Who killed Mona Dearly? That’s the question asked and answered in the 2000 film “Drowning Mona.” This is one of those movies that caught my eye while channel surfing — most likely due to the cast. It stars everyone from Bette Midler to Jamie Lee Curtis, Neve Campbell, and more. A blonde-headed Casey Affleck runs a lawn mowing service with his idiotic partner, hilariously played by Marcus Thomas. The film is set in the hamlet of Verplanck, New York. Viewers are in for a wild ride as the Yugo driven by the ubiquitously-hated Mona goes off a cliff and into the river. On a completely unrelated note, I feel obligated to mention how great the Bo Diddley song “Mona” is.
(There’s also a good video clip of Bo joining Tom Petty onstage for this one.) Getting back to the movie, it’s up to local law enforcement (Danny DeVito) to narrow the list of suspects down in Verplanck. Drowning Mona is not the best movie you’ll ever see, but I never pass up an opportunity to watch it and it always makes me laugh. Off the wall is probably the best way to describe this somewhat obscure film. It was directed by Nick Gomez. You’ll also see some familiar faces in the supporting cast like Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, William Fichtner, and more. Kathleen Wilhoite has a hilarious scene where she sings a murder ballad about the whole thing.
I’ve never been the world’s biggest Whoopi Goldberg fan, but 1987’s “Burglar” was a film that really made me laugh. It’s not a film for everyone, but it’s one I thoroughly enjoy. Back in the 80s, I remember having a conversation with a friend about how most comedies really aren’t THAT funny, but this movie had both of us rolling.
Goldberg stars as a streetwise bookstore owner with a knack for burglary. While she’s done time for her past offenses, she tries to stay on the straight and narrow, but is pulled back into her life of crime by a corrupt cop (played by G.W. Bailey). Goldberg’s character is cool, funny, and unpredictable — much like the best friend character hilariously played by Bobcat Goldthwait.
Burglar not only features John Goodman as an inept cop, but also Elizabeth Ruscio as a barfly. In addition, Lesley Ann Warren doesn’t disappoint as an over-the-top dentist who’s hell bent on getting what’s hers from her cheating ex-husband. If you find Bobcat Goldthwait remotely funny, you HAVE TO see this film. He has several funny one liners (as does Goldberg) and a hilarious interaction with a bar owner named “Knobby” while undercover as a delivery driver.
Burglar was never considered to be an iconic 80s movie like Fast Times at Ridgemont High or The Breakfast Club, nor should it be. It’s just a funny movie with some great lines and crude sophomoric humor. While there aren’t any Rubik’s Cubes or parachute pants in this film, it’s interesting to watch it now. One scene features a woman leaving a message on an answering machine. Now THAT’S very 80s.
I can remember exactly where I was when I stumbled across the 1996 film called The Sunchaser . (I was working as the overnight guy in radio at the time and found it channel surfing late one night while staying at a relative’s house.) It had an impact on me. “Offbeat” is the first word that pops to mind when trying to describe this unique film. It was directed by Michael Cimino, perhaps best known as the writer/director of The Deer Hunter, and stars Woody Harrelson as mega-yuppie physician Dr. Michael Reynolds along with Jon Seda as teenage inmate/patient Brandon “Blue” Monroe.
If I had to pick one central theme to The Sunchaser, it’s healing. While the two main characters are very different, they both are in need of it. Dr. Reynolds leads an extremely materialistic/country club type of lifestyle while “Blue” is a desperately sick teen from the wrong side of the tracks. Seda is very believable as a streetwise, angry young man who’s determined to live despite any number of cards being stacked against him. The two characters wind up on a purpose-driven road trip through the Southwest. The film also explores Native American and New Age spirituality as part of the overall “vibe” of healing.
This film never was going to be a blockbuster and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s definitely offbeat, and might be described as disjointed in parts. Some will even say it’s predictable. However, the beauty of The Sunchaser may be its ability to show the common ground between the two main characters. They’re both flawed, but still have their likable qualities.
Who’s the bigger weirdo… The guy who believes in magic mountains or the guy who doesn’t? This affirmation is my favorite quote from The Sunchaser:
Every generation has its own discoveries, fads, and events – some of them are spontaneous or even accidental. I remember reading the ice cream cone was invented during the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair out of necessity. A guy selling ice cream ran out of cups or bowls or whatever, and used waffles to wrap his product. Pretty clever. Whether you’re into ice cream or not, there are specific events which can impact people of certain generations. Major concerts like Woodstock and Live Aid come to mind. Or where were you when whatever happened: JFK/Ronald Reagan was shot, 9/11, etc.
The happening I want to first mention sprang from the sands of the Mojave Desert — well, sort of. I’d never heard of this happening until I stumbled across the fantastic short film “Mojave Mirage” (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0838183/) . It’s a half-hour documentary about a lone desert phone booth which became a pilgrimage site around 1997-2000. Call it an internet phenomenon. How it all started may be part of the mystery, but it’s a truly offbeat film worth seeking out.
I guess the mystery of calling a phone booth in the middle of the desert is part of the appeal. Who would call there? What would they have to say? Who would answer the call? If you think it sounds boring, you’re wrong. If you think it sounds interesting, you are absolutely right. I just love the offbeat nature of the whole thing.
For whatever reason, the desert captures a certain romance on film. It’s desolate, isolated, and probably not like where you live at all. There are so many movies or movie scenes which feature the open road and the desert. One of my other favorite films in this category is “White Sands” (released in 1992, directed by Roger Donaldson). The film takes place in New Mexico, with some scenes at White Sands National Monument. It’s a murder mystery of sorts, but the film’s cast alone makes it worth checking out: Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Maura Tierney. I think I still own a copy of this film on VHS. It’s not exactly a mainstream pic, but that’s the beauty of it. Experience the offbeat. You’ll thank me for it.