I miss Arnold Schwarzenegger

September 29, 2008

After a glorious week (not) in Kansas and Detroit, I was driving home from SFO the other night, listening to KQED (NPR) and I couldn’t help but think about Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Maybe it’s just because he’s California’s governor and I was glad to be back home, but I think it was probably because he was the guest of the Commonwealth Club and the audio of the interview was playing on KQED (some Youtube videos and other info can be found here).

It’s pretty surreal to listen to him talking about energy policy and conversations he’s had with John McCain; it’s also pretty surreal to think of the guy who bought a Hummer 15 years ago (way before they were commercialized) and has been a Republican for 40 years as being a green energy guy.  He had an amusing anecdote about a conversation with McCain regarding California car emissions, which have been challenged by the Bush administration (the Bush EPA refused to give California a waiver to allow it to set its own emissions standards, which the Schwarzenegger administration has gone to court to fight).  He was talking to McCain about the waiver, and McCain’s take was that there shouldn’t be 50 different emissions standards.  Schwarzenegger said, “I agree.  Adopt ours.”

While I chuckled about that riposte, Schwarzenegger continued talking about pollution and at one point said “Well duh!”  Hearing that in his accent made me reminisce about all of the funny things he’s said in movies over the years and how his being governor has put a real crimp in the quality of normal action movies.

Sure, there has been a real renaissance the last few years for comic-book movies, which have have made vast leaps in quality.  But without Arnold, there isn’t the action-movie guarantee that a movie is going to have some cheesy puns, good ass-kicking, and that it will be a pretty decent movie.  He’s had a few clunkers (End of Days and Batman & Robin come to mind in particular), but generally his movies have been very watchable at minimum.

In remembrance of those movies that actually were (instead of wondering of the movies that weren’t), here are my top 5 Arnold Schwartzenegger movies:

  1. True Lies — Comedy and action, all in one movie.  I’m not sure whether it’s more of a comedy or more of an action movie, but the mix really works.  There is a funny Charlton Heston cameo, and Jamie Lee Curis never looked sexier. Terrorism is in America, but Arnold and the Omega Sector that he works for are on the case.  Arnold’s still badass in the mid-90′s.
  2. The Terminator — Classic James Cameron sci-fi movie that spawned two sequels and a TV series.  Don’t believe that either of the sequels are better; the best story of the series is here, and the special effects here are adequate for the story.  Interesting trivia about this movie: Lance Henriksen was originally considered for the terminator, as was OJ Simpson, but nobody thought OJ could be a killer.  Arnold is mostly gun-wielding in this movie, so he doesn’t do as much pure ass-kicking.
  3. Predator — Another movie that spawned a few sequels, this one is the best of all of them.  Arnold’s really ripped in this movie, and so is Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed from the Rocky movies). Jesse Ventura‘s got a great part, too.  Good gun and hand-to-hand action.
  4. The Running Man — Movie based on a Stephen King novella, but the movie is actually quite different from the book (both are good).  Death Race pretty much rips off the premise of this movie and puts the convicts into cars. Convicts try to survive against the gladiators, who have special equipment for battling the convicts.  Some pretty funny and interesting commentary on the coming reality TV inundation (this movie was made in 1987).  You can’t forget Chico, either.
  5. Conan the Barbarian — Arnold’s first major movie role, as far as I can tell.  The movie was written by Oliver Stone, and Arnold has very little dialogue in the movie (“Crom!”).  He’s still charismatic and likeable, and there are some good action sequences here.  The movie’s soundtrack is very good, and James Earl Jones has a great role as the cult leader (somehow long hair on him looks really creepy).

I’m not disappointed that he’s California’s governor; Californians needed one more reason to be made fun of by the rest of the country (and hey, at least he realizes energy and pollution are issues that need to be tackled).  The problem is that he’s only going to be older once he’s not governor and might not be able to tackle the physical challenges necessary for an action movie. Here’s to hoping that he’s still working out.

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6 Responses to “ I miss Arnold Schwarzenegger ”

  1. sailingaway on September 29, 2008 at 1:20 am

    hate the game, not the player

  2. RustedJesus on September 29, 2008 at 2:27 am

    Great post. I, too, believe that since taking office and even a few years before that, there was huge drop off in quality action films (and ‘quality’ is by no means meant to refer to some pretentious art critic’s definition of ‘film’). End of Days, The Sixth Day were hardly tolerable. There was another one, about a domestic terrorist that I’m forgetting right now, hold on…Collateral Damage, also barely tolerable.

    I really thought that The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, would be taking over that role. But save for The Rundown (which was great: awesome fight scenes and Christopher Walken), I’ve been generally disappointed. The Scorpion King had some moments (especially those with Kelly Hu), but overall disappointing. I just can’t figure out why DJ, or anyone else for that matter, has been able to fill that void. Not that I expect anyone to be quite like Arnie, but it’s certainly weird that no one has stepped up.

    Possibly it has more to do with the nature of evil now. A singular muscular entity is really no longer capable of fighting evil, because evil has become decentralized entirely. I often find myself wanting of the halcyon days of the Cold War.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Commando as one of the Arnie greats. Tons of cheesy puns and one-liners. Great villains, including David Patrick Kelly of The Warriors. And chock full of ass-kicking: Hand-to-hand and guns, including bazookas and a sea plane. Good stuff. One of his best.

  3. jdl on September 29, 2008 at 2:47 am

    Commando is a pretty good movie, and it’s probably #6 for me on the list. It’s the reason that I know who Rae Dawn Chong is, even though I don’t think she ever did much else. You can’t forget a scene where he’s throwing circular saw blades to kill people. Good stuff, but it’s a little too cheesy for me to make the top 5. Young Alyssa Milano also makes this movie a curiosity.

    I may be the only person on the planet who liked The Sixth Day, which I find to be an interestingly ethically questioning movie. Asking what rights clones should have is an interesting question, and even though the movie’s not great, that question makes me like the movie.

    I’ll defend Collateral Damage slightly and say that in a post-9/11 America, it was brave of the studio and Arnold to release a movie questioning whether we’re the terrorists (though the film was probably shot before 9/11).

    Red Heat is a movie I Netflix’ed a couple years ago, and that was also a pretty crappy movie. I don’t remember whether I saw Raw Deal; I should probably Netflix it to see whether it’s good (though I doubt it is).

    I can’t put it on the “action movie” list because it was a comedy wrongly marketed as an action movie, but I also like Last Action Hero quite a bit. Total action movie spoof that in some ways is kind of a mess, but mostly pretty hilarious since Arnold is the action movie star of the last 25 years (sorry Sly, your movies don’t have the fairly consistent quality that Arnold’s have).

  4. revisingproust on September 29, 2008 at 3:50 am

    Total Recall is my top pick.

    Followed by, yes, Kindergarten Cop.

    “Boys have a penis. Girls have a vagina.”

    “It’s not a tumor!”

  5. revisingproust on September 29, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    …OJ as the Terminator? …”but no one thought OJ could be a killer.”

    who knew?!

  6. nonpretentious » Blog Archive » Proposition Hate! on November 11, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    [...] No matter what you think about gay rights, here at nonpretentious we love Arnold. [...]

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