Happy 70th Birthday, Terry Gilliam!

Geek Culture

Terry GilliamTerry Gilliam

Gilliam with his coconuts. Image: Wikipedia

Terry Gilliam was born on this day in 1940 in Medicine Lake, Minnesota and grew up to become the only American member of the otherwise uber-British comedy troupe Monty Python. His vaguely disturbing animated segments using cut-out pictures helped put the edge on the already-strange sketch show, only matched by the extremely disturbing bit characters he tended to play. Gilliam was also co-director of the group’s first film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, one of the funniest movies ever made. If Gilliam’s work as a Python was the only thing ever did, it would be enough to earn him a mention on GeekDad.

But Gilliam went on to become one of the most inventive and daring directors of our age. Without exception, whenever one of his films is mentioned, my first reaction is “That’s my favorite movie!” — before realizing that all his other movies are also my favorite. His films draw liberally from scifi, legends and fairy tales, old movies and TV and even advertising. The film Brazil is the steampunk version of 1984, with a bit of Walter Mitty thrown in. 12 Monkeys, a remake of a French art film I first saw in high school, made me love two actors I had previously had no use for, Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, simply by smearing them with some Pythonesque mud and surrealism. I’m looking forward to showing my cineaste younger son The Fisher King, which in some ways is Holy Grail but with Robin Williams.

And of course, there are Gilliam’s films for kids, including The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits, and the recent The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (which I haven’t yet seen but which my kids loved). They’re not for everyone, but parents who don’t mind their kids coming out a little warped will want to add them to their video collections as soon as their little ones are ready.

Happy Birthday, Terry Gilliam!

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