Man of the Century (1999)
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"Man of the Century" is funny, original and bursting with imagination. It's an independent gem. And at only about 78 minutes, it's short and sweet. Those who are unfamiliar with old movies may not be as amused, but those who are familiar should have a ball.
My score: 7 (out of 10)
Some of the posters have brought up that the movie may have some improbable quirks, etc. The beauty of this movie is that is original and entertaining. Its not deep, exciting, or pompous; but its funny and completely different than the formulaic junk being churned out right now.
If you do watch it, you'll feel you have to at least tell someone about it. That's also unusual.
Surprisingly, it held my attention for the entire film. The gimmick never got old; just when it seemed in danger of doing so, something new would happen to keep it fresh. A new character here, a plot twist there. Good, thoughtful filmmaking... and I really dug the 1920's slang. I wish I could remember more of it. Why DID we stop talking like this, anyway?
Good acting, some clever writing and a smartly-plotted story. The ending was a little cheesy, I thought, as I wanted to know the fates of the characters beyond the newspaper-story driven plot. But considering the source material, it really ended the only way it could have. So it's an amusing distraction for 90 minutes or so. And kind of educational, too. Banana Oil!
Johnny doesn't miss a cliche, but never uses the same one twice. You'll find yourself anticipating his reactions to the harsher '90s world as the movie goes along, you'll often guess right - but that makes the movie just that much more fun.
Lots of fun when Johnny is called on to save the same damsel in distress (named Virginia, natch) on three different occasions. She responds with appropriate fluttering eyelids each time.
His reaction to independent women, openly gay men, and the general '90s milieu is delightful. He remains happily oblivious.
Don't worry, the movie never takes itself seriously. Nobody preaches about the evil of the present, or the shallowness of the past. You end up with a warm feeling for all the characters, even the bad guys. This was one of those rare movies where you can actually feel that the performers are thoroughly enjoying their characters. The film makers make sure you know that with a delightfully offbeat ending.
It gives us a light-hearted look at the different ways in which cultural mores are portrayed in the 1920's and in the 1990's. The opening sequence has the look of the earliest films -- complete with scratches and grainy images and the jerkiness of old home movies. The rest of the film is in high-quality black and white with fine camera work. The film is co-written by Adam Abraham (who also directs) and Gibson Frazier (who stars in the title role as Johnny Twennies).
Johnny Twennies writes a column for a New York newspaper. The time is the 1990's, but Johnny is clearly living in the 1920's. We hear 1920's cliches from him and 1990's cliches from others. Johnny's tenacious innocence is refreshing and quite funny beside Samantha Winter's (Susan Egan) modern day social values. It is funny to hear Johnny swear with words like Applesauce! and Rats! while also hearing the ubiquitous use of f___ing by the others on
screen. The "endless stairs" is a brilliant sequence that breaks up the fast-talking dialogue. Since I love to dance, I was particularly overjoyed with a dance number with Johnny and Samantha dancing the Charlston while the others who are clearly older were dancing the jitterbug and swing and other more modern dances. Johnny's dance partner / leading lady is played impeccably by Susan Egan.
The film is face-paced. I know that I missed many of the innuendos and jokes. I love old movies, but I am not a student of those films or times. I found much pleasure in the experience even though I missed the significance of many one-liners. I also found that I had to adjust to the initial few minutes, first wondering if I was going to have to sit through 80 minutes of scratched film and then wondering what year it was because of the juxtaposition of modern cars and archaic language. About six persons left the audience in a group of about 100-120 individuals who were in an advance screening of the movie. Most of those who stayed were thoroughly engrossed in the film and applauded at the end.
It is similar in many ways to the "Purple Rose of Cairo" and "Pleasantville" in that it carries the charm of someone out of the current time or environment, frozen in another time and culture. Gestures, language, and tempo can be best compared to early films as a whole rather than to a specific film.
"Man of the Century" won the audience award at the 1999 Slamdance Film Festival. If the team of Abraham and Frazier can create another film of comparable quality in a different genre, they will make an enormous contribution to film making.
And what a whim! Granted, the script is a little thin, but if you can watch this with an open mind and heart (and especially if you're a fan of old movies), you will find yourself pleased and delighted. This is at one in the same time a gleeful homage to the silent films and early talkies of the 1920s and '30s and a gentle satire of modern life. Gibson Frazier as the hero, glib but honest New York newspaperman Johnny Twennies, deftly revitalizes the all-but forgotten Jazz-Age cinematic stock character 'the heroic reporter', bringing charm and joy to the bleakness of the 1990s which he finds himself thrust into. Like the chronologically stranded 19th century hero of "Kate and Leopold", he manages to manuever the hazards of modern life, always coming out on top: saving the day, chivalrously helping damsels in distress, and, true to the Jazz-Age convention, belting out a few period tunes along the way.
A strand of a plot exists, but the film is basically an 80 minute character sketch. Set aside any expectation of any major epiphanies...but there again, one can consider Johnny as the "noble savage" in reverse. Almost everyone around him is seen as crabby and foul-mouthed, whereas Johnny is perpetually cheerful, resorting to colorful 1920s slang instead of cussing the air blue, and using his keen wits rather than his fists to get out of a dangerous situation. Anyone disillusioned with the crassness of violent, untidy, monosyllabic movie heroes will find this live wire in a three-piece suit and fedora a welcome breath of fresh air. Ladies, take note: If you're looking for a guy who's a gentle man as well as a gentleman, once you've watched this film, you'll find yourself wishing you could find your own "Man of the Century".
Critics will tell you that the movie is slight. And guess what? It is, and it revels in being just so. But it does what movies were always meant to do... not teach you some social more, but transport us for a little bit of time, from our own dreary lives to some place sunnier, funnier. In other words, the film does nothing but entertain.
Unfortunately the films' studio, Fine Line Features, is not giving this picture the full-press coverage that it really deserves, so you will have to look hard to find it in the theaters. An easier way is simply to click on theater listings at "www.manofthecentury.com".
See it and tell your friends!
there is a little swearing in the film, which somehow warranted an 'r' rating even though there is much less swearing and less objectionable material than most 'pg-13' flicks (if you let your kids watch pg-13, let 'em watch this.)
The worst things is almost-nothing story and too much profanity in the last 20 minutes by the hoods. The latter is overdone and left this reviewer with a bad taste in his mouth about the film in general although the very ending features a "cute" musical tune. Actually, the music is good in here all the way through. As you can gather, this is an odd film.....but definitely work a look if you are seeking something a bit different.
The smiles were strong, the music keen, and the photography in stellar black-and-white. The actors all played it straight, which made the film work perfectly.
Where did Adam Abraham, the director, go? He only made a few films, won a slew of awards for this one, and then nada!
The next time this film is on IFC, sit your keester down, give it five, and you will see what a keen flicker it really is. It simply slayed me!
It's a one-joke movie, but the joke is great and it has legs. As I watched this movie, I kept thinking that it would get repetitive and boring at any minute, but it never did.
Shades of "Purple Rose of Cairo" -but with a much better screenplay (sorry,
The only downfall is that there are too many ostentatious literary references - Shakespeare, Kafka, etc You HAVE read your Kafka, right? -and similarly,
there seems to be a lot of homages to the movies from the 20's, but many of
them likely don't work if you haven't seen those old movies.
still, this is a totally enjoyable flick. i was very surprised, given the premiss. -And Cara Buono is delightful. I doubt any other actrss could have done that role quite as well.