Monday, March 9, 2009

The Great Unwatched: The Twelve Chairs (1970) and Point Break (1991)

Two films I enjoyed for very different reasons.

The Twelve Chairs (1970)

Director: Mel Brooks

Runtime: 94 minutes

This a highly enjoyable comedy from Brooks (who has does a scene-stealing turn as an insanely devoted servant early in the movie) adapted from a classic piece of Soviet satire. On her deathbed, an old woman reveals that, years before, she had sewn her jewels into one of the twelve dining room chairs to prevent them from being confiscated by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. This sets in motion a race between her son-in-law (and former aristocrat) Vorobyaninov (Ron Moody), con man Ostap Bender (Frank Langella, brilliant), and a conniving Russian Orthodox priest, Father Fyodor (Dom DeLuise). Vorobyaninov and Bender eventually team up, but they don't fare well -- every time they come upon the chairs, a few of them are sent somewhere else with farcical precision. And of course, the jewels are never in the chairs that are left behind.

This is not a typical Brooks film; although much of the same temperament of humor (read: over-the-top, slapsticky, and occasionally juvenile) appears in his later spoof movies like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, here he largely avoids knowing nods to the audience and self-reference. He instead chooses to tell the story "straight", wacky though it is. Since we're dealing with some disreputable characters, it's much more satisfying to watch them fail on their own terms, something that Brooks grasps quite well.

Of all the films that I've watched thus far as part of this little experiment, this is the one I regret not having seen much sooner.

Worth the Purchase: Absolutely yes.

Point Break (1991)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Runtime: 120 minutes

I bought this one because it was referenced in Hot Fuzz. I'm really glad I did because now there's whole sections of that movie that are way funnier now. Also, it's kind of funny to see Swayze as a surfer guru.

Worth the Purchase: Woah.

Stats: 15/401 movies watched in twelve days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: January 10, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

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