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Occasional ramblings by an anesthesiologist/mother (and sometimes her husband).

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Holy Fscking Schipp!

A few years ago, I was wandering around the now defunct Media Play, looking at DVDs. I noticed the DVD of a movie I had never heard of. I saw Peter Falk, Alec Guiness, David Niven, Peter Sellers... and I thought wtf!!!! How is it possible that I had not heard of this movie? I then remembered the conventional wisdom about movies with such ensemble casts.

Great casts attempting to make up for lousy writing.

Great actors put together who never should have been.

Writers try to give every character their own time to do their own thing, resulting in a movie that makes no sense, wasting the talents of the actors.

I thought, "This is iffy..."

And so I passed it up.

A few months ago, Turner Classic Movies broadcast it. I set a tape so I could watch it when I got a chance.

Tonight I finally did.

Within 10 minutes I was on placing my order for the DVD.

The movie is called "Murder by Death". The movie is a spoof of several mystery characters. It is a work of absolute pure genius.

Other actors included Truman Capote (the TCM narrator explained that it was his only movie appearance, adding "You're about to see why"), James Cromwell (in his first movie roll ever, playing a French chauffeur with a ridiculously thick accent).

As I was watching it, I kept thinking over and over again: "They don't make movies like this anymore."

But then I started thinking about what it was that made it a great movie. Simple answer: dialogue.

Good dialogue is what made "Casablanca" a great movie. Good dialogue made "The Cosby Show" a great show. If George Lucas had been tied up with duct tape while somebody else wrote the script, dialogue could have made "Revenge of the Sith" the greatest movie in the history of the universe.

Dialogue isn't just funny lines. The lines have to make sense for the characters. The actors have to be able to make the characters seem real. The characters have to be likeable (even if you feel guilty about liking them). Even a mundane situation can be made interesting by good dialogue.

It was then that it hit me.

They do make movies like this; just not as often. Most of the movies of that caliber get labeled as "chick flicks." Gentlemen, let me explain to you one thing: If you like chicks, and you like flicks, there is no reason at all why you should not like the combination of the two.

I have a great love for movies like "Practical Magic," "Return to Me," "Kate & Leopold," "Sweet Home Alabama," et aliud, & television shows like (don't laugh) Gilmore Girls. Good dialogue makes an enjoyable movie. It's what stopped me from attempting to garrote myself with my own shoelaces during X-Men 3.

It is really sad that today's great, wacky, ridiculous movies receive little attention. After "Murder by Death," I threw in a DVD of a flick that involves Noah Wyle as a nerd being thrown up against random evil people, Jane Curtin, great dialogue, Bob Newhart taking out a whole room full of bad guys with his bare hands, and a heroine who, just before beginning her climactic battle with the villianess, tells said villianess "Get your own geek."

The movie to which I refer has the appropriately bad title, "The Librarian: Quest for the Spear." It also features Olympia Dukakis, music by the same guy who did the music for the "Evil Dead" trilogy, and was executive produced by Dean Devlin of "Stargate" and "Independence Day" fame. Of course, it doesn't hurt my appreciation of said flick that said heroine happens to have the same first name as ES1 (they even share the same hair color, though ES1 has much nicer, um, eyes)

To make a long story short(too late), good movies aren't dead. They're just hiding under a cloud of smug created by what passes for stars in today's hollywood, ie. people who are famous only because they are well known. Good movies are still being made. Just look for them.

If in doubt, just look for the label "Pixar."


Anonymous Kim said...

Having seen "Revenge of the Sith", you are SO right about the dialouge. I didn't know whether to laugh or what. I guess I like my Star Wars circa '70s/'80, with a grown up Luke Skywalker and my, oh my Han Solo!

1:05 PM  
Anonymous doctordel said...

Gilmore Girls? Ouch. Like most of what the WB decides to grace us with, the "witty banter" that seems to be at the very tip of every 15 year-old character's tongue (but was mysteriously missing from every conversation I or anyone I know had while in high school) gets a little tiresome, IMHO. And what is the deal with this aversion to conversational pauses?Istheresomeprivatecompetitionamong thewriterstoseehowmanywordstheycan cramintoanhour-longprogram? I mean, have these writers ever seen a single frame of "reality" programming on MTV? While not an endorsement of their content I am pretty sure that they offer a much more honest and accurate depiction of what passes for young adult "dialogue" today. Of course, the writers already know this so they give their characters qualities that they feel the target viewer would like to embody themselves, hence the preposterous preponderance of size 0 body types, a seemingly inexhaustable supply of capital, and the silvery-tongued wit of a seasoned curmudgeon who has read up on her classics between Toastmasters and Power Pilates. It is all very entertaining, though, even if it comes off as pretty ridiculous...

12:11 AM  

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