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"And The Book Says . . ."
While it may sound naive or fleeting to some, Magnolia, without QUESTION, is hands down the greatest thing I've ever seen. That's it. I'm sorry, but it's true. Paul Thomas Anderson's paramount masterpiece is the tip of Mount Everest when it comes to filmmaking, in both technical and storytelling aspects; he delivers a three hour saga about the relationships between varying parents and children, the messes they've created, and the measures it will take to make amends.
The plot has been kept in shrouded secrecy for many reasons, namely one of them that it would take about fifteen minutes to give even the briefest of synopsi. There is so much going on, so much to look at, to feel, that a jaded reviewer would be damning himself and the reader if he even attempted to lay down the story. But it does concern nine people in the San Fernando Valley on a particularly dank (and particularly apocalyptic) day. But you already knew that.
One of the many things that makes Magnolia flawfree is the incredible crescendo it manages to maintain for its entire running time. Scene by scene, second by second, Jon Brion's score and Aimee Mann's songs interact in perfect synchronicity with the rising emotions in the film, more and more with each following frame. Whether the situation be tense, happy, tragic, sad, mean, or something in between, the entire thing piles on more and more clumps of cinematic clay, propelling the story into the next region of genius. And with the cast, PT leaves nothing to chance. Everyone (EVERYONE!) in this picture gives 110% and more at all times. While most people will single out Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, or Bill Macy as the stars of this movie, the ones who stole MY heart were the anomalous couple of John C. Reilly and Melora "Goddess of All Things Acting" Walters. Never before have two people seemed so equally desparate for love in such different roles. Walters not only stole my heart, but the whole f***ing movie as well. Her turn as an abused, lonely, good-hearted cokehead is one of the best female characters of the last twenty years. But, I digress . ..
Magnolia is a painting with colors your mind can't decipher right away, feelings that aren't easily labeled. This is why, I think, many patrons of the film have left it in bad will, because in an age of eighty-five minute Christmas gifts (not too much to think about, wrapped nicely, and pretty much predictable), filmgoers as a mass have been spoiled and cheated of films that make them *FEEL* something. Magnolia doesn't get you with clever ploys or snarky editing. It's wonder doesn't lie in its irony or one-liners. You won't find any overt sarcasm here. No, Magnolia hooks you because it makes you feel something. Its sincerity is so raw, and so spot on, that a usually sarcastic, skewered moviegoer doesn't have anything to latch on to other than its unflinching brilliance. It doesn't give any room for people to criticize it for its quality (or lack thereof), so people end up complaining about the length, the lack of immediacy, or the unconvential symbolism (ahem!).
In the end though, Magnolia is nothing more than Paul Thomas Anderson's love letter to people like him. People who just plain like to watch perfection blossom right before their very eyes.
". . . You may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with you."
"When the sunshine ain't workin', the good Lord be a rainin'."
The acting is absolutely horrible, dominated by annoying and seemingly endless *SEX* scenes! That's right, you heard me, there are countless scenes of graphic coitus in this "film"! It really shocked me. And it has nothing to do with Star Trek! If you're a fan of Gene Roddenbury, this is not your movie. It's just a huge slap in the face to a city with as much spark as Dallas.
Tales from the Crypt (1989)
Television's all time greatest horror series
Not only was every episode meticulously crafted into thirty minutes of ironic terror, but the forces behind it always remained credible enough to deliver star-studded episodes. Jon Kassir's Crypt Keeper remains one of the more sacred pop culture figures of recent years (when's the last time you saw someone trashing the Keeper? He's an icon for chrissakes), and while some of the stories may not have been on caliber with others (most of the "England" episodes never touched the Demi Moore/"if I can't have you, no one will" one), in the end, when the smoke had cleared and the show was over, you looked at it with a refreshing zing, as if you had embraced being had.
Bringing back the EC stories wasn't a simple task. Speilberg tried it with "Amazing Stories" and gave up after two long years. The "Vault Of Horror" got a limited run in 94, but failed. But Tales always stuck around, on its own terms, and gave up swinging.
NP: The Bobcat Goldthwait episode: only animated Tales ever: takeoff...Three Little Pigs
A fun route for Larry David
Although CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM isn't exactly an in-depth look at the creative process of a comic who's preparing for a big show, it remains fun to watch nonetheless. David's writing is strongly sensed in many of his scenes (although CYE is presumably improvised), while he makes himself look like a lost little boy who just wants to do stand up being bullied by showbusiness. Pressure keeps closing in on him for the entire hour of this mockumentary (one that isn't as good as SPINAL TAP, but faaar surpasses Blair Witch), with the most exciting points coming in when we actually see David doing his stand up act ("one thing I admire about Hitler is he didn't take shit from magicians"). aLL IN ALL, ITS WORTH THE OBSCURE PROGRAMMING OF HBO TO SEE THIS.
No one sentence can summarize its brilliance.
I am a Portishead freak. I doubt you would have come to this particular corner of the IMDb if you weren't either. If you have seen this tape, I'm winking as I type. If you haven't, make all the necessary, desperate attempts you can manage to make in your new life mission to get it. Beth Gibbons is like a New Age Shirley Bassey, squeezing all the OOMPH! she can out of every lyric and hissing it into the mic, she prowls Roseland with her intensity. Geoff Barrow, Adrian Utley, and Dave McDonald assist Miss Gibbons in her quest to touch souls with dead on choices. No song from either of their first two albums sound as good as they do when performed on PNYC. When assembled as one, the songs are musical paintings of relationship despair, like Beth's tragic torch songs to the boyfriend that failed to keep her. Every artistic motive is made to compensate from making a simple one shot of the band doing their thang, but in actuality, when you're dealing with what I consider (for my money) to be the greatest album of all time, all you need is a camera, an audience, and a couple of geniuses who call themselves Portishead.
This is one of those few films that builds up a wall of atmosphere around you and doesn't break it down until the movie's over. The lighting for Nowhere should have won a damned Oscar, and the performances are just how they should be: so by-the-numbers that they create the plastic, artificial/superficial feel director Gregg Araki was obviously striving for. This one is so cartoonish you'd think Ralph Bakshi made it at times, never letting anyone truly act, simply saying their lines with smarm and bravado.
This flick also represents the uncertainty that exists when teenagers go out at night. It seems that everyone is being pulled in by the magnet of a party, but the roads which may or may not lead them there are the fun in watching. Araki effectively builds up a strong cast of aquaintances, making you want to see such characters as Dingbat and Dark in everyday, artificial, bubblegum high school class. The bizarre alien subplot is a daring direction to go in, but it is forgiven when as the credits roll, all you can think about is the seemingly endless haze of moody aura that entranced you for eighty two fascinating minutes.
Tell Your Children (1936)
When I was in the seventh grade, it was my sixth hour science class's favorite pastime to pick on me. They would call me many words I can't repeat here, and all of it was based on the fact that they didn't think I had enough of what they called "fun" in my life. I didn't drink alcohol, I didn't smoke cigarettes. I didn't indulge in bathtub crystal meth. To them, I was a square. Because of this, all the stoners in Mr. Hendry's sixth were quite intrigued when at the beginning of a particular August, I began promoting a tape I had purchased recently. It was called "Reefer Madness" (Tell Your Children). They salivated when I described some of the sequences. Pot smoking. Lots of it. People having near convulsions from all the pot they smoke. And best of all. . .girls. I didn't need to go into great detail, because the prank I would unveil on these automatons would be nothing short of perfect.
As the four weeks rolled by, I kept heavily plugging how wicked the film was and how the entire flick was all centered around pot smoking.
"Did you say there were convulsions," one of the burnouts asked.
"Oh yes. Lots of those. Just wait, you'll see," I said as I patted him on the back reassuringly.
As the day neared, the air was electric. The class was anticipating some sort of extreme Cheech and Chong movie, like 90 minutes of a Sublime video.
What they *got*, for anyone who has seen the film, is an overrated advisory movie from the 30's. Sure, there are some schlockily funny scenes, but the revenge was extracted by me on giving these kids the biggest blue balls they'd ever get in their lives. As I sat back in my chair with a satisfied grin deeply embedded on my face, the children stared blankly for all sixty seven minutes. My family moved to another town the next day.
RENT IT, LEARN IT, LOVE IT, BE IT, FEEL IT, BUT PLEASE REWIND IT.
About five years ago, I was out with my friends and we decided to go see Interview With A Vampire. We trekked all the way into the ghetto to catch its last theatrical showing at the dollar theatre. I had never seen it, but one in the group was celebrating his birthday and absolutely loved this flick, so he urged me to make the nine o'clock showing. We got there, and we were promptly told that Vampire wasn't showing until ten. This disappointed us all, but my friend was so pumped about seeing the LAST ever showing he went to a nearby Dairy Queen to bide time. I was not enjoying the bleak ice cream experience of a rainy, hood night overturing me gettin' a sugar headache so I headed solo back across the street. I was a little embarrassed that I would abandon him so quickly, but he didn't care really. I said I might see another movie, since there were 5 other features showing. No one objected, so I went to the box office, scanned the marquee, and spotted a film entitled CLERKS.
I had seen a spot for this movie on a MTV news break, a very short blurb about its nonchalant style of both directing and dialogue. I was leery seeing a film in all black and white, but since this was the only "new release" at the theatre, and since it was only a buck, I bought the ticket, picked up some popcorn, and sat down. . .completely alone in the smallest theatre they had available to experience Kevin Smith's 1994 homage to all things floating in his head while working minimum wage jobs all his life.
Five minutes in, and I was hooked. Every other line I thought to myself two things,
"I gotta get everyone I know to see this."
"Why isn't this a full house?"
Dante Hicks' starts out accidently subbing a shift at his workplace one fateful morning. But what he doesn't know is that by going in for work that day, he walks in belly-to-the-beast to a very traumatic day. His best friend Randal doesn't help matters either. Not only is he constantly breathing down his neck while neglecting his video store responsibilities, but he challenges Dante to be a man he is not while faced with a relationship . Clerks is set in one day's time, opening till closing, and packs just about as much great, memorable scenes as it can into all of its 100 minutes.
Not only is the camera work simply a forumn for the actors to tell the story (as, at its basics, it should be), but the coziness of the scenery makes you feel like you could pick up a pack of cigarettes from the very place. I feel honored and privileged to feel like I've been with Kevin Smith's career from the very beginning, because he is without question my favorite director, and I will be forever indebted to him, if not for the connection he's given me, for the haunting significance of the number 37.
See also the technical prequel, Mallrats and the final film in the Jersey Trilogy, Chasing Amy.
"Jay and Silent Bob will be back in Dogma."
Camp Cucamonga (1990)
It really doesn't get any more 80's than this
Man oh man. This movie is really only for those sentimental about the time when pink Bugle Boy shirts were socially acceptable. Plot is evidently not all that important to the makers of this one, but what *is* important is squeezing in as many B-celebrities as possible without going over budget. All of Candace Cameron, (a then unknown) Jennifer Aniston, The Infathomable Breckin Meyer, Jaleel UPN White, John Ratzenberger, The Nerd From The Wonder Years, Good Winnie Hunting, and a whoooole bunch of other people you might recognize from TGIF. I sat there wondering when Dabney Coleman and Leslie Nielson were going to show up.
It's about a camp. It's about some American youth. Who sing. Sing. Sing!!!!
Recommended for sarcastic teenagers who have nothing to make fun of.
Blah Blah Blah
Watching this one is like getting all the 80's horror cliches you need to make witty observations on the cliches of 80's horror flicks.
Directed by holier-than-KNB FX wizard Stan Winston, Lance "Just Forget About Man's Best Friend" Henrickson is a scorned daddy who after his autistic son is murdered by a bunch of dirtbike-riding hooligans, enlists the services of Pumpkinhead, a demon who also dabbles in the professional hitman trade. The film then goes into automatic, offing all the ne'er-do-well teenagers until Lance is happy.
Okay, the plot is basically the same as every other schlocker: for some reason or another, someone gets their feelings hurt (on varying degrees) and the clique that started trouble is methodically hunted down and killed one by one, usually each in grandiose fashion (depending on whether or not they're in some sort of factory or warehouse). There is ALWAYS (no exceptions whatsoever) at least *some* premarital, crazy, teenage sex going on in the movies (which may or may not be interrupted by a death scene).
Pumpkinhead follows this almost to a tee (replace factory/warehouse with tool shed). This film was never anything more than letting Winston live out his directing fantasy so he'd keep making badass animatronics for James Cameron. Sure, Henrickson's character has a right to be miffed and has a right to want vengeance, but the only problem I had with the rest of it was I didn't like the Pumpkinhead character. He moved a little better than the special effects in "Evil Dead 2", and wasn't anymore original than Jason or even the friggin' Ghoulies. The reason this didn't work was because you weren't rooting for anyone. I was waiting for those darn pests to get gutted with some bravado, but I'm left with the personality-less PH.
Bottom line is that the only way for Pumpkinhead to work is if you rename the villain Leprechaun.