If you’re like me, your holiday season may be spent watching way too many movies from the comfort of your parents’ couch. Let me help you upgrade this sacred TV viewing time by sharing the best films I had to endure indulge in while preparing for Baptized By Beefcake: The Golden Age of Hand-Painted Movie Posters from Ghana.
Yes, I really did watch every movie in this exhibition prior to writing the wall text. Because professionalism. Let my commitment to excellence help you find some classic viewing gems that will undoubtedly enrich your life and bring newfound understanding to the tremendous poster art in this show (now extended through February 16!).
Terminator by Stoger (ca. 1990)
Everybody always talks about Terminator 2 as the game-changing action blockbuster of our time. I would like to make a case for T1. It was like watching what would happen if a drunk teenage boy wrote a movie—and not in a bad way. You’ve got the “fun-loving” roommate, Ginger Ventura (which incidentally sounds like the name of a Grand Theft Auto character), who only wears neon aerobics outfits and dies because she just won’t take off her headphones. You’ve got a shootout in a nightclub called Tech-Noir, which looks part loading dock, part laser tag venue (which I think is what teenagers think nightclubs must be like). And finally, you’ve got what I believe are some of the most absurd special effects of the 80s. Whenever Arnold’s face needs to look droid-y, James Cameron cuts to a Madame Tussauds head double. Come for the highly-quotable lines, stay for the janky animatronics.
Children of the Corn 3 by Charles Manu (1997)
#4 Children of the Corn 3
In order to get to Children of the Corn 3: Urban Harvest, you have to first get through the other two Children of the Corn movies. These earlier installments both play to their strengths—that small town middle America is a terrifying place where weird stuff happens. Part 3, however, takes a sharp nosedive away from the Stephen King source material and leads you places you never thought corn could go. In order to enter into this director’s world, you must suspend all disbelief—but not just about the idea that there is a corn Bible and that some fervent corn-loving children can be granted superpowers. You must also be willing to believe that Omaha is 20 minutes away from Chicago in rush-hour traffic, that six-bedroom mansions in wealthy suburbs can buttress abandoned factories without losing real estate value, and that a racist finance bro would send his adopted white children to a predominantly black school. The fact that the writers played fast and loose with these last bits just allowed me to throw my hands up and agree that yes, everyone deserves to die in this movie. Blessed is he who walks behind the rows!
Toxic Avenger by Leonardo (1990)
#3 The Toxic Avenger
If you have never seen a movie put out by Troma Studios, just close your laptop right now and head over to iTunes. Today is your lucky day. Prepare to be offended. Not just bad taste level offended. We’re talking so offended that you might Google the rules of what qualifies as a hate crime and start worrying that by merely watching this film you may have committed a moral felony. Have your priest on speed-dial because you will feel nothing short of unclean by the time the credits roll. Imagine your classic superhero origin story, except this one involves nuclear waste and Sloth from The Goonies. It is a timeless New Jersey tale of love, revenge, and bullying people at the local gym. No diner is safe. Expect rampant racism, sexism, agism, ableism, and all many other isms you didn’t know were possible until now. Watch this movie because nothing of this caliber could or should be made today.
Hundra by Joe Mensah (1993)
After her entire village of female warriors gets murdered by a roving band of barbarians, Hundra is tasked by the last elder to go out and hunt for a sperm donor so she can repopulate her tribe with more women. But Hundra hates dudes! She hates them so much that she typically beats the crap out of any guy she tries to seduce for baby-making purposes. One day, though, she stumbles into what looks like Nero’s Rome and finds the only clean-shaven man on the planet. He’s got Fabio-inspired hair and he’s a doctor! But wait—he doesn’t want anything to do with a hot warrior woman who just wants to hit it and quit it. He’s sensitive, classy—a true gentleman. So she enlists herself for lady lessons at the local whorehouse in what could possibly be the greatest makeover montage of all time. After successfully seducing her man, she births a girl child and leads a hooker uprising against some cow-worshiping cult. How do they take down said cult leader you may ask? Well, he has OCD and hates being touched by women, so what better way to destroy him than for all the concubines to raise their skirts and rub their lady parts all over him until he dies of…lady part exposure. Hundra then rides off into the sunset with her baby, ready to start a new tribe of warrior women.
Basket Case by Samuel Arts (ca. 1990)
#1 Basket Case
No matter what happens in my life, I am a better, more complete person having seen Basket Case–perhaps the greatest movie of all time. And don’t just take my word for it: MoMA went and accessioned it into its permanent collection just two years ago, making this not just a work of cinematic brilliance but also a work of Art with a capital A. The plot: innocent upstate boy (with epic hair), Duane, moves to the big city seeking revenge upon those who separated him from his Siamese twin brother, Belial. Belial lives in the titular basket and, despite having no legs or particularly functional arms, manages to move around very quickly, murdering all those who stand in his path. Oh, he can telepathically communicate with Duane. He also really hates it when Duane hits on girls. If Duane kisses a girl, Belial gives him a migraine. There are also two different Belials—one, a claymation sort of monster that Gumbys around the set like a stop-motion fever dream, and another, hand-puppet Belial, which can only move its mouth as it screams in puppet agony like a nightmare not even Share Lewis could love. And this level of Acting is not just for the monster—every performer, no matter how big or small their part, is giving us a full, unhinged Nicholas Cage experience. It is a master class is commitment to character like none we have ever seen.