I miss Arnold Schwarzenegger
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.