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Vanishing Point (1997)
Watch the original..
This movie represents the times it was made in as much as the original, i suppose. Which is really sad, because at a deeper level, the title 'Vanishing Point' the original, is so ironic. I'm sure it wasn't intended that way, but the original was filmed in 1970, and released in 1971. The REAL 'VANISHING POINT' was the end of an era, which pretty much ended in the early 1970s.
In this remake, all the counter-cultural elements have been stripped away, and been rendered more PC in an attempt to reach a broader audience, presumably. "Sanitized for your Protection"
Inserting the American Indian scenes was gratuitous, and the idea of a 'noble purpose' to the trip was subtraction by addition. I'm glad I watched it however, it made me appreciate the original that much more. The original is a cult classic and golden. This remake is dreadful.
The Ice Storm (1997)
The way we REALLY were
I was Paul Hood's age during Thanksgiving of 1973. If you were a teenager during 1973 you must see this movie. Ang Lee brings that era back in spades. The wardrobe is just amazing. 1973 was a really weird year anyway, people were depressed the sixties were over, nobody knew what would be next.. It was a really strange time. There was the first gas shortage in US history, and the price doubled. When you could find it. Terrific soundtrack, and a thought provoking look back at the US of that time. An all star cast, I won't repeat a lot of what's already been said, but the movie is like a virtual time machine.
I think we were a better society then, a more tolerant one. Even Nixon seems benign compared to our current government.
The serendipity of Tobey Maguire reading Marvel Comics is surreal now, with that whole Spiderman career of sorts which followed. The Party he thought he was going to be alone with Katie Holmes was evocative as well.. If you weren't partying, you weren't connecting. Human connection and family is the core of this movie. The recurring attempts at a real human connection was thematic. Joan Allen's quirky shoplifting and bicycle riding, her encounters with the long haired Reverend Philip Edwards was insightful. This is a movie with layer upon layer of pathos.
I do think a special mention is reserved for Allison Janney. Great as the hostess, Dot Halford, The Halfords annual party; this time with the twist of being a key party. Her role, though small, was memorable. Especially the Zebra dress. Very 1973. The upper-middle class average woodsy exurban living kind of mirrored my own. It's almost spooky exactly how spot on everything was. I think Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, and Jamey Sheridan were horribly overlooked during the Academy awards decision making process.
The most hilarious scene in an otherwise dark movie was Wendy's (Cristine Ricci, who the camera just loves by the way,) trombone recital at home. It consisted of playing two notes (badly), over and over.
There were a couple of others, like when Sigourney Weaver's character Janey Carver parked her station wagon, heard a loud pop, and looked at her tire, as if it had blown out. Turns out her number two son, Sandy, (deftly handled by Adam Hann-Byrd) was playing with fireworks and generally creating mayhem.. The offer of the whip to play with was priceless. (The keys she later fishes out of the bowl were attached to a rather long leather woven tether, it works well the way she handles those keys in a way similar to the way she handled the whip.) Then when she goes inside to inquire of Mikey (One of Elijah Wood's best performances to date), if HE were aware of the fireworks outside. Mikey, sitting with Wendy while they both watched television, was oblivious. Sigourney Weaver, hearing THAT just shakes her head and rolls her eyes in a combination of disbelief and exhasperation and goes back upstairs.
Sigourney Weaver was excellent and Oscar worthy in my opinion for her credibility in this movie. I knew this character type from then.
Ang Lee's use of ice as a recurring theme, was well established, early and often.. Ice Trays, the old fashioned kind you had to actually crack open really set the tone for that. Even the turkey that Kevin Kline and Joan Allen wrestle with is frozen. The fact that the final 18 minutes or so of the movie is without dialogue isn't really noticed, at least not by me. Very moving anyway, that whole dénouement.
I think I was one of the 4000 people that actually saw this movie in theatrical release. It's a movie best watched alone or with one other person. It was an early matinée and I had the entire theater nearly to myself. That was great too. I've since then owned in sequence, the VHS version, the original DVD, and I now own the CRITERION DVD and I watch it every Thanksgiving now. The richness of this film is astonishing. The Criterion treatment is well done indeed.