25 years ago, on December 18, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was released in the U.S. — thus ending one of the most famous battles in Hollywood history of a director taking on a movie studio and winning.
Brazil is set “somewhere in the 20th century” in some kind of Orwellian world where not only is Big Brother watching, but requires the proper paperwork to do so. The government is so inept, it’s comical — yet at the same time the system is quite capable of doing really terrible things.
Our “hero” of the story is Sam Lowry, a meek government employee played beautifully by the great Jonathan Pryce. I remember being amazed at the time by how Pryce could go from playing the menacing Mr. Dark in Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) to playing such a hapless soul in Brazil.
Sam Lowry works for the Ministry of Information and wakes up each morning to a fully-automated breakfast-making machine that, like most everything in this society, never quite works properly. The machine pours coffee all over his toast which leads to a funny bit of physical comedy where he attempts to eat the soggy piece of toast but it keeps flopping about in his hand. His ineffectual boss (Ian Holm), afraid of getting his own hands dirty, is delighted when Sam volunteers to hand-deliver a refund check to Mrs. Buttle, a woman whose husband was falsely arrested and tortured to death by the government — it seems the Buttles were overcharged for “information retrieval procedures.”
While the other members of Monty Python have drifted in and out of the fold throughout the legendary comedy troupe’s 40 years, Eric Idle has almost single-handedly kept the legacy of Python alive in recent years with his Tony Award winning musical, Spamalot, based on
Over the holidays I read Robert Sellers’ Hellraisers, whose subtitle, “The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole, and Oliver Reed” pretty much tells you what to expect. Making a guest appearance or two in various all-star pub crawls is Christopher
Michael Moore’s latest, Capitalism: A Love Story, opens around the country today, and if the early reviews are any indication, it’s yet another cleverly executed and scathing reminder of how we’re all … wait, let me check my notes … ah, yes — majorly screwed. Taken as a whole, the Moore oeuvre seems dedicated to the concept that before we die we’ll all be laid off, betrayed by our government, shot, burdened by lousy, expensive heath care, and cheated out of our tax dollars and retirement funds, possibly all at once.
Moore’s latest is of course aimed at the business titans of Wall Street who let us have it twice, first by ruining our economy, then by wheeling and dealing the government into ponying up billions in public money so they could get started on ruining it again. I’m sure Capitalism is well executed but no doubt depressing, at least for those of us not on the receiving end of the aforementioned billions. I prefer my cinematic big business to be the fictional kind, where greed may be good but Michael Douglas still goes to white-collar jail at the end, or is at least sexually harassed by Demi Moore. Mrowr!
With that in mind, patch in to my conference call as I review my 300-slide PowerPoint presentation on five random business flicks that deserve the key to the executive washroom.
This week will see the release of The Time Traveler’s Wife, a movie about a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel involuntarily, and the problems that causes for his marriage. I say, if your genes are turning you into a time traveler, your marriage is the least of your problems. I’d be worried about what other genes I had wandering around in there, and whether any of them might cause me to turn into a dinosaur or a walking nuclear reactor, which seems equally feasible. No matter what happened, I’d blame exposure to cleaning products.
Regardless, it joins a fine tradition of time travel movies, which all share one remarkable characteristic: If you think about them too much, your brain will explode. (Which is not necessarily unique to time travel films – I find I have the same problem with Meg Ryan movies.) Still, it’s a worthy genre; if you don’t believe me, go back in time and review these classic examples.
12 Monkeys (1995): Would it be going out on a limb to call this the last great time-travel movie? OK, how about the last great Bruce Willis movie (the one with the dead people notwithstanding)?
Willis had quite a trifecta in 1994-’95 with Pulp Fiction, Nobody’s Fool, and then this film, which strikes just the right note of off-kilter paranoia and impending, unchangeable doom that marks more than a few sci-fi classics. I mean, it’s nice that Marty McFly winds up rich with better-looking parents, but wouldn’t that movie have been even better if he’d caused the whole planet to be wiped out by a killer virus? Wait, scratch that — then we wouldn’t have had the sequels.