Hi, I'm Kent, and I'm a mustard addict...

Yes, I’m working on my entry for the next movie on my list, Transformers (which is coming along much quicker than the High Fidelity one), but before that, there’s something I need to get off my chest.

Hi, I’m Kent, and I’m a mustard addict.  I’ve been in denial about this for a long time, but Jennifer finally helped me realize that my addiction has reached a dangerous level.  It’s reached the point that I’ve become a danger not only to myself, but to others as well.  “How can that be?” you may ask.  It’s just mustard, right?  A freakin’ condiment.

True, mustard is just a condiment, and a tasty low-fat one at that.  The jars, however, are another story.  I’ll get to that in a second.  But first, a little history.  About a year ago, things had gotten out of hand.  Jennifer had always been gracious enough (and enough of an enabler) to give me my own shelf on the door of the fridge for my mustards.  But slowly they started to migrate into the fridge proper, taking up valuable real estate. Jennifer finally laid down the commandment:  “Yea, thou shalt have mustard.  But their number shall be no more than ten.” 

Ten?  I could do that, I thought.  But it was harder than I thought.  At the time, I had sixteen, so that meant getting rid of six.  Ugh.  I tried to convince Jennifer that yellow mustard and Dijon mustard shouldn’t count because she used those on a regular basis, and were therefore “ours,” rather than “mine.”  No go.  So I went through all of my mustards and pared them down to ten.  I did alright until I had to toss my Trader Joe’s Wasabi Mustard.  That was a tough one.  I had to have Jennifer actually toss it, because I couldn’t bear to do it myself.

Everything was fine until a couple of months ago.  One of the mustards in a glass jar fell off the shelf and it was only my lighting fast reflexes that helped me catch it.  That was good, because it saved me from cleaning up a mustard mess and grieving the loss of a friend.  It also taught me to make sure the glass ones are on the bottom row of the shelf.  I thought I’d averted disaster.

I was wrong.  A few weeks ago, the Nathan’s Deli Mustard was jostled loose and fell on Jennifer’s foot.  Sure it was only a plastic bottle, but it was a plastic bottle half-full of mustard.  That’s a pound and a half falling from five feet, landing square on Jennifer’s bare foot.  I felt bad.  I tried to reorganize the shelf so it wouldn’t happen again.  Luckily, it hasn’t, but I fear that one of these days, Jennifer is going to count these puppies and realize that they’ve started breeding again.

I just counted, and there are fourteen of them.  But we need them all, I swear.  To try and rationalize my addiction, I’ll list every mustard currently in our fridge, along with why it’s a necessary condiment.  I’ll even give you a picture. 

French’s Yellow Mustard – The classic.  Every single fridge in the United States needs a bottle of this inside somewhere.  If you don’t have one in your fridge, go get one and send me the bill… 

Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard – Another classic.  If there was a second mandatory mustard, this would be it.  For many, it’s the only mustard that goes on a hot dog.

French’s Dijon Mustard – For those fancy times when you need a subtler mustard, this works like a charm.  And don’t forget to use it in your vinaigrette.

Inglehoffer Stone Ground Mustard – If you want a mustard that’s, you know, MUSTARD, then a stone ground gives you that full bodied mustard taste without the tanginess of yellow mustard.

Beaver Sweet Hot Mustard – I wish I had this one as a kid.  It’s got a horseradish kick with some honey thrown in, giving a great savory/sweet taste that’s addictive.  I love it on almost everything, but my favorite is on a cracker with some good cheddar cheese, from Wisconsin of course.

Nathan’s Deli Style Mustard – If you’ve ever been to a Nathan’s hot dog stand, then you know this mustard.  It’s a brownish mustard with an interesting flavor – turmeric!  If I had to give this one up, I would, but a New Yorker might just beat the crap out of me just for thinking that.  Sabrett's has a really tasty one, too.

Archer Farms (Target brand) Lemon Dijon Mustard – Finding that perfect balance of lemon/Dijon isn’t as easy as you’d think, so I let the pros at Target figure it out for me.

Ty Ling Hot Mustard – I am NOT having an egg roll or a fried wonton without some Chinese hot mustard.  And no, they don’t give you enough when you get takeout.  If you need your sinuses cleared, this stuf’ll do the trick.
Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground Mustard – Okay, this one is probably redundant, but I swear it tasted different than the Inglehoffer one.  It’s like saying if you’ve got one Merlot, you don’t need another one.

Terapin Ridge Farms Brown Sugar Pecan Mustard – This one’s giving the Sweet Hot Mustard a run for its money when it comes to the top spot on my list.  The molasses in the brown sugar gives the sweetness a fuller body and the pecans are a wonderful twist.  If you can find it, I urge you to try this one out.  You won’t regret it.

Archer Farms Brew Masters Mustard – Mustard and beer.  Could there be a more natural combination?

Slimme & Nunne Maple Peppercorn Mustard – I love mustard, maple syrup and pepper.  So put them all together and it’s a winner.  Then again, I love marshmallow, enchiladas and barbecue ribs.  Just kidding.  It’s an awesome mustard.

Terapin Ridge Blueberry Honey Mustard – This one Jennifer actually picked out.  It’s a specialty mustard, for sure, so it won’t go well with a hot dog or burger.  But with a really rich cheese and a nice slice of a baguette, it’ll make you a fast fan.

Bucky Badger Honey Mustard Pretzel Dip – More sweet than hot, they’re not kidding when they say it goes great with pretzels.  If you’re sitting on the couch, watching a football game with a jar of this and a bag of pretzel sticks, I envy you.

I have to say, though, it’s not all my fault.  Jennifer has to take some accountability for the mustard situation.  When we went to her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, last summer, she said, “Sweetie, did you know that the National Mustard Museum is just outside of Madison?”  No, I did not.  It’s like telling a drug addict, “Did you know there’s a Meth-R-Us twenty minutes out of where we’re going?”  And to top it all off, they let you taste ANY of the over 500 mustards they have in the store.  When we were there, we picked up the Brown Sugar Pecan, the Maple Peppercorn, the Blueberry Honey and the Bucky Badger.  So I had my ten before we went to Madison.  I was just helping support a national treasure of a museum by getting those four.  It was my civic duty and I was proud to do it.

If you want to see the mustards in their natural habitat, here you go…

Not twenty minutes after I took this picture, the Nathan’s took a dive again – this time at my feet.  Luckily, it fell in front of my toes, with no harm done.  Also luckily, Jennifer didn’t notice, or I’d be going through these guys right now, trying to figure out which five have to go…

Uh oh.  It just fell again.  This time, tumbling right in front of Jennifer.  Her feet were safe, but I think I’m in trouble…

Aw, crap.  In preparing dinner this evening, I was getting something from another shelf in the fridge when I spotted it.  Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard.  You know, the “Pardon me…” kind.  The normal Grey Poupon.  Damn, that’s fifteen.  What am I going to do?  Which five do I cut, now?

100. High Fidelity (2000)

Man, am I rusty.  When I was writing most of the entries for my Top 100 Songs, they came out relatively easily, because I had been doing it consistently for a while.  I had a good process and the words came out (mostly) easily, sometimes so much so that my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain.  But for this first post on the Top 100 Movies of My Lifetime, my brain is like my first car, an old 1980 Datsun 510 station wagon near the end of its life – starting in fitful spurts.  My friends in the back seat would be hopeful that the engine was about to turn over, but I knew better.  “We’re gonna have to roll start this thing,” I’d say.  “Get out and push, guys.”

I’ve now officially written five different openings to my essay on High Fidelity*, but none of them appear to be anything more than a brief spurt, meaning they sound pretty good but won’t get me very far.  So who’s going to roll start my brain?

Finally, after just letting my mind go blank for a bit (which was pretty easy for me), the solution came to me via my wife, Jennifer.  Since John Cusack’s character of Rob Gordon reminds me so much of my brother, Scott, I thought it’d be fun to write the essay from Scott’s point of view.  When I explained this to Jennifer, she asked, “What?  Like you’ll interview him?”  That wasn’t what I was thinking about, but it’s a great idea.  I’ll write about High Fidelity as a fictional interview, Rolling Stone style.  Peter Travers took the Top 5 motif from in the movie and used it for his review, so I think it’s only fitting that I use their long-form interview for my take on High Fidelity.

When I meet up with Scott, he’s standing in front of a taco truck in San Francisco, patiently waiting for his order.  I’m the one who’s actually running a few minutes late, but he doesn’t appear annoyed.  His hair is disheveled, but not distractingly so, and his clothes are a conglomeration of thrift store highlights that alternative teenagers would spend ten times as much for at Urban Outfitters.  He offers me a taco from his plate that I politely decline, and I return the kind offer by getting the both of us some aguas frescas.  We sit at a favorite bench of his nearby as he starts in on his tacos.

Kent:    So what makes High Fidelity a great movie?

Scott:   More than any movie I can think of, this movie was made for me.  It’s about a guy my age who runs a record store and loves music.  LOVES music. 

Kent:    What else?

Scott:   He’s a smart, funny guy who has trouble with relationships.  He loves to DJ and is a music snob.  All of those things could describe me as well.

Kent:  Yeah, but why would someone like me, or even, God forbid, a woman, consider it a great movie?

Scott:   Most probably don’t, but if they do, it’s because the movie is so strong in showing Rob’s emotional journey and growth.  His girlfriend Laura is as much an everywoman as Rob is an everyman.  She’s even more approachable than Rob, and I’d bet that a lot of women see themselves in Laura.

Kent:    So it’s a chick flick movie wrapped up in a music geek wrapper?

Scott:   Kind of.  There’s definitely a portion of it that would speak to a woman.  They’d probably like how he spends the majority of the movie reexamining his past relationships, searching for what went wrong, and how he can learn from them.  He said it best when he said about one of his exes - the Catherine Zeta-Jones character, “You gotta punch your weight.  Don’t date a girl out of your league.”

Kent:    I totally disagree.  I’m happily married to a woman who’s out of my league.  And she’s happy too.  I’m living proof that you should swing for the fences, because the great thing about Jennifer and I is that we both think we’re the luckiest people around.

Scott:   But you’re the exception to the rule.  Rob & I are a bit more pragmatic. 

Kent:    What are your thoughts on the breaking of the fourth wall?

Scott:   The what?

Kent:    Breaking the fourth wall.  You know, where a character directly addresses the audience, looking at us through the camera.

Scott:   Oh, that.  I think for a movie like this, it works.  The whole point is to know not only what Rob says, but what Rob’s thinking.  Having Cusack talk to the camera is way more interesting than some voice-over would’ve been.

Kent:    Yeah.  It’s kinda like Ferris Beuller grew up and now owns a record store. 

Scott:   Ferris what?

Kent:    Ferris Bueller.  It’s the- oh, forget it.  Anyway, one review I read said that Jack Black “shoplifts the movie from Cusack” with his performance as Barry.  Is that bad for a movie when something like that happens?

Scott:   That’s a funny line, but he didn’t steal the movie.  That’s not fair to Jack.  Rather than steal the movie, his performance is like a car crash, but in a good way.  You just can’t look away.  Stealing implies that Jack Black WANTED to steal it.  You don’t steal something on accident.  I’d like to think, as an actor, that he’s more generous than that.  I met him once, and he was generous to me, and I’m just the guy who works at the record store where Tenacious D played.

Kent:    I agree.  I also think that it takes away from John’s performance.  Rob’s not as flashy as Barry, but that performance is the soul of the movie.  And lest we forget Todd Louiso’s equally brilliant performance as Dick.  He’s so understated and quiet, but you can’t help but watch his every move, too.

Scott:   You’re right.  And that one scene where Rob daydreams about a confrontation with Tim Robbins’ Ian/Ray character, it’s Dick who rips the air conditioner out of the wall to bash Ray’s head in.  It’s so out of character that I still laugh when I think about it.

Kent:    Speaking of Ian/Ray, what are your thoughts on Tim Robbins?

Scott:   Oh man, was he bad.  Don’t get me wrong.  Tim Robbins is a great actor, but he’s just terrible in this movie.

Kent:    No arguments there.  Do you have a problem with the filmmakers changing the location of the movie from England to Chicago?

Scott:   I don’t usually like it when they mess with books too much, but in this case, it makes the movie much more relatable to me, so I’m okay with it.  Besides, America is where rock, jazz, soul, R&B, rap and hip-hop were invented, so it seems a natural choice.

Kent:    It’s funny that you say that.  I read an interview with John Cusack where he related a conversation he had with Nick Hornby, who wrote the book.  “We want to set it in Chicago.  If that’s gonna make you sick, you gotta tell us.  Nick said, ‘No, that’s great.  My book’s about more than geography.”

Scott:   It’s nice that he was cool with it.  I would still probably love the movie if it was in a London record shop, but I probably would’ve loved it even more if they’d set it in San Francisco.  Then it would be the perfect movie!

Kent:    Did you like how it ended?

Scott:   I did.  I really did.  Rob grew emotionally by the end- but not too much to make it a “happily ever after” ending. 

Kent:    You don’t like “happily ever after” endings.

Scott:   Uh, no.  That’s not an interesting ending.  I like movies where I can’t see where they’re going all the time.  Too many movies today are moviemaking by numbers affairs, and that just bores me.

Kent:    So you’re not going to see New Year’s Eve?

Scott:   What’s that?

Kent:    Exactly.  Anyway…  Thanks for your thoughts, Scott.

Scott:   No problem.  Let’s go get some more tacos.

So that’s what I think Scott would say about High Fidelity.  And it’s pretty close to what I would say, too.  It’s an almost perfect movie for someone like Scott, but I really love it too.  That’s why it makes it on my list of the Top 100 Movies of My Lifetime.


 Just like a great B-side, the screenplay (by John Cusack, his writing/producing buddies D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink – as well as Scott Rosenbert) has the perfect intro to Rob.  Having read it, I wish they would've opened the movie with it.  But I can understand that cuts have to be made, and this opening would've taken a good minute longer.  Still…



Not a minisystem, not a matching set, but coveted audiophile
clutter of McIntosh and Nakamichi, each component from a
different era, bought piece by piece in various nanoseconds
of being flush.


Big thin LPs.  Fields of them.  We move across them, slowly...
they seem to come to rest in an end of a few books... but
then the CD's start, and go on, faster and faster, forever
then the singles, then the tapes...

It seems the records, tapes, and CD's will never end until...
we come to ROB -- always a hair out of place, a face that
grows on you.  He sits in an oversized beanbag chair and
addresses us, the wall of music behind him.


  • As wonderful a movie as High Fidelity is, there are some shortcomings I have to acknowledge.  Firstly, whoever was in charge of the hairstyling and wigs on this movie should have their head shaved.  In all of the flashbacks of Rob and with Tim Robbins’ ridiculous wig, the hair department fails in every regard.
  • Speaking of Tim Robbins.  He’s a fantastic actor (and will appear later in this list), but boy, does he suck ass in this movie.  Sorry, Tim, but you do.
  • For those annoyed by the breaking of the fourth wall, this movie must be insufferable, because Rob is one big, fat whiner.

I put together a couple of videos of all my favorite clips from the movie.  Enjoy!

Just a quick note to Barry...  Say what you want about "I Just Called to Say I Love You," but in 1984, this song that you so deride won both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for best original song from a film.  So I think Stevie Wonder might say something like, "Suck it, Barry.  I got a motherf*in' Oscar."

And in keeping with the b-side record theme, there's a great deleted scene that didn't make it into the movie.  It doesn't really fit in with the storyline of Rob reexamining his past, so I understand why it's not in the movie, but it is hilarious.  It's especially funny if you know (or are) a record collector.

I said that I'd post what's coming up next so you could watch the movie ahead of time if you want to.  So #99 on the list will be the first Transformers movie, released in 2007.

*  Maybe I'll release them on the remastered version of my list in 2019.

The Top 100 Movies of My Lifetime

No, I’m not dead, I’m just lazy.

After I finished my blog posts on the Top 100 Songs of My Lifetime, I took a much deserved break.  I had written 130,000 words on those songs, taking a year and a half to do it.  I was a little burnt out because I put lots of time and research into each of the entries, rather than just puking out my brain on the keyboard like many bloggers do.  But the break became longer when I moved on to some other writing projects and real life just got in the way.  My lovely wife, Jennifer, didn’t really have a problem with it, because although she read every post, she wasn’t too geeked to read 1,500 words on Duran Duran’s “The Reflex.”  She did, however, give me the high praise of:  “Even though I couldn’t care less about many of these songs, your essays were almost always interesting and fun to read.”  No excuses, though, I was just pretty lazy about it. 

No more.  I got the kick in the butt from my brother who finally asked, “Are you ever going to do your Top 100 movies?”  This is the same brother who read all 130,000 of my Top 100 songs posts and loved probably 87% of them.  So after a break that probably killed all the momentum of getting me on some Top 100 blog list (HA!), let’s move on to the flicks.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first.  I’m a notoriously easy critic on movies.  I’m the one who convinced four friends to go see Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight, because I said it was “pretty good.”  None of them ever trusted me again to be the sole recommendation for a movie we were going to plunk down cold, hard cash on.  But yeah, I hear you say, Daylight came out, like twenty years ago.  Surely you’ve become more cultured in your middle aged years.  Apparently not.  Just last week, I convinced another fried to watch Green Lantern because “it didn’t suck as much as everyone on the internet said it did.”  Talk about your ringing endorsements.  But she watched it!  And almost liked it!  My wife won’t watch a movie that I say is “good” with no other adjectives.  It has to be at least “really good” for her to consider it (and I think she secretly does some online research to make sure I’m not wasting her time).  But in my defense, I walked out of the movie theater twenty minutes into arguably the worst big-budget movie ever made, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, starring Eddie Murphy.  That’s gotta count for something, right?

Truthfully, though, for this list of the Top 100 Movies of My Lifetime, I really tried to be as objective as possible.  In order to do that, I came up with a few rules, or guidelines, for these movies:

  • In case the title of the series didn’t give it away, the movie had to be released during my lifetime.  I was born on November 12, 1969, so there’s your frame of reference.
  •  It had to be a movie that I’d seen.  I hear you.  “Um, duh.  Of course you’d had to have seen it.”  That’s not what I mean, though.  There are movies that are generally considered “great” that I just haven’t cared about enough to see before.  I wasn’t going to put One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s List on to my list just because it’s #8 on the IMDB Top 250.*  I haven’t seen it yet.
  • I had to have seen the movie more than once.  This is where it gets less objective, but hear me out.  For many people, seeing a movie once is just fine.  But for many movie fans, great movies, and in this case, GREAT movies, are so good that you can’t help yourself from watching them again.  They’re so compelling, one viewing just isn’t enough.  This is how you get the uber-geeks who’ve seen Star Wars 437 times, dissecting every nuance of Han Solo’s performance while never once mentioning the name Harrision Ford. So for me, that knocks out other greats like Apocalypse Now and The Shining.  Up until now, once was enough for me regarding those great films.
  • Any movies released in 2011 weren’t eligible.  Just like the five year waiting period for sports halls of fame, I didn’t want something that I’d just seen that I loved weighing too heavily because of its newness.

You may find these rules arbitrary at best or outright ridiculous (like my wife does), but I’m sticking by them.  I just wanted to explain where I was coming from+.

The format for each entry will be the same.  I’ll start off with my case for why that particular movie is a great one.  If you haven’t seen the particular movie that I’m writing about, tread carefully.  If there are key plot points, I will ruin them for you.  I have no idea how a movie critic can write about a movie like The Sixth Sense without talking all about its stunning ending.  It’s like a writing a story about the Super Bowl without telling you who won.  To help you with the ones you may not have seen, I’ll put the name of the next movie on the list at the end of the post of the current movie, so you have time to see it (if you’re so inclined).

Next, since I have a tremendous respect for all writers, I’ll have a little Writer’s Corner, where I put my favorite excerpt from the script.  Like many cinefiles, I can be an amateur nitpicker and want to acknowledge that no movie is perfect.  So in fairness to the awesomeness of the movie,   I’ll acknowledge a few of the weaknesses of the chosen movie in the Nitpicker’s Corner.  Lastly there will be a video clip of some of my favorite scenes.  And who knows, there may be a few fun facts thrown in that you may not know (although that’s become much more difficult since IMDB came out with their trivia section!).

So come back tomorrow, and #100 will be hot off the presses (see the “coming from” footnote below…).  I’m excited to be writing again, and I hope you’re at least mildly excited to be reading again.

Oh yeah.  The first movie on my list.  #100 - High Fidelity.

*  The Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) is one of the largest and most influential movie sites in the world.  They let their users, not critics, rate every single movie on their site.  They have a link to their Top 250 movies of all time, which takes all of those user opinions into account, so it’s a fair example of what the movie-loving public thinks are great movies.  Of their Top 250 movies of all time, only 160 were released during my lifetime.  Some of my movies are on that list, some aren’t.  Many I’ve seen.  More than I thought – I haven’t.  So along with Cuckoo’s List, some of the other notables that you won’t see on my list are Taxi Driver, City of God, A Clockwork Orange or Chinatown.  And there are probably a dozen more.  I know, it’s a crime, but no one made me care enough to see any of them before now, so off my list they stay.
And just in case you think the IMDB folks are all geniuses, they’ve got that sentimental overacted piece of crap Life Is Beautiful, starring that buffoon Roberto Begnini, at #62.  It’s proof positive that if there are Jews being killed by Nazis, your film is criticism-proof to almost anyone.

+  Metaphorically, of course.  Does anyone really care that I was just coming from the kitchen to the living room to write this whole thing up?  I don’t think so.  Just like when your friend says they literally peed in their pants.  Look at their pants.  I would wager that there is no pee. 
Okay, go back up, read the last sentence of my intro and then come back…  Since these essays are published digitally, there are no actual presses that would be warmed from the friction of printing out these essays.  Man, am I an English snob.