Writer’s Room: The Best Film You Couldn’t Stay Awake For

For our first FilmDrunk Writer’s Room, the subject was films that always make you cry. It might not have been the most fitting subject for a FilmDrunk panel, because for the most part, we’re manly men who only cry when our football team loses or hookers pull out our chest hair. This time, however, I chose a topic a bit less “vulnerable.” (Next time, more female panelists will participate, I hope.).

This time the topic was: movies that always make you fall asleep. Now, I didn’t want it to be some posture-fest in which we all brag about hating low-hanging fruit – Twilight, Sex and the City, an Adam Sandler vehicle – movies you’re proud to be bored by because you know they’re crappy. No, I mean critically-acclaimed, influential films that you earnestly tried to watch because they’re Important with a capital I, that you, despite your best efforts, simply could not stay awake for. I was partly inspired by Total Film’s list of great films you’ll only watch once. Experiencing great art shouldn’t be like doing a homework assignment. And yet sometimes… it kind of is. As a former arts major and borderline narcolept, it was a subject near and dear to my heart.

This week’s writers: Laremy Legel (Film.com, FilmDrunk), Dustin Rowles (WarmingGlow, Pajiba), Burnsy (FilmDrunk, WithLeather), Brandon Stroud (WithLeather), Drew Magary (Deadspin, Gawker, GQ), Robopanda (GammaSquad), Morton Salt (FilmDrunk DVD Guides), and myself.



The easy thing to do would be to choose The English Patient. Did anyone else choose The English Patient? Man, that movie sucks harder than polio. But choosing The English Patient is cheating because 1) No one has ever finished watching The English Patient (trivia: it ends with a pretty wild DP scene) and 2) The English Patient isn’t a good movie. So I choose Lost in Translation. Damn the torpedoes!

Why Lost in Translation? It’s a legitimately great film, thoughtful, well acted, and zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Yeah, there’s the issue right there. If you throw in Lost in Translation on a Sunday afternoon, preferably right after the Dolphins have lost in excruciating (Tebow SEO) fashion, and it’s raining just a leeeeeetle bit, you’re going to be, in the parlance of our times, “Lights Out Jackson”. No doubt about it. It’s too thoughtful, and nothing really ever happens that doesn’t involve a knowing glance, only “knowing glances” are the opposite of everything Battleship. They require a close reading of the situation, replete with contextual clues and a deep well of empathy for the characters. All of that takes maximum effort. The film has a lot of Japanese references, which you likely have no idea on, further dipping you into dreamy land. It’s full of vivid colors and soft music, which I’m guessing is the same formula they pack into Nyquil.

Anyway, I love the film, but yeah, it’s a definite sleep aid. Pretty easy to fall asleep on your couch to Lost in Translation and not feel the least bit guilty about it. Now then, I have a brother who feel asleep, in the front row, during the opening night of The Matrix. It was bonkers. But that’s a story for another time …

Dustin Rowles

It makes me a terrible person, but There Will Be Blood.


Editor’s Note: BOO THIS MAN!


I tried to make it through Lawrence of Arabia once and I failed miserably.  I really hate that I couldn’t do it.  I feel like a complete asshole for being bored by it.  But man alive, that’s a longass movie.  I mean, they showed people walking in from the desert from a mile away in real time.  Was I supposed to watch it high?  Is that the whole idea?  Maybe I should have watched it while high.


The only film I couldn’t sit through that I tried to watch again was Age of Innocence starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Annie Lennox, John Malkovich, and a bunch of broken glass. (I may be confusing the movie with a music video.) I was 14 years old when I attended a $1 matinee of this Oscar-winning Martin Scorsese film at my small town’s single-screen theater with a girl who thought it looked romantic. Fifteen minutes into it I was audibly groaning at every line, pregnant with a Victorian restraint I hated to the core of my just-get-on-with-it-you-boring-rich-people being. If Twitter had existed, I’d be the one livetweeting throughout. Hashtag “straight people problems”.

Twenty minutes into the movie, my female friend insisted we move to the very back corner row of the theater, where the eleven other people attending this rousing period drama wouldn’t hear me MST3King every scene. It was during the second hour of the film that I entered a glazed-over stupor I can only compare to being assigned a Nathaniel Hawthorne book report while attending the evangelical Christian high school which failed at praying away my gay.

By the fifth hour of the movie — it was six hours long, right? — I was making funny faces at the theater owner’s 4-year-old daughter at the concession stand, as this was vastly more interesting than Age of Straight People Problems and Costume Design Oscars. My friend insisted after the movie that it was “really good” and I was “totally immature”, and critics seemed to agree with her on the first part (and probably the second, had they known me). Plus, it was a Scorsese film. How could I hate a Scorsese movie?

I attributed my loathing of the film to being 14 years old, so I gave it another chance as an adult. I turned it off almost immediately. Scorsese or not, it’ll always be #StraightPeopleProblems to me.


The Films of Yasujiro Ozu

I love The Criterion Collection, I really do.  Their reputation as the best company working in home video is well earned; they release amazing films in great editions.  Even if I haven’t heard of a film or a director in the collection, I know that their presence there means they’re worth a look. Following the Criterion Collection’s recommendations has rarely done me wrong.  90% of the time, I’m happy I trusted Criterion because even if I didn’t love the movie, I got something worthwhile out of the experience.  That other 10% of the time however, I’m watching the films of Yasujiro Ozu.  This Japanese cat was a contemporary of Akira Kurosawa, and while Kurosawa was making kick-ass action flicks with samurai swords, Ozu was making the most boring sh*t to have ever been put on screen. I’ve fallen asleep trying to watch six of this assh*le’s movies, but that’s just an estimate because he just keeps making the same flick over and over. Literally.  In 1949 he made Late Spring, and in 1960 he switched to color, added 20 minutes and re-made it as Late Autumn, which shouldn’t be confused with his other films Early Summer, Early Spring, The End of Summer, or An Autumn Afternoon. Criterion calls his works ‘domestic dramas’ but I call them ‘two hours of people eating dinner while talking about marriage’.  He doesn’t even move the camera.  To quote Criterion:

“…his trademark rigorous style—static shots, often from the vantage point of someone sitting low on a tatami mat; patient pacing; moments of transcendence as represented by the isolated beauty of everyday objects—has been enormously influential among directors seeking a cinema of economy and poetry.”

How the f*ck would that be rigorous?  He sets a camera on the floor, points it at a coffee table and goes out for a cigarette.  I have yet to make it through a single Ozu film without dozing.  What’s worse, once I wake up, it usually takes me a few minutes to realize I was even asleep because nothing had changed during the hour I slept.  The same characters were sitting at the same table, whining about the same family problems. It’s like staring at a painting while listening to your parents calmly discussing whom your sister should date. F*ck it, I’m proud I slept through these ‘masterpieces’.


A Clockwork Orange

I know, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

My friend Matt from Dinosaur Dracula (formerly of X-Entertainment) told me a story once about how he had a poster for A Clockwork Orange hanging in his bedroom for years and had never seen it.  That says it all.  I’m a huge fan of Kubrick, because that’s what you are when you love movies, but that poster story has been my best reference point for the film for like a decade.  I absolutely cannot get through it.

Something about the combination of dated “ultra-violence,” impenetrable Slavic slang I have no interest in deciphering and Moog synthesizer compositions makes the part of my brain with the great attention span and ability to reason objectively shut down, and I just stare my way through like 40 minutes of it before doing something else.  My only theory is that I was brainwashed as a child, and there’s some weird subliminal thing going on where my brainwashers don’t want me to learn about the freedom of thought.  Maybe I’ve just seen it parodied too much. I don’t have a problem getting through Josie And The Pussycats, so maybe I’m just terrible. Who the hell knows?


Gone with the Wind

You’d think that since I had the distinct honor of being named after one of the characters in Gone with the Wind – no, not Mammy, jerks – that it would be one of my all-time favorite movies, but I assure you that such an idea is a myth like the male orgasm. After all, if your parents named you Skidmark, you wouldn’t be like, “Awesome! I love Transformers!” Instead, I think that Gone with the Wind, while very beautiful in scenery (for its time) and powerful in story, is a magnificently boring three hours of SWEET HOLY GOD, MAKE IT END ALREADY!

To my credit, I have watched the film in its entirety, just never all the way through. I’ve tried to watch it all the way through three times – once in high school, once while under the influence of something, and once while trying to impress a lady – and each time left me snoring by myself. I have rarely admitted this little tale of boredom and self-imposed cure for insomnia, not because I fear movie nerds and cinema elitists thumbing their noses at me, but because I don’t want people thinking I watch old chick movies. In conclusion, The Expendables is the greatest movie ever made.

Close Second Place for Movie that Always Makes Me Fall Asleep: The Last Emperor, except for the scene when he throws the mouse at the door, because that’s pretty rad.


La Jetée

I was visual arts major as an undergrad (UCSD didn’t have “film,” just film as a branch of visual arts), and I was exposed to a lot of art that I maaay not have appreciated at the time. I don’t defend it, I was probably a sh*thead. I had a favorite film professor back then, a rumpled, espresso-chugging Frenchman by the name of Jean-Pierre Gorin, a former collaborator of Godard who would stroll in every period and yell at us for being “cretins.” He introduced me to John Frankenheimer’s Seconds and the final sequence of De Palma’s The Fury, which are both brilliant in as different of ways as you could imagine. He once described teaching as “the grand clowning act of child molestation,” and to this day, his prediction that “one day, you weel be seeteeng een your moolti-plex, enjoying your block-bostare, but I weel be za handsome Fronchman een your ear wheesparing ‘no! zeess eez boolsheet!'” is mostly true. But inevitably, a few works failed to make the intended impact.

My pick, my gun-to-your-head-and-you-can-only-choose-one, is La Jetée. Some reasons you might want to appreciate La Jetée – it’s a about a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel, it’s a head-trippy sci-fi flick that went on to inspire 12 Monkeys, and Time once called it the best time-travel movie of all time. Best of all, it’s only 28 minutes long.

I cannot tell you how many times I have attempted to watch this movie. It’s French, it’s black and white, it’s from 1962, it consists entirely of still images with narration, and the first five times I tried to watch it were always in classrooms or the A/V library (the quality was never very good – it was much easier to fall asleep during old movies back in the days before the Criterion Blu-ray). None of those are acceptable excuses, and I’ve enjoyed plenty of films that were old, French, black and white, or all three, but combine all those with the slideshow format and it creates a perfect, instant sleep cocktail in my brain, like the drugs that killed Heath Ledger (look, I don’t know how it works, I only make the analogies). I’m almost afraid to attempt it again. I’ve fallen asleep during some classics and some not-so classics, but La Jetée is the one I’ve attempted and regretted the most. You should still see it though. Do as I say, not as I do.

Banner picture credit: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com. All sleepy animals via Shutterstock.