Setter’s ‘Spectives: Just Say ‘Ewww’ to ‘The V.I.P.s’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Normally, I don’t care for movies with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. So I wasn’t surprised to find that The V.I.P.s, their 1963 film under Anthony Asquith’s direction, was awful. And I mean awful.

Soapy, too. In a bad way, not in an I, Claudius fun way. This was soap without a lot of bubbles. Deadly dull, unperfumed, lather-free soap.

And trashy. The tale of a group of high-end passengers who get stuck in a London airport due to fog, The V.I.P.s went from one dreary relationship to another, from Burton and Taylor’s married-couple-on-the-outs to Rod Taylor’s nice-guy businessman whose secretary, played by Maggie Smith, has fallen in love with him. I didn’t find any of these situations credible, and they just got more tedious as the film rolled along. Plus, the cinematography didn’t help, either. Strange compositions seemed to include lamps or some kind of bizarre light fixture in many shots, leading them to be jarring. And the score by the normally reliable Miklós Rózsa was awfully syrupy. Not good, Miklós. Not good.

So what are the takeaways from this? Well, I still don’t like Burton-Taylor movies. I also don’t like bad movies. And I love I, Claudius.

If you can find meaning in that, you’re a better man (or woman) than I.

Skip’s Quips: Disliking ‘The Comedians’ Is No Laughing Matter

Blog Sketch 082813Well, I tried to watch The Comedians. It was a valiant effort.

Unfortunately, it failed.

I’m not sure what the issue was. The pacing seemed off. Direction, by Peter Glenville, was a bit plodding, especially during the scenes involving Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who have never been my favorite acting team. It certainly was a powerful subject – Haiti during the reign of “Papa Doc” Duvalier – and it had some terrific performers, including Alec Guinness, Peter Ustinov, James Earl Jones and Lilian Gish, but the components didn’t really fit together. The movie felt like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle with inaccurately measured pieces.

Oh, well. I do like trying new things, but this picture didn’t grab me. Perhaps it’s one of those films that deserves to be remade. Better direction and a tighter script might serve it well.

Skip’s Quips: Top (or Perhaps Bottom) 10 Worst Miscastings in Cinema

Blog Sketch 082813Yes, I’ve been thinking of this. There certainly has been a host of miscasting throughout the years in the movies. Yet none so much, to my mind, as the ones that follow. Here they are in descending order of badness; take a look and see if you agree.

10) Robin Williams as Peter Pan in Hook: A dreadful performance by the usually hilarious Williams as the now-grown-up Pan in a horrid reimagining of the classic tale. This is one that belongs in Neverland.

9) Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon in Nixon: Mr. Hopkins can do almost anything, but Tricky Dick was beyond his ken. Then again, it wasn’t completely his fault; a more tiresome, overblown film you’ll hardly find.

8) Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia: Just put on a bizarre accent and roll, right? Isn’t that the way to portray the seminal TV chef? Nope. It sure seemed like that was the plan in this awful film, which plodded its way to the ending like one staggers through an Escoffier-planned meal. Let the diner beware.

7) Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments: I never bought this one, despite its relegation to “classic” status. Not in my tablets. One has to wonder if Moses’ jaw was really that square. Surely his acting wasn’t.

6) Mel Gibson as Hamlet in Hamlet: At one time, I tried to convince myself that Gibson’s performance as the titular Shakespearean hero was interesting. Ah, those were the (naive) days. Really, it was a mannered, tedious portrayal in an otherwise decent film. Why, Franco Zeffirelli, why?

5) Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland: Stop the insanity! I’m not sure if this backstory-driven reimagining of the Lewis Carroll book was director Tim Burton’s idea or not, but it didn’t work. Especially dreary was Depp’s misguided portrayal of said Hatter as a tragic figure. Repeat after me: Aargh! This was not frabjous casting.

4) Tony Curtis as the Viking Eric in The Vikings: A Viking by way of the Bronx. Can you say: “Riiiiiggghht.” Sorry, Tony, we love you, but not in this.

3) Nicol Williamson as Merlin in Excalibur: What a wrong, strange performance this is. Excalibur‘s an otherwise intriguing film, but I’ve always been puzzled by Williamson’s peculiar, sometimes–quiet-sometimes-loud-and-always-bizarre acting decisions as the legendary wizard. Odd and unconvincing portrayal.

2) Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in, what else, Cleopatra: Do you have a hard time getting through this picture? Don’t worry; everyone does. Central to this issue is Taylor’s performance. Ah, the grandeur that was Hollywood.

1) John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror: Need I say more?