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Terry Gilliam

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Paths of Terry.

“Not quite an epiphany, but there was ‘Paths of Glory.’…It was two things: first here was technology that I’d never been aware of, the tracking shots through the trenches which of course I copied in ‘Brazil,’ but I’d never been aware of the camera before that film and the second thing was that you talk about injustice in the film, you could talk about big themes, ideas.”

As part of series over at IndieWire, Terry Gilliam discusses his life in eight movies. “That was my problem at a certain age…I still believed in movies in those days. I don’t anymore. Give me a drive-in now any day.”

The Hardbender Theorem.

“The problem to me is, yes, it’s hard to get the money because even though I’m making films with no money, they still want Johnny [Depp] or Brad [Pitt] in it. It’s stupid, it’s ridiculous. The new phrase that’s floating around is you need a ‘hard-bender’ if you’re doing a film of a certain size. A ‘hard-bender’ is one with either Tom Hardy or Michael Fassbender and it never stops, it always astonishes me.”

With The Zero Theorem in the can — a trailer of sorts is hereIndiewire checks in with Terry Gilliam on the state of the business. “It’s so immediate now, there’s very little long-term thinking. I mean, Johnny [Depp] is one of the few who can keep making films that are somehow less successful and still end up on people’s lists.”

Return I Will, to Old Brazil.

“An opening title card declares that Brazil takes place ‘somewhere in the 20th century,’ but the date and location are deliberately muddy; it’s a dystopian world built from a mishmash of eras, part future and part past. Sam Lowry (played by Jonathan Pryce) is a competent, content functionary in a world ruled by a hideously broken bureaucracy, under assault by unknown terrorists, and compensating with kidnapping and torture…in Brazil, over and over again, people turn to fantasy to let them briefly step outside a junky, dysfunctional world controlled by an oppressive yet strikingly indifferent government.”

“Sometimes, madness is the right response to a mad world. Sometimes, illusion is the only way out.” By way of a longtime reader, The Keynote‘s Tasha Robinson discusses the origins and greatness of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, one of my trifecta of all-time favorite films (along with Amadeus and Miller’s Crossing) and at least partly the namesake of GitM (Ere I am, JH…) — I got the still above signed at a Gilliam event in NYC in October 2006. Some great stuff in here — I actually never knew, or had forgotten, how close this came to being a Tom Cruise vehicle — That would’ve been a error of Tuttle/Buttle proportions. Da dum, da da da da da dee dum

Mighty Ray Young.

Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation.”

“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS” — George Lucas.

“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie.’ Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least.” — Peter Jackson

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.” — Terry Gilliam.

“I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.” — James Cameron

The Master stops motion: R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen, 1920-2013.

Return I will to old Brazil.

“Christoph Waltz [plays] Qohen Leth, a computer programmer toiling to understand the meaning of existence. However, surrounded by ‘mancams’ that report all unusual actions back to the shadowy corporate authority known as the Management, Leth finds his efforts repeatedly interrupted by distractions, including a teenager and a lusty love interest.”

Back at work in the fields of dystopia that brought forth Brazil and 12 Monkeys — and even as Johnny Depp opts for his own Quixote project after all these years — Terry Gilliam is apparently hard a work on his next project, currently being filmed: The Zero Theorem. “David Thewlis, Tilda Swinton, and Matt Damon will co-star.”

The High-Water Mark.


And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”

“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

Craft of the Python.


All you lazy people out there who want to get maximum effect from minimum work, I want you to meet the arch-idler of all time, Terry “Python” Gilliam!” Via the Twitter machine, Terry Gilliam, circa 1974, explains the craft of cut-out animation. “The problem when you’re doing cutouts is to be totally aware of the limitations…I’m always accused of doing violent things, well, it’s because of the nature of cut-outs.

Quixote v. Kenobi.

‘Robert Duvall is one of the greats, no question – and he can ride a horse!’ laughed Gilliam. ‘And Ewan has gotten better over the years. He was wonderful in The Ghost. There’s a lot of colours to Ewan that he’s not been showing recently and it’s time for him to show them again. He’s got a great sense of humour and he’s a wonderful actor. He’s wonderfully boyish and can be charming – when he flashes a smile, everybody melts. He wields it like a nuclear bomb!

While currently busy with The Damnation of Faust for the English National Opera, Terry Gilliam reveals he has a cast ready for his second attempt at The Man Who Killed Don Quixote: Robert Duvall and Ewan MacGregor, in the Jean Rochefort (Quixote) and Johnny Depp roles respectively. Shooting begins this September.

Unfinished Symphony.

The second installment of Friday’s triple-threat, Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is an often meandering, occasionally magnificent beauty, and a film that I expect will satisfy Gilliam fans, and those with a tolerance for his indulgences, more than it does people just looking to take in Heath Ledger’s last curtain call.

To be honest, this motley extravaganza ends up running a bit too long. And Parnassus is a ragged carnival at that, becoming more inchoate as it spins its wheels. Plus, Ledger’s final performance, alas, is mostly just set-up without the follow-through — Other actors play the meat of the character. Still, despite the movie’s very visible faults, Imaginarium nonetheless feels like a loving throwback to the days of Gilliam’s “Trilogy of Imagination,” particularly Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. (In fact, Gilliam now argues that this film replaces Brazil in that trilogy.) And, if, like me, you have any fondness for the old-school, crazy-cartoonist, anything-can-happen Gilliam, Imaginarium is a very worthwhile experience nonetheless.

True, Parnassus is nowhere near as good or as perfectly formed as Brazil, which remains Gilliam”s magnum opus. (Although one reason this movie may have that “classic” Gilliam feel to it is the presence of co-screenwriter Charles McKeown, who helped pen Brazil and Munchausen, and appeared in the former as “Harvey Lime,” Sam Lowry’s desk-mate.) Nor is it as taut and self-contained as the three quality entrants in Gilliam’s “Trilogy of Americana” — The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. All that being said, Parnassus is the best movie Gilliam has made in over a decade, and it definitely allows him the chance to let his freak flag fly.

For Imaginarium centers on a portal — a magic mirror — that keeps leading into a “world of pure imagination,” one that bears some unmistakable glimmers of the old Monty Python scrapbook-cartoons. Kept in the possession of an immortal sage named Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer, in the plummiest (Plummiest?) role he’s had in years), this mirror has been used as a field of not-so-friendly wagering between he and the Devil (Tom Waits, a casting coup) for thousands of years. Through this garden of Gilliamesque delights wander the unknowing souls who happen upon Dr. Parnassus’ roadshow and walk through the mirror. And, more often than not — people being people — they make lousy decisions and end up in the bad company of Old Nick.

Now, thanks to another ill-advised bet with the Devil, the eternal soul of Parnassus’ only daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), is at stake. And, given that this good Doctor only has two allies in the world — Percy, his diminutive and long-suffering #2 (Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer), and a young orphan lad named Anton (Andrew Garfield) — it doesn’t look like there’s much help on the horizon. (Troyer, by the way, [a] cannot act worth a damn and [b] seems game for pretty much anything. But Garfield is really good. I kept thinking “Who is this guy? he’s solid” throughout. And, unlike Sam Worthington, he actually seems deserving of some of the Next-Big-Thing hype he’s getting right now.)

Anyway, as the tarot cards predicted, Dr. Parnassus’ troupe encounters a hanged man underneath a bridge (Ledger — yes, this intro is more than a bit eerie now.) Once revived, this fellow — Tony, formerly a charity organizer who ran into trouble — is something of an X-Factor in the age-old battle between Parnassus and the Devil. Whose side is he on? Well, as it turns out, he’s on Tony’s side. And, once he gets wind of the mirror, and the world that lies on the other side, he finds himself contemplating, almost despite himself, how he might best take advantage of the situation…

So, the elephant in the room — Heath Ledger. As it turns out, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus represents both an amazing stroke of luck and a mild disappointment. The stroke of luck is that very few stories out there could accommodate Ledger’s unfinished turn as well as this one. Here, the fact that Tony’s appearance changes every time he steps into the mirror-world — he becomes Johnny Depp, Jude Law, or Colin Farrell — feels almost intuitive and organic, as if it could have been written this way in the first place. But that being said, most of Tony’s major character-beats happen in the mirrorverse, and so Ledger’s role in “our” world — which is mostly just set-up — feels unfinished all-the-same.

In fact, “unfinished” is a good way to sum up both the weaknesses and the strengths of Imaginarium. About 20 minutes in and after several early mirror-world reveries, right as we venture into the past to witness the Doctor’s first Faustian wager, I was thinking this was turning out to be easily one of Gilliam’s best films. But the movie loses its way in the muddled middle going, and by the time, late in the show, when Valentina dances with the Devil in the pale mirrorlight, I had sorta emotionally checked out of Parnassus. (Even then, it’s still fun to watch random items well up from Gilliam’s mindscape — say, the upscale shopping mall and dowdy, pearl-clutching madam of Brazil (“My complication had a little complication“), or the fantasy-on-the-social-fringes aspects of The Fisher King. There’s even a random musical number — sung by policemen in fishnets, no less — which just about screams Monty Python.

So, yes, Ledger’s performance seems only half-there, and the rambling story at hand could’ve probably done with some screw-tightening. But, Imaginarium also feels “unfinished” in a happier sense. Whether this was a strange example of kismet or the script was tinkered with after Ledger’s passing, several of the scenes — most notably Johnny Depp’s — seem to comment directly in tribute to the fallen actor. (“Nothing is permanent, not even death.“)

And in a sense, the whole movie works like that too. As we find out in flashback, Dr. Parnassus once headed a devout order of shamans committed to the Tinkerbellish proposition that, so long as somebody was telling a story, the universe would always continue to exist. Similarly, so long as people keep watching The Dark Knight or The Patriot, I’m Not There or Brokeback Mountain, Ten Things I Hate About You, or, yes, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, so too will Heath Ledger.

A Taste for the Theatrical.

A big one I missed the other day (found on Vanity Fair): The trailer for Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is now online, with Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer, Lily Cole, and, in his final performance, Heath Ledger (abetted by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law.) Wow. Looks more Gilliamesque than anything Terry’s done in years.

Patience of the Mule.

Brazil‘ is the one that will probably be stamped on my grave because that on seemed to have made a big effect on a lot of people. And that’s all I’m trying to do is affect people.” CNN talks briefly with Terry Gilliam on Heath Ledger’s passing, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and sundry other topics. “Talent is less important in filmmaking than patience. If you really want your films to say something that you hope is unique, then patience and stamina, thick skin and a kind of stupidity. A mule-like stupidity is what you really need.

Tilting at Windmills Anew.

There’s no escaping some pacts. Nearly ten years on I find myself lending a hand to get that crazed, giggling bedlamite back in the saddle. I’m talking about Don Quixote. In spite of God and the Devil, he shall ride again!” With The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus in the can and at Cannes, the inimitable Terry Gilliam sets his sights on The Man Who Killed Don Quixote once more. Here’s hoping try #2 doesn’t get Lost in La Mancha.

We are Heath Ledger.

Soon after Heath Ledger’s untimely death (ultimately ruled an accident) a few weeks ago, there was a rumor floating around that Johnny Depp would step in to save Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus by playing the “mirror-world” Heath. (“There is a point in the film when Heath falls through a magic mirror. He could change into another character after that and that is where Johnny would come in.“) As it turns out, the truth is even more interesting. According to AICN, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell have all signed on for Imaginarium to pay tribute to Ledger and to help salvage his final performance. All class acts…here’s hoping Gilliam can make something special out of Ledger’s final bow.

From one actor to another.

“I feel very unsettled at the moment…It seems somehow strange to be talking about anything else. Not that there’s anything to say really except to express one’s regret and to say from the bottom of one’s heart to his family and to his friends that I’m sorry for their trouble.Daniel Day-Lewis pays an emotional tribute to Heath Ledger. [Story.]

In related news, some reports indicate Johnny Depp, of the previously sidelined The Man who Killed Don Quixote, may be asked by Terry Gilliam to finish Ledger’s work on Imaginarium. “There is a point in the film when Heath falls through a magic mirror. He could change into another character after that and that is where Johnny would come in. It’s a weird, fantasy, time-travel movie so Heath’s character could easily change appearance. It would be a poignant moment. Johnny’s not working at the moment so everyone is praying he will do it.

Update: Daniel Day-Lewis dedicates his SAG award to Heath Ledger.

Parnassus Passes.

Who knows what Faustian bargain he made this time, but Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is happily off the ground, and will begin shooting next month. (The script leaked last March.) Imaginarium will star Christopher Plummer (as the titular doctor), Heath Ledger, Verne Troyer, and, in a choice bit of casting, Tom Waits as the Devil.

Twenty-Five for Fanboys.

EW lists the top 25 sci-fi offerings (in tv and film) of the past twenty-five years. Pretty arbitrary, really, but it includes Brazil (at #6), BSG (at #2 — these two should have switched places), Children of Men (#14), Eternal Sunshine (#17 — same problem), Aliens (#9), The Thing (#10), The X-Files (#4), Galaxy Quest (#24), and Blade Runner (#3), so it’s by no means a bad list. (Both Lost and Heroes should be replaced, however.) Just from what’s missing above, you can probably guess #1…can’t you, Mr. Anderson?

The Imaginarium of Dr. Gilliam.

FilmIck.com publishes a long and very spoilerish review of a new Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown script, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. What with dwarves, dreams, and traveling circuses, this sounds right in their wheelhouse.

Jack Lint, Everyman?

“Gilliam came nearest to inventing his own country with Brazil (1985), one of the key political films of the late 20th century. Brazil is one of the great political films, an extraordinary mixture of Fellini and Kafka, with a complex force of synthesized images, which belongs to Gilliam alone.” In Slate, critic Clive James assesses Brazil‘s take on torture, and what Michael Palin’s Jack Lint does and doesn’t tell us about the men usually holding the implements.

2006 (Finally) in Film.

Well, there are still a number of flicks I haven’t yet seen — David Lynch’s Inland Empire, for example, which I hope to hit up this weekend. But as the Oscar nods were announced today, and as the few remaining forlorn Christmas trees are finally being picked up off the sidewalk, now seems the last appropriate time to crank out my much belated end-of-2006 film list (originally put off to give me time to make up for my New Zealand sojourn.) To be honest, I might’ve written this list a few weeks earlier, had it not happened that I ended up seeing the best film of 2005 in mid-January of last year, thus rendering the 2005 list almost immediately obsolescent. But, we’ll get to that — As it stands, 2006 was a decent year in movies (in fact a better year in film than it was in life, the midterms notwithstanding), with a crop of memorable genre flicks and a few surprisingly worthy comebacks. And, for what it’s worth, I thought the best film released in 2006 was…

Top 20 Films of 2006

[2000/2001/2002/2003/2004/2005]

1. United 93: A movie I originally had no interest in seeing, Paul Greengrass’s harrowing docudrama of the fourth flight on September 11 captured the visceral shock of that dark day without once veering into exploitation or sentimentality (the latter the curse of Oliver Stone’s much inferior World Trade Center.) While 9/11 films of the future might offer more perspective on the origins and politics of those horrible hours, it’s hard to imagine a more gripping or humane film emerging anytime soon about the day’s immediate events. A tragic triumph, United 93 is an unforgettable piece of filmmaking.

[1.] The New World (2005): A movie which seemed to divide audiences strongly, Terence Malick’s The New World was, to my mind, a masterpiece. I found it transporting in ways films seldom are these days, and Jamestown a much richer canvas for Malick’s unique gifts than, say, Guadalcanal. As the director’s best reimagining yet of the fall of Eden, The New World marvelously captured the stark beauty and sublime strangeness of two worlds — be they empires, enemies, or lovers — colliding, before any middle ground can be established. For its languid images of Virginia woodlands as much as moments like Wes Studi awestruck by the rigid dominion over nature inherent in English gardens, The New World goes down as a much-overlooked cinematic marvel, and (sorry, Syriana) the best film of 2005.

2. Letters from Iwo Jima: Having thought less of Flags of our Fathers and the woeful Million Dollar Baby than most people, I was almost completely thrown by the dismal grandeur and relentless gloom of Eastwood’s work here. To some extent the Unforgiven of war movies, Iwo Jima is a bleakly rendered siege film that trafficks in few of the usual tropes of the genre. (Don’t worry — I suspect we’ll get those in spades in two months in 300.) Instead of glorious Alamo-style platitudes, we’re left only with the sight of young men — all avowed enemies of America, no less — swallowed up and crushed in the maelstrom of modern combat. From Ken Watanabe’s commanding performance as a captain going down with the ship to Eastwood’s melancholy score, Letters works to reveal one fundamental, haunting truth: Tyrants may be toppled, nations may be liberated, and Pvt. Ryans may be saved, but even “good wars” are ultimately Hell on earth for those expected to do the fighting.

3. Children of Men: In the weeks since I first saw this film, my irritation with the last fifteen minutes or so has diminished, and Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men has emerged for what it is — one of the most resonant “near-future” dystopias to come down the pike in a very long while, perhaps since (the still significantly better) Brazil. Crammed with excellent performances by Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and others, Children is perhaps a loosely-connected grab bag of contemporary anxieties and afflictions (terrorism, detainment camps, pharmaceutical ads, celebrity culture). But it’s assuredly an effective one, with some of the most memorable and naturalistic combat footage seen in several years to boot. I just wished they’d called that ship something else…

4. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: True, the frighteningly talented Sasha Baron Cohen spends a lot of time in this movie shooting fish in a barrel, and I wish he’d spent a little more time eviscerating subtler flaws in the American character than just knuckle-dragging racists and fratboy sexists. Still, the journeys of Borat Sagdiyev through the Bible Buckle and beyond made for far and away the funniest movie of the year. Verry nice.

5. The Prestige: I originally had this in Children of Men‘s spot, as there are few films I enjoyed as much this year as Christopher Nolan’s sinister sleight-of hand. But, even after bouncing Children up for degree of difficulty, that should take nothing away from The Prestige, a seamlessly made genre film about the rivalries and perils of turn-of-the-century prestidigitation. (There seems to be a back-and-forth between fans of this film and The Illusionist, which I sorta saw on a plane in December. Without sound (which, obviously, is no way to see a movie), Illusionist seemed like an implausible love story set to a tempo of anguished Paul Giamatti reaction shots. In any case, I prefer my magic shows dark and with a twist.) Throw in extended cameos by David Bowie and Andy Serkis — both of which help to mitigate the Johansson factor — and The Prestige was the purest cinematic treat this year for the fanboy nation. Christian Bale in particular does top-notch work here, and I’m very much looking forward to he and Nolan’s run-in with Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight.

6. The Fountain: Darren Aronofsky’s elegiac ode to mortality and devotion was perhaps the most unfairly maligned movie of the year. (In a perfect world, roughly half of the extravagant praise going to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth would have been lavished on this film.) Clearly a heartfelt and deeply personal labor of love, The Fountain — admittedly clunky in his first half hour — was a visually memorable tone poem that reminds us that all things — perhaps especially the most beautiful — are finite, so treasure them while you can.

7. The Queen: A movie I shied away from when it first came out, The Queen is a canny look at contemporary politics anchored by Helen Mirren’s sterling performance as the fastidious, reserved, and ever-so-slightly downcast monarch in question. (Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair is no slouch either.) In fact, The Queen is the type of movie I wish we saw more often: a small, tightly focused film about a very specific moment in recent history. Indeed, between this and United 93, 2006 proved to be a good year for smart and affecting depictions of the very recent past — let’s hope the trend continues through the rest of the oughts.

8. Inside Man: The needless Jodie Foster subplot notwithstanding, Spike Lee’s Inside Man was a fun, expertly-made crime procedural, as good in its own way as the much more heavily-touted Departed. It was also, without wearing it on its sleeve, the film Crash should have been — a savvy look at contemporary race relations that showed there are many more varied and interesting interactions between people of different ethnicities than simply “crashing” into each other. (But perhaps that’s how y’all roll over in car-culture LA.) At any rate, Inside Man is a rousing New York-centric cops-and-robbers pic in the manner of Dog Day Afternoon or The Taking of the Pelham One Two Three, and it’s definitely one of the more enjoyable movie experiences of the year.

9. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party: Speaking of enjoyable New York-centric movie experiences, Dave Chappelle and Michel Gondry’s block party last year felt like a breath of pure spring air after a long, cold, lonely winter — time to kick off the sweaters and parkas and get to groovin’ with your neighbors. With performances by some of the most innovative and inspired players in current hip-hop (Kanye, Mos Def, The Roots, The Fugees, Erykah Badu), and presided over by the impish, unsinkable Chappelle, Block Party was one of the best concert films in recent memory, and simply more fun than you can shake a stick at.

10. Casino Royale: Bond is back! Thanks to Daniel Craig’s portrayal of 007 as a blunt, glitched-up human being rather than a Casanova Superspy, and a script that eschewed the UV laser pens and time-release exploding cufflinks of Bonds past for more hard-boiled and gritty fodder, Casino Royale felt straight from the pen of Ian Fleming, and newer and more exciting than any 007 movie in decades.

11. The Departed: A very good movie brimming over with quality acting (notably Damon and Di Caprio) and support work — from Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Vera Farmiga, Ray Winstone, and others — Scorsese’s The Departed also felt a bit too derivative of its splendid source material, Infernal Affairs, to merit the top ten. And then there’s the Jack problem: An egregiously over-the-top Nicholson chews so much scenery here that it’s a wonder there’s any of downtown Boston left standing. But, despite these flaws, The Departed is well worth seeing, and if it finally gets Scorsese his Best Director Oscar (despite Greengrass deserving it), it won’t be too much of an outrage.

[11.] Toto The Hero (1991): Also sidelined out of this top twenty on account of its release date, Jaco Von Dormael’s Toto the Hero — Terry Gilliam’s choice of screening for an IFC Movie Night early in October — is definitely one for the Netflix queue, particularly if you’re a fan of Gilliam’s oeuvre. It’s a bizarre coming-of-age/going-of-age tale that includes thoughts of envy, murder, incest, and despair, all the while remaining somehow whimsical and fantastical at its core. (And, trust me: As with Ary Borroso’s “Brazil“, you’ll be left humming Charles Trenet’s “Boum” to yourself long after the movie is over.)

12. Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story: I guess this is where I should be writing something brief and scintillating about Michael Winterbottom’s metanarrative version of Laurence Sterne’s famous novel, one which gives Steve Coogan — and the less well-known Rob Brydon — a superlative chance to work their unique brand of comedic mojo. But I’m growing distracted and Berk has that pleading “I-want-to-go-out, are-you-done-yet” look and Kevin’s still only on Number 12 of a list that, for all intent and purposes, is three weeks late and will be read by all of eight people anyway. (But don’t tell him that — In fact, I shouldn’t even talk about him behind his back.) So, perhaps we’ll come back to this later…it’s definitely a review worth writing (again), if I could just figure out how to start.

13. Miami Vice: Michael Mann’s moody reimagining of the TV show that made him famous isn’t necessarily his best work, but it was one of the more unique and absorbing movies of the summer, and one that lingers in the memory long after much of the year’s fluffier and more traditional films have evaporated. Dr. Johnson (and Hunter Thompson) once wrote that “He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” I guess that’s what Crockett and Tubbs are going for with the nightclubs and needle boats.

14. CSA: The Confederate States of America: I wish I were in the land of cotton…or have we been there all along? Kevin Wilmott’s alternate history of a victorious Confederate America is a savvy and hilarious send-up of history documentaries and a sharp-witted, sharp-elbowed piece of satire with truths to tell about the shadow of slavery in our past. With any luck, CSA will rise again on the DVD circuit.

15. The Science of Sleep: Not as good or as universally applicable as his Eternal Sunshine (the best film of 2004), Michel Gondry’s dreamlike, unabashedly romantic The Science of Sleep is still a worthy inquiry into matters of the (broken) heart. What is it about new love that is so intoxicating? And why do the significant others in our mind continue to haunt us so, even when they bear such little relation to the people they initially represented? Science doesn’t answer these crucial questions (how can it?), but it does acutely diagnose the condition. When it comes to relationships, Sleep suggests, all we have to do — sometimes all we can do, despite ourselves — is dream.

16. Rocky Balboa: Rocky! Rocky! Rocky! I’m as surprised as anyone that Sly’s sixth outing as Philadelphia’s prized pugilist made the top twenty. But, as formulaic as it is, Rocky Balboa delivered the goods like a Ivan Drago right cross. Ultimately not quite as enjoyable as Bond’s return to the service, Rocky Balboa still made for a commendable final round for the Italian Stallion. And, if nothing else, he went down fighting.

17. Pan’s Labyrinth: A fantasy-horror flick occurring simultaneously within a Spanish Civil War film, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth ultimately felt to me like less than the sum of its parts. But if the plaudits it’s receiving help to mainstream other genre movies in critics’ eyes in the future, I’m all for it. It’s an ok movie, no doubt, but if you’re looking for to see one quality supernatural-historical tale of twentieth-century Spain, rent del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone instead.

18. Little Miss Sunshine: Another film which I think is being way overpraised, Little Miss Sunshine is still a moderately enjoyable evening at the movies. It felt overscripted and television-ish to me, and I wish it was as way over yonder in the minor key as it pretends to be, but Sunshine is nevertheless a cute little IFC-style family film, and one that does have a pretty funny payoff at the end.

19. The Last King of Scotland: I just wrote on this one yesterday, so my impressions haven’t changed much. Still, Forrest Whitaker’s jovial and fearsome Idi Amin, and an almost-equally-good performance by James McAvoy as the dissolute young Scot who unwittingly becomes his minion, makes The Last King of Scotland worth seeing, if you can bear its grisly third act.

20. Thank You for Smoking: It showed flashes of promise, and it was all there on paper, in the form of Chris Buckley’s book. But Smoking, alas, never really lives up to its potential. What Smoking needed was the misanthropic jolt and sense of purpose of 2005’s Lord of War, a much more successful muckraking satire, to my mind. But Smoking, like its protagonist, just wants to be liked, and never truly commits to its agenda. Still, pleasant enough, if you don’t consider the opportunity cost.

Most Disappointing: All the King’s Men, X3: The Last Stand — Both, unfortunately, terrible.

Worth a Rental: A Scanner Darkly, Brick, Cache, Cars, Curse of the Golden Flower, Glory Road, The History Boys, Marie Antoinette, Match Point (2005), V for Vendetta, Why We Fight

Don’t Bother: Bobby, Crash (2005), The Da Vinci Code, Flags of our Fathers, The Good German, The Good Shepherd, Mission: Impossible: III, Night Watch (2004), Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Men’s Chest, Poseidon, Scoop, Superman Returns, The Wicker Man, World Trade Center

Best Actor: Clive Owen, Children of Men; Forrest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland; Ken Watanabe, Letters from Iwo Jima
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen; Q’Orianka Kilcher, The New World
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Wahlberg, The Departed; Michael Caine, Children of Men/The Prestige
Best Supporting Actress: Pam Farris, Children of Men; Vera Farmiga, The Departed; Maribel Verdu, Pan’s Labyrinth

Unseen: Apocalypto, Babel, Blood Diamond, Catch a Fire, Clerks II, The Descent, The Devil Wears Prada, Dreamgirls, Fast Food Nation, Hollywoodland, An Inconvenient Truth, Infamous, Inland Empire, Jackass Number Two, Jet Li’s Fearless, Lassie, Little Children, Notes from a Scandal, The Notorious Betty Page, A Prairie Home Companion, The Pursuit of Happyness, Running With Scissors, Sherrybaby, Shortbus, Stranger than Fiction, Tideland, Venus, Volver, Wordplay

2007: The list isn’t looking all that great, to be honest. But, perhaps we’ll find some gems in here…: 300, 3:10 To Yuma, Beowulf, Black Snake Moan, The Bourne Ultimatum, FF2, The Golden Age: Elizabeth II, The Golden Compass, Grindhouse, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hot Fuzz, I Am Legend, Live Free or Die Hard, Ocean’s Thirteen, PotC3, The Simpsons Movie, Smokin’ Aces, Spiderman 3, Stardust, The Transformers, Zodiac.

Terry le Heros.

As longtime readers might know (or might’ve adduced from some of the site banners above), I’ve always been a big Terry Gilliam fan, and will pony up for films considerably worse than The Brothers Grimm to repay the man for making Time Bandits, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and one my all-time favorite movies, Brazil. (In fact, “Ghost in the Machine” is the name of this site partly for the Brazil reference.) So it was a real treat yesterday when I and a friend from high school got to see Terry Gilliam live in the flesh last night at the IFC Center on 4th St. After making the rounds in front of The Daily Show yesterday afternoon, Gilliam showed up as part of IFC’s Movie Night series, in which a director of some repute screens one of his favorite films. (In fact, he showed up with the sign he’d been lugging around outside all day: “STUDIOLESS DIRECTOR — FAMILY TO SUPPORT — WILL DIRECT FOR FOOD”) Apparently, Gilliam had wanted to show One-Eyed Jacks, the 1961 western directed by Marlon Brando, but the Brando estate wouldn’t deliver a print or somesuch.

So, the film we got instead was Jaco von Dormael’s Toto le Heros (Toto the Hero), a bizarre Belgian concoction of 1991 that’s part Prince and the Pauper, part Singing Detective, part Citizen Kane and very Gilliamesque. A movie that’s hard-to-explain but that’s definitely worth renting, Toto follows the story of one Thomas van Haserbroeck (Don’t call him van Chickensoup), an imaginative young boy unsettlingly in love with his sister, a lonely man contemplating an affair with a mystery woman, and a deeply depressed senior citizen looking to exact revenge for a life-long grievance. Y’see, Thomas (or Toto, as he’s called in his dream life, where he’s a film noir gumshoe) insists he remembers being switched with another baby — his wealthy next-door neighbor, Albert Kant — during a fire at the hospital, and therein, in his mind, lies the source of most of his troubles. As the story switches back and forth in time, Toto and Albert’s lives keep butting against each other in strange doppelganger fashion, while old-Thomas enacts a plan to reclaim his stolen life…

After the movie, Gilliam returned to the front for a wide-ranging Q&A session, which involved questions both probing (“Did you borrow from Toto in 12 Monkeys?” [No, don't think so.]) and peculiar (“Where’d you buy your shoes? Where’s the worst place you ever spent the night?” [Birkenstocks, some backwater hut in India]) Along the way, Gilliam told tales of first meeting the Python guys, photographing Frank Zappa in 1967, choosing his various directors of photography, and, the battle of Brazil notwithstanding, generally enjoying the constraints of studio heads and limited budgets. (They focus him.) Speaking of which, he also said Good Omens still seems to be moving forward, and Quixote may still happen someday. (He also mentioned The Defective Detective briefly, but it seemed in the past tense.) And these days he’s digging the new Dylan album, as well The Arcade Fire’s Funeral and The Flaming Lips’ At War with the Mystics.

At one point, he also said he was considering suing Bush, Cheney, et al for making an unauthorized remake of Brazil. With that in mind, I asked him whether his views on Brazil had changed at all now that we’re kinda living it. (I mean, what with Cheney playing Mr. Helpmann, Canadian citizens getting Buttled, and the Dubya team now fully sanctioning Jack Lints, what’s a good Sam Lowry to do, other than await his turn in the chair or on the waterboard?) He noted that, obviously, Brazil-type stuff was going on around the world at the time (in the Soviet bloc, Argentina, etc.) but that he watched the film the other day (to check out the new Criterion HD-DVD version) and was amazed at both how prescient and topical it was.

Throughout, Gilliam was amazingly friendly and personable, and came across a remarkably humble and down-to-earth guy. He kept taking questions well after the IFC-suit tried to close down the affair, and hung around the nearby cafe afterwards to sign various items. I ended up being the second guy in line, and got him to sign the Brazil still above (one of five I have framed in my hallway.) When he asked me my name for the signature, he lit up, “Kevin! Time Bandits Kevin!” I told him I was right around that age when I first saw Time Bandits, and he’s definitely got a lot to answer for.

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