A note: This is the tenth entry in the Cinépathétic series, an interview-style back and forth between me and the interesting people in my life, jabbering about movies and why we love them so damned much. This week, I’m interviewing Robbie Krask, Public Outreach specialist for Halfwit Coffee Roasters and a barista and trainer for Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park. We go on at length about our mutual love for John Candy, talk around how ridiculous Predator is, and how intensely cool Elwood Blues actually was. As usual, be wary for spoilers throughout, and please, enjoy.
Robbie: Jarrod, for you…anything.
DR: D’aw. Do you have your Top 5 ready to go?
Robbie: The order is questionable but the list is true.
DR: Well, let’s just go at random. Non-sequential order. It’s more diplomatic, don’t you think?
Robbie: I do, I’ve always thought grouping was much easier than ranking anyway.
DR: Where do we begin? What film starts us off?
Robbie: We start with Planes, Trains And Automobiles. Which is, I think, the pinnacle of a good ol’ feel-good comedy.
DR: Ooh… Nice way to begin. Steve Martin/John Candy/John Hughes at each man’s peak… 1987? This shit is hilarious. Why did you choose this?
Robbie: Growing up my father was a big John Candy fan, so naturally I was too. I’ve always found his delivery fantastic and it seemed so genuinely natural. The relationship between Steve and John is superb, and its development is a tear jerker. A way I classify a “favorite movie” greatly deals with the nostalgic attachment I share with it, and it is strong with this film.
DR: Agreed. John Candy was big for me when I was a kid, as well… Uncle Buck was a big deal, and so was The Great Outdoors. But here, his character Del is such quintessential Candy: a smartassy optimist who suffers fools to a limited degree, with a mischievous grin smacked on that brilliant head of his. The rapport (or lack of it) between him and Steve Martin slays me. What is it that endears John Candy to you to this day, beyond nostalgia?
Robbie: That “mischievous grin and brilliant head,” if I may borrow that… Is a great way to summarize it.
John Candy had an energy to him that I embraced, he just had a way with telling jokes that – even still – makes me feel like he’s talking to me. I can’t think of another comedian that does the same.
DR: He always felt like the uncle I never had.
Robbie: Right? In a past life, I’m sure he was my uncle. Maybe a little nuts, maybe a little drunk, but always with a big heart and warm smile.
DR: (laughs) There is a familiarity to his work, something warm and cozy, I never could qualify it, but all of it was first-rate. And he never had a better comedic collaborator than John Hughes. You once said to me that “Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without Planes, Trains, And Automobiles“. How many times have you seen this thing?
Robbie: Hmm. Wow, jeez… Thinking about it actually, I’d say 2-3 times a year since I was 8. So on the low end, 32 times.
DR: That’s impressive.
Robbie: That’s… Something alright.
DR: (laughs) Steve Martin yelling at that poor Marathon woman, that death -gaze he gives her… I think I’ve been subconsciously practicing that look my entire life.
Robbie:If you can get it down, you can rule the town.
DR: There were a few collaborations between Hughes and Candy: this, Uncle Buck, even a small cameo for Candy in Home Alone… Am I blanking on anything else?
Robbie: I think you’ve got them all. Unless you count the ghost scene in The Breakfast Club.
DR: “Ghost scene”?
Robbie: There was no ghost scene, sorry.
DR: (laughs) I knew I didn’t sleep through any of that movie.
Robbie: Too bad though, maybe in the directors cut there could have been a moment where Candy comes out from a corner in a ghostly fashion and has a great heart to heart with Judd Nelson about his father.
DR: “NO, GHOST. WHAT ABOUT YOU.”
Robbie: Jarrod, you are ON tonight.
DR: I’d say the same about you. Killing it. Let’s move on. What’s next on your list?
DR: God damn. John McTiernan letting Arnold blow shit up before the titular villain even bothers to show up. This movie ain’t got time to bleed. Why is Predator on this list?
Robbie: It’s both my favorite action and Arnold movie. It is packed with everything I want out of an action movie, for example the opening line – THE OPENING LINE – is delivered by non other than Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Sitting in the chopper waiting to touch down in the middle of god knows what jungle, he offers those around him some dip before the inevitable gunfire to come… After everyone denies and he proceeds to take a baseballs worth – or what seems to be – he shouts to the heavens, “ya’ll a bunch of slack-jawed faggots around here. This stuff will make you a goddamned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me.”
DR: It’s fucking Shakespeare.
Robbie: Beyond the incredible one-liners, the movie has some really great scenes. I will honestly never forget the scene when they unload the minigun with what seems to be a good sixty seconds worth of bullets into the jungle plowing everything down in slight – except what they really wanted to hopefully/accidentally hit. Or when Billy is standing on the bridge, takes out his machete, and cuts along his own chest in a big diagonal fashion… Maybe in an attempt to lure the Predator… Maybe it was an attempt to show no fear. Regardless, Billy died within 40 seconds. THAT was the scary part, the Predator itself wasn’t a mindless killing machine or masked murderer. It was a hunter and it took its time, it was smart and capable. It enjoyed the fact it you knew it was watching. Completely terrifying.
DR: It’s a spooky movie, and McTiernan assembled a great ensemble of tough guy fuck-faces to meet the meat grinder. Mac, I remember especially, was a particular kind of asshole. “You ghostin’ us, motherfucker. I’ll bleed you. Real quiet. Leave you here…” Merc or no, who talks that way?
Robbie: Between the 5 – maybe 6? – of them, I’d say you have about one hundred pounds worth of testicles.
DR: (laughs) Of all the absurd action flicks Arnold put out in the 80s , I’d say Predator still holds up among the best, to this very day. I attribute a lot of that to John McTiernan, the man who gave us Die Hard. He certainly knew how to mount tension. And in this film, you can cut it with a machete. By the time Dutch announces to the Predator – by fucking bellowing like some kind of wild monster of a beast or some such – the catharsis is arrived. The ending is killer.
Robbie: I agree, I’ve always found the laugh to be really interesting too. At first I thought the Predator seems to be enjoying himself because that bomb was going to be the revenge Dutch never saw coming. Maybe it was the third time I watched it I thought… The Predator might have felt some sense of irony and in a sort of self-depreciating way laughed at himself for being killed by his prey. I mean, how does the mouse kill the snake?
DR: The tone of the film always kind of nagged at me, a bit. It’s a bit lop-sided, never satisfied playing it straight, and too wary to have too much goofy fun. The mix is a strange one, but somehow we can still ignore it. Comedy or thriller?
Robbie: Obviously both, but it does frolic in the meadows of comedy a good amount.
DR: “Stick around,” being a considerable lob into the comedic territory.
Robbie: He picked that gorilla soldier up, who I’d guess comes in around 200-210lbs, with one arm. Incredible.
DR: For real. This was Arnold Schwarzenegger at his most formidable. The amount of blow and cigars it took to get him through a day of shooting, I can hardly speculate.
Robbie: Half the budget, probably.
DR: Which is why we had “The Body” cracking wise with a gob-full of chaw. What’s next?
DR: Ha! I was actually thinking of that! This movie hits me in all the soft spots. Of which, apparently, are a lot. Why did you choose this?
Robbie: The Sandlot is the only movie I can recite front to back. It captures the imagination of youth so, SO well. Plus Wendy Peffercorn.
DR: Sure, Wendy Peffercorn. Forget it.
Robbie: “DID YOU PLAN THAT??!” “Of course I did, been planning it for years”
DR: Squints was the mad genius of this film. I remember seeing this when I was around twelve, and I – like Smalls – had just received a new stepdad. I don’t remember him being as much of a dick as Dennis Leary was, but it was sure close. You’re not wrong, though. This film captures childhood imagination well, but not only that, the aching angst of growing up awkward and looking to friends that are just as awkward as you are. Maybe even more so.
Robbie: I really enjoyed watching the camaraderie develop, especially with Smalls throughout the film as they struggle to get this mono lisa baseball back into the hands of the Goblin.
DR: There are so much deviance from the plot, but each aside only adds to these kids’ relationship. It’s really quite sweet. And Squints is always there to get everyone back on track. His sleep-over tale is one I’ll always remember. “FOR-EH-VEWR.”
Robbie: One of the reasons I love that movie so much though is the attachment to it. My parents had some property out by Marseilles, Illinois and when it would rain/snow/be too hot outside/etc I would just watch The Sandlot. Partly because I loved it, mostly because it was the only VHS in the place. Regardless, I was the right age when I got really into it, it was easy to relate. That is a tremendous moment you’re describing there. I’ve always wanted to make s’mores in a treehouse because of that scene.
DR: I don’t think I’ve ever had a s’more.
Robbie: Well Jarrod, we are going to have to fix that.
DR: (gasps) We’ll need to get a treehouse. Which brings me to the end of the film, where these, y’know, lower-Middle Class kids all of a sudden have all the resources in the world to get that baseball back from the Beast. I mean, in one afternoon, they’ve developed enough innovation that would take me a whole summer to cook up.
Robbie: It’s true, maybe even a little suspect to be honest. I wonder if, in the directors cut… There is a hidden scene where a ghostly John Candy pulls the kids aside and whispers some advice.
DR: The man died so that we may live.
Robbie: Without doubt or hesitation I completely agree.
DR: What’s next on your list?
DR: Wait – you’re serious?
DR: Well then. Let’s start the insanity. Justify your love.
Robbie: That’s pretty difficult, even I’ll admit. It’s got terrible mid 90’s CGI – oh god, the monkeys – a completely insane plot, and Robin William is a jerk for most of the movie. I’m a big board game player (always have been), so I did find the board to be really interesting in itself. Something about how the house slowly becomes the jungle and is just stuffed with the most ridiculous shit, I just can’t look away. I apologize for nothing. Carl, from the shoe factory is pretty cool. The soundtrack is equality ridiculous, which I appreciate. I must admit I never watched the sequel. Who would repaint The Starry Night?
DR: (laughs) It’s completely fine. I appreciate your fascination with the board game and finding a love with this film through it. I did a similar thing with Batman Forever, I just replaced “board game” with “comic book”. And I still love Batman Forever somehow. Maybe I don’t, I dunno. Who else was in this movie? I forgot all about the “what” of this one seconds after I saw it. When I was thirteen.
DR: What’s Jumanji? Some dork named Alan gets sucked into a demonic board game right in front a girl that probably gives him boners when he thinks about her. She grows up to be a weirdo because shes traumatized, the only boy that was ever nice to her vanished like her chances at getting the endless riches Alan’s family has in their banks, probably. Some time passes, maybe 3 millions years, I’m not sure… Some women buy the haunted house and comes equipped with two brats. One day they skip school because Voldemort keeps whispering to them to go upstairs. Once those two little brats find the game and summon our dark lord Robin Williams back onto our plane, he proceeds to mutilate his face in an attempt to shave only to then, once again, have to save the world.
DR: You know. Put that way, it doesn’t sound so bad. I might actually want to watch it. But I know I’ve seen it, and if it didn’t get my idiot kid approval, no chance now.
Robbie: Lets avoid sobriety and watch it some time, together.
DR: Heavily. Let’s avoid sobriety heavily. You’re on. I know you have one more in your list. Give it to me.
DR: Oof. Goddamn. You know, as much as I loved John Candy, I had this weird appreciation for Dan Aykroyd. John Belushi always mystified me. I suppose he still does. Why is this here?
Robbie: Firstly the music is incredible, it’s everywhere and it’s full of life. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Steve Cropper, just to name a few. Being from the city of Chicago, I grew up on the south side, and it meant something I guess. I grew up not terribly far from Marquette Park where that great scene of the Nazis all having to jump off the bridge to get out of the way of Jake and Elwood and they blow past them in an incredibly ridiculous car chase was shot. I love the dynamic Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi become. Hell, I even ate burnt toast for about a week because Elwood was the coolest.
DR: Dan Aykroyd, no joke, was so fucking cool in my life. Dr. Ray Stanz, Doctor fucking Detroit… And Elwood Blues. I always hoped that someday I would grow up to look like him – and I cannot explain why – but the hat, the sunglasses, the cheap black suit… I didn’t know it then, but this movie spoke to me when I was a kid.
Robbie: I know exactly where you’re coming from. His role as Elwood Blues is still one of the coolest guys I’ve seen on the screen.
DR: There was something supernatural about the Blues Brothers, and it went beyond simply professing that they were “on a mission from God.” They were flouting every single societal convention they faced – they even drove a fucking Buick through a building, if I remember correctly – and these kids survived every ludicrous, destructive event THAT THEY CREATED. That kind of misanthropy appealed to me in a very profound way. That car chase. How long was that thing?
Robbie: If I had to guess, 72 minutes. “I have always loved you.”
DR: It felt like the whole movie. It probably was, with James Brown doing the splits on the hood of their speeding vehicle.
Robbie: The movie felt really BIG, but still had a sense of intimacy with the viewers and the brothers. They were putting the band back together, and I’d warn God itself not to get in the way.
DR: It’s a towering movie. It set such a high bar for Saturday Night Live films, that every thing that followed it, well. All they could do was fail.
Robbie: It’s true, I know technically it’s a SNL film, but I certainly don’t see it as one. There is something magical about seeing all of those old Chicago beat cars flying down Wacker Drive chasing after a duo that seemed unstoppable, that will always make this movie so much more. That car chase, now that I really think about it, must be around 3 hours.
DR: I understand what you mean. I think it was broken up in parts, and the other finally came out in 2000. Something like that. Isn’t that how it worked out?
Robbie: It is exactly how it worked out.
DR: John Belushi got very tall by then.
Robbie: I heard Dan used to pour water on his head while he slept to help him grow.
DR: That’s what I did, because that’s what Dan Aykroyd did. Robbie, thank you again. This was fun.
Robbie: It was! Thank YOU, Jarrod.
Robbie Krask hails from the city of Chicago (specifically, the South Side). Growing up, his father had a profound influence in his appreciation for film, particularly the five films listed on this site. As a pursuer of coffee, Robbie has taken two jobs in his chosen field, operating as a crucial fixture for two high-profile companies in Chicago: Halfwit Coffee Roasters and Wormhole Coffee. Someday, he would like to be closer to the wilderness. Robbie is also quite fond of girls.