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a beautiful mess
what a manic, scattered, intuitive collage this film is. Wong deserves the chutzpah award for taking a relatively simple idea (although how simple is love? not very) and stewing it in dazzling images. The women, all love interests of Tony Leung, swirl around like in a dream. As a writer myself, I think Wong captures the writers mind so perfectly. There's constant conflict in a writer's mind: between reality and the ideal world you constantly envision and refine, between personal conviction and the need to be understood and loved by others. And, most drawn out in 2046, how we deal with out objects of desire. Wong uses women, Leung's objects of desire, to project every wish, desire, hope, and fear onto. Wong's women are goddesses, ghosts, muses, partners, targets, prizes. Their emotional license seems to ripple from Leung's pen, and his austere face. And of course, the visuals are simply stunning and sumptuous; and stark, echoing the claustrophobic loneliness and desperation of the characters. Wonderful, Alive movie.
shut up, Bobby
I know I'm not alone in my fascination of Las Vegas casino "culture." I've only been there once, but I was completely awestruck by the delicious, glowing obscenity of it all (mind you I'm a jaded New Yorker, not some babe in the woods). "Casino" only adds to the fantasy. The irony is that while Vegas is seen as a separate universe where vice is as commonplace as streetlights, it's probably the only HONEST city in the world. Every other city is as full of vice and corruption, but Vegas is the only place that admits that these things are at the core of our lovely civilization. Scorsese has many tools at his disposal; here he uses his scalpel and Bedazzler above all else. The one thing that really bugged me (other than the usual Italian-American stereotypes, but what are you gonna do) is the OVER-use of voice-over. Voice-over is pretty annoying to begin with, but here it's just way too much. It almost sucks the life out of the movie (especially when coupled with Scorsese's snappy montage style). Visually it's quite breathtaking, and the performances are top-notch, especially from Sharon Stone, who emits a raw energy not common among today's leading ladies.
Cremaster 3 (2002)
Matthew Barney's "Cremaster" series of 5 feature-length videos are an exploration of this artist's various interests. He's basically interested in everything, and manages to squeeze everything into this series. "Cremaster 3" is the centerpiece, wherein architecture, Freemason ritual, and folklore (Irish, Irish-American, American) take center stage. Barney offers little insight into his interests, simply presents them, overlaps them, as if he just made a list of stuff he likes and then visualized them. Luckily, his visual sense is utterly dazzling and eloquent. As a director, he is undoubtedly indebted to Kubrick and Hal Ashby. The images are elegant but pungent, finely polished but visceral and even gory in parts. The tone of the video, however, is deceitful (for lack of a less harsh word), suggesting a story or plot that doesn't really exist, or is so buried in the visual splendor as to be insignificant. It could be seen as a puzzle, but, in Barney's own words (according to the DVD commentary of "The Order" segment of "3"), it is merely a series of illustrations of ideas that have already been well drawn out (ie. Freemason ritual). Still it's worth watching, and listening to as well. Jonathan Bepler's score is truly gorgeous, reminiscent of Danny Elfman but even more haunting.
her sickening life
"Safe" is sort of like "The Exorcist" in reverse. Julianne Moore plays a woman in such denial about her severe unhappiness that her body seems to take her over. She gets treated for environmental sensitivity, which is just smokescreen for escaping her truly awful suburban existence. She is a weak, shallow, childish, ignorant woman living a meaningless existence in a sterile, cavernous suburban California home with a husband who doesn't give a rat's ass about her. When she does escape, she begins the slow process of self-realization and the path to happiness. Director Haynes is walking a tightrope with this one. Is this an activist film attacking our industrially and chemically toxic world? An unflinching chronicle of a woman's psychological shutdown? A satire of modern society's reliance on medicine and "quick cures?" A thriller about an "ordinary" woman overtaken with paranoia, where the villain is the entire world rather than a murderer? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. It's an extraordinary effort, aided by Moore's seductive, brilliant performance. Haynes is a genius. His visual style in this film is hypnotic. "Safe" is a gem.
A Patch of Blue (1965)
the great Elizabeth Hartman
As far as "message" movies go, "A Patch of Blue" is blessed with some great talents that overcome the predictable, over-the-top story. The photography is quite gorgeous, and the cast is pretty amazing. The revelation of this movie is Elizabeth Hartman, in her very first film role. As a blind girl, she's totally convincing. Her wonderful heart will break yours. She brings an innocence that never descends into childishness (a la Emily Watson in "Breaking The Waves"). The scene where she's alone in the apartment is chillingly real. The sense of entrapment she expresses is understandable on every level. Poitier's performance is one of his best, showing tenderness but never getting too melodramatic. Just as Hartman never acts like a child, Poitier never treats her like one. Shelley Winters is fearlessly nasty and evil as Hartman's mom. She truly is a monster. This is a great film.
shoulda got Sissy Spacek up in there
In high school I was somewhere between the sardonic Janeane Garofalo and Justin Theroux's mysterious cowboy (no hat though). How happy I was when they hooked up at the end. Anyway, there are other reasons to like this easy breezy movie. If all the cast members of "Friends" were disintegrated to dust except Phoebe in the pilot episode, I would've watched it religiously. Lisa Kudrow is hilarious. The movie has many funny moments, but plenty of crappy ones too. The script is so repetitive, which would have been okay if it were more clever. Garofalo, Cumming and Mannheim offer great support, but could've been better utilized (ie. more screen time). What to say about Ms. Sorvino... seems she spent more time perfecting her Tucson accent than anything else. The best thing about her performance was that it made Kudrow even funnier. Kudos to Kudrow!! Guffaws for Garofalo!! I'm finished.
Naked Lunch (1991)
best if watched high (i mean, JUST SAY NO!)
If "Naked Lunch," the novel by William S. Burroughs, represents ultimate literary freedom (it would make the Marquis de Sade blush), David Cronenberg's "Naked Lunch" is a violent reaction to it. Freedom, not the book. The book is a beautiful work of art that exists outside the invented notions of law, religion, and reticence, just as much as it exists separate from past, present, or future. Any sense of guilt or shame experienced while reading the book is purely in the reader's mind, not on the page.
The movie is a different story. Since Burroughs wrote the book with an, er, "enhanced" mind, I figured I'd read it under the same conditions. So, maybe the plot in the movie is somewhere in the book, I just don't recall it. Anywho, the movie plot is a great springboard into the disparate shapes and pea soup- colored haze known as "Interzone." Cronenberg clearly is sharing his own experience of reading the book, mixing it with his knowledge of Beat history (including the world of Paul Bowles, the American ex-pat, living in Morocco, not an intimate part of the Beat generation) and his personal issues regarding sexuality. While Burroughs and his colleagues embraced homosexuality without much hesitation, Cronenberg isn't quite as comfortable with it, and makes it clear in his film. Not that Rev. Falwell or his ilk are putting it on their top 10 lists next to certain Mel Gibson or Charlton Heston projects. The movie is still sexy and seductive, mostly thanks to Weller, Davis, and, as always, the reliable Mr. Sands.
Batman Returns (1992)
If De Vito and/or Pfeiffer were in every scene in this movie I probably would tack on at least one additional star. Their characters, Penguin and Catwoman, are developed so well they elevate the film from the rather dubious crop of comic book that have been made. Burton's direction and visual flare, and Elfman's genius score are a perfect pair yet again. It's a huge improvement over the first "Batman," which was low on story and high on Jack Nicholson's scene-chewing. It's a hell of a lot spookier and darker than its predecessor, making it more faithful to its comic book source. If the movie were just overall better, De Vito's Penguin would go down as movie history's wickedest villains (he's like a Charles Manson with lame wings), and Pfeiffer's Catwoman would be among the silver screen's greatest female roles. The uneven script stifles the flow of the movie, and I'm sure the studio tinkered with Burton's singular vision with its need for blockbuster box office and perpetual tie-in merchandising.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
journey to the center of...
First off, "2001: A Space Odyssey" is the single greatest visual experience ever committed to film. If you choose to ignore whatever philosophical or thematic issues are raised, there is enough ocular splendor to make it worth watching.
Secondly, those issues are presented in such a way as to make you a participant of the film, not just an observer, making the experience all the more enriching. It's fitting that Kubrick chose to fill the sci-fi tableaux with classical music. He has the artistry of a symphonic conductor, and time and human civilization seem to dangle from his conductor's wand. The only criticism I can come up with is the lack of specific humanity. The movie's grand themes explore the essence of the universe and the nature of the human being, the universe's greatest invention. "The Power Of Myth," an interview of Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyers, tackles the same themes and is just as stirring, but it consists almost entirely of to old dudes yapping in a living room.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
flawed but worthy
This well-made, all-star movie seems to serve as a template for how this type of situation SHOULD turn out, but probably rarely does, then or now. As a result, the movie is little more than long PSA or preachy after-school special with better actors. Since its intentions are good, it deserves some credit. The script almost undermines the message with its almost excruciating tip-toey-ness. The movie's politeness makes it dry and lifeless. Poitier, Tracy, Hepburn, and Sanford do their best to bring depth to their characters. The only sore thumb in the cast is Houghton, exuding an odd brand of ignorance that has never been investigated, on screen or off. This type of ignorance, excuse my cynicism, is often referred to as liberalism. Plus, Houghton and Poitier have zero chemistry. Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" offers a more realistic and far more urban view of the subject. Like "Dinner" it has its flaws too, but both films should provide interesting perspectives when seen together.