Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Pan'ya shuugeki (1982)
Short and Sweet... like a Donut.
Absurdity is the guiding light in this neatly packaged short as we follow the rather abbreviated exploits of two university students who are driven by teenage angst, exposure to crime films, and misguided militancy to attack a bakery. Running throughout are hilariously dead-pan philosophical musings on the reasons for hunger and particular pairings of bakery fare. The laughable combination of the mundane and the abstract here should appeal to anyone who liked Tampopo. This short can be found on "Cinema 16", a collection of sixteen world short films; if acquired in this way, you can be treated to director Naoto Yamakawa's comments.
What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? (2004)
Snake Oil and CGI
This "documentary" indeed succeeds in raising seductive and vexing questions, with a couple in particular coming to mind: What would JZ Knight look like if she were accidentally run over by a steam roller, and could we (as vaguely suggested by the film) safely write-off the expected result as being mere illusion? Apart from that, this pseudo-scientific mishmash of New Age gibberish and speciously interpreted Quantum Mechanics could only offer two things: a quack remedy for the guileless and emotionally needy, and as it turned out a financial bonanza and a cult-followers' cattle call for the film's creators; the duped and the duplicitous. Here's to hoping that future generations will not judge our times by the tin-plated success of this movie; not that we wouldn't deserve it.
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
Point Taken: It's Not "The Godfather".
I'm sorry, but I really have to weigh in on this puppy.
I think everyone is making way too much of 'Manos'. Sure, it's fun to queue up and pound away at this pathetic punching bag of a movie, but that's hardly a worthy challenge, is it. One might as well stuff a runty, two-day old kitten into a pair of wrestling Speedos then drop Andre the Giant onto it like a bomb. Wow. What a contest.
Part of the problem (well, my problem) with the reviews, springs from the tacit notion that this film is legitimate. That is to say, legitimate to the extent that there is a general assumption that because it actually made it into the theaters, it belonged there at all. With that legitimacy lent, it then became fair game and, hence, worthy of any level of consideration. But knowing that the film's creator attempted to distance himself from his own creation, leads me to believe that, ultimately, 'Manos' was never intended to be released into the world of Man. (Well, at least not into the world of THIS man.) Consider: Should the impromptu Super 8's of your infant nephew Stevie explosively pooping into his Pampers hit the local Cineplex? Of course not. So your Sony camera caught all the hot action when that errant barbecue spark got to your new Ferrari Modena which then sent your flame-engulfed great grandmother on her merry way through the garage door. You really want moviegoers to sit through that sort of thing? Come on.
And something else. There is no great profundity or meaning in the fact that some cast members took their own lives, and perhaps due to the incredible shame they felt in participating in such a crumby venture. No one kills themselves over appearing in bad movies (although some should). It is more likely that anyone disturbed enough to volunteer for 'Manos' is disturbed enough to "off" themselves without 'Manos' as a catalyst. 'Manos' was symptomatic; it wasn't the cause. Those four actors? I feel for them, but their days were numbered long before 'Manos' ever steamily plopped into the theaters. Okay. It's possible that 'Manos' accelerated them toward their common doom like an F-16CJ in full afterburner. Still, it was gonna happen. Further evidence as to the psychological state of the cast members? (Notice that I avoid calling them actors.) The performances throughout. Case closed. I won't waste IMDb server space on this one. Although, going by Torgo's performance, one could be forgiven for assuming that his suicide preceded the making of 'Manos'. That would nicely explain much of what I saw (and smelled).
With that said on the suicides, it's quite possible that the four in question faked their own deaths in order to escape the ignominy associated with their hideous doings. Sort of an augmented version of the witness protection program, although, in this case the witnesses are also the perpetrators. Doesn't seem fair, does it.
Final Comment: I was 10 years old and in Brooklyn when 'Manos' was released. So it's highly unlikely that I had anything to do with it. I just wanted that out there for the record. Thank you.
The Tuskegee Airmen (1995)
So Much Talent. So Much Wasted.
Consider this scenario: The powers-that-be (ostensibly with every good intention), having offered a select group of talented African-Americans the vehicle by which they could prove themselves, then proceed to undermine the laudable efforts of those very same African-Americans. What I have described is one of the major underpinnings of The Tuskegee Airmen.
Sadly, I have also described what occurred in said film's creation and production process.
Thwarted and hobbled by truncated events, a rather thin, basic script, embarrassingly cartoonish air combat dialogue, pedestrian direction, dicey editing, some poor continuity, and a woefully anemic budget, this HBO attempt never reaches the lofty heights that it otherwise could have attained, never realizes what should have been - and what history deserved. The acting notwithstanding, the end result of this unpolished affair amounted to nothing more than an errand list being checked off; such was the quality of the production value. Apart from the "live" air-to-air action, the battle scenes are populated by enough unrestored and colorized WWII stock footage to have temporarily drained the National Archives. Adding further insult, the production elves carelessly managed to drop in approximately five seconds of Vietnam carpet-bombing footage; no excuse here could ever suffice.
Only the impassioned performances of key cast members truly propel this film - at least getting it off the sticky tarmac, but not far enough to fully complete its mission. Noteworthy, though, is Laurence Fishburne as the crazy-for-flying Hannibel Lee Jr., Christopher McDonald as the racist major, dubiously named Sherman Joy, Courtney B. Vance as the pragmatic Lt. Jeffrey Glenn, and - most noteworthy of all - Andre Braugher as Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis. I dare anyone to ignore Mr. Braugher when he is running at full-throttle. He is, arguably, this country's best actor, and it is impossible to take your eyes off of him. What a waste of talent!
This tragic squandering is compounded by the fact that a feature drama - anything other than a documentary - was 50 years in coming; now that it has been made, its very existence may defer a proper telling for a long time to come. The significance and gravity of the subject matter deserved a rousing, blockbuster treatment - which broaches this question: why would an unmitigated disaster (both historically and in film content) such as 2001's Pearl Harbor warrant such a great influx of attention and funding, while a story of victory on all levels be denied so much? Anyone interested in answers should look to Hollywood, the almighty marketing and demographics gods, and maybe the other Maj. Joys still out there.
My personal peccadillos aside, in first approaching The Tuskegee Airmen, I feared my penchant for military aviation and historical fairness would pervert my (hopefully) objective critique and unduly merit this HBO effort. On both points, my fears were far off-target. Performances? Within effective range! A good hit! 9 out of 10. Production? A dud! Call out the bomb squad! 3 out of 10. Overall Rating: 6.0
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Viva Greek Tragedies
Not unlike John Huston's Under The Volcano, Leaving Las Vegas borrows from Greek mythology, obliquely mirroring the tragedy and pathos of Orpheus' failed attempt to rescue his dead wife, Eurydice, from Hades. Mike Figgis obliges us with a helpful hint in the scene where Nicolas Cage gives Elizabeth Shue a present of earrings: Greek cameos.
As in the ancient tale, love challenges the inevitability of death, although, in the case of LLV, roles are upended and sometimes blurred, and Orphean references are either thinly disguised, or non-specific to the point of being thoroughly sublimated. Academic, to be sure, but completely acceptable as long as LLV can sustain itself and remain engaging. And it surely does, thanks to Figgis' intelligent script and direction, Cage's role as a down-and-out writer and his protracted self-destruction, and Shue's portrayal of a lonely hooker, lifting that old bromide beyond what could have been routine, to a level not seen since Jane Fonda's character in Klute. Excellent performances all around.
With all that said, this film is not for everyone (in particular those who only respond to gratuitous sex, car chases, and mindless pyrotechnics). The lurid depictions of despair, self-loathing, and violence could put off even the most hardened social worker. In my mind's eye, I could see psychiatrists amongst the theater audiences, furiously jotting down their observations. Understandable; the two principal characters are, in the common parlance, screwed up. One cannot cope with failure, so decides to opt out, while the other does cope, but only barely, existing along the ragged edges of what passes for society in Nevada Hell. These details, though, tend to outline and, indeed, strengthen the true heart of this film: Sacrifice and Unconditional Love.
If this film is not for everyone, then who is it for? Those with real life experience and the maturity gained thereby. Those with strong emotional constitutions. Anyone appreciative of impassioned performances. Freudians. Alcoholics, recovering and otherwise. Pimps. Priests. Classicists. Petty whiners in need of perspective. And, more than anyone else, couples who plan on breaking up. In sickness and in health, 'til death do us part. 9.5 out of 10.