Being the Ball: What We Talk About When We Talk About 'Caddyshack'

Caddyshack is not unlike the theory of relativity: you cannot understand it and you could never hope to explain it, but you are perceptive enough to concede it.


Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield
Distributor: Warner
Extras: 6
UK Release Date: 2010-06-14
US Release Date: 2010-06-08

Well…we’re waiting!

Actually, you already read this review.

You already wrote this review.

You can easily recall, now, when it occurred to you, sometime between the fifth or fifteenth (or fiftieth) viewing that everything possible to say about Caddyshack has already been said.

So you initially thought it might be advisable, if ironic, to discuss Caddyshack without invoking a single line from the movie. Eventually you realized that what we talk about when we talk about Caddyshack is…Caddyshack. Not quoting lines from Caddyshack to discuss Caddyshack, therefore, is only slightly less conceivable than going a single day without quoting (to others; to yourself) a line or three from Caddyshack. You are, of course, congenitally incapable of not quoting from Caddyshack. You are, after all, a male member of the genus Homo Sapiens (American species: Dude).

You’re no gentleman!

But you are also not a woman, so you can quote Caddyshack and you will defend Caddyshack.

Don’t worry about this one; if you miss it, we lose.

You arrived at the age, sometime between junior high and yesterday, where the lines you love so much from Caddyshack frequently sound funnier when your friends say them. Or when you say them to yourself. (It looks like a miraculous…it’s in the hole!). You may not know much, but you are fairly certain this is one unquestionable ingredient of a classic.

You’ve never stopped and thought about this, but if you ever stopped and thought about it you might think “Wait, the script is silly, the storyline is sophomoric, the acting of at least half the cast is execrable, the soundtrack features Journey and Kenny Loggins and above all, a donut with no holes is not a Danish!” Still, you would eventually come around and acknowledge that Caddyshack is not unlike the theory of relativity: you cannot understand it and you could never hope to explain it, but you are perceptive enough to concede it. Just like every other self-respecting doctor, judge or clergyman—and the loopers who rely upon their honor (your honor).

You’ll get nothing and like it!

You know: chinch bugs; manganese…a lot of people don’t even know what that is. You do, however, and even though these words are not particularly funny on the page, they are almost miraculous on the screen. Needless to say, we know they represent imperative components of any assistant greenskeeper’s knowledge base.

Nobody says those things about you as far as you know...

(Cannonball coming: how to adequately appraise the climactic encounter between Carl and Ty? You appreciate that the entirety of this deranged pas de deux was improvised on the set. You appreciate even more that in real life Chevy Chase and Bill Murray could barely stand the sight of one another (the pond would be good for you…). You especially appreciate that during this scene, and pretty much all the others in the movie, most of the characters were as drunk and drugged as they (weren’t) pretending to be.)

You wonder how Harold Ramis, here in his directorial debut, measures himself against other filmmakers. A: By height.

You never forget to be grateful that Caddyshack served as the successful vehicle that made Rodney Dangerfield – at that point a known but not well-known comedian—into one of the best-loved rascals in Hollywood. First there were the epic Miller Lite commercials (remember those? Of course you do) and then the solid, if second-tier treasure Back To School. (Rest in peace, Al, and remember: country clubs and cemeteries are the biggest wastes of prime real estate.)

You still get choked up (tears in his eyes, I guess) remembering what a genius Ted Knight was, and the unbelievably good sport he proved to be for taking part in this insanity. (Rest in peace, Elihu; let’s hope you are loofering stretch marks in Heaven.)

You’re a tremendous slouch!

You still regret not winning that scholarship to St. Copious of Northern…and you make it a point to pour tributes to poor Carl Lipbaum—who died in summer school from that severe anxiety attack and you still can’t believe that your roommate, Mitch Cumstein, was night-putting with the fifteen year old daughter of the dean.

How about a Fresca?

You are not so sure about that, (who drinks Fresca now; who drank Fresca then?) but you’re damn certain that you ain’t payin’ 50 cents for no Coke.

Is this Russia?

No, so you can count on some bonus material with this 30th Anniversary Special Edition. Along with the theatrical trailer (it’s no big deal) you get Caddyshack: The 19th Hole (that’s a peach, hon), a documentary with interviews, outtakes and some candid recollections from Ty Webb himself. You don’t get a free bowl of soup, but if you buy the Blu-Ray version you also receive Caddyshack: The Inside Story (more interviews, etc.).

Go for it: you might not otherwise learn that the original screenplay revolved around the caddies, and only once big-time (non-golf playing) players came on board (Spaulding, get your foot off the boat!) did the movie…evolve. It may not seem like much, but the fortuitous embellishment provided by these…adults served to ensure that Caddyshack did not degenerate into Meatballs II (Madonna with meatballs!).

To summarize, you hope that Caddyshack has prepared you for the possibility that one day you might get tired of having fun all the time. When you die, on your death bed, you will receive total consciousness (so you got that going for you, which is nice).

You already knew that.



The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

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In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)

In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

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