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Made in Britain (1982 TV Movie)
14 October 2002
Saw it years ago by accident on PBS. Thought it was a documentary. They've only shown it once, to my knowledge (probably because so many complained about the foul language and nasty attitude of Trevor. Very unappetizing to American mid-western WASP sensibilities.). An absolutely stupifyingly mind-blowing performance by Tim Roth. Once you see, you won't forget.
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Quadrophenia (1979)
All the Young Dudes
14 October 2002
I'm about as old as Sting is now.

When I was the age of the kids in this film, in my area of the world, we had two groups of kids, and you were either one or the other, unless you were a total loser, or just didn't care. In the movie, Jimmy and his crew were the mods; we had what were called the "baldies", because of the close-cropped hair. I placed my allegiance with the baldies. We wore what would be called "preppie" attire now: khaki trousers, button-down collar "Gant" shirts with the little loops in the back, high-polished leather oxfords in shell or wingtip styles, v-neck sweaters, and belts with big round buckles. The shoes were important in that the soles were heavy enough to inflict some damage in a fight. The shirts and trousers had to be perfectly pressed, and the shoes spit-shined. Yes, to any self-respecting baldie, appearance was extremely high on the list of importance. It was all about image, you see. Favorite baldie smoke: "boros"; favorite beverage: malt liquor.

In place of the rockers, we had the "greasers", for obvious reasons. Very similar to the rockers portrayed in the movie, with their black leather jackets, engineer boots, denims, and early Elvis-type hair. The greasers were more of your lower or lower middle class working kids, while the baldies were generally in a higher economic class. Music-wise, the baldies went for the Beatles, Stones and other British groups; the rockers hung onto Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. Your typical greaser smoked Camels and drank Grain Belt beer, or booze.

Others had mentioned "The Outsiders". If I remember correctly, in that film, the "Soc's" (pronounced "sowshuz) equated with the mods/baldies, but I can't recall what the rockers/greasers were called. Anyone?

I guess the point is that all young men go through this stuff, to varying degrees, all over the place. You have that dangerous period where you are not a little kid anymore but not yet a man, the hormones are screaming, you think your parents are the stupidest people on earth, you HAVE to make sure you get your share. You desperately need to prove your manhood, because you're not a man and you're insecure about that whole deal. So you fight, to measure yourself against the next guy. And your buds are much more important to you than your parents.

The Vespas in the movie were something we didn't have around here: more car-oriented, though the greasers did have their Harley's. If there was a popular bike, it would have been the Honda 50! Sort of shows you how old and decrepit I am now.

I really was blown away when I first saw the film. Seemed real raw and honest, and loved the "Britishness" of the whole thing. But we could all totally relate, because as you see, the English kids were alot like us.
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I Tried to be Murray Burns, but I Did Snap Out of it!
10 October 2002
I first saw it years ago as an idealistic college student who did not want to become one of the great gray working millions, saddled with a job I didn't like, a huge mortgage, etc.. At that time, I fell in love with the movie and the characters. That's the problem. The movie cast a spell over me and sprinkled some weird kind of fairy dust over me. I wanted to be Murray Burns: a nonconformist, a smart ass, a non-contributor, a guy who ALWAYS did ONLY what HE ALONE wanted to do. And so, for a few years, that's what I did.

Those years, I must admit, were not very happy ones for me. Self-indulgence is a dead-end. I needed to be working hard, towards a goal, with a family, for me to feel truly fulfilled. And I think that is the case with most of us.

Murray Burns and his world are totally unrealistic AND unhealthy. Do not try to emulate him. It is a trap and a prison. It's like smoking dope all the time: you lose your drive and you increase your cynicism.

But perhaps I'm being too serious. Murray does have the kid, and he seems to fall in love at the end, so maybe there is hope for him. The movie has some great lines and funny characters. The black and white scenes of NYNY in the 1960's are wonderful, Martin Balsam as Murray's brother is one of our greatest actors, Barbara Harris is great, William Daniels is great, Barry Gordon as Rafael Sabattini, etc., is great.

See it and enjoy it but don't take it to heart like I did.

Alexander Hamilton imitations???
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C'est Magnifique!
10 October 2002
A towering achievement by one of the greatest geniuses of the cinema!


Wait a minute, I thought I was writing about "Children of Paradise"!!

So sorry!

But I'd still call this a masterpiece. If you love gentle, imaginative comedy, love movies that MOVE, love caricature, love subtlety, have an attention span of more than five minutes and need a relief from the drudgery, devilment and depression of ordinary, everyday life, I'd highly recommend this one.

It's truly a unique experience. There are no other movies like it. The antithesis of many of today's popular films, with their seemingly endless dialogue, car chases, sexual gymnatics, and gore.

A funny guy in a raincoat, pipe and hat goes to a seaside hotel for a few days. That's all you need to know. Just watch it and laugh. It will do you a world of good.

Mon Oncle is great also, but not as great as this one.
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How Not to Build a House
10 October 2002
Musings: Pure delight from beginning to end. Not a laugh riot, but a more subtle, sophisticated humor. What a goldmine of great scenes and character actors, including Reginald Denny, Nestor Paiva, Ian Wolfe, Harry Shannon and Jason Robards Sr..

Cary Grant is at the building sight of his new home, which is at that point, being framed. A young carpenter, played by future Tarzan Lex Barker, asks him if he wants his "lallies to be rabbeted", or some such thing that only a carpenter would know. Grant, not wanting to appear ignorant, replies in the affirmative. At that, Barker yells up to his mates, "OK boys, he wants 'em rabbeted, so....YANK 'EM OUT!" A second later you hear the ripping and tearing sounds of about 20 big nails being pulled out of various boards. All Grant can do is moan.

Yes, the movie IS dated. You'd never see that many carpenters working at once on a single family home, and a place like that, in Connecticut of all places, would probably run a few million bucks.

A classic movie that is really a treasure.
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Best in Show (2000)
You'll Laugh Till You Puke A Hairball
8 October 2002
Many have listed the countless funny moments in this film, but I don't think anyone's mentioned the scene at the beginning when the Flecks first visit a couple of friends they hadn't seen in many years. The husband is a police negotiator, the kind of guy who specializes in coolness under fire, such as "talking people down" when they threaten to jump from a bridge or building. His disgruntled son, perhaps mildly autistic, climbs onto the garage roof, clutching the Flecks' prize terrier. Suffice it to say that, in this situation, the negotiator does NOT employ the same masterful suicide-preventing techniques he uses at work. Of course, this same guy is the first of an endless series of ex-lovers that Cookie Fleck runs into, and she doesn't really remember any of them very clearly! A brilliantly funny idea perfectly carried out.

Or how about the ancient, toothless, wrinkled-up (but really wealthy) human wreck who is married to the buxom Kristy? The old sod has absolutely no lines to speak at all, yet he is hysterical, just sitting next to his brainless wife, whose lips are so full of Botox she can hardly utter an intelligible word.

The gay couple is spot-on accurate, so real they don't even seem to be acting. Ed Begley as the hotel manager checks them in at the front desk, telling them that one of the available rooms has a "queen"-sized bed; WHAT ARE YOU SUGGESTING? demands Scott in mock indignation.

Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy, in every scene, remind you very clearly why "SCTV" is the funniest TV show that's ever been on. And of course, the magnificent Fred Willard: "Trevor, it's really amazing to think that, in some parts of the world, these dogs are actually eaten!"

Don't miss this one! They will have you eating it up!
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Luvved It!
8 October 2002
Musings: To think that now, after 20-odd years, there are STILL hair bands out there seriously toiling, with their skin-tight leather pants and padded crotches, make-up and jewelry! I wonder how many of these pretty little girly men have affected an English accent? And if they are not really popular, where their music and performing makes them enough money to live on, to buy some insularity, where do they go when they are not on stage or rehearsing indoors "with the lads"? I would not want to go out to the grocery store or hardware store or any other place looking like that. Surely, in those getups, you'd be inviting an ass-kicking, would you not?

That's what always amazed me about the Rolling Stones: Jagger played the part of the tough "Street-Fighting Man", but at the same time the little twerp, who weighed, what, about 140, would prance around in his capes and makeup like a bleeding fairy. But I liked the Stones for years anyway (but not now because they are too old and make too much money for playing music that they played 30+ years ago; it's a disgrace and they should be ashamed). Unlke most of us, and like the Stones, Spinal Tap didn't have to face any of this aggro because they, at least at one time, could fill stadiums! And in this movie they are running on the fumes of their previous success.

Sorry about the digression. EVERYTHING about this movie is perfect. I was raised on rock (Stones, Beatles, Jeff Beck, The Who, Rod Stewart, Ten Years After, Blodwyn Pig, King Crimson, etc.) and this music and its practitioners had been screaming out for parody. Thank God that mssrs. Guest, McKean, Reiner, have done it up right. The endless series of exploding drummers, the choking on SOMEONE ELSE'S vomit, the fatal gardening accidents, the hissy fit over the dressing room refreshments, Fred Willard, the one-foot actual size reproduction of Stonehenge, Derek being trapped in the plastic pod, Paul Shaffer's character begging them to kick his ass, the manager, the girl friend, the songs, the lyrics, the accents.

Christopher Guest is an absolute genius and a fantastic actor. This is a TRUE classic and so are the other ones such as Waiting For Guffman and Best in Show.

Now, does anyone know where I can find a copy of "Break Like the Wind"?
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Painful Realities
7 October 2002
I enjoyed this one, because I can relate to it.

At one time in my life I was trying to make films, and experienced many of the same problems Mark Borchardt did in trying to make HIS film. And I also went through a protracted period of self-absorbed arrested development, where I refused to grow. But then, miraculously, I got married, and had kids. I realized that being a struggling filmmaker was, in all likelihood, not going to feed my family. So I got a decent job and did what I felt I needed to do to make that happen. That is what an mature, responsible adult does.

Mark hasn't faced up to that reality as yet, and so, in that sense, he is a retarded adolescent. For this reason, there is a hopelessness about him. Like Don Quixote, he seems so inept and self-deluded that he doesn't realize how bad off he really is. The viewer feels a sense of superiority and pity for him and his circle. Mark has kids and an ex-wife and bills to pay, but the film depicts him caring basically only about pursuing his "artistic vision".

Despite this, Mark comes across in the film as a likeable individual, surrounded by a very interesting family and group of friends. Unfortunately, Mark lacks many of the things necessary to be successful both in life and in a career: maturity, responsibility, education, knowledge, life experience, prioritization, financial clout, etc.. Yet he trudges on, much like Ed Wood, apparently without any semblance of a clue.

I guess we are supposed to feel encouraged by the spectacle of the "never say die" attitude of this noble individual, struggling against the odds. And man, what odds there are! Kiefer Sutherland, Colin Hanks, Tori Spelling and Angelina Jolie are all offspring of big-time film or TV people; no doubt, they will all want to direct some day, if they aren't already. How much room is there for an independent like Mark? It's like watching a guy hit himself in the head with a board, over and over again. Come to think of it, that is pretty close to what happens to one of Mark's actors, with the kitchen cabinet door, in one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen in any movie.

Despite these misgivings and seeming criticisms, I truly enjoyed this movie, and would heartily recommend it to anyone. Uncle Bill is amazing. I have a friend who met both Mike and Mark and he told me that, in real life, these guys are just exactly the way they appeared in the movie.
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Tough As Nails
2 October 2002
Harris was really convincing in his portrayal of the aspiring footballer Machin. The scene where he gets his teeth broken up and the emergency dentistry that followed was pretty tough to watch. Really cool footage at the beginning with the hand-held camera right with the players on the pitch. Excellent black and white photography. Highly recommended as a sports film and as a drama depicting a young man who is paid to be violent, and then has difficulty turning it off when he's not playing the game. The cynical portrayals of the owner and his flunkies is a bit obvious and stereotypical for today, but back then it probably seemed fairly believable. Don't miss "Reggie Perrin", the late and great Leonard Rossiter, who I hear was a pretty respectable athlete in his own right.
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The Loveliness of the Black & White Cinema
2 October 2002
Rambling thoughts: A very good movie, really capturing the sense of futility of lower class British existence. The desolate beauty of gray, cold and damp England comes through in wonderful ranges of color; despite being a black and white film, there is a huge variety of tone in the photography. You can almost smell the wet leaves of the forests and hills, and feel the cold of the morning air as you follow the runners on their daily jogs. England's rich heritage of distance running makes it an apt subject. Distance running, which I do enjoy myself, is primarily a solitary activity, designed for bona-fide introverts, "angry young men", obsessive individuals who do not mind pain, and in some cases, may actually enjoy it. England, with its crummy weather, economy, history and hugely varied terrain, is particularly well-suited to the sport. Courtenay is a treasure; we are so fortunate to still have him around. It is a wonder to gaze upon his youthful gauntness, and then to see how his appearance has evolved over the years. Really sharp viewers will be able to spot a very young Inspector Morse, John Thaw, as one of the young inmates.
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Pixote (1981)
23 September 2002
This is no walk in the park. I saw this when it came out, and haven't had the guts to watch it again. You will never see a more horrifyingly devastating or depressing movie. I felt like I'd been severely beaten. What kind of world are we living in when we have children who are treated worse than garbage? This is our world, what we have created, what we have allowed to happen. And I would hesitate to say that I-ME-WE are not responsible for this. Babenco made this film to wake us up, to shake us to our very core, and he succeeded. How can we be cruel, or self-indulgent, or neglectful of our children, when we see the graphic results of such behavior? He is pointing a finger of accusation at us all for doing this to the lowliest and least powerful of our society. And if you aren't doing something each day to prevent it, then you are part of the problem. I am NOT a religious fanatic, but this movie made me think about the state of my soul.
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Beyond Repair
6 September 2002
Forget about the bombing tie-in to 9/11 and terrorism. This is just another mindless Arnold cartoon. Totally improbable.

Leguizamo must have been between paychecks.

Arnold should not make any more movies. Period. And especially no more movies in which he is supposed to play Americans, with names like Jones and Smith and whatever; in his bodybuilding days, he was known as "The Austrian Oak". But he must have SWALLOWED the oak.

It's obvious nobody has ever been able to help him ditch the accent, and they never will. Apparently all the steroids have thickened not only his pecs but his vocal cords as well. A good actor is supposed to be able to do accents (Olivier, Streep, Oldman, even Ryan Phillipe did a credible Scots turn in "Gosford Park").

But he was great in the first Terminator, a mono-syllabic role.
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You mean Improbable, Implausible or Imbecilic
6 September 2002
The mask gimmick wouldn't work even ONCE let alone three or four times. What a joke! This was a cartoon. Avoid it at all costs. Perfectly epitomizes for Cruise the concept of "selling out". And exemplifies the mindlessness of today's audiences. Will appeal greatly to boys ages 10-13.
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Lantana (2001)
A Great Movie About Real People
5 September 2002
What a pleasure to find a film which doesn't assume that the average age of its viewers is 15. This is an adult film; not in the sense that it is shocking or titillating, but in that it deals with truly mature themes, like the types of things which go on in the lives of married couples who've been with each other for awhile. The subtlety and emotion of the writing and the performances are outstanding. Lapaglia is the single best thing about the movie; he should have been nominated for something. He plays a cop who is walking on the edge: about to explode at any time. And he does just that, a few times. But mostly he holds it in. Geoffrey Rush is always good. Of the women, Hershey is great, as is the actress who plays Zat's wife. I loved it when the Zat's kid answers the phone call from his dad, who is on the outs with his wife; when the mom asks what he wanted, the kid says he--the dad--was just calling to tell her that he loved her. And of course, that's not what the dad said at all; the kid just wanted them back together. What a beautiful and sensitive gesture that was! It's typical of the movie. These are truly living, breathing human beings, good and bad, hot and cold, with everything in between. You won't find better writing.
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Yeah, It's a Trick, but SO WHAT?
24 July 2002
I am convinced that there is a direct correlation between a person's intelligence (or sophistication) and how much they liked this movie. If you thought it was crap, you are dumb; if you thought it was fun and scary, you are smart. This will sound egotistical, but, of course, I really enjoyed it. The biggest complaint coming from the haters of the movie is that it looked cheap and was shot through a video cam. HELLO! Where does it say that every movie ever released needs to be on film, with gorgeous, razor-sharp photography, a rich, professional-sounding musical track, acted by big-name movie stars, in other words, like most of the movies you pay to see at a theatre. I love the fact that so many viewers were waiting for the big wide screen image to come up, AND IT NEVER DID! The creators of the movie had a fabulous idea and they pulled it off completely. Yes, the movie is a kind of trick, or stunt. But aren't all movies, to some degree? Don't we all have to suspend our sense of credibility a bit when we see, for example, Star Wars, or Halloween, or The Green Mile, or ET? These movies do have the look of big-time Hollywood, with the photography and the special effects and the costumes and actors and music. The creators of Blair Witch DELIBERATELY AVOIDED all of that, because it would have been a distraction, and would have gone against everything they were trying to do. If anyone WAS NOT frightened by the last few minutes of Blair Witch, it was because they were having a childish tantrum, thinking (correctly) that this movie wasn't like other movies, and that fact made them uncomfortable and therefore, frustrated. As if to say, "this movie is bad"....."I could make a better movie blindfolded"......."I'm p***ed that I spent my money and time on this crap", etc.. I have watched movies for 50+ years, and the last five minutes of this movie were right up there with any of the scariest things I've ever seen. I take my hat off to the makers of this film. I loved it for what it was: a very different and fun concept, which was cheap to make but made millions. Definitely not intended to be a "cinema classic".
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Tenebre (1982)
Are You People All Nuts or What??!!?
28 June 2002
I'm 52 years old, have seen many movies, and have a particular fondness for well-done suspense and horror. AMC showed a whole batch of the Argento movies a while back, and I tuned in to see what the fuss is about. I am completely mystified by the adoration of this pseudo-director. He is a terrible film maker. And he lacks the charm and unintended humor of the true shlockmeisters.

Somehow he procured some money, a camera and gallons (litres?) of fake blood, and over the years threw together miles and miles of murky, rambling, pointless, clumsy and totally absurd footage, and now everyone calls him "The Italian Hitchcock". This is not an insult to Hitchcock, simply because it is so ludicrous. There is not one character in any of the Argento movies that we care even remotely about, so when they kill or are killed, we DON'T care. Not one whit! One of the greatest and most unique things about Hitchcock was that he was able to constantly create characters that we deeply cared about, normal, everyday people who were thrown into unusual and dangerous situations and somehow triumphed. There are no people in Argento; only bodies, limbs, torsos, blank faces. And God forbid--never, ever any humor.

I can appreciate well-choreographed violence and gore, but he doesn't even do that well! I am convinced that the people who have canonized him are too young or inexperienced to have seen any really fine filmmakers, and so they think he is the best. In reality, he is so awful, so pretentious, so self-indulgent, so self-important, so solemn, and so completely and utterly inept that it is a crime that he is so "successful". But that's life. And as we all know, life isn't fair.

And he may be a nice guy. He just should not be making films.
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One of the greatest movies of all time
25 June 2002
I would rate this as one of the top ten greatest American movies of all time. Why? Because you will never find another movie which even approaches it in: (1) accuracy; (2) acting; (3) music; (4) mood; (5) humor; (6) photography; (7) dialogue; (8) direction; (9) sound; (10) subtlety; (11) cars. I grew up in that time. From the movie, everyone remembers the outrageous cop car axle breaking scene, or the liquor store holdup, or the climactic drag race, but I think of the subtly beautiful and razor sharp authenticity and naturalism of the scene of Curt and his old girl friend talking in the back seat of the car. The easy familiarity of Kurt and the two men in the back room of the arcade. John Milner and Carol strolling through the junk yard. The older girl at Mel's diner who likes the Ron Howard character. The teacher and female student standing so closely together in the darkened school hallway. The pain and anguish of Terry. The conversation between Milner and his buddy and girlfriend at the drive-in. Kurt sitting atop a car watching TV, and the blurred gray shapes which appear around him, which turn out to be the Pharoahs circling him like sharks. The liquor store proprietor. You could go on and on and on. This movie is so much more significant than your typical "teen" movie.

Lucas has created a masterpiece for the ages. A truly unique time portrait taken on one summer evening during an innocent era in the history of a great country.
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