Best and Worst of 2017 Films

The Year’s Best (So Far)

Note: These do not include films I would have loved to see but didn’t come anywhere near me and whose names I have forgotten. Also movies like “Get Out” which got excellent reviews but which I have yet to catch up on, and ones like “Post” and “The Darkest Hour,” which sound like surefire Oscar-bait but have yet to open where I live.

1. Lady Bird – In Greta Gerwig’s autobiographical coming-of-age film, Saouise Ronan (likely) completes her trilogy of Oscar nominations. Portraying a Catholic high school senior and reluctant resident of Sacramento, Calif., Saouise spends the movie sparring with her mother, Laurie Metcalf, who is juggling financial worries, a full-time job and a depressed husband (Tracy Letts), as she learns the same life lessons most onscreen teens learn but in an unexpectedly fresh way. (Note to Oscar presenter – it rhymes with inertia.)

2. The Big Sick – In Kumail Nanjiani’s and wife’s Emily Gordon’s autobiographical film of how they met, fell in love, and then had their relationship tested by a twist that involves a hospital – and seems too bizarre to be true. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter play the parents of Zoe Kazan’s character (the girlfriend) and also do a great job.

3. It (2017) – You’ll float, too in this remake of Stephen King’s horror novel – but first you’ll get the pants scared off of you, as you watch Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) gleefully terrorize the small town of Derry, with only a band of brave young “losers” to foil him. With a sequel to come to do full justice to this tome.

4. Dunkirk – In my review, I struggled to come up with a verb that appropriately described my viewing experience. “Enjoyed” and “rewarding” seemed tasteless. “Grueling but worthwhile” is closer to watching this two hour plus film about how Belgian, France and British soldiers are rescued from seemingly inevitable disaster by the Germans in World War II.

5. Patriots Day – Great retelling of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, starring Boston native Mark Wahlberg, and a good cast, including J.K. Simmons as a police officer seeking justice.

6. Good Time – Uneven but deserves full marks for originality. Robert Pattinson plays a lowlife criminal who drags his mentally challenged adult brother (Benny Safdie) along on a robbery – then proceeds to make a stunning array of wrong decisions that might have worked anyway in a Hollywood movie, but sadly not this one.

7. Hidden Figures – Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae play a real life trio of African American women who made a crucial difference in the American space race and smashed some glass ceilings at NASA in the sixties. Wholesome enough for the whole family to watch. (“I like her digits,” is not a pickup line.)

8. The Promise – Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale play a love triangle in the film set in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. Moving and suspenseful depiction of the Turkish Armenian genocide.

9. Marshall – Josh Gad plays a lawyer who is forced into teaming up with Thurgood Marshall (at the start of his career), played by Chadwick Boseman, in order to take the case of a black chauffeur accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. Textbook courtroom drama, but it holds your attention from start to finish.

10. Battle of the Sexes – Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King in this depiction of the titular tennis match with Steve Carell. An unexpectedly large portion is devoted to Emma’s relationship with the tour’s hairdresser, but there’s still plenty of tennis. Since Carell’s take is more goofy than sinister, Bill Pullman does the honors as a textbook sexist villain.

And the Year’s Worst (So Far)

Note: These do not include films I actively went out of my way this year not to go anywhere near including “The Emoji Movie,” “The Book of Henry” and the film version of “Baywatch,” most of which I’m sure would have easily made this list had I done so. Again, there’s no significance to the numerical listings. I’ll stop at six to avoid depression.

1. It Comes At Night – After a black-humored Monty Python reference to kick off the film, the movie’s pace turns sludgy, as Joel Edgerton, playing a father trying to protect his family during a dystopian plague, is reduced to haranguing his unexpected guests to never open the Chamber of Secrets.

2. The Circle – Emma Watson plays a cipher in the future who is at first thrilled to get a job at the high-tech “Circle” but – amazingly enough comes to realize that Something Sinister is going on which May Impact Society Negatively as a Whole. Unlike say, the Harry Potter series, her book character (based on the Dave Eggers bestseller) is not fleshed out at all, perhaps handicapping the concept from the start.

3. Just Getting Started – Not so much blatantly bad as simply a failure to launch and a colossal waste of all cast members (including Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones and Rene Russo). Scenes follow one after the other without much tying them together or with a genuine payoff, in this film about a man in the Witness Protection Program who discovers that his new rival at a retirement community may be involved in the Mob.

4. The House – Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler must have done something awful in a previous life to be trapped in this film about parents running a casino to fund their child’s educaton, although they (and their onscreen daughter, Ryan Simpkins) deserve full marks for executing this movie without once looking as if they were considering firing their agents.

5. The Dark Tower – I’m sure this looked awesome on paper. A popular novella from the pen of Stephen King; Idris Elba and Jude Law facing off against each other in an epic battle between Good and Evil, plus a sympathetic young hero (Tom Taylor) – oh well. There’s always “It” to come.

6. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Charlie Hunnam plays the young king in this movie which totally bypasses the more familiar “Sword in the Stone” narrative in favor of lots of brawling, modern language, and special effects. Including a facial mask of glowing coals because – why not? Plays like a cinematic version of mediocre fanfiction.

It might seem that Hollywood has a long way to go before surpassing these films in sheer badness, but there’s always 2018 to meet this challenge. Cheers!

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Random Film Awards for 2017

Trailer I Needed a Nightlight to Sleep With After Viewing: “Split” in which James McAvoy plays a sociopathic/ kidnapper/rapist with – the cherry on top – multiple personalities.

Trailer I Needed the Light On and a Teddy Bear to Sleep With After Viewing: “It (2017).”

Most Over-the-Top Climax: “Gifted,” in which Chris Evans exposes his niece’s grandmother as a vile person, blackmails her with her dead daughter’s thesis, and rescues three cats that are on death row at the vet simultaneously.

Best “Ugly Cry”: Zoey Deutsch in “Before I Fall.”

Runner-up: Zoe Kazan in “The Big Sick.”

Best Badass Heroes: Cast of “Patriots Day.”

Best Performance as a Mentally Handicapped Character: Benny Safdie in “Good Time.”

Best Performance as a Physically Handicapped Character: Jake Gyllenhaal in “Stronger.”

Most Long Suffering Girlfriend: Tatiana Maslany in “Stronger.”

Best Sports in a Mediocre Movie: Cast of “Just Getting Started.”

Dad of the Year: Tracy Letts in “Lady Bird.” Handles Saoirse Ronan’s mood swings adroitly even while depressed and unemployed.

Mom of the Year: Jennifer Beals in “Before I Fall.” Handles Zoey Deutsch’s mood swings adroitly even without knowing that she is trapped in a time loop.

Best Villain (supernatural): Bill Skarsgard in “It (2017).”

Best Villain (male): Will Poulter in “Detroit.”

Best Villain (female): Julianne Moore in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger (Fantasy): Charlie Hunnam in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger (Reality): Brie Larson in “The Glass Castle.”

Least Developed Love Interest: Kian Lawley in “Before I Fall.”

Best Performance As a Real Life Character Under Distracting Prosthetics: Woody Harrelson in “LBJ.”

Most Distracting Facial Hair: Kenneth Branaugh in “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Most WTF Product Placement: White Castle in “Good Time.” (“Want something tasty to refuel your body with before you destroy your life? Have a slider!”)

Most WTF Plot Hole: “Everything Everything,” in which Amandla Stenberg, who has literally spent her entire life inside her home, manages to secure a ticket and board an airplane so that she can escape to Hawaii with her boyfriend.

Most WTF Title: “Lady Bird,” which is not actually about former President Lyndon Johnson’s wife, but was released at the same time as the movie “LBJ.”

Titles Guaranteed to Cause Confusion When Ticket Buying: “Wonder,” “Wonder Wheel,” and Wonderstruck” all playing at roughly the same time.

Best Eighties’ Reference: “Going In Style” – “ET.”

Best Orchestrated Crime by a Group of Amateurs: Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in “Going In Style.”

Best On-Screen Appearance as Their Self: Sir Elton John in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

Best Last Minute Aversion of Disaster: Taron Edgerton manages to stop an out-of-control ski lift hurtling down a slope seconds before it hits a nursing home full of the watching residents in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

Most Inappropriate Talent Show Performance by a Preteen Since “Little Miss Sunshine”: Alexa Niseson in “Fist Fight.”

Worst Last Day of School Ever: “Fist Fight,” Runner-up: “It (2017)”

Best Excuse For Getting a Hotel If You’re a Single Dad Dating Your Daughter’s Teacher: “Gifted.”

Best Excuse For Getting a Hotel Period: “Home Again,” plus virtually every horror/thriller released this year.

Best Case For Reading Directions Before Testing High Tech Gear: “Spider Man: Homecoming.”

Best Action Sequence for a Non-Superpowered Character: Oscar Isaac’s escape in “The Promise.”

Least Convincing Case for a Paternity Test: Hugh Jackman in “Logan.”

Fastest Growing Original Fan Fiction for a 2017 Release:Dunkirk” (127 works at Archive Of Our Own a few weeks after its release)

Fastest Growing Fan Fiction for a Book-Based 2017 Release: “It.”

Best Reviewed Movie of the Year on Rotten Tomatoes: “Lady Bird.”

Creepiest Host: The reclusive dollmaker and his bedridden wife in “Annabelle: The Creation.” Runner-up: Joel Edgerton in “It Comes at Night.”

Creepiest Metaphor: The ubiquitous red balloon in “It (2017).”

Most Ironic Onscreen Line: “Who loves you like a son?” – “Suburbicon.”

Movie Review: Just Getting Started

Growing old can be a pain in the patoozle – for example, your vision gets blurrier at close range, you tend to shrink a bit, and the night you arrange a tryst with an attractive woman and another woman unexpectedly tries to get in on the fun, you will be abruptly reminded that you are due at a poker game sooner rather than later. Or at least you do if you’re a movie character like Morgan Freeman in “Just Getting Started,” other non-film characters may simply have trouble locating their keys or reading glasses.

In the movie, Morgan plays a guy named Duke who runs a Florida-area retirement community and who is happy as the proverbial clam when we first meet him at the start of a very green Christmas season. In concession to the weather, Morgan permits the roving band of carolers to wear sandals with their robes, and Santa to wear shorts. From this and the fact that everyone from the ladies to his assistants adore him, we know this harmony can’t last, because that is the way these plots work and also because in the opening scene, we’ve seen Jane Seymour (living someplace more classically winter) has put out a hit on him. Or something. Soon Tommy Lee Jones shows up, and we know he’s gonna be trouble because he has the gall to take Morgan’s very own parking space. (Things really are that simple in this movie.) Soon, too, Tommy and Morgan are engaged in a feud over the comely Rene Russo, who is a higher-up in the retirement community business and who has been sent to unearth any shady dealings that Morgan may or may not be engaging in. We aren’t kept in much suspense that Morgan has been, shall we say, creative with the finances, but because he’s provided such perks as sex workshops (heavily attended) to the seniors, they’re content. Having deduced this, Rene is ready to finger Morgan, but a twist involving the mob puts a wrench in her plans – and the not-too-serious rivalry of Morgan and Tommy. Eventually, we learn that Morgan is in the Witness Protection Program, and Tommy is an ex-member of The Law, and as fate would have it, they wind up having to put aside their differences in order to take down the real enemy.

“Just Getting Started,” is pretty lightweight fare, just like the holiday decorations we see being blown hither and yon in the second-to-last scene. “Going In Style,” another Morgan Freeman vehicle that came out earlier this year is far superior, but “Just Getting Started” does provide some chuckles. It co-stars Joe “Guido the Killer Pimp” Pantoliano, Glenne Headley and a menagerie of exotic animals, some of whom behave, most not. Time flies when you’re having fun, and it may not exactly fly while watching this movie, but again it probably won’t crawl either.

Advice for Holiday Movie Characters

It’s the Christmas season again, which means that if you’re a movie character, there are some things in particular you should consider. One is definitely being a good person because Christmas is a time of reckoning. Even if you’ve gone the entire year being a jerk and refusing to do any soul-searching as to the consequences of your actions, there just may be something planned that will force you to reconsider. Remember the lyrics, “He’s making a list/And checking it twice.”? Well, that refers not just to Santa Claus and little kids, but you, too.

If you do not decide, for whatever reasons, to act better this holiday, you are at risk of being held accountable – not during the day, but at night. If you choose to go the puppy-kicking, colleague-snapping-at, Good Samaritan-snubbing route, and you fall asleep, you may have a rather uncomfortable dream. Specifically, one in which three spirits visit you: the Ghosts of the Christmas Past, Present and Future. This journey of self-discovery will not be pleasant – you will find out exactly what your nearest and dearest think of you – so you may want to invest in some heavy duty sleeping pills until New Year’s arrives.

A cautionary word about present buying. If you want to buy a gift that is far out of your price range, do not finance it by selling your most prized possession. Because it will turn out that your gift recipient has done the exact same thing, and so you will both be in a bind. Settle for something cheaper, perhaps handmade, and you will save yourself a lot of mortification. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

In any case, it’s a good idea for a movie character not to stomp around in a fug of cynicism because Very Odd Things usually happen around this time, and you may wind up being yanked out of your pessimistic worldview. If you encounter people behaving oddly, and if they insist on telling you that they are Santa Claus or even – God forbid – an elf from Santa’s workshop, you should try as hard as possible to suspend your disbelief. Above all, you should not call the authorities and have them placed in a mental ward because that will turn out to backfire spectacularly. Instead, get to know the person, perhaps if they appear to be homeless, invite them home and include them in your family gatherings, no matter how dysfunctional. If you do, the odds are high that your strained relationships with your spouse and children will ease, and even though the stranger may mysteriously vanish by the time you all awaken on Christmas morning, you will spend the rest of the day wrapped in a warm glow of togetherness, secure that it’s love, not lavish gifts, that truly matters.

On the whole, it’s best not to invite your entire clan over for Christmas, regardless of space, as the pressure will cause even the most level-headed of them to snap and do strange things. For example, if you have spent the year nagging at your single daughter to find a boyfriend, she may well pick up a random guy in an airport and pretend that they’ve become engaged once they arrive. Or your spouse may get into a ridiculous rivalry with the neighbors over who has the gaudiest decorations, resulting in an accident that brings either the police or the fire department. Regardless of age, it’s likely all the children who arrive to stay are nursing their own issues and may act out unpredictably, so it might be less stressful just to spend the holiday without guests.

But if you do go on vacation for Christmas and have a large brood, be sure to double and triple check that you have all the correct little ones before driving to the airport. Do not just rely on a few mumbled “Here’s,” to be sure for you may be unpleasantly surprised. On the plus side, however, if you do happen to leave a child behind, and your seemingly empty home is targeted by a couple of bumbling burglars, the odds are good that he or she will be resourceful enough to defeat them on their own.

So to sum up, if you’re a movie character, play nice and do unto others as you would yourself, be charitable to strangers, no matter how odd, keep your gift buying in check, consider a small holiday gathering, and double-count your kids if you must go away. Have a merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Review: Lady Bird

“This may come as news, but I don’t always know what I’m doing. It’s not like you and your sister came with a book of instructions.”

That’s a line from Cher in the film “Mermaids,” but it could also have easily come from the mouth of the beleaguered mother (Laurie Metcalf) of Christine a.k.a. “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan) in the titular movie. Certainly, Laurie is trying her best with her only daughter, but juggling a job as a nurse, a depressed husband (Tracy Letts) who has recently lost his job, a not-too-gainfully-employed older son, his live-in girlfriend, and the burden of never having quite enough money, she is bound to fall short some of the time. Or virtually all of the time, depending on your perspective. Like Cher in “Mermaids,” Laurie has a prickly adolescent daughter, currently attending a Catholic high school, groping after maturity and sophistication but often missing. But in ways that are equally heartwarming and hilarious.

Saoirse (“Brooklyn”) has moved across the country role-wise and resides (against her will) in Sacramento, Calif. The year is 2002, but for Saiorse, the drama unfolding overseas is distant, compared to her own angst. At the start of “Lady Bird,” a perfectly pleasant mother-daughter bonding experience over an audio-book is abruptly brought to an end when they begin to bicker about college plans, and Saoirse tries to hurl herself out of the moving car. Alas, she suffers only an injured arm which does not prevent her from having to attend her fall term at a Catholic school with her equally unpopular but loyal best friend (Beanie Feldstein). At first the movie hopscotches from class to afterschool play rehearsals to scenes at home not settling on anything very long and giving me the sensation that the screenwriter (Greta Gerwig) was busy twisting a kaleidoscope. But things settle down, and Saoirse is soon experiencing her (presumably) first love affair with fellow theater club member (Lucas Hedges), which is not destined to end well. Other things happen, too – as Saoirse applies to East Coast schools behind her mother’s back, experiments with recreational substances and other friends, and comes to realize that – newsflash – her mother isn’t so horrible after all. Only this unfolds, not in an Afterschool Special way, but in one that feels authentic and fresh.

“Lady Bird” so far has a 100 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 86 percent “Like” rate for those who have viewed it. No one has dared to be the token cynic, and though I personally thought Saoirse looked a little too old for a teen, her performance is spot-on and Oscar-nomination-worthy. Metcalf also does a tremendous job. The movie ends on a bittersweet note, similar to “The Big Sick,” and like that movie, is a perceptive meditation on what it means to be an ambivalent parent. Or the child of one.

 

 

 

 

2017: Year of Bad Movie Parents

Warning: These contain spoilers.

“They’re gazebos! They’re bullshit!” – Jack Dylan Grazier in “It (2017).”

Let’s face it.

Twenty-seventeen was a horrible year to be a child character onscreen.

Perhaps this is true of most, but I especially noticed what seemed like a never-ending array of examples of atrocious movie parenting this year. These could be roughly slotted into several categories including:

1. Parents who mean well but are otherwise too overwhelmed to focus on their kids.

2. Parents who are deliberately neglectful and/or abusive.

3. Parents for whom “doing the right thing” winds up having horrific consequences for their children.

(Of course, we still have a month to go, but I think there’s more than enough evidence to arrive at this hypothesis early.)

Grandparents were not excluded either – witness the grandmother in “Good Time” who abused her mentally handicapped adult son and wasn’t real kind to the other non-disabled one. Perhaps matching or surpassing her is the grandmother in “Gifted,” who not only destroys her daughter’s romantic relationship but attempts to put her granddaughter’s beloved cat to sleep while her father is temporarily out of the picture. Though there were also examples to offset these, including Michael Caine in “Going In Style,” who is never too busy for Joey King, despite being at risk of losing his pension. And planning a bank robbery.

Kicking off the year, we had Alexa Nisenson’s dad (Charlie Day) in “Fist Fight,” who spends most of the movie dodging fellow teacher Ice Cube who wants to inflict serious damage on him for revenge, while meanwhile his young daughter frets about her upcoming talent show performance. Then when Charlie finally arrives at her school, she flubs her first attempt (since he’s late) and then decides to rally by performing an R-rated routine directed at her nemesis.

We were also given two onscreen examples of Munchausen-by-proxy Syndrome, first with Amandla Stenberg’s mom in “Everything, Everything” who has convinced her teenage daughter that she has a disease requiring complete housebound-ness, the wearing of interchangeable white t-shirts and limited human contact – at least until a cute guy moves in next door and starts flirting with her (from a safe distance). The second came in “It (2017),” in which Jack Dylan Grazier gets an unpleasant surprise when he goes to the pharmacy to pick up his meds. He wasn’t alone in the movie – “It” was a buffet of bad parent roles from the overbearing to the distant, including Sophia Lillis’s incestuous dad. (Few lines this year are more cringe-inducing than his repeated “Are you still my little girl?”)

In another Stephen King film adaptation, “The Dark Tower,” the young protagonist’s (Tom Taylor’s) mother attempts to have him sent to an institution for troubled youths headed by supernatural killer, Jude Law and his accomplices, forcing him to flee into another dimension. In “The Circle,” a futuristic fantasy in which no dimension of life is free from being witnessed by millions, Emma Watson’s parents have the gall to be sexually active while they’re being filmed 24-7 for their daughter’s project at her new job, thereby mortifying her in front of the world.

A less inventive but perhaps equally detrimental experiment occurs in “Home Again,” in which Lola Flanery’s about-to-be-divorced mom conducts an experiment in which she attempts to see how many men she can invite to stay in their home (including dear old dad) until tension spills over to the point where there’s trouble. (Hint: Three is more than enough.) Young Noah Jupe’s mother in “Sububicon” from the little we see of her appears to be a decent parent, but she expires early in a botched robbery, leaving him at the mercies of his dad (Matt Damon) who may or may not have arranged the robbery, carries on an affair with his sister-in-law, threatens to send Noah to military school, and eventually takes notice of what’s going on next door to reveal himself to be racist.

A standout in the abusive/neglectful parent category are the mom and dad of “The Glass Castle’s” Ella Anderson’s parents, who drag her and her siblings around the US (sometimes in the back of a moving van), teach her to swim by half-drowning her, leave their kids with their creepy incestuous grandmother (another one!), and pimp her out when she’s a teen – in order for her dad to regain a debt. In contrast, Kate Mara’s mom in “Megan Leavey” who misses her daughter’s graduation, only to respond with “Can they hold it over again?” when Kate informs her of her error, seems benign, even though she clearly doesn’t get her kid.

This summer, we also got “The House,” in which Ryan Simpkins’ parents, upon realizing that their daughter’s scholarship money has been pilfered by the town for other funds, gamely embark on a journey that involves turning their neighbor’s place into an underground casino, amputating a neighbor’s digits, and breaking the law in other ways – all in order to make sure Ryan can arrive at freshman orientation in the fall on time.

Other hapless young adults onscreen include Kumail Nanjiani in “The Big Sick,” whose parents, distraught that he’s seeing a white girl, essentially disown him. At the end, the dad shows signs of détente, but mom is questionable. In “Happy Death Day,” Jessica Rothe is trapped in a time-loop that forces her to relive the anniversary of her mom’s death (and her birthday), and repeatedly rebuffs her dad’s lunch invitation, since she’s trying to evade a psycho-killer. Her dad isn’t told outright of this horror, so he may be excused for his negligence. On the other hand, earlier in the year Zoey Deutch’s mom (Jennifer Beals) in ‘Before I Fall” does not realize her child is trapped in a time loop either, but manages to be a loving parent anyway.

Were there any halfway decent guardians onscreen this year? Well, yes, but the one that stands out is a non-parent: the guardian nun (Stephanie Sigman) in “Annabelle: The Creation,” who valiantly tries to shield her orphan charges (including a young girl crippled by polio and pursued by an evil spirit). And Tom Holland’s guardian (Marisa Tomei) in “Spider Man: The Homecoming”  was also understanding of her ward’s secrecy, even when she happens upon him and his best friend half-dressed. Let’s hope 2018 brings better examples of parenting onscreen. They certainly couldn’t get much worse.

What’s in a Movie Title?: Post Holiday Ramblings

Titles can be tricky things. Both to arrive at, and then for the general populace to figure out whether they appeal to them, which ultimately should lead to commercial success. Anyone who has had the experience of trying to come up with a title (no matter for how trivial a subject) in a group setting is likely familiar with the process whereby people start volunteering names at a steady clip, then there is a lull as it dawns on everyone that this might be harder than it seems, and then there is a period where, after agreement, people start tossing out names that descend into complete silliness, before everyone reorganizes and finally picks a winner.

To mix mediums here, novelist Peter Benchley had a devil of a time coming up with what ultimately became “Jaws,” which everyone he talked to hated, but at least could reach some sort of consensus on. Benchley Sr. suggested, presumably with tongue firmly in cheek, the title, “What Dat’s Noshin’ on My Laig?” The matter of movie names involves certain factors, but in the end may boil down to whatever is considered the least objectionable.

Naming your movie after the subject if it’s a person may work but only if it’s a relatively non-famous individual. Otherwise the name has probably already been taken, but it’s possible to get away with duplicates. Still, it’s better to be clear if you can. “J. Edgar,” the biopic with Leonardo DiCaprio was allegedly named that because the director feared “Hoover” would evoke the vacuum cleaner. Or the former president.

Speaking of presidents, there lately seems to be a spate of misleadingly named movies coming out that aren’t actually biopics about well-known people but sure sound as if they could be. These include “Lady Bird,” which is not about the former Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, and “Mr. Roosevelt,” which concerns neither Theodore nor Franklin but is the name of the main character’s cat. Now “Lady Bird,” is currently in the top ten box office-wise and being heavily advertised, so I may go to see it, but I can’t help wondering why they didn’t choose a less-misleading title. Fall is a ripe time for Oscar-courting biopics (example: “LBJ”), so it might have been wise.

Another recent misleading title is “The Limehouse Golem,” which when I first heard of it, sent shivers down my spine. However, I grew excited too soon because:

1. Wherever the movie was released, it’s nowhere near me, including the closest cities which usually snag the indies and potential Oscar-baits. That in itself is no tragedy because waiting a few months to view it is hardly a hardship. However, there’s a second snag which is:

2. According to one critic luckier than I, who’s actually seen the film, no actual golem makes an appearance.

Scratch that then. (Although I expect there is a real limehouse, unless that’s purely a metaphor, too.)

Length is (or should be) a key factor in choosing a film title, too. Sometimes a movie parodying a certain genre will wind up with a long title in order to include as many targets as possible by name. Example: “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.” Another is “The 41 Year Old Virgin That Knocked Up Sarah Marshall And Felt Superbad About It.” Including the author of the novel on which the movie is based also stretches the title out. Out of curiosity, I googled “longest movie title ever” and came up with this whopper:

Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Hellbound, Flesh-Eating Subhumanoid Zombified Living Dead, Part 2: In Shocking 2-D.” James Riffel, 1991.

While I commend Mr. Riffel on his accomplishment, the fact remains that only a fraction of that title could be squeezed onto movie billboards with the likely result that the full impact was somewhat diminished when people drove by the theater or checked media outlets for currently playing films. The 1995 Hugh Grant movie “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain,” did not survive its title being unmolested by media outlets or theater billboards, although at the time simply calling it “the latest Hugh Grant movie” was enough of a draw for his fans.

Here’s how my local paper shrunk the title in its listings due to space restrictions: “The Englishman Who Went Up.” One can imagine the confusion for those unfamiliar with the movie plot. On the plus side, however, the film might sound more appealing shortened, regardless of the reasons and thus result in a more lucrative box office tally.

Thus it pays to be extra careful when choosing a film title. This year, there seems to be a spate of movies with “Wonder” in the title, perhaps coincidence, perhaps not. Next year, who knows?