I’ve just read this and it reminded me of something. Way back when I posted a list of the most annoying movies. By annoying I meant films that had good features but were fatally flawed. “The Thin Red Line” I think I singled-out for particular opprobrium. But I never quite got round to the real stinkers with no redeeming features.
Here goes. There will be spoilers but really don’t ever watch any of these.
6. “That Thing you Do”. Now this almost (perhaps it did) make it onto the “annoying list”. It’s a well-crafted movie (director Tom Hanks) and a beautifully shot period piece about America in the late ’50s and some kids starting a band but it is a movie almost devoid of any real plot or real dramatic tension. The band has a hit (it’s also the movie title) and they then break-up and that is it. I think one of them has a bit of a scare because his girlfriend thinks she’s pregnant. I’m not sure about that. I’m just filling in the blanks with a standard plot-device from all teen-movies because that was what this film was. Imagine something a bit like “Porkies” but with no laughs and incredibly clean-cut teen characters and you’re almost there. I suspect Hanks fell in love too strongly with his creation to put it through the ringer hence the complete lack of any drama. It was his directorial debut and a “very personal project”. I saw it on a ‘plane.
5. “Jack”. Arguably Francis Ford Coppola’s nadir. Coppola now spends much of his time making wine. I hope his wines age better than Robin Williams. Now Robin Williams is cinematic poison at the best of times but in this he’s Sarin. He is a boy trapped in a rapidly ageing body. So by the time he’s graduating high-school he looks about 75. Of course there is a demented attempt to make this a “feel good spectacle” showing how Jack’s classmates are originally not-sure about this weirdo but then inevitably pal-up with him. I seem to recall the breakthrough (and possibly follow-through) momnent there – the living, beating heart of the movie – is a farting competition in a tree-house that Jack’s middle-aged bowels easily win against his teen competitors. That is how bad it is. Robin Williams farting in a tree-house. It doesn’t get much worse than that. I also saw this on a plane.
4. “Batman and Robin”. Well Joel Schumacher really pissed a presumably enormous sum of monies up the wall on that one! It has no redeeming features. You might have expected more from the maker of “The Lost Boys” but nope. It is dreadful. George Clooney looks bored and Uma Thurman looks frumpy and the whole thing has the air of a gay pride parade gatecrashing a clown convention, badly.
3. “Twin Town”. This was made in ’97 and was like any number of a crop of dreadful movies made in the UK around that time purely because the government was offering tax-breaks so generous that absolutely anything dreadful was being put on celluloid. I’m actually quite glad I saw it in a way because it crystallized something in my mind about story-telling. “Twin Town” sort of tries to be a Welsh “Trainspotting” but fails utterly because it is impossible to have any sympathy whatsoever with any character. The two leads (the eponymous twins) are utter moral vacuums and total scumbags. It’s basically a revenge story which involves inter alia the beheading of a pet dog in what could arguably be said to be a homage to The “Godfather” movies. Even more arguably it could be seen as taking the piss and morally vile – this is the action of the alleged heroes of the piece afterall. Actually talking of the “Godfather” reminds me of my central point here. Sort of. It reminds me of “Apocalypse Now” and calling in a massive napalm strike on all of them.
2. “The Two Towers”. Aragorn gets knocked off his horse and wanders around dazed and confused. I’ve got to hand it to Peter Jackson because that is a striking metaphor for this movie. It is by far the weakest of the three despite being based on the strongest book in the trilogy (my opinion). I await “The Hobbit” (in two parts!) with trepidation. Oh, I’m being unfair perhaps because it really ought to be on the “annoying” rather than “utter stinker” list but Hell’s teeth Jackson you got a literary classic here – don’t “re-imagine it”. Just tell it straight and lose the skate-boarding elves. And Bernard Hill’s soliloquy before leading the charge out of Helm’s Deep does go on.
1. “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”. Yes, a second entry for Francis Ford Coppola. I saw this at the cinema with my brother. The roughly 15-20 minute journey home by car involved the two of us leaving that utter shit-festival with nowt but it’s eyes to weep with. Where do I start? The title. It absolutely wasn’t Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It totally missed her key points. Now I mentioned the “Two Towers” monkeying with Toller’s plot but this eviscerated the entire spirit of the thing. Robert De Niro as the monster was abysmal. Ken Branagh clearly had no idea what he was doing and the crowning moment of dreadfulness was the bizarre inclusion of John Cleese as the Professor Branagh’s Victor Frankenstein steals the idea from. This utterly violates the conception of the novel and the fundamental point about a genius so wrapped-up in his work he forgets morality. It has to be Frankenstein’s baby and not something he just rips off from Basil Fawlty.
That is the entire point. That is why Mary Shelley’s myth has it’s power to this day. This was a movie adaption which utterly missed what the first great myth of the scientific era was saying. As I said about Tolkien, if you are making a movie based on a literary classic then don’t monkey with it because the story is just there already and if you really think you can do better then write your own! If a story is good (and Frankenstein is) there is a reason it lasts. I might just give it a bye but not very long before this monster lumbered onto our screens there was a TV-movie version (directed by David Wickes and starring Patrick Bergin as Victor Frankenstein) which was very faithful to the original. That aired a mere 18 months before Coppola’s train-wreck. Hell, it even had Sir John Mills as the blind wood-cutter (and not Richard Briers who has scenes with De Niro that are utter excruciation). It is mere hubris that hates HBO (I think it was them). I really got into them with Brian Cox (the real Hannibal Lecter – not the Manc physicist) playing Hermann Göring in “Nuremberg”. That was good but then he’s a damn fine actor who could do charm and evil equally brilliantly.
A Baldwin (I forget which – there are a number) who played a US chief prosecutor did it for me. He defined evil as “a complete lack of empathy”. Now I don’t entirely buy that but it’s not a bad go at an exceptionally difficult question. I guess I’m trying to say that whilst the Frankenstein movie had nothing to say the HBO one made a good and brave attempt at saying something (basically what Mary Shelley was saying) at least.
*That I have seen entire.