I would like to begin this post by saying that today is my birthday! And thanks to Dan Stephens, not only do I get one wish but ten, being a part of this blogathon that asks its…members?… about the fictional movie worlds I would like to enter for specific reasons. This blogathon is inspired by his post on The Last Action Hero. I’ve only seen the trailer for this movie, even if there’s a local cinema that plays this move once in a while. Anyway, let’s begin!
What character would you most like to be sat next to on a plane?
That woman who is one of James Cole’s (Bruce Willis) boss from Twelve Monkeys. Or better yet, any character from Twelve Monkeys.
What character would you most want to enjoy a passionate romance with?
Dotorre Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintingnant) from The Conformist, although it wouldn’t end well.
If you were a cop who would you want as your partner?
In who could also be my answer for the passionate romance question, Billy Costigan (Leonardo di Caprio) from The Departed. Digression, but Leo should have been nominated for here Oscar here instead of Blood Diamond.
What animated feature would you love to walk around in?
Fantasia, like are you kidding me? The first sequence is Abstract Expressionism avant la lettre! I’ve also drunkenly danced to the ballet dancing hippos, so I guess I have used my ticket for this already.
What adventure based on earth would you most like to go on / OR / What adventure based in an otherworldly, fantasy-based location would you most like to go on? I.e. Would you like to join the Goonies on their treasure-finding mission, or Luke Skywalker in his search for his family’s murderer?
For the earthly one, I’d choose whatever happens in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I know that I probably won’t survive but swordplay is an adventure.
When it comes to the fantasy-based place, I’d pick Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) trying not to erase Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) froom his memory in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Because what could be more otherworldly than someone else’s changing brain?
What movie gadget would you love to try out (or steal)?
The Delorean in the Back to the Future films. Are we even allowed to talk about this magic transportation movie in a post about another magical way of transportation? Or can we talk about the art house version of those gadgets, specifically the movie screen in The Purple Rose of Cairo?
What film’s plot would you alter and how would you do it?
Atom Egoyan’s Chloë. I don’t know how and I don’t know if my presence and power would cure the plot from being ridiculous.
What one film would you most want to be transported into, simply to be a part of that world?
The 1860’s in The Leopard. I know it’s unsanitary and heteronormative and that period has religious hypocrisy, but it’s also like Gone with the Wind but in Italian. And the balls and the chance to dance with either Principe Felipe de Salina (Burt Lancaster) or his son’s fiancée (Claudia Cardinale)? Get me my Magic Houdini ticket now.
The titular Brothers Grimm (Heath Ledger, Matt Damon) are quack exorcists, redundant as that is, who, by order of a conquering French military official (Jonathan Pryce), have to face a real enchanted forest and risk their lives in the process.
Sure, there are references to the Limbourg Brothers and the pre-Raphaelite movement, but The Brothers Grimm just has too much CGI and there’s nothing real and/or astounding about the film. Sure, that might be too much to ask for in a fantasy film, but director Terry Gilliam usually uses something concrete. Remember when Parnassus has painted cardboard or plywood trees, but even that was awesome? Actual sets in this film are unfortunately given some weird post-production finish. Even the gold lighting doesn’t help. Auteur hunter Damon and Gilliam regular Ledger do great work, settling for a ‘theatrical’ British accent, even if the plot takes them nowhere. And it’s kind of nice to see Gilliam regular Pryce combine his roles in The Age of Innocence and the Pirates series in one movie. Now if only he can do half-Brazil, half Peron. What is he up to, by the way?
I remember this film being advertised as a horror film, taking the Gilliam-esque comedy out of the trailer. It’s not like the comedy worked too well anyway. The most fascinating thing about this film is the strange surge of German nationalism in a Hollywood film. When was the last time that happened? It focuses the country’s folkloric history. The British or cockney-accented Germans are the good guys and the French-accented French are the bad guys. The film risks labeling Germans as hicks, but they’re not hicks if the tales they believe in are true. And the Red Riding Hood sequence was more haunting than the one in the Amanda Seyfried-Catherine Hardwicke movie that I will probably never see. But unfortunately, those are the film’s only redeeming values.
During the first half of “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”, I asked myself “Where was this going,” “When is it gonna end.” Terry Gilliam films promise you a lot of fantasy but the first half shows in the aughties’ version of grunge – alcohol, London traffic, tattered costumes, all three revolving around the travelling circus, especially the immortal Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), the film’s troubled storyteller. He has lost control of his show, the world has lost interest in his stories. Add Tony (Heath Ledger) to the mix and his presence and suggestions add conflict to the other members of the cast-in-wagon (Andrew Garfield, for instance).
A part of ‘Parnassus” also feels like a perfume ad, Valentina (Lily Cole) floating in the air, her dress swirling, her arms reaching towards the oversized flowers and high-heeled shoes while Imaginarium Tony (Johnny Depp) dances with an elderly woman. That doesn’t mean I have a prejudice against this former model, it’s the other way around. Nonetheless, the occasionally frustrating glimpses in the imaginarium are a bit distant and CGI for me to look at it with wonder.
The Imaginarium Tonys (also Jude Law and Colin Farrell), despite being a part of the fantasy world, actually grounds the film. The most emotionally gripping parts of the film are when Tonys personal troubles follow him in the imaginarium. It would have been nice to see Heath in these parts because they’re the meatier part of the role, but the incorporation of four actors in one role is well done.
The film ends with Plummer being another beggar, the fantasy world gone. His old friend Percy (Verne Toryer, not a cameo) wonders if the beggar is the Great Doctor Parnassus. Is greatness compromised when life drags on?
I also caught “The Last Station” this past Wednesday, which was a little more even. The peaks and valleys of each character are charted in placed where you will know to find them. If I did not end up watching the film, it would be immortalised in my mind as the one where Countess Sofya Tolstaya (Helen Mirren) breaks plates and shoots a gun as shown in the trailers. It’s more than that, but there’s still some genre conventions within it. Got a problem with melodrama?
I wanna talk about the nuances in James MacAvoy as Valentin Bulgakov, the way MacAvoy is the best male crier in the industry, this time keeping himself still yet making the moment raw. How the film does not take his away from a shot when he goes from one emotion to another. How the other characters does not allow him to evolve from a spineless intellectual. How a beard does not make a man.
Helen Mirren also makes me doubt my choice as putting Gabourey Sidibe as my Oscar choice, although Sidibe is still number one. Sofya makes the characters around her listen to every word without making it look wink-wink nudge-nudge. You sympathize with her as extremist Tolstoyans like Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) try to take away her influence from her husband. Yet her last request to her husband to come home with her still sounds duplicitous.
We see the film in Bulgakov’s eyes. However, as much as all these characters tugging at each other is sometimes fun to watch, but I still wonder who is the centre in all this intrigue.
It’s really hard to talk about movies I love. Since I was under the academic wing, movie writing is especially difficult with examples that have a lot of comic relief. I would be talking about a pimp describing “a coked up whore (not Madeleine Stowe) and a fucking crazy dentist (not Bruce Willis)” instead of dystopia.
And dystopia’s pretty much what the movie’s about – the world is shit both in the 1990’s and in the mid 21st century. We see a grungy mental institution with overconfident psychiatrists and contrasted against a group of scientists who cannot even get the poor man to travel in time properly. The 1990’s attitude is when psychiatry and labeling people like James Cole as crazy is the norm instead of helping him as the prophet that he is. The 21st century, however, does not want to overdo themselves by changing the future but instead want to learn from it. The future scientists also get closer to their mark in all their attempts to solve their historical puzzle.
I also love how “Twelve Monkeys” is the closest well-resulting thing we can have of a Vertigo remake without it being too literal and therefore terrible. At one point, I even felt like this film is better than Vertigo. Like the Hitchcock film, one person contracts the crazy just as the other tries to wean himself off it. Both use insanity as a metaphor for love and vice versa, as the protagonists want to live in a perfect world and want to share that with someone. It’s this dream and mismatched love tragedy that makes us come back for more. And I’m not the biggest fan of Vertigo and writing that makes me wanna watch it again to see if I love the whole as much as I love the parts.
I also watched “If” and “Elephant,” and tried to put three movies in some umbrella post of violence, but it ain’t gonna work. I will talk about the two movies mentioned in this paragraph in a later post.