Movies That I Like For No Sensible Earthly Reason

After doing 42 after ’71, I got to thinking about what #43 ought to be. (My odometer turned over a few days ago). I’m not prepared to name that one yet, but I also got to thinking about movies I enjoy watching but have a hard time defending. Honestly, I don’t know if I would defend them if confronted. I certainly wouldn’t buy them on Blu-Ray. But if they’re on Netflix or Hulu+ or Amazon Prime, I know I’ll watch them more than once.

Why?

Because we all have things we’re suckers for.

Here are a few of them:

The Boys From Brazil: The flaws in this movie are legion. It has a scene that lasts a good ten minutes that explains cloning to Lieberman (Laurence Olivier), and Josef Mengele’s plan of bolstering the rise of 96 cloned Adolf Hitlers by murdering their adoptive fathers at the age of 65 is interesting provided that the audience is unaware that the original Hitler had an older half-brother and half-sister, and a younger sister –a family configuration Mengele, for all his insistence that the fathers die on precise dates, apparently didn’t bother to replicate. Also left out is how Mengele hopes to arrange for his Hitler to grow up in an area rife with antisemitism and nationalist fervor or enlist in an army and fight in a catastrophic world war. Not to mention the matter of random noise in genetics. To say Mengele’s plan is far-fetched is to put a heavier strain on the phrase far-fetched than it can bear.

Still, I love watching this movie. Gregory Peck appears to be enjoying himself playing Mengele. It’s a shame the Bond movies never asked him to play a heavy. He’d have had a ball. Laurence Olivier is his usual magnetic self, and seeing him and Peck, and him and Uta Hagen, share screen time is a delight. Also, I love movies with James Mason almost as much as I love movies with Christopher Lee, so seeing him’s an extra treat.

Hannibal: Make no mistake, this is a bad movie. Roger Ebert’s reason for thinking so was that he thought Hannibal Lecter worked best as potential energy, rather than kinetic. When  H. is behind the glass, it’s hard not to think about all the things he might do once if the glass were removed. Now that he’s free, we no longer have to wonder.

That’s well observed, but the other part missing is the dumbing down on Hannibal’s relationship with Clarice. He’s still trying to play mind games with her, but the mind games are more obvious, and she’s less willing to play. (It’s understandable. She has no reason to.) I know the book eventually has these characters running off together, and while I think that’s an absurd choice, at least the book makes a choice. To have such high powered actors playing central characters who have so little impact on each other is frustrating.

Still, I watch this movie. It’s lush. Gary Oldman’s weird little reprobate is endlessly watchable as a slightly less psychopathic Mr. Burns. The scenes between Lecter and the corrupt Italian cop are fun, and the movie makes a neat connection to the infamous Pazzi conspiracy. That’s why I can’t help watching. (That and the brain eating scene. I can’t help but love the brain eating scene. I know. I’m sick.)

Karate Kid Part II: I’ll defend The Karate Kid as a legitimately good movie. Not a great movie mind you, but certainly a worthy one. It had an appealing lead, a strong story about bullying, a credible romance, and a rich impact character in Mr. Miyagi.

The second picture moves the action to Okinawa, where Mr. Miyagi apparently has some unfinished business to settle with a former friend and romantic rival, whose son has gone on to become the biggest asshole in the East.

The film’s credibility falls on one issue. Miyagi’s enemy, Sato, apparently owns whatever parts of Okinawa don’t belong to the U.S. military. I take it he has hillions of jillions of dollars, and the movie suggests that his ethics are shaky at best. Surely such a person could have simply tracked down Miyagi ages ago and pushed him into a fight to the death then. The mere fact that he’s waited so long makes me wonder why he suddenly cares so much.

But I guess movies need plots. We can’t call a movie The Karate Kid and have it concern itself with solely with Miyagi coming come to hold an estate sale after his Dad dies. So we need threats, and more bullying, and more revenge because that’s what market forces demand. So Sato has to pursue Miyagi and his son has to chase after Daniel. So it goes.

That said, the movie does appeal to me. Miyagi and Daniel haven’t worn out their welcome yet. Their chemistry is still good. I liked Tamlyn Tomita as Kumiko enough to wish I’d seen her in more stuff. The setting is a nice change of pace and well photographed, and I love the bit where Daniel, who’s just spotted an ad for a Sato’s karate training academy that depicts a man breaking a tree with his fist, asks Miyagi, “Could you do that?”

Miyagi’s reply: “Don’t know. Never been attacked by tree.”

Priceless.

Use the comments to name the movies you’re a sucker for, or to ruthlessly attack everything I hold dear.

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