Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Against the Crowd Blogathon 2015: A Guest Post by Joel
When I started this blogathon, I did so with the hope that the extremely knowledgeable Joel would contribute. If you're unfamiliar with Joel, he's only the bestest reader a film blogger could ever hope to have. His comments are detailed, insightful, and almost always informs me of a movie I hadn't seen. Like the rest of us, he has movies he loves that everyone else hates, and vice-versa. Since he doesn't have a blog, I open up this space for him to vent. I'll let him take it from here.
I want to preface this by saying I couldn’t use my original choice for a film that is beloved but I hate, The Sheltering Sky-possibly the worst movie ever made by a big name director, Bernardo Bertolucci with major stars of the time, Debra Winger and John Malkovich, because though it was highly praised at the time of release cooler heads have now prevailed and it has a rating of 50%. That is far too generous, a rating of 5% would be closer the mark. I also considered The Bicycle Thief which I found interminable and a huge waste of celluloid and that has a rating of 98% but my memories of it a happily vague and I wasn’t about to revisit it.
Instead I chose:
Let me start by saying I love British films, I love British historical films even more. Add in the determination of the human spirit to overcome obstacles and it’s even closer to my sweet spot. This movie has all that and yet I HATE IT ABSOLUTELY!!! The friend I went to see it with in the theater cried at the conclusion, “How beautiful it was” she said while I wept tears of boredom. From the first frames of someone running, oh God did they EVER do anything else?, this was sheer agony. British film is often low-key and restrained I get that and I’m ready for it. This was somnambulant. A typical scene: whine, whine, whine “You can DO IT!” inspiration renewed and they run in sssslllllloooooooowwwwww mmmmmmoooootttttttiiiiiiiiiooooooooonnnnnnnnn with that freaking Vangelis music in the background!! By the time it mercifully ended I had a lifelong hate for both the film and Vangelis.
The most painful aspect of the film is that it won an Oscar as Best Picture against four films that were infinitely better including Raiders of the Lost Ark! Okay On Golden Pond was only marginally better but still superior to this exercise in pomposity. Hell even though Reds, another competitor, was endless at least it was ABOUT something!
Which brings me to my film that is reviled but that I love.
Okay I’ll admit that this movie has a whiplash inducing switch in tone mid picture from frothy comedy lampooning jurisprudence to a drama that examines legal and moral ethics and that the lawyerly tricks on display would likely never be found in a real courtroom and probably get the lead character disbarred so fast as to make his head spin.
If any film truly showed most of what occurs in a regular courtroom no one would want to watch it, they’d be too busy sleeping. Judd Nelson may be a trifle unctuous but that’s what the character of Robin ”Stormy” Weathers is all about, he’s an ambitious showboating climber willing to make a jackass of himself if it gets his name in the paper and moves him up the partnership chain. The first section where he turns a simple assault case into a first amendment plea is fun with hysterical turns from Edward Winter as a plain talking bank president and especially Ray Walston as a flummoxed judge trying to preside over what becomes increasingly a circus, the film is packed with great character actors, Nancy Marchand, Darren McGavin, Alan Arbus, a very young David Alan Grier and an even younger Elizabeth Perkins. Then there’s that almost complete about face when Stormy is assigned an unwinnable murder case, it takes some getting used to but there is an award caliber performance by John Hurt playing as he puts it “a pissed off English teacher” who just happens to be a homicidal maniac.
Most of the critics trounced the movie saying that it’s totally implausible, UMMMMM it’s a movie with John Bender from The Breakfast Club as a lawyer, were you really expecting Witness for the Prosecution when you walked into the theatre? To all that I say SO WHAT! I love it.