Aug 24, 2012, 3:39 PM EDT
Premium Rush hit theaters today, and I’ll bet that Lance Armstrong is a bit miffed that a really terrific title for his autobiography has now been taken.
At any rate, with the news that Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, and the release of the Joseph Gordon-Levitt vehicle (wasn’t he the kid in Angels in the Outfield just, like, a couple of years ago?), it’s time to honor the bicycle.
So let’s run down the top six bicycle-related movies of all time. I’m not going to include documentaries in this list, because there are too many of them out there to review, and who am I, Ken Burns? Actually I’m going to toss out all conventional cycling films, so fans of Breaking Away, American Flyers and The Bicycle Thief, I’m very sorry, but I get exhausted just watching these. My list is a little less inclined to give you leg cramps.
There are many bicycle-related films that often get overlooked. So to remedy that, here’s the Off the Bench Top Six Bicycle-Related movies:
6. Rad! If the presence of Talia Shire, Ray Walston (Mr. Hand from Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and 1984 Olympic gymnastics champion Bart Conner are not enough, this 1986 gem features possibly the greatest BMX-racer-fighting-the-odds story ever told. Or, it may be the only one ever told. Anyway, it was the height of the BMX fad, it was filmed in Canada and everyone had big hair.
5. Lady is the Boss. Just your typical chop-socky kung fu movie until … Holy Moses, they’re using bicycles as martial arts weapons! This 1983 Shaw Brothers film from China features rival kung fu school bosses and their gangs battling it out. Also, gratuitous scenes in discos. Should not be missed.
4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This only makes the list on the strength of one scene, of course, but it’s one of the most daring interludes in the history of cinema. A bicycle scene in a western, with Burt Bacharach music? The story goes that when Robert Redford first saw the scene, he thought it was terrible. And B.J. Thomas’ agent thought the song Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head would ruin his client’s career. But director George Roy Hill’s gamble paid off. Now Lance Armstrong says he’ll no longer fight doping charges by the USADA, making Paul Newman’s words in this scene more relevant than ever: “The future’s all yours, you stupid bicycle.”
3. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. They say that there are seven different plots in fiction, but really there are only two: Who am I, and where’s my bike? When Pee Wee Herman gets up one fine morning and finds his treasured red Schwinn stolen, the amount of hell that breaks loose shames even the best revenge works of Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson. Contains two of the greatest lines in cinema history: “Is that something you can share with the rest of us, Amazing Larry?” and “I’m a rebel, Dottie. A loner.”
2. E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial. Greatest kids-eluding-police-on-bikes scene ever filmed is topped only by greatest flying bikes scene ever filmed. Of course the reason E.T. waited until the end of the movie to levitate the bikes is not quite clear … but as comedian Garry Shandling said about that point: “It wasn’t a documentary.” Meanwhile, Matt Sussman muses: “Elliott was later discovered to have been using performance-enhancing drugs during their escape from the government. The USADA stripped the child and alien friend of his Reese’s Pieces. Looking back, it was obvious. Bikes don’t usually fly.”
1. The Triplets of Belleville. For the first 15 minutes of this animated feature I thought I was having a fever dream, but this 2003 Academy Award finalist by France’s Sylvain Chomet unfolded into one of the most satisfying, compelling and heartwarming movies of the year. All with virtually no dialogue. It’s mainly a tale of devotion, as a woman and her beloved dog literally go to the ends of the earth to rescue her grandson, a cyclist who has been kidnapped from the Tour de France by a crime gang. Along the way they are helped by three aging sisters … look, you’ll just have to see it. And if you own a dog, close the window before the train goes by.
Rick’s Cafe Americain appears on Thursday (usually). Contact: Rickchand@gmail.com. Twitter: @Rickchand.
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