Brazil, Where the Nuts Are!

DATELINE: Beyond the Twilight Zone

acting chops Whose Acting Chops?

If you thought nutcase movies are here today, you are about 30 years off. Brazil is a movie aficionado’s fantasy and nightmare, defying convention and logic. You just passed the signpost of Ipanema.

Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame) went out of his way to make the Citizen Kane of kookoo-bird movies in 1985.

This was no small achievement as the film holds up as beyond modern and relevant. Its madness may yet to be realized in the future.

Like Blade Runner, the future is the past. There is an aura of 1940s film noir interspersed with superhero comic fantasy.

Jonathan Pryce is some bureaucrat by day and by night, in his dreams, some kind of flying circus performer out to save a damsel in distress. In the meantime, he works in mindless government agencies that are after Harry Tuttle (Robert DeNiro) in an early comedic performance as a heating engineer who is a wanted man for doing duct work without a license.

Pryce’s mother Ida Lowry is played by the youth-conscious Katherine Helmond in a face-stretching performance with Jim Broadbent, as her fey plastic surgeon, striving for tighter skin.

Included in the shenanigans are such familiar faces as Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, and Ian Richardson. If they wanted to kick off the unorthodoxy of their careers, this film is definitely the forerunner.

If you want a plot, you will fall into a black hole and likely be stretched to kingdom come.

You can ride the wave of this movie from one loony tune moment to the next, not bothering to connect the dots or the scenes. It’s like being in the Trump Administration: you just sit back and experience the Cinerama of movie magic to the mambo-jumbo notes of the song “Brazil.”

Heavens, or is that Land of Goshen?

London Spy Provides a Good Gay Cry

DATELINE:  Crying Out Loud

London Cry Spy

A friend insisted that London Spy, a BBC TV series airing this year, was on a par with The Night Manager, the LeCarre miniseries.

So, suckered in, we watched.

Both stories deal with unpleasant people over in MI-6, the British Secret Service, but the heroes of each tale are diamentrically at odds with each other. London Spy is a closet gay man, mysteriously done in, turning his inept, flibbety-gibbet boyfriend into a quasi-pathetic detective.

Ben Whishaw is wishy-washy Danny, one weepy, weak protagonist who finds romantic love with a spy who loved him. Danny, however, is weak as water—and easily manipulated. He learns that the love of his life lied to him at every step of their relationship. It brings him to tears.

Gay kink is moderately investigated as Danny seems to be set up by his boyfriend’s spy pals. Danny is no saint, but discussing sadistic gay life brings him to tears.

An interesting cast features Jim Broadbent (looking surprising thin), Charlotte Rampling (looking surprisingly old), and James Fox (surprisingly underused). Creator of the new Brit Sherlock and actor of Mycroft, Mark Gatiss plays a particularly sleazy music business gay boss. In scenes with each actor, Ben Whishaw is brought to the brink of tears.

Dumb and dumber, the hero seems to fall into every pothole in the plot. Why didn’t MI-6 just toss him off a rooftop, rather than allow him to stir up the muck?

We watched with increasing disdain with each teardrop, yet hoping, somehow, some writer would pull these good actors out of the miasma script that requires Kleenex blotters. Alas, it was a dashed hope. Thankfully, there will not be a season two. We are not crying over this.

Circuits Overloaded

Closed Circuit

 DATELINE: MASHED UP MOVIES

With the revelations provided by Edward Snowden of surveillance and spying on average citizens by mammoth government agencies, it seems we may be in for a spate of cloak and dagger dramas like Closed Circuit.

This tidy nightmare depicts legalities undermined in a British terrorism court case with MI6’s fingerprints all over it.

We must admit we are delighted to see Eric Bana actually in a film that draws on his sharpest acting skills, instead of swords, special effects, and his good looks. He plays Martin Rose, a barrister facing “accidents” or a stage suicide if he digs too deeply into motives of an accused terrorist.

Julia Stiles is aboard as an American journalist, but her role is small enough to be effective and unnerving. She is matched with Jim Broadbent with his several powerful scenes. Claran Hinds also serves his role well as a duplicitous solicitor.

When MI6 has surveillance everywhere, we were reminded of the TV series Person of Interest. The fiction has now been overtaken by the reality.

Rebecca Hall is a colleague of Bana’s—and a former love interest. Together they may uncover a political scandal at a cost to them and their client.

Movies like this one usually are meant to be cautionary tales, but when you are rendered powerless and inconsequential by shadow government agencies, there is not much opportunity for salvation. Closed Circuit reminds us of John LeCarre at his most cynical Cold War espionage tales.

Effective and a bit frightening, this film may be an ultimate downer, a cry that the sky is falling that comes too late.