At the Mountains of Movie Madness: Week Eleven
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 Eleven – East vs. West. East Wins!
Master of the Flying Guillotine (Yu Wang, 1976)
Recommended by Justin Fox
In the first scene, a man finds out that a one-armed man has killed people he loves, so he grabs his dangerous weapon — a helmet of sorts that he can throw and cut off people’s heads — and goes for revenge. From my knowledge of “The Fugitive”, I thought I had found my hero. Nope! Turns out this guy is kinda nuts, and the one-armed man is the true hero. What results is a series of really impressive and crazy kung-fu sequences that make for campy fun. The pacing is really fast, so you ignore any moments of cheesiness.
Counter-recommendation: Enter the Dragon
Cool Dog (Danny Lerner, 2010)
Recommended by Daniel Na
I didn’t really realize that dog movies had their own clichés. I never really thought about it until this one started and jumped right into all of them. This film is so colossally lazy and pathetic it started to drive me insane. It’s the defintion of cheap storytelling. A dad gets a new job in New York City and their apartment doesn’t allow pets so the kid has to leave the best dog in the world. Their apartment is a dump; I have no idea why they’re living there. Especially when the dad buys the kid Yankees season tickets when the kid is feeling blue. Why are you living there?!
The dog saves the day in just about every scene, with reality being stretched so much that this is almost Wonderland. Rainey the dog saved a girl who fell off a bridge by her grabbing his collar, despite the fact there was someone nearby who could have easily helped her. While some old guys are playing checkers on a train, Rainey uses his paw to jump over three pieces to win the game. Rainey plays the piano. Rainey sits at the dinner table. Rainey inherently knows train and boat schedules and knows exactly how to get to NYC because he SAW A PICTURE ON A POSTCARD. As if this isn’t nauseating enough, they honestly to get a point where God Himself wants Rainey to live. This is family sap so horribly done you should be insulted by how dumb these filmmakers think your kids are.
Counter-recommendation: Umberto D.
Sophie’s Revenge (Eva Jin, 2009)
Recommended by Claudia Johnson
It took me about halfway through the film to realize that this was the same Zhang Ziyi who kicked a lot of ass in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Hero” and even “Rush Hour 2.” It was hard to tell because in this she’s so … adorkable. Sophie was dumped by her fiancée for a movie starlet so she decides to seek her revenge. There are so many whimsical flights of fancy due to Sophie’s silly, overactive imagination that it’s often hard to tell what’s a dream and what’s real, yet it’s all so much fun. This is a world that better understands the modern woman who has grown up on sitcoms that I found this to be a lot more inventive than the new show on FOX, “The Mindy Project.” (This also handles fantasy understandings of breakups better than “(500) Days of Summer.”) It still falls into a few of the genre’s tropes, including how long it takes for her to recognize the perfect guy is right in front of her and how she falls down a lot. She literally falls from a two-story height three times in the movie. She should be dead. Thankfully, she isn’t.
Counter-recommendation: My Last Five Girlfriends
The Stuff (Larry Cohen, 1985)
Recommended by Allie Nicole
I’ve said this plenty of times during this marathon: I’m not a horror guy. So I should be judging this movie on its usually awful acting, way-too-obvious satire and overall cheesiness. Actually, no I shouldn’t because I should only judge those things if they got in the way of the story; those elements enhanced this one. The story of a low-fat treat that becomes so addictive it transforms its consumers into brainwashed monsters could not be made better if Martin Scorsese directed it. It needs someone like Larry Cohen to believe in the material and present it in a very earnest and dumb way. There are moments of inspiration when the stuff is seen as an alive mass, like in the hotel room, but mostly it’s just campy fun.
Counter-recommendation: They Live
Weighed But Found Wanting (Lino Brocka, 1974)
Recommended by Irvin Contreras
I have to admit something here; thankfully, I think I’m amongst friends. I have never seen a Filipino film. I know! I watched “The Bourne Legacy” which had a last act set in Manila, but I doubt that counts! So I started this up not knowing what I was getting into, and boy, did that first scene throw me for a loop. It’s very trippy and aggressive with its style as an abortion takes place. Things quickly settle back to a more conventional filming style and a more interesting movie. I’m still not sure how to describe what makes this different from other world cinemas — something I’m totally not fair to judge after one entry — but I really liked how Brocka let the scenes play out like they were just one natural take and dropped in casually on different pieces of the puzzle. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always curious.
This film is also known by its original title: “Tinimbang Ka Nqunit Kulang”
Counter-recommendation: “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They”
Next week I’ll watch my version of “Catching Fire,” dock in a dark harbor and take part in an activity that featured heavily in the last section or two of “Roots.”
10 to go…