Monday, February 21, 2022

February Quick Picks and Pans


Tiny Tim - King for a Day Poster

Tiny Tim: King for a Day (2020) Swedish filmmaker Johan von Sydow’s illuminating, bittersweet documentary about eccentric singer/performance artist Tiny Tim (born Herbert Butros Khaury), sheds some light on the enigmatic personality, probably best remembered for the song, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” Distinguished by his androgynous appearance and signature falsetto singing voice, Tiny Tim stood apart from his contemporaries as an anomaly. The film argues that he was much more than a novelty act, however, paving the way for future performers. Tiny Tim’s story is told through interviews with some of the people who knew him best, as well as excerpts from his diary, read by “Weird Al” Yankovic. It paints a complex portrait of a misunderstood, deeply introspective man who had difficulty connecting with individuals, but found meaning through his myriad stage appearances. 

Rating: ****. Kanopy (Currently unavailable on Blu-ray or DVD)

Little Otik Poster

Little Otik (2000) Filmmaker Jan Švankmajer’s cautionary fable (based on a Czech fairy tale by Karel Jaromír Erben) is an unnerving story about fertility and food, reminding us to be careful what we wish for. Despite their best efforts, Karel and Bozena (Jan Hartl and Veronika Zilková) are incapable of conceiving a child. Karel carves a crude baby out of a tree stump to appease his distraught wife, only to see the inanimate object spring to life and grow to monstrous proportions (with an appetite to match). Švankmajer employs a mixture of live action, stop-motion and two-dimensional animation to tell his disturbingly surreal tale of excess. 

Rating: ****. Available on DVD

The Medusa Touch Poster

The Medusa Touch (1978) Richard Burton stars as tortured writer John Morlar, a man inextricably linked to disasters. Brunel (Lino Ventura), a French police detective on an officer exchange program, conducts an investigation to determine who attempted to murder Morlar. Lee Grant co-stars as psychiatrist, Dr. Zonfeld, who might be able to provide some insight into the case. The fascinating story (based on a novel by Peter Van Greenaway) unfolds gradually in a slow-burn narrative, as Brunel uncovers the events that led to Morlar’s current condition. Despite some good performances and a suspenseful ending, the film is hampered somewhat by Jack Gold’s lackluster direction and visually flat style, which seem better suited for television. Quibbles aside, it’s well worth sticking around for this gripping character study. 

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Tubi


Tales from the Gimli Hospital Poster

Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988) Writer/director Guy Maddin’s fascinating debut film establishes the filmmaker’s unique style, incorporating techniques from the dawn of cinema. It recounts the tale of Icelandic immigrants Einar the Lonely and Gunnar (Kyle McCulloch and Michael Gottli), who are patients in a turn-of-the-century isolation ward, vying for the attention of the nurses while they convalesce from a mystery illness. Despite the film’s budgetary limitations, Maddin convincingly conveys the story’s mythic atmosphere with its larger-than-life characters and absurd situations.   

Rating: ***½. Available on DVD 



  1. Great reviews, barry!
    I am most intrigued by the tiny Tim documentary. Having weird Al read excerpts from his diary sounds perfect!

    1. Thanks, John! I think you'd really like it. Weird Al was definitely the right person for the job - and he didn't sound jokey doing it.

  2. I appreciate your efforts to spotlight international "oddities" that many of us may not stumble upon on our own. Little Otik and The Gimli Hospital sound particularly intriguing. Otik in particular reminds me of Kratt (2020), about kids staying at grandma's house who find instructions for building a kratt, a magical creature that will do anything its master(s) want. What can go wrong? ;-)

  3. Thanks for visiting, Brian! I need to check out Kratt. I wonder if it originated from a Karel Erben folk tale as well? It's fascinating to see multiple variations of the "be careful what you wish for" story, told through an international lens.

  4. THE MEDUSA TOUCH is an unfairly neglected movie. Not perfect but still pretty darned good.

    1. I'm glad I saw it. Such a fascinating premise.