Contradicting Popular Opinion: 17.05.07

Contradicting Popular Opinion:
An Enquiry Concerning Why Your Favorite Movie Sucks


I’ve always wanted to like Terry Gilliam. Naturally I’ve seen the Monty Python flicks, and I really enjoyed Twelve Monkeys, as well as his take on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. These are good pictures.

A while back, I rented The Brothers Grimm. I was underwhelmed, as was everybody else who saw the film.

But Brothers Grimm is director-for-hire stuff. It wasn’t a Gilliam script. It wasn’t his artistic vision.

More recently, I netflixed The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Let’s just say that it is easy to see why the film didn’t do well at the box office. It’s just too damned goofy without being at all fun. Or interesting. Or entertaining. It creates a deadly mix of pretentiousness and silliness, while meandering around a non-existent plot for what feels like several days. Following my own personal code of ethics, I was forced to eject the DVD from my player the moment an angry character had steam coming out of his ears. It was very colorful, for those that like that sort of thing.

But Munchausen was Gilliam’s big flop. The apex of his career is supposed to Brazil. Recently, Entertainment Weekly listed it as number 6 on there list of the top 25 sci-fi movies and TV from the last 25 years.

Of course, I did do column on EW’s picks for numbers 1 and 17.


Infiniti Spokesman Jonathan Pryce stars as Sam Lowry in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Sam Lowry is a passive and ambitionless bureaucrat who allows his mother to run his life, despite the fact that he is pushing forty. He passes his time by having the dreams of an eight year old, i.e. being able to fly and fighting monsters to in order to save a helpless goddess figure. He eventually sees a woman (CHUD‘s Kim Griest) who resembles the love interest in his pre-pubescent power fantasies only, in lieu of flowing blonde locks, she has a raging-bull-dyke haircut.

So, he abuses his position to stalk her.

Eventually, the pair get together. Subsequently, she gets killed and Lowry is tortured for what one can assume to be the rest of his life.

Somehow, Gilliam managed to squeeze this 25 minutes worth of plot into just under 2 and a half hours of interminable set pieces and art direction.

But films aren’t just about story. Surely, those who love this film don’t do so based solely on its unending, uninteresting story.

Maybe it is the characters.

Our protagonist is a middle-aged, whiny, bureaucrat/mama’s boy who seems very much to be a virgin. He’s an under-achiever who spends the movie underachieving. He’s played by that Welsh guy who wants you to buy luxury cars. There is really no reason to give a good goddamn about him.

The love interest isn’t particularly fleshed out in the film’s real world nor in Lowry’s fantasy world. The rest of the characters are all one-note wonders, set up as jokes about society, instead revealing the author’s utter contempt for humanity at large.

Thematically, however it is RICH. You know, with such ground-breaking themes as, “aren’t bureaucracies inconvenient?” and “Isn’t frivolous plastic surgery shallow?” Brazil just needs to develop a bit on airplane food, and it could be a mediocre stand-up comic.

I would complain more about this flick, but I don’t enjoy spending any time with it.