Saturday, May 16, 2009

Terry Gilliam and the art of perseverance ... or is it insanity?

Well, Friday came and went with no word on "Chuck," so I guess Tuesday really is the big day in that department. Two other shows I just assumed were dead, however, have somehow escaped the chopping block.

When Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" premiered, I was sure it would be canceled after four or five episodes, because frankly those early shows were almost as abysmal as the ratings. Not awful, I guess, just awfully generic, and with really no touches that would tell you it was a Whedon show.

As the season went on, however, it slowly developed into a solid little bit of sci-fi, so I'm pleased to see it will be back for a second season. And, frankly, just as glad that it will once again only be 13 episodes. More network shows should adapt to this cable-like schedule, in my opinion, since a lot of them - while perfectly entertaining - just clearly don't have enough ideas to sustain a full 22-episode run.

And, perhaps even more amazingly, "Scrubs" is somehow coming back to ABC for a ninth season, after what was clearly intended as a series finale. Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke have both agreed to return for six episodes to help transition to the newer cast members, and thankfully Donald Faison, John C. McGinley and Neil Flynn will all be back for at least some of the new episodes too.

I'd call this mostly great news, since "Scrubs" is just the perfect pitch of silly fun, except for one very big problem. A quick test: If you watched the "Scrubs" season that just ended, can you name any of the characters who were added? I can't, because none of them were all that memorable or entertaining, and I really think it's gonna be a big leap to make people want to watch them week after week without a BIG dose of the real regulars.

But enough of all that. Here today it was supposed to be all Terry Gilliam, and from here on out it will be.

When I first saw this news Friday, it just made me smile, but it also made me finally realize that I really like Gilliam as a personality at least as much or more than I still do as a filmmaker. Don't get me wrong: I'm cheering for him to return to form, but his last flick, "Tideland," was just the definition of unwatchable (although I did, in a couple of sittings, somehow make it to the end.)

And I wish him nothing but the best in finding a proper distributor for "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus." Tom Waits as the devil? I'll be there as soon as I can, but I really don't have terribly high hopes that it will ever be at a theater anywhere near my little corner of the world.

But for his own sanity and hopefully at some point our entertainment, I'm most happy to now hear that - truly against all odds - Gilliam has somehow revived once again "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote."

If you're unfamiliar with this saga, it began nine years ago and has already spawned a feature documentary about just how epic a failure it was the first time around. And if you haven't seen "Lost in La Mancha," I can't recommend it highly enough as an oft-times depressing but nonetheless engaging portrait of exactly how NOT to make a movie.

But even after watching that doco in Atlanta with my mom at the fabulous Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, I was always cheering for Gilliam to finally somehow pull this off, mostly because I've been a big fan of perseverance that borders on and often crosses right over to insanity. And beyond that, what he was cooking up the first time and hopefully again this time just sounded like tons of fun.

This time, screenwriter Tony Grisoni and Gilliam are working on a tale that will revolve around a filmmaker who is charmed into Don Quixote’s eternal quest for his ladylove, "becoming an unwitting Sancho Panza." If this really happens, it will begin shooting next spring, but the biggest remaining question would have to be will Johnny Depp really go through all this again?

If I were a betting man, which I almost never am now, I'd say yes, both because he clearly has tremendous loyalty to Gilliam and because he often seems to have the same obstinate qualities that make Gilliam so fascinating in the first place. Here's hoping he also brings along his wife, Vanessa Paradis, again, and that easily one of my favorite actors, Jean Rochefort (who had a small but pivotal role in one of my very favorite movies of 2008, "Tell No One"), will also be able to take on the lead role again, though it was his back pains, among other things, that doomed Gilliam's Quixote the first time around (and if you want to see another great Rochefort movie on DVD, Patrice Leconte's "L'Homme du Train," with Rochefort and the French pop singer Johnny Hallyday, is just a nearly perfect little flick.)

And no matter how this all turns out, to me it's just an inspiring tale of insanity. And with that, I'm off to watch "Star Trek" again to do my part to put it on top of the box office ladder again, and hopefully miles above the ball of shite known as "Angels and Demons." Peace out.

3 comments:

Mercurie said...

I was rather shocked to learn Dollhouse would be back. Given Fox's history with genre shows, I figured if it made it past three or four shows, it would not be back for a second season.

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to imagine that the Whedon name was enough to give it a second shot, Mercurie, but I do think the show got good enough by season's end to really deserve it

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