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Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Wildly overrated cliche'd claptrap
The plaudits given this piece of garbage are 100% politically motivitated. That Sevigny was NOMINATED for an Oscar is a total travesty. Swank's performance IS excellent, but the flaws of her felonious character are totally glossed over and the homophobic cliches are inserted for maximum impact. This is a political diatribe masquerading as a movie.
Exit to Eden (1994)
Whimsical and breezy adult fun
Taken on its own merits, absent of critical harangue and political implications, this is another breezy Garry Marshall serio-comedy which causes some self-examination along the way to many fine laughs. Rosie's fantasy to have her house painted is among the funniest things i've ever seen on film. I thought the contrast of the interplay between Mercurio and Delaney and between Ackroyd, O'Donnell and the crooks was expertly handled. I think Americans aren't used to the S&M subject being so cavalierly and matter-of-factly handled and objected to having it trivialized -- a shame, because most couples I know have enjoyed this comedy on its own merits.
Tennessee Johnson (1942)
Still-relevant Americana well told
The story of the first US president to be impeached gets the Hollywood treatment. It is superbly acted although glossed up quite a bit. Some of Johnson's flaws are exposed, but not nearly as many as are excused. Barrymore's Stevens is terrifyingly brilliant. This is an art that Hollywood used to excel at -- telling history in an interesting and mostly factual matter without the need to flaunt the director's abject cynicism.
Brennan never better
Walter Brennan set a standard for supporting actors with this perfect equine movie. You actually believe that the 38-year-old Brennan is a wizened 68-year-old track veteran. Young Loretta is equally winning in her starring debut. This is the classic movie that all the cliches copied.
Stultifyingly, stupefyingly, incredibly, repetitively boring. Russell Crowe does what he can, but is eaten alive by the film's own scope and special effects. Bigger than life and 100 times more boring. Some clever lines and interesting supporting characters are laid to waste by a singular effort to win a Best Special Effects Oscar. In a word -- boring.
Murder in a Small Town (1999)
A fun made-for-TV period piece
Nothing too heavy, but a wonderful romp into the late 1930's. An A&E murder mystery true to all the marvelous classic conventions with fine performances by all. Plenty of humor, good feeling, and eccentric characterizations more than make up for a rather spartan plot. Just relax and enjoy.
Night Shift (1982)
Even fresher and funnier now than when first released
This was one of Howard's early directorial efforts (he even gives himself a Hitchcockian-style cameo in an alley kiss near the beginning), and one of his straight-out funniest. Many have commented on Keaton's top-notch breakout performance -- and it truly is one of the funniest supporting performances since Matthau's Whiplash Willie Gingrich. But, there are many other wonderful tidbits to enjoy thoroughly -- beginning with an incredibly clever script by Ganz and Mandell -- so many classic lines I almost don't know where to begin. Gina Hecht is also magnificently memorable in her supporting role as Winkler's neurotic girlfriend, and Nita Talbot is a gem as the domineering mother. Winkler is perfect as the understated nebbish lead, and the contrast of the low-income realities and the humor found in the script is marvelously unusual in American movies beyond "Little Shop of Horrors". In fact, the movie deftly blends reality and absurdity in a manner few have succeeded at. Finally, the ahead-of-its-time cast includes Shannen Doherty as a junior girl scout, Richard Belzer as a grotesque gangster pimp, Kevin Costner as a frat boy, Clint Howard (Ron's younger brother who starred in Gentle Ben and a classic Star Trek episode) as Keaton's first limo customer, Murphy Brown's Pat Corley as Hecht's father, and Ghost's Vincent Schiavelli as an obnoxious deliveryman. And, I do disagree with mainstream thought that Shelley Long was miscast -- she actually imbues her character with some underappreciated mannerisms that ring very true for me that transcend the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold cliche. All in all, a funny and harrowing film much better than it is generally given credit for.
Le voyou (1970)
A whirligig of clever suspense and droll humor
Lelouche and Trintignant combine for a deft, lighter touch than their normal weighty collaborations. Full of wry touches, there is never a pause in the mind's contribution and nothing conventional to help you catch your breath. This is the kind of movie that you wish Hollywood could make but it never does, full of layers of complexity and wit, this mini-masterpiece improves with each repeated viewing.
The Trouble with Angels (1966)
Convent-school comedy actually gets better with age
One of my favorites when I was 15, I love this even more now. The movie is whimsical and reverent without being sappy or silly. Some marvelous wit, and surprisingly subtle lampooning of convention. The cameos of Gypsy Rose Lee, Jim Hutton, and Ronnie Troup are all hoots. And June Harding almost manages to steal the film from Ms. Russell and Ms. Mills. Jim Boles, Mary Wickes, and Binnie Barnes are also hysterical in their supporting roles. Good fun and good life lessons for the entire family.
Extraordinary time capsule of quiet desparation
A humorous examination of quiet desperation among homely misfits in a Bronx that no longer exists. Fascinating exploration of the struggle to overcome pride and defense mechanisms to struggle for some small measure of happiness and companionship. Borgnine's Oscar was well-deserved for imbuing the hapless butcher with empathy and heart. And Betsy Blair is outstanding as the shy schoolteacher who isn't the "dog she thinks she is."
The Men (1950)
Great psychological character study
Brando scores big, and Wright matches him scene for scene. The tragedies of post-war disabilities are examined unflinchingly by Zinneman in this no-punches-pulled drama. Paul Stewart and Jack Webb are superb in supporting roles. Brando takes us right inside his character and never lets go. This is a movie that should be seen with and discussed by the whole family as it honestly discusses the horrors of daily life.
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Devastatingly True In Its Characterizations and Script
Frederick March has never been better. Harold Russell is devastatingly on the mark. Dana Andrews is heart-rending. When I first saw this I was expecting, rah-rah, go yanks! This movie is anything but, one of the most thoughtful postwar essays ever compiled by Hollywood, hard-edged and blunt at the same time. This should be seen by every teenager who thinks there may be a glamorous aspect to war, or to life for that matter.
American Beauty (1999)
Original work of genius
Mendes has a tough act to follow after pouring all of his genius into this effort. Spacey does it again as the prototypical purveyor of the distorted 90's version of the American Dream. Drawing from his brilliant characters in Glengarry Glen Ross, Midnight..., and Swimming With Sharks, Spacey has cemented his position as the definitive anti-hero of his era. Annette Bening gets more magnificent with each performance, and the kids in the supporting roles are totally believable.
I am surprised that Hollywood decided to honor such an anti-American-dream movie at its Oscar ceremonies (not nearly as important as the Indies these days) but I suppose that even a stopped clock is right twice per day.
One True Thing (1998)
Zellweger is a revelation
Although Meryl Streep is excellent as the mother, Renee Zellweger is unbelievably magnificent as the career-minded daughter who journeys from castigating her mother's domesticity to truly revering it. In the process, she learns much about the shortcomings of men, and what we can and cannot demand from life. An excellent slice-of-life film, with wry humor, from beginning to end, is worth recommending to everyone.
Air Force One (1997)
Typically stupid Hollywood action film
Gary Oldham's brilliant acting as the terrorist and Xander Berkeley and William H. Macy as Secret Service agents are the only reasons to see this contrived mess. The president of the United States as an action hero??? Give me a break, please. Glenn Close is laughable as the concerned Vice President, and Ford's fighting scenes are ludicrous. Will someone tell this man that: 1) he is too old for these roles,; and 2) the Cold War is over.
Lone Star (1996)
A thinking person's modern western
This is a well told modern western. Antihero Cooper has had to contend with his larger-than-life father for his entire life. Despite his mixed feelings, he winds up following in his footsteps as town sheriff. But a dig at a construction site leads to more digging into forbidden pasts. Taut throughout. he chemistry between Cooper and Pena is truly sizzling and the movie never strikes a false note. Kristofferson, Huddleston, and Morton are all superb in supporting roles. This is another Sayles masterpiece that could never be created in a Hollywood studio.
Flirting with Disaster (1996)
Ben Stiller's a Comic Genius
Stiller is the movie and the movie is Stiller. Leona lends a helping hand and both pair of sitcom parents are hysterical, but Stiller shows his true comic genius in this film. The man is a true auteur waiting to explode on the world. Even in such forgettable films as Mystery Man and When Lucy Fell, the man''s genius was evident. In this frantic comedy, it never strikes a false note. This had me in stitches from beginning to end
Howards End (1992)
The best movie I have ever seen
This is the most well-acted, well-directed, and well-scripted movie I have ever seen. The nuances of every character, no matter how minor, unfold beautifully, in a symphony of pure artistry personified. This is the ultimate thinking person's movie -- the type that Hollywood continues to insist we are all too dumb to appreciate while they go on making Die Hard 75. If you treasure originality of thought and great acting, this film is definitely a must-see.
The Champ (1979)
Gentle updating of classic story
Zefferelli's masterpiece went unappreciated in 1979, and is just now being re-discovered. This is a truly special piece of cherished Americana. Jon Voight gives a brilliantly understated performance in the title role and is well supported by the always-brilliant Faye Dunaway, but the true star of this masterpiece is Ricky Schroeder in the Jackie Cooper role as the boy. For a child actor, his range of emotions and abilities to portray pathos are stunning.
Really stupid and gory excuse for a comedy
Even by Hollywood standards, this is one of the stupidest and excessively gory movies ever made. Some of the most talented actors in history including James Earl Jones, Robert Shaw, Peter Boyle, Tom Berrenger, and Beau Bridges combine to make one of the stupidest and bloodiest "comedies" ever to darken the screen. I cannot believe that James Goldstone directed this mess. And if he really did, he should have had the good taste to credit it to Alan Smithee.
Biting satire at its finest
Santa Rosa, California, is the true star of this great satire. Barbara Feldon is magnificent as the hard-hearted pageant dominatrix. And Bruce Dern, is the true suburban everyman. Nicholas Pryor, Michael Kidd, and Geoffrey Lewis are all brilliant in their cynical supporting roles. But, the contestants steal the show -- especially Melanie Griffith, Joan Prather, Colleen Camp, Maria O'Brien, and Annette Toole.
Magnum Force (1973)
A man's go to know his limitations
One of the all-time great quotes from a very taut movie that skillfully blends action, dialogue, and message. The second Dirty Harry effort, both chronologically and quality-wise -- although Enforcer is also very good. Young David Soul and Robert Urich are wonderful in their supporting roles, as are Felton Perry and Albert Poppa. But Hal Holbrook's masterful presence nearly steals the entire movie.
Brian's Song (1971)
A made-for-TV classic
Start with the great musical score, add magnificent performances by the two leads and the entire supporting cast, an inspirational story, and great directing from Buzz Kulik, then add a terrific script. The result is the greatest made-for-TV movie of all time. The comraderie is exceptional, the dialogue is phenomenal, and every relationship rings true,
A Lion Is in the Streets (1953)
American political corruption -- well acted & well-told
The knock on this movie is that it isn't All The King's Men -- no this is a different movie, and Barbara Hale's character is much feistier than Anne Seymour's. But, Cagney has the measure of his character and plays the role for everything it is worth. The supporting cast does a good job in an overlooked and insightful slice of our American heritage.