s not firmly at Number 1.
My original intent was to place John Carpenter‘s lightning-in-a-bottle classic Big Trouble in Little China(1996) in the top spot, but I realized there is a film that is objectively better (probably many such films exist, but the one I have in mind is, perhaps, the greatest film ever made, and not just because a chubby Internet personality says so).
I’m also thankful that we’ll be both be posting “Hono[u]rable Mention” (HM) pieces before we reveal our Number 1s. I am realizing that I missed quite a few classics—Ghostbusters (1984) and Blade Runner(1982), for example—and I am increasingly regretting placing Krull (1983) on the list, even at Number 7. I think it’s a great movie, but in hindsight, it should have been an HM pick.
But enough whinging. There’ll be plenty of time for that on the HM post. What about the second greatest film of all time?
Ponty never ceases to surprise me with his thoughtful picks, and I was not expecting a relatively obscure sci-fi horror thriller in his top three. After reading the review, though, it makes sense—and it really makes me want to see this flick.
Sci-fi and horror tend to be the genres that, when done well, explore stories and concepts that stick in one’s mind for weeks, months, and years after viewing. Cramming six volatile personalities into a mysterious death cube sounds a bit hokey, but the opportunity to explore the frailty and the triumph of the human condition makes it an exquisite, albeit devilish, setup.
How would we behave and react in bizarre, lethal situations? Would we keep our cool? Or—more likely—would be panic, virtually guaranteeing our destruction? Ponty’s #3 pick dives into these uncomfortable questions.
As we get into the final three of our picks, I find myself thankful that Ponty and I are doing an “Hono[u]rable Mentions” post, because this point is where it gets hard. How do you pick the best three films? Ten is hard enough, but there’s some margin for error.
That said, I know my #2 and #1 picks. But #3 was giving me a time, until Ponty mentioned this film in one of his comments.
John Carpenter is my favorite director, up there with Stanley Kubrick, Wes Anderson, and similar directors. These are the guys that have a distinct style, even when making films in vastly different genres. That uniqueness of directorial tone seems to be fading in Hollywood, in favor of homogenized, corporatized sameness. That’s not an entirely fair assessment, but I have a sense that the phenomenon of the “director-as-artist” is fading.
What sets Carpenter apart for me is not just his uniqueness; his movies are fun. They’re not dumb fun, either (for the most part)—his shots are deliberate, and make sense for whatever scene he is shooting. He is a strong visual storyteller, in addition to being a great composer and musician. There’s a reason his films will appear twice in my top three.
This picture is arguably his best, but for personal and sentimental reasons I’m putting another of his films higher. That said, Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing is a masterpiece of tension, horror, and suspense.