At the Mountains of Movie Madness — Week Six
Last year, I took part in an experiment in recommendations. When a friend recommends something to me, 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
Week Six — Why Can’t It Always Be This Good?
Lenny (Bob Fosse, 1974)
I have wanted to see this for a few years ever since I drooled over “All That Jazz.” In that movie, Bob Fosse’s alter ego won’t stop editing a movie about a stand-up comedian. I figured it was just a plotline about an artist’s work never ending, not realizing it was about him and this movie. Dustin Hoffman plays Lenny Bruce, the comedian always under pressure for obscenity. Hoffman is outstanding, and having the film bounce around from his act to his trials, from his personal life to his clean beginning, is a wonderful balancing act. It took me awhile to track this down, but it was well worth the wait.
Counter-Recommendation: Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion
Humanoids of the Deep (Barbara Peeters, 1980)
Recommended by Joe Shearer
After I finished this, I re-read Joe’s review he wrote for the Schlock Vault. I’m not a campy horror guy and never grew up with it. That said, I can see why this would be a favorite. The only good bad movies are the ones that don’t know they are bad. This rips off a lot of big movies from its time, such as “Jaws” and “Alien,” with little hesitation. There is plenty of gore and breasts, as well as a rather surprising amount of explosions. It’s fun to watch, but there is nothing good about it. I know this is a taste thing, but I think I need it to be worse to like it more. This is mandatory for horror fans, though.
Counter-Recommendation: Open Water? (Can’t think of a proper B-horror movie. I fail.)
Mississippi Burning (Alan Parker, 1988)
For years, I’ve heard Alan Parker regarded as one of those unsung auteurs from the end of the century. I found “The Commitments” to be charming, and “Fame” really hit the right chords with fans. (PUN INTENDED.) Fine films, but why is his name remembered so well? This film — a powerful, well-orchestrated work from someone who knows how to work with actors and suspense. It’s a brutal film that only gets better when it gets angrier. There’s a point where Gene Hackman’s character has a turn. It’s not because the case becomes more personal for him, but because it suddenly becomes real. It’s also never false for the audience, and that’s what makes this such a memorable tale. Took me too long to see this one.
Counter-Recommendation: In the Heat of the Night
OSS 117: Lost in Rio (Michel Hazanavicius, 2009)
Recommended by Rachael Clark
I watched this movie alone in my room but my house didn’t think so. I think I laughed enough for a group of people. Part of it is because this continues to be a pitch-perfect James Bond parody, and part of it is because Jean Dujardin is one of the most charismatic actors working today. His character of OSS 117 is racist and awful toward women, but he’s so empty inside! He’s incapable of hate … or intelligence. His eyebrows alone made me laugh at least a dozen times. And then his undercover costume for the last third … oh boy. If you loved “The Artist,” you must see the OSS 117 movies. They perfectly capture the style of ’60s Bond films (and a few Hitchcocks) and find the perfect targets on which to train their wit. I want a third film!
Counter-Recommendation: The Naked Gun (of course)
Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer, 2000)
I’m very hit-and-miss when it comes to gangster movies. I find the gangster profession to be so grimy and lonesome that I can’t fathom why anybody would willfully become one. Thieves and con artists have a romantic quality to them, but a gangster may get to shoot a gun in a cool way once before two idiots blow him to bits later. The cinematic way around this is to make gangsters cool in their own way. Here lies the problem: The movie is rarely as cool as the film needs to be. That’s why there is Tarantino and Tarantino ripoffs. “Sexy Beast” is damn cool. It’s not a group of punks running the show, it’s top-grade actors like Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone and Ian McShane. The world isn’t trying to be more glamorous than it is, which is why it’s harder to convince people to return to it. With the way the camera moves in directions as unique and sharp as the script, this goes on my good list.
Counter-Recommendations: Mean Streets and The Long Good Friday
According to my list, I’m now halfway through this insanity, with plenty of good-looking movies on the horizon and a few I’m not anticipating in the slightest. It will be fun! This will be done in a handful more months with a possibly faster pace. Right now, I’m balancing between this and a fun Doctor Who marathon I’m hosting on a different forum that you all should check out.
Next week I shall be hunting down the last unicorn, trying to find Richard III and playing a little foul. Probably.