Films about Losers
These are films in which the main character starts out as a hopeless putz and by the end of ninety minutes s/he is still not someone you'd want to have around.
Wow, a movie for all you Jon Heder fans. Unlike Napoleon Dynamite, Blades of Glory, and The Benchwarmers, in this epic, Heder plays Jeffrey Mannus, a socially misfit maladjusted young man. He lives with his mom (Diane Keaton) and brown bags his lunch to his ridiculous job as a bookstore clerk (Hey, wasn't he a bookstore clerk in Just Like Heaven?) Keaton starts up a romance with the slightly damaged Mert Rosenbloom (Jeff Daniels), which threatens Jeffrey's soft life down in the basement of his mom's house. They slug it out, metaphorically and childishly, but it all comes out cozy in the end. Jeffrey eventually finds a love interest in Anna Faris, who may be the best character in the whole thing. Look for her in Smiley Face where she excels as a lonesome stoner. Eli Wallach has an excellent bit part as Jeffrey's boss. 2008. PG-13. 93 minutes.
Dog Days (Hundtage )
If you thought suburban American life was banal and pointless, take a peek at the Austrian Biedermanner. There are five storylines cross hatched in this film with only the slimmest thread connecting them. In one, a bulimic young woman endures the abuse of her hyper jealous boyfriend, In another, a hefty old widower pays his aged putzfrau to put on his wife's clothes and do a striptease for him. You'll never look at your granny the same after you see that scene. There is also a crazy woman who hitchhikes from scene to scene irritating her benefactors as a leitmotif. Then there's a couple who torment each other sexually since their daughter died in a car accident. She invites men home for the weekend, while he throws a tennis ball around the house. In the fourth, a lonely middle aged woman has a flamboyant Polish lover who humiliates and abuses her. In another story line, a security agent offers up a surrogate as the perpetrator in a crime he can't solve.
Basically everybody gets laid but nobody is too thrilled about it. If Todd Solondz spoke German, he could have made this film. Anyway, it is, at its best, a wonderful collection of some truly normal and unglamorous folks having sex. There's no airbrushing in this one, just naked, nasty, old and fat but truly democratic coupling. There is no salvation in any of these tales, just a reminder that love conquers nothing, and fancy lingerie is not wasted on older women. Directed by Ulrich Seidel. 1999. Austrian in German with subtitles.
Brad Pitt and Edward Norton meet as seatmates on a cross country flight. Soon after that, Ed's apartment blows up, destroying all his great Ikea furniture. He calls Pitt's character, Tyler Durdin, looking for some consolation, and they end up beating the snot out of each other in a parking lot. Both of them kind of enjoy the drubbing, and soon others join in the fun and "Fight Club" evolves. Their #1 rule is never tell anyone about Fight Club, making this bashed up crew into an exclusive group. Pitt's character, Tyler develops an enticing "Fight Club' philosophy. Their ranks swell, and before long their macho sadistic pastime gets out of hand. These bad boys quickly become terrorists, working for the good of mankind. This is a great depiction of a personality cult that has gone wild. Helena Bonham Carter is the serious love interest and an unusual soul. Great film. 1999. Rated R. 139 minutes.
John Cusack is Rob Gordon, an owner of an elitist record store that still sells vinyl. His current girlfriend is just about to leave him as the film begins. He monologues his way through all his past relationships and decides to look up the women from his most traumatic break ups. His biggest problem is that he relies on rock lyrics for advice on his love life. Jack Black is excellent as his know it all employee who mercilessly torments his fellow employee Dick (Todd Louiso) . Kind of like Bridget Jones Diary from a male perspective. Very, very good. Directed by Stephen Frears, and adapted from the novel by Nick Hornby. Read the book, too. 114 minutes. Rated R. 2000.
Subtitled "The rise and fall of an all girl bookie joint by director Eve Annenberg." This is a tale about Lower East Side NYC female slackers who have a plan to move them over to the lower west side. Leila Wascowicz is so broke, they take her mother's coffin to the cemetery by subway (She died of MSG buildup). After that experience Leila and her roommates decide to go into business. They link up with a Brooklyn bookie who sets them up as a satellite office. It kind of smacks of early Spike Lee, but the idea and the dialogue are pretty entertaining. God save small independent film makers. 85 minutes. 2000. Unrated.
The Luzhin Defense
Based on a Nabokov novel, The Luzhin Defense is the tale of a child chess prodigy who is lost in the real world. John Turturro is the hapless Alexander Luzhin, and Emily Watson is the young socialite who tries to coax him into the real world. Set between the wars in an elegant European spa, The Luzhin Defense has director Marleen Gorris does a great job at pointing Turturro in the right direction. Torn between his old chess mentor and his new found love, Luzin is further stressed by the championship he must play for the world title. The book translates well, and the acting is sublime, so watch it, to see how it ends. 2000. PG13. 106 minutes.
The Low Life
Matt got a good education, but he takes a series of temp jobs till his writing career kicks in. Meantime the Raman noodle roommate lifestyle is wearing thin. His latest roomie is a sad soul who paints miniature soldiers and just wants some attention. This pathetic sap makes Matt realize that his life doesn't really suck after all. Directed by George Hickenlooper, who made the Apocalypse Now documentary Heart of Darkness. Sean Astin, Kyra Sedgewick, Rory Cochrane and Renee Zelwegger are in the cast. 96 minutes. Rated R. 1995.
Through an error in judgment, my local video store bought 20 copies of this latest Todd Solondz film. There are not twenty people in my neighborhood that will sit through this 139 minute portrayal of losers. It's a pretty good follow up to Welcome to The Doll House, as Tod continues to pound home his vision of Americans as mundane and seriously flawed people. Lots of folks were or will be uneasy with the frank portrayal of a child molester who is otherwise a great guy. Aside from that, Ben Gazarra is terrific as the disenchanted Miami father and Lara Flyn Boyle is wonderful as his successful but dysfunctional daughter. Look for Marla Maples as Ann Chambers, in her screen debut . Your mother may not like this film, but if you are a sick twisted soul, you'll have no trouble finding a copy. As a bonus it was shot in Livingston, Fort Lee and North Bergen, New Jersey, some truly happening places. Unrated. 139 minutes. 1998.
If you have never seen a Hal Hartley film, Amateur is a great starting point. Martin Donovan wanders into a Manhattan diner, battered and amnesiac, with a pocketful of Dutch Guilders. An ex-nun Isabelle Hubert, interrupts her pornographic writings to tend to him. She takes him home and nurses him as the pieces start to emerge. It seems his ex-wife Sophia ( Elina Lowensohn from Pulp Fiction) pushed him out a window. He was apparently her handler, drug provider, and producer of her porn movies. His name is Thomas, and he is wanted by an international cartel of mobster accountants. It is all too tangled to describe and very engrossing. 1994. Rated R. 105 minutes.
Starring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino. Hackman is the loser-bully while Pacino is the loser-fool. They meet while hitchhiking in opposite directions along a highway and pair up. Pacino is recently discharged from the Navy and heading back to New York to do the right thing--marry the girl he knocked up before going in the service and raise their child. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out like he planned. Not much humor in this movie from the serious '70s, but an interesting look at two successful film stars playing losers.1973. Rated R. 115 minutes. Reviewed and recommended by Mike Marley. Thanks, Mike.
How to Get Ahead in Advertising
Richard Grant is an advertising mogul who has some doubts about his profession. A boil on his shoulder begins to give him advice, then begins to bully him. Written and directed by Bruce Robinson, this could be a sequel to Withnail & I. Kinda weird. 1989. British. Rated R. 95 minutes.
He has no friends, and he will readily admit that he is not a likable kind of guy. Michel Blanc play the reclusive tailor, Mssr Hire, who is obsessed with Alice, whom he watches from his apartment window. He can't imagine why she is so nice to him even after she discovers his peeping . This is a tight and anxiety producing version of the George Simenon novel Les Fiancailles de Mssr. Hire. It pays homage to Hitchcock's Rear Window, and it does the old boy proud. 1989. Rated PG. 90 minutes. French w/subtitles.
Cold Dog Soup
If you liked Rubin & Ed, here's another dead pet movie to round out your weekend. Michael gets picked up at a health club and invited home to dinner. He's in for a 'pressure cooker" of an evening until Jasper, the family mutt, chokes to death on an anchovy. Being a nice guy, our hero volunteers to bury the pooch in the park. He bags the dog, leaves Sarah and her mom, and hails a cab for the park. This is not just any cab though. This cab is driven by Randy Quaid. Quaid talks Michael into selling the dead dog rather than burying him.
The rest of the film is spent careening through the city (what city?) trying to get a few bucks for Jasper. In a stupid sort of way, this is all very funny. From Handmade films (shat happened to them?) Frank Whaley is Mike, Christine Harnos is Sarah, and Mushroom the dog is Jasper. 1989. PG 13. 90 minutes.
Jeremy Irons plays Franz Kafka in this Brazil-like biography of the Czech author. The story is similar to Kafka's unfinished novel The Castle and is shot in black and white in the streets of Prague. The film makes little sense, but the acting, costumes, background and general weirdness may help pass 100 minute that might otherwise be wasted. Steven Soderbergh directed Irons and costar Theresa Russell in the well filmed Lem Dobbs script. Joel Grey is excellent . 1991. Rated PG13.
Ostensibly, a post riots LA flagellation movie, we follow John (John LeGros) around Venice Beach while he figures out life is a complicated process that his ill equipped to handle. The cast is extensive and, yes, Steve Buscemi is among the walk on notables, as are Billy Bob Thornton and Kim Wayans. One great politically incorrect line: "Where there's no hope, there's dope !" Hard to tell who's the bigger loser, John or this movie. 1994. Rated R. 97 minutes.
Hazel runs a dirty deeds business from her house in Queens. Her lodgers will kill your spouse, snuff your neighbor's pet, or dismember an illegal alien on short notice. When she's not booking jobs, Hazel runs an electrolysis parlor in her kitchen, because nobody likes too much hair. Probably a real shocker 20 years ago, this Andy Warhol production is still good for a few laughs. 1977. Rated R. 101 minutes.
Living in Oblivion
This Tom Dicillo film holds a mirror up to the independent film business. Steve Buscemi does a great job as the bedraggled director whose cast dissolves around him. Filmed in B&W and color, it's probably pretty close to the mark. 1995. Rated R. 90 minutes.
This movie has John Turturro, Tim Robbins, Jody Foster and a penguin . Back from prison, Turturro tries to reassimilate into his Bronx neighborhood. Its a great chance to see a lot of good actors early in their careers. There is a real nice scene when JT throws his mother out the window to keep from breaking her heart. It also raises the question are there still Indians in the Bronx. Directed by Tony Bill. And yes Five Corners actually exists. 1988. Rated R. 92 minutes.
Trouble in Mind
For some reason, this was in the Cult section of the video store. Kris Kristofferson is an out of jail ex cop that tries to save two losers, Keith Carradine and Lori Singer. Divine plays a none too plausible mob boss (That's why it was in the cult section?) and the terrific actress Genvieve Bujold plays the ex girlfriend. The dialog was lame, the story was stupid, but you might like it anyway. Directed by Alan Rudolph with a Maryanne Faithful soundtrack. 1985. Rated R. 110 minutes.
Roberto Begnini directs and stars in this Italian sex farce that only he could save. Mistake for a sexual deviant, he is pursued by a daring police woman, Nicoletta Braschi. The plot is as bad as any Jerry Lewis movie, but if you are a a Begnini fan, track down a copy.
Henry - Portrait of A Serial Killer
I cannot really tell you to watch this film; you would lose all respect for me. It is exactly what the title says--a very graphic depiction of what a serial killer does with his/her spare time. It could have been a little more gory, but why press the point? Not for people with serious medical conditions or a strong moral repulsion to murder. Ola Lundin recommended this one, but the Swedish version was pared down to 20 minutes by the censors. He also suggested Clean, Shaven, which may be just as sick.
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, this must have been a low budget affair as it is Spartan in both characters and settings. Filmed in casinos, parking lots, and hotel rooms, Hard Eight is the story of an old gambler who takes a young loser under his wing. He teaches him to get a room, get a meal, and to get laid. Why? Anyway, Samuel Jackson plays his usual low rent thug who screws up the plans and livens up the tale. Kind of like an Elmore Leonard story. 1997. 100 minutes.
Did you miss this one too? Brad Pitt is great as a ghetto dwelling retro rocker who just is clueless about life, love, work and other normal activities. He wants to be a fifties type rock star, only he's about 40 years too late. Did I mention Samuel Jackson is also in this? Excellent hairdos throughout. 1991. Rated R. 95 minutes.
Keys to Tulsa
James Spader is the hapless lad who returns to Tulsa and reunites with some unusual old friends. It has everything a good movie requires: drugs, guns, greed, pointless full frontal nudity and Mary Tyler Moore.
Last Exit to Brooklyn
This German/American Uli Edel transformation of Hugh Selby,Jr.'s novel could reverse the affects of a Zoloft overdose. True to the book, it is set in the docks of Brooklyn during the 1950's. Jennifer Jason Leigh steals the film with her portrayal of the burned out slut Tralala. This book and maybe even the movie were banned in a number of places. Not to be confused with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. 1990. 102 minutes.
Steve Buscemi stars in this not so tragic tale of a luckless guy that just can't seem to figure out the rules of life. He loses his pregnant girlfriend to his boss and gets fired in the process. It really isn't as depressing as it sounds.
Waiting for Guffman
A serious spoof on the aspirations of a local theater group waiting to be discovered. This movie is ruthless in its reach for humor and there's something that will insult all but the most politically incorrect. You'll recognize the whole cast. There's a good chance you will enjoy this.
Search & Destroy
This movie has a great cast, with Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette playing the lead losers in this bizarre tale. Christopher Walkin plays his usual spooky guy ,and Dennis Hopper and John Turturro add to the weirdness. Although the main characters have more money by the end, they're still losers in my opinion. Tell me what you think.
I don't know why, but this movie is really funny. Maybe Chris Elliott is always funny, no matter how bad the script. You don't need to watch this on through to the end because it's obvious Tim Burton ran out of ideas half way through, but the first half is just too stupid to miss.
Every Man For Himself And God Against All
One of Werner Herzog's more elusive tales based on the true story of a kid with no social skills who wanders into 18th century Neuremberg. Unable to speak and barely able to walk, he is adopted and raised by the townspeople. Kaspar is played by Bruno S., the certified schizophrenic who steals the show in Herzog's other loser movie Stroszek. 1975 110 minutes. Also titled The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser.
Honorable mentions to:
Mr. Saturday Night
Billy Crystal plays a Borscht belt comedian who is a prick. He really did a great job with this Milton Berlish character that has no real redeemable features. Not bad for a rainy night, and you can usually find a copy in the used movie bin for less than the cost of a two night rental.
Pucker Up and Bark Like a Dog
If Phyllis Diller and the late Wendy O Williams were not in this stinker, I would never have pulled it out of the reject bin. Who finances this crap?
Do you think John Waters is embarrassed that he made this? Is Babs Johnson really a loser? Certainly Connie and Ray make little progress with their lives, and Mama was probably not queen of the prom. Mink Stole has a part in this movie.
The End of The Road
Stacey Keach plays the dope Jack Horner who is lost in America's
university system. Taken from the novel by John Barth, you may still
be able to dig this one up.
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