I was going to start this column with the second movie on the list — and if I had to choose, I’d say it was the better film — but I want to pay brief tribute to David Bowie, whose loss is still so acutely felt. Labyrinth began life as just another box office bomb that found its audience on video, and which today is counted among the very best things any of its creators (Jim Henson, George Lucas, and Jennifer Connelly CRUSHING IT with an army of Muppets on one side and a bona fide rock god on the other) ever did. It opened today in 1986.
Here’s the weird thing about greatness: sometimes, it sneaks up on you even when you know it’s coming. We all knew that Pixar’s WALL*E was going to be brilliant, but THIS brilliant? Like the-best-thing-Pixar-ever-did brillaint? Pixar. PIXAR. And yeah, this scrappy little guy is willing to put up a fight for the #1 spot on that august list. How good was it? You love him as much as you love R2-D2, don’t you? Yes. Yes you do. WALL*E landed today in 2008, and we’re all just a little bit happier as a result.
On the dark side of things, most people tend to agree that the best zombie movies ever made have to end their credits with the phrase “directed by George A Romero.” Once you get below that, however, the debate gets interesting. (Call it the Zombie Bronze, after Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead,) There are a number of contenders, but 28 Days Later makes a strong case. Danny Boyle’s vision of a Great Britain engulfed by a “rage virus” feels as timeless as Romero’s efforts, and with great performances from notables like Cillian Murphy, Christopher Eccleston and Brendan Gleeson, it’s an absolute can’t-miss for any serious zombie fan. It opened in the U.S. today in 2003.
We’ll close with Live and Let Die, one of the most problematic of the Bond films for a number of reasons. Purely on its own terms, it’s a delightful first outing for 007’s most jovial incarnation, with Roger Moore slipping effortlessly into the role that defined his career. Great chase scenes, a fine pair of villains, a better-than-average Bond girl in Jane Seymour, and the immortal Paul McCartney song (still the only Bond song ever that sees regular radio play) make it all a hoot in many ways.
Balancing that out? Oh, just the RACISM. The UNBELIEVABLE HORRIFICALLY POTENT racism, as the Bond franchise — ever eager to cash in on a trend — started lifting blaxploitation trends for its own skeezy use. Considering the virulent colonialism of the source novel, it’s an unbelievably cynical move. Plus, racism. So much racism.
Live and Let Die opened today in 1973.