Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Seven, Part One – ‘Meet Joe Black’ (1998)

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The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. No style of acting, direction or writing will be left unturned as two very different lists collide, ranging from silent comedy to martial arts movies.

Yasser’s choice this week concerns the Grim Reaper. Will Fred love it to death, or will it leave him cold? Let’s find out.

You can read the entires from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

You can also access the lists so far by clicking here for Fred’s and here for Yasser’s.

Yasser: Fred, you watched ‘Meet Joe Black‘ this week, also known as ‘When Death Takes a Holiday’.

Fred:Death Takes a Holiday‘ to be pedantic. I’ve never seen it.

YA: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold up. ‘Meet Joe Black’ is a fucking remake? Nooooo!!!

FS: Yes! 1934 with the great Fredric March.

YA: Dude, I did NOT know that till you said “I’ve never seen it”. Ain’t that a bitch. I thought it was an original.

FS: There’s nothing new in Hollywood these days.

‘Meet Joe Black’
1998 – USA
Director: Martin Brest
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt, Claire Forlani, Jake Weber, Marcia Gay Harden

FS: How does this film make you feel when you watch it?

YA: Happy. Romantic. Child-like and entertained.

FS: Why? Do you not think it’s quite an adult movie (not in the XXX sense).

YA: Well it depends on the scene.

FS: A child would not sit through three hours – THREE HOURS – of Brad Pitt mumbling like a sulky teenager, getting his arse handed to him by Anthony Hopkins in the acting stakes.

YA: I felt glee when Joe (Pitt) experiences peanut butter for the first time.

FS: (laughs) This is the most you’ve raved about any film so far, or at least the most emotive you have been.

YA: The film just exudes class and magic. It has that nostalgic feeling of old Hollywood.

FS: Do you not think it’s a bit long, and glacially slow?

YA: No, I enjoy it. It might feel long if you’re not enjoying it. It’s not like getting tickled for three hours, in which case it would feel like torture.

FS: From what I can gather, the film it’s based on was half the length. That sounds more sensible for the story it’s telling. Martin Brest obviously felt the film would be award fodder.

YA: I love the subplots though.

FS: Go on…

YA: The John Bontecou merger reveals the characteristics of the supporting cast.

FS: Slimy, untrustworthy Drew (Jake Weber) and loveable Quince (Jeffrey Tambor).

YA: Yeah… Drew… what a cockface.

FS: (laughs)

YA: I like how that subplot is resolved the way it is.

FS: It’s quite a smug denouement, but I did enjoy that bit too.

YA: You love Parrish (Hopkins). You can feel that he is a good guy.

FS: Let me get this on record. Without Anthony Hopkins, ‘Meet Joe Black’ would be virtually worthless. He is exceptional and it makes me sad that he spends so much of his time making absolute tripe, because he is ultra-talented.

YA: Like when he’s head of IMF in ‘Mission: Impossible II‘. What a fucking waste.

FS: …and ‘The Rite‘, and that one where he’s a wild man… ‘Untamed’ or something…

YA: Instinct‘?

FS: That’s it. What do you think of an actor of his ability making shit?

YA: It’s sad. It really is.

FS: He’s really brilliant in ‘Meet Joe Black’ and look who they’ve employed to act opposite him? The worst actor in the world.

YA: Whoa!

FS: Okay, that is probably going a bit far, but I think Brad Pitt is a very poor actor.

YA: His patois was pretty on point. “Raatid, obeah evil, I no evil”.

FS: You’d think a role like this where you want the actor to be utterly stiff and cold would be perfect for him, but even in this he’s bad. He plays Death like an 11 year-old boy.

YA: Yeah, he’s experiencing life for the first time. He’s not the best actor, granted, but I think he compliments the character as Death.

FS: I would have thought Death would be a bit wiser and more threatening. That big speech he gives about “imagine a bad thing multiplied by a bad thing and add another bad thing…”. It’s so badly delivered I can’t even remember it. He slurs.

YA: Well, he’s never had jam-filled biccies with a spot of English tea. He doesn’t know how to tie a Windsor knot. His naivety is something to be noticed.

FS: He should stick to the light-hearted stuff like ‘Ocean’s 11‘. I think he’s appalling as Death.

YA: This movie came out in 1998. Who would you have cast?

FS: So, young enough to nail Claire Forlani but can act… Edward Norton?

YA: As Death? Nah, I think he’d be terrible.

FS: Ralph Fiennes? Denzel? Antonio Banderas? Alec Baldwin?

YA: Nooooo! Not Baldwin. DiCaprio wouldn’t have been too bad.

FS: Too baby-faced. For me Brad Pitt = Val Kilmer. All lips and no talent.

YA: I don’t think he’s as bad as you make out.

FS: Maybe he looks worse having to act opposite Hopkins.

YA: Hopkins makes the movie. There is an edited two-hour version…

FS & YA: (in unison) …which cuts out the subplot around the business takeover…

FS: Telepathy!

YA: (laughs) … it would have cut Hopkins screen time substantially.

FS: Any other actor who is any good have quite minor roles like Jeffrey Tambor and Marcia Gay Harden.

YA: Tambor is funny. He also brings a very intelligent quality to his role.

YA: Tell me what you think of the story and the script?

FS: The idea is an interesting one. The script is okay when it’s happy to be a script, but there are moments when the writers have tried too hard to be profound.

YA: Was there owt about the settings that stood out? For instance the party and fireworks display. That’s a magical moment for me.

FS: Yes, it’s an affluent looking movie befitting the wealthy characters. The party makes for a good climax and I must say that I like the music.

YA: You liked Hopkins and disliked Pitt. What about Claire Forlani?

FS: Where is she now? Like Pitt, she looks nice but she’s not even a half-decent actress.

YA: (laughs) Oh dear!

FS: She is supposed to be ‘awakened’ by Joe but she is just a simpering idiot and quite unconvincing.

YA: Pretty people don’t get off easily in your book, do they?

FS: You need ability, or at least personality, to go with the looks.

YA: Okay my friend. Sum up for me.

FS: If I was being rational ‘Meet Joe Black’ would get a 3 or a 4. It’s far too long, the two romantic leads are boring and lack the talent required to carry the movie. The script and direction try far too hard to be profound and win awards. The film’s pace would make an arthritic snail carrying a lead cannon blush…

YA: (laughs) I wanted this film to do well.

FS: … however…

YA: Fucking YES, bro!

FS: … that is if i was being rational. This film is on two lists for me, personally. The first is ‘guilty pleasures‘ and the second is ‘films that make me cry‘.

YA: It makes you cry!

FS: Not long before I first saw this movie for the first time my own mortality had been brought into stark focus, for reasons we won’t go into here. So when Anthony Hopkins, who has already been superb, takes to the stage and makes the speech at his party and he says “65 years… don’t they go by in a blink?” I well up.


FS: So for that reason alone, Anthony Hopkins has dragged ‘Meet Joe Black’ to the most unlikely 7/10 you will see on either list.

YA: Whoa! I feel like hugging you right now.

FS: (laughs) It’s crap, but it’s crap that means a great deal to me and I was delighted to see it on your list.

YA: Ooh, I feel proud of myself.

Check back later this week for part two of this weeks blog.


3 thoughts on “Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Seven, Part One – ‘Meet Joe Black’ (1998)

    […] Meet Joe Black […]

    […] You chose ‘Meet Joe Black‘ in your 25 and there are similarities in the […]

    […] FS: ‘Meet Joe Black‘… […]

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