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8MM (1999)
2/10
Why?
12 September 1999
Why was this film made? I'm sure the filmmakers, including the writer who brought us the equally dark "Seven", would argue that this is a serious film about the nature of an average man's encounter with absolute evil. They would probably argue the film explores the various faces of evil, from evil for it's own sake (Machine - a torturer in s&m films who finds his true thrill is to cross over into murder), to a mad director who sees his evil as art, to a porn producer and rich man's lawyer whose lust for money allows them to justify anything. And, finally, the rich pillar of the community who commissions a snuff film "because he could".

And let's give the filmmakers the nod that the film is powerfully acted by the entire cast, the directing is brooding and ominous. But ultimately the film fails mightily, as it tries to have it both ways. Condemning pornography, the film is pornographic. Condemning misogeny, the film depicts the most gruesome torture and degradation of women I have ever seen in a film. The film can't have it both ways. It could have conveyed the horrors of its subject with reaction shots by the hero, which it does repeatedly and effectively, without always showing the viewer the gratuitous subject matter itself. It chooses not to, and by so doing winds up in the same gutter it says it condemns. Thirty years ago the film "Judgment at Nuremberg" asked the same questions as this film. It answered them in an uplifting, thought provoking way. "8mm" opts to revel in the very exploitation it would want you to believe it condemns. And for that, it fails.
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Earthquake (1974)
1/10
A crashing bore
12 September 1999
Take a bunch of over the hill actors who clearly could care less about the their one-dimensional roles. Take a hack script direct from the daily soaps. Oh, yeah, and throw in the most boring natural disaster in history. And you've got this turkey. Hopefully, when the next earthquake hits LA, this film will fall through the cracks.
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9/10
Fascinating, reverent jazz film
31 August 1999
A film that treats jazz as the star. Wonderful music, with great playing by Harry James. Even the theme of art versus commercialism is handled sensitively. Hoagy Carmichael is great, and Doris Day shows her big band roots with some beautiful numbers. Throw in a totally off-beat, dark performance by Lauren Bacall, and you have a unique film experience. While some might argue with the upbeat ending -- the film is loosely based on the tragic life of Bix Beiderbeck -- I found it to be a moving appreciation of the quest of jazz musicians for truth in music, and the underlying sadness that gives some of the greatest jazz its depth.
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8/10
Beautiful poignant film
29 August 1999
I am not usually drawn to slow-moving, "artistic" films. But this film is of rare beauty and insight. I found it much more moving than the first two films in the Apu trilogy. The themes of loss, of running away from grief, and ultimately of reconciliation and responsibility have rarely been handled with a wiser eye.
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7/10
Confused but enjoyable Hitchcock
29 August 1999
Some standout scenes that are pure Hitchcock, especially the windmill sequence and the wonderfully tense episode on a tower with McRea'S "bodyguard" intent on pushing him off. Yet the film lacks the moral focus of masterpieces like "39 Steps". Curiously, the chief villain is portrayed as more complex than the lead, Joel McRea. Hitchcock seems not to know what to do with McRea -- he glides through the film, more intent on the girl than the war or even his assignment. Perhaps it was Hitchcock's inside way of jibing the Americans for non-involvement. Even the villain is shown as engaged -- loyal to his cause, and willing to act heroically. Despite the ambiguities at the core, the film has enough Hitchcock magic to carry it through.
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7/10
Worth seeing
28 August 1999
While the film drags in places, it's worth seeing for the delightful performances of Charles Coburn and Jean Arthur. And its portrayal of wartime Washington, with its shortages of rooms and males, is illuminating. The film does falter in its mix of screwball comedy and serious romance. But over-all it's enjoyable.
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7/10
Must-see for film buffs
28 August 1999
This very early Capra film is a must-see for several reasons. Jean Harlow is unusually cast as a straight society high-brow. Although the role could easily be played as a caricature, she brings to it appealing depth and vulnerability. Loretta Young is radiant. And Robert Williams delivers an eccentric performance that seems far ahead of its time. I had never seen nor heard of him before. Capra's populism here consists mostly of: let the classes stay in their places, they don't mix very well. A surprisingly literate and engaging film.
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