Saturday, August 24, 2019

Against the Crowd Blogathon 2019: A Guest Post from Joel

Today is Day 2 of Against the Crowd Blogathon 2019! Thanks to those who kept us afloat yesterday with their unpopular opinions. Today is probably my favorite day of this event because I get to let super reader Joel take over the blog with his entry. He does not have his own blog, but he has been a reader for a number of years now, and has guest posted quite a few times. Before my gushing over him gets creepy, I'll just let him have his space.

In other words, his thoughts start after this sentence.

I could so easily express my feelings about this awful waste of celluloid by simply stating….Hated him! Hated her! Hated them together! Hated the situations presented! Hated IT!!

While that succinctly encapsulates my opinion I feel I should give a bit more.

Our “hero” Melvin Udall is an insufferable jackass-a bigot who demeans and insults everyone he sees or meets with some of the worst invective imaginable and who is such an anal compulsive he must do everything the exact same way every day including eating the same meal in the same restaurant (with his own plastic silverware no less!).

Only one waitress, Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt) will wait on him because he’s such a bastard. Why? Because she likes him? She does not. Because he treats her well? He most certainly does not. Because the script says she must? Bingo!

So with this thin sauce of a premise we progress to find out that Melvin has a neighbor, Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear-an actor I really like but whose performance here is mushy), a gay artist who Melvin takes every opportunity to malign and degrade. When during a robbery Simon is badly beaten and hospitalized for a long period Melvin must take care of his little dog for no other reason than a script contrivance. Unsurprisingly he dislikes the dog as much as he does people….until miracle of miracles the dog melts his heart and he becomes infinitesimally less of an asshole! Somehow this makes Carol fall for him despite the fact that they share zero chemistry and he still more or less treats her like something stuck to the bottom of his shoe. Ugh! Cut me a break!!!!

How this exercise in scrutinizing an almost thoroughly selfish, annoying and worthless pile of cow plop and the people foolish and/or stupid enough to put up with his odious mean spirited behavior was tapped for a flock of awards (7 Oscar nominations-including all the big ones-Picture, Screenplay, Actor, Actress and Supporting Actor!!) will always remain one of the mysteries of life. And the damn thing is endless!!! Nicholson gives one of his lazy noxious latter day “Just Jack” performances and Hunt is arch, brittle and unlikable-and they both won!! Saints preserve us!

Rarely has a title promised so much and delivered so very, very little!

Dr. Harry Wolper (Peter O’Toole) is an extraordinarily brilliant scientist, a Nobel Prize winner, at a prestigious medical research university in California. Head of his department he is revered, respected even beloved. He is also widely eccentric, notoriously so and some of his colleagues fear for the school’s funding and want him replaced. Oh and there’s one other small thing, 30 years ago Harry lost his wife Lucy (it’s never plainly stated but it was apparently during childbirth and the baby was lost as well), and he’s never completely let go. Being a scientist he extracted some of Lucy’s cells and has been quietly trying to clone her all this time in his backyard laboratory!

Suddenly into his life two people enter his sphere and radically change what up until now had been an unconventional but steady life. The first, young pre-med student Boris Lafkin (Vincent Spano) Harry snags away from his university rival Dr. Sid Kuhlenbeck (David Ogden Stiers), an excellent doctor but a conceited blowhard, to be his personal assistant by telling him he knows the name of the co-ed (a very young Virginia Madsen) Boris had followed into Harry’s lab. Rejecting all the courses Boris has signed up for as unnecessary Harry proceeds to school him in “The Big Picture”, Harry’s conception of life and what’s important.

The other is a young woman new to town, Meli (Mariel Hemingway) a brash, outspoken free spirit who Harry helps out of a jam. It happens that Harry is at a critical point towards his goal of bringing Lucy back but needs an egg to move forward. Meli out of gratitude agrees to be his source but in the interim falls for him and presses him for marriage. Harry still tied emotionally to the long gone Lucy is reluctant but for the first time in decades is drawn to someone new.

While the two of them play out their battle of wills Boris becomes acquainted with the object of his affection, Barbara Spencer who he had originally followed into the lab and after a brief period where they are platonic roommates they fall deeply in love. All looks rosy until the young couple must face a challenge that mirrors Harry’s tragedy of years before and which forces a reckoning for all.

Funny, poignant, quirky and evocative are all words that work for this and while it is often tonally uneven it is a wonderfully touching film with plenty of humor that the pragmatic and cold hearted critics savaged.

As much as I love the film I’ll be the first to admit it has some flaws. Mariel Hemingway being the biggest one, she has some scenes where she is very good but an almost equal number where she is incredibly awkward….and wait until you get a load of the caterpillars that have taken up residence over her eyes!! Full eyebrows are one thing but these babies are competing with Eugene Levy’s!!! It’s very distracting.

Then there are some of the artistic licenses taken by the screenwriter and the leaps of faith he asks the audience to take. But none of it matters because lording over and compensating for any small missteps is a positively masterful and compelling performance by the genius that was Peter O’Toole. It’s hard to put into words just how deeply he inhabits Harry, his smallest gesture tell you more about the life this man has lead than reams of dialog ever could.

Sure it’s imperfect but it’s also very human and with Peter O’Toole as your companion you really won’t need more.

There is still time to enter the Against the Crowd Blogathon 2019.


  1. Joel.... THANK YOU!!!! THANK YOU FOR TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT THAT AWFUL FUCKING, OVERRATED MOVIE!!! I never thought Jack was acting during that whole film but rather play an exaggerated version of his public persona. It's one of those movies that annoy the hell out of me as I don't understand why it's so overly-praised as it makes question why is James L. Brooks such a big deal when he's only really made one movie that I actually like in Broadcast News.

    Creator. That film is fucking underrated! Glad to know there's some love for it. I always thought it was a fun comedy and who couldn't enjoy seeing Mariel Hemingway flashing her boobs at David Odgen Stier during a touch football game? Oh wait, there are people who don't enjoy them. PC Principals, SJWs, and salty feminists.

    1. Yea!! Someone else who shares my detestation for that dreadful picture. As far as Brooks, he broke out of the director gate strong with Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News both of which I really liked then he faltered with I'll Do Anything but I was hopeful because of the first two when I walked into As Good As It Gets only to have those hopes completely dashed!

      Also delighted to know that you really like Creator!!! Such a sweet low-key film and Peter O'Toole was just an acting God....not that even he made Lawrence of Arabia bearable for me!!

  2. This is a great idea for a bloghop. Next time don't mess with my boy Jack.

    1. It is a great blogathon!

      There are many times in his younger days when I think Nicholson was terrific but something went awry after A Few Good Men and his work became lazy and in the main that "Just Jack" persona which I find incredibly irksome.

  3. Would you like to wait until after our Party Time tour for a guest post from us?

  4. Dell, as always you've made this look fantastic!!! Thank you so much for letting me participate! That GIF over the first film pretty much wraps up my feelings for that ghastly misfire of a movie.

    1. Thank you for taking the time out to put something together!

      I've avoided As Good as It Gets. My sister went and saw it then told me it was terrible. Morbid curiosity hasn't gotten the best of me yet. Yet. I found Creation enjoyable, but it's been a long time since I've seen it. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, the only thing I really remember is the aforementioned football game flash.

    2. So glad you liked Creator even if you can't recall most of it! Mariel's flash was a memorable moment, and a funny one, so I can't say I'm surprised you remember it. I am surprised you don't remember Virginia Madsen in the shower though.

      Maybe if you have a chance to see every good movie ever made you'll be able to watch that other film, otherwise don't sweat it-morbid curiosity or not!!

    3. Thing is, I've seen lots of shower scenes, but only one where a flash leads to a touchdown.

  5. I always love hearing from Joel! I agree with him on As Good As It Gets, that was praised so much and I just found it completely forgettable and lame. I haven't seen Creator though.

    1. Oh yay another anti-fan!!!! I mean seriously how are we supposed to become involved with the story of someone you'd cross the street to avoid if you saw them coming?

      Hope you see Creator. It's imperfect but I'm a sucker for it and Peter O'Toole is stupendous.

  6. Hey Joel! Here you are and I am sorry for seeing this late..not feeling well, again. Anyhoo, I am one of those numbnuts that Likes As Good As It gets even though I can`t stand Helen Hunt and agree with just about everything you said regarding the plot holes and mismatched people. I found it quite good with how he turns his life around and starts taking meds-jack Nicholson`s character. I have not seen your 2nd pick but laughed about her eye brows being compared to Eugene levy`s. I love Peter O-Toole who is an under-rated actor despite all the great films he was in. I would like to see this.

  7. Birgit so sorry to hear you're not feeling very well! Hopefully you'll be back on your feet soon.

    Obviously you're not alone in liking that Nicholson movie but it was torture for me to sit through and I needed a pill when it was over! (although not a sleeping pill since that snoozefest took care of that for me!)

    Hope you get a chance to see Creator, a bittersweet film.

    Mariel has long since abandoned that bushy eyebrow look but there for a while both she and sister Margaux sported it and I never understood why. It was eye catching but not in the good way.

    I LOVE Peter O'Toole! A giant talent and irresistibly charismatic he is so fantastic in this. I actually played with the idea of doing a theme using him as the linchpin for the blogathon since even though I think he's always wonderful I can not tolerate Lawrence of Arabia! But it's been many years since I saw that film and I just wasn't up to a rewatch even for Dell.