When I watch a movie, it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and stuff that explodes, rarely stopping to deeply consider what he’s seeing. We call the kind of movies that guy likes POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who tends to tag along with him. This guy might like some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. He prefers foreign movies and has an eye for cinematography, thematic motifs, and character development. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. CINEMA: In the spirit of bringing some international cachet back to this column – and because I desperately need to get out of the 1980s – today we will be examining the Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Language Film. POPCORN: What??? CINEMA: Hungary’s revisionist take on the Holocaust, SON OF SAUL, seems like the one to beat, having just taken the Grand Prix at Cannes. But there is definitely a dark horse in France’s MUSTANG, the tale of five sisters who – POPCORN: Naw, dude. CINEMA: I know, I know, you couldn’t read all of those subtitles. But it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about the pretty pictures you saw . . . POPCORN: No, man, ain’t that. CINEMA: Do you see those words floating above our heads? All of that business about ‘when I watch a movie . . .’ ? POPCORN: Yeah, those things follow me everywhere. CINEMA: Well, those words distinctly state that there will be foreign films. POPCORN: Don’t even try it, dude. It just says that somebody prefers them. Says something about boobs too, but I ain’t seen any of them either. CINEMA: I’m looking at one right now. POPCORN: Oh, blow it out your butt, Siskel. You can still go on about foreign actors. I just got a couple different countries in mind. CINEMA: Really, like what? POPCORN: You can go fetch some tea and stick your pinky out, bro. These dudes are totally foreign. One comes all the way from Italy, and the other guy’s from . . . uh, Austria, I think. CINEMA: No, you wouldn’t . . . POPCORN: Dude, I give you the Battle Royale of foreign actors. Rocky versus the Terminator. Conan versus Rambo. Freakin’ Cobra versus the Kindergarten Cop. CINEMA: Schwarzenegger and Stallone? Come on now, no way. If these guys are foreign actors, then you’re a member of MENSA. Besides, I don’t know if you’ve seen a calendar recently, but it’s 2016. This isn’t even a valid argument anymore. POPCORN: Hey, the Terminator was in a movie just last year – CINEMA: That approximately twelve people cared about! POPCORN: Yeah, well, Stallone is up for an Oscar. CINEMA: He was also in OSCAR, which basically proves anything I’m going to say. POPCORN: Aw, don’t be like that, bro. You know you saw every one of those movies, just like I did. Every time you go up a bunch of steps, you’re like ‘gonna flyyyyy now’ – CINEMA: Maybe in the 80s! POPCORN: – and whenever you leave the room you’re always, like, ‘I’ll be back’. CINEMA: Hey, that reference is to SCREAM, not Arnold. POPCORN: Whatever, dude. We gonna run ’em down anyway, so you gotta pick a side. CINEMA: Pick a . . . no. This is asinine. I’m not going to “pick” one, like we’re middle-school gamers – POPCORN: Then you’re Ahhnold, and I’m gonna verse you. CINEMA: You’re gonna what? POPCORN: I’m Stallone. I was born in 1946 and my middle name is Gardenzio. My dad was a hairdresser. For real. His name was Frank, and my ma was named Jackie. She was a dancer way back, and was, like, really into all that astrology shit. So what you got? CINEMA: <the sound of crickets chirping> POPCORN: Nothing? That’s it then. So I win, and – CINEMA: Win? Win what? I wasn’t even competing! POPCORN: So you’re Ahhnold, what you got? CINEMA: Well, I’m not playing your ridiculous grade-school game. But if you’re trying to ask me about Schwarzenegger’s origins, you are correct. He was born in Austria, a city called Thal. He was the youngest son of a family which had willingly joined the Nazi party before the start of the second war. POPCORN: So you’re a Nazi? CINEMA: No, no. It was his father, really . . . but even then he withdrew his membership before the war had ended. Schwarzenegger’s father was not a kind man, from what I understand. He had a preference for his other son and made it very clear. In interviews, he’s said that the man had no patience and no concern whatsoever for Arnold’s problems. He said that the rod was not spared in his family, that it might now even be considered abuse – POPCORN: So, your dad was too grumpy to be a Nazi. Well, that’s hard to beat. But my dad came straight outta Italy and mom was from, like, France or something. We were really poor. And when I was born, there was complications. The doc was fishin’ around in there with those baby tongs – CINEMA: You mean forceps? POPCORN: Yeah, sure. So he grabbed my noggin a little too hard and, like, jacked up a bunch of nerves in my face. The lower left side. So I kinda look like I’m sneering, and I don’t always talk all good and stuff. CINEMA: Really? Huh, I wasn’t aware of that. Well, we were poor, too . . . I mean, the Schwarzeneggers were poor. Arnold recalled that it was a pretty big deal when the family got a new refrigerator. He couldn’t wait to find a way out of there. POPCORN: Out of the fridge? CINEMA: No, brain donor, out of the home. At the age of fifteen, he started weight training and distinguished himself right away. The German-Austrian mentality was all about conformity, of course, so he joined the Austrian army in 1965. It was a requirement of all eighteen year old males. But he went AWOL during basic training in order to compete in the Junior Mr. Europe competition, serving a week in military prison for his efforts – POPCORN: Damn. CINEMA: – though, I’d like to mention, he won the competition. This led to him bulking up even more, when he was twenty, to compete for Mr. Universe (which was essentially his ticket to America). They called him the Austrian Oak. He went on to win the Mr. Olympia contest seven times and become one of the greatest bodybuilders ever. His renown in the world of physical abilities was huge long before he ever made a popular Hollywood film, with annual competitions named after him. So what have you got, Stallone? POPCORN: I did tap-dancing. My mom made me. CINEMA: Ha. Well, I played Hercules, under the name Arnold Strong, in a 1970 movie – POPCORN: – that was dubbed, cuz no one could understand a word your ass was saying. CINEMA: But that led to a role in Robert Altman’s THE LONG GOODBYE, playing . . . well, a deaf mute . . . and then to a much bigger role, beside Jeff Bridges, in STAY HUNGRY. POPCORN: Well, I was in THE PARTY AT KITTY AND STUDS – CINEMA: Swinging your moneymaker in a porno. Yeah, that compares. POPCORN: Hey, dude, I was broke. Got kicked outta my apartment when I couldn’t pay rent. Sleepin’ in a bus terminal for, like, three weeks. I was about to start robbin’ some folks, but I saw that casting call. Two hundred bucks for two days work, man. CINEMA: Well, I . . . I mean, Schwarzenegger had dropped a bunch of muscle weight to be in STAY HUNGRY – but still went on to compete for Mr. Olympia again! They filmed his training and it became another movie entirely, PUMPING IRON. As you might recall, he won that particular competition as well, beating out Lou Ferrigno – POPCORN: Maybe so. But he auditioned for THE INCREDIBLE HULK, and lost to Ferrigno. CINEMA: What would you rather be remembered for, the 1980s Hulk . . . or the Terminator? POPCORN: I’d rather be remembered for ROCKY. CINEMA: . . . which he famously wrote over the course of a weekend, after catching an Ali – Chuck Wepner fight in New York. Yeah, I’ll give you that one. POPCORN: Dude’s got writing credits on every Rocky movie. He directed some of ’em too! CINEMA: Yeah, he did. So, in case you’ve forgotten ROCKY IV or V . . . um, my point. POPCORN: No way, man! The one with the big Russian dude was solid – CINEMA: Yeah, solid 80s cheese. Obviously, you don’t remember Pauly’s robot maid. Or that ridiculous speech at the end – POPCORN: “If I can change, and you can change . . . then everybody can change!” Come on, man. That shit made me cry, dude. CINEMA: That shit made a lotta people cry . . . because it was so poorly written. POPCORN: Huh-uh. That was the time, dude. Like when ‘Born in the USA’ came out and everybody thought it was all patriotic, but it was really the opposite. And everybody was all, like, oh Stallone’s just wavin’ the flag. But if you really watch it, dude, no way. That’s not really what he’s sayin’ at all . . . and all that stuff going on in Russia. Glass nuts and Paris strokin’. Everybody was workin’ up some change, tryin’ to not nuke each other – CINEMA: Glass nuts and . . . do you mean glasnost and perestroika? Alright, alright. Whatever. I’ll let you have ROCKY IV, in the spirit of international peace. POPCORN: Tellin’ you, man. CINEMA: But no dice on the fifth one . . . and I believe that COBRA was released the year after the big Russian guy knocked the last of Rocky’s brains into mush. POPCORN: Yeah, dude. It was in ’86. Same year your boy had RAW DEAL – CINEMA: What are you saying? POPCORN: Just sayin’ that COBRA is obviously the superior flick, that’s all. CINEMA: Hey, no one gives Schwarzenegger a raw deal. No one. And Stallone was obviously on the same writing high that overtook him at the end of ROCKY IV. Some of the lines in this movie – POPCORN: “This is where the law stops and I start – ” POPCORN CINEMA: “Sucker!” CINEMA: Ridiculous. POPCORN: Sweet. CINEMA: The guy wore sunglasses in his own apartment. With the lights out. And that stupid match hanging out of his mouth . . . why? POPCORN: So he can light dudes on fire, man. He’s just a bad-ass. That’s all you need to know. The same reason that his name is Marion, but he wishes it was something even more bad-ass. Like Alice. Or when he cuts the tips off his pizza with the scissors. It’s not your place to ask why. If you don’t get it, you’re just not bad-ass enough. CINEMA: I suppose it’s “bad-ass” when Marion uses his car to push that gang members car out of the way, in order for him to park there – POPCORN: Total bad-ass. Then he strolls up to the dude, tells him to clean up his act, grabs the dude’s shirt – CINEMA: – and just rips it clean off – POPCORN: One of the most random acts of badassery ever. Right up there with the car he drives, a 1950 Ford Mercury. If bad-ass got it on with bad-ass, that car would be their bad-ass baby. Nitrous switch. Seat belts like a fighter jet. Then he does a complete 180 – right in the middle of a high-speed chase! – and keeps on shootin’. CINEMA: No, really, allow me: it was completely bad-ass. POPCORN: I will fight you. CINEMA: Okay, okay, I know your feelings about this movie. You can have COBRA . . . but then I get CONAN THE DESTROYER. POPCORN: Naw, man. The first Conan movie was bad-ass. “Crush your enemies! See them driven before you! Hear the lamentation of their women!” But DESTROYER . . . dude, that was lame. He gets tricked by that chick from SUPERMAN II, and there was that goofy shit with the magic horn or whatever. CINEMA: Admittedly, it was not of the same caliber as its predecessor. Critically lambasted, to be sure. But there’s a pedigree here . . . the first film was directed by John Milius, who wrote so many great lines for other films. He was the scribe behind “I love the smell of napalm in the morning – ” POPCORN: Dude, this one don’t smell like victory. CINEMA: Just wait a minute. You see, in writing CONAN THE BARBARIAN, Milius was inspired by a 1958 film called THE VIKINGS. When Milius was unavailable for the sequel, producer Dino De Laurentis hired VIKINGS director Richard Fleischer to do the honors. Plus, this film used the same crew and locations that David Lynch was using in DUNE, which was also filming in Mexico at the time – POPCORN: Dude, did we just meet? I know the only reason you dig this flick. CINEMA: Because of, um, the pedigree, and Schwarzenegger’s . . . stellar performance. Stallone may have directed more movies, but Arnold has worked with better action directors. Like John McTiernan, Paul Verhoeven, James Cameron, and Fleischer here . . . POPCORN: It was that chick. CINEMA: Chick? I don’t know what you mean. I’m all about artistic appreciation, and – POPCORN: You were all about that virgin princess. The sister from THE WONDER YEARS. Ahhnold was s’posed to protect her or something, and you were all, oh if only I could be so lucky to be Conan the Destroyer. I would protect her precious virginity – CINEMA: Shut up. POPCORN: Yeah, Olivia d’Abo. She was in that shitty gymnastics movie, all that stretching in those ripped fishnets. DREAM TO BELIEVE or something. Then she was old boy’s big enemy, Nicole Wallace, in CRIMINAL INTENT. Dude, you were crushin’ hard on that chick from the get. CINEMA: She was so . . . hot. POPCORN: Ha! Knew it, dude. No way DESTROYER was better than BARBARIAN. I can tell you why too. No boobs. CINEMA: There should have been. POPCORN: Heh-heh. Yeah, thought so. Always trying to be all Thurston Howell with me, but I remember the dude, man. That dude all up in the car chases and explosions, right there with me. That was you, man. You were even more about these dudes than me. How many times did we sneak into TERMINATOR anyway? CINEMA: Whatever. People change . . . our tastes mature, stretch out to encompass a bigger world. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a film without explosions every five minutes, where we might have to read what the characters are saying, and possibly even think about what they’ve said for days afterward . . . POPCORN: Dude, I thought about CREED for days. That shit was deep. CINEMA: Well, he is likely to win an Oscar for that depth. POPCORN: And I saw that MAGGIE flick, where Ahhnold has a zombie daughter . . . CINEMA: Not at all what I expected. Set against the backdrop of a horrible pandemic, where you can see the smoldering ruins of civilization in the background, Schwarzenegger is just a simple farmer trying to figure out what to do about his terminally ill child. POPCORN: The dude actually did some acting. CINEMA: Honestly, I was impressed by his restraint, the emotion conveyed merely in his body language. In one particular scene, he looked down and . . . he began to cry. There were tears, and when there were tears in my own eyes from seeing this, I thought that he might actually be an actor. I thought that he might actually have a career beyond all the action movies that he’s made his name on. POPCORN: Sorry, dude. But you say Ahhnold and zombies, this wasn’t what I wanted to see. I wanted the COMMANDO Ahhnold, or the PREDATOR Ahhnold. Wanted to see him whip out some super-huge guns and just start kickin’ a bunch of zombie ass. You know, and save his daughter . . . CINEMA: Well, I didn’t want to see Rocky get cancer. POPCORN: Damn, dude. These guys are getting old. CINEMA: We all are, my friend. We all are. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related John E. Meredith POPCORN: What??? Some old dude won the gold guy. Ain’t right, man. CINEMA: That’s okay, my friend. When Rocky dies in CREED 2, he’ll get his Oscar.