Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen
I first heard about this book back when I actually had time to watch movies. I liked the sound of it: first of all, I was intrigued. Could Maltin really come up with 151 great movies I'd never seen? Second of all, back then I was always looking for good movies to add to my bloated netflix queue.
Now, life is different. I've even canceled my disk subscription to netflix (though I kept the streaming subscription, worthless as it is, mainly because my kids like to watch the handful of crappy little shows they can find there. Oh, and netflix has the first two seasons of Sherlock.)
So why didn't I read this book years ago, if I'm not really looking for movies to add to my list anymore? The main reason is that it just recently arrived from Paperbackswap.com. The secondary reason is that it seemed like a good book to bring on a busy vacation. A book of one- or two-page synopses of movies is something I can dip into briefly and occasionally without losing momentum or getting too involved.
Surprise 1: Maltin really did come up with (almost) 151 movies I've never seen. There were only about a dozen movies in this book that I'd even heard of! Though there were a handful more I thought I'd heard of, but that turned out to be merely due to a titular similarity to other films or books. So, obviously, I've seen even fewer of them (Brick, 15 Minutes, Bubba Ho-Tep, Casanova, One Fine Day, and Zathura . . . some of which make me doubt the "Best" mentioned in the title somewhat).
Surprise 2: There weren't many films that Maltin convinced me I'd want to watch. I wonder if I would have felt differently in my gorging-myself-on-movies heyday? I suppose that's possible, except there was a lot of "this movie was great except for [huge flaw/series of shortcomings that turned most people off]", or "this is a movie that no one else liked except for me, but since it was perfect for me I'll write about it in this book." There was even one movie that Maltin admitted some people might find as entertaining as watching paint dry. (Oh, by the way, he's not afraid of cliché.)
But there were a few I think I'd like to see someday, even if I'm not rushing out to buy the DVDs:
The Devil's Backbone, directed by Guillermo del Toro (as was Pan's Labyrinth). Why? Maltin describes it as "unrelentingly eerie--a thinking person's Halloween movie." And because of Pan's Labyrinth, of course.
Stone Reader (a documentary, no less). On the surface, it is director Mark Moskowitz's search for the author of a book he loved as a child; through this quest, he "decides to explore the very nature of reading, and why we feel so connected to certain books we encounter over the course of our lives." On one hand, that sounds like the sort of exploration I'd like to do. On the other hand, I'd kind of just rather read a book.
The Shadow of the Moon, another documentary (?!), this one about the Apollo space program--including interviews with ten of its surviving astronauts.
Metroland, based on the novel by Julian Barnes, because it's about love and Paris and what-ifs and "the truth of hopes, dreams and reality," though Maltin managed to make it sound less cheesy than I just did. And Christian Bale is in it. He's cool. (Oops, I forgot my 14-year-old son told me I can't use that word.)
The Dead Girl, not really due to Maltin's synopsis, but because it sounds intriguing.
The Tao of Steve. I almost didn't want to list this one here--for some reason, I'm embarrassed to admit I'd like to see it (it's about a lothario who is disarmed when he falls in love). But I also didn't want to forget about it.
Final analysis: this was an entertaining diversion, and a great book for a movie buff (though I imagine a true movie buff would have already seen far more of these movies than I have). My favorite thing about this book? It now has a bunch of sand from Cocoa Beach stuck between its pages.