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 of 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 Hoth Region, home to the tournament’s No. 2 overall seed, The Empire Strikes Back. The first round here saw several matchups that went down to the last voter, as well as the biggest upset of the tournament thus far. 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) The Empire Strikes Back vs. (16) Fargo
The Empire Strikes Back: Finished No. 1 in 1980 with 47 points, ranked by 10 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler, Nick Duke, Aaron George, Greg Phillips, Kati Price, Andrew Riche, Russell Sellers, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Fargo: Finished tied for No. 1 in 1996 with 14 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche, Russell Sellers, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 3.
Steve Wille: What are the chances that Empire Strikes Back matches up with Fargo in the first round? They’re basically the same movie, right? One has quirky characters speaking in a bizarre tongue, seemingly the creation of some eccentric imagination, the other is a sequel to Star Wars. Both films take place in a setting that would make Green Bay Packers’ fans question their notion of the “frozen tundra.” Fargo has seen a bit of resurgence in the past year with a companion television show recently launched. The film’s creative use of noir in the unique setting of North Dakota launched the Coen brothers into the mainstream. However, there’s no way that it had a chance against what many, including myself, believe is the best written film of the Star Wars franchise. Add the fantastic plot to the beautifully shot fight scenes on Hoth and you get a dark-horse candidate to win the whole tournament. My only concern with this pick is that we lose another darling independent drama, lending me to believe that we’ll see a fair amount of mainstream sci-fi and action dominating the later rounds.
Final tally: The Empire Strikes Back 9, Fargo 1
(8) Gravity vs. (9) Casino Royale
Gravity: Finished No. 1 in 2013 with 24 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler, Nick Duke and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Casino Royale: Finished No. 2 in 2006 with 23 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Aaron George, Russell Sellers and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Tim Capel: As Daniel Craig’s 007 debut, Casino Royale had the unenviable task of establishing its new leading man while serving as an energetic reboot for a decades-old franchise clearly in the doldrums (to the extent one can even reboot a series of scattered, unconnected films in the first place). And right out of the gate, it let you know what kind of Bond you were going to get, with Craig asserting his physicality and sheer force of will in making the role his own. For lapsed fans of this character/cultural phenomenon, it must have felt like coming home again. Bond was back.
It’s remarkable that virtually no growing pains are to be found in Craig’s turn as Bond. He doesn’t settle into the role as much as grab it by the balls. That he could achieve such instantaneous buy-in is remarkable and a true credit to his abilities and overall screen presence. Of all the ways this film just gets it right (and there are many), Craig’s casting has to be chief among them.
Unfortunately, this also serves to amplify all the ways it lets him down, making for a doubly frustrating sum of the parts.
I can’t say I was anywhere near as enamored as director Martin Campbell with the high stakes combat-by-poker that makes up so much of the “action.” It was a commendable stab at ramping up the suspense and building momentum without a single bullet fired or punch thrown. And I get what they were going for: the goal is to sell Craig as a well-rounded Bond, borrowing a little from the best of all previous iterations of the character. It doesn’t maximize his strengths; that would be forgivable in service to the bigger picture, but these scenes just go on far too long. Between that and the plodding, telegraphed love story, the film kneecaps itself at so many points along the way. Instead of the breakneck pace I thought I was going to get from this film, it turned out to be more of a disorienting roller coaster.
Then there’s Gravity, which is just this immersive sensory experience from top to bottom. That feels like such a reductive statement, but I just don’t know how else to unpack all its moving parts. Now, my judgment is undoubtedly skewed by the fact that said experience was was an impromptu outing shared with fellow PTBN contributor Glenn Butler. And it goes without saying, all experiences should be experienced with Glenn Butler, as they are unequivocally the better for it!
In Gravity, we have some wonky science occasionally on display — prompting me to immediately voice the obvious question on all our minds: would that fire extinguisher even properly function in the vacuum of space? (Glenn: “well, sure?”) Certainly as an effective means of propulsion coupled with a reliable trajectory, we can agree it’s asking a lot. Umm, hey and wouldn’t Sandra Bullock have been fucked if not for her presence of mind to grab the damn thing in the first place? Anyway. This is all to be expected. Whatever difficulty I faced in suspending my disbelief was easily overcome by the sheer majesty and grandeur of it all.
Gotta give it to Gravity here. There would be at least one thoroughly superior representation of Craig’s prowess as Bond down the road, while Gravity felt like a truly once-in-a-lifetime event. And look, when an unbroken 17-minute shot to open your movie can hold my attention better than the purported action flick, you’re definitely on to something.
Final tally: Gravity 6, Casino Royale 5
**Tim Capel served as a tiebreaker when the panel was split.
(4) Die Hard vs. (13) Home Alone
Die Hard: Finished No. 1 in 1988 with 32 points, ranked by 8 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler, Greg Phillips, Russell Sellers, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Home Alone: Finished No. 2 in 1990 with 20 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke at No. 1.
Tim Capel: Hey look, it’s the incredibly violent Christmas classic with some gloriously fucked up family values and a few laughs versus the movie that successfully bridged Bruce Willis’ career from television to film! Yeah, I’m just not much of a Home Alone fan. I think one’s degree of fondness for that movie depends entirely on the impression it made on the viewer at a young age. That’s not to say it’s propped up entirely by nostalgia — I do think it’s a not-bad Christmas movie / Macaulay Culkin vehicle / cautionary tale / whatever it is. I was exactly the demographic they were going for upon its 1990 release too. Sadly, I guess it just couldn’t measure up to my oh-so-discriminating 7-year-old sensibilities.
But Die Hard? Now that was just the ticket for my, urmm, 4-year-old sensibilities. In reality, I’m sure I wasn’t THAT young, but it’s totally one of those movies I saw at an inappropriately early age and loved. It’s the rare childhood favorite (notwithstanding how it shouldn’t be) that improves with age. The gift that keeps on giving! (Even after you’ve heard all the one-liners a million times over).
I’m the guy who laments the fact that the networks don’t show better Christmas movies like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon during the holidays. While channel surfing, I’ll gladly step over Home Alone for Die Hard every year (despite owning the latter on a variety of physical media). As an adult, I find myself thinking of Home Alone as this poor man’s John Hughes movie — until I realize it WAS a John Hughes movie (by way of director Chris Columbus). Then I get a little sad.
Home Alone just wasn’t ever a favorite. In that sense, I suppose it holds up about as well as it ever did. Die Hard, though, is an all-timer. No contest here.
Final tally: Die Hard 6, Home Alone 5
**Tim Capel served as a tiebreaker when the panel was split.
(5) The Terminator vs. (12) The Matrix
The Terminator: Finished No. 2 in 1984 with 31 points, ranked by 9 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler, Nick Duke, Anthony Estrada, Aaron George, Greg Phillips and Russell Sellers at No. 2.
The Matrix: Finished No. 1 in 1999 with 20 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Anthony Estrada and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Andrew Woltman: The first Terminator movie was nothing completely groundbreaking, while The Matrix was. But The Terminator gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, and launched a franchise that still continues to this day. The Matrix has it’s moments, but “I’ll be back” to The Terminator far more often.
Final tally: The Terminator 5, The Matrix 4
**One voter abstained from voting on the basis of having seen neither movie.
(6) Spider-Man 2 vs. (11) Inglourious Basterds
Spider-Man 2: Finished No. 1 in 2004 with 27 points, ranked by 7 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Russell Sellers and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Inglourious Basterds: Finished No. 1 in 2009 with 21 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche at No. 1.
Andrew Riche: This one is bittersweet in many ways, especially given that I was one of the people who voted against Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in this round. I was the one who wrote the entry for Inglourious Basterds when we did the 2009 version of Movies of the P2B Generation, and I even went so far as to say that it may have been Quentin Tarantino’s self-proclaimed masterpiece. While it is quentessential Quentin with the amalgam of styles, sadistic violence, and brilliant dialogue, I feel like there are still better Tarantino films to be had in this tournament, and this film got no favors facing off against Spider-Man 2. While Sony has done all it can in the past 8 years to ruin everything you enjoyed about the web-slinger from Sam Raimi’s awful third installment to the subpar revamp starring Andrew Garfield, all that malaise should not take away from what was almost universally agreed upon by 2004 as the greatest superhero film of all time.
The film’s predecessor already held a special place in the hearts of comic book fans because of it delivered on its promise and reinvigorated the comic book film market in the new millennium. But Spider-Man 2, with Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco back in the fold along with Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus, did something even more amazing: It took the most important comic book film of its time and topped it in every single way. Raimi’s wild splicing of humor, trepidation, and balls-to-the-wall action along with some of the series’ best individual performances led to a film that is often viewed as by far the best of all the Spidey films. And as much as I loved the song choices Tarantino made in Inglourious Basterds, there is nothing better than watching Peter Parker prance to Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.
Final tally: Spider-Man 2 6, Inglourious Basterds 3
**One voter abstained from voting on the basis of having seen neither movie.
(3) The Silence of the Lambs vs. (14) Aladdin
The Silence of the Lambs: Finished tied for No. 1 in 1991 with 36 points, ranked by 9 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Greg Phillips, Andrew Riche, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Aladdin: Finished tied for No. 1 in 1992 with 18 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Kati Price and Russell Sellers at No. 1.
Glenn Butler: Aladdin has its delights, to be sure, and should not be summarily dismissed because it’s a cartoon or a “kids’ movie,” but here it had the bad luck of coming up against one of those much-sought-after Modern Classics, The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice Starling is an FBI agent on the hunt for a serial killer, and is constantly put in conflict, subtle or not, with the men in the movie, and must push against all of them. The most famous scenes in the movie, of course, are the ones where she’s pushing against Hannibal Lecter — a character who’s always smarter than everyone else in the room, and more powerful too, even when he’s locked inside a plexiglass box or strapped to a hand truck and muzzled like an animal. Jodie Foster can’t help but be upstaged by Anthony Hopkins, but she still makes as valiant an attempt to hold her own as her character does; Clarice is given a compelling backstory as a woman rising above a lower-class upbringing who is given the “compliment” of Dr. Lecter finding her fascinating, if only as another exercise in breaking down other people. Had the role of Lecter been given to a less deft performer than Hopkins, or the film to a less deft director than Jonathan Demme, the whole thing might have collapsed into self-indulgent camp: thrill at a man putting together a gruesome suit of skin! Gasp at the way Hannibal the Cannibal talks to a US Senator! Gape at the thrilling conclusion! Instead, The Silence of the Lambs remains a taut, fascinating thriller.
Final tally: The Silence of the Lambs 8, Aladdin 2
(7) Goodfellas vs. (10) Halloween
Goodfellas: Finished No. 1 in 1990 with 26 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Aaron George, Andrew Riche and Steve Wille at No. 1.
Halloween: Finished No. 2 in 1978 with 22 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke and Anthony Estrada at No. 1.
Anthony Estrada: The case for Goodfellas: There are dozens of movies in the “organized crime” genre. When discussing which are best the conversation begins and ends with The Godfather, The Godfather II and Goodfellas. DeNiro, Pesci and Liotta form the greatest cinematic trio this side of Luke, Leia and Han. Pacino gives a performance so dynamic and memorable that we all assume he IS Tommy (“Funny how?”). Scorsese makes typically excellent use of music (Clapton playing over the montage of bodies being found in various places).
The case for Halloween: It set the template for a generation of horror movies centered on an enigmatic monster with an elaborate backstory. It possesses one of the most chilling scores of all time. Donald Pleasance plays a spot-on Ahab, driven to the brink of madness in his pursuit of the white whale that is Michael Myers.
Why Goodfellas takes it: I think Halloween is hurt by the fact that what made it so innovative in 1976 feels a bit clichéd now because of how many times the formula has been replicated by subsequent movies. Goodfellas, on the other hand, feels timeless. Liotta’s voiceover narration transports us to a wonderland of crime that feels like the place to be, despite the danger and wickedness that permeate throughout. This group of goodfellas is the NWO (another iconic trio) – the coolest bad guys around.
Final tally: Goodfellas 6, Halloween 2
**Two voters abstained from voting on the basis of having seen neither movie.
(2) Alien vs. (15) Toy Story
Alien: Finished No. 1 in 1979 with 39 points, ranked by 10 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Anthony Estrada, Greg Phillips, Russell Sellers and Andrew Woltman at No. 1.
Toy Story: Finished No. 1 in 1995 with 17 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Anthony Estrada, Russell Sellers and Andrew Woltman at No. 2.
Aaron George: Honestly, this was an easy one for me. Alien wasn’t a film that I saw anytime close to when it came out and while I can admire its brilliance it has no connection to me the way that Toy Story does.
Alien is great — I love watching it and it still fills me with tension every time I put it on. Toy Story, though, was a genre-defining film which set the bar impossibly high for all animated films that would follow it. With Toy Story, Pixar managed to appeal to kids but entertain and wonder adults as they transported them back to their nostalgic days of plays spacemen and cowboys. (we all did that right?)
Ripley gets me excited and fearful for her (and her crew’s) life. All set beautifully in a completely immersive world that treads the line perfectly between sensationalism and believability. Toy Story makes me smile. Every time. Maybe I’ve become jaded, but that’s a more valuable currency to me than any awesome Alien movie.
Final tally: Toy Story 6, Alien 4
That does it for the first round in the Hoth Region. To see how each voter cast their votes, click here. Check back soon to see the first round in the Endor Region!