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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
DRAG & DRAGGER, 17 April 2004

If you have seen DUMB & DUMBER, which I have not, then you may imagine CONNIE & CARLA as DUMB & DUMBER through the pinkish, glittery, myopic lens of a pair of ELTON JOHN spectacles.

It has none of the nuance, subtlety or style of SOME LIKE IT HOT, VICTOR/VICTORIA or those other wonderful, venerated drag films whose names escape me. Not because they were forgettable, but because I just downed about 4 to 5 Vodka & Tonics to obliterate my memory of the OKLAHOMA-GODSPELL-YENTL-CATS medley performed by NIA VARDALOS and TONI COLLETTE in the opening sequence of the film. I caught a $14.50 gayla screening of CONNIE & CARLA at the overpricey ARCLIGHT in LOS ANGELES (known the world over for its lack of cabarets, dinner theatre, and culture), and confess that the film did manage to crack my BOTOX intermittently, particularly the costumes, makeup and wigs, which were uniformly vomitrocious.

The flabulous NIA VARDALOS, self-credited writer of this faux fag fable, and whom I have not seen in MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, nevertheless manages to bring something big, fat and Greek to the subject, even adding the suggestion of an imminent wedding on the tail end of her dragnum opus. In drag, VARDALOS evokes the never-ever-to-be-duplicated ZERO MOSTEL.

Not to be out-glared, TONI COLETTE cleans the floor with drag queen butt by singing, dancing, and mugging 'tits-out,' a talent first brandished in 1994's MURIEL'S WEDDING, the film that single-handedly reinvigorated the ABBA oeuvre, which never really appealed to me to begin with; but still, COLLETTE was phenomenous. Then, in 1998's VELVET GOLDMINE, a leering COLLETTE portrays a LIZA MINNELLI-like character with such tantalizing, lip-licking verve she became known -- among those who know -- as TONI with a "Z." In CONNIE & CARLA's outrageous musical numbers, COLLETTE fills out that zesty caricature, kicking and gesticulating all the way to the bank, THE BETTY FORD CLINIC, and beyond.

With DAVID DUCHOVNY, who acts, DEBBIE REYNOLDS (special effects), and a gaggle of stock drag queens proffering repetitively unoriginal gender issues as too-much-infotainment. Like a head-on collision on the lipstick-slick FREEWAY OF LOVE, involving the pink corvette of deranged LA diva ANGELYNE, and the lavender bus from PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, CONNIE & CARLA heralds the triumphant origin of a new genre: the Show Tune Splatterfest.


21 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Unscripted artists more compelling than their roles, 7 March 2004

I just want to thank Rosanna Arquette for what was one of the most intriguing documentaries about Hollywood I've seen. Although I live in Los Angeles, I do not work in the film industry, and in general tend to feel as though we, the citizens of the Movie Capital of the World, are frequently over-inundated with media about actors and their films.

But SEARCHING FOR DEBRA WINGER is different. Despite what the reader may feel about Hollywood, the actresses interviewed are some of the most influential performing artists of our era. Through Arquette, we get an opportunity to sit down and have a frank chat about their art, their insights, their ambivalence. The doc is not like a Barbara Walters interview: predictable and formatted and PR-mediated. Interviewed by Arquette, a fellow actress with similar sympathies, over little dinner parties, in restaurants, on lawn chairs -- even in the ladies room (a goofy, then serious Frances McDormand) -- the actresses managed to be more frank, more casual, unguarded with their opinions. Some seemed suspicious that the little documentary would ever be aired at all -- inadvertently freeing them up to be even more honest.

Famous for their beauty, their talent and their projects, you get to see that they are intelligent, clever, funny, angry, uptight, resentful, self-conscious, generous, insightful, even visionary in ways that are only hinted at in their films. The dialogue in SEARCHING FOR DEBRA WINGER is all in the actresses own words: no scripts, no acting, no roles. Its an opportunity to see who they are, in all their brilliance, artistry, egotism and folly. Diane Lane is sharp as a tack. Alfre Woodard deeply reflective, eloquent and mature. My suspicion that Holly Hunter is a genius is confirmed. Theresa Russell cuts loose with quite a bit of rage. Whoopi Goldberg is the antidote to glamour-poisoning. Sharon Stone is at least as ballsy as her onscreen persona. Jane Fonda comes over as a wise and deeply generous doyenne. And Debra Winger is more compelling than she's been in any of her movie roles.

Perhaps the biggest revelation was Rosanna Arquette herself. She really puts herself out there, expressing her own insights, risking the exposure of her doubts, in a way that encourages the other actresses to feel comfortable, to open up, to speak frankly. Arquette gamely drops a lot of the pretensions of the industry to tell her story, and to get the other actresses to tell theirs, and as a result manages to reveal unexpected truths about the people behind the profession.

Because of all the big names, the documentary has star power, glamour, and charm in spades. But it has much more. With the lighting, hair and makeup aspect de-emphasized, one gets a glimpse of the real people underneath the monolithic illusion we know as Hollywood, and I found these people, these artists more fascinating than any scripted characters I've seen in quite some time. Underneath all the glittering surfaces, one discovers a deep, and untapped reservoir of artistic -- and human -- potential.

Swept Away (2002)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
OK look I read the bitchy reviews and tittered at some of the turns of phrase too., 14 October 2002

OK look I read the bitchy reviews and tittered at some of the turns of phrase too. At some point, though, the critical bloodthirstiness of it all made me cringe. The old American eat-your-artists trip -- a little bald, don't you think? Anyway 'Swept Away' is surprisingly good, for what it is: one of those sexy, Love-Italian-Style trifles. Ritchie's tone was angular and edgy, the characterization of the miserable rich Americans on holiday tart, and you could tell Madonna was sinking her teeth into the role of mega-maintenance Amber, letting it rip acting-wise. Bitchin'! Nice to see her trusting a director. She's frickin' beautiful too, harsh island lighting notwithstanding: Guy Ritchie is just somehow not a vaseline-on-the-lens kinda director, ok people? Adriano Giannini is a damn fine actor, sexy, beautiful and commanding. The film coulda used a lot more sex though, Guy -- I mean, come on, what's the point of a film like 'Swept Away,' after all? A picturesque, Euro-trashy sex romp. Just not enough.