Silver And His Gold

Joel Silver is one of my favorite movie producers, and here are a few reasons why.
September 02, 2008
In this article, I would like to salute movie producer Joel Silver.

When you watch as many movies as I do, you start to notice the names off-screen as much as the names on-screen. Many of my favorite movies have been produced by Joel Silver.

Born in South Orange, New Jersey in 1952, Silver has always been pushing things to their outer limits. Hell, before he became a movie producer, he invented the sport Ultimate (originally known as Ultimate Frisbee). He first started producing movies alongside Lawrence Gordon (who I unfortunately couldn't find a picture of). The two of them worked great together, but eventually had a falling-out. Silver went solo permanently in the 90s, after having produced a few movies on his own in the 80s. Whether with others or solo, Silver's movies have a certain feel to them.

I mentioned Ultimate earlier. Ultimate is Silver's M.O...Big, spectacular, adrenalizing, and soft when needed, Silver has made quite a lot of great movies. I would like to share my favorite movies of his. The list is in chronological order, more or less.

Let's start off in 1979 with "The Warriors".

Much has been written about this movie by people older and wiser than me, so I would like to say how I first came across this movie. I first saw it in 2002 when spending a few days at a cousin's house. I had heard about it, but had never seen it. My cousin's husband introduced me to it, and as I watched, I was stunned. This was barreling action...Frightening at times, but always exciting.

My favorite part of the movie: The Warriors' encounter with The Baseball Furies.

In previous movies I'd seen throughout the years, gangs were hardly ever colorful. They dressed in monochromatic clothing and didn't seem to be having fun. The Baseball Furies, on the other hand, were gleeful in what they were doing. They ended up getting beaten, but they proved that sometimes you need a little color in your life, even if you're ending someone else's.

Now let's move on to 1982 and a movie I've written about several times. Let's once again pay homage to our friends Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) and Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) with a few more words about "48 HRS".

The movie made an impact on me. To be specific, the scene in the bar is what hit me the most.

Hammond has taken Cates' empty gun, and in his quest to get more information on Billy Bear (Sonny Landham), he pretends to be a cop. I love the way that Hammond acts out in this scene. Starting off by assuming a good old boy accdent, he chucks a beer glass at the mirror and stirs things up immediately when refused information. He's talking at warp-speed, everybody in silence staring at this whirling dervish of a man.

He caps it off by saying, in a lower voice:

It influenced me to the point where I used the line in the second picture in my yearbook quotes section. As young adults, things can get hectic, especially in my case. I graduated high school in 2001, the last class to graduate before the 9/11 attacks.

Things have been tough, but cool is the thing that you want to keep under pressure. I've been trying, but it's been hard at times. It's getting easier, though I still have a long way to go.

2 years after "48 HRS", Silver produced the movie "Streets Of Fire".

The first time I saw "Streets Of Fire" was on TBS. This was back in the mid-to-late-90s when movies were more likely to be seen than the 30th repeat of an episode of "Seinfeld". I was up late at the house of one of my Mom's friends, and I was enraptured by what I saw. Even as it was edited, I loved the look and the action.

My favorite scene is at the end, where Ellen Aim (acting by Diane Lane, singing shared by Holly Sherwood and Laurie Sargent) launches into the track "Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young", composed by Jim Steinman (The man on the right side of the screen).

She's bid goodbye to her rescuer and former lover Tom Cody (Michael Pare), and he's getting ready to move on. The song reflects how one should live in the moment, despite the events of your past and things to come in the future.

It all comes out in these lyrics:

"Say a prayer in the darkness for the magic to come.
'Cause no matter what it seems, tonight is what it means to be young".

I get the feeling that Cody has been impacted by the events of this movie, recharged into something that, if it doesn't resemble youth, then it comes pretty close to it.

Lets' go for something a little odd with the 1985 favorite "Weird Science".

Yes, believe it or not, Silver, well-known for producing bone-breaking action movies, also produced this whimsical (at least to my eyes) yarn.

What I like about the movie is Kelly LeBrock's character Lisa, but for more than you might think.

While she does look stunning, there's more to her than just looks. In my piece "Some Of My Fave 80s Women", I wrote about Jodie Foster in the movie "Stealing Home". Her character, Katie Chandler, was an inspirational figure. Although she was a figure of tragedy in the end, the things she said helped inspire Mark Harmon's character Billy Wyatt.

I feel that Lisa in "Weird Science" is sort of like the same character, only she's able to keep herself in check. She provides inspiration to Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (There's that name again!) (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) by showing them what it truly means to be grown-up. They think that being grown-up is drinking and smoking and getting laid...Lisa proves that there's more to it than that, and encourages them to be more mature, but still be themselves.

It's a nice message...Some say that that message isn't realistic, but do you go to the movies for reality or for escape? Me...Well, it all depends on my mood, but if I want something that inspires me, this movie can do that.

Lisa's catchphrase in this movie is:

"So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?"

Silver has produced many movies with maniacal characters and one of my favorite Silver-produced movies has a good guy that can be seen as rather maniacal.

Let's once again pay a visit to our old friends Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover), and say a few more words about 1987's "Lethal Weapon".

I've said many things about this movie throughout the years, and now I would like to make mention of the human element of this movie.

Many people view movies like these and they see soulless drones engaged in reckless behavior. I look at these movies and I see everyday people engaging in the things we all want to do, whether we want to admit it or not, and saying the things many of us think, once again, whether we want to admit it or not.
Murtaugh is worried about aging and family issues, and who isn't worried about that at one point or another? Riggs weeps for his loved ones, and has a hard time making friends at first, but eventually forms a solid bond with Murtaugh. Most all of us have wept for loved ones, and had a hard time making friends, whether in youth or maturity. Both are wracked with thoughts of violence, and whether we want to admit it or not, all of us have had violent thoughts at least once, if not more.

My favorite parts of the movie are any scenes involving the character of Mr. Joshua (Gary Busey).

This character is edgy...Riggs is just as insane as he is, but Joshua does have one up on him. Joshua is a man without feelings. This is best evidenced when a lighter is put to his skin and he doesn't flinch. If it were Riggs, he would've gotten angry, but Joshua just stands there with a look on his face that's both menacing and dead. A very well-played character.

To me, the movie is realistic, and when it comes to the explosions and gunfire, it may seem unrealistic, but if you push someone too close to the breaking point, then to quote the words of the hero in the next Joel Silver movie I'll be discussing:

"Yippie-Ki-Yay, motherfucker!"

What "Lethal Weapon" began crystallized with this movie. John McClane (Bruce Willis) is worn-out and stressed. He feels unloved and abandoned, and he doesn't seem to have anything left to live for. During his dealings with Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), though, he comes back in force. Seeing his life and his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) on the line puts something in him...A charge that says "I'm alive!...But you won't be!".

Finally, John and Holly make peace with each other. Their love doesn't last, as the sequels bear out, but they end up okay with each other. It's difficult to be on good terms with your ex...I tried to be friends with my ex-girlfriend, and it just didn't work. The movies serve as a great reminder of what we all hope for in life...Love, confidence and fun.

Of course, it doesn't always appear in that order, as the protagonist of the next movie on my list finds out. Let's go to 1990, and say hello to "The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane".

As an Andrew "Dice" Clay fan, I loved seeing this movie. What I liked about this movie is that the title character grows up in this movie.

Fairlane enjoys the fun of being a "Rock And Roll Detective", but the case he works on, involving record company manipulation and a lost girl, ends up taking it out of him. At the end, his home is in ruins, his girl-chasing is practically dead and he's pretty much out of a job. His long-time assistant Jazz (Lauren Holly) steps in to boost his confidence and rescue him from his doldrums. He also takes his orphaned neighbor, known simply as The Kid (Brandon Call) under his wing. The Kid wanted to be like Fairlane, but in the end, Fairlane settled down.

(Sorry I couldn't find pictures of them in this movie, but it's hard to find pictures from it).

Jazz shows him that you don't need sex, drugs and rock and roll to have a good time, and both she and The Kid teach him to care about other people. The movie ends with the 3 of them and a koala bear that was supposedly killed earlier in the movie riding on a cruise ship.

Fairlane also proves himself to be either a lover of animals or able to go back in time and change things. I love a good fantasy, and one idea of fantasy is that nothing can stay dead...Well, maybe that's more of a horror idea, but wherever it's rooted, it definitely shows itself in the next movie on the list...The one (even though it's a sequel) and only:

"Predator 2"!

Look, the first "Predator" was a good movie. It was a great mix of action, sci-fi and humor. What I prefer about "Predator 2", though, is that it takes place in one of my favorite jungles...The urban one known as Los Angeles.

There's just something about California that lends itself to action movies. There's a certain drive...A certain feel that I really can't express, except to say that I love it. The Predator doesn't, though, and he's raising all manner of Hell, dusting off both drug dealers and cops. The only man who can stop him is Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover).

I like the final part of the movie, where Harrigan is chasing the Predator all over the place. He finally corners him and takes off his mask. Harrigan says "You're one ugly mother..." and then the Predator screams out "FUCKER!".

The Predator did talk a few times in the first movie, but this one allowed him to be more menacing with his language. The character was already an imposing one, but get him to speaking and things can get a whole uglier (motherfucklier?)

A year after the one-two California crash of "The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane" and "Predator 2", the state got another round of fire with "The Last Boy Scout".

This is a case of another movie I saw at another family member's house. I was at an uncle's house for Thanksgiving and I asked if I could rent a movie on the digital cable request page. My uncle said sure, so I chose "The Last Boy Scout". To me, it's the perfect Thanksgiving movie. Firstly, it's based around football, and several major games are played on Thanksgiving, and secondly, it's a hard-charged movie. It barrels along with lines and violence...Sounds a lot like Black Friday at the shopping malls and Wal-Marts, doesn't it?

The only distressing thing about the movie was being in the same room as some family members when Halle Berry's stripping scenes came about. That was uncomfortable, but I was able to sit with them when her character Cory was shot to death.

It seems kind of odd.

My favorite part of the movie was the opening credits where Bill Medley sang the song "Friday Night's A Great Night For Football".

I couldn't find a picture of him performing the track, but it was a song that was as adrenaline-pumping as the movie itself. Horns and synths were blasting while Medley was singing about the football game that opens the movie...It's a tune that'll get you dancing, and it was surprising when I first heard it. Up to that point, I thought he was only a balladeer, but this song showed that he could pop-rock with the best of them.

Silver kept on producing good movies, but the next movie he produced, and final film in this article, to make an impact on me was 2007's "The Brave One".

Many Silver-produced movies have been about reckless abandon, but this movie looks at things from a different persepctive. It doesn't condemn violence, but it doesn't celebrate it, either.

The movie is about an NYC radio host named Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) who loves her city, until her and her fiancee are mugged in the park. Her fiancee dies, and her love of the city appears to die with him. She buys a gun for self-defense, but killer instincts take over and now things are hard to figure out for her.

She's frightened by what she's become, and it got me to thinking: Yeah, I love all these movies with guns and explosions and adrenaline pumping, but what if this were to happen in real life? How can one be excited by shooting on a movie screen but distressed when shooting happens in real life?

It's an uncomfortable movie. Vigilantes are uncomfortable people...Are they doing good, or are they just as bad as those they're taking down? I think all of us have felt this sort of ambivalence at one point or another...Not necessarily in terms of violence, but in terms of our interactions with other people.

This is probably Silver's most serious movie, and it's very well-done. It didn't do too well in theaters (I first saw it in a hotel room on a visit to Florida earlier this year), but I think the movie is ripe for rediscovery.

In the end, I think Silver is one of the most mature producers of our time. He selects material that, while non-thinking on the outside, offers up layers and ideas that critics get slighted in the midst of explosions and profanity. Give his movies a shot. You might be surprised at what you see.

So, what are your favorite movies that were produced by Joel Silver? What do you think of these movies' content?
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