Thursday, July 07, 2005

Throw Me a Bone Here: The Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever


I used to get into arguments with my friend Dave, another movie buff, about cameo appearances and awards. "That was too Robin Williams," I'd say. "No way!" Dave would insist. Or we'd get into a brangle about the awards won by a film six years ago—and who lives outside of Hollywood and remembers the Golden Globes from last year, let alone over half a decade back?

Tensions were eased when I bought my first Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever. This is an incredibly rich compilation of movies. If it comes on VHS or DVD (maybe even BetaMax and laser disk), the Videohound will sniff it out.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen [3 and a half bones] 1988 [PG]
From the director of Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Fisher King comes an ambitious, imaginative, chaotic and underappreciated marvel based on the tall (and often confused) tales of the Baron. Munchausen encounters the King of the Moon... Wonderful special effects and visually stunning sets occasionally dwarf the actors and prove what Gilliam can do with a big budget. 126m/C DVD VHS 8mm GB GE John Neville, Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Valentina Cortese, Oliver Reed, Uma Thurman, Sting, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Paterson, Peter Jeffrey, Allison Steadman, Charles McKeown, Winston Dennis, Jack Purvis, Don Henderson, Ray Cooper, Andrew McLachalan. Cameos: Robin Williams. D: Terry Gilliam W: Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown. C: Giuseppe Rotunno. M: Michael Kamen.

See, Dave—I told you that was Robin Williams! (In the cast list, the King of the Moon cameo is credited to "Ray D. Tutto." It's still Robin Williams.)

The dogbone awards range from a four-bone must-see classic like The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) to the no-bone Woof! category. And speaking of categories, one of the beauties of this book is the category section. Feel like a prison-break movie? A list of 70 titles under "Escaped Cons" includes such diverse epics as O Brother Where Art Thou and Face/Off. Having a theme weekend? Try the "Nursploitation" category, 13 films to satisfy your fetish for white. (There's also a "Nuns with Guns" category, with 6 entries! No overlap, either.)

Incidentally, the directory of categories provides a witty read all by itself. Try "Obsessive Love": You like me. You really really really like me. Or "Mental Hospitals": Storage areas for those not on speaking terms with Mr. Reality. And my personal favorite definition, "Silent Films": No small talk/no big talk/no talk talk.

For a laugh, you can always search out the films awarded a Woof! May I suggest 1990's Attack of the Killer Refrigerator? Too old for you? How about Boat Trip, from 2003, then?

Or you can have an awards marathon, and rent all the movies that won a Golden Globe, but failed to win an Oscar. You'll find plenty of assistance in the Awards Index, which lists both the U.S. and British Academy Award winners (even some of the "minor categories" like editing and art direction), the Director's and Golden Globe awards—and the Raspberries. The list of films in the National Film Registry is also found here.

Then there are the Kibbles, little nuggets of information that make you wag your tail with delight. Trying to find movies adapted from Phillip K. Dick stories? Here they are, all seven of them. (Movies in production are not included in the Kibbles, but they are in the ratings list.) Want to watch every movie that pairs Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton? Friends won't tell you, but this book will; there are 11, from Boom! to Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?

Two-thirds of the book is focused on movies. The remaining third presents the actors, directors, writers, cinematographers, and composers who make the movies what they are. I particularly appreciated being able to look up the writer for a movie I enjoyed, to find other movies from that pen. (Sylvester Stallone has writer's credits on 17 of his movies; Stephen Spielberg has credits on only 5 of his. Neither has writer's credits on any movie he was not otherwise involved in.)

In short, this is a rich resource for the discerning movie viewer. Whether you get your movies from cable, Netflix, Amazon or the supermarket discount table, the Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever will inform your viewing choices.

And it's big enough to leave a welt when you use it to settle arguments.

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