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Why Sam Jackson?
16 January 2018
This is an essential documentary at the right time, introducing the great writer and cultural activist, who had fallen into semi-obscurity, to many new minds. The footage of James Baldwin's public speaking is riveting and as timely as can be. Hopefully it will send many fans of this highly-acclaimed documentary to his brilliantnovels, plays, and essays.

The big problem I had with the movie is the choice of Samuel Jackson as narrator, speaking Baldwin's words in a croaky, raspy voice that was as far from Baldwin's precise diction as can be imagined. Maybe that was the point, but it grated on me every time I heard it.
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Happy Valley (2014– )
Ironic title
8 August 2017
Probably the most ironic title ever, considering how depressing this UK policer is. That said, it features one of the greatest lead characters and performance thereof. Sergeant Catherine Cawood is compelling, believable, heroic, competent, troubled, and utterly human as she goes about her duties in what appears to be a bucolic town that is plagued with all the evils we find in every metropolis today. Her courage, heart, and empathy is the theme of this violent drama, as in many great cop shows, she is the thin blue line against the evil that lurks in the hearts of men and women...
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Ina Clair magnificent
18 April 2017
Fredric March may have gotten the Oscar nom playing Tony, the most histrionic of the fabulously emotive Cavendish family of Broadway stars, but Ina Clair should have copped the statuette. The film's pedigree is impeccable: Cukor directing, a dynamic screenplay from Herman Mankiewicz from the play by Kaufman and Ferber, running the gamut from hilarious to deeply touching. Ina Clair, who was only in 12 films and whom I don't know, has the funniest lines and the beautifully sad and triumphant final shot. I don't know what formats this fine film is in, but it is posted on YouTube.
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The Zookeeper (2001)
Another 10 for Sam Neill
30 March 2017
Last year (2016) I happened to see Sam Neill in 3 different vehicles, and he was awesome in all: Peaky Blinders, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and The Zookeeper. I would be hard-pressed to say which I liked better, or which he was better in. Suffice to say, his stature as an actor took a quantum leap in my estimation. I highly recommend all three, although Peaky Blinders is quite violent, and also an ongoing mini-series with the attendant time commitment (Come on, Season Four!!) The Zookeeper is heartbreaking, and I wept for humans and animals alike.
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Wiccans vs Christians
27 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
So what this film is basically saying is that the Salem witch trials were in fact legitimate.

The women accused actually did perform supernatural acts that were, if not evil, then at least hateful.

I see the popularity of this film as a case of atheists/pagans/wiccans reveling in their assumed power and "demonizing" the sanctimony of the Christian establishment.

The witches' power when it is finally revealed is awful and in fact seems to justify the longstanding superstitions about witches and satanic practices. I know there are "good witches" and "bad witches" (I saw "Wizard of Oz") but there is only evil in this film. If it has a meaning or a message, it is that the old superstitions are true.
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Ambiguous title for nightmare allegory
6 March 2014
I'm not sure who wakes in fright, unless it's the audience of this sneaky descent into Hell. Hell in this case takes the form of a city in the outback whose male population drinks gallons of beer daily, gambles maniacally on a coin-toss bar game, and engages in a nocturnal kangaroo hunt that is both nightmarish and all too real. The only female character is a young nymphomaniac who services a majority of the bestial males.

The narrative arc is allegorically a journey from Purgatory to Hell and back again, taken by a sad and disturbed, albeit very attractive pilgrim who has the intention of going to Sydney to see his lover over Christmas break, from his teacher's "slavery" in an even bleaker Outback whistle- stop. His plans fall through, and his stay in "the Yabba" quickly devolves into a fly-infested beer-drenched dead-end from which escape looks increasingly futile.

I would consider this one of Ted Kotcheff's most creative and disturbing efforts, up there with my favorites "North Dallas Forty" and "Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz," and it certainly fits in with any discussion of Ozploitation "classics" of the '70s.
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A bit of a goof intended to be unpopular
18 March 2013
I agree that "All These Women" is misunderstood, especially if you look at it in the context of Bergman's filmography. He had just completed the "Silence of God" trilogy, one of the deepest, most serious works in the history of cinema. So, cut the man some slack and allow him his lark, his goof, his chance to riff on fans and critics and the illusion of the exalted artist (himself), before returning to his true work with his next film, the universally praised "Persona."

I also think he was a little influenced by "8 1/2" which had come out the year before, appreciating Fellini's playfulness as well as his insight into the creative process and, of course, "all these women." Bergman will always be thought of as a somewhat austere and oft despairing artist, but thankfully we have several films that belie that, like "Smiles of a Summer Night," "The Magician," and this little oddball gem.
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The Show-Off (1926)
Louise lights up the screen
18 March 2011
I also saw this on the DVD double in which it is paired with Clara Bow's "The Plastic Age". That is the one I mainly wanted to see, as I only recently became aware of the incredible talents of Bow in "It" and "Wings". But "The Show Off" was the better of the two, solely for the talent and charisma of Louise Brooks in a supporting role.

I thought of Bix Biederbeck, popular at the same time, the Jazz age of the '20s, in watching Louise in this rather trifling comedy. Bix played in some competent bands, but when he began playing his solo, it had the glitter of a diamond that still has the power to excite to this day and elevated the material to greatness. And Louise Brooks, playing the good and sensible girl next door, has that same brilliant quality in every gesture and expression, however subtle. She would of course go on to star in some much heavier films as a vamp or a "fallen woman" and is considered one of the great silent stars because of those roles, but her early performance here is just a joy to behold.

BTW, Clara Bow is also wonderful in "The Plastic Age". It's a shame that more of her films aren't available for viewing, she was a great actress and a groundbreaking star.
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31 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is like those old slasher movies, where teenagers who engage in lustful sin are going to pay big-time before the end. Except that the transgressor in this case is a rich matron who falls in love with her sensitive son's best friend who sort of I guess falls in love with her too. At least they get it on in all sorts of places, including al fresco amongst a lot of bugs that rate many close-ups. Why Tilda Swinton's "Emma" would appeal to a young handsome Italian boy I couldn't grasp, but I am supportive of cougar fantasies so we'll let that quibble slide. There is a large subplot involving food, both the lovers love to cook you see, and some of it looks good enough to eat. They unfortunately make a huge stupid mistake involving the soup course that sets off a ridiculous tragic turn of events, leading to "Emma" getting "slashed" by being shown the door, expelled from all that wealth and luxury as it were, and where she goes, one may only guess. But it is hinted that not only has she gotten in touch with her inner cougar, but also her inner lesbian, and considering that she is, after all, Love, we all hope she lands on her feet somewhere less opulent but just as sexy.

Perhaps some of the subtleties of this film escaped me, buried under the overly lush swelling score that tried so hard to make dramatic points. There is one point that I took to heart, involving a smarmy cultured Indian-American power broker helping the rich industrialist family move into the 21st century with their textile mill. He hints that even though they sell out to the multi-nationalists, they can still be part of and profit from the global war machine, becoming even richer. This seems to emphasize that "Emma" is much better off making love on the hillside than further luxuriating in such capitalistic decadence.

So whether she ran off and was received rapturously by Antonio was not really an issue for me. The one big question I did come away with, which I would ask some Italian viewer if I cared enough to post a message, is: Did Tilda Swinton speak Italian with a Russian accent? If so, man, what a performance.
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the ultimate trip
28 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Do not see this film because you've heard it's trippy or visually stunning, unless you have some interest in the afterlife as envisioned in the Tibetan Book of the Dead as filtered through the creative mind of Gaspar Noe. In fact, the opening credits are probably the trippiest thing about the whole film and they're over in an amazingly fast two minutes. Again, I don't think even the opening credits were intended to blow the viewer's mind as much as just wake him up for what follows.

And what follows is basically 2.5 hours from the afterlife of Oscar, from his sudden violent death at a young age, through his chances at liberation into the light which he rejects, because of his karma and guilt over how he has f'ed up the lives of all those he supposedly loves or calls friend, and ending in his inevitable rebirth.

The film is an ordeal and many, even those who are interested in the afterlife and "bardo films", may find it hard going. As Oscar's spirit floats overhead into scenes where he sees the past and present of his beloved sister, his friend Alex, his friend Victor whom he has particularly harmed, and others, including what happens to his corpse, the movement is slow and mostly silent, as befits a disembodied, earthbound spirit. These slow overhead shots are punctuated at intervals by several extremely loud, sudden shocks. This might seem gratuitous, but nothing in this film is gratuitous, even the ending, which many would deem pornographic but is entirely consistent with the Tibetan belief in the soul seeking a womb in which to be reborn. The karmic elements of the film are well thought-out, and the film's overall effect and message are profound to the viewer ready to consider them.
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an immersive experience
22 January 2011
I don't know how to begin to "review" this cinematic experience, as I felt immersed in the film rather than trying to get my mind around it entirely. This work is neither an apologia for Hitler and the Third Reich nor a condemnation, but a serious attempt by a true intellectual and film auteur, Syberberg, to look at it ALL from every side, the horror and evil as well as the cultural, historical, and philosophical foundations of Hitler and the German people.

The film is subtitled "A Film From Germany" because it is plumbs not only the depths of Nazism and World War II but the entire German psyche. It attempts to present, through hard facts, historical documents, films and photographs, and also through dream, metaphor, and stunningly haunting tableaux, what Hitler really MEANT and what he continues to mean. There are many excellent actors portraying both well-known figures like Himmler and lesser known individuals like Hitler's valet who relate what might seem like endless minutiae of Hitler's daily life but do add a great deal to the ultimate picture of the man about whom so much has been written. It seems that if you don't revile him completely, even today, you are suspected of being a neo-fascist yourself, but this film attempts to offer a complete picture and by extension, a baring of the German soul and what is referred to on several occasions as their "happy guilt".

One issue I have is with the English subtitles. There are so many typographical and spelling errors that one could only call it sloppy. I don't know why a film of this magnitude that took so long coming to home video shouldn't have had more scrupulous editing. Considering how many talking heads there are in the film and the volume of exposition, it was hard enough to keep up with the subtitles without stumbling over the mistakes. On the plus side, there is a lot of English voice-over that provides some breathing space for us Anglos.

And one last comment on the historical context. Considering the film was made in 1977, 34 years ago, much has changed in the world, in Europe, and in the global culture, that the film presciently hints at, not the least of which is the continued emergence of Germany and Japan both economically and democratically. One important point "Our Hitler" made was that Hitler was probably the apotheosis of democracy, rising as he did from the middle class and glorifying the common people, and being democratically elected by them. What he did with that mandate was probably the most horrifying and endlessly fascinating stories of the 20th century.
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brave and haunting
10 January 2011
First, let me say that this is viewable on and that I've been wanting to see it for many years, so godbless streaming video! I've not read the notoriously difficult novel, not that that would have helped me appreciate the film. But appreciate it I did, even though I only "got" about half of it. Fortunately, the film is subtitled to help understand Joyce's incredibly dense and inventive language, but I noticed that often HEARING it was easier than reading it, and have heard that if you attempt to read the book, that reading it aloud reveals Joyce's endless puns and run-on words more clearly. About the film visually, one must give many props to Ms. Bute for the haunting dream imagery and her choice of "Passages" to try to convey the flavor and narrative of the whole. After viewing, I referred to the introduction in Joseph Campbell's "Skeleton Key to Finnegan's Wake", which gave me a bit more insight into the characters and the story.
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Californication (2007–2014)
the dark side
13 December 2010
Yes, it's hip, hilarious and hot, but I've just finished watching season 3 and it's taken such a dark turn that I don't care about pursuing the messed-up life of Hank Moody any further. It's always been about waiting for the man's comeuppance, which he finally gets, after all the witty, often brilliant quips and conversations, the casual sex everywhere he goes, nonstop alcohol, tobacco and ganja, and the kind of fun in the sun lifestyle many people envision of So-Cal in general and the L.A. movie community specifically.

I never really picked up on the Bukowski connection but now I see it, except that Buke and Moody aren't the only writers in the history of Hollywood who drink heavily and lead with their lines and their lust. I mean, there are some clues that the creator of the series is a Bukowski fan, so maybe it's more of a horny homage.

I would say that the series has gotten progressively darker, as it should given the serious flaws that Hank Moody has to deal with and work through, and that has been balanced by the hilarious lines and dialog, but has come to a screeching halt at the end of season 3. I see the series is projecting a season 4, which looks like will deal with Hank losing everything, which, as much as I kinda like the guy, he richly deserves.
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The Wire (2002–2008)
the British Connection
19 October 2010
I can't really review this series because I'm currently viewing it for the first time on DVD, and am in the middle of the 3rd season. I had always heard how great it was and I have to say that, so far, it's all that!

I made the mistake of re-watching an episode in the 2nd season to listen to the commentary by Dominic West and the actor that plays Omar, and boy, was I shocked when I heard West's British accent. I thought it was a put-on until I read his bio on IMDb, and frankly, it almost ruined the series for me until I got over it and appreciated the amazing character and all-American accent that he created. Still it's hard to believe when I hear McNulty speak.

Next I found out that Idris Elba is also British. His portrayal of Stringer Bell, so pitch perfect like most of the characters and actors involved with this production, is even more laudable from an English actor. Ripping job, lads!
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2 Ways of Looking at "All The Way"
2 October 2010
Besides just the title change between the Australian release and the rest of the world, this is a film that obviously stirred up a lot of controversy and passion in Australia, given the reviews posted below. Quite understandable, given the political and social portraits it painted, very sharply and yet with great humor. (My favorite laugh: not even spoken, the newspaper headlines in the street when the "incident" becomes full-blown: "Regrets: He Has a Few" Ha!) And also that the Aussies know Bob Hawke and some of the other characters, and remember this outrageous incident well, and the rest of the world doesn't.

I found it to be a little gem of a film that I just discovered in my ongoing drive to see more Hopper films and revisit some that I hadn't seen since the '60s and '70s. And Hopper's performance as Sinatra was not the least of its charms: the romance and tribulations of the eminently likable promoter Rod Blue (who could forget that name?) and the utterly charming Audrey had that light touch of Hollywood and still the honest edge of Australian films.

Melanie Griffin is fully typecast as Barbara Marx and her complex and yet vapid relation with Sinatra is pathetic at first and gradually becomes a thing of warmth and understanding. The dramatic arc just really worked for me, although I kept thinking "How much of this really happened? They couldn't make up stuff about FRANK SINATRA, for crying out loud!"
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Out of the Darkness (1985 TV Movie)
tone-perfect docu-drama
5 May 2009
Most negative comments on docu-dramas usually focus on factual inaccuracies, which is certainly valid. My highest rating for this intense TV movie is based entirely on the dramatic elements, not knowing all the details of the Son of Sam case myself. There seem to be two camps who "own" the story, the Jimmy Breslin group which includes Spike Lee, who based his "Summer of Sam" film on Breslin's book. Ed Zigo is the hero here, and Breslin is dissed early in the "Out of the Darkness" by the Brooklyn cops who are the focus of this tight and emotionally rewarding film.

As portrayed by Martin Sheen, Ed Zigo's professional and family life is richly revealed. Sheen is completely believable (except probably for those who know Ed Zigo personally), and he sets the acting bar at an extremely high level. The fine supporting cast, led by Elizondo as the aquarium-loving priest, are up to the task. The script is as naturalistic and engrossing as any you will find in a TV movie, and the outstanding location shooting add to the pitch-perfect atmosphere.

When you see the real-life hero of the film listed as the technical adviser, you always suspect he or she is going to be shown in a positive if not downright glorified way. I don't need to know Ed Zigo to know that this is a truly great film, made-for-TV or not, with real drama, suspense, fascinating characters, and large emotional rewards.
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a matter of life and ?
12 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As far as Charlie Kaufman scripts go, this one has the distinction of being both the most ambitious and, paradoxically, the slightest in terms of what he really has to say. All of his films (and he is one whose name on the screenplay makes the film as much his as the director's) ask big questions about life: the meaning of evolution (Human Nature), the essence and power of creativity (Adaptation), memory and romance (Eternal Sunshine), fame and identity (John Malkovich, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.) With Synecdoche, he grapples with all of these themes and, unlike these other great films, comes up short in both entertainment and edification.

It's not so much nihilism or existentialism that drives Kaufman's narrative here, as much as incomprehension of what the world really means. In the face of attachment and loss, egomania, sexuality, aging, sickness, and death, the character of Caden is as helpless to believe in an afterlife as he is to form a coherent narrative for his own life. That is why the ending is so extremely unsatisfying. This film has been compared to some of Lynch's later works; nothing could be farther from the truth. David Lynch has a clear vision of the meaning and reality of the "afterlife" and has the courage to show that it is both terrifying and supremely important. Kaufman simply shows us that after all that confusion, self-pity, and fear that was Caden's life, death is a FADE TO WHITE. While that may make small-minded people comfortable, and that he died in the arms of a compassionate woman, it is a lie and a cop-out. The soul formerly known as Caden Cotard didn't appear to work a lot of karma out in that particular lifetime. And still has demons of his own creation to face in the bardos.

The central character of Caden Cotard lives 90% above the neck, intellectualizing everything, communicating information and his own feelings poorly, to the point of scaring his daughter when he's trying to comfort her. And yet he is looked upon as a creative genius, for his "bold" twist on "Death of a Salesman," and pursued by attractive young women for some strange reason. Because he is married he seems to have a moral code but it is weak and relative to the situation. When he begins his magnum opus, the parallel to Fellini's "8 1/2" becomes obvious, except that where Mastroianni's sex appeal is potent and his creative crisis sympathetic, Hoffman's is pathetic and would be laughable if Kaufman hadn't lost his sense of humor somewhere in the conception and realization of this film.

Kaufman surrounds his alter ego with several of the most talented actresses working today and yet because their characters are living in some desperate reality pursuing their own dimly recognized needs, or in the even more desperate fantasy world generated by Kaufman/Cotard, they do not connect with any truth. Even so, Samantha Morton must be singled out for another brilliant performance, particularly for the way she conveys both youth and old age.
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Buddhist take
10 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The print ads and many reviews proclaim "Happy-Go-Lucky" as cheerful, uplifting, light-hearted, hilarious, etc. I was almost expecting a movie like "Smiley Face" without the drugs, or a modern day Hayley Mills in "Pollyanna." But Mike Leigh is a serious filmmaker with a clear eye toward the human condition, and has created a marvelously rich film that is more than meets the eye.

Poppy, as portrayed by Sally Hawkins, is no Pollyanna despite her upbeat demeanor. She, like her creator Leigh, has no illusions about human nature and its dark side, but has consciously chosen to face it not just with optimism and cheer, but with a deep compassion for the suffering and delusions of others. In this she is more bodhisattva than cockeyed optimist, able to help some but not others.

And what a fascinating lot of others she encounters-- family, friends, strangers, students, and ultimately a lover, all of whom are so real they are not movie characters in a conventional sense but simply the passing parade of souls that we all have in our lives. And by the same token, "Happy-Go-Lucky" is not a typical narrative story, but an oh-so-real slice of Poppy's, and our, life.

As a very real 30-year-old complete with age-specific foolishness, Poppy also challenges the audience's compassion for HER as she lapses into silliness and makes you wonder, like perhaps some of your own friends, why you're hanging with this twit. Then just as quickly we see her real depth, her courage and compassion in the face of the kind of rage and fear that Blake described in his poem "London":

"I wander through each chartered street, Near where the chartered Thames does flow, And mark in every face I meet, Marks of weakness, marks of woe..."

It is to Poppy's credit that she helps when she can, shrugs when she has to, and walks away when faced with a soul so lost that it threatens her own spirit.
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lost masterpiece
12 July 2008
Another masterpiece that needs a DVD release but some libraries have the VHS and well worth seeking out. Just a brilliant play about many things, foremost being euthanasia, "respectability", religion, and fundamental human relationships. The script effectively uses intelligent humor not only to cope with an issue like a severely disabled child, but to bind the parents in their love for "Jo" and each other. As the couple, Alan Bates and Janet Suzman are perfectly matched both in acting virtuosity and in bringing their deep, intelligent characters to life.

I've recently seen Bates' brilliant performance in "Butley" which was released as a film a couple years after "Joe Egg" and he plays a teacher in both, cynical, intellectual, and funny, although Butley is much darker than his character of Bry here. If you throw in such great performances in "The Go-Between", "Women in Love", "Whistle Down the Wind", "The Caretaker" and "Georgy Girl," not to mention the more obvious "King of Hearts" and "Zorba the Greek", and I'd say that Alan Bates had a career comparable to Peter O'Toole, Albert Finney, and the other great British actors of his era.

Director Peter Medak also had one of my all-time favorites "The Ruling Class" released the same year (1972) as "Joe Egg", which comprises a career year in anybody's book. He's had kind of a spotty filmography("The Krays" was another highlight), but these two gems will mark him as a great director.
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The Good Doctor
1 July 2008
This is an absorbing doc not only of the good doc but the whole counterculture that he championed in many ways. For all his excessive lifestyle that became almost a parody of the drug culture, he remained a true intellectual and anti-corruption/hypocrisy crusader. He embraced the vision of a new world not ruled by greed and war-mongering, and as early as 1971 proclaimed his great sadness that the movement and the moment of flower power had passed and with it the chance for sane politics. This moment was captured well in "Where the Buffalo Roam" starring Bill Murray as HST, which is given kind of short shrift in this documentary in favor of scenes from "Fear and Loathing Las Vegas" with Johnny Depp as HST. Considering that Depp produced and narrates the film as well as financed the grandiose send-off that Thompson envisioned for himself, it's not strange that Murray's portrayal would be downplayed, as excellent as it was (and Peter Boyle's as the Samoan lawyer.)

All in all, it is a well-balanced account of Thompson's life and work, with many pertinent interviewees like his two wives and son, Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone, Sonny Barger of the Hell's Angels, Jimmy Buffett, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Pat Buchanan, Tom Wolfe, and various Aspenites. His passion and wit were undeniable, and his addiction to guns, booze and dope were in many ways forgivable. But his absence in today's disastrous political scene, his voice against war and corruption is sorely missed, and lamented by several of the interviewees. The parallels between Nixon and Bush are easily drawn, and "Gonzo" does this without hammering the point home except to exhort the audience to take up the fight that the Good Doctor waged in a seemingly crazy, but noble and honorable way for most of his life.
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waste of time & talent
6 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I suppose like the overappreciated "Run Lola Run" Tykwer's "Perfume" could be considered an exercise in bloated style, full of sound and fury signifying very little. I understand the book was exceedingly well-written but if the film adaptation is faithful, the novel must have been fundamentally ridiculous too. Even if by the wildest imaginative stretch, you believe the premise of "Perfume", that the essence of murdered young women distilled into a perfume has aphrodisiacal and mind-controlling properties, what does it mean? What is the underlying theme of this story? Does it have anything to say about life, love, death? I think not.
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hippie trippy jodorowsky
16 July 2007
After having recently revisited "El Topo" after decades, and seen "Fando and Lis" for the first time, and finally seeing the legendary "Holy Mountain", I have a new appraisal of the unique and yet derivative Jodorowsky. His messianic complex is obvious, and his transfixing performances can be powerful or overbearing. But as a director of his time, he was at the center of an international hippie-trippy school of cinema.

Not that hippie-trippy is a bad thing; I embraced and embrace the path of consciousness-expansion, which now is knee-jerked as the beginning of the druggy society but became a quest for meaning, awareness, and compassion. But when Jodorowsky practically shoves acid caps into the audience's mouths in one scene of "Holy Mountain," he subverts his real message, which is nothing less than his exploration of the (Catholic) church and his vision of the real messiah, and a society that might exist if people followed that light.

So profundity is natural to Jodorowsky as is farce and forced Felliniesque grotesques. "Holy Mountain" can be considered just as a trippy series of elaborate and often dazzling scenes, with random stories from characters from all the planets of the solar system (we're talking trippy!) but is much nobler in intent.

It is obvious that Jodorowsky was influenced by Fellini and Bunuel but also by Kenneth Anger and the NY and SF underground, I imagine "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome" was a big favorite, and Godard was influencing everyone with a political and visual bone, especially with "Weekend" which gave flower power even a greater activist streak. Jodorowsky's contemporary hippie-trippy auteurs were Makavejev with the great "WR: Mysteries of the Orgasm" and the completely outrageous "Sweet Movie"; Conrad Rooks with the serious and stunning "Chappaqua"; "Zachariah", a popular tripping American Western version of "Siddhartha" with a very interesting musical cast; Corman's "The Trip" that I've seen at least a dozen times, most in the late 60s, with the great cast Fonda-Hopper-Dern-Strasberg written by Nicholson on something lysergic; Roeg and Cammell's "Performance" which is as trippy as they come, as scary, as musically intense--sexual gangsterism and repression and true seeking with the aid of a mushroom. And I have to mention Gilliam's high-tech and high-tension "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", with Depp and the good Doctor sizing up the essential consciousness-gap of the 60s, and jointly creating a great document of the fringe of the movement of the mind.

"Holy Mountain" is worth the trip even if Jodorowsky overblows the message and then ends it with a Godardian twist. But the age of Aquarius is STILL dawning, my friends...
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27 April 2007
I can't believe I'm the first person to comment on this 1985 Oscar winning doc, it should be seen by every American. The depth of the tragedy inflicted on the Navajo to this very day by the US Government through the BIA is hard to comprehend. The Euro-American race has long proved its prowess in human rights violations, but there is a particular cruelty in its methods against the Navajo and Hopi nations, who they tried to set against each other in order to pillage the incredible wealth under the land and poison it in the process. It could certainly be construed as torture, with shots of BIA bulldozers destroying even the desert vegetation to deprive the people of their food and medicine. When they could have given them much more than the peanuts (2 to 3% of the value of all that coal, gas, oil, and uranium!!!) and given them a few mesas on which to live their old dignified ways. Which is all they ever really wanted. Exploited for their beautiful weaving and jewelry too, ripped off, people!

The documentary is nearly perfect in execution, with wonderful narration by Martin Sheen and character voices by Buffy St Marie and Burgess Meredith(!). And a special treat for Laura Nyro fans, she wrote and sings an original song, a beautiful piece that weaves in and out of the film. Please watch it.
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Fando and Lis (1968)
his place in cinematic history
12 March 2007
Having seen "El Topo" and "Santa Sangre" (but not "Magic Mountain") I considered Jodorowsky a somewhat unique and insulated auteur, but now that I've seen his debut film, I have an entirely new slant on his work. "Fando and Lis" besides being an audacious and anarchic work, may be considered the "missing link" between Jodorowsky and the iconoclastic and surrealistic masters Bunuel, Fellini, and Cocteau, the 60's underground directors Smith, Anger, Mekas, and Warhol, and the contemporary allegorists Lynch, Miike, and Wong.

Although a bit too long at 3 hours, Jodorowsky's imagery and the balance between tightly composed scenes and complete anarchy kept me interest and often fascinated. And intellectually, there is much to ponder in the symbolism and the powerful exploration of one's sexuality and indeed, mortality, that we all must face.
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Oscar buzz
27 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this movie the night AFTER the Oscars which raised some interesting questions. It was a scathing if hilarious indictment of the entire Hollywood system in general and the Oscars in particular. It was obvious why the Academy completely ignored the movie, but I wondered why host Ellen D. couldn't have gotten in at least one mention of it, as a dig at the system.

The dramatic arc of the film concerns Catherine O'Hara's character, who begins as a well-respected, serious actor who in late career has been reduced to taking minor parts in mediocre movies, and who ends as a botoxed, pompous, frankly insane drama coach because of her obsession with getting an Oscar nomination. The final scene is not only NOT humorous, but is really quite devastating.

Of course the whole thing, like all the other Chris Guest films, is a mostly improvised riff on some American institution with many laughs and bizarre yet recognizable characters. "For Your Consideration" is probably more surreal, dark and cruel than the others, which is appropriate for any movie about movies and the "dream factory," but for me had just as many funny bits as Guest's stock company find the intrinsic humor in their characters. And in O'Hara's case, her performance runs even deeper and sadder than the rest, and should be a lasting icon of Hollywood movie movies like Norma Desmond, whom she greatly resembles by the end.
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