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11 reviews in total 
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Ditto (2000)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful. Touching. A world of emotion in the faces., 19 November 2013

I too am surprised this gem currently only has 7 stars.

This movie is a perfect example of our universal shared understanding of the nature of attachment and love. The classical music score and the sound of the voices of the young actors transcend the language. The underplayed but extremely moving acting leaves us wanting to know more about these people. We are hugely on their side.

This is the antithesis of a movie chock full of plot and devices; it is rather bare-bones perfect in the references it makes. It's all done with acting and camera-work, and pacing. What we don't need we don't get. It's like a minimalist Shakespeare play.

What you *will* see are a collection of moments that just tug at your heart.

Expect this movie to stay with you for a long time.

What a great actress!

Drunkboat (2010)
25 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
Small quirky suspenseful movie with fine performances, great cinematography, and an excellent score, 9 October 2010

I recommend this movie based on excellent performances, a quirky, moody, suspenseful feel very well supported by unusual and highly effective music, and excellent cinematography.

This is a "small" movie in that it is based on clearly defined scenes, separated by time and geography, juxtaposed together to let the story unfold. The screenplay's roots in Bob Meyers's original play are clear.

The movie is also understated, leaving some of the work to your imagination. I like this in a movie, but others might find it unsatisfying. This understatement allows a delightful kind of organic humor to creep in from time to time, and allows suspense to build as well. Good job with this quirky directing style!

Several of the scenes between the John Goodman character and his business partner had the feel of two veteran actors sitting in front of a camera and improvising: "You are two sleazy hustlers that have worked together for a long time, but one of you is having second thoughts. Act!" They did a nice job with these scenes. Unfortunately, I dunno, to my mind all of those scenes after the important opening of the movie might better have been left on the cutting room floor. (Or, else at least include the other resolving scenes that would have let them actually mean something.) Certainly I would cut everything having to do with the partner's son and son's girlfriend, which added nothing, and had nothing at all to do with the rest of the movie.

John Malkovich was excellent. With him the movie is intriguing, and suspenseful. You cannot tell what is going on in his head (is he a brain-fried drunk, or is he in control, perceiving much that he is not letting on? Is he going to take action leading to violence?), but you WANT to try to figure it out. Without his stellar central performance, the movie would risk not hanging together at all. Yay to the Vietnam reminiscence scene with the chickens!

All of the performances in the movie were good (save perhaps the son's friend who had a small part and was passable). All of the acting was underplayed and subtle. Everyone was believable.

Much of the magic of the movie came from the mix of the unusual, but unusually effective, music, mixed with the brooding, darkly ethereal, cinematography. No schmaltzy rehashed formula strings with repetitive piano plonks here. Much attention was paid to instrumentation (steel drums? overtone-laden bronze prayer bowls?) and the effective use of space in the music to build suspense. The music, the sound, the camera angles, the overall mood in the camera-work did much to focus our attention on the meaning of the performances. Outstanding!

The *look* of the movie was also excellent. Even the pan-overview of a brick bungalow in Morton Grove gave us the feel something was going to happen. Be alert! The collage of old rotten boat-bottoms, mud, ancient house-trailer interiors, Southside Chicago expressways at night, rivers, power-lines, bars, and so on really captured the perfect mix between a real close-up view of Chicago, and the magical, beautiful, world of cinema.

I might have chosen a different ending, but in the interest of no spoilers, I'll not say more.

One theme about the movie stands out: "Non-judgemental." In this particular way it had echos of Van Sant's "Drugstore Cowboy" -- and I mean that association to be high praise.

In short, this is a quirky, small, suspenseful movie that leaves plenty of room for the viewer's imagination, with outstanding music, with excellent cinematography and camera-work, and with some outstanding performances. It is probably not for everyone, but well worth it for the someone wanting to see, and hear, something unusual.

NOTE: A year later I am adding this footnote. This turns out to be one of those strange and wonderful movies from which the images haunt you a long time. I am very disappointed that it has not been released in theaters. Many movies have come and gone in my mind's eye since I saw this gem, but while they have faded, the images from this movie are still with me. Good job!

6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Tears of pure joy streaming down my face. Yaaahhh!, 1 April 2010

O.K. Here is the deal. I am a normal guy. I watch football. I run marathons sometimes. I fix my car. I only intended to glance at this movie to see if it would be appropriate for my five-year-old. I ended up staying for the whole movie.

During the flying scenes, with the perfectly-suited Galic music cheering us on in the background, I had tears of purest joy streaming down my face from the, raw, visceral emotion of it. I thought of Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Windhover: "The dapple-dawn-drawn falcon in his riding .../.. High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing" Perfect movie making. I have to say, I've seen nothing like these scenes, and I cry at movies every, I dunno, twenty years or so?

Let's be clear: this is an animated movie for kids. The story is straightforward, at the level that, yes, my five-year-old will understand. The music is very good. The story-animation is so well done that it just falls into the background as the story unfolds. It is not "artful" in the way of, say, Miyazaki, but it is still wildly creative and yields a magical world of ocean, rugged northern lands, and forest. The animation of the physics of flight and motion, and the details of emotional expression are exceptional. The voice actors are interesting, and without the sappy voices, and contrived humor we have found in some other recent animated movies. There is no pretense here of the movie trying to be something it is not. There are inconsistencies in the accents, and holes in the plot if you care to look. But, and this is the important but, the story, and especially the *experience* of this movie transcends both the genre and its shortcomings. Even if it is just for the highlights as one is soaring above ocean and earth on the back of a dragon, this is a movie for way more than just kids.

At the end of the movie, most everyone cheered, and half stood up and cheered, which I also have not seen before.

I recommend this movie as genre art that is exceptionally well done, an uplifting evening's entertainment. You MUST see it in 3D! Yaaaaayyyy! Who-hoooh!

55 out of 111 people found the following review useful:
Save your money -- a bomb -- Scorsese is not Hitchcock, 23 February 2010

Summary: This is bad movie. Don't waste your time or your money on it. There was not a single convincing, or memorable, scene in the whole two-plus hours. There was not a single character to care much about. Most egregious is that this is a suspense film with almost no suspense. The movie was full of clichés -- but virtually every one of them was handled without the grace that made them clichés in the first place. The ending was predictable. The plot was stupid. The music was not the least bit memorable. On the good side? Hmmm, I suppose the cinematography was very nice, and there was a lot of technique (mostly ineffective) with the cameras. Oh, and I liked the double-basses playing the fog-horn motif.

In the elevator in the garage on the way back to my car, a couple was complaining about a movie they had just seen. "What the h..l was THAT?" "I don't know dear. What a stupid movie." "I can't believe what a mess it was!" and so on. I asked them what movie they had just seen: Shutter Island. We agreed with each other as they left the elevator: "Hitchcock, except without anything good in it." I will now do my best to pan this movie without producing any spoilers. However if you want to be *absolutely* certain to enjoy the "suspense" in all possible aspects then don't read any farther.

Suspense? This movie certainly falls in the category of Suspense. Except, er, the movie has almost no suspense to it. There was no rhythm to the sequencing of shots, no building of tension, no small releases. The whole movie was flat, like watching a collection of skits pasted together. Alas, despite his success with Cape Fear (which was much more literal), Scorsese just seems to have no feel at all for Hitchcock-style suspense.

Plot? The plot for this movie is both trite, and baroque. As narrative fiction goes it is about on the level of movies made from video games, except they don't bother to pretend. (Hey, for that matter, Silent Hill had a better plot than this movie did.) No part of this movie, not even a single one of the scenes, was believable. Most of it was just absurd. In the interest of no spoilers I have to tread lightly here. Scorsese might argue that he was trying to represent a particular plot device, but boy did THAT ever fall flat. Don't expect to make much sense, either, of the bits and pieces snatched from the real story in the original book. Plenty of scenes could have been dropped without the slightest ding to THIS mess of a plot.

How trite? Nazi doctors, concentration camp memories, "mysterious" psychiatrists, ghostly presences, all of the most hackneyed and ineffective type. Let's see: the spiral staircase from The Haunting of Hill House, the Boogey-man from Silence of the Lambs, the shower from Psycho... need I go on? And, too bad, the list of trite / iconic references here is more interesting to ponder than the actual boring manifestations of them in the movie.

Horror? I am not sure how, but Scorsese managed to make eerie, dripping, insane-asylum corridors not the least bit eerie or menacing, violent, criminally-insane killers on the loose not the least bit scary, or interesting, menacing psychiatrists with drugs in syringes not the least bit terrifying.

Character? Sorry. Not a single character was convincing or interesting. There was no chemistry between DiCaprio and Ruffalo, no sparks flying between DiCaprio and Kingsly. The great love of DiCaprio for his wife was entirely cardboard. The ooky prison-guards looked great for about five seconds and then went absolutely nowhere. What a disappointment from the guy who brought us all these rich characters in, say, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, and Taxi Driver ("Stop a car at a hundred yards -- put a bullet right through the engine block!"). The actors had nothing to work with in this movie.

Engagement? Hmmm. If you can't manage to involve your audience with Nazi death-camp images, and children being murdered, you've got to admit that is pretty lame. But, this bomb manages to make both of these devices and many others sterile and void of any emotion. You also don't care about the wronged do-gooders locked away in an insane asylum, the hero of the story, or his side-kick...

O.K., so maybe it gets two or three stars out of ten, but the hype is just too annoying for this weak effort from an excellent director.

This movie was just dumb. If you believe the hype and go to see it anyway before word gets around, don't say I didn't warn you.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Well worth watching -- several times, 24 June 2009

I strongly recommend seeing this movie for yourself and making up your own mind.

This is a special movie, and very much unlike the usual Hollywood fare. Its most outstanding quality is that it tells a story, and takes you to another world (hey -- that's not such a bad thing when you go to the *movies* right?) with almost nothing but camera work, sound, the script, and acting, to do so. It has the feel of, "So let's see, we've got this apartment building, with a pool, let's get some cameras and some friends together and make a movie!" Personally I would much rather see, and hear, something unusual like this -- but yet which works very well -- than just sit through another re-tred of the tired Hollywood formula. Because the storytelling here is so strong, you just drop into a believable, but completely odd, world played out inside a few motel-style apartments and next to a motel-style pool.

Structurally the story is full of symbolic characters -- even named outright as "the healer" "the protector" and so on. The bedtime-story style also gives us an interesting, and rich, set of well-defined characters using very little screen-time, and very few words. Nothing is wasted.

There is humor in the movie too, with some playful bits from Shyamalan himself, an Asian mother-and-daughter comedy team, and a deadpan Bob Balaban.

Paul Giamatti is, as usual, just right as the everyman.

M. Night Shyamalan is a wonderful craftsman, a great storyteller, and a director/writer that will wear very well over the years.

This is not a horror movie (my five-year-old liked it and yours probably would too -- although you'll want to cover their eyes a few times). It does not have sex scenes, or get into deep adult emotions. On the other hand, it is not a fairy-tale for kids either. It is more of a fairy-tale for cultures, that only hints at a fill-in-your-own grand message.

There is a mystery to be solved, and some action too, but these are not really the main point of the movie -- the story is the kind where you can enjoy it just as much the second time around. I suppose the biggest mystery, to me, is how they managed to spend $75 million making this film!

A good thing about this movie, which is true of all the M. Night movies I have seen, and also is true of all good filmmakers, is that you could drop in on any thirty-second slice of this movie, completely out of context, and it would have something to offer.

While many movies will show a flash of popular interest when their ads are still bombarding us and their stars are currently popular, most of those are going to fade into obscurity while this movie continues to get checked off the shelves for years to come.

I recommend it.

Bahia (1976)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The most beautiful opening credits you will ever hear., 30 December 2006

I went to the Eastman School of Music and also Juilliard. My wife went to Eastman. At the time we saw the movie, in a revival theater, we were both as serious about music as anyone on the planet. Our backgrounds included thorough training from Bach to Mahler, from Beatles to Miles to Doc Watson to Beethoven to Puccini. After watching the movie, which was pretty so-so, I let slip out, although I was embarrassed about it, that the song that introduces the movie was the most beautiful music I had ever heard. My wife, startled, said, "I thought it was just something crazy on my part, but that is exactly how I have been describing it to myself." I am not sure where you can get a tape of this movie, and God forbid that the soundtrack be brutalized by digitizing it, but if you can find an analog tape, or better yet, see this movie in the theater, you may hear something you will never forget. I haven't yet -- but hey, it has only been about thirty years.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Simple pre-war fun and light drama that moves along well., 28 September 2005

I enjoyed this lightweight pre-war drama/comedy.

In those days I guess life was simple. Tough Irish kids had golden hearts if you could just get them a mentor in the police department. Fighting showed character. There were good guys and bad guys. Loyalties ran strong. Not much a good right/left combo would not solve.

But, you know, this movie was fun. It all fell together. There were moments of drama. There was some humor. Muggsy, the anti-hero turned hero was a likable kid. The lines were snappy. The exposition brisk.

So, hey, watch this movie with your young kids. See the gang at the pool hall. Learn about bad guys trying to fix fights. Learn about loyalties to the family, to the gang, and to the police force. See Muggsy take on all comers, from the college-bound kid, to the police, to organized crime, to the reform school.

Spider (2002)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
I like Cronenberg but this movie was a bomb. Very slow!, 1 June 2005

I like Cronenberg, but this movie was bad. Very... very..... very....... s l o w. Good mood. Music pretty uninspired, but passable. Scenery, and photography were, of course, well done. Good costumes. Story very dull. Nothing interesting happens. No sense of who these people are, just a little sense of their external world. Might as well have had no dialog, movie would have been pretty much the same. If you are the kind of person who finds really good photography of string fascinating, this is probably your movie.

A Bomb.

If you make it through the movie, there is something exceptional in th eclosing credits, so you should watch them. For that matter the most interesting part of the movie was the opening credits, which is not saying much.

Eraserhead (1977)
4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Hot throbbing torturous nightmare never lets you go, 6 January 2005

Watching this movie is just like having a nightmare.

You know that hot, uncomfortable, throbbing feeling you get at two in the morning when you are seven years old and cannot sleep, and time seems to creep along like eternity unfolding in a bizarre gray world? Well, that is what you should expect from watching Eraserhead. And do not think that you will only watch it once, because, trust me, it will be playing over and over again in your mind's eye, and ear, for a long time to come. Yuck! I still cannot get this movie fully out of my head and it has had decades to recede.

The dancing woman with the cauliflower cheeks torturing us with her singing, the baby's guts, the snake-like crunchy umbilical cords, the filthy, ancient, patterned floor, ...and, oh my God, that hair!

But,you know, it is not really the images that make this nightmare jump off the screen, it is the *sound* that does it to you. Listen carefully. The audio track is what brings these gruesome and haunting (in the terrible sense of the word) images to life.

This is brilliant film-making, no doubt about it. I am giving it high marks, too. But, I could not in a million years recommend that anyone loose this demon into their lives. So, don't complain that you were not warned.

15 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
An all-time favorite, but disturbing, 6 January 2005

This was my introduction to Gus Van Sant, and I still consider it his best movie. The outstanding feature of Drugstore Cowboy is its magically non-judgmental portrayal of people living on the fringe of society. The characters are vividly portrayed, and exceedingly memorable -- yet it feels effortless to watch this movie, and as though it has been effortless to make. The *sound* of the movie is outstanding, giving the action and the story an ethereal sheen.

I have seen the movie three times, but have not watched it in more than four years. And yet, a number of the visual, and auditory, images are still easily retrievable, still vivid. The memories of most movies are simply that for me: memories of movie scenes. In this case, it takes some reasoning to get straight that I was not actually present at the action, and that the memories are not of something from real life.

Remarkable. Highly recommended!

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