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Chuck & Buck (2000)
a brilliant profile of a disturbed, but interesting, character
This is a movie for those of us who appreciate black, discomforting humor, the kind of humor that acknowledges both the morbid and absurd dimensions of life; as such, it follows along a path blazed by other such dark films as IF, SWEETIE, HAPPINESS, WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, BLUE VELVET, THE CABLE GUY, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, as well as the brilliant documentaries of Errol Morris and Fredrick Wiseman, to name just a few.
It's also my favorite movie of the year so far.
CHUCK AND BUCK's dark edge comes squarely from the character of Buck, brilliantly played by Mike White. Buck is something of the anti-Forest Gump; whereas Tom Hanks' character, in keeping with Hollywood's grandiose tendency to mythologize, is meant to be a deeply wise and insightful figure, in spite of his outward appearance. We are meant to love and to respect Forrest Gump. White's Buck, here, is simply outright disturbed, and disturbing, and all the more interesting because of it. Playing a confused manchild in his late 20s who reenters the life of his one time playmate, whom he then weirds-out and won't stop bothering, the story eventually explodes as the sexual tension between the two characters draws them together once again. We neither love, nor respect, Buck, but we can't stop watching him - not for a second.
Some of the other, relatively minor, characters, more or less accept Buck as he is; they tend to be funny and interesting. Seeing CHUCK AND BUCK will make you wonder about what ever became of the misfit kids you once knew in childhood. Perhaps they, too, never quite grew up or grew out of it. Perhaps they're out there somewhere making films...
Coming to America (1988)
Eddie Murphy's coming of age film is solidly funny
Eddie Murphy - along with Bill Murray, Dennis Miller, Mike Myers, and perhaps just a few other SNL alumni - is one of a small number of this group who have gone on to later, worthwhile projects. Along with Myers and Adam Sandler, Murphy is arguably the biggest star to emerge from the long running NBC television institution. And one can see, in a movie like COMING TO AMERICA, what the basis of this stardom is; Eddie Murphy is a natural. He's brilliantly funny, charming, and causes his fellow cast members to shine - never before and never since has Arsenio Hall seemed so talented; the now completely obscure Joe Piscapo must be kicking himself for having gone off on his own rather than, somehow, remaining Murphy's sidekick.
Still, Eddie Murphy, initially an obvious raw talent, needed to grow up a bit. Just a teenager when he became famous, his early comedy was a bit mean spirited, particularly toward women and gays. So what a better way to grow up than to play the completely likeable character he plays here. As Prince Akeem, he has the audience rooting for him to get the girl and to be his own man. It's nice to see him as a character who is not very cocky.
My favorite scenes, however, both when I watched this movie the first time and when I watched it again very recently, were the barbershop scenes. The comedy of these scenes is just so pure, as Murphy, Hall, and another actor - made up to look like an assortment of old timers - engage in some brilliant sketch comedy (I loved the bit about Rocky Marciano vs. 137 year old Joe Louis). In fact, every scene with the old timers was a standout moment in this movie.
While some of COMING TO AMERICA may be a bit dated (Jherri curl jokes, some cheesy 80s electro-funk, etc.), for the most part, the entertainment value holds up quite well. John Landis' solid directing no doubt helps quite a bit, too.
Bull Durham (1988)
Wise and witty baseball movie
BULL DURHAM is many things: romantic comedy, buddy picture, sports movie, and character driven comedy. It's also about realizing one's potential, accepting one's limits, and growing as a human being. And it's about the religiousity of baseball and all of its rituals and pieces of insiders' knowledge. But the two main things this movie has going for it are the writing and acting. The dialogue sparkles, and allows for both a tone of witty existential bemusement, appropriate to a story that deals so much with both play and transience, and for the main characters to come across as having greater depth than might be initially realized. The acting, by main cast members Susan Sarandon, Kevin Costner, and Tim Robbins, is great and shows authentic talent, particularly by the sometimes (in other movies) wooden Costner - here, in one of his very best performances, he stands out and gives a truly moving performance. The remaining supporting cast is also fine. This is among the very best sports movies ever made. It's so good, in fact, that I've always thought that a sequel might have been worthwhile.
The Doom Generation (1995)
a cool, detached, nihilistic and artful take on human existence
Gregg Araki's THE DOOM GENERATION is reminiscent of everything from MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO to THE RIVER'S EDGE to TRUE ROMANCE to the experimental films of Pasolini, of Warhol (Morrisey), as well as of Richard Kern. The film reveals its thematic message when the most innocent and selfless of its three main characters asks the other, more self-centered, two if they ever think about the meaning of existence. Dismissing the very question, they reveal to the questioner an answer of sorts, one which suggests that we each create a meaning for ourselves, and are all existentially alone as we do so.
While offering us a rather slight story of a pair of teen lovers on the road who encounter a slightly older bisexual who becomes their nemesis, companion, lover and protector, THE DOOM GENERATION offers a great deal of visual style and wit, and some genuine moments of suspense. In fact, the film's gory and discomforting climactic scene is perhaps the artistic highlight and suggests some real filmaking talent by writer/director Gregg Araki. This is probably not everyone's cup of tea, but is worth a look for those who like a film which challenges them to react to strong imagery and who don't mind transgressive depictions.
Office Space (1999)
A great cast make this a satisfactory comedy
OFFICE SPACE starts off hysterically, and imaginatively, deriving full humor from such things as traffic jams, annoying co-workers, unpleasant cubicles, and malfunctioning office equipment, with this setting the stage for what follows; a large, soulless corporation is bringing in consultants, and people are about to be "downsized" (i.e., fired). Peter, the protagonist, has a moment of clarity and begins to treat his job with complete indifference, leading to the absurdity of his promotion; then, showing both bravado and loyalty to his downsized buddies, he cooks up a scheme which will both exact revenge on the company and make himself and his friends rich. He'll then be able to devote himself full time to a life of complete slackerdom.
A secondary story involves Peter's relationship with a waitress at Chotchkes, a Fridays/Chiles type chain restaurant where the employees suffer indignities all their own.
And then there's Milton, the obese, coke-bottle eyeglasses wearing, zero social skilled employee back at the main workplace. Milton gets pushed around once too often until he takes sweet revenge - the result is both richly satisfying and very funny.
While OFFICE SPACE is generally a very funny comedy, it doesn't necessarily sustain the uproarious humor with which it starts. Nevertheless, it manages to have a lot going for it, and achieves a fairly strong level of populist satisfaction; you can't help but cheer for the screwballs and slackers as they set out to destroy their evil workplace. It's also one of the best cast movies I've ever seen. The actors playing Milton, Michael Bolton, the two Bobs, etc. all manage to bring just the right level of quirkiness to their parts. They don't overact, and they're not over the top. Nevertheless, they're memorable.
My grade = 8 out of a possible 10.
Repo Man (1984)
quirky and entertaining
Much of REPO MAN seems improvised, but all in all, this is a good, quirky and entertaining flick. Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton are particularly good as a pair of repo men (car repossesors), though my favorite character is the scene stealing, completely underrated Tracey Walter, playing a kind of street corner philosopher role. It's also a blast seeing remnants of the 1980s California hardcore punk scene, including various musicians in acting roles, as well as seeing some of the less glamorous parts of L.A. captured on film.
Ladri di biciclette (1948)
A Brilliant film and insightful social commentary, THE BICYCLE THIEF shows a world of hope and suffering, a world in which poverty drives men to both the heights of selflessness and the lows of criminal and preditory behavior. In a plot as relatively simple and uncluttered as exists here, we nevertheless are presented with an epic film, and a masterpiece of neo-realism, continuing an artistic development beginning with OPEN CITY. It is no wonder that a maverick dirctor like Robert Altman would pay homage to this classic work in his marvelous THE PLAYER, and would point out, correctly, how contrastive this artistic masterpiece is to formulaic Hollywood dreck. Every serious student of film history should study this film, among others.
Father of the Bride (1991)
fluff and nothing but fluff
I decided to check this out because I was in the mood for something light and because it stars Steve Martin and Martin Short (and also Eugene Levy in a single, but funny, scene), and while Short was excellent as the flamboyent, thickly accented, wedding co-ordinator, and the interplay between father (Martin) and daughter had perhaps a nice moment or two, in general, I was pretty underwhelmed by this big piece of not very funny fluff; there are some much better, funnier wedding movies, if one is attracted to the subject matter, including BETSEY'S WEDDING, MURIEL'S WEDDING, and TRUE ROMANCE. Even the wedding scene in the great GOODFELLAS was a lot more interesting, and funnier. This, however, is barely worth the price of even a cheap rental.
Easy Money (1983)
a likeable low brow comedy
There are times in EASY MONEY when this movie almost approaches John Waters territory, wherein Monty and family could possibly have just wandered on to the set of POLYESTHER, playing something like the relatively normal, next door neighbors to Divine's Francine Fishpaw and her porno theater owning husband. But essentially, EASY MONEY is a relatively sweet, harmless, and good natured low brow (and low budget) comedy about a man who must change his ways for the good of others, and a vehicle for master comedian Rodney Dangerfield to do his thing. While occasionally tasteless and very un-PC, EASY MONEY is, nevertheless, a likeable comedy, ultimately celibratory of unpretentious working class life (at the expense of the snooty rich) and good for some steady laughs. It's also worth it to see Joe Pesci do comedy as well as for seeing Jennifer Jason Leigh in one of her earlier roles
The Refrigerator (1991)
a clever and original horror-comedy
THE REFRIGERATOR is one of the more cleverly original ideas for a campy horror flick and is pretty much played for laughs. While a bit slow moving at times, this is a must see for all fans of the slapstick comedy/horror sub-genre. If you're a fan of any of the following, then this movie is for you: EVIL DEAD II, STREET TRASH, BASKET CASE, BASKET CASE II, BASKET CASE III, DEAD ALIVE, MEET THE FEEBLES, RABID GRANNIES, or any of Troma's better known releases. If you can imagine an large, evil appliance which is somehow alive, a ghost-in-the-machine device which when opened, has all the ooze and spew of a Peter Jackson special effect, then you have the basic concept of THE REFRIGERATOR, in which machines terrorizes a young NYC housewife. For a low budget flick, this one is very well made, with excellent special effects (though mediocre acting). Highly recommended if you're looking for something a bit different.
an interesting and intelligently philosophical comedy
Kevin Smith's earlier movies CLERKS and CHASING AMY each offer us an underlying moral/philosophical core. For instance, along with some wonderfully effective ribald humor, told through the story of slacker icons Dante and Randall, CLERKS manages to pose such questions - familiar to any who have set through a semester of Philosophy 101 - as "what is freedom?," "what is duty?," and "does man have an essential nature?." In addressing such universal questions through some rather particular characters and situations, Smith can perhaps be seen as a truly contemporary American version of the European auteur, i.e., a worthy successor to such trailblazers as Bunuel, Fellini, and in particular, Bergman (albeit, one with pee pee and caca jokes - though Fellini could also get rather lowbrow). If DOGMA, Smith's most ambitious film to date is any indication, his clear intelligence, honesty, and originality are such that he may eventually come to rank among the great directors in cinema history.
While not without its flaws, DOGMA is very much worth seeing (and thinking about afterward). In a nutshell, DOGMA tells the story of two fallen angels (played by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) who have a plan to get back into heaven; the only catch is that in carrying it out, they would negate all existence. In order to stop them, a rather lapsed (though still ritualistic) Catholic (Linda Fiorentino) is summoned by God herself (Alanis Morrissette) via a heavenly messenger (Alan Rickman) to prevent the fallen pair from carrying out their plan. More help is offered to her by both Chris Rock as a wisecracking 13th apostle (who says of Christ (who here happens to be Black) "the nigger owes me money") and the ubiquitous (and scene stealing) Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith himself). Structured like a comic book action tale, DOGMA manages to offer both comedy and some rather thought provoking reflection along the way on the nature of faith in general and on faith via adherence to Catholicism in particular.
Not all of the comedy works; some of the humor feels a bit strained; but when the movie is funny, it is very funny indeed (including in both the opening credits and in a much deserved and not altogether veiled attack on the hypocrisy of the Disney corporation (which cowardly refused to distribute this film)). Fans of Smith's earlier works will also appreciate the occasional references back to these. At times, the story line became somewhat infocused. In general, however, the focus was there.
As far as being an intelligent reflection on faith, I believe that this comes directly from Kevin Smith the person, a person who sees both the good and the elements of absurdity of organized religion.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
an anti-racist masterpiece
I've just watched this movie for a second time and was reminded of what a cinematic masterpiece it is. The pivotal moment in which the jury returns with its verdict is still a stunner. Released in 1962, but set during the Great Depression, this dramatized depiction of the noble attorney Atticus Finch, his family, and the community in which he practices his profession offers a (still) powerful and necessary indictment of racism as consisting of an entire social system. Just about everything about this film is superb, including the acting of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch (for which Peck won an Oscar) and Mary Badham and Philip Alford as his children, Scout and Jem, along with the remainder of the cast. The direction by Robert Mulligan also heightens the drama.
What really worked for me here is that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD generally offers us three dimensional characters (though Boo Radley was not very well fleshed out, and the ending, in which he figured rather prominently was perhaps the film's weakest moment). Like the good courtroom drama that it is, it gets underneath the characters so as to uncover something hidden about them; in fact, as Atticus says more than once to his children, it is necessary to get underneath another's skin so as to be able to understand them. But as a tragic depiction of what the sociologist Gunnar Myrdal called "the American Dilemma" (i.e., a very deep rooted racist social system), it shows us persons who are complex, who are in some senses victims of their own thwarted ambitions and years of poverty's hardship, and who are capable of both lynch mob irrationalities as well as acts of justice and reciprocity. Even the highly moral Atticus seems to recognize his own limited capacity to do much toward changing this world to which he is tied. Some of the more poignant moments also come about as his children, particularly Jem, come to see the world as it really is, i.e., populated with weak beings who commit acts of grave injustice.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
a nostalgic look back at a now gone era
Richard Linklater's name was put on the map with the comedic indie fave SLACKER (1991), a vignette-filled day in the life of an intertwined series of (mostly) twenty-something free spirits in the college town of Austin, Texas. Along with Nirvana's landmark record "Nevermind" and Douglas Coupland's novel "Generation X," Linklater provided in this film another reference point for delineating a cultural/generational shift from baby-boomer conventions to those of a more cynical and/or irony-oriented Gen-Xer generation, a generation which grew up after the 1960s cultural shifts were in place and to be simply taken for granted.
DAZED AND CONFUSED, a fine later effort by the same director, looks back, fondly and nostalgiacly, toward the seemingly more care free days of the mid 1970s, a time in which the late 60s ethos of freeing your mind through sex, drugs, rock, and non stop rebellion had filtered out beyond the counter-culture zones and down to younger aged rebels. Linklater focuses on a group of high school partyers on the last day of the 75/76 school year. The mood is carefree and upbeat, in spite of some hazing and bullying of the incoming freshmen by the seniors. Plans for a big blowout get made. Eventually, all of the kids - cool and uncool - get together in one big beer and pot filled gathering. In the course of events, we get to know the mostly likeable charecters and feel as though we are hanging out with them.
Linklater and cast do a remarkable job of capturing the details and nuances of a now gone era, and of conveying the joyous moments of being young and having a great time simply hanging out with other kids. They show kids having fun not doing what they are told by the adults. They present the rituals of potsmoking in an honest way, i.e, as a relatively benign recreational (rather than as a gateway) drug, the use of which was, and is, widespread among American adolescents. Having grown up in the same era (graduating from grammar school in 75 and high school in 79), this movie made me feel very nostalgiac about the era it depicts. It made me want to go dig out "Toys in the Attic" and my other 70s hard rock LPs from out of the storage and give them a spin.
The Warriors (1979)
In the City....
Like TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (which was widely believed to be an extremely gory splatter film) and like LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST and DOGMA (both falsely accused of blasphemy), Walter Hill's THE WARRIORS was another case of a movie which went beyond the hype and which turned out to be something other than what it was widely seen as. At the time of its release, it was accompanied by an advertising campaign which suggested that it was an ultraviolent movie which would cause social havoc. It was widely condemned by the morality police, most of whom had not even bothered to see it. Yet now, THE WARRIORS lives on, having attained the status of cult classic.
What makes it a classic? It's got the timeless theme of heroes and villains, exciting action and fight sequences, and an uncluttered storyline. It's also got some rather surreal elements (particularly the theme gangs) and just enough cheesy elements, particularly the dialogue and acting (e.g., "what's the name of your crew?" "We're the Lizzies." or "We might just pull a number on you. You look like you just might like it"). And who can ever forget the immortal catch-phrases - "Can you dig it?" and "Warriors, come out and play-ay!"
The Ice Storm (1997)
a mood piece with a fine ensemble cast
What some may see as a flawed film - i.e., boring, pointless, flat, or offering unsympathetic characters, Ang Lee's THE ICE STORM is actually a very well acted slice of Americana - that is, Americana in its suburban Connecticut, upper-middle class mid 70s incarnation. Not an epic story, with a complex plot, this movie is more what I would call a mood piece. And the predominant mood is one of sadness and pathos, as those depicted here continuously fail to connect with one another on anything but the most superficial levels. Now one might ask: is this reality? Is this an accurate characterization of a sudden shift in the culture at this time. Well, no, not really. of course, this is drama, right, not anthropology and the director, actors and writer are entitled to poetic license. Here this license is put to good effect.
The other key point here is that the narrator is a juvenile, and he has a bit of Holden Caulfield in him (just a bit, that is). In other words, he feels disconnected from the adult world in, in normal adolescent ways, ways he doesn't fully understand. The movie plays off of this theme of the disconnect between children and adults; my favorite instance of this was Janey's (Sigourney Weaver) ludicrous pseudo-intellectual utterances while chastising of Wendy (Christina Ricci) for having just more or less terrified her young son Sandy by leading him in a game of doctor. In depicting a world of those who are young and psychologically adrift, in spite of seemingly having all the privileges one could possibly want, it captures something quite real. Having grown up in the same era, I can also say there were some subtle moments here which felt quite real.
I would rate this rather high, then: 9 out of 10, particularly for some wonderful performances by Weaver, Allen, Ricci and Wood
Glen or Glenda (1953)
an endearing piece of high weirdness
Those who have seen Tim Burton's fine tribute film, ED WOOD, know the story behind this; an inexperienced filmmaker named Edward D. Wood, Jr. talked an exploitation movie producer into hiring him to direct what was initially meant to be the story of Christine Jorgenson, the first (and heavily publicized) case of surgically induced transexualism; this project was alternately to be called "The Christine Jorgenson Story," and later (after Jorgenson changed her mind), "I Changed My Sex." Of course, after Ed Wood got his hands on the basic storyline, he altered it so as to tell the story of his own transvestitism and to plead for greater tolerance and understanding; set against the staid morals of the early 1950s, Ed's pleading was actually ahead of its time.
Now, in wanting to tell this story, but in being constrained by both a shoestring budget and some rather bizarrely unusual filmaking instincts, Ed's efforts went sharply astray. This is, without question, one of the loopiest productions ever put on celluloid, chock full of nonsensical dialogue, amateurishly wooden acting (in fact, Ed's hammy attempt at acting was something out of a 1930s B movie), illogically inserted stock footage (gotta love the stampeding buffalo), and various leaps of logic and good taste. In spite, or perhaps because, of these elements, GLEN OR GLENDA is a thoroughly entertaining and endearing piece of high weirdness. The first time you see it, you won't believe what you are seeing.
Long live the Ed Wood cult! Pull the strings!
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Spike Lee's epic film, which blew me away
After having seen and really liking SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT (1986), I can recall eagerly anticipating DO THE RIGHT THING and seeing it the week it opened. I can also recall leaving the theater and feeling blown away (a similar feeling after seeing such gems as PULP FICTION, BLUE VELVET, and SOMETHING WILD). From the wonderful opening shots of Rosie Perez dancing to Public Enemy's raucous "Fight the Power," I was instantly hooked. In fact, like his friend Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee is one of the best filmakers around in terms of music selection (something I realized again seeing SUMMER OF SAM).
Among the other highlights of DO THE RIGHT THING, which help to make it great:
1. Deeply moving performances by Rubie Dee as Mother Sister and and Ossie Davis as Da Mayor. 2. comical moments which are quite hysterical - Robin Harris's comedic riffs and friendly put-downs are extremely funny; Spike Lee also brilliantly deflates racial/ethnic stereotyping by showing how ludicrous and absurd is sounds as its being spouted, and gets us to laugh at it in the process. Seeing the rude sports car owner get his car drenched with hydrant water was a funny, satisfying moment. 3. Great direction and camera work, giving this the feel of an epic - despite the fact that it was set on a single city block. 4. Absolutely fine acting by the principles - Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Richard Edson, and Giancarlo Esposito were all superb. 5. Elements of great realism and topicality; e.g., the argument between Rosie Perez's Tina and her mom looked and felt like a real fight, "Sal's Famous" looked and felt like a real place, the mutual facial expressions of hostility between cops and neighborhood residents, etc. 6. An ending which continues to provoke debate. 7. The story line unfolding over the course of a singular day. 8. Nearly all the characters, including the minor ones, are well fleshed out and thus quite memorable.
Overall a great film. My rating = 10 (out of a possible 10)
sick, but a unique film watching experience
Not your typical horror flick, NEKROMANTIK is pretty strong stuff. I stumbled upon it a while back at a video store which contained its fair share of schlock, took it home, watched it, and thought to myself that this is one sick puppy of a movie; I then sought out a copy and added it to my video collection (much of which consists of "B"/exploitation/horror/independent movies). I have periodically shown NEKROMANTIK to friends and their reactions have ranged from nervous laughter to outright disgust; no one has ever been indifferent.
Somewhere deep in this flick lies what I believe is a message. Recall the scene where Bob is watching television, and the psychiatrist is being interviewed and is taking about aversion to death being a conditioned response? NEKROMANTIK, while on the one hand, an exercise in grotesquery, is also thus an anti-aesthetic reaction against the conditioning of culture and culture's stifling effects. Not that many of us would ever want to f*** a corpse, of course, even in the name of subverting propriety or a philosophy of romanticism.
Beyond this, NEKROMATIK strikes me as a play on nightmare imagery, effectively rendered.
The Germans, with their expressionism, certainly must be credited with having invented the horror film genre, going back to the silent film era and films like NOSFERATU and FAUST. Jorg Buttgereit, a contemporary German maverick filmmaker, here moves the genre forward.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
A horror classic
Tobe Hooper's independent classic is one of the finest horror movies ever made. From early on, as the young protagonists find themselves being terrorized by the slaughterhouse geek, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE presents us with a bleak tone of foreboding; we sense that they are fated to meet a violent end. The climactic ending, featuring the cannibal family terrorizing the one survivor who, just barely, gets away, masterfully brings the movie to closure. Throughout, the grainy cinematography and somber tone, along with the imagery of leatherface and his chainsaw, all add to the film's overall effectiveness.
One thing about the period of the early 1970s, when this movie was made, which the van scene made me think of was that of youthful, naive student-types stumbling coming upon forces beyond their control. This was also the period in which hitchhiking came to be seen as a high risk behavior. I also think, at the risk of overanalysis, that the film's dark, rural location and depiction of nastily backward country folk suggest a kind of poetic take on the burgeoning political/cultural reactionary direction the U.S.A. was heading toward, i.e., the end of the "Age of Aquarius."
Orgy of the Dead (1965)
pure schlock, but many laughs
Looking at the user ratings for this, it is not altogether surprising that most users rate it a one, i.e. terrible. While it is quite terrible, with next to no production values (and it could very well have been made by Ed Wood, who "wrote" it; in fact, I'd classify it as an Ed Wood movie), A.C. Stephen's "Orgy of the Dead" is often at least extremely entertaining; that is, it's entertaining to those who enjoy pure schlock when they see it. If nothing else, this movie offers non stop schlock, ranging from actors who cannot act (but who spout inanely quotable lines, nevertheless), strippers who can't dance, and effects which are anything but special. Because the schlockiness of it is often quite hilarious, I'd thus be inclined to rate it rather higher than a one. Also, to be taken into consideration is that when this was made, it was meant to serve no other purpose than as something to be projected on to the screen at various grindhouse theaters across the country at a time just prior to the advent of harder porno theaters. Hence, it's a relic of an earlier era than our own, serving a kind of sociohistorical value, as well; perhaps it belongs, along with all of the Ed Wood canon in the Smithsonian?
Krippendorf's Tribe (1998)
A waste of a good cast
This could have been pretty funny, actually. Richard Dreyfuss, Natasha Lyonne, and Jenna Elfman are among the various talents assembled here to tell the story of Dr. Krippendorf, a university anthropology professor who creates a hoax by claiming to have "discovered" an unusual stone age tribe (the "shelmikelmu"), and who then must recruit his reluctant children to "portray" the tribe on film, enhancing his relationship with them in the process. Unfortunately, the jokes are few and far between. The problem here is that this movie doesn't know quite what it wants to be - a family oriented comedy or a comedy about a family geared more toward those who might have some notions about the nature of the hoax. The central joke, that those who are in on the hoax are having a hard time sustaining it, gets old quickly. Overall, a disappointment and a waste of a good cast. This might have worked much better had it been done as vehicle for the broader comedic talents of Jim Carrey, and done in a much more over the top manner; it could have been a fine send-up, in the manner of the slapstick comedies of the past, of our own culture's pretensions. Rating = 3/10
What a waste! This movie could have really been something decent, but the writing, in particular, is crap, and the main characters are rather shallow and uninteresting. Mike Meyers was good, and the historical recreation of late 70s decadence was well crafted, but overall, this movie was a big waste of time. Instead, the movie to watch, that deals with similar themes and the same basic time frame, is the great BOOGIE NIGHTS.
Barton Fink (1991)
a great, multidimensional work of art
I love this film. Along with FARGO and MILLER'S CROSSING, it represents the Coen Brothers at their finest; like MILLER'S CROSSING, it is rooted in something of an underside of American history, presenting the past in rich, historical detail; like FARGO, it mixes the mundane with the comically absurd and moves along on the kind of nervous energy as personified by Turturro here (and by both Macy and Buscemi in FARGO). Others here have commented on the fine performances of Michael Lerner and John Goodman, and I agree - they enhance the film greatly. John Turturro is also perfectly cast, as are John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub, and Judy Davis. But for me, what really makes this a great work of art is that it so open to varying interpretations such that each later viewing is, in a sense, a new experience. What can be made of the Charlie character, i.e., the "everyman," given what we come to learn about him, for instance? Or of the relationship of the artist to the everyman? Or artist to businessman? The answers are not always so obvious. I grade this a perfect 10/10.
a surrealist masterpiece
David Lynch came to a film with a background in painting, and here he reveals a stunning visual imagination to depict the surreally nightmaresque existence of Henry, a lonely factory worker and father of a deformed, amphibian-like monster with whom he lives. In the meantime, the monster's mother, Mary, has returned to the bizarre circumstances of her freakish family, and Henry, in turn, sits within his dark, squalid apartment, contemplating the specter of the strange, grinning puffy cheeked lady in the radiator and feeling hapless about the child. Yet, a brief description of the key elements of this great film fails to do justice to Lynch's mesmerizing vision, arguably the greatest piece of cinematic surrealism since Dali and Bunuel's shorter "Un Chien Andaleu." Wildly funny and mind-blowingly original, Eraserhead is fully deserving of its status as a movie masterpiece. Rating = 10/10
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
One of the most terrifying films of all time
This is my favorite horror film of all time, and one of my favorite movies, period. I watch it at least once or twice a year, and continue to enjoy it very much, year after year. Horror films so often disappoint me and so often fail to live up to their potential; Night of the Living Dead never does. I suppose what most makes this movie work as well as it does is the nightmarish atmosphere which George Romero and company managed to create. The tension inside the farm house feels so real that we, the viewers, are sucked right in. As the undead attacking the house multiply, and as the humans inside suffer various mishaps and are, ultimately, unable to pull together so as to survive, we come to share in their despair. As many times as I've seen this, the final scenes always manages to bring me down. And yet, the ending is so perfect, in that it brings the film's bleak tone to full circle.
I was fortunate enough to have seen this great movie when it first came out, and on a drive-in movie screen, no less. If only more horror movies could accomplish half of NOTLD's effectiveness, they would be so much more worthwhile.