Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Narrated by Narrators That Do Not Appear on Screen


If you've come across a review or two of any film that uses the device, you'll know that I'm not really a fan of narrators. Usually, they do one of two things. They either tell me something the film would've been better off just showing me or, worse, they tell me something the film shows me anyway. A good narrator does neither, but still manages to add to the story without spoon-feeding it to me. These are few and far between. That, in a nutshell, is why I wasn't really looking forward to this particular topic of Thursday Movie Picks. The other reason is a me problem. I try to find a unique angle to these things. I often go out of my way to suggest movies you wouldn't have thought of for a given topic. I can't really do that this week. Couldn't think of any. That said, I'm a team player. I'll still suggest three movies that fit the topic that you should see, if you haven't already.


Y Tu Mamá También
(2001)
A pair of guys just coming into adulthood decide to go on a cross-country road trip. Through their own shenanigans, and her relationship trouble, they manage to convince an older lady to go with them. What we get is a poignant tale of discovery and friendhip. It's also, quite possibly, the best coming of age movie ever made.


The Brothers Bloom
(2008)
The story is a familiar one. A pair of conmen who happen to be brothers and have been doing it forever decide to pull one last job before getting out. Of course, this time they manage to rope in a beautiful woman to help them do it. The film manages to overcome those tropes with lots of flare, charm, and some wonderful performances by our three principle characters played by Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, and Rachel Weisz.


Horton Hears a Who!
(2008)
As humans we're given to occasionally wondering just how small a part we are of this vast universe. We even wonder if there are smaller universes lurking beneath what the naked eye can see. This movie brings those thoughts to life as an elephant accidentally discovers such a universe and then finds himself trying to save them from certain destruction. It's a wonderful tale that I feel has become criminally overlooked in a see of bigger, flashier kiddie flicks.


30 comments:

  1. Y Tu Mama Tambien is a great example of the off-screen narrator as it is used in tradition with the films of the French New Wave. It adds this sense of context of what is happening in Mexico at that time as it relates the different social classes between Tenoch and Julio. I don't remember much on the narration of The Brothers Bloom by Ricky Jay but I still enjoyed the hell out of it.

    I haven't seen Horton Hears a Who so I can't say anything about that. One film that has an off-screen narrator that I felt never worked was Vicky Cristina Barcelona as I found it to be very distracting. That's an example of narration that doesn't work at all though it is still a good film.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Y tu is magnificent in every sense. The narrator does add lots of context and works perfectly. Same for The Brothers Bloom. I'm okay with the narration in VCB, but it's not my favorite.

      Delete
  2. LOVE these! I am already using the first two for other themes, so they were off the table for me (making this week extra hard), but I didn't even think of Horton, and that's such a great one, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Horton is wonderful and Charles Osgood is sublime.

      Delete
  3. These are excellent choices! It's been a long time since I've seen The Brothers Bloom. I'd like to watch that again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a very fun film that has become forgotten, unfortunately. Need to rewatch it myself.

      Delete
  4. This was a toughie and you can certainly be forgiven for having a hard time finding the more obscure titles that you do so well, I'm anxiously anticipating what you'll come up with the week the theme is So Bad, They're Good!, but these are terrific choices.

    Y Tu Mamá También is a lovely film and the narration adds so much. I think my hopes were too high for Brothers Bloom because I LOVE Rachel Weisz so much and really like Mark Ruffalo unfortunately even though they were customarily excellent the film got on my nerves after a while. I haven't seen Horton, I love the story but you know animation just isn't my thing.

    I struggled too. I could think of many films with narration but they all were by characters who were on-screen for some period of the film but I did finally manage to come up with three by reaching way back for my third.

    Ever After (1998)-Charming rethink of the Cinderella tale with Drew Barrymore a sweet but tough Cinder substitute now named Danielle, Anjelica Huston rockin’ it as a total bitch of a stepmother in whom she still manages to find nuance and Judy Parfitt and Timothy West a highly entertaining Queen and King. Somehow it also finds a way to include Leonardo da Vinci in the story too! Excellent production design. Jeanne Moreau narrates the tale as a reverie.

    How the West Was Won (1962)-Sprawling multi-generational saga with a cast full of legends (James Stewart, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Debbie Reynolds, Gregory Peck plus about 20 other recognizable names) tells of the settling of the West in amazing Cinerama. Follows the Prescott family and their descendants through the hardships and joys of taming the wild land. Broken into three segments each helmed by a different director (John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall) this has stunning vistas and a great many excellent performances. Spencer Tracy provides the off-screen narration that connects the vignettes as well as the introduction and denouement.

    So Dear to My Heart (1949)-Wholesome Disney entertainment of poor country boy Jeremiah (the ill-fated Bobby Driscoll) adopting a black lamb rejected by its mother. As the mischievous lamb christened Danny grows Jeremiah determines to enter him in the county fair but that takes money he doesn’t have. He uses his daydreams-complete with animated Disney characters-to figure out ways to achieve his goal. Good family film with old reliables Burl Ives and Beulah Bondi filling out the cast. The unseen John Beal narrates as the grown Jeremiah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Brothers Bloom is not a great movie, but it is pretty so you may have been expecting too much if you were looking for anything more.

      I saw How the West was Won a couple times when I was a kid, but don't remember much. Need to revisit that. Haven't seen the others, at all.

      Delete
    2. Oh you're in for a treat with HTWWW, it's been remastered with new technology which was able to erase the lines that were always there because of Cinerama and it is just breathtaking now. I saw it on Blu-Ray and it was just WOW!! Plus you just can't top a cast like the one they were able to pull together.

      Delete
    3. Cool. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on it.

      Delete
  5. I forgot about the Brothers Bloom because it has been so long since I have seen it. That was a good movie. I have not seen the other 2 though. I have seen the first film pop up on other blogs at different times so i should check that out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should absolutely check that one out.

      Delete
  6. I just watched Y Tu Mamá También this month and was surprised by the twist, didn't see that coming at all. The film really does encapsulate free-spiritedness very well. Who is the narrator? I imagined was Gael García Bernal's character looking back. On wikipedia just says omniscient narrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you got to see this. It's marvelous, ain't it?Best I can tell, the narrator is just that, an omniscient presence telling us the story.

      Delete
  7. I can't believe I forgot Y Tu Mama Tambien had a narrator! LOVE that movie. Thank you for reminding me that I need to see Brothers Bloom - totally missed it in theaters even though I really wanted to see it at the time. I really like this version of Horton although I think Jim Carrey overdoes it a BIT too much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love to hear what you think of The Brothers Bloom when you get to it. Jim Carrey almost always overdoes it bit too much, lol.

      Delete
  8. I haven't seen any of your choices, heard a lot of good things about Y Tu Mama Tambien so perphaps I should put that on my watchlist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I highly recommend seeing it. It's a fantastic film.

      Delete
  9. I've forgotten about the narrator in Y Tu Mama Tambien! Horton Hears a Who was quite enjoyable, I prefer this to the Cat in the Hat movie that I think came out around the same time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also enjoy Horton more than The Cat in the Hat. Much more, in fact.

      Delete
  10. Darn. I haven't seen any of these movies. Y Tu Mama Tambien has been on my list for a million years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please see that one. It's a fantastic film.

      Delete
  11. I haven't seen any of these films, but I've heard a lot of great things about Y Tu Mamá También.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are a lot of great things to hear about that movie. Hope you see it soon.

      Delete
  12. Man, I just freakin' watched Y Tu Mama Tambien for like the fifth time, and I didn't even think of it here. I've used it a couple times for Thursday Picks though, so I'm fine with leaving it off. Haven't seen the other two, but I definitely want to see The Brothers Bloom. I loved both Brick and Looper and feel I need to be a Rian Johnson completist before seeing his Star Wars installment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Y Tu Mama Tambien is so great, isn't it? Interesting take on Rian Johnson. I think you'll enjoy The Brothers Bloom, though.

      Delete
  13. What a great idea for a post. It really got me thinking about narrators in films, and how I seem to prefer them in films when they are a character. I have only seen the first of the films you highlight, so I clearly need to see more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If nothing else, you have seen the right one. I still highly recommend the other two, though.

      Delete
  14. I think my comment disappeared... weird

    Excellent picks - although I haven't seen all of Horton, it boths scared and delighted me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scared? That's an odd reaction, to me at least. I hope you power through and watch the rest.

      Delete