At the Mountains of Movie Madness: Week Ten
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 Ten — In the Years 2000….! (And One from the ’70s)
Puppet (David Soll, 2010)
Recommended by Patrick Mitchell
A few months ago, I saw the movie “Being Elmo,” which is a delightful look at the puppeteer who created the character of Elmo. It profiled the story of him growing up loving the magic behind Jim Henson’s creations and then being able to impact lives doing what he loved. This documentary “Puppet” never has that emotional hook, but it’s still able to look at the passion behind this medium. Perhaps I wasn’t as invested because I didn’t have the childhood nostalgia attached to these types of puppets. However, to see them work to expand what can be done with puppets is still a feat.
Counter-recommendation: Synecdoche, New York
Dragonball: Evolution (James Wong, 2009)
Recommended by Joe Donohue
I admit it. I watched “Dragonball Z” for a month or so back in junior high; we all did. It was not the greatest show, but it was a bit entertaining until I realized that nothing actually happened in the plot. That said, I’ll take a full episode of Goku charging up an attack than this horrible, worthless piece of crap. This script is everything that’s wrong with everything. For no reason, the first act is a cliched high school drama. Then it’s a fantasy-epic cliché that is awful. Then the last act adds a whole bunch of plot that doesn’t make an ounce of sense, with pseudo-lessons learned and a cliffhanger that negates everything. Everything said could be in the running for the worst dialogue in the history of cinema. I felt pity for every actor involved, and this ought to be a career killer for the director and writer. I am a worse person for have seen this.
Counter-recommendation: Any other movie ever.
Brotherhood of the Wolf (Christophe Gans, 2001)
Recommended by Josh Clayton
When I reviewed “Farewell My Queen” a bit ago, I was impressed about how there were different styles into which the period-piece genre could fit. “Brotherhood” films the majority of its tale in the traditional way to capture the life of royalty in France in the 1760s. Then it uses that style to make an effective monster movie with political metaphors. The genre mixing makes this a really fun, very well-made movie with impressive production values and likable characters.
Counter-recommendation: Army of Shadows
Greenfingers (Joel Hershman, 2000)
Recommended by Ella Raymont
Another perfect example of a recommendation! I have never heard of this movie, so this was a charming surprise. Clive Owen plays a convict in a minimal-security prison who channels his anger toward gardening. Fellow inmates do the same with their time and they become quite good, garnering the attention of an expert in the field played by Helen Mirren. Sometimes the movie falls too easily into formula, especially the romance subplot, but from beginning to end, it’s a lot of fun.
Counter-recommendation: Kinky Boots
They Might Be Giants (Anthony Harvey, 1971)
Recommended by Toni Kelner
Right away, I adored this plot. After the death of his wife, a respected judge has delusions that he is Sherlock Holmes and is constantly looking for Moriarty. He is submitted to a clinic where he is assigned to a young doctor named Watson. Icing on the cake is that George C. Scott plays the fake Sherlock. Although the low-budget nature of the movie adds occasional flaws, the script and cast are so wonderful it doesn’t matter. From beginning to end, this was a delight, especially as you get further in and you start to hope that maybe there is an evil Moriarty lurking in the corners.
Also I thought of the perfect casting if this was to be remade. Jeff Daniels as Playfair/Holmes, Kim Dickens as Watson, Dustin Hoffman as Wilbur Peabody and Benedict Cumberbatch as Playfair’s brother.
Counter-recommendations: Without a Clue and, of course, The Great Mouse Detective
Dude, Where’s My Car? (Danny Leiner, 2000)
Recommended by Michael Power
Ugh. I’m really upset I watched this one. It’s one thing if you’re watching “Macbeth” and you don’t smile once during the duration. It’s another if you’re watching a comedy. This takes the dumb humor to an even dumber point at which you really want an oral history of how this movie was made. At one point, someone had to pitch the idea of ostriches attacking the lead characters, create a second draft where one character calls them llamas for no reasons and then a lot of people had to shoot this. Then another person was hired to edit the scene. This movie was actually made, and that is a triumph for all who champion bad choices.
Counter-recommendation: Up in Smoke
Next week I will master a flying guillotine, watch Sophie take her revenge and try my first Filipino film.
15 more to go….