Warner Brothers is one of my favorite studios for entertainment of all sorts. Movies, TV shows, music...I've enjoyed it all.
To celebrate their 85th anniversary, September saw the PBS
debut of a documentary called "You Must Remember This: The Warner Brothers Story". The documentary talked about many Warner Brothers titles from "The Jazz Singer" (one of the very first talking pictures ever) to "The Dark Knight" (Easily the highest-grossing movie in the history of the studio).
"Casablanca", "Rebel Without A Cause", "Bonnie & Clyde", "Superman", "Driving Miss Daisy", "Unforgiven" and many other titles were discussed, but there are quite a few movies they didn't talk about, though, and I wish they had. These movies were just as important to the studio's history as the many titles they talked about in the documentary, and I'll be listing my reasons why I think they should've been discussed (Well, most of them will have reasons).
With that, let's go behind the shield.
Let's start off in 1982 with "Blade Runner".
One of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, I think this movie deserves some discussion due to how it played around with people's perceptions of the genre.
Up until 1982, Harrison Ford's roles were generally arrogant but good-hearted, like Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Rick Deckard, his character in this movie, was the polar opposite of these characters.
Deckard is the hero of this movie, but he isn't really heroic. He's withering in front of our eyes both physically and spiritually. He's become jaded by the violence he's seen in his life. He no longer wants to be a part of the law enforcement world, but he's bought back into the fold to take on the Replicants, who, despite being the "villains" of this piece, are actually quite wise about the world and its' inhabitants.
This movie can have you questioning who the villains actually are. Up until this time, most sci-fi movies portrayed the characters in terms of good and evil...Black and white, with no middle ground. This movie really shook things up, and while it wasn't appreciated in its' time, it has become a classic. I think that's why it should've been discussed.
Now it's time to move to 1983 and the next movie on my list, the 4th Dirty Harry movie known as "Sudden Impact".
Several of the "Dirty Harry" movies were discussed in the documentary, but this one wasn't, which surprised me, being as I think this was one of the most influential movies of the 80s, due to the following 5 magic words...
"Go ahead...Make my day!"
These words, which Harry (Clint Eastwood) says to a robber with a gun to a woman's head, have a variable quality to them. Is it a dare, or a call for something he wants to see, or just tough talk to get the robber to stop doing his thing?
The movie's biggest influence was on Ronald Reagan, who used the line when talking about vetoing tax-increase legislation and those who would do it.
When you have the President quoting your movie, then you know that you must've impacted the world on some level. If that wasn't enough to warrant discussion of the movie, I don't know what was.
Onwards to 1984 and Prince's film debut "Purple Rain".
By 1984, Prince was already a well-established singer and songwriter. His sexually charged lyrics were celebrated by the younger and vilified by the older. He recorded for Warner Brothers Records for many years, and he also made this movie for them (as well as several other titles in the following years).
In this movie, he plays a character known simply as The Kid. It details his struggles musically and romantically. Sometimes nice and other times mean, The Kid achieves great success with the assistance of his bandmates and has an entire club in the palm of his hand by the end of the movie (although considering all the action he gets, one wonders where that hand may have been).
I feel that the movie should've been discussed because of the music. From the bounciness of "Let's Go Crazy" to the questions of "When Doves Cry" to the swooping dramatics of the title track, these songs became legendary to the point where Prince took home an Oscar for the song score to this movie. Accompanied to the stage by bandmates Wendy and Lisa, Prince gave a short acceptance speech and then left to go party.
Maybe the reason why this wasn't talked about was due to the fact that Prince and Warner Brothers Records ended their working relationship on acrimonious terms in the mid-90s. Prince has had some success on other labels, but nowhere near as much as he did when with Warner Brothers. If only they could've made nice for this one occasion.
Next, let's go to 1985. This was a very family-friendly year for the studio with 3 very enjoyable movies, "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure", "Sesame Streets Presents: Follow That Bird" and, of course, "The Goonies".
"Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" was one of Tim Burton's first full-length live-action features. Burton's movies have always had a sense of the odd, and this piece was one of the first pieces of evidence on that front. This movie contained a world where criminals were pursued for cutting the do not remove tag off mattresses and pissed-off bikers could be calmed down with silly dances. Is it crazy? Sure, but isn't the world that way already? Burton just put the whole thing into a funhouse and this is what came out of it.
Moving on, considering that this debuted on PBS, I'm really surprised that they didn't talk about "Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird". Warner Brothers' older releases were known for messages about the world and what would be good for it. This movie continued on in that tradition, with the lesson that family is what you make it. You don't have to fit in with exclusively your own kind...You can get along with anybody if you try. Nice sentiments, don't you agree?
I think the reason why they didn't talk about it is because this is older "Sesame Street". This movie came before the character of Elmo (voiced and Muppeteered by Kevin Clash) rose in popularity, not to mention the movie features quite a few cast members who are no longer with the show and wouldn't be familiar to younger audiences. Still, they could've mentioned it for the older audience.
Finally, "The Goonies". This movie should've been discussed because of the seismic impact it had upon a generation. It's popular on many nostalgia sites...Not just this one, but also sites like Progressive Boink and I-Mockery. Coming back to RetroJunk, if you look at our 80s movie section, you'll find it to be the most popular 80s movie on the site, as well as one of the most-quoted. If you look at the quote box at the top of the screen, I guarantee you that you'll see a quote from "The Goonies" every few hours. We relate to the movie because of its' adventuresome qualities. Who hasn't wanted to go on an adventure like this? You know, something to put the ordinary to rest for a while.
The Goonies are good enough...For us, at any rate. I wish that the people who made this documentary could've thought the same way.
Now, for a title from 1987.
It's jive how they devoted 5 minutes to George Clooney but didn't say one word about "Lethal Weapon". It started one of Warners' biggest franchises for over a decade...It had a combination of comedy and drama that had hardly been seen up until this movie's release...If you need more reasons why it should be discussed, read a lot of my previous articles. I don't know what else can be said except that I think this movie deserved some respect.
Another title that should've gotten some love came from 1988. That title was "Beetlejuice".
Tim Burton has been one of Warner Brothers' leading lights as a director, and this movie served as a great bridge between the frivolity of "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" and the darkness of "Batman". The movie deserved to be talked about because of its' visuals. This is a stylish piece from the set design to make-up. Speaking of which, this movie took home an Oscar for make-up (The first Warner Brothers title to do so). From the disheveled freaked-out look of the title character (Michael Keaton) to all of the bizarre creations found throughout the movie, this movie had a distinct flair that could only be found in Burton's mind.
Now, let's go onward into the 90s, with 1991's "New Jack City".
When you think of Warner Brothers and gangster movies, movies like "The Public Enemy" and "Goodfellas" come to mind. Both were discussed in the documentary, but this movie got lost in the fray. I wish it didn't, though. Somehow, this movie has become forgotten. Titles like Universal Pictures' "Scarface" and the aforementioned "Goodfellas" are always talked about. Both movies are wonderful (If you've read my previous articles, you know that I adore "Scarface"), but Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes), the villain of this piece has been forgotten.
He's just as bad-ass as the gangsters from previous movies I've mentioned, if not more. When we first meet him, he's getting ready to drop a man off a bridge. His mind is made up, and when he makes the drop, your jaw hits the floor. Nino is serious about his job...The movie as a whole is serious. Movies like "Scarface" and "Goodfellas" have moments of humor, but "New Jack City" doesn't have any at all. Maybe that's why they didn't talk about it...It was somewhat of a downer, but hey, "The Public Enemy" and "White Heat" weren't exactly walks through the park.
They talked about several titles that Warner co-produced with other studios...Titles like "A.I: Artificial Intelligence" and "Letters From Iwo Jima".
When it comes to discussions of co-productions with other studios, I really think they should've mentioned "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut", which they co-produced with Paramount Pictures.
They probably couldn't have mentioned this on PBS, but this was some hilarious stuff. This movie was off-the-charts vulgar, and it was a great musical, too. I think this movie could've been discussed because it was a great example of how you could make an animated musical without being a Disney movie. Songs like "Mountain Town", "Out There" and "La Resistance" may have spoofed Disney songs, but if Disney were to go R-rated, these songs would've fit just fine.
When Satan (voiced by Trey Parker) sings the following lyrics in the song "Up There", I think they sound exactly something that Ashman and Menken would've written:
"What is evil, anyway?
Is there reason to the rhyme?
Without evil, there could be no good,
So it must be good to be evil sometimes".
Very well-written, and worthy of discussion. They'll probably end up discussing this in a Paramount documentary, though.
Now onwards into the 00s and into 2005 with another Tim Burton movie, that one being "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory".
I know this movie is anathema to many RetroJunkers, but I really liked this one. I think it's a vast improvement over "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory". I like Johnny Depp's version of Willy Wonka because he seemed a little more than Gene Wilder's interpretation. I think that Wilder's portrayal was like something out of an insane asylum, whereas Depp's version was chipper yet mannered. The music was great, too. Composer Danny Elfman took writer Roald Dahl's original poems and set them to music of all stripes from Bollywood to funk to Beach Boys-style to a sound that seems reminiscent of groups like Sparks and even Elfman's old group Oingo Boingo.
It's been viewed by quite a few as a perversion of the original, but somehow, the oddity is soothing. It did pretty decently at the box office, too. I think this deserved some discussion. The only Burton film they talked about in the documentary was "Batman". While enjoyable, it wasn't the only movie he did for the studio.
Now, let's cap off the discussion with a title from 2007. That title? "300".
This movie deserved a discussion because of the visual element. The special effects were amazing. There was no way it could've been done on location, so (according to the IMDB) "the film was photographed almost entirely on a sound-stage in Montreal, using blue-screen and green-screen backgrounds.". There was no other way it could've been filmed, but it was filmed beautifully.
I can't describe how amazing it was to be in a theater with a packed audience watching this movie. Movies, just like music, can unite us all. The audience sat in rapture, gasping, cheering and even laughing on occasion as the action and script unfolded.
These movies have all united many groups of people. We've laughed and cried and cheered as we've watched these movies. Whenever they're on, we'll watch them. They may not seem influential to the studio itself, but to the people, these movies all have a magic to them that can't be described, except to say that they're great.
So, with that, the floor is open for discussions:
The studio has been around for 85 years, so what do you make of that? What are your favorite Warner Brothers movies? What decisions would you have made if you were in charge of the studio?