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Lick the Star (1998)
A Small But Illuminating Short Film from Sofia Coppola
While it's a small film often shown on IFC, "Lick the Star" is an excellent, illuminating film shot in black & white by Lance Acord (who also worked with Coppola in her masterpiece "Lost in Translation" about a young 7th grade queen who becomes outcasted by her peers. Like "Lost in Translation" and "The Virgin Suicides", the theme of disconnection is predominant throughout the whole film. How a young girl is like a snob with all of her friends and one of them turns on her and in the process, things go to hell for the young woman. The film has an excellent soundtrack as well. For those who loved her full-length features, "Lick the Stars" is a must-see for any fan of Sofia Coppola who will be a director that will amaze us all.
Lost in Translation (2003)
By Far, The Best Film of 2003
Never in my experience of watching movies in the theaters have I been so moved by the beauty of "Lost in Translation". Sofia Coppola has definitely become a director that will channel real emotions through scenery and performance. Bill Murray deserves an Oscar for his performance in career-defining role as Bob Harris. He not only was funny but dramatic at the same time, especially the way he sang Roxy Music's "More Than This" that was so heartbreaking. Scarlett Johansson truly deserved the Upstream Best Actress Prize from the Venice Film Festival for her portrayal as the lost, neglected Charlotte that is performed with beauty and maturity that makes her outshine all her peers. It is indeed the best film of the year. I can't wait for Sofia's next film and the DVD to this.
A Look Into the Making of "Casa De Los Babys"
The documentary for "Beyond Borders" is a look into the making of "Casa De Los Babys" where we see John Sayles and the cast talk about the film and the political, social climate of Acapulco and Latin America.
Though there's not much commentary from the leading cast aside from Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Steenburgen, Lili Taylor, and Rita Moreno, it's really because the filmmakers are trying to look at the politics in Mexico, particularly with its Mexican cast.
They talk about a lot of the adoption of the countries and the frustrations with the Mexicans on how Americans come to Latin America to adopt the babies and take them back to the U.S. and make them lose sight of their original background. Sayles comments on that along w/ the political turmoil of Mexico and the differences between them and America.
It's a very insightful documentary that doesn't give you much to expect on "Casa De Los Babys", especially judging from the early reviews of the film. I think "Casa" is really more of a film to think about in the end w/ a bit of entertaining moments. It might not be Sayles' best film but still it might be a compelling one in the end. I just hope I can enjoy it when I see it in Atlanta on October 10.
A Pot Comedy That Just Fails to Deliver
Though Stephen Gyllenhaal is a good TV director with a few good full-length to his credit, "Homegrown" is just a mess in its script and direction. Despite performances from Billy Bob Thorton, John Lithgow, Kelly Lynch, Jon Bon Jovi, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Ted Danson, a cast this good couldn't save the film.
Gyllenhaalics will know that Jake and Maggie are in the film but you don't see Jake very well and Maggie's only in it for 30 seconds as babysitter tipping off Lithgow's character about a bust. It's not even a lowbrow pot comedy as the film was intended to be. It just wasn't funny.
The Patron Saint of Liars (1998)
A Decent, Chick-Flick Film from Stephen Gyllenhaal
Well, it's a typical, melodramatic chick-flick with overdone performances, the film does have a good cast with Dana Delany, Marisa Ribisi, Ellen Burstyn, and Clancy Brown. Stephen Gyllenhaal's direction isn't bad since he does offer some excellent scenery and poignant moments in the film.
Fans of Maggie though will see her in the 2nd half of the film as a friend of Delany's daughter for about 5-7 minutes in a standout performance as a pregnant teen with multiple ear piercings and bad light blonde dye hair. It's a good film about a woman questioning her Catholic faith while living in a Catholic retreat home for pregnant women while looking for love and understanding.
American Splendor (2003)
An American Masterpiece of the American Workingman
"American Splendor" is just brilliant for its brash, hilarious portrayal on the life of Harvey Pekar. The film alone is great. Paul Giamatti brings a hilarious, heartfelt performance as Pekar while the real Pekar shows up in the film bringing some hilarious commentary. Hope Davis was amazing as well as Joyce Brabner, and the real Brabner is fun to watch. My favorite character is Toby, the real and Judah Friedlander, are fun to watch. Pekar just takes through all the frustrations of the American working man and how much it sucks while he's putting all of this crap into an interesting comic book. It's a masterpiece and probably the year's best American film.
Cecil B. DeMented (2000)
A Funny, Anarchaic Film from Waters
I think it's one of John Waters' funnier films. Not groundbreaking as his older work but still funny. Stephen Dorff and Melanie Griffith are great in their roles as well as Adrien Grenier and Alicia Witt. There's also some great one liners like the one Jack Noseworthy did, "I'm straight and I hate it. I try to love Petey. He loves me and I can't love him back. Every time I kiss him, I feel whiskers. I can't take that certain thickness in his pants. I'm ashamed of my heterosexuality!".
The real standout for me personally is Maggie Gyllenhaal as the Satanic-obsessed Raven. She alone has great moments and the best lines. "Hi, I'm Raven and I'm your makeup artist. God, you're pale. (punches Honey Whitlock). Sorry but Satan says you need more color". "Pain comes from 10,000 Shrines of Hell. Alistair Crowley said that". I loved the scene where she flaps her arms like a bird during a Satanic ritual also where she tells Melanie Griffith, "It's goat urine, want some?". "Pain is pleasure. Slavery is justice. Suicide for Satan!". "Who cares what anyone thinks of our movie, except for Satan!" "Satan loves you Honey and so do I". "My father, Zozo is the three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hell". "Hail Satan!". If you loved Maggie in "Secretary", you have got to see her in this. Never in my life have I found a Satanist so likeable and cute. Hell, I'll convert to Satanism for her.
The Photographer (2000)
A Strange Trip to Find Cool Photos
It's not a great film but it's got a lot of fine moments. The best performance of that whole movie is easily, Maggie Gyllenhaal. She plays this kooky, fortune teller-wannabe who is a neatfreak and likes to broadcast the news while using her feather duster as a microphone. Every scene she's in is worth watching. I recommend to the thousands (and thousands) of Gyllenhaalics.
Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
Just Bloody Awful...
I know it's based on a true story but I don't think all the events in the movie were that exaggerated. James Woods and Lorraine Bracco, through all their talent, can't save this movie. The first part of the film with Drew as a teen starts pretty well but the movie by this point goes downhill. Drew isn't really believable as an adult or someone in her 30s. Screenplay is awful, Penny Marshall made the movie too melodramatic. Another disappointing factor in the movie is Maggie Gyllenhaal's character. Through all her talent, she's in the movie for 3-4 bloody minutes as the Drew's son's girlfriend. Her character was just underwritten. I was saddened that Maggie's role was such a waste. I can't see this anymore. It's an awful movie.
Jazzin' for Blue Jean (1984)
Bowie Plays Dork and Diva!
It's an excellent and hilarious piece that is available as one of the Easter Eggs in the Best of Bowie DVD. ***SPOILER WARNING*** Pretty funny since Bowie plays a dork named Vic who tries to impress a chick by claiming to know a pop star (also played by him) and everything goes to sh*t. He even meets the pop star, Screamin' Lord Byron who ends up stealing the girl and Bowie goes back to himself screaming at Julien Temple about how another of his bloody creations steals another girl from him.
It's very funny, oh and this should be added as a trivia note. In the role of Vic's flatmate, Bowie wanted Bryan Ferry to play the role but he declined which helped fuel more rumors about their rivalry but really, it's more of a friendly rivalry they have. After all, they both made excellent albums in 2002.