Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Four short movies are just long enough.
Four sharply-shot, deeply-felt mini-movies dramatically state their situations and logically reach inevitable conclusions. They're full of ironically observed modern motivations and complexities. A housewifely youth is so bemused by love he can't argue with his conservative soldier-husband's rationalizations for going on a second tour to Iraq. A pretty bottom can boss around even a strong-willed vampire. A well-bred interning Latino art student slavishly endures an Anglo artist's mistreatment partly from worshipful admiration and largely because of the erotic anger its engenders within him, which he denies until it's augmented by unexpected pity. A swishy student discovers in his hopeless adoration of a TV-sit-com-type's unconscious beauty the meaning of all romance, religion, and mythology. His thoughts are a non-stop silent poem in the midst of suburban banality. A shot where we discover his eroticized portrait of the chirpy cutie is almost painfully potent. The beloved boy allows two frolicking kisses which are obviously to him only a game, but to the poet a monumental moment. Casting is unobtrusively racially diverse.
You're All Being Much Too Hard On A Lighthearted Movie
This delightful prank merely examines and speculatively questions and VERY tentatively explains certain relationships and gags which it CLEARLY demonstrates occur in movie after movie from the Golden Age of Film. Unlike "The Celluloid Closet," which was an historical piece showing depictions of gays in movies, this one explores more the hinty, suggestive patterns which any gay kid noticed for himself - the half-admitted shrieking gayness of certain comedians, the sly (and frequent) "you'd almost think we were gay" humor of certain comic male duos, and the seething repressed homoeroticism of the classic westerns. It's something to relax and enjoy and maybe ponder. I, for instance, have always wondered why, in the most inappropriate situations, our action-stars strip down (isn't Rambo afraid of bugs and thorns going bareshirted in a jungle?). Gratuitous male nudity in movies intended primarily for male audiences does provoke thought - among other things.
Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon (2008)
Extraordinary, Delightful Person's Extraordinary, Delightful Life
Jack Wrangler was a spoiled Beverly Hills brat, an insecure homosexual, and an unsuccessful actor who became the self-made top-echelon icon of gay pride in porn movies. Having reached the peak of the gay porn-star profession (a profession he virtually created as he created himself), he then made just as big a name in straight porn, married a famous woman, and started several new careers. This detailed, crystal-clear documentary takes you through Jack's mind and life with copious footage of him, his work, his times, and a great many people who were around him. As a co-worker of Jack's and a participant in this movie, I assure you that director Schwarz has caught Jack's quiet, charming, and above all strong essence perfectly. This is the Jack I know.
Too Many Girls (1940)
Dreamlike slowness, isolation, and illogic
You can't really appreciate the pace and style of the great movie musicals until you've seen some lousy ones like this. A really awful 1930s or 1940s musical movie can induce a sort of restful trance, and take you into another world of stunned tedium. If you know only Rodgers and Hart's great songs which survived shows and became standards, you'll be astounded by how many strained and stupid ones come in between them in the course of a plotted show. The story-scenes are acted in a stiff and disinterested style. Actors seem just to be waiting for others to stop speaking so they can say their lines, rather than actually listening to each other. And why should they listen? What they say is overwritten, repetitious, and yet often indirect and incomplete as far as telling the story is concerned. The plot manages to be both contrived and clumsy, unlikely to the point of being fantastic--yet who would fantasize such dreariness? This effect is probably partly the result of prudish Hollywood trying to adapt a supposedly "spicy" script direct from supposedly "wicked" and "sophisticated" Broadway, and therefore inserting or deleting lines to keep the script "clean" but still leave the impression that it's "daring." But the prudishness seems hypocritical, and the sophistication way, way overestimated. Trying to convey both attitudes, yet neither, the actors become robotic and stressed. And the sets are so stagy that it's a shock when suddenly one scene is played on a real ball-field. Perhaps the most characteristic moment comes when Lucille Ball makes a remark about a boyfriend which is clearly the lead-in for a song, and then, as mechanically as a wind-up toy, while the other actors in the room watch helplessly, with nothing to do, crosses a whole room, goes out onto a porch, hits a position, stares into a light, and lip-syncs woodenly to a voice obviously not hers. Another: after what seems an endless discussion of the troubled finances of a college (which turn out to have nothing to do with the story at all), one boy donates the three hundred dollars (?) that's needed, and the college is opened, at which point for some reason everyone participates in a production number called, "Cakewalk, 'Cause We Got Cake," possibly left over from some other situation in the Broadway original (some of its lyrics seem to relate to Depression optimism), and performed not as a cakewalk, but a swing number. Also, as is to be expected in a "college musical" of the time, the main characters are far past college age, so their sexual coyness seems retarded. The ultimate effect is one of dreamlike slowness and isolation and illogic, making this trivial nonsense seem related to the existential sadness of De Chirico's paintings or Kafka's novels. The movie may be even more bewildering to younger viewers today because of changed social attitudes. A long scene among four boys is oblique to the point of mystery because in 1940 none of them could actually say that certain girls wearing certain "beanie" caps are virgins (there are a couple of incredibly labored attempts later at jokes about these caps). Lucille Ball, giving an old Native American man a letter to carry for her to a lover, calls the messenger, "Boy," and Latino Desi Arnaz not only has an awkward gay joke early in the film, but later performs a song called "I'm Spic and Spanish."
Pillow Talk (1959)
Why the Sixties Happened
You have but to look at "Pillow Talk" to see why youth rebelled against the plastic world the 1950s offered us. The origins of feminism's fight for freedom can clearly be seen in the almost-armored burden of Doris Day's seeming thousands of ensembles, accessories included, to the hilt. Even when she's alone, her slip and her dressing-gown match, and she wears jewelry with her housecoat. And her hair seems a blond helmet; it and her apparently tattooed-on make-up are as firm and fresh when she leaves her virginal bed each morning as they are when she crawls into it at night. How could a woman have an instant left to think after going through the process of getting rigged up like that (she seems to change outfits ten times a day, as if she were her own Barbie doll). Just inhaling all of that hairspray alone must have addled her reason. However, all this adornment is oddly unrelated to the mating process. Male advances on the presumably attractive object Doris has made of herself are greeted as insulting offenses. Only bad or stupid women fall for Rock Hudson's million-megawatt charm. Doris may be a bit flustered when first hit by Rock's Cinemascope shoulders and boomerang-shaped grin, but her armor protects her. Despite split-screen shots which make them appear to be in bed or bath together, the zippers on Doris' outfits remain firmly locked. I watched several intelligent women go mad from trying to live up to Doris' example, their husbands descend into sullen recluses, and their offspring wind up on prescription drugs from childhood. Something had to give.
Coy jokes about castration ("We may be forced to disconnect him."), sight gags about alcoholism, and the treatment of male gayness as a slightly shocking misfortune (a misfortune for the women attracted to them, of course; gay men were considered far too silly and funny to be the objects of any human concern) give a pretty clear image of the rewards and releases that the Eisenhower era offered us. The roots of Woodstock, the Pentagon march, "Hair," and "The Rocky Horror Show" are all there in the incredibly shallow widescreen world of "Pillow Talk."
Beyond the Rocks (1922)
Old Movies Can Be Awful, Too
There are reasons why movies get lost. I saw this last night at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Science was on display in the craft which restored the film. Art was nowhere present. The movie is dreadful. Trophy-wife Gloria and single Rudy spend most of it nearly kissing and then snapping their necks to face forward and look frustrated. In the last segment, her fat, rich, old, ugly husband manfully recognizes that youth must call to youth and deliberately walks into an Arab raider's bullet. I am not making that up. The audience, which had prior to the showing sincerely applauded the efforts of the restorers, giggled helplessly throughout the film. Gloria wears one stunning outfit, a Persian lamb (I think) coat with karakul (I think) cuffs and collar bigger than most emerging nations. But that's it for entertainment value. Even by the standards of the time, the plot is clunkily contrived and glacially slow-moving, and the acting is minimal (not the actors' fault--nobody actually has a character to play), and the whole project is so detached from any human reality that it approaches science-fiction rather than romance.
Marjorie Morningstar (1958)
No Other Movie Like It
The movie suffers in two ways when compared to the magical novel about theater and love: (1) by losing the late-Depression setting, when show-business was very different than in the 1950's, and (2) by casting Gene Kelly (who himself felt he was wrong for the part) as the tall, blond Noel Airman (Warner Brothers must have lost its mind not to use its contract star Tab Hunter). But those two compunctions aside, there is no other movie like it. Natalie Wood, not yet a superstar, had to read fourteen times for the role, but all of us who loved the book knew there was no one else for it. Natalie's acting ability may have been limited to looking pretty and poignant, but there's not much else that ambitious, innocent Marjorie needs to do. This story is a loving tribute to a nice girl, and a tender acknowledgment of how hard life is for one. So far as I know, no other story captures those years when a pretty young American female has the world to choose from--or how confusing her multitude of choices are. As Marjorie slowly travels through the gauntlet of family and education (and the foggy fantasies of fame that tempt any attractive teen who draws attention and compliments) toward her inevitable, bittersweet fate, a whole world is revealed--the world of The Pretty Girl, a world of school and dates and dancing and romance--with no one really to guide her--because everyone either envies her or wants to take advantage of her. By taking her story seriously, novelist Herman Wouk created a highly individual and yet universal character, and Natalie simply WAS her. The scriptwriter did a marvelous job of condensing a long and elaborate book into an entertaining and moving photo-play--and kept enough of Wouk's dialog from the novel to give flashes of the book's insight and sophistication. All of the actors must have read the book, for they dig into their roles far deeper than the screenplay does. Not a great movie, but until someone makes a better one, it stands alone as Hollywood's most honest and endearing tribute to--The Nice Girl.
Resident Alien (1990)
A MILDLY UNPLEASANT TREASURE
I appear in this feature-length documentary about the daily New York life of the pioneer English gay activist, Quentin Crisp, and Quentin was my dear and valued friend, so I am not, perhaps fully objective about it. While the movie is unique and often very entertaining and informative, I have some regrets about it. Quentin was one of the most life-loving, life-giving people I ever met. After his horrible childhood, youth, and maturity in London, where he was scorned, beaten, and harassed for being "effeminate" (as beautifully depicted in the dramatic bio-film about him,"The Naked Civil Servant"), in his old age he became famous and beloved in his adopted home, New York City. He reveled in the attention, affection, and acceptance he achieved as a media celebrity. He accepted all of the many invitations he received, and enlivened them all with his lifetime supply of carefully-phrased, brightly-polished epigrams. All his great qualities are on display in "Resident Alien," and we who loved him are grateful that director Jonathan Nossiter has preserved them. However, Mister Nossiter is ambitious and heterosexual, and could not help seeing Quentin's uncritical contentment in his round of often rather trivial events, and his self-chosen solitary home life in a tiny one-room flat, as--how shall I put it?--sadder than his public life was glad. Mister Nossiter has, of course, the right to his own viewpoint, and he presents it extremely well. But he employs some "politically correct" commentators to reinforce his negative views, and, alas, gives equal time to none of us who might have given very different interpretations of our wonderful friend's activities and value. So, while I heartily recommend this educational and technically inventive movie-monument to a great person and great personality, I cannot but wish that all its viewers had experienced personally the much more positive person and personality I knew.
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS I have but two quibbles with this beautiful film. (1) It shows Wilde waiting until his wife is dead to rejoin Bosie, whereas in fact he returned to Bosie while his wife was still alive, causing her to cancel his allowance. (2) Wilde becomes so morose so early in his relationship with Bosie that one wonders why he continues it
Tequila Sunrise (1988)
This loony movie is probably the result of conflict between sensitive author/director Robert Towne's desire to make a serious study of complex relationships, and star Mel Gibson's desire to appear always sympathetic. The story is consistently distorted to justify his character's actions, and co-stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell after a while seem to be just hanging onto each other trying to ride out the swirling tides of his ego. The result is a film hilariously unbalanced. Example: Michelle is torn between her affections for Mel and Kurt. The first time she confronts Mel, his adorable little boy starts to drown, and Mel rushes into the sea to save him. Kurt has no son, and no opportunity for heroics. Another: Kurt gets to lay Michelle on top of a big barrel in a basement; Mel has her in a paradisical sauna. The plot gets lost in its efforts to glorify Mel. The last half hour is so confusing I had to replay it several times before I could follow it. WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD Vaguenesses pile up until eventually, after a nonsensical scene on Raul Julia's yacht, Towne has to resort to an accidental explosion of some handy ship to give the illusion of a climax. The stars are so attractive that it's still fun to watch this movie. It's hilarious to watch the narrative do flip-flops and balancing acts and finally a series of preposterous pratfalls. Of course, you could just watch a better movie.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Baffled at last
Most of the time I can understand, intellectually at least, what prompts my younger friends to love some work of art which strikes me as imitative, amateurish, ugly, and evil. They haven't seen the originals, they have no standards, they're decadent from being over-entertained, they've grown up in an unspeakably corrupt system, their attention spans have been destroyed by commercial interruptions, they're chemically unbalanced by all the estrogen in commercial fried chicken, et cetera. But I am baffled at last by the vogue for "Moulin Rouge." I've conceded to, if not comprehended Stephen King, Andrew Lloyd Webber, insult comedies, gangstah rap, and Quentin Tarantino, but the sloppiness, vulgarity, and shrill camp of "Moulin Rouge" defeat me. I can find no way of contemplating this awkward construction that does not leave it looking like garbage. I find myself weeping for the great artists who labored with unrelenting perfectionism to make the beautiful musicals of the past tributes to human potential. Why, I ask myself, did they whip themselves to present masterpieces of grace when the public will settle for such clumsy dreck as "Moulin Rouge?" I suppose all true artists really work for themselves, and to satisfy some muse who bids them make life a little, or a lot better.
The Mound Builders (1976)
PERHAPS THE GREATEST PLAY OF MY GENERATION
"The Mound Builders" is both astonishingly entertaining and shatteringly profound, like all great plays. In the tale of an odd group of people--archaeologists, a drunken writer, an ambitious farmboy, a child--writer Lanford Wilson discovers the major rifts in western civilization and the human soul. A superb cast, superbly directed,ekes all the joy and all the horror from that rarest of contemporary works of art, an intelligent lay about intelligent people.
Chuck & Buck (2000)
BETTER WITH EACH VIEWING
I like this compassionate study of frustration and the creative impulse better each time I see it, but each time, I also am more irritated by what I see as two mistakes in it: one structural and one social.
I badly miss a scene where Chuck tells his fiancee about his and Buck's childhood sex-games. We know this happened only because she tells Buck about it. I really feel this would have been the actress's big scene and a turning-point in the story, which lacks one.
It is unbelievable that people in show business in L.A. would not immediately recognize Buck as gay, and that he would encounter no other gay men there. This lack of a realistic milieu contributes to a feeling that Chuck's homosexuality is an unhealthy aberration like his obsession with Chuck, and makes it seem like a "happy ending" that he is left alone. I think it's only because of this omission by the writers that the film seems anti-gay.
No, No, Nanette (1940)
This almost-musicless but highly enjoyable musical, though released in 1940, contains all the conventions of the thirties comedies: A perky heroine who meddles in everyone's lives with sociopathic "pranks", and exotic gold-diggers whom she's combatting; a ludicrously lecherous uncle, and a knowing, wisecracking wife; anti-cultural attitudes, yet hilariously pseudo-cultural touches in numbers; sublimely silly plot complications and coincidences with surrealistically unlikely outcomes; and an environment where airplanes have sleeping-bunks, all women own enormous wardrobes of real fabric and real fur, and homes and hotels are all done in snowy white. Plus it's great fun to see some of Hollywood's then-abundant great "character" players working together, and to catch later stars before their images were forever fixed. Just imagine the innocence and aspirations of a world where an airline stewardess is clothed in an expensive military-style uniform, all of white!
DULL AND DISGUSTING
I saw this purulent product because I was sitting with a sick friend. Soon, so was she. This succeeds in being both the most diseased and the most tedious film I've ever experienced. If Western civilization has reached this point, maybe we should all reconsider savagery. My friends and I, if forced to refer to it, refer to it as H*nn*bal, as if it were a dirty word. Wait, what do I mean, "as if?"
Good Will Hunting (1997)
VAN SANT SAVES LOSER SCRIPT
This film has an incredibly clumsy script saved by Gus Van Sant's driving, virile direction, which keeps it moving so that you ALMOST don't realize how disconnected and self-contradictory it is. But even Van Sant can't save a film in which the eerily immature Robin Williams is expected to be believable as a human being.
The Trojan Women (1971)
FILM IT AGAIN, PLEASE
This is a remarkably ineffectual filming of Euripides' magnificent examination of the effects of war on women. Euripides embarrassed Athens with his realism and blatant theatricality, neither of which is on view here. The four-star cast intone their limes reverently, as if reading holy scripture, never becoming real women watching their city burn and awaiting slavery and rape. The staging is stiff and posey,farther distancing a viewer from emotional involvement. The translation is stiff and respectful. One might say that this great play is here respected to death. In short, the film shows astonishingly little invention or imagination. And how is it that all the women of Troy managed to dress in identical matching rags? This is the only film of this immortal play. Someone with feeling and passion, film it again, please.
The Heiress (1949)
STUNNINGLY SOLID DRAMA
If you can accept the glowing Olivia De Havilland as plain, you will enjoy this stunningly solid psychological drama. In sensuous black and white it tells of a jealous, dominant father who destroys his unattractive daughter's opportunity to marry a handsome mercenary (Montgomery Clift, so beautiful that suave director William Wyler avoids close-ups of him lest we become too sympathetic to his schemes). Writers Ruth and Augustus Goetz have simplified and somewhat romanticized Henry James' more bitter novel, a good move, since it allows us to judge the characters for ourselves. The shattering conclusion, one of the most memorable in movie history, is entirely their invention. Watch Olivia De Havilland walk away with an Oscar in one long walk upstairs!
The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999)
Good movie by any standards
As an Ayn Rand fan who is interested in anything about the author, I couldn't be sure that this movie was as good a drama as I thought it was, so I showed it to intelligent friends who don't know her work. They all loved it. Complaints that it doesn't project the whole huge structure of Ayn Rand's philosophy are beside the point. This film is about the mesmerizing personality of Ayn Rand and the effect it had on the life of a disciple, Barbara Branden, and that of her husband, Nathaniel Branden, and, perhaps most pitiably, on the life of Rand's husband, Frank O'Connor. Rand was a superior person whom success convinced she was even more superior than she was. Power corrupts, and she became intoxicated by the attention of her devotees, and wound up going against her own principles (enlightened egoism and independence of mind) to demanding that her followers obey her unthinkingly and serve her ends self-sacrificially. None of this validates or invalidates her philosophy. It just teaches us again the ages-old lesson that idols are only human, and pride goes before a fall.,
The Matrix (1999)
From sleeping in slime to eating bowls of it, this film is the ultimate infantile S & M "action movie" so far. The mental age of movies is shrinking every year. This one has regressed to playing with body products and fearing bugs will bore into one's navel. All of society seems an evil plot to the infantile ego, which wants only -- well, it doesn't know what it wants, so it fills its anxiety-ridden idleness with paranoid fantasies of persecution and megalomanic schemes of being a Messiah -- with holes all over him and GREAT sunglasses. This pathetically pathological film blames everything for its hero's seething frustration except the thing most responsible -- the mesmerizing commercials on TV which have made young Americans despise themselves and feel inferior to the heroes and models they watch while they slump ever-deeper into their couches. How can the sequel be even more immature? Only by having the Matrix satisfy even more infantile fears by having controlling tentacles thrust up into the unwary rebels up out of toilet water. Films like this are harmless, but the egocentric insecurities they cater to are a cultural tragedy.
Cobra Woman (1944)
Priceless camp. Deliriously gratifying good-twin/evil-twin struggle for religious power (for good or evil) over isolated island kingdom. Forties movie morality at its most unreal. Evil (i.e. sexy) twin's cooch-dance causes death. Good twin's frigid immobility brings life and, as one giddy handmaiden in nylon veils cries, freedom to "worship as we choose!" Narcissistic Maria Montez obviously adores playing with herself, and makes both twins florid and fruity. I'd love to have a VIDEO or SCRIPT of this eye-popping, unique hallucination. Sample of style: When the island rumbles from volcanic activity, someone always mutters, "Fire mountain angry!"