10 Christopher Plummer Films To Watch This Weekend

Christopher Plummer died today.  The Canadian actor was 91 years old and he left behind a truly impressive filmography.  Below are ten films that I would recommend if you want to have a Christopher Plummer film fesival this weekend.  I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a bit of an idiosyncratic list, a mixture of obscure and cult films with a few films that are well-known but which perhaps aren’t usually thought of as being Christopher Plummer films.  This was intentional on my part.  Everyone already knows that Christopher Plummer was in The Sound of Music and Knives Out.  I wanted to recommend a few films that you might not see listed elsewhere.

So, with all that in mind, here are 10 Christopher Plummer films to watch this weekend:

Starcrash (1979) — One of my favorite films of all time, this Star Wars rip-off features Christopher Plummer in the small but pivotal role of the Emperor of the Galaxy.  Plummer brings a lot dignity and humanity to the role.  If the galaxy does ever have an emperor, I hope he will be as wise as Christopher Plummer was in Starcrash.

Up (2009) — Christopher Plummer lends his amazing voice to this PIXAR film about an old man who floats away on an adventure and who runs into far more sinister adventurer named Charles Muntz.  Plummer is wonderfully menacing at Muntz, using his voice to create one of PIXAR’s most memorable villains.

Murder By Decree (1979) — In this Canadian film, Plummer plays Sherlock Holmes while James Mason plays Dr. Watson.  Together, they investigate the crimes of Jack the Ripper and uncover a royal conspiracy.  Plummer is perhaps one of the most credible Sherlock Holmes to ever appear on screen, breathing real life into a character that otherwise could have felt like a literary invention.  Thanks to Plummer’s performance, the final scenes are poignant and rather sad and perhaps as emotional as any scene to be found in any screen adaptations of Holmes’s adventures.

12 Monkeys (1995) — Plummer is nicely cast of Brad Pitt’s father in this Terry Gilliam-directed time travel epic.

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) — In this historical epic, Plummer played yet another emperor, the mad Commodus.  Though The Fall of the Roman Empire has its flaws, it’s still an enjoyable work of spectacle and Plummer’s villainous turn is definitely one of the film’s highlights.  Whereas other Roman epics often portrayed the “bad” emperors as being decadent and somewhat buffoonish, Plummer plays up Commodus’s anger and his desire for revenge.  He’s the emotionally vulnerable tyrant.

Dreamscape (1984) — The enjoyable sci-fi/horror hybrid features Plummer as a sinister government agent who is conspiring to kill the President through his dreams.  Though the role might not have much depth, this is a well-made movie and Plummer makes for an effective villain.

The Silent Partner (1979) — Christopher Plummer is terrifying in this Canadian film, playing a bank robber who dresses up like Santa Claus and who has no hesitation about using violence to get what he wants.  This is one of Plummer’s best villainous turns.

Barrymore (2011) — The great Christopher Plummer plays the great John Barrymore in this Canadian film.  This may not be Plummer’s best-known performances but it’s one of his best.

Alexander (2004) — As silly as this Oliver Stone epic sometimes is, Christopher Plummer is the ideal Aristotle.

Vampire in Venice (1988) — Christopher Plummer vs. Klaus Kinski in Venice!  Kinski is Dracula.  Plummer is basically Van Helsing.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime meeting of two unique acting talents.

Finally, a few other Christopher Plummer films that I’d also recommend checking out: Inside Daisy Clover, The Pyx, The Man Who Would Be King, Wolf, Dolores Claiborne, The New World, The Last Station, Beginners, All The Money In The World, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Christopher Plummer, R.I.P.


Film Review: Malcolm & Marie (dir by Sam Levinson)

Eh, Malcolm & Marie.  

John David Washington is Malcolm, a director who has been called the next Spike Lee though he would rather be known as the next William Wyler.

Zendaya is Marie, an actress and former drug addict who is Malcolm’s girlfriend and the inspiration for his latest film.

Malcom & Marie is the first Hollywood production to be filmed during the COVID-19 lockdowns.  It was shot largely in secret and the announcement that it even existed took many people by surprise.  This is pandemic filmmaking: a small cast working with a small crew in one location and it’s all stagey as Hell.

Indeed, Malcolm & Marie feels like an interminable play and one can easily imagine future acting students performing the film’s monologues on dingy stages in low-lit classrooms.  That it’s a talky film is, I guess, unavoidable.  When you’ve only got two characters and no one’s trying to rob a bank or kill the Avengers, there’s not really much to do other than to talk.  To be honest, this is the type of film that some of us have spent the past few years repeatedly asking for: it attempts to deal with big issues, it features two characters with their own separate ways of looking at the world, and it debates all the issues of art and commerce. There’s no explosions.  There’s no CGI.  There’s not post-credits scene designed to get us to spend money to see a sequel.  When we asked for a film like this, did we realize that the end result would be so monotonous and boring?  The obvious answer is that we didn’t but a part of me wonders if there’s not a certain group of critics who look at a film like Malcolm & Marie and think to themselves, “It’s so dull that it has to be good!  It’s either that or else we admit that we just wasted two hours of our life in the middle of a pandemic.”

(Seriously, everyone — life is short and you only get so many hours.  You don’t get those hours back, either.  Two hours may not seem like a lot but when you’ve only got 168 hours to live, those wasted hours start to add up.)

The film open with Malcolm and Marie returning from the premiere of his latest film.  Malcolm is excited because the premiere went well.  Marie is upset because Malcolm failed to thank her when he gave his post-film speech.  (Of course, there’s more to her anger than that.)  Malcolm and Marie bicker and then they laugh and then they go back to arguing again.  They start to make love several times, just to stop as one of them inevitably brings up what happened at the premiere.  Malcolm spends a lot of time complaining about the critics and how they insist on trying to categorize him as being solely a black filmmaker or a political filmmaker or a male filmmaker when he just wants to be known as a great filmmaker.  Malcolm compares himself to William Wyler and George Cukor.  Marie continually calls him out for being so full of himself, perhaps because she knows that neither Wyler nor Cukor would have allowed Malcolm to indulge in so many endless rants.  One especially gets the feeling that William Wyler, who directed The Best of Years Of Our Lives and who risked his life filming World War II, would have told Malcolm to get a grip.

Watching the film, one gets the feeling that the entire production is basically just a two-hour therapy session for director Sam Levinson.  When Malcolm vents about the critics, Sam Levinson is venting about the critics.  When Marie calls out Malcolm and talks about how selfish he is, it comes across as Levinson saying, “See, I’m actually a lot more self-aware than you realize!”  And when Marie stays with Malcolm despite the fact that he’s a pompous blowhard, it comes across as Levinson letting us know that he’s decided that he’s worth the trouble.

And really, that’s fine.  Insecurity can be a painful thing and it’s something that everyone has to deal with.  Far too often, people assume that just because you’re attractive or you’ve got a lot of money or you’ve found success in your field, that means you magically no longer have to deal with any self-doubt.  In fact, the opposite is true.  The more attractive you are and the more successful you are and the more honest you are about both your strengths and your weaknesses, the more time you spend wondering if people like you or if they just like being associated with you.  To paraphrase a frequently heard saying, with great talent comes great insecurity.  So, I certainly don’t blame the film’s director for spending the pandemic putting together a two-hour therapy session.  But that still doesn’t make the film particularly interesting to watch.

Even though Sam Levinson’s keeps the camera moving, Malcolm & Marie ultimately feels more theatrical than cinematic.  For all the yelling and the anger and the failed attempts at sex, it’s just a bit dull.  Far too many scenes are both overwritten and, in Washington’s case, overacted.  John David Washington never convinces us that Malcolm is worth all of the trouble.  When he’s supposed to be compelling, he just comes across as being a blowhard.  Zendaya, on the other hand, proves herself to be a major talent by giving a compelling performance even in this mess of a film.  Even when her dialogue is awkward, Zendaya manages to find some sort of emotional truth in her character.  She’s relatable and, as opposed to Washington, she makes Marie’s complaints into something universal.  We can understand her frustration and her anger because, in our own individual ways, we’ve all been there.  We all know what it’s like to be underappreciated.  We all know what it’s like to wonder where we fit in.  Of course, it also helps that both Zendaya and the viewer spend the majority of the movie annoyed with Malcolm.

Malcolm & Marie is essentially a two-hour argument and watching it is about as much fun as …. well, listening to two people argue for two hours.  Zendaya proves her talent but otherwise, this is one private discussion that need not be heard by the public.

Artwork of the Day: Smashing Detective Stories (Artist Unknown)

Artist Unknown

This issue of Smashing Detective Stories is from 1952.  Unfortunately, the identity of the artist who did this cover is not known.

It’s love!  Or is it a prison break?  Or a chase through the swamps?  I’m impressed that anyone could keep their hair looking that good even after passing out in a swamp.  Is the man on the cover Mickey?  Is the passed out woman named Mayhem?  Perhaps only Richard Deming knows for sure.


Music Video of the Day: Guilty of Love by Whitesnake (1983, directed by Lindsey Clennell)

David Coverdale is guilty of love!  I’m not sure how you can be guilty of something that isn’t a crime or even a bad thing but I’m sure David Coverdale could find a way.

Sorry, Tawny Kitaen is not in this video.  Instead, it’s just clips taken from a series of different Whitesnake shows.  A good deal of this video was filmed during a Monsters of Rock show.

This song was the first single to be released off of their sixth studio album, Slide It In.  One thing that no one will ever accuse Whitesnake of being is subtle.

It’s rocking song, though.