Everyone Makes Mistakes, Oh Yes They Do

Trust me, I'm an auteurIt’s kind of nice, really, that Paul Thomas Anderson’s unequivocal masterpiece “There Will Be Blood” opened in Toronto on the same day as Francis Ford Coppola’s unequivocal debacle “Youth without Youth“. It’s like the torch is being passed from one generation to the next.

I’ll be using my Sympatico/MSN bully pulpit to push Anderson’s film on an unsuspecting nation later this month, when the film expands into national release; this week, it seemed like a good idea to put Coppola’s latest in its proper context, which is to say it isn’t the worst thing ever, and not even the worst film he’s ever made.

That would be the one I put into this week’s movie column, listing ten awful films by ten great directors. Feel free to suggest alternates below.

Oh, and I saw the cell-phone movie. It was funnier in the original Japanese.

6 thoughts on “Everyone Makes Mistakes, Oh Yes They Do”

  1. COOKIE’S FORTUNE contains a great Ned Beatty performance. Framed in background shots throughout the first half of the film, muttering casually about fishing, Altman zooms in on his character right when Beatty is asked how he could possibly know that Dutton isn’t a killer. “Because I fish with him,” Beatty says. Encapsulates his whole character, and a whole Southern ethos, in a single sentence. Altman’s films are always varied in tone and style and substance, but this one had tiny moments like that that have stayed with me. Films may not work as a whole, but moments matter too, and sometimes the moments matter MORE than the whole. They linger longer.

    I also think that lesser films by canonic directors are held up to a standard that is almost nonsensical. THE GODFATHER and its sequel were two of the greatest films ever made; any further installment that is NOT one of the greatest films ever made is thus considered a disappointment, which is slightly ridiculous.

    Same goes for JACK, EYES WIDE SHUT and CAPE FEAR. Released by a first-time director, anonymously, or by ‘Alan Smithee’, the first would be considered a sweet, harmless kids movie, while the latter two would, I believe, be considered major indicators of talent.

    Of course we expect more from those who have delivered stellar work in the past, but the artists who have the greatest ambition are usually the ones who have the biggest misfires. It goes with the artistic impulse. It goes with productivity. Both Spike Lee and Woody Allen have been producing a movie a year for two decades, and both have have had what-the-hell-where-they-THINKING movies (SHADOWS AND FOG, SHE HATE ME) mixed in with the masterpieces. Which is as it should be. The best artists know that you keep on plugging away, and you’re never sure anyways what will fire on all cylinders and what won’t. The proof is in the body of work that amasses, the rises and falls and peaks and valleys that show an artistic mind experimenting and pushing, and not content to do what others expect.

    (EYES WIDE SHUT is a masterpiece, I think, and ANYTHING ELSE is kind of funny to me, which shows, I guess, that one man’s misfire is another man’s treasure…)

  2. Altman committed far worse crimes than COOKIE’S FORTUNE, Norm! READY TO WEAR? BEYOND THERAPY? O.C. & STIGGS? Did I mention READY TO WEAR?

  3. Kubrick never made anything remotely close to an awful film; “Eyes Wide Shut” is a chronically misunderstood masterpiece; meet me in that tree later and we’ll discuss. “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”-Bad? Yes. “The Rookie” bad? No….

    “Ready to Wear” is surely one of the worst films I have ever seen; I probably would have walked out were I not fatally confused by my impulse to walk out of a Robert Altman film. I’d also plug H.E.A.L.T.H and Dr.T and the Women before laying out Cookie.

    Woody? So much to choose from. I got through to the end of “Anything Else” so by that standard, I guess I’d go with “Hollywood Ending”–which was so sickeningly awful, I literally had to turn away in disgust.

  4. How about Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes? And M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village? I realize I’m not talking Altman and Kubrick territory with these names, but these directors do have individual styles which can work…or not work. Planet of the Apes was just unnecessary, and Shyamalan was a director who started with one great movie, The Sixth Sense, followed with a good one, Unbreakable, then an okay one, Signs,…and then the truly awful The Village, which was so inherently stupid on so many levels. Allow me to vent:
    Aside from the techniques to fool the audience into thinking the movie was set in the past – gravestone with old date, characters talking in a generic old-fashioned way, which, given the “twist”, was unneccesary to fool the younger generation who had no way of knowing HOW people spoke WHEN (a director is welcome to misdirect me for ultimate effect, but shouldn’t cheat) –
    – he chose RED as the forbidden colour? Good visually on screen, I suppose, but if you’re creating a society within a movie, there should be some internal logic. Making red the dangerous colour makes it even more dangerous to be wounded and bleeding…not like that would ever happen in an agrarian society with all those farm implements lying around. As well…way to punish the women just for being female. Let’s make menstrual blood and the blood involved in giving birth DANGEROUS and capable of attracting MONSTERS.
    – also, when Bryce Dallas Howard’s character makes it out all the way to the guard hut on the highway, there is a refrigerator full of medicines. I forget if a someone had died in the past, or if her character’s blindness was due to an illness easily caused by modern medicine, but what parent would allow that to happen when a refrigerator of medicine presumably stocked up just for that purpose is so close? Especially a parent who cares enough about raising their children away from the evils of modern society enough to live in that idiotic village.

    Sorry, the topic was bad movies by great directors and The Village is one by a director who had one great movie and immediately started to decline. I stand by Tim Burton, though…his sense of the whimsical and macabre make for a personal style that should ensure his reputation. But…Planet of the Apes?

    By the way…Julie Taymor…a director who may end up with a great reputation for her phenomenal visual sense. You said in your review, Norman, that it had about ten great minutes in it but didn’t like the movie as a whole. I’m curious, since I loved the movie, which ten minutes you liked.

  5. Haven’t seen Cookie’s Fortune but my vote would be for the awful The Company, about the world of ballet. My wife was a ballet dancer and was looking forward to this, but the choice to use the laughably pretentious “Blue Snake” just made us giggle. And there were no actual characters in this, so the ensemble thing fell completely flat.

  6. RE: Chris’ comment that, “Shyamalan was a director who started with one great movie, The Sixth Sense, followed with a good one, Unbreakable, then an okay one, Signs,…and then the truly awful The Village, which was so inherently stupid on so many levels.”

    The Village is horrible, yes, but Lady in the Water is even worse. That’s the inherent problem with picking a “worst” film from Shyamalan. When you think he can’t get any lower, just wait until the next one.

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