by Julian Spivey
In December I saw something called the “12 Movies Challenge” on Facebook. The premise was that you would have 12 months to watch 12 movies recommended by 12 friends. I don’t often participate in such social media challenges but being a movie buff I felt this might be an interesting way to get out of my comfort zone a bit when it comes to watching movies.
My Facebook buds gave me some films that I’ve been meaning to watch and I pretty much front-loaded those on the list – though not explicitly stated in the challenge rules I am opting to watch one film a month.
A Best Picture winner like “Out of Africa” is an obvious choice for me to get to at some point – that point is now going to be March of this year. But there are certain movies I’m not really looking forward to all that much – I’m looking at you “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” my August selection. Then there’s the acclaimed stuff that isn’t really up my alley like the anime feature “Spirited Away,” which I’ve scheduled for November. That will truly be me getting out of my comfort zone.
Here are the 12 movies recommended to me and the months I’ve assigned myself to watch them:
January: “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (1983)
February: “Till” (2022)
March: “Out of Africa” (1985)
April: “Legally Blonde” (2001)
May: “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)
June: “The Birdcage” (1996)
July: “Morning Glory” (2010)
August: “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” (1966)
September: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)
October: “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
November: “Spirited Away” (2001)
December: “The Last Laugh” (1924)
It finally happened. I finally got to a recommendation on my 12 Movies Challenge that I didn’t care for – sorry Tyler!! My friend (and frequent The Word collaborator) Tyler Glover recommend director David Frankel’s 2006 comedy-drama “The Devil Wears Prada,” and I had a hard time with it.
I’m not all that surprised I didn’t like the film, after all, I don’t care one bit about fashion or the fashion industry and that’s the world this film is set in. The industry ultimately feels pompous and over-important to me. But there have certainly been movies set in worlds I didn’t have a prior interest in that I’ve liked over the years, so I always go in with an open mind.
The film being set in the fashion industry wasn’t a bother to me when I actually watched the film. My biggest issue with “The Devil Wears Prada” is the very reason most people who love the film seem to love it – Miranda Priestly, the editor of an influential fashion magazine.
Meryl Streep plays Priestly and I want people to know my dislike of the character has absolutely nothing to do with Streep’s portrayal, which is everything the script and character ask for. It’s just the character is such a mean, domineering, abusive person in a position of power and authority and one that bullies and berates those working underneath her that I couldn’t enjoy the film. The abusive boss character might be my No. 1 least favorite of any character type. And Frankel’s film and Aline Brosh McKenna’s script based on the 2003 novel by Lauren Weisberger does nothing to redeem Priestly, despite there being some moments where it feels like it might happen.
It's not been a real-life problem for me for most of the last decade, thankfully, but having had horrible, mean bosses in the past it’s something that I won’t identify as a trigger for me, as I don’t have a panic attack or mental breakdown while watching a portrayal of one, but it’s almost always off-putting to me. If there is such a character, I need some sort of comeuppance to happen to them, which doesn’t happen in this film. She’ll just go on in life continuing to be the abusive boss she’s always been.
It’s even more off-putting to me knowing that many of those who love this movie absolutely love the Priestly character. I just hope it’s not something they aspire to become.
I do find myself for part of the movie identifying with Anne Hathaway’s idealistic, young journalist Andy Sachs, who doesn’t fit in in this world, but knows it will be a good jumping stone to something bigger in her career. It’s when she ultimately decides to kowtow to Priestly’s authority and become what she’s expected that I completely am taken out of the movie – even if she has the late change of heart and ultimately gets to become the person she wanted to be all along.
I’m astounded by the amount of Frankel-directed films I’ve seen. He’s only helmed eight films since his directorial debut in 1995 with “Miami Rhapsody,” but somehow I’ve managed to have now seen half of his filmography having previously seen 2008’s “Marley & Me,” 2012’s “Hope Springs” (also starring Streep) and last year’s “Jerry & Marge Go Large.” He makes safe, unoffensive, unchallenging movies. I don’t know how I’ve stumbled into such a high number of them.
My June recommendation is director Mike Nichols’ 1996 comedy “The Birdcage,” starring Robin Williams, Gene Hackman and Nathan Lane, based on the 1978 French-language film “La Cage aux Folles.” This film was recommended to me by my friend Remington and it’s one that has been on my “to-watch list” for quite some time and I’ve just never gotten around to it. So, thank you Remi for forcing my hand.