April 22, 2010

For The Love of Peter O'Toole: Phantoms & Conclusion

Film: Phantoms (Joe Chappelle, 1998)
Role: Dr. Timothy Flyte

First things first: Phantoms is a terrible, terrible film. That it's more famous for its epic failure and the ensuing parody in the Ben Affleck starrer Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back ("Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms!") is testament to its dubious quality. Second things second: O'Toole was obviously hired to lend some monologuing gravitas to the ridiculous proceedings. That doesn't quite work out.

The movie is, after all, as far as I can tell, about some alien race that has remained dormant under the earth since like, the time of the Aztecs (they're what's behind the disappearance of entire cultures, natch), and have the ability to possess people and sometimes appear as an X-Files-ish black oil and sometimes like ghosts (hence the title). And of course, instead of deciding (the aliens are sentient, natch) to bubble up under The White House of the UN or something, they take over some Podunk town in Colorado, kill everybody except the sheriff (Affleck) and his two dopey deputies (Liev Schreiber and Nicky Katt--guess which one dies first). Joining them are Rose McGowen and Joanna Going as sisters who travel to the town for no real reason and think it's like, totally odd that there's no one around. Blah, blah, blah, these very pretty people wander around for a while, encountering dead bodies and mysteries and until they find...a clue! Someone's written the name "Dr. Timothy Flyte" on a mirror. In blood. Natch.

Enter O'Toole in the "What was he thinking?!" role of a lifetime. Dr. Flyte is a quack whose outlandish theories of alien abductions have consigned him to writing for a seedy tabloid. He's old and English and his introductory scene shows him drinking tea and looking disheveled but respectable to let you know he's old. And English.

I've already wasted too many words on this movie. Phantoms is just a mess of mishmashed alien movie cliches with boring lead performances. Furthermore, it's not scary. And that's the real sin. If you're going to make a sci-fi horror film, it should be scary.

And on that depressing note, we come to the close of 'For the Love of Peter O'Toole.' As I noted in the first entry, this is an incomplete filmographic study. Although it was fueled by Netflix, there are still several films available through that format that I didn't rent during my O'Toole-a-Thon months ago and haven't seen since. These include: Man FridaySupergirlKing Ralph,Fairy Tale: A True StoryThe ManorLassieTroy, and Ratatouille and Stardust (both of which I've seen before). None of these I'm particularly yearning to see. Ratatouille is a Pixar masterpiece and wouldn't mind renting again. Stardust I actually own and should probably re-watch for O'Toole's part; the movie is okay generally but the leads are boring and the comedy is pretty uneven.

There are even more projects that don't fit the criteria. For example, Masada is an excellent miniseries from 1981 starring O'Toole. However, because it's technically television and not film, I couldn't write about it for the marathon. I did watch it (all six and a half hours of it) and can recommend it with enthusiasm. If you have the time, I highly suggest you check it out. It's very historically intricate and detailed in its portrayal of ancient Rome and Jewish life but it's surprisingly modern in the way it conveys political strategies and tactics and compelling in its depictions of human struggle and drama.

Even more frustratingly, many O'Toole films I want to see aren't available on Netflix. These include: KidnappedThe Day They Robbed the Bank of EnglandGreat CatherineCountry Dance, and especially The Rainbow Thief (which was directed by Alejandro Jordorowsky and reunited O'Toole with Omar Sharif), Final Curtain, and Dean Spanley. Some of these are available on DVD in the U.S. but Rainbow Thief and The Day They Robbed the Bank of England aren not and Night of the Generals is very hard to find (I had to buy from a rare films dealer in Chicago!).

Furthermore, some of O'Toole's greatest performances were on the stage including Keith Waterhouse's Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell which is available only in the U.K., as far as I can tell. Not to mention the dozens of performances at the Old Vic and playing Hamlet for Laurence Olivier at the Royal Nation Theater.

But, alas. I'm just one woman, what can I do? Until that time where I discover buried pirate treasure in my backyard and become an instant billionaire, I have the means to see only so many films. I'm running out of room here to do justice to the O'Toole filmography in its entirety. There are still so many recurring themes and interesting connections to make between texts. But that's best saved for another time, another entry. 

So, that concludes 'For the Love of Peter O'Toole,' for now. Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment