At the Mountains of Movie Madness — Week One
Last year I took part in an experiment in recommendations. When a friend recommends me something, I typically remember it, but I also get to it when I get to it. So I spent one month last year sampling every TV show people recommended to me. I found that to be a blast, so I’m stupid enough to do it again this summer, but this time with movies.
Since so many movies were recommended, I’m not going to be able to get this done in a month. Every Tuesday, I’ll write about which ones I’ve watched and what I thought about them. The only rule to the recommendation was that they had to pick a film I haven’t seen. Some used that to pick great movies they know I haven’t watched yet and some used that to pick movies that look so awful they know I wouldn’t watch it. Either way, I’m watching them now.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2012)
The AV Club put it best by labeling this “The Aging British Thespian Version of ‘The Avengers’.” You have quite the lineup with Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. I’m sure Jim Broadbent is pissed he didn’t get to be part of this. They are part of a group that decides to retire not in its homeland of England, but to a promising hotel in India. They quickly discover the ads were misleading, but most try to make the most of their beautiful surroundings. The movie was very sweet and funny, mostly due to Dev Patel, who stole the show as the enthusiastic hotel manager. The only downside to the whole movie is that Smith and Wilton never had dialogue together, disappointing all of the “Downton Abbey” fans … which is the entire audience for this movie.
Counter-Recommendation for Elizabeth: Another Year
Rubber (Quentin Dupieux, 2010)
Recommended by Max Jones
This is the story of a tire that came to life and killed people by blowing up their heads. That is not the weird part of this story. Don’t get me wrong, this is a weird, weird movie, but it’s never the content that makes it so strange. Throughout the film, there is this paradoxical meta-metaness that implodes the whole film. I don’t know what that means, either. While this whole tire business is going on, there are a group of observers who are watching the film. There is a sheriff who knows he’s in a movie and is trying to stop the observers so he can go home early. Scenes are criticized for not making sense all while a tire is rolling around blowing stuff up. This was always fun to watch, but it barely held together as a film.
Counter-Recommendation for Max: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Digimon the Movie (Mamoru Hosoda & Shigeyasu Yamauchi, 2000)
Recommended by Josh West
What the what-what was this? I remember seeing the show briefly as a kid and all I really remember was a bunch of kids accidentally go to another world where they have not-Pokemon as their sidekicks. This movie only works if you’ve seen the show, and that’s probably a stretch. Without warning, the movie starts with a cartoon from another show about a crazy girl who wants to see the Digimon movie. Then the exposition madness starts. I found out that this “movie” is really just three different episodes with no connection and, I’m guessing, from three different seasons. There’s so much exposition that doesn’t make sense and they still left out important questions like “WHAT THE HELL IS A DIGIMON?!” Everything is from different years while voiceover refers to things from the present that haven’t been seen yet, so I can’t follow it. Then there are awkward covers of American pop songs that play over scenes with completely different tones. Also, the plots within these episodes are horrendous. Most of the time, our heroes are self-obsessed jerks who often ignore their responsibility to save the world because they’re busy. Thanks to this, it was impossible to figure out any sort of stakes because the characters barely seemed to care. Basically, this whole thing is completely incomprehensible, and I’m angry at Josh for making me watch it.
Counter-Recommendation for Josh: My Neighbor Totoro
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood (Callie Khouri, 2002)
Recommended by Rachael Clark
I rarely like to say I’m not the right demographic for a movie. I think that any movie can be appreciated even if I’m not exactly its perfect audience member. That said, I should not have seen this movie. There are two main males in this film, one played by James Garner and one by Angus Macfadyen. Garner’s character at this point has given up and will let all the craziness happen around him. Macfadyen is young and still asking the questions like “What do you mean you roofied my fiancée to take her down south to teach her about her mama?” Then he gets yelled at for not getting the Ya Ya spirit or something. I’m with that guy and somehow I’m wrong a lot, even though I’m pretty sure they are the crazy ones who really aren’t that interesting.
Counter-Recommendation for Rachael: Grey Gardens
Henry Fool (Hal Hartley, 1997)
Recommended by Aaron Witwer
There are a few gaps in my film education, and Hal Hartley is one of them. He’s a beloved independent director who gained a lot of attention in the ’90s, and just because his name is similar, I imagine he looks like Hal Halbrook. The DVD box for “Henry Fool” was strange because it makes it look like an action movie, while all of the quotes say it’s a hilarious comedy. Neither is exactly right. This is a wonderfully odd movie about a drifter who befriends a garbageman who ends up writing a controversial poem. All of their ramblings and odd directions make for a world that I love hanging out in. Hartley’s voice is so unique that you can tell it’s just fun to be able to read his lines. I’m now hooked and I can’t wait to watch more of his movies.
Counter-Recommendation for Aaron: The Living Wake
Zombie Nation (Ulli Lommel, 2004)
Recommended by Kent Korbacher
According to IMDB, the website that stores every single movie in existence and even those that aren’t finished yet, this is the 10th worst movie of all time. Most would see that as a bad thing, but I’m proud of this movie. They had to work hard and be committed to create something this … awful. For most of this movie, I didn’t know what was going on. Scenes don’t connect that well, and this movie isn’t really about zombies. (The picture above is of the eventual zombies.) Or maybe it is. Basically, there’s this cop who keeps arresting and murdering women. His partner is the dumbest person on the planet, and even though he watches him take the women into a warehouse and come back out with a heavy bag that he has to dispose, he needs more evidence that there is something foul going on.
I watched this with Kent because he has been talking about this for six years, claiming this is the worst film ever. This is what he was muttering while we queued up Netflix: “Watching this again is like breaking a vow with myself. I only have a finite amount of life. Watching this again may be a slap in God’s face. I fell for it once. I won’t want to fall for this twice. This may be my ticket to hell.”
Counter-Recommendation for Kent: I Walked with a Zombie
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, 1958)
Recommended by Eric Martindale
One week in, and we’ve come to a movie I’m ashamed I haven’t seen yet. I’ve seen a number of Tennessee Williams movies, but not the ultimate one. However, I can’t help but feel I should have seen the play first. Many aspects of the movie are strong, especially a really well-realized performance by Paul Newman. There are a ton of really quotable and evocative lines. I’m just not sure how much I bought the character arc. After the movie ended, I looked this up on Wikipedia and had my theory confirmed about the Skippy character. Reading about what they changed, though, really made me want to read/see the “complete” version even though this one still was one I was very glad to see.
Counter-Recommendation for Eric: The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond
Next week, I’ll start a Dreamworks franchise I’ve been ignoring, take a probably-deadly late-night flight and get somebody named Carter.