During the world’s long staycation, I’ve learned one thing. What some call “artificial intelligence” may be pretty stupid.
My streaming service, for example, noted that I had watched an episode of the TV show “The Mentalist.” So it began recommending that I see “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “Monk.” I suppose they are all about crime fighting.
I’ve seen the “Monk” shows and never want to look at “Car 54” again. Why, you might ask, is Amazon Prime suggesting I’ll like decades-old, low-budget films about World War II battles?
That’s because I recently watched Aussie director Peter Weir’s “Gallipoli,” a 1981 movie about World War I, which stars a very young Mel Gibson. But I wasn’t looking for war flicks when I picked that one.
I was looking for Weir movies. He has made a number of famous films, including “The Truman Show,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Witness,” and “Master and Commander.”
The most accomplished alum of the great Aussie movies movement of the 1970s and ‘80s also made “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” “The Year of Living Dangerously,” “Mosquito Coast” and “Green Card.”
His movies were often popular successes, which were at the same time admired by critics. He has had great success with historical settings and mysterious stories dripping with eeriness.
And he has worked with a lot of big stars. We may no longer consider Richard Chamberlain a Hollywood icon, but he was still a name when Weir cast him in “The Last Wave.” Harrison Ford starred in more than one Weir movie.
So did Gibson. His casts included Robin Williams, Sigourney Weaver and Russell Crowe. Linda Hunt, currently in the TV series “NCIS-LA,” won an Oscar for her part in “The Year of Living Dangerously.”
Not all of these movies are going to appeal to all shut-ins. My favorite Weir film, “Fearless,” offers a conclusion casual movie viewers may not feel is altogether reasonable. “The Way Back,” despite its noteworthy cast, seems to please no one but specialists.
If you’re not a film buff but just a government-mandated living-room labrador, there are several Weir movies you may want to look for on your streaming services.
“The Truman Show” was much discussed when it arrived in 1998. Jim Carrey is mostly under control as the title character. Truman is living in a strange version of the world. He doesn’t realize he is in a “reality” TV show.
The puppet master, played by Ed Harris, has given him memories of experiences intended to keep him under company control. But one day Truman goes out on a little boat on the fake sea.
“Dead Poets Society” (1989) is about a teacher of poetry who inspires his students at a 1950s New England boarding school. Naturally he becomes the object of institutional pressure, as do his charges. But having denied him once, they get another chance to stand up for him.
Americans have long been fascinated by the Amish. In “Witness” (1985), Weir has a Philly cop (Ford) move into a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch community to protect a boy there who is the only witness to a killing.
Look out for Viggo Mortensen and former Bolshoi principal Alexander Godunov, among other recognizable faces, in the cast.
“Master and Commander” (2003) is based on one of Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin sea novels. Set in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, it tells of a running battle between a British warship and a French one. Much of the action takes place in the Pacific, on the far side of South America.
Those are movies may lead you to other Weir films. And all of them are more amusing to watch than “Car 54, Where Are You?”