Resolution Help From Monty Python’s Flying Circus


As the first day of 2022 comes to a close, now is a good time to stop, take a look back over the past 24 hours, and determine how many of your resolutions have already been broken.  Have you broken one or two of them?  How about all of them?  Or did you forget to make a resolution all together?

Well, don’t worry!  Seriously, New Year’s resolutions are the worst!  Every new year, people resolve to make changes and it rarely happens.  Instead, people almost immediately break their resolutions and then they spend the next 12 months feeling like a failure.  The amount of pressure that people put on themselves to try to change their lives for the better, it’s not fair, to be honest.  If you’ve already broken your resolution, don’t feel bad about it.  As long as your resolution wasn’t to stop doing something terrible and illegal, I forgive you if you’ve already totally failed to keep your promise to yourself.  Take some comfort in that.

(My own resolution for 2022 was to be nicer to my friends and stop putting so much pressure on myself.  I think that was last year’s resolution as well and we all know how well that went.  I think my most successful resolution was from 2004.  That was when I resolved to survive any serious car accidents that I got involved with and to go to college and I managed to keep both of those resolutions.  BOOM!)

We always hear that change is good but sometimes it isn’t.  And here to illustrate that point are John Cleese and Michael Palin from Monty Python’s Flying Circus!  Below is one of my favorite sketches from that famous show.  Palin is a chartered accountant who wants to be a lion tamer.  He has no experience but he does have his own hat!  Cleese shows him the error of his ways, including revealing that Palin has long been mistaking anteaters for lions.  Who hasn’t made the same mistake?

(I have to admit that my favorite Monty Python moments often involved Palin somehow getting on Cleese’s nerves.  Palin’s eagerness to please and his way with a deceptively passive statement was always the perfect foil for Cleese’s slightly more aggressive style of comedy.  Perhaps not coincidentally, I’ve read on numerous occasions that Cleese’s main motivation for getting involved with what would become Monty Python was so he could work with Michael Palin.)

My favorite line from this particular vignette: “Yes, yes, yes, I do follow, Mr Anchovy, but you see the snag is… if I now call Mr Chipperfield and say to him, ‘look here, I’ve got a forty-five-year-old chartered accountant with me who wants to become a lion tamer’, his first question is not going to be ‘does he have his own hat?'”

Think of this whenever you fear that you’re not living up to your resolutions!  After all, sometimes there’s more to changing one’s life than merely having the right hat (though, I imagine it does help).

The Unnominationed: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (dir by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones)


Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences claim that the Oscars honor the best of the year, we all know that there are always worthy films and performances that end up getting overlooked.  Sometimes, it’s because the competition too fierce.  Sometimes, it’s because the film itself was too controversial.  Often, it’s just a case of a film’s quality not being fully recognized until years after its initial released.  This series of reviews takes a look at the films and performances that should have been nominated but were,for whatever reason, overlooked.  These are the Unnominated.

Really, Academy?

No nominations for one of the most influential and widely-quoted films ever to be released?

Well, actually, I get it.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail was first released in 1975 and 1975 was an unusually good year for cinema.  Back in the 70s, of course, the Academy only nominated five films for Best Picture and, as a result, a lot of good films were not nominated that year.  There just wasn’t room for them.  Check out the five films that were nominated and ask yourself which one you would drop to make room for a different nominee.

Would you drop:

Barry Lyndon, which was directed by Stanley Kubrick was considered to be the most realistic recreation of the 18th Century to ever be captured on film,

Dog Day Afternoon, in which director Sidney Lumet brilliantly mixed comedy and drama and which featured wonderful performances from Al Pacino, John Cazale, Chris Sarandon, and Charles Durning,

Jaws, the Steven Spielberg-directed hit that changed the face of Hollywood,

Nashville, Robert Altman’s sprawling and ambitious portrait of a country tying to find itself after a decade of trauma,

or

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, in which Milos Forman paid tribute to individual freedom and Jack Nicholson gave perhaps the best performance of his legendary career?

I mean, those are five great films.  Even the weakest of the nominees (which, in this case, I think would be the eventual winner, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) is still stronger than the average Best Picture nominee.

So, I can understand why there wasn’t room for an episodic and rather anarchistic British comedy, one that largely existed to parody the type of epic and period filmmaking that the Academy tended to honor.  If there had been ten nominees in 1975 and Monty Python and the Holy Grail had been snubbed to make room for something like The Other Side of the Mountain, my feelings might be different but there weren’t.

That said, even if there wasn’t room in the Best Picture slate, what to make of the lack of nominations for a script that is so full of quotable lines and memorable incidents that even people who haven’t seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail are familiar with them?  No nominations for the costumes, the production design, or the cinematography, all of which are surprisingly good for a low-budget film that was directed by not one but two untested neophyte directors?  No nominations for the thrilling music or the Camelot song?  How about a special award for the killer rabbit?

How about at least a best actor nomination for Graham Chapman, who played King Arthur not as a comedic buffoon but instead as being well-intentioned but also increasingly frustrated by the fact that his subjects cared not about his quest or his royal title?  Though 1975 may have been a strong year for movies, it appears that the Academy still struggled to find five best actor nominees and they resorted to giving a nomination for James Whitmore’s performance as Harry Truman in a filmed version of his one-man stage show, Give ‘Em Hell Harry.  Nothing against James Whitmore or Harry Truman but I think we all know that spot belonged to Graham Chapman and his performance as King Arthur.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is often described as being a satire of the Arthurian legends.  I think, even more than being a film about King Arthur, it’s a film about a group of people trying to make an epic despite not having the resources or the patience to do so.  Python humor has always featured characters who were both foolishly confident and stubbornly aggressive and both of those traits are on wide display in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  The production can’t afford horses so Arthur and his knights hit two coconuts together to duplicate the sound of the hooves on the ground and when they’re confronted about it, they attempt to change the subject.  Can’t afford to shoot in a real castle?  Simply declare Camelot to be a silly place and walk away.  Can’t afford to get permits to film on a certain location? Film illegally and run the risk of getting arrested just when you’re about to start the film’s climatic battle scene.  Can’t afford to hire God for a cameo?  Use a cut-out.  Can’t afford a real knight?  Just hire some people who get carried away and then hope one of them doesn’t kill the local academic who has shown up to explain the film’s historical context.

“I just get carried away,” John Cleese’s Lancelot says more than once and he has a point.  But the entire movie is about people getting carried away.  The Black Knight is so carried away in his belief in himself that he continues to fight despite having neither arms nor legs.  The villagers are so carried away in their desire to burn a witch that they cheer when it’s discovered that she weighs the same amount as a duck.  (“It’s a fair cop,” the witch, played by Connie Booth, admits.)  Eric Idle’s Sir Robin is so carried away in his ability to answer questions that he doesn’t consider that he might be asked about the capitol of Assyria.  The Knights of the Round Table as so carried away in their dancing and their singing that no one wants to go to the castle.  Even the film’s animator gets carried away, suffering a heart attack and saving Arthur and his surviving knights from a fate worse than death.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a very funny film, of course.  We all know that.  (I once read a story about a woman who, having learned she only had a few weeks to live, decided to watch this film everyday until she passed.  I don’t blame her.)  But what I truly love about this film is that, in scene-after-scene, you can literally see the Pythons realizing that they were actually capable of making a real movie.  Michael Palin, especially, seems to be having so much fun playing the eternally pure Sir Galahad that it’s impossible not to get caught up in his happiness.  There’s a joie de vivre that runs through Monty Python and the Holy Grail, even at its darkest and most cynical.  The Pythons are having fun and it’s impossible not to have fun with him.

And, while the Oscars may have snubbed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Tonys did not.  When the film was later turned into Spamalot, it received 14 Tony nominations and won three.

Previous entries in The Unnominated:

  1. Auto Focus 
  2. Star 80

Cleaning Out The DVR: And Now For Something Completely Different (dir by Ian MacNaughton and Terry Gilliam)


A tall, dark-haired British man sits behind a desk that is rather oddly sitting in the middle of a field.  He wears a dark suit and he looks quite serious as he says, “And now, for something completely different….”

Cut to a short film about a man with a tape recorder up his nose, followed by another short film about man who has a tape recorder up his brother’s nose.

A Hungarian man tries to buy cigarettes while using an inaccurate English phrasebook.  The publisher of the phrasebook is later brought before the court.

Poor old Arthur Pewty goes to marriage counseling and can only watch impotently as the counselor seduces his wife.  Having filed to stand up for himself, Pewty is crushed by 16-ton weight.

A self-defense instructor teaches his students how to defend themselves when they are attacked by a man with a banana.

A loquacious man in a pub says “nude nudge” and “wink wink” until his drinking companion is finally forced to slam down his drink.

A man who sees double recruits a mountaineer to climb the two peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Hopefully, they’ll be able to find last year’s expedition, which was planning on building a bridge between the two peaks.

There’s bizarre, almost Dadaist animation, featuring classic works of art interacting with cartoonish cut-outs.

Uncle Sam appears to explain how communism is like tooth decay.  A toothpase commercial explains how taking care of your teeth is like racing a car.  A motor oil company shows how it can destroy darkness and grim.

A prince dies of cancer but the spot on his face flourishes until it falls in love and moves into a housing development.

A man tries to return a dead pigeon.  The store clerk insists the pigeon is merely stunned and then sings about wanting to be a lumberjack.

A general complains that things have gotten much too silly.

The narrator appears randomly, announcing, “And now for something completely different….”

Okay, okay, you get the idea.  First released in 1971, And Now For Something Completely Different was the first film to be made featuring all of the members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  It was their initial attempt to break into the American market, a collection of surreal sketches that they had previously performed on television for the BBC.  Unfortunately, at the time, no one in America really knew who Monty Python was and the film failed at the box office, to the extent that many in the UK advised against Monty Python even allowing their program to later air on PBS because it was felt that Americans just wouldn’t get it.  Of course, Americans did eventually get it.  The show remains popular to this very day.  Countless Americans are convinced that they can speak in a perfectly convincing British accent, as long as they’re quoting a line from Monty Python.  The previous 4th of July, when the town band played John Philip Sousa’s Liberty Bell, I saw hundreds of people stamping down their feet at the end of it.  As for And Now For Something Completely Different, it was re-released in 1974 and became a bit of a cult favorite in the States.

That said, the members of Monty Python were never particularly happy with the film.  They were convinced to make the film by Victor Lownes, who was the head of Playboy’s UK operation.  Lownes, however, alienated the members of the group by trying to exert control over the material.  He particularly objected to the character of Ken Shabby, a perv who probably had a stash of sticky Playboys back at this flat.  Lownes also put up very little money for the production, meaning that the Pythons had to resort to shooting the film, without an audience, in a deserted factory.  Apparently, even the deliberately cheap-looking special effects of the television show were considered to be too expensive to recreate for the film.  Michael Palin and Terry Jones both later complained that the film itself was series of scenes featuring people telling jokes while sitting behind desks.

Of course, Lownes’s biggest sin was trying to insinuate that he was somehow the Seventh Python.  (One can only imagine how many people were guilty of the sin over the years.  Claiming to be the Seventh Python was probably a bit like claiming to be the Fifth Beatle.)  When Terry Gilliam was animating the film’s opening credits, the names of the cast were shown in blocks of stone.  Lownes insisted that his name by listed the same way.  Gilliam reluctantly acquiesced but then redid the names of the Pythons so that they were no longer in stone.  Fortunately, Victor Lownes would not involved in the subsequent Python films.

All that said, there’s no denying that And Now For Something Completely Different is a funny movie.  I mean, it’s Monty Python.  It’s John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, all youthful and at the heights of their considerable comedic talents.  Even if all of the sketches are familiar from the show, they’re still funny and it’s impossible not to enjoy discovering the way that the movie threads them together.  (Combining the Lumberjack song with the dead parrot sketch worked out brilliantly.  “What about my bloody parrot!?” Cleese is heard to shout as Palin walks through the forests of British Columbia.)  Personally, my favorite Python is Eric Idle but I also love any sketch that involves Michael Palin getting on John Cleese’s nerves.  Everyone knows the dead parrot sketch, of course.  But I also like the vocational guidance counselor sketch.  It’s hard not to get caught up in Palin’s excitement as he discusses his lion tamer’s hat.  Almost as wonderful as Palin’s turn as Herbert Anchovy, accountant was Michael Palin’s turn as the smarmy host of Blackmail.  Actually, maybe Michael Palin is my favorite Python.  I guess it’s a tie between him and Eric.

And Now For Something Different has been on my DVR for quite some time.  I’ve watched it several times.  I’m not planning on deleting it any time soon.

What If Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees: 2018 Edition


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations. Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated. The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not. Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year. Winners are starred and listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 2017201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

Best Picture

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blindspotting

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Leave No Trace

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

 

Best Director

*Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade

The Coen Brothers for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Alfonso Cuaron for Roma

Debra Granik for Leave No Trace

Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite

Orson Welles for The Other Side of the Wind

 

Best Actor

John Cho in Searching

Jason Clarke in Chappaquiddick

Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born

Daveed Diggs in Blindspotting

*Ethan Hawke in First Reformed

Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here

 

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio in Roma

Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade

Lady Gaga in A Star is Born

*Regina Hall in Support the Girls

Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor

Thomason McKenzie in Leave No Trace

 

Best Supporting Actor

Peter Bogdonavich in The Other Side of the Wind

*Ben Foster in Leave No Trace

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Josh Hamilton in Eighth Grade

Tim Blake Nelson in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Michael Palin in The Death of Stalin

 

Best Supporting Actress

Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place

*Olivia Colman in The Favourite

Zoe Kazan in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Blake Lively in A Simple Favor

Emma Stone in The Favourite

Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

 

Best Voice Over or Motion-Capture Performance

*Josh Brolin in Avengers: Infinity War

Jake Johnson in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Holly Hunter in The Incredibles 2

Shamiek Moore in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

John C. Reilly in Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ben Whishaw in Paddington 2

 

Best Original Screenplay

Blindspotting

The Death of Stalin

*Eighth Grade

The Favourite

Game Night

Support the Girls

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

If Beale Street Could Talk

Leave No Trace

*A Simple Favor

A Star is Born

 

Best Animated Feature

Early Man

Have A Nice Day

The Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Ralph Breaks the Internet

*Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

 

Best Documentary Feature

Avicii: True Stories

Recovery Boys

Shirkers

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

*Three Identical Strangers

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Battle

Gun City

Happy as Lazzaro

Have A Nice Day

The Most Assassinated Woman In The World

*Roma

 

Best Casting

Blindspotting

Eighth Grade

Mandy

Mid90s

Roma

*Support the Girls

 

Best Cinematography

Aquaman

Avengers: Infinity Wars

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Black Panther

*Mandy

Roma

Best Costume Design

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

*Black Panther

The Favourite

Lizzie

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

 

Best Film Editing

Avengers: Infinity Wars

Eighth Grade

Mission Impossible: Fallout

*The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

Searching

Best Makeup and Hair Styling

*The Favourite

Lizzie

Mandy

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Simple Favor

Support the Girls

Best Original Score

Avengers: Infinity War

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Death of Stalin

If Beale Street Could Talk

*Mandy

The Other Side of the Wind

Best Original Song

*“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

“All the Stars” from Black Panther

“Limitless” from Second Act

“I’ll Never Love Again” from A Star is Born

“Is that Alright” from A Star is Born

“Shallow” from A Star is Born

 

Best Overall Use of Music

Bohemian Rhapsody

Eighth Grade

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Mid90s

*A Star is Born

Three Identical Strangers

 

Best Production Design

Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

The Commuter

*The Favourite

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Quiet Place

Best Sound Editing

Annihilation

*Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

12 Strong

Best Sound Mixing

Annihilation

Avengers: Infinity War

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The Other Side of the Wind

Roma

*A Star is Born

Best Stuntwork

Avengers: Infinity War

Beirut

Black Panther

*Mission Impossible: Fallout

12 Strong

Upgrade

Best Visual Effects

Annihilation

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Aquaman

*Avengers: Infinity War

Black Panther

First Man

Films Listed By Number of Nominations:

11 Nominations – Avengers: Infinity War

9 Nominations – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Favourite, Roma

8 Nominations – Eighth Grade, A Star is Born

7 Nominations – Black Panther, The Other Side of the Wind

6 Nominations – A Simple Favor

5 Nominations – Leave No Trace, Support the Girls

4 Nominations – Blindspotting, Mandy, Mission Impossible: Fallout

3 Nominations – Annihilation, The Death of Stalin, Mary Queen of Scots, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

2 Nominations – Aquaman, Have A Nice Day, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Incredibles 2, Lizzie, Mid90s, A Quiet Place, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Searching, Three Identical Strangers, 12 Strong

1 Nomination – Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avicii: True Stories, Battle, Beirut, Bohemian Rhapsody, Chappaquiddick, The Commuter, Early Man, First Man, First Reformed, Game Night, Gun City, Happy as Lazzaro, Isle of Dogs, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, The Most Assassinated Woman In The World, Paddington 2, Recovery Boys, Second Act, Shirkers, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, Upgrade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, You Were Never Really Here

Films Listed By Number of Oscars Won:

3 Oscars – Eighth Grade, The Favourite

2 Oscars – Mandy, A Star is Born, Support the Girls

1 Oscar – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, First Reformed, Leave No Trace, Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Other Side of the Wind, Roma, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Three Identical Strangers

As for the real nominations, they’ll be announced on Tuesday morning!

10 Unacknowledged Christmas Classics


It’s December and that means that it’s the Christmas season and that can only mean an abundance of Christmas movies both at movie theaters and on television.  This Christmas movie has even become a genre in a way that the Thanksgiving movie or the Bank Holiday movie never has.

I love the Christmas season because 1) it’s one of the few times that there’s half a chance of seeing snow in Texas, 2) it gives me an excuse to bond with family, and 3) I get lots of presents.  And I enjoy Christmas movies so much that I can pretty much quote every line from It’s A Wonderful Life from memory.  I’ve even been known to enjoy the holiday movie marathons that pop up on the Lifetime Movie Network (especially if they feature Jeff Fahey and his bluer than blue eyes).  However, my favorite Christmas movie remains the original Miracle on 34th Street because Natalie Wood was one of my mom’s favorite actresses and Miracle was one of her favorite films.

However, in this post, I want to highlight 10 movies that have either been overlooked in the past or else films that, while properly acknowledged as classics, are rarely mentioned as being Christmas films.

1) In Bruges (2008)  — Two Irish hitman (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, both wonderful) hide out in Belgium during the Christmas holiday.  I love this film for so many reason but I have to specifically mention the performance of Ralph Fiennes, who plays an English crime boss with a foul mouth, a murderous personality, and a firmly held set of ethics.

2) Brazil (1985) — One reason why I love Terry Gilliam’s dark satire is because I actually have quite a bit in common with it.  We’re both often misunderstood, we’re both pretty to look at, and we were both released in 1985.  While Brazil is now often acknowledged as one of the best and most imaginative films of the last century, it’s often forgotten that all of this film’s action takes place over the Christmas season.  If you’ve never seen Brazil, see it now.  But be aware that you’ll never look at Michael Palin quite the same way again.

3) Three Days of The Condor (1975) — This espionage thriller (which stars a young, pre-Leatherface Robert Redford) skillfully contrasts cold-blooded violence with the bright outer happiness of the Christmas season.

4) Eyes Wide Shut (2000) — Stanley Kubrick’s final film is a tribute to MK-Ultra conspiracy theories and features rich people trying to be kinky during the Christmas season.  Nicole Kidman does redheads proud with her performance here and we get to see Tom Cruise smoke pot.

5) P2 (2007) — Rachel Nichols is trapped in a parking garage on Christmas Eve by a very scary Wes Bentley.  I have to admit that I’ve always had a morbid fear of either dying, getting seriously injured, or disappearing on Christmas Eve and therefore ruining the holiday for my family.  I guess that’s why P2 resonated with me.

6) Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974) — No, this is not a killer Santa film.  This is the film where a bunch of former Warhol superstars (Ondine and Candy Darling being the most prominent) play a bunch of mental patients who massacre their doctors in a disturbing, sepia-toned sequence.  Years later, on Christmas, another former Warhol superstar — the wonderful Mary Woronov — comes to investigate.  This is actually a fairly good film from director Theodore Gershuny.

7) Christmas Evil (1980) — Now this is a killer Santa film.  Harry is a loser who works in a toy factory but he’s obsessed with Christmas because, when he was a child, he saw mommy humping Santa Claus.  (Isn’t that a song?)  So, one Christmas, Harry dresses up like Santa and goes around killing neglectful parents and others who don’t have the Christmas spirit.  This is an oddly sweet film with an ending that brought very sincere tears to my eyes.

8 ) To All A Good Night (1980) — Okay, this is another killer Santa film and it’s one of those early ’80s slashers where everyone dies because they’re total and complete idiots but two things distinguish this film from other Killer Santa slasher films: 1) it features not one but two psycho Santas and the movie was directed by David Hess, star of Last House On The Left and The House On The Edge of the Park.

9) The Silent Partner (1978) —  However, the greatest of all killer Santas is to be found in this Canadian crime thriller.  Christopher Plummer plays a psycho bank robber who — disguised as Santa — robs a bank.  Elliot Gould plays a lonely bank clerk who uses the robbery as an excuse to steal some cash for himself which leads to Plummer eventually coming after him.  Plummer makes the scariest Saint Nick ever!

10) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) — This is pure grindhouse brilliance, a dark comedy and a metafictional satire disguised an action movie.  Robert Downey, Jr. is a small-time criminal who accidentally becomes a film star and ends up investigating a murder with a hard-boiled PI (a surprisingly self-aware performance from Val Kilmer).  And it all takes place during the holidays.