Tag Archives: Terry Gilliam

The Set of 400: #81 – My Favorite Insulting Frenchman

Today! Because this is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who –

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Directed by Terry Gilliam (x4) and Terry Jones (x2)

Starring Graham Chapman (x2), John Cleese (x3), Eric Idle (x2), Michael Palin (x4), Terry Gilliam (x2), Terry Jones (x2), Connie Booth, Carol Cleveland, John Young, Sandy Johnson

For the longest time, the only Monty Python product I liked was Life of Brian. Meaning of Life then and now is a little too all over the place for me, Holy Grail I felt was bizarrely over-praised, and I had no access to the Flying Circus whatsoever. Really, circa 1992, how were people seeing that show? Did it still air late on PBS? Because I just never saw it. Even now you never see it on television, so you better pony up for that gigantic DVD collection!

But in time, I came around to the cult of Holy Grail. I was probably rejecting it for its massive popularity until I was well along in college. Like, everyone knew that one guy who would quote this movie endlessly, and out of context The Knights Who Say Ni just aren’t funny. Hell, most Monty Python bits aren’t funny when your dumb buddies are dead-parroting the lines. No one much seemed to talk about Life of Brian, so for reasons discussed back in #251, that was the one I adopted early. My gateway into Holy Grail, oddly enough, was straight up buying the DVD around 2002 – because I was still buying a lot of discs in those pre-streaming days (Okay, I still buy a few here and there). On that Special Edition was a closed caption feature “Subtitles for People Who Don’t Like the Film (taken from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part II)” which I found hilarious, and ended up getting me solidly hooked on the movie. Weird, right?

I don’t know, this just squarely appealed to me

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The Set of 400: #127 – My Favorite Facelift

Today! Because if you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating –

Brazil (1985)

Directed by Terry Gilliam (x3)

Starring Jonathan Pryce (x2), Kim Greist, Ian Holm (x3), Michael Palin (x3), Robert De Niro (x4), Katherine Helmond (x3), Bob Hoskins (x2), Peter Vaughan, Ian Richardson, Jim Broadbent (x4), Barbara Hicks, Gorden Kaye, Simon Jones, Charles McKeown

Terry Gilliam’s dystopian, bureaucratic hellscape has very little obviously to do with the country of Brazil. Allegedly, in some deleted scene or old script treatment or something, the bug that falls in the printer at the beginning of the film that kicks off the whole misidentification caper is seen traveling across the globe from Brazil, thus the title and the modified usage of the great old tune “Aquarela do Brasil” as the theme song.

I also think of Brazil as the ultimate Gilliam movie, coming as it does after Python and his more fantastic adventures Jabberwocky and Time Bandits, but before the somewhat more realistic goings on in The Fisher King and Fear and Loathing (somewhat is the key there). It merges the two eras neatly – not unlike Twelve Monkeys would later – bridging pure fantasy/sci-fi with relatable human issues in a bizarro satirical context. It’s funny while being frustrating and horrifying in the world they’ve created, while also not being all that far afield from the mundane drudgery of working and living in an even remotely regimented society. Jonathan Pryce’s Sam Lowry being shifted between interchangeable government jobs under paranoid, crazed bosses and sharing a desk with a co-worker in another room all sort of makes sense once you’re out in the workplace for a bit. This is a movie I’ve long loved, for the weirdness and futurism, but have only really appreciated the underlying struggles as the years since college have piled higher and deeper. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #148 – My Favorite Grand Central Station Ballroom Dance

Today! Because I’m hearing horses! Parry will be so pleased –

The Fisher King (1991)

Directed by Terry Gilliam (x2)

Starring Robin Williams (x3), Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Ruehl (x2), Amanda Plummer, Michael Jeter (x2), Harry Shearer (x3), Kathy Najimy (x2), David Hyde Pierce (x2), Tom Waits (x2), Carlos Carrasco, John de Lancie (x2)

Ah, comedies about mental illness! It’s a weird sweet spot to have, but its popping up over (#393 The Dream Team) and over (#193 They Might Be Giants) and over again (#286 Me, Myself and Irene) on this list means that it might be time to face facts – this is weirdly something I’m into. Now, The Fisher King is only sort of a comedy – that much is pretty definitely true. While all the aforementioned movies lean heavier on the laughs (okay, maybe not They Might Be Giants as much), if this one didn’t have Robin Williams at his manic zenith you’d be hard pressed to classify it as even kinda funny. Bridges’ asshole shock jock Jack tumbles mightily when one of his radio show callers goes on a shooting spree, and descends into alcoholic hell. Williams – a victim of this same gunman incident – emerges as a crazed homeless knight named Parry, and they progressively help each other, largely without knowing it, at least until the time comes to retrieve the Holy Grail on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #163 – My Favorite Sandy Beer Cocktail

Today! Because we were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold –

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Directed by Terry Gilliam

Starring Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro (x2), Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire (x4), Ellen Barkin (x3), Christopher Meloni, Michael Jeter, Gary Busey (x3), Gregory Itzin, Flea (x2), Lyle Lovett (x3), Cameron Diaz (x4), Craig Bierko, Mark Harmon, Katherine Helmond (x2), Laraine Newman (x2), Verne Troyer, Debbie Reynolds (x2), Penn Jillette, Harry Dean Stanton (x3), Jenette Goldstein (x2)

A prime example of a film that came along at just the right moment in my life to have a lasting impact, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a psychedelic nightmare road trip travelogue comedy, long thought unfilmmable. Hunter Thompson’s true-ish story of heading to Nevada to cover The Mint 400 motorcycle race spirals quickly and wildly out of control, featuring massive hallucinations, property damage, excessive drug use, and Debbie Reynolds. It’s funny, in that quirky Terry Gilliam kind of way, and it’s visually stunning, in a head-trip kaleidoscope pretty much unparalleled in mainstream cinema.

However, this movie, lacking any real narrative drive or logical reason for existing, certainly wouldn’t work for everyone. It’s a large budget art film produced mainly because of Gilliam’s name (pre-Don Quixote mess) and Johnny Depp’s enduring love for Thompson. This was released during my early college years, and I loved this goddamn movie. Hell, I loved the book – did everyone have a Hunter Thompson phase in college? His sentences, man! Even when they didn’t coalesce into a plottable tale (and they rarely did), they were still cutting and incisive and impactful, more philosophy than prose – and this is what made ever translating this to the screen so unlikely. And yet, it sorta works, in a conventional way, here and there. Sorta.

“Let’s get down to brass tacks – how much for the ape?”

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The Set of 400: #251 – My Favorite One Cross Each

Today! Because he’s not the Messiah! He’s a very naughty boy –

Life of Brian (1979)

Directed by Terry Jones

Starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Sue Jones-Davies, Kenneth Colley, Spike Milligan

For the better part of my life, I swore I was more a Life of Brian Python fan than a Holy Grail one. And maybe coincidentally (but maybe not), for the better part of this same period of time, I considered myself somewhat more religious than I do now. I mean, I’m still kinda religious, in a very basic way, but not, like, going to church on Sunday and helping them fund the lawsuits. Still, I think when you’re more ingrained in the whole God culture, Life of Brian resonates in a wholly different way. Eight years of Catholic school, folks!

Nowadays, well – not to spoil it, but Holy Grail is a good distance down the road on this list, while Life of Brian is here. Not to take anything away from this movie – it’s still hilarious – but previously I regarded this movie as a brilliant, incendiary dismantling of organized religion and their somewhat ridiculous origin stories. In watching now, it doesn’t quite hit those notes as hard for me, and in comparison to the much more quotable and iconic Holy Grail, it pales a bit as a movie. Blow-for-blow it may be funnier, and has a far more satisfying ending, but doesn’t feel quite as earth shaking as it did when I was fifteen.

Still, that ending!

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