Thursday, July 07, 2016

OVP: The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (2015)

Film: The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (2015)
Stars: Robert Gustafsson, Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg, Mia Skaringer, Jens Hulten
Director: Felix Herngren
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Makeup & Hairstyling)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

I sometimes feel like Oscar might not hold all countries to the same standards.  As a general rule with AMPAS, it's considerably easier to be nominated for an Academy Award, outside of the short categories, if your film is in English-it makes sense that a body that is largely made up of English-speaking people (the majority of Oscar's membership being American or English in nationality) would favor films that were in their native tongue, if only because that's what the majority of what they're seeing is filmed in; however, on the occasions where they do nominate a foreign-language film, they occasionally go for a movie that I don't think they'd normally get into, which is the case for Hundred Year-Old Man.  The movie is part Forrest Gump, part Weekend at Bernie's, but it's a relatively lackluster film that even for the Best Makeup category stands out as an odd entry into the pantheon of movies that have been nominated for an Academy Award.

(Spoilers Ahead) Admittedly the Makeup Branch of AMPAS has never been one to quibble with throwing out the title "Academy Award nominee" onto any specific film, as pictures like Bad Grandpa and Norbit have all made it onto the Oscar list before and they're far worse films than this one, but this is such a trifle it's hard to imagine that they even noticed it.  The film follows an old man named Allan Karlsson on the day of his 100th birthday who randomly, but titularly, climbs out of a window and then gets into a series of adventures involving 50 million dollars worth of drug money that he randomly comes across.  Along the way he and the gang of misfits he assembles haphazardly accidentally foil a crime ring and essentially become a pack of accidental serial killers.  The film is played for the comically absurd, with Allan frequently spitting out the truth or his version of it without anyone noticing or becoming wise to how it will spell their fate, and showing how meandering and random life can be.  We also see flashbacks throughout Allan's extraordinary life to scenes where he meets people like Francisco Franco and Harry S. Truman and shapes the course of history.  The film plays it deeply fast-and-loose with historical events in a similar fashion to Forrest Gump and wants to show that this random man, through sheer happenstance (and a love of explosives that he shows in the opening scene when he obliterates a fox who killed his cat) has been one of the most important figures of the 20th Century.

The problem with this is, first, that Forrest Gump is not actually a good film despite what hundreds of millions of dollars and a bushel of Oscars would argue, and that the movie itself here is also rather pointless.  Most of the film I was just hoping they'd get on with it-it wasn't funny to watch all of these characters as they randomly came together and the flashbacks, once you got the gist of what they were going to do (which happened after the first historical altercation) were dull too because it was the same sort of joke pattern.  If you can see every joke coming and all of them are relatively broad, it's not a strong film-it's in fact the sort of movie that would be confined to the cinematic waste bin in the States, except it stars a man in old-age makeup and happens to be in Swedish, so instead of getting a Netflix deal, it gets played in art-house theaters and becomes a relatively robust hit.

The film's makeup is somewhat interesting, even if it's stuff that we've seen before.  It's always a testament that they make old-age makeup so lifelike that one suspects that you would do a double-take if seeing this person in real life, but the makeup is undercut by Gustafsson's inability to move like a man who is actually 100, but instead standing around more like a man of seventy (and yes, there is a difference).  Plus, this is somewhere we've been over-and-over again with the Makeup branch of the Academy.  Yes, it's interesting, but how many times can we marvel at the mild advances in prosthetics when really we're just fascinated with work Rick Baker could have done twenty years ago?  Considering Gustafsson's is the only character worth fawning over here, it seems odd the Makeup branch randomly picked a film like this even if it's right up their alley.

Those are my thoughts on this odd little movie, one that would fade pretty quickly from memory were it not for its Oscar nomination.  How about you?  It was a massive hit by art-house standards (the third highest-grossing film in Sweden's history), so there are clearly fans out there-can you shed some light here (did it help if you'd read the book?)?  Where does this rank against The Revenant or Mad Max, its Oscar competition?  Share your thoughts below!

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