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January 26, 2010


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Peter Nellhaus

I'm constantly reminded of "Ishtar" and Beatty's attempts at Yiddish when I hear my coworkers speak about "Charles Swab".



Matt Prigge

It's worth noting that this picture -- which is as, you say, not bad -- streams on Netflix, even if there's no company has put out a physical DVD. Score. And I now have "Dangerous Business" lodged in my head.

Jaime Christley

Not only is THE HEARTBREAK KID good, but as a passionate defender of the brothers Farrelly, I was (the only person on the planet who was) very impressed with their remake.


Box office failures **alway** poison reputations - few films recover from it. John Ford's MARY OF SCOTLAND, for example, is not only not bad (to take a phrase from the above piece) but is surprisingly (or not surprisingly, if you disarm yourself of false expectations) Fordian and full of striking visuals that put it in the neighborhood of Mamoulian's QUEEN CHRISTINA -- approaching the level of, dare I say it, an Eisenstein costumer like NEVSKY or IVAN I & II.

But in 1936, it crashed and burned, never to recover.

ISHTAR and HEAVEN'S GATE are two of the strongest films of the 1980s, but to this day they struggle to shrug off their status as punchlines for stand-up comedians. And so it goes.


I would hazard to say that most movies that earn the kind of reputation that ISHTAR has -- not just box office failure, but, as Jaime points out, punchline status -- are never really THAT bad. Hell, WATERWORLD isn't THAT bad. I don't care if I never see it again, but it's still not THAT bad. Most movies that ARE that bad tend to just disappear, without a mention, or weren't burdened with any kind of expectation in the first place. The expectations for HEAVEN'S GATE (which I'm not crazy about, but still) were enormous, as was the case with ISHTAR. WATERWORLD had high expectations based on Costner and the budget, and even GIGLI (which I haven't seen) was the new film by Martin Brest, for whom a lot of people have a great deal of affection (including myself, if only for MIDNIGHT RUN). If you're terrible, but no one cared to begin with, you're failure will pass without notice. If you've made a name for yourself, and then you're suddenly flawed, or mediocre, or whatever, then the knives come out.


I should add that, despite the above, I do think that THE POSTMAN is that bad.

Dan Coyle

The irony of the Postman is that if you think the movie is bad, the novel it's based off of, which is significantly different except for the basic premise and the Nathan Holn character, is like 1,000 times worse.

I actually enjoyed Waterworld- a fact that made a film professor in college stare at me for a full minute trying to process what the fuck I just said.

One huge bomb I have a weird sort of affection for is Larry Bishop's Mad Dog Time (aka Trigger Happy). Does ANYONE know what that film is about, the actors and Bishop himself included? How could someone produce something so stultifyingly incompetent and not bury the print in concrete? Yet the films weird universe of hepped up gangsters and molls exerts this PULL on me, as if I see it enough times I'll unlock the secrets of the universe.

Tom Russell Hasn't Seen Ishtar, But Always Wanted To...


Post title hurt my head.

Is the fact that the pun only works if you mispronounce "tao" a deliberate evocation of the mispronounciation of yiddish words in the film that you reference in your piece?


@Dan - But I thought David Brin was supposed to be good. I wouldn't know based on actual experience, but that's what I've heard.

The Siren

@Jaime - what is also interesting, and often quite sad, is how often filmmakers and stars internalize box-office failure and diss the hell out of a movie, even if it was something rather brilliant but just ahead of its time, like Cukor's Sylvia Scarlett. Minnelli did that with Two Weeks in Another Town, which is a great movie. Hell, even Renoir did it with Woman on the Beach.

I have a small Ishtar story. I had a friend who was working in the Brill building where it was undergoing another round of editing. My friend got on the elevator one day and who should be there but Dustin Hoffman. Another guy gets on, and he apparently knows Hoffman and asks, "So how's it going?"

"Like heart and lung surgery," was Hoffman's unsmiling reply.


@Dan - I kind of like MAD DOG TIME, even though I agree what you say. I see it as an authentic attempt to make a Rat Pack movie with the original attitude behind them (the remake of OCEAN'S 11 I thought was fun, but had a different kind of attitude than the original).

Fuzzy Bastarrd

As the guy who thinks FULL FRONTAL is the best movie of the aughts, I definitely agree that many supposedly disastrous movies turn out to be good. I'll definitely check ISHTAR again--- the only full scene I remember about it is the "schmuck" scene, but I always thought that was pretty funny. I do also recall finding Ebert's review resonant---he thought had a lot of great ideas for bits but the actors seemed over-rehearsed and exhausted, which killed the lightness of tone needed. But maybe that's background chatter that'll fade when watching it.


Nothing beats a deadpan shallow unctuous Charles Grodin playing a government official ... therefore, a good time. THE FUTURIST! recently watched this via NetFlix streaming.

Professor Orsells

Jaime, if I may ask, what is it you found to be so successful in the Farrelly Bros. remake of THE HEARTBREAK KID? I found it to be a tone-deaf, unfunny, unprofound gloss on the deeply satisfying and amazingly funny original. Where Elaine May's film found significance, humour and insight in moments of human thought, reaction, interaction and solitude, in longing, ideas one builds in their own mind and the ways we delude ourselves, the Farrelly's seemed to forever be going for the broad without understanding that which can sustain it, having nary a moment to ponder thought and action (and I have seen this elsewhere in their work and enjoy some of their films immensly, largely the unjustly neglected KINGPIN)

Not to mention, perhaps the most important fact, the aggregious disemboweling of May's film in their removing the entire substance and support in the Jewish man longing for the WASP-Shiksa and all that is built upon and entails (and the fact that Charles Grodin, before he lost touch with the world ((an aside: a friend once had the opportunity to meet Grodin and asked him if there would ever be a DVD with commentary of MIDNIGHT RUN, as he reported Grodin seemed to not even know of or understand the concept of a DVD commentary)), was far funnier than Ben Stiller could ever hope to be ((perhaps outside his Springsteen imitation)) )


Prof - do you have any interest in the Farrelly brothers at all?

It's hard to answer "what did you find good about..." questions put to me by people who have already made up their mind that there's nothing good. What answer could I possible give you? The best I can do for you is to say that the Farrellys travel on different paths than Elaine May. I don't think it would help either of us to contradict any of your other points.

Jon Hastings

I think the Farrelly Bros. Heartbreak Kid is very good and very funny (the punchline to the montage sequence that ends with him trying to get on the train had me in tears). But I don't think it's too useful to look at it as a remake of the earlier film: the Farrelly Bros. start with the same basic premise - a guy falls for another woman while he's on his honeymoon - but that's as far as they go. They're not making a movie about Jewish identity: instead, they're satirizing the "love conquers all"/"love at first sight" ethos of contemporary romantic comedies (especially those that feature man-children finally "growing up" because they meet the right woman). I don't think what they're doing is as ambitious as what May did, but their movie succeeds on its own terms quite well.


I saw, and didn't hate, the Farrelly's remake of THE HEARTBREAK KID. I liked Stiller and Monaghan, and found the quieter stuff (speaking very relatively, this being a Farrelly brothers film) much more appealing than the stuff that I think was supposed to make me pee my pants. I really liked the last line, though. Wishing those guys would tone it down a bit is pointless, but I still wish it.

I've never seen May's original, but man do I wish that was on DVD. I'm dying to see it. Anybody know which collection has Bruce Jay Friedman's original short story?

Professor Orsells

Jaime, my apologies if I seemed condescending or stepped on your new Jordans. As stated, yes there are Farrelly Bros. films I like (KINGPIN, THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT...parts of SHALLOW HAL, as a Red Sox fan I cannot excuse FEVER PITCH though) and, yes, perhaps it is foolish, as Jon says, to view their film in the light of May's and is best to see it as its own thing (though that can be difficult at times given the similarities) but, and perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, beyond the different strokes for different folks reply I still am curious as to what you find succesfull in the film without taking it as an attack or an affront. My rhetoric was poorly chosen, opting for rousing from slumber rather than conversational. My mind may not be as made up as that rhetorical tactic makes it seem and I do have genuine interest in thoughts on what makes the film succesfull, thank you Jon for your response.

Account Deleted

I'm one of only two people I know that thought The Postman was great fun. Yes I know that it's overlong and it's a vanity project for Costner, but I thought it was a much more entertaining film than the one that was released the same day and went on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

steve simels


Feh. Any movie that makes the decision to keep Isabelle Adjani's face and figure completely bundled up in a stupid turban and burnoose is a failure by definition.


I caught showing of A New Leaf a couple of weeks ago, and does anyone know if the three-hour version is gone forever? The theatrical cut is still brilliant, but the last half-hour is kind of choppy, and any movie can only get better with a bit of William Hickey. However, even the theatrical version still deserves a DVD release eventually, right?

Dan Coyle

The Heartbreak Kid made me hooked on Malin Akerman for life.

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