One thing we at Place to Be Nation like to celebrate is the subjectivity inherent in entertainment — be it in wrestling, comics, music, television or, indeed, film. With that in mind, ten members of the PTBN staff spent the last several months picking the movies of the PTB generation. In this series, panel members collected their five favorite films of each year, beginning with the year in which the oldest writer was born — 1976. The only rule given to each contributor was to provide his or her own criteria. Some writers went with the most artistic films, while others might side with the most iconic blockbusters. After several months, the year-by-year project has come to a close. Each year has a top 5. But, that leaves the question — what is THE movie of the generation? Well, we’re about to find out. The Movie of the Generation tournament will see 64 movies battle for that title over the course of a single-elimination tournament. A film earned its way into the tournament by winning or tying for the top spot in its given year or by earning a total of 20 or more points. The movies are seeded from 1-64, much like the NCAA basketball tournament. Each round, our panel will be giving you its take on each matchup and providing you with its votes on which films have earned the rights to advance. In the case a tie among the 10-member panel, special contributor Tim Capel has been called upon to break any ties. So, without any further adieu, let’s take a look at this edition’s matchups.
This time out, we’re in the Hill Valley Region, home to the tournament’s No. 4 overall seed, Back to the Future. It’s also the most superhero-heavy region, as five of the 16 films here are based on comic book heroes. We saw a few upsets in the Tattooine Region. Are there more in store here? Before we get started, let’s take a look at what the overall tournament bracket looks like. A larger version can be viewed here.
And with that, let’s get into the matchups.
(1) Back to the Future vs. (16) Captain America: The First Avenger
Back to the Future: Finished No. 1 in 1985 with 43 points, ranked by 9 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler, Nick Duke, Kati Price, Andrew Riche, Russell Sellers, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Captain America: The First Avenger: Finished tied for No. 1 in 2011 with 14 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Woltman at No. 2.
Steve Wille: As we’ve hit the start of 2015, writing a paragraph on why Back to the Future is a superb film is quite simple. Seemingly every entertainment website has been spitting out articles espousing the sequel’s predicting powers. Thirty years after the release of the original film, this type of staying power alone makes a case for why Back to the Future is superior to the first Captain America movie. At the risk of offending some of our comic book movie fans on the panel, a couple decades from now, the majority of the super-hero films of this generation will be long forgotten, but the iconic characters portrayed by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd will continue to live on. It’s a perfect combination of science-fiction, whimsy, and a coming-of-age plot. My prediction: Back to the Future will advance far in this tournament.
Final tally: Back to the Future 9, Captain America 1
(8) The Dark Knight Rises vs. (9) O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Dark Knight Rises: Finished No. 2 in 2012 with 25 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke and Greg Phillips at No. 1.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?: Finished No. 1 in 2000 with 22 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Greg Phillips and Russell Sellers at No. 1.
Greg Phillips: Knocking out one of my all-time favorite comedies was a painful experience for me, but ultimately I had to go with The Dark Knight Rises, which is one of my all-time favorite films, period. The combination of epic action, comic book nods and emotional weight will make it tough for me to vote for any opponent in my bracket.
Final tally: The Dark Knight Rises 7, O Brother, Where Art Thou? 3
(4) The Avengers vs. (13) The Blues Brothers
The Avengers: Finished No. 1 in 2012 with 34 points, ranked by 9 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Kati Price, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
The Blues Brothers: Finished No. 2 in 1982 with 20 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler and Nick Duke at No. 2.
Andrew Riche: While the Blues Brothers were, in their own words, “on a mission from God” to save their childhood church, Marvel’s Avengers were on a mission from Nick Fury to save the world from a godlike force. Not sure if the eye-patched one quite measures up in terms of importance to the big man in the sky, but when it comes to comparing the two films, this is a one-sided affair with the superheroes beating ole Jake and Elwood from Chicago. While Spider-Man in 2002 was the dawn of the dominant Marvel era in Hollywood, The Avengers showcased Marvel at the peak of its powers from a business, creative, and cultural standpoint. Despite there being many Marvel blockbusters before and after (along with an upcoming sequel this summer), It truly was one of a kind.,
Final tally: The Avengers 8, The Blues Brothers 2
(5) Batman vs. (12) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Batman: Finished No. 1 in 1989 with 29 points, ranked by 8 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke at No. 1.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Finished No. 2 in 2004 with 21 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche at No. 1.
Nick Duke: I’ve seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind several times and have enjoyed it each time I’ve revisited it. However, there is no film that dominated my childhood the way that Batman did. I remember that VHS vividly and still have it lying around here somewhere. I could quote the trailers word for word because there was a time when a week didn’t go by without 4-year-old me wanting to watch Batman and The Joker battle it out on screen. The Tim Burton Batman has kind of gotten a bad rap from fans since the release of the The Dark Knight trilogy, but in my heart, there’s still plenty of room for several incarnations of the Bat. Eternal is well made and well acted, but for me it can’t hold a candle to Bruce Wayne, Vicki Vale, Mistah J and, of course, Bob the Goon.
Final tally: Batman 6, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 4
(6) Memento vs. (11) Rain Man
Memento: Finished No. 2 in 2001 with 29 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler and Nick Duke at No. 1.
Rain Man: Finished No. 2 in 1988 with 21 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche at No. 1.
Tim Capel: Interesting match-up here whose favorite might speak to generational differences within the audience more than the artistic merits of either film. I was too young to appreciate (or fully comprehend) the character-driven Rain Man at the time of its 1988 release. Memento hit right at the end of my teens, but did it leave an impression? The reality is, I was late to the party for both films (less so for the latter), so my judgment is unavoidably colored by the reputations they had already settled into. I will attempt to set that aside now in examining how they stack up against each other.
Rain Man is a classic, with esteemed performances from the one-two punch of the still-relevant veteran Dustin Hoffman and superstar-in-waiting Tom Cruise. It’s also treacly, cloying, and perpetuates that insufferable idea of autistic people secretly being super-powered savants. Yes, this is true of certain autistic individuals, but it’s high on the list of Misconceptions That Need to Go Away, Right Now.
Hoffman’s Raymond is awkward, yet also funny, adorable, and easy to admire. Truly, he melts our hearts. Of course, the cynic in me would like to point out how this exposes an awful double standard in the social stigma towards people with disabilities who aren’t, you know, Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. (It also would like to say something offensive about baby boomers.) I think the “full retard” discussion in Tropic Thunder lambasted that notion as succinctly as possible.
Suffice to say, I don’t see Rain Man going over nearly as well today. Meanwhile, in Memento we have a film that was arguably ahead of its time and still feels contemporary nearly 15 years later (outside of Carrie-Anne Moss having a career). Really, how crazy is it to think so many years have passed since the release? Memento is regarded as the little movie that could, the breakout feature film produced on a shoestring budget by a writer-director who would go on to achieve greater acclaim. The story structure is unlike anything seen at the time, coupled with a striking visual aesthetic. On a stylistic level, it’s hard to pull yourself away from.
And yet… Memento occasionally suffers for feeling a little too self-satisfied, and not being nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Ultimately, the backwards storytelling is a gimmick, and I can’t say at any point I got the sense it transcended that gimmick. It’s clear that Christopher Nolan had a grandiose vision for what he wanted this project to be. I don’t think he was entirely successful in translating it for an audience outside his own mind. Obviously, a lot of people would disagree. I think it’s great that Nolan was able to enjoy the creative freedom he evidently did in making Memento. I also think this is a case where the finished product can benefit from a tiny injection of “creative control.”
So, which one gets the nod? The competitive advantage here comes down to the performances. In that regard, I have to give it to Rain Man. Yeah, I know, Unfortunate Implications and all. The actors just make it work. I have a lot of time for Guy Pearce, and he does an admirable job of carrying Memento almost entirely on his back. He does everything that’s asked of him and more. Unfortunately, it just can’t compete with Hoffman and Cruise.
Unless they were around to see it, people cannot appreciate just how huge Dustin Hoffman was at the peak of his powers. (The ’90s were not especially kind to him.) He imbues all of his roles with an earnestness that just about shuts down my natural derision. He really shouldn’t he able to pull that off in Rain Man, but he does. At the same time, I had no trouble buying into Tom Cruise as a smug, unlikable, rich asshole. OK, fine, he brings some chops as well. Cruise’s stardom wasn’t quite cemented yet, but Rain Man is a nice little addition to the cache he was amassing on his way to the top. One star in the twilight of his fame, the other still heating up. It’s a perfect complement.
Plus, even if it wasn’t terribly informed, Rain Man still brought a lot of well-intentioned public focus to a condition that simply did not get talked about at all outside of a clinical context. That’s the silver lining I look for at least when the message starts to make me uncomfortable. With respect to Memento, I can’t help but think my attitude can best be summed up as: “It’s a thing that insists upon itself.” At the end of the day, neither of these movies really holds up to scrutiny beyond the surface. It’s not that I’m THAT crazy about it, but I have to give the edge to Rain Man.
Oh, what a ringing endorsement!
Final tally: Rain Man 6, Memento 5
**Tim Capel served as a tiebreaker when the panel was split.
(3) Ghostbusters vs. (14) Animal House
Ghostbusters: Finished No. 1 in 1984 with 34 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Anthony Estrada, Greg Phillips, Andrew Riche, Russell Sellers and Steve Wille at No. 1.
Animal House: Finished No. 3 in 1978 with 20 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 2.
Russell Sellers: This was a no-brainer choice for me. Animal House is a very funny movie, but Ghostbusters is something much, much bigger. It transcends genres and became something unlike anyone had ever seen before. The story and script from Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis, the expert timing of Bill Murray and the spot-on direction from Ivan Reitman made this one an instant classic in 1984 (possibly the best year ever for movies). This movie is also one of the most frequently referenced and quoted films of all-time. It changed the way many directors looked at buddy films, comedies and horror. Sure, Animal House has plenty of buddy moments and some classic jokes, but it doesn’t have this dynamic team or the staying power this film has. For its 30th anniversary last year, the film was rereleased in theaters and introduced a whole new generation to the guys who were always ready to believe you. I attended one of those screenings and seeing parents and kids both dressed in Ghostbusters flight suits, cheering the guys on and singing along to that classic theme song was all the proof I needed to know that the Ghostbusters spirit is still alive and well. So, when someone asks you if you want to watch Ghostbusters you say…YES, have some!
Final tally: Ghostbusters 9, Animal House 1
(7) Pulp Fiction vs. (10) Aliens
Pulp Fiction: Finished tied for No. 2 in 1994 with 25 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Anthony Estrada, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Aliens: Finished No. 1 in 1986 with 22 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke and Russell Sellers at No. 1.
Andrew Woltman: The choice to pick Pulp Fiction over Aliens wasn’t a simple one. Whilst Aliens packs a whollop in the category of intriguing science fiction, it doesn’t hit me cinematically as much as Pulp Fiction. The pure post modernism that Tarantino instills makes one recognize how much iconicism he takes out of film history. Not only for it’s endless quotability and memorable sequences, Pulp Fiction stands out for being a movie about movies, without actually being about movies.
Final tally: Pulp Fiction 6, Aliens 4
(2) The Dark Knight vs. (15) Jerry Maguire
The Dark Knight: Finished No. 1 in 2008 with 41 points, ranked by 9 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Anthony Estrada, Greg Phillips, Kati Price, Andrew Riche and Russell Sellers at No. 1.
Jerry Maguire: Finished tied for No. 1 in 1996 with 14 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche at No. 1.
Anthony Estrada: The case for Jerry Maguire: The best thing Renee Zellwegger and Cuba Gooding Jr. have ever done. Arguably the most likable Tom Cruise has ever been. An iconic child actor performance (“Do you know that the human head weighs eight pounds?”). And two all-time movie quotes (“Show me the money!” “You had me at hello.”)
The case for The Dark Knight: One of the most memorable performances in movie history, in Heath Ledger’s Joker. The best example of Christopher Nolan’s strengths as a filmmaker –gravity, calculated excess, crafting action dramas like they were operas.
Why The Dark Knight takes it: Jerry Maguire is fantastic. It’s a great sports movie, romantic comedy and tale of self-discovery. But The Dark Knight is an event. You don’t just experience it in your mind; you feel it in your bones. Each scene is a self-contained gem that builds to the next, winding towards a bleak outcome you anticipate and dread at the same time. How could something so tragic be so fun and re-watchable? The Dark Knight owned 2008 (The best picture winner from that year – Slumdog Millionaire. A solid movie, but…no). In my eyes, this may be THE movie of the Place to Be Nation years.
Final tally: The Dark Knight 10, Jerry Maguire 0
That does it for the first round in the Hill Valley Region. To see how each voter cast their votes, click here. Check back soon to see the first round in the Hoth Region!