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Bill Hicks: Revelations (1993)
Unmisable American Comedic Highpoint
Along with Andy Kaufman and Steven Wright, Bill Hicks is one of the most redeeming factors of American comedy. Forget about your John Belushi's or Tim Allen's or Robin Williams, Hicks was the real deal and angry, sensitive, rip-roaringly funny, acerbic comedic talent of epic proportions. Hicks was no-holds barred comedy, trampling upon his audience with a barage of put-downs and come-back lines. Where as most comedians stop at the punchline, Hicks went that one step further and punched the punchline. A man full of contradictions: loved his mum and pap, but ruthlessly satirised them in his stand-ups; was full of venom and bile on stage, but was achingly sensitive and caring off; In short Hicks was a maestro.
Revel in an all-out comedic assault and maybe you might get on the space ships too.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)
A personal favourite.
The first time I watched 'Sex, Lies and Videotape', I was amazed at how a film that was so lacking in sexual explicitness, could still be so erotic. I watch the film often and it still amazes me as to just how accurately it taps into the viewers conscience. The eerie music, that rings and whirrs throughout the movie is the subtlest focusing device I have ever seen in a movie. The way in which relationships are analysed and conversations that in any other screenwriters hands would have seemed clumsy, come to life on the screen in front of you. Never before or since has James Spader just seemed so right in a movie. While Andie Macdowell and Laura San Giacomo are both brilliant in their portrayals of the complex female siblings they are in this movie. Time often seems to melt away in this film, as the viewer becomes unsure of what is voyeuristic and what is merely the viewing of the film. Even in the small details, such as Spader's wardrobe - all black shirts and blue jeans; or Peter Gallagher's whiter than white suit at the end, even though we know what a liar he is. Even the comic value of the bum, who is constantly trying out cheesy chat-up lines at the bar where San Giacomo works, is spot on. All in all this movie is one that grows in stature, everytime it is viewed. A magnificent, candid masterpiece. Watch it, if you haven't already.
Spielberg: Raw and Really Good!!!
This is Spielberg at his most natural and fluid, loving every minute of being behind the camera. A short, sharp, comedy - road movie. This has a bittersweet quirkiness and some genuine touches of genius. Witness the opening credits, to see the influence of Saul Bass. Spielberg is toying around, being inventive and inquisitive, and his cast serve him well. Those who have been brought up on a diet of Shooting Gallery shorts, should really check this out, to see where it is at!!! Excellent!!!
The Butcher Boy (1997)
Another oddity from a modern fairy-story teller.
This is one of the bleakest and darkest films I have seen yet. The scary thing is however, that it doesn't look like it. The Butcher Boy is like a rich fantasy, full of wonderful shots - the two young boys standing on either side of the cliffs, with the river in the background. It is also very reminiscent of that other 'young killers' flick, 'Heavenly Creatures'.
With a firm grip on this production, Jordan has created in Francie Brady, a character every bit as believable and convincing as he was in the book. Stephen Rea, a Jordan regular, plays the invisible narrator. Sinead O'Connor even turns up as a cursing Mother Mary. The theme of unexplained violence and hatred is constantly brewing, witness the countless references to 'the Communists' and 'the bomb'. The startling thing that Jordan achieves, is to instill the character of Francie, with some kind of humanity, however warped.
This is a film-maker who is confident of his abilities, and The Butcher Boy, doesn't damage his reputation any. It is a disturbing, but somewhat rewarding oddity, that should be viewed by as wide an audience as possible. Great stuff!!!
Picture Snatcher (1933)
An enjoyable little James Cagney comedy.
As usual James Cagney provides nothing short of his usual high standard, in this light comedy/drama with a dark edge. Seeming more relevant now, especially with all the recent scandals involving the paparazzi and it's stars, this movie takes the usual 'Cagney' structure. He starts out a broke bad boy on the ropes, but with his wiley charm and dodgy dealings, does good. Cagney is impossible to hate, even when, as in this movie he becomes as obnoxious as ever. In particular the scene in which the Fireman, comes to find the man who got his picture on the front page. It is in scenes like this, that Cagney shows his deft comic touch, something so under-used in his long and prestigious career. In short The Picture Snatcher, is well worth an hour and a half of anyones time. Although by no means Cagney's best, it still holds up well against an 'Accidental Hero'. Enjoy!!!
Lynch's tour-de-force debut. Art-house at its finest.
David Lynch suffering from depression, and the confusing emotions that a new parent suffers, on finding out that their new-born has a deformity (a clubfoot in this case), formulated these feelings into one of the most startling works of cinematic art. Filmed in low-budget, grainy black and white. With a pulsating and throbbing industrial noise soundtrack. The film starts as it means to go on, throwing image after surreal image at the viewer, for the viewer to interpret as they wish. Lynch knows the score, he knows how personal art like this is. It is not for the film-maker to tell his audience what he thinks it's about, it's up to the audience to work on it themselves. In this way Eraserhead can be seen on so many different levels. I personally felt the emotions of the confused X - beautifully played by Lynch regular Jack Nance. I saw the world, for eighty minutes through his eyes, his scared young eyes. Nothing makes sense to the put upon young father anymore. He was emotionally stunted to begin with, but is now presented with a world that is unrelatable, paranoid and lonely. Every character in the film has a problem communicating, whether it be the crazed mother-in-law, who attempts to molest 'X' after dinner; or the mysterious 'woman across the corridor', who cuts a perfect picture of loneliness. Ultimately it is 'X' rapid decline into fantasy, as seen in the running dream of 'the lady in the radiator', and his doomed affair with the 'woman across the corridor', that brings the sexual and emotional repression to a head. The 'baby' then becomes a hate object, a thing so hideous that it cannot be touched. It also acts as a mirror to the young 'X' as he see's it's repugnance, as a further sign of his own irredeemable awfulness. Not since 'Stroszek', has a film captured what it means to be genuinely alone in the world. For such a bleak film, full of inventive imagery, the one image that always stands out in my mind, is that very first shot of the young 'X' walking through the desolate wastelands of an industrial hell. That in itself captured the very essence of modern urban life. A brilliant, but flawed movie. In years to come I'm sure it will feature more and more as an item of study.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
A staggering performance, a compelling story.
I very rarely jump on my soapbox when it comes to matters of pure opinion, such as who should have won an academy award. But I just have to in this case. Edward James Olmos not only turned in one of the most rounded, believable and drop-dead staggering performances of the year. Bar a handful of similar performances - Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy - this is the high-water mark of the decade, when it comes to acting. How on gods earth the Academy could deem Michael Douglas a more worthy candidate of that years Oscar is startling. Stand and Deliver is a simple movie premise - the battle against impossible odds. But told with intelligence, humour and some quality acting. The setting's are right. The bunch of hoodlums, layabouts and kids from the wrong side of the tracks, are nigh on perfect. Lou Diamond Phillips in a small, but telling role, displays an awesome acting promise - that was somehow never fulfilled. However this film belongs to Olmos. It is his strength and nigh on perfect display of acting proficiency, that makes you swallow this never sugary, but border-line sweet, affair. By the end of the movie your punching your hands in the air with him, as he strolls down the corridor. Breathtaking stuff, many would argue not worthy of the kind of acclaim lavished on 'Raging Bull', but I would have to say, it is not far off it. Whatever happened to Olmos after this movie? He appears to have disappeared back to his character actor roots. I'm sorry but the academy got it way wrong in '87, so check this movie out to see why. The ultimate feel-good flick!!!
Coupe de Ville (1990)
A road movie that is full of soul.
Coupe de Ville is just one of those films that you like, but can't put your finger on quite why! The direction - by Roth - is straightforward and not terribly unique. The script is just the right side of sentimental. The actors are by no means A-League big-hitters. But this is quite possibly what makes this film so good. It is a film that you watch with absolutely no expectations. By the end of it however you know that what you have just watched, has touched some part of you that has not been touched for a long time. The trio of Stern, Dempsey and Gross are nigh on perfect. The beauty in their acting is, that they act just like brothers. They feel right as a bickering trio of siblings. But the real boon of this film lies in Alan Arkin. So often Alan Arkin has simply played a variation on a theme. But hear the bronchial tones of his voice are given a stage perfectly suited to them. It is with Arkin that the real emotional punch of the movie lies, and working like a super-extended episode of 'The Wonder Years', it suckers you every time. The pacing is perfect, the cast truly 'stellar', the music absolutely incredible. Besides I never would have known that 'Louie, Louie' was a sea-shanty, and for that alone this deserves viewing. A hidden gem.