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The Phantom Treehouse (1984)
Bunyips, Scottish Pirates and Wonderful Weirdness
When I was five years old I used to watch this movie over and over again. Then I accidentally recorded over it and was never able to find it again anywhere. It wasn't even listed on IMDb until recently. It's a wonderful little animated film about two kids who stumble into a mysterious tree house that brings them to a fantasy land with Scottish pirates, a man in a blimp, volcanoes, and a cool vegetable man called a bun yip that everyone tries to eat. Hopefully it will become available on DVD at some point. It's sort of like Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth, and the Wizard of Oz, but with very Australian humor. I think it aired on HBO in the 80s because I probably recorded it off that. All I remember is I had it on a tape with Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island. Ah, childhood.
Paper Clips (2004)
Should be shown to all school children
Paper Clips is one of the most inspirational times I've ever had at the movies (and I've seen my share). It's a documentary detailing a middle school project in Tennessee to teach kids about the atrocities of the Holocaust. The kids are collecting 6 million paper clips to represent the 6 million Jews who died. The framework of the film sounds simple, but the ideas and values behind it are complex. These children who were raised as Protestants in a poor southern town are exposed to the harsh reality of the world and deal with it with tolerance and understanding. They interact with actual Holocaust survivors and in the end team up to erect a monument more moving than anything in Washington, D.C. This film should be shown to all school children. It has taught me that education is the only way to really change the world significantly. If enough children are taught to work together and be peaceful to each other, then we will create a whole new generation of children who love and reason and think. What a beautiful world it would be. - Scott Gingold, 2004
Welcome to the Neighborhood (2003)
Entertaining multi-character story
I had the privilege of viewing "Welcome to the Neighborhood" at the 2003 Texas Film Festival. This is a well-written, witty look at four connected stories, all taking place on the same day in suburbia. The first story involves a man breaking into the home of a husband & wife. The second story is about a man who tests his wife by asking his best friend to make a play for her. The third (and best) story is about a writer who can't finish her first paragraph because of dog constantly barking from the next yard. The fourth story shows us a couple on a first date who get along wonderfully until he learns something about her past. The four stories are brilliantly interwoven and really take their time to let us get to know the characters. In the style of films like "Grand Canyon" & "Magnolia", "Welcome to the Neighborhood" gives us four slices of life and mixes them around just to our liking. -- Reviewed by Scott Gingold -- 2003 --
Prom Night in Kansas City (2002)
What high school is really like
The documentary "Prom Night in Kansas City" has by far, the most realistic depiction of what high school is really like. The angle this film uses is the Senior prom, and director Hali Lee does show us four very different proms (a white prom, a black prom, a religious school prom and a gay prom). But once Lee introduces us to the kids who populate these end of the year extravaganzas, the film turns into something more. It begins to show us what makes teenagers tick; why they spend so much of their own and their parent's money on clothes; why appearances are so important to them; their opinions about their peers; what it's like to not fit in the crowd; the pressures put upon students by themselves. And because it's a documentary, it captures the real personalities of the teenagers interviewed, flaws and all. "Prom Night in Kansas City" is filled with hilarious unexpected moments and lots of insight from Lee who remembers her own days as a high school prom girl. I'm curious to find out what happens to Smurf in 20 years, watch the film and see who I'm talking about. What a haracter! -- Reviewed by Scott Gingold -- 2003 -- Director of "Ostrich Egg"
Hilarious short film about one crazy night out
Sadly, this wonderful short film will never see the light of day again, since its broadcast on Showtime in 1990. Besides being the film debut of Will Smith, who has a small part as a T-shirt vendor, "Perfect Date" is a comically resonant story about a guy who gets dumped by his girlfriend. In his mopey state, Steve runs into a girl who is dumped by her boyfriend, of course the two dumpees are perfect for each other, but first they stumble into one disastrous situation after another. It's very reminiscent of such 80s comedies as "Sixteen Candles" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", and it's nice to see characters who are smart and really talk to each other. I've seen this film several times in re-run on Showtime, but it's probably hard to catch again these days, who knows maybe they'll release it on video to cash in on Will Smith's fame. If they do, it's worth the watch.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
An awful remake of an awful movie. Cameron Crowe should be ashamed of himself.
Well, where do I start? Okay, for starters, how about that the original film "Open Your Eyes" by Alejandro Amenabar was an extremely pretentious, poorly shot, and deliberately confusing (even to the director himself) art film. Now, I have nothing against art films, if there made with style and that style is backed up with substance. But "Open Your Eyes" tries to be all of that, and fails by trying to be clever. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Penelope Cruz is in both films. But this review is not about "Open Your Eyes." Cameron Crowe had just won on oscar for what I felt was the best film of 2000, "Almost Famous." His other films, "Say Anything" "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (which he scripted, but didn't direct), "Jerry Maguire", and "Singles" are all very intelligent, witty films about dating and growing up. So, now Crowe decides to move out of the genre which he knows so well and make an art film. Fine, Paul Thomas Anderson did it with "Magnolia" and did a bang up job. So with that, I'll tell you that I was looking forward immensely to Vanilla Sky (I watched "Open Your Eyes" after "Vanilla Sky").
My high expectations were dashed to pieces with this incomprehensible plot and blatant symbolism which doesn't really make sense.
The story (if you can call it that) involves Tom Cruise as a vain daddy's boy, whose parents die, he inherents their thriving company and he basically makes a living making an ass out of himself. He's sleeping with Cameron Diaz, ditches her for Penelope Cruz (who after this and Captain Corelli's Mandolin, should be deported), and then wonders why Diaz drives them both off the road in a spectacularly silly slow-motion car wreck. The rest of the film has Cruise (now disfigured) trying to win back Cruz ... Then everything is summed up nicely at the end in an elaborate denouement which Crowe (or Amenabar) pulls out of his ass.
I'm not really sure who's to blame for this crap, Crowe, Amenabar, or Cruise for convincing Crowe to remake the film.
It's themes could have made a good movie. It has shades of better films ("Waking Life", "Dark City", Cruise's own "Eyes Wide Shut") but instead it takes all of its ideas and intentions and makes... no sense at all.
Cameron Crowe, please make another coming of age movie! That's what you're good at!
-Scott Gingold - 12/01
Steal This Movie (2000)
Abbie Hoffman, a politician for the people
Abbie Hoffman was the voice of his generation. The 60s was a whirlwind of sex, war, and rebelliousness and Abbie was right in the center of it. Thought by many as a radical, he wanted to be thought of as a political organizer, a spokesperson for the long-haired hippies who objected to the corruption in government. Abbie would have been a politician if he hadn't hated politicians so much, so he fought causes his own way. In Steal This Movie!, Vincent D'Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket) plays Abbie with fire and charisma. He shows us the real man behind the master showman, and we watch enthralled as Vincent shows us Abbie fighting with his inner-demons, even when he's exiled from society and his family. Steal This Movie! is one of the great movies about the 1960s. Another great movie about the radicals of the 60s, Oliver Stone's Born on the 4th of July has a cameo by the real Abbie Hoffman, playing himself in his last appearance before his mysterious death in 1989. Please consider Steal This Movie! when Academy Award season comes around.