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Film School 101: Dead Possessed

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Mark Kermode | 11:55 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

I am honoured: dutiful Kermode Uncutters that you are, you not only watched Possession and Dead Presidents the better to understand Lars Von Trier's Antichrist and the Hughes' Brothers new movie Book of Eli, you did so with your critical faculties blazing incandescently, thereby illluminating some extraordinary opinions...

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  • Comment number 1.

    Keep up the good work, it's great to be directed towards overlooked, underseen films. Speaking of overlooked classics from the 90's, how about a mention for McGehee and Siegel's 'Suture' starring Dennis Haysbert? Really hard to track down, really worth the effort.

  • Comment number 2.

    'suture' YES! not seen that in years. very good film(produced by soderbergh?)did'nt they do a film in 2000/2001 called 'the deep end' starring tilda swinton and goran visjnic

    i like this film 101 idea mark but any chance the films you choose can be available to buy/rent or on t.v. soon-really wanted to see 'possession' but not paying £30 for it


  • Comment number 3.

    Dr Kermode,

    Films have influenced other films since the medium was invented. It makes perfect sense for you (and others) to note influences and inspired films. It's a great thing to do and opens up classic films to others.

    As usual good stuff... Perhaps we should setup a campaign for 'The Devils'... Facebook, Twitter etc?

    - Stewzer

  • Comment number 4.

    Definitely agree on the Devils! We should all email Warner Brothers at the same time on the same day, or something.

  • Comment number 5.

    Incidentally, on Dead Presidents, I think I have to apply the same treatment as Mark did to Leaving Las Vegas - it's great - I mean, it's really, really great - but cannot achieve true masterpiece quality because Chris Tucker is in it.

  • Comment number 6.

    Dr. K (or anyone) where can we see your review for The Road?

  • Comment number 7.

    Ladies & Gentlemen,

    For those of you interested I have written a brief blog post regarding the desired proper release of 'The Devils' on DVD. Please feel free to read and comment.



  • Comment number 8.

    Hey mark, bought Dead Presidents, yet to watch it, still got a backlogue of christmas dvd's to burn through. I thoroughly endorse this film school 101 idea and will be playing along and, if a youth of Dungeons and Dragons has taught me anything, alone.

    Suture, in total agreement, a dreamly film that i remember at times fondly and at others not at all, i have a oscar consideration tape for The Deep End. Cor blimey, never watched it.
    - Daryn

  • Comment number 9.

    I tracked down possession. It is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The plot (if there is one) isn't interesting in the slightest, it's far too long, the characters are infuriatingly horrible (why must they always scream and shout?), visually it's dull dull dull and the actor's performances are unremarkable. All in all there is no enjoyment to be had from that film whatsoever.

  • Comment number 10.

    For some reason, the good doctor declaring Dead Presidents to be "the great overlooked film of the 1990's" jumped out at me.
    And it got me thinking; exactly which are the forgotten and/or underrated masterpieces of that decade?
    Thus far my list consists of:

    Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
    Batman Returns
    The Promise
    Night on Earth
    The City of Lost Children

    Further suggestions, anyone?

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't get possession either...

  • Comment number 12.

    Sam Neil's bad acting in possession isn't deliberate, he really cannot act. John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, was the only movie in which his acting was slightly improved. Only slightly.

  • Comment number 13.

    @ Rasmus Widengard - what a brilliant idea and selection and I agree with a majority of your choices, particularly 'The City Of Lost Children' - my favorite Jeunet.
    For your consideration:

    State Of Grace (Phil Joanou, 1990) (Featuring the definitive Gary Oldman performance, his Johnny Boy)
    Hardware (Richard Stanley, 1990)
    Pump Up The Volume (Allan Moyle, 1990)
    Freejack (Geoff Murphy, 1992)
    Naked (Mike Leigh, 1993) (I get the feeling this one had mixed reactions)
    Spanking The Monkey (David. O Russell, 1994)
    Quiz Show (Robert Redford, 1994)
    In The Company Of Men (Neil LaBute, 1997)
    Grosse Pointe Blank (George Armitage, 1997)
    Keep The Aspidistra Flying (Robert Bierman, 1997)
    Pleasantville (Gary Ross, 1998)
    A Simple Plan (Sam Raimi, 1998)

    All worthy of any film fans time.

  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks for the mention,although I was paraphrased,I forgive you.HAHA
    Yes,I did steal the joke,but I thought it was very apt,especially when Sam Neill was throwing all those chairs around in the restaurant scene,I found them hard to tell apart.
    Plagiarism,I'm informed is the sincerest form of flattery.So,thanks Dennis.
    I think my main problem with Possession was the ping pong nature Sam Neill delivered his lines.A performance is judged by how the characters make the world around them believable.This for the actor is where they relay emotion in the delivery of there lines,but Sam Neill delivered his like a shopping list,allowing Isabelle Adjani to shine,but this lead to an uneven movie because Isabelle Adjani gave depth and believability to her performance where as Sam Neill left me uncaring what happened him,also a little more back story would have been nice,but I digress.
    Loved the Dead Presidents.You always know when its a good movie because when it ends you want to see more.So much promise shown by Chris Tucker,WHAT HAPPENED!!!! He turned into some sort of screeching cartoon.I think this man has the most annoying voice in the world.if you know worst,let me know.
    What I found very clever about the Hughes brothers is that they avoid ghettoizing themselves as black film makers for a solely black audience,but rather encompass and educate all races with stories of human conflict.
    More homework please Dr K.
    I think you will soon have to re-title this blog 'Dr K's movie club'

  • Comment number 15.

    Oh,I forgot.Come on release 'The Devils'

  • Comment number 16.

    [Spanking the Chiba:] When you organize your post that meticulously, it makes my initial entry seem feeble and disjointed by comparison.
    Thanks a lot! Sheesh!
    But how great to see Pleasantville mentioned!
    I can't believe I neglected that gem -- or rather, I can; and thus it's a perfect selection.

    I also think Bird's "Iron Giant" deserves every accolade imaginable.
    Though it was somewhat redeemed in conjunction with the release of his magnum opus "The Incredibles".
    (Which by the way IS a good family film, doctor!)

  • Comment number 17.

    Oh my god!!!

    According to the BBC, Tinto Brass, has announced plans to make the world's first 3D pornographic film.

    Brass plans to "revisit an abandoned project about a Roman emperor that was ruined by Americans", suggesting that the film will be a remake of Caligula.

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh, and on another subject; did anyone else hear that Tinto Brass is planning to make a pornographic film in 3-D?
    In a roman setting. I kid you not.
    Could this mark the reversal of the good doctor's disdain for the additional dimension?
    Time will tell!

  • Comment number 19.

    @ Rasmus Widengard
    Sorry, i'm a little OCD, I order all my posts like that!
    Yeah, Pleasantville is an absolute gem. Sadly none of my friends have seen it, and I always want to discuss it, because it's a favorite of mine. Nice to find another fan.
    I'm also in complete agreement with 'The Iron Giant', a superb and sadly forgotten animation that I used to watch all the time when I was younger, I was nine when it was released. A few more nominations on my part (I like my 90s movies):

    Tremors (Ron Underwood, 1990)
    Wild At Heart (David Lynch, 1990) (My favorite Lynch, I think this one is a masterpiece)
    Darkman (Sam Raimi, 1990)
    The Fisher King (Terry Gilliam, 1991) (I know the good Doctor will likely agree with this one)
    Mad Dog And Glory (John McNaughton, 1993)
    The Game (David Fincher, 1997)
    Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998)
    The Green Mile (Frank Darabont, 1999)

    But I suppose there are a load of hidden gems if you go back to any decade, and while i'm sure a lot of people do know about these, they are generally forgotten and not talked about nearly enough.

  • Comment number 20.

    'Celia' - A little, forgotten gem from Australia

  • Comment number 21.

    I seem to be in a very small minority: I loved Possession, Sam Neill's performance was mesmerising, perhaps even better than Adjani's. A really psychologically complex and original work of art. Dead Presidents on the other hand I thought was dreadful, I'm annoyed I wasted half an hour watching it: the central performance is incredibly weak, no build-up of any significance before Vietnam and the actual Vietnam scenes looked as if they were from a daytime soap-opera. Didn't get past that - when Chris Tucker's character turned up, unchanged from earlier, without any explanation, I knew this just had to be a bad joke and turned off. No wonder I'd never heard of it and I wish it had stayed that way.

  • Comment number 22.

  • Comment number 23.

    Film school 101...?

    Why not 666.

  • Comment number 24.

    I purchased Dead Presidents on the basis of your recommendation and also because I liked The Book of Eli. I couldn't get through the first half an hour, it just bored me.

    The Book of Eli on the other hand was excellent.

  • Comment number 25.

    Dead Presidents thank Dr K for enlighting us, keep up the good work. PS: Why not start a Campain to get the Devils release, how about Facebook or some other site like that?

  • Comment number 26.

    Might as well throw down some suggestions for the great unsung classics...

    The Unbelievable Truth (Hal Hartley, 1989)
    Trust (Hal Hartley, 1990) -much much much better than Juno!
    Johnny Suede (Tom DiCillo, 1991)
    The Real Blonde (Tom DiCillo, 1997)
    Body Bags (John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper, 1993)
    Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980)
    Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 1992)
    Singles (Cameron Crowe, 1992)
    To Live and Die in LA (William Friedkin, 1985)
    The Last Supper (Stacy Title, 1995)
    They Live (John Carpenter, 1988)

  • Comment number 27.

    Good call on Hal Hartley, bit of a blast from the past. Whilst on the subject..whatever did happen to martin donovan?

  • Comment number 28.

    Dead presidents was a good call, I'd never seen it before or at least I thought I hadn't. Turns out I'd seen bits of it when I was younger, probably flicking through channels at 1am in the morning. Anyway, I enjoyed it, especially the surreal Vietnam scenes.

    On an unrelated note Mr Kermode...

    I may be behind the times, but have you been approached and would you consider presenting film 2010 when Wossy leaves in june/july?

    I hope you consider it if you have, I would become a regular viewer for sure.

    P.s. have you seen Jeunet's Micmacs yet?

  • Comment number 29.


    Cheers, great to see someone remembers for Donovan, bit parts in Hollywood filler and TV series/regular pay cheque seemed to follow post-Simple Men. On a side note: Robert Burke (Josh in The Unbelievable Truth) became Robocop in Robocop 3...

  • Comment number 30.

    If anyone has time, check out this daily film blog i have going

  • Comment number 31.

    As for a sequence seeming 'been there, done that' in hindsight, perhaps the Good Doctor should be informed of the term 'Seinfeld is Unfunny' to describe it, wherein what was good and original has been so imitated in time since that it seems cliched.

  • Comment number 32.

    I look forward to a future release of The Devils but what has happend to Litzomania, the back to back film for Tommy?

  • Comment number 33.

    In response to Alex Kegan, I checked out the website today. Well Done on it!

  • Comment number 34.

    I thought Possession was brilliant! Admittedly it is completely bonkers and OTT but the events on screen are described in the 'plot' as a series of surreal events. There is no point looking for a linear 3 act structure, it is not there. It has similarities to David Lynch but is crazier, more European, and for what looks like a very modest budget it has got excellent style to its camera work and direction.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ Spanking The Chiba - good call with State of Grace. Gary Oldman has never been better! Well, except Leon, of course. :)

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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