Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Casting couch

Driving home from "Batman Begins" on Sunday night, I began wondering if I'd just seen the greatest assembled cast in Hollywood history. The movie (stellar, by the way) featured Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Rutger Hauer, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Tom Wilkinson, Cillian Murphy and, yes, Katie Holmes. What could possibly rival that lineup?

After about two minutes of soul-searching, I came up with the possible candidates.

"A Bridge Too Far" is the obvious first choice. This World War II epic also featured Caine, alongside Sean Connery, James Caan, Elliott Gould, Anthony Hopkins, Gene Hackman, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, Denholm Elliott and, perhaps most importantly, John Ratzenberger. Verdict: On paper, this cast gives the "Batman Begins" crew a run for its money. It loses out, however, because the movie unfortunately sucked.

"The Thin Red Line" is another war drama that managed to pull a huge, big-name cast. Participating were Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, future Jesus Jim Caviezel, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Nick Nolte and John Travolta. Verdict: I probably missed half of those performances, because I slept through this pretentious bore. I refuse to grant anything to this overrated self-important crap.

"The Player" doesn't count. Sure, it had Tim Robbins, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Gallagher, Vincent D'Onofrio, Richard E. Grant, Sydney Pollack, Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, Jeremy Piven, Gina Gershon, Lyle Lovett, Gary Busey, Cher, John Cusack, Jeff Goldblum, Dennis Franz, Peter Falk, Nick Nolte and Burt Reynolds, but most were... Verdict: ... only brief cameos.

"True Romance" gives "Batman Begins" some serious competition. It also features Oldman, as well as former Batman Val Kilmer, former Batman villain Christopher Walken (in his best role, at that), Christian Slater, Snaggletooth, Brad Pitt, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, James Gandolfini, Tom Sizemore, Chris Penn and Balki. In the battle of the Christians, Bale certainly beats Slater (decision: "Batman"). In the battle of Oldmans, Gary's Drexl Spivey is ten times more interesting and memorable than his Jim Gordon (decision: "Romance"). Freeman beats Jackson for my BET nomination (decision: "Batman"), Walken wipes the floor with Hauer (decision: "Romance"), Neeson outclasses Rapaport and Kilmer put together (decision: "Batman"), and I'd rather have sex with Holmes than Arquette (decision: "Batman"). Verdict: Very slight edge to "Batman," even with Pitt and Walken giving the best performances of either film.

"Grand Hotel," the Best Picture of 1932, featured the most star-studded cast in Hollywood's brief history. Greta Garbo was the main attraction, but the film also featured John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Berry, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone and Jean Hersholt. Verdict: I still haven't forgiven John for procreating and eventually producing Drew and, in effect, "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle." Plus, they're all dead, so who cares?

"The Outsiders." Matt Dillon. Ralph Macchio. C. Thomas Howell. Patrick Swayze. Rob Lowe. Emilio Estevez. Tom Cruise. Diane Lane. Tom Waits. Leif Garrett. Verdict: Do you really think there's a chance I'm granting "Best Cast Ever" status to a film that includes Howell, Swayze and Garrett? And anyway, nobody in this movie was a star when it was released - that's the same reason "Dazed and Confused" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" aren't going to be considered here.

I swear, I'm trembling as I type this. "Cannonball Run II" is an apex of Hollywood talent in so many ways, its power and emotional force will never be felt again in our lifetimes. What other movie - pardon me, film - will ever again have a one-two punch nearly as awe-inspiring as Frank Sinatra and Jackie Chan? And that isn't even mentioning the combined talents of Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Shirley MacLaine (in her follow-up to winning the Oscar for "Terms of Endearment," mind you), Sid Caesar, Richard "Jaws" Kiel, ABE VIGODA, Marilu Henner, Telly Savalas, Jamie Farr, Tim Conway, Tony Danza, Don Knotts, Ricardo Montalban, Jim Nabors, Charles Nelson Reilly, Alex "Moe Greene" Rocco, Catherine Bach, Susan Anton, Henry Silva, Joe Theismann, Mel Tillis, George "Goober" Lindsey and Fred Dryer? Verdict: "Batman" is toast. Long live "Cannonball Run II," and please God, answer my now-going-on-21-year-long prayer for "Cannonball Run III." Some of those people are still alive.


Anonymous said...

So possibly BB has the 2nd best cast of all time...that's what you're saying?

Dennis' Dad said...

Sorry Josh,
The best cast has to be The Longest Day:
John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger,Robert Ryan,Henry Fonda, Peter Lawford, Richard Burton,Sal Mineo,Roddy McDowell, Eddie Albert, Curt Jergins, Gert Frobe, Sean Connery, Robert Wagner, Red Buttons, Paul Anka, Richard Todd, Stewart Whitman, Richard Dawsen, George Segal and Mel Ferrer.

Josh said...

John Wayne vs. Burt Reynolds. Robert Mitchum vs. Dom DeLuise. Richard Burton vs. Abe Vigoda. Peter Lawford vs. Charles Nelson Reilly. Henry Fonda vs. Joe Theismann.

Sorry, Mr. Martin - but "Cannonball Run II" trumps that sorry excuse for a cast.

Alex said...

Peter Falk was in "The Player" twice? ;)

Josh said...

Yes, he was that good.

Fine, Ms. Snotty - error corrected.

DAve said...

(Curious if you get a notice that I left this comment)

What about "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?":

Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, Jim Backus, Peter Falk, Buster Keaton, Don Knotts, Carl Reiner, Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, and Jerry Lewis.