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The Event (2003)
Both the film and the event it portrays qualify as "events."
25 July 2004
I came to this film via Thom Fitzgerald's earlier work, the mostly comic pseudo-documentary "Beefcake," so I was unprepared for the many-layered drama of "The Event." There have been a lot of films about gay men with AIDS, most of which are earnest and predictable, but "The Event" is definitely surprising in its story. It is easy to identify with the various points of view in the film, and that raises the viewer's stakes considerably. And what an indie dream of a cast! I viewed this DVD via NETFLIX which inexplicably -- considering their trove of Grade Z films about gay people -- doesn't stock "Beefcake." Thom Fitzgerald doesn't do the same old same old -- for which, hats off and Thanks!
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Rat (2000)
An hilarious combination of WAKING NED DEVINE and Kafka's METAMORPHOSIS
25 June 2004
When the father of a Dublin family is transformed into a rat, the family dynamic changes not at all! The daughter is still Daddy's Little Girl, the son -- Pius! -- is piously creepy, his vocation to the priesthood notwithstanding, and the mother alternates (as usual) between wild-eyed outrage and sentimental tears. Writer, director and cast all seem to be making the same movie -- a dissection of some of the more peculiar aspects of the Irish "character" with some of the insight of Huston's/Joyce's THE DEAD -- and even more laughs. Imelda Staunton is devastatingly funny as the mother who views her husband's transformation as just the latest in a series of crosses she's had to bear.

Certainly this movie is not for all tastes, and I can imagine that some viewers would be simply baffled. It helps if you DO understand (sort of) why anyone would name their son "Pius." But if you're Irish-American and have mixed feelings (are there any other kind?) about your "heritage," just sit back and enjoy!
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A disservice to the play . . . and all humankind.
4 May 2004
Comedy is hard. BEYOND THERAPY is, arguably, Christopher Durang's best play and Robert Altman's worst film. The casting of the film is not terrible -- on paper. But almost every other aspect of the film -- the direction, the look, the sound -- is wrong-headed, -hearted, and every other relevant organ-ed. Still, going on the principle that an artist should be judged by his best work, not his worst, enough about Altman. Even Homer nodded and I don't mean Homer Simpson, but, come to think of it --. Durang's comedy remains incisive and hilarious. From the perspective of 2004 it seems so embedded in its era that it effortlessly transcends its time -- like Restoration Comedy on a good night. This is nigh-on-impossible to see in the film, but it is happily evident in an audio recording made in 2002, featuring a splendid cast of gen-u-ine comic actors, headed by Catherine O'Hara, David Hyde Pierce, Kate MacGregor, and Richard Kind. It's "pure '80s." It's the "me decade" pressed down and flowing over. The peculiar idiocies of idiotic therapists are skewered on Durang's pen as are personal ads, grotesque drama (Eck! Eck! EQUUS!), let-it-all-hang-out personal interaction, and wildly "inappropriate" therapist/patient relationships. It is laugh-out-loud wonderful on CD and may serve to comfort the Durang and Altman fans who are justifiably horrified at the film.
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Metropolis (1927)
10/10
Restored Kino DVD changed my view of this film.
13 March 2004
I doubt that I'd ever seen anything resembling a "complete" version of METROPOLIS before, though certain of its scenes were familiar to me, if only as used and abused in such films as Diane Keaton's HEAVEN (1987). In any case, whatever I had seen before had nothing like the clarity and beauty of the Kino restoration. I expected to be distracted by the restoration's technique of concise written descriptions of missing sequences, but the narrative coherence that these provided was definitely worth it. As "exaggerated" as the style of acting seems by contemporary standards, some performances, such as the Master of the city, are amazingly nuanced and layered, and Brigitte Helm is stunning as both Maria and her evil clone. The meticulous design of the film, the unerring camera placement and Lang's muscular choreography of the crowd scenes are breathtaking. I'd thought of METROPOLIS as a curiosity ("important" = "dull") but now I've come to appreciate it as the seminal work it has always been.
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The Turn of the Screw (1999 TV Movie)
8/10
More Jane Eyre-ish than James-ish but with a GREAT Mrs. Grose
5 December 2003
With all due respect to flinty-but-dear Megs Jenkins (Mrs. Grose in both the 1961 "The Innocents" and the Lynn Redgrave made-for-TV Ben Bolt-directed rendering), Pam Ferris' housekeeper seems closest to the illiterate, fierce, none-too-genteel woman of James' story. Maybe it's her sheer size, but she grounds the story completely and serves as splendid contrast to the slim, neurasthenic Jodhi May as the Governess. No "The Innocents" (the only dramatization with a point of view), still, this "Turn" works pretty well and may have the best ever staging of Miles' death.
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L.I.E. (2001)
10/10
An intense compendium of the ways fathers can fail their sons
9 September 2001
Michael Cuesta's film was pretty hard to take and I felt spent after seeing it. Picturesque areas of Long Island that I'm familiar with have never seemed so barren. Brian Cox, as just one of the inept/venal father figures in this movie, gives an uncompromising portrayal in a role that most actors wouldn't be caught alive in. As the principal youth in the film, Paul Franklin Dano is innocent, curious, knowing, seductive and lost. I found this film upsetting on many levels, none of which merited its being saddled with an "NC 17" rating from the MPAA. Jack Valenti, give to me a break!
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O (2001)
10/10
The Bard would be proud.
2 September 2001
Wonderfully cast and thoroughly engrossing, this re-telling of the Othello story works amazingly well -- thanks to a canny script that knows that the power of this story is in the details of the characters' relationships, and to exciting, unfussy direction by Tim Blake Nelson. Martin Sheen's character of "Duke" (the coach) is the most expanded from the original and it is a masterful invention. I hope the delayed release of this film and the press's insistence on a Columbine connection doesn't keep people from seeing it. I found "O" far more interesting than the wan, abridged 1995 version of the original with Fishburne and Branagh.
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The Deep End (2001)
6/10
Well-played but improbable suspenser
24 August 2001
This film is "The Bridges of Madison County" with a melodrama overlay. Fortunately, it moves along quickly enough so that the viewers' doubts don't intrude until the closing credits start to roll. Tilda Swinton is fine, as is the boy who plays her son, Beau, and it's beautifully photographed, but still ...
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10/10
A heartbreaking, wondrous meditation on childhood
23 August 2001
By some definition, this is a great film. It is as "still" as any movie I've ever seen (rivaled, perhaps, only by BARRY LYNDON), meditative, thoughtful. The soundtrack of pop tunes is part of the content of the film: remembered music, remembered frights, remembered ease. Director Terence Davies, in recalling his youth in Britain in the 1950s, has filmed a metaphor for growing up that resembles TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, plus color, minus the melodrama. This film will definitely not be to everyone's taste, but for those who are of the right age and sensibility, it may be a transforming experience.
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8/10
A super un-slick and sometimes screamingly funny send-up
22 August 2001
This film gave me the BIGGEST laughs of the summer and so it was worth it for me, even though much of the film only pointed at what was supposed to be funny. And the CAST! -- comedy all-stars, without the usual hype. Hey, the movie doesn't "work," but it has moments that are as funny as any ever filmed. Kudos to all and be sure to catch it on video, since the gigantoplex theatre where I saw it (in NYC) didn't even list it on the marquee!
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7/10
Homeric Odyssey or Boy Band-like Porn? It's both!
8 January 2001
Finally the American cinema has come of age. Though on the surface another moronic teen comedy, this is actually adapted from The Odyssey of Homer and Jethro, a chronicle of the adventures of an heroic young man (slyly bifurcated here into TWO heroically delicious young men) in search of the 21st-Century equivalent of Home -- his car. Though tempted by sirens and attacked by monsters (both earthly and extra-terrestrial, e.g., Fabio) our hero's (heroes') relentless questing is finally rewarded. And so is the audience's.
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Spielberg's finest
25 November 1998
The most humane, funny, believable, unpretentious yet (hell, there's no other word for it) inspiring film Spielberg has made to date. Epic but not self-important, child-like but not -ish, here he puts technology in the service of a superb quest. Who else but Francois Truffaut could bring such authority to the role of the Spielberg stand-in? Richard Dreyfuss has made a career of using a shotgun to release the energy he dispenses here with laser-like precision. One of my top 10 of all time. One caveat: I much prefer the original release to the "Special Edition" where Spielberg made, to me, the error of taking us inside the mother ship. I don't know if the original is even available anymore. Still, superb!
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