At the Mountains of Movie Madness — Week Seven
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 Seven – The Mystique of the Feminine Films
The Last Unicorn (Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr., 1982)
Recommended by Danielle Bost
When you’re a kid, the movies you watch depend entirely on what came out at that time. Sure, kids typically watch a few classics like “The Wizard of Oz” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but the reason so many people my age love 1990s Disney films is because those are what came out when we were the right demographic. I just must have missed “The Last Unicorn.” This isn’t only a movie Danielle watched as a kid; a ton of people talk about this dark and weird tale ….of a unicorn.
This is a pretty bonkers movie. It almost works, except the entire film has this weird structural ADD. Every 10 minutes, a new movie starts. I kept waiting for the carnival witch to play a bigger part or maybe the return of the pre-Genie butterfly to add to a bigger story. Nope, every 10 minutes, a new plot point replaces the old one — like now the unicorn is a human on the verge of insanity. Or, now the main focus is that the bored king needs a new jester. If any of this connected at all, this could be fun, yet it’s just a crazy mess. If you’re nostalgic, leave it there.
Counter-Recommendation: The Great Mouse Detective
Looking for Richard (Al Pacino, 1996)
Recommended by J.C. Pankratz
This is the oddball of this week’s random selection of recommendations, yet I’m not sure it would fit in during any week. Al Pacino decided to make a crazy documentary about him trying to figure out the play “Richard III” and how it can be interpreted by an American audience and an American cast. If you’re a Shakespeare nut, this is a ton of fun to see actors struggle and argue. If you’re at all interested in the acting process, this is even better. It often gets very indulgent and is probably too long, but Pacino has the energy for it. (This is his ’90s yelling phase, remember.) It’s great to see Alec Baldwin and Winona Ryder work on this project with him.
Counter Recommendation: Throne of Blood
Foul Play (Colin Higgins, 1978)
Recommended by Jama Biggers
Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense, especially in his “wrong man” storylines where an innocent person, purely by chance, winds up in a big espionage affair. This inspired a line of other films using this popular Hitchcockian plot, such as this one. Instead of Cary Grant, you have Chevy Chase, and that adds a really fun element. Grant was always a suave guy who was a little bit of a goofball, while 1970s Chase is a goofball who can be a little suave. I liked the plot more when it wasn’t too big, when it was Goldie Hawn hiding from shadowy men and running into weirdos like Dudley Moore. When it becomes an action movie in which it’s time to save the Pope, it’s too by-the-numbers.
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (Alan Rafkin, 1966)
Recommended by Larry Sweazy
I started my venture into cinema not with Tarantino, Kubrick or even “Citizen Kane,” but with Abbott and Costello films. I watched every movie with those two abusing each other with force and wit. Eventually, that led to the Marx Brothers, whom I like even more. All of them are so funny on their own that it’s easy for a movie to just get in their way. Don Knotts films are just like that, and this was the perfect use of him. Knotts is a nervous guy who wants to be a reporter one day, so he gets his big break by staying in a possibly haunted house. Like the best films of his colleagues, the movie moves forward with new scenes where Knotts can just let loose. The whole film could have been set in the haunted house, but giving him a picnic, a trial and a newsroom keeps it from going stale. Knotts is a genius; he can express more with his eyes than any other comedian working today. What a great use of his talents.
Counter-Recommendation: Here Come the Co-Eds
The Notebook (Nick Cassavetes, 2004)
Recommended by Steven “Sig” Sigler
Boy, I didn’t care about this one. I’m supposed to, right? This is one of the most popular romance movies of the past decade. Everyone swoons over this, and yet this felt lifeless. The characters were all clichéd, the story was dull and the structuring never made me sympathetic. However, it is watchable, and not just because it was fun to imagine this was an odd period-piece episode of “Entourage” and Ryan Gosling was playing Vinny Chase. It’s all because Gosling and Rachel McAdams are really strong actors. Everyone else is playing up their stereotypes, but these two always add strong element of reality to the leads. They are great in a very forgettable movie.
Also, James Marsden has the same problem as Greg Kinnear. If they were the two males in a romantic triangle in a film, the female lead would realize she’s gay in the third act, leaving both of them.
Next week I’ll say howdy to a stuffed toy, possibly praise a hometown celebrity and really try hard not to get bitten…