Jarv’s Birthday Series

I’m taking this chance to look back at the ride that was My Birthday Series. For those that need this concept explaining, roughly April time last year Droid hatched the half-baked idea to review a film released as close to his Birthday as possible. This intrigued me, and when I started to look at some of the films out there it was a healthy mix of films that I hadn’t seen, liked, or had been intending to revisit at some point anyway. The rules of the list mean that you are certain to hit a few stinkers regardless of how careful you are, but on the whole, I was happy with the way the list turned out. 

Before I begin, here’s the list in full with ratings next to it:

Statistics time:

The films on my list had an average rating of approximately 1.9 out of 4, which isn’t too bad really all things considered. There were two films that managed a maximum and two that came very close, scoring a huge 3.5 out of 4. Against this, though, there were some absolute dogs, and 7 films managed to fail to make it up to the giddy heights of 1 Chang.

Awards and Recommendations:

Best Film:

I was really spoiled for choice here. Of the list, the best films that I was lucky enough to see again were Life of Brian, An American Werewolf in London, Blade, and Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex all of which scored 3.5 or above. After much consideration, I think the best film that I saw was the highly regarded, bona-fides classic Monty Python’s Life of Brian. 

Monty Python’s Life of Brian is one of the all time great films. This was, I have to say, a toss-up between this and John Landis’ Seminal An American Werewolf in London, but in the end it came down to that I’ve rewatched Life of Brian hundreds of times and still find something brilliant to appreciate in it. A true masterpiece.

Of this list, if you haven’t seen them, I do highly recommend the following in no particular order:

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, An American Werewolf in London, Hard Target, Teenwolf and Blade. All excellent and highly enjoyable films.

Best Performance: Male.

A tough one this. For a list as strong as this one, there aren’t actually that many showy roles for actors in it. The following are all roles that I considered, but then discarded for various reasons: Bruce Dern in The Driver, Lance Henriksen in Hard Target, Moritz Bleibtrau in Baader-Meinhoff, Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson and Stephen Dorff in Blade, and Keifer Sutherland in Freeway. In the end, I considered David Naughton in American Werewolf in London. While not as showy as the other roles, his turn as David is one of many high-points in a true classic, and I also strongly thought about giving it for Greg Kinnear’s turn as Coach Dick Vermeil in Invincible. A pleasant surprise in a genuinely nice film. However, in the end, there’s only really one performance that made me sit up in surprise: Ryan O’Neal in The Driver. His utter lack of acting ability is perfectly used here, and he turns in a career best performance.

I think this might be the only film that you could possibly call O’Neal “cool” in. Astonishing.

Best Performance: Female.

This was also really tough, for different reasons. There are some genuine heavyweight actresses on display here, such as Helen Mirren (twice), Jenny Agutter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Reece Witherspoon and so forth. However, there are three contenders here. I toyed with giving it to either Martina Gedeck or Johanna Wokalek for their stupendous performances in the magnificent Baader-Meinhof Komplex, but in the end there was one winner for me. In a substandard film, this performance earned it half a chang and so full credit to Mercedes Ruehl in that bunch of arse Married to the Mob.

Best Writing:

An easy one this one. In the end it came to a straight shoot-out between Life of Brian, which is magnificent, Freeway or Blade. Freeway took little Red Riding Hood and twisted it beyond recognition and Blade is endlessly quotable and turned a d-list funny book character into a bankable franchise, but there really is no standing against Python here. Clever, meaningful, satirical, downright hilarious and endlessly quoted, Life of Brian is a script that has stood the test of time and still makes me laugh now.

Best Direction:

This is a tough one. I’m not really sure what to go for here. The Driver was sparse and tight, Class of 1984, Hard Target and Desperado were big and bold and made things go bang with aplomb. Reform School Girls was a pitch perfect parody, and Baader-Meinhoff Komplex is also worth noting. However, at the end of the day, John Landis has had a sterling career as a director, but American Werewolf in London must be the pinnacle. Featuring visual gags galore and the finest transformation scene ever filmed, An American Werewolf in London is a fine example of a director at the top of his game, being tight, scary and an overall blast.

Biggest Surprise.

Again, quite a tough one this. There were several films on this list that I had either not heard of at all, such as The Driver and Reform School Girls, or had heard of and had little to no hope for, such as Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. Not to mention that my expectations for Conan the Barbarianwere rock bottom and the film absolutely thrashed them. In the end, the one film that I thoroughly expected to bore me witless, but turned out to be a very pleasant way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon was Invincible. I’d actually written this off as being shite before I watched it.

Other films worth noting that turned out to be much better than I expected were the aforementioned Reform School Girls and The Driver.

The Shit List:

Well, this is much easier to do than the positive list, as there’s a fair amount of crap here for me to fillet.

Worst film.

Also a contender for worst film ever made, there’s one clear winner here. While Dirty Dancing was hateful, Christopher Columbus was dismal and boring, My Boss’s Daughter an abject disaster and the likes of Heartbreakers reducing me to tears of rage and hatred, there was only one film that I had THREE fucking attempts at getting through. A film so bad that it marks an embarrassing footnote on the end of a legend’s career and killed a promising career stone dead. Musicals have never been so awful. My worst film is: Xanadu.

Complete and utter shit on every level. Agony to sit through and humiliating for all concerned.

Worst Performance: Male.

There are a fair few candidates here as well. Firstly, Ashton Kutcher continued his mission to be the most pointless human being on the planet in My Boss’s Daughter, Statham forgot to turn his brain on in War, Rourke did not give a shit in Harley Davidson, Michael Beck killed his career in Xanadu, Modine embarrassed himself as the worst FBI agent in history in Married to the Mob and Hauser did a very impressive tree impersonation in The Cave, there was one performance that puts all of these to sham: In second place,  step right up Robert Downey Junior for his excruciating and pitiful turn as the shock jock in Natural Born Killers. Having heard him butcher the Aussie accent so badly, I can’t say I blame Mickey for shooting him in the head. He deserved it.

However, worst performance of the lot, in a film that desperately needed some charisma in the lead was massive, massive dickhead Georges Corraface in Christopher Columbus. Not just bad in the film, but genuinely one of the worst performances of all time. Congratulations, fuckhead.

Worst Performance: Female.

Again, a wide range to go for. Sigourney Weaver failed as a sex symbol with a Russian accent in Heartbreakers, Dunst was annoying as all fuck in Bring It On, Olivia Newton-John was, well, Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu, Christ knows what Cheryl Ladd was playing at in Millennium, Katie Holmes performed to her usual level in Teaching Mrs. Tingle, and not to mention the legendarily awful turn from Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing. However, there were two performances that stood out as being truly wretched. The first was, naturally, Tara Reid in My Boss’s Daughter continuing her career of being terrible in terrible films. However, she doesn’t win the award, because it wasn’t really her fault. The outright winner of this one, in a truly awful film, is Marisa Coughlin in Teaching Mrs Tingle. A variety of reasons for this, her one-woman Exorcist tribute leaping to mind, but what earns her the gong is that the character is meant to be “acting” at several points, and is meant to be talented. Coughlin absolutely butchers this and her overall turn is absolutely dreadful. Dreadful.

Worst Writing.

Two many to pick from, frankly. However, head and shoulders below the rest were My Boss’s Daughter, Dirty Dancing, Xanadu and The Cave. All appallingly written cobblers and all can fuck off. However, for me, nothing is worse than Bring it On. Horrible, embarrassing, awful dialogue that grates on the ears and deals in little more than stereotypes from the 1950′s. Borderline offensive, hackneyed crap and, well, I fucking hate this script.

Worst Direction.

I’ll come clean about this one. The reason I put in Best Direction was so I can include this category. The worst direction in any film in this series is Oliver Stone for Natural Born Killers. It’s a bad film anyway, but the reason this is clear loser is that the overly elaborate direction made it physically painful to endure. What little story there was was swamped under stupid techniques, daft camera angles and idiotic moves like animation. Horrible.

Worst Disappointment.

Overall, there wasn’t much in the way of shocks here for me. The only real disappointments were Cal and Fire and Ice which had  winning pedigrees and turned out to be a load of onanistic bollocks. However, one film really was a kick in the bollocks.

Natural Born Killers was a film I loved back at the time, and looking at it now? Why? What a load of utter shit, and I wish I hadn’t rewatched it.

Well, that’s this farrago complete. It’s been fun, and I look forward to Droid and Pillows finishing their journeys.

Until next time,

Jarv.

Redux: due to an unfortunate cock up with the date of Baader-Meinhof Komplex, I had to do another film for 2009. Unfortunately that film was Post Grad. which was shit.

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