It's decided: 2012 will be the year you turn it all around. You're going to quit getting sloshed as you drive about Manhattan, you're going to reject vain society girls in favor of free-spirited shoplifters and you'll turn your back on the family fortune that's filled your life with so much unhappiness. So what better way to kick of this new year than with KCET's Sunday night movie, Arthur? (That is, the original Arthur. God, if only we didn't have to clarify.) In case this 1981 classic doesn't seem like an ideal way to spend the first evening of 2012, here are some convincing reasons why
The butler did it. And by "did it," I mean "makes the movie." Though there's not a slacker in the entire Arthur cast, John Gielgud's performance stands out most. Indeed, it was no accident that he walked away with an Oscar for his performance. As Arthur's fiercely loyal but thoroughly sarcastic butler, Hobson, Gielgud epitomizes the
film's balance between heartfelt and darkly funny. Hobson must help spoiled playboy Arthur navigate a grown-up world of romance and responsibility and oh-so-much alcohol, and he offers that guidance in the guise of cutting insults. I'm not kidding: It's almost worth watching the film just to hear Gielgud's impeccable delivery of the line "Go screw yourself." Out of his mouth, it sounds like poetry.
It has a 90 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Do you know the website Rotten Tomatoes? You should. It handily aggregates film reviews and assigns the films overall scores, with those above 60 percent being "fresh" as opposed to "rotten." By this website's logic, href="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1001240-arthur/">Arthur's respectable score of 90 percent makes it a surer bet than such contemporary releases as The Ides of March (at 86 percent), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (at 85 percent) and New Year's Eve (at 7 percent, which is actually higher than I would have guessed).
"Stuck Between the Moon and New York City"... is not the name of the film's theme song. It's "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)," but I feel like most people know the Burt Bacharach-penned, Christopher Cross-sung ditty by these lyrics. It's deservedly famous, because it works on the same themes of jollity and loneliness as the film does. And that sax solo? It nails the setting of early 80s Manhattan.
Drinking! I'm struggling to think about a better movie about booze. Cocktail? Nah. Barfly? Certainly not. Not even Sideways can really compare, for Dudley Moore plays the film's title character with unmitigated love for the act of drinking oneself giddy. Sure, part of Arthur's journey is learning that alcohol is, to
quote Homer Simpson, "the cause of and solution to all of life's problems," but it's not like he becomes a teetotaler in the end. There was, after all, a sequel titled Arthur 2: On the Rocks.
It's not the sequel. That subtitle is probably the best part about the Arthur sequel, the less said about which, the better.
It's also not the remake. How do you make Helen Mirren suck? Pair her with Russell Brand, apparently. In the same way Arthur 2 failed, this year's watered-down remake of Arthur a vomit-y hangover to the original's fun-filled bender, despite the fact that Mirren being cast in the Gielgud role could have been a genius move in another crew's hands.
A refreshingly coherent Liza Minnelli. Poor Minnelli has been a Hollywood punchline for years, so it can be easy to forget that she once sparkled on screen. Today, she performs most successfully when she's making fun of herself. I mean, I love Lucille 2 from Arrested Development as much as anyone, but Minnelli had to realize she was parodying her own public persona, right? In the role of Arthur's
shoplifting lady love, Linda, Minnelli embodies a quirky bohemian vibe that today's lady-hipster-on-the-go should rightly envy. And the role is so well-suited for Minnelli's range that it's even more impressive that it wasn't written for her specifically: href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082031/trivia">According to IMDb, she purportedly beat out Mia Farrow, Farrah Fawcett, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Bette Midler, Gilda Radner, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd and Meryl Streep.
But she was Liza, even then. Watch for the scene in which Minelli's character boards a bus. According to film lore, Minelli accidentally walked onto a functional New York City bus instead of the prop bus. She allegedly didn't realize her mistake until the bus was driving away and she looked back to see the film crew laughing at her.
Drew Mackie is a pop culture writer for Wonderwall.com, MSN's Entertainment and Celebrity news vertical. His writing has also appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent.
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