I've decided that I will have a series that appears every so often where I expound the virtues of the best movies ever. These movies are not critical favorites (although some are). They aren't moving (although some are). They are movies that, in my qualified opinion as a viewer of movies and a writer of blogs, are the best I've ever seen.
This is the greatest movie ever. I'll expound on that a bit later, but it features a pre-Oscar Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Corey Feldman, and late 80s/early 90s era That Guy Rick Ducommun (ze fat one). If you've ever been to the Universal Studios backlot, you may recognize their cul-de-sac as Main Street USA. You can tell that it wasn't given the highest budget, but the concept and execution were fantastic. There are so many little things that make this eminently rewatchable despite my wife's dictum that I can only watch it with her once a year.
The first is the great performances. While the characters are all quirky in their own way, you are thrust into being Ray Peterson, and you know the neighbors that he's dealing with - the nosy one, the paranoid one, and the guy who keeps his lawn better than everyone else that everybody secretly hates. The actors really get into the characters and you can tell that they're having a great time, even if the film wasn't Oscar material.
The music and sound effects are also incredible. The leitmotifs that Jerry Goldsmith included in the film, from Rumsfeld's Patton bugle call to the dark music of the Klopeks to Art's goofball music, add another dimension to the music and the movie. In addition, you haven't heard a great use of sound effects and the absence of sound until you've seen the scene in the Klopek's house where they meet for the first time. The sound of Ray eating the pretzel and sardine snack is priceless.
On top of that, it's directed by one of the most underrated directors of the past 20 years, Joe Dante. He specializes in horror style movies and mixes that with humor masterfully. I still maintain that Gremlins 2 was incredible, even if nobody else does. As a result, you can't pin the movie down very well, and I think part of that played into its poor reception and also subsequent cult classic status. It's readily available anywhere you find movies and I can't say enough how much you should see it. Classic scenes like when Art and Ray first go up to the Klopek's door and the very obvious Western influence when they approach the house, or when Art is eating over at the Petersen's house are worth the investment in time alone. You won't walk away feeling like you are a changed person or that there is more to life like some of the other 50 Greatest Movies, but you will be entertained and you will be wanting to go back to Mayfield Place for more, and in the end, isn't that what movies are all about?