It’s tough enough creating a good film that nobody sees. What about A-for-achievement work that lies languishing in B-for-bomb movies? A sharp screenplay, a stellar performance, breakthrough photography — all can be for naught if the rest of the show is a turkey. Let’s pause to remember a few terrific aspects of less-than-terrific movies.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)
A fantasy from the fevered mind of Terry Gilliam (Brazil), Munchausen suffers from a pallid title character and a lumbering script, but Dante Ferretti’s Jules Verne-meets-ILM production design transports the viewer to the far side of the moon and back.
The Big Blue (1988)
Despite attempts to reach an international audience, director Luc Besson’s ode to free diving was a hit in France, where soggy plotting is apparently no barrier to success. Carlo Varini’s exquisite globe-trotting cinematography is breathtaking in any language, though.
Independence Day (1982)
Kathleen Quinlan is the nominal star of this ho-hum small-town drama, but it was the actress in the supporting role of a vengeful battered wife who made the few people in the audience sit up. Four years later, after an Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters, everybody knew who Dianne Wiest was.
A polychrome showcase for hot new computer animation techniques, Tron was supposed to be the next big thing. It wasn’t, largely because they forgot to put in a story. Still, the dazzling visual effects that made up the world inside Jeff Bridges’ computer — which were supervised by Richard Taylor and Harrison Ellenshaw — remain eye-bogglingly impressive.
In this historical drama, director Alain Resnais’ re-creation of 1930s Paris was deadly dull. But a vivid musical score from Stephen Sondheim touches all the period bases and still manages to connect with the viewer.