[at the pictures with Jessamyn]
a selective look at what I've been looking at

Short List

Book of Life
Run Lola Run
The Matrix
SLC Punk
The Winslow Boy
The Full Monty
Lock, Stock &
Two Smoking Barrels
Hard Core Logo
A Civil Action
Wind in the Willows
Singin' in the Rain

Pending Reviews

The Unbelievable Truth
Music of Chance
Romy & Michelle &c.
A Bug's Life
Men in Black
Mystery Men

Book of Life was initially done for French television. This explains why it is only an hour long. It was also shot entirely digitally and then placed on film which explains why it is so effects-heavy. Basic plot is that Jesus comes back to the world [to Manhattan, of course] on December 31, 1999 to open the seven seals [which are all virtually on a powerbook] and start the end of the world. But he's grouchy and doesn't want to. The devil is there too in his last ditch effort to get some more souls. Age old conflict between good and evil, you know the story. It's sortof Hartley-esque and there's some good bits of dialogue interchange [and PJ Harvey as Mary Magdalene, Jesus's sidekick who needs to eat a sandwich] but not as classy as some Hartley creations and definitely not as much plot as others. Then again, if I knew more about the Bible, I might find that the film was full of subtle innuendoes and other neat touches. As it stands, it was beautiful to watch and somewhat of a letdown in the plot and character development aspects.

I got to see Run Lola Run at a special sneak preview late at night at a movie theater where the guy who ran the place let his friends in for free and we could all bring in beer and cigarettes. Hoo Boy! I think this added to my enjoyment of the whole experience, but even so, this is a very enjoyable movie. Fun, fast, and interesting. Lola has 20 minutes to raise about $60,000 so her boyfriend won't get killed by the drug dealers, or go rob a department store. The first time she tries to do it, running all the way, she winds up getting killed [or he does, I'm a bit foggy on the sequence now]. Either way, she gets to do it over again, trying different stuff. Eventually she gets it right. The movie has a lot of loud techno-y music as a soundtrack and a lot of neat little side bits like seeing what happens in the future to people who help or hinder her progress. There's an underlying karmic payback feel to it -- the times she is cooler to people, she seems to do better -- which was my favorite part.

Oh I get it, The Matrix is a karate movie! I enjoyed it anyhow. As long as no one has told you that the philosophy behind it is really thought-provoking ["whoa man, like what if the reality that we think is the real reality isn't real, y'know?"], it's a fun sci fi romp. Keanu isn't over-challenged with the role and except for a dumb-ass love scene at the end where the kick-ass female reveals her softer side, there are good roles for girls! I was a bit dismayed that they didn't do anything a bit more sophisticated with the plot, but not suprised, it wasn't PK Dick after all.

Real anarchists will hate SLC Punk. They will also hate the PR for this movie and the very unsubtle "punkers are posers" message. The weird thing is that the director of the movie is a punk music fan himself and the movie does have a great soundtrack with a lot of punk cred. However, the two main characters are partying losers who play the "anarchy card" whenever they need to explain why they are drinking too much, beating people up or generally misbehaving. While these guys have a lot of energy, they have no real knowledge of anarchist politics, just what the Sex Pistols said about it. This movie telegraphs its every move with heavy-handed foreshadowing of the "Wish I'd known then how much trouble I'd get in..." variety and has a bit too much annoying voice over. And, the premise of the movie "Anarchy in the land of Zion" falls flat. The resistance these kids encounter has very little to do with the hyper-religiosity of Salt Lake and more to do with your standard fear-of-what's-different. More Utah, less Punks!

When Margaret told me we were going to see The Winslow Boy by Mamet I quick looked it up on IMDB to see if there would be any insane violence or nastiness. What I found out was that the film was rated G. I don't think I've seen a G rated movie since Benji. I was hesitant to say the least. Turns out, it's one of those old-timey movies where people talk a lot. And they talk about things like honor and dignity and so forth. Usually in Victorian era movies this kind of stuff bores me to tears because the discussions are all about taboos and repressed desires. In this case they talk about the Winslow Boy who may or may not have stolen a postal order from his military school. His case is taken on by an arrogant lawyer who is watched carefully by the family especially the elder daughter -- herself a suffragist -- as his fees nearly bankrupt them. More interesting than it sounds. Go see it.

I should know by now that if the entire country thinks a movie is a scream, or heartwarming or {insert positive adjective here}, I will probably be disappointed with it, it's just my way. The Full Monty was nice and fun and fun and nice and a good way to spend a few hours, but not a great wayu to spend a few hours. It was very predictable, with not a lot of character development and after all that ... after all the buildup ... there is no dick whatsoever in this film. If I had known that, I might have stopped watching it sooner. I mean, I already knew how it ended, who didn't?

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels spent a long time threatening to become one of those sadistic amateur outlaw type of movies. Every time they were trying to illustrate how bad the bad guys were and there was some guy suspended from the celing or getting golf balls chipped off his face, I would wince and glimpse through my fingers. The body count in this movie is high, but the comic relief also is too. This created some odd audience moments as people are getting beaten within an inch of their life and the audience is simply cracking up. A bit tough for me to take, but I think if I had less coffee and more food, I would have enojyed this movie a whole lot more. Note to feminists: there is exactly one female with a speaking part and while she does have one good bad-ass scene, this is a high testosterone kinda flick. No romantic interests whatsoever, for anyone.

After spending almost an hour in the video store [never go in if you are too hungry to make a reasonable decision] I came home with Hard Core Logo some alleged Spinal Tap type road movie. Very heavy graphics on the outside, looked maybe schlocky, maybe okay. In fact, it turned out to be the best movie of '99 so far. Very gritty and real with enough funny parts to not just make you completely upset and as bored as our heroes: a reunited punk band on the road for one final gig. They're all a bit older and a bit weirder and they don't quite enjoy sleeping on the floor of the tour bus like they used to. One of them has even sort of "made it big" in a pop band [read: sell out]. There is some great acting in this movie and it's amazing how much realism you can fit into a fake documetary.

I just sort of wonder if you should just expect all Hollywood movies to suck in that same overly dramatic big hero dumb guy way. I was looking forward to A Civil Action partly because I'd read the book [dumb, I know] and partly because I do kinda like John Travolta and those bastards at Grace Chemical had poisoned the well in the town I went to high school with. It also spawned some interesting web sites including civil-action.com [by WR Grace] and civilaction.org [by some chemical company apologists]. So, the movie was heavy in that exact way all courtroom dramas are: here are the leatherbound volumes, here are the marble columns, here are the halls of justice... and even with Danny Elfman doing the music, it came off schmaltzy. Travolta is good, Duvall is great, there's some interesting unexplored class issues at work here, but I'll just stick to the book.

I was really cynical when I sat down to watch Flirting. Good looking boys and girls fooling around with eachother in the carefully controlled atmosphere of an Australian boarding school. Ho Hum. Merchant Ivory. Turned out to be a pretty interesting view of human nature, with a quiet kind of peacefulness about it that was somewhat entrancing. Also starring Nicole Kidman as The Bitchy Girl With a Heart of Gold.

Wind in the Willows saved me when I lived in Romania and was running out of books to read at the JFK Memorial Library. A bookstore opened up in Bucharest that was selling Penguin titles for pretty danged cheap and I bought WitW and it was my late night read-out-loud book. It was a glorous change from the James Michener and Joyce Carol Oates that I had been reading. So, I saw the movie. I liked it but didn't love it. I get bugged by children's movies that are violent. I enjoyed the weasels. I thought there was too much Mr. Toad and not enough of the hedgehogs. I don't think I'd see it again, but I enjoyed it once, even if maybe it's only cuz I'm remembering Romania..

I had no idea that Singin' in the Rain had any plot at all. I think I just thought it was a buncha guys tap dancing in the rain [which has had milk added to it to make it show up on film, yuck!]. I watched it on Thanksgiving as a part of my friends' annual tradition. I'm not usually one for musicals, but this one was kinda interesting. it had all the archetypes: the alpha male, the tried and true friend who is everyone's doormat, the dizzy blonde, the semi-proper non-blonde who is the actual love interest, the patriarchy, the works. I have been trying to work through the backlog of pre-1960's films that I never saw. This was a good place to start. it's fun watching a movie about people that are good at something other than blowing things up and hollering at eachother.

Second in my series of movies about child molestation is The Celebration. It's a story about one of those awful family patriarchies -- everyone's getting together for the Dad's 60th birthday, lots of pomp and circumstance, truly miserable. Then the eldest son gets up to give a toast and sarcastically thanks his father for years of sexual abuse he endured as a child. No one knows what to make of this, but they stoically muddle through the rest of the five course meal. Things get better and they get worse. There's a long drunken dancing scene. Party games are played. Everyone grapples withthe revelations in different ways. The film is great and it's an exercise in film purity: it's shot using no added lighting or sound, only handheld camera shots and no murders. The director is part of a group of filmmakers who try to counter “certain tendencies” in the cinema today, i.e. the Hollywoodification of filmmaking and the subsequent drop in quality. The group, Dogme 95 has created a manifesto of this film purity that they try to adhere to. The film is not only a great film, it's a successful exercise which makes it doubly good.

Here's what's worth mentioning about Happiness: there's two kind of people who will like this film. People who say "Oh, that's sick" and people who say "Oh that's sad." The movie is loosely about people and their various perversions [in some, the perversion is just a demented need to be normal] and how it helps them or hinders them from mingling with the rest of society. I'm in the "that's sad" camp and didn't laugh through this movie like most of the rest of the audience did. I found it poignant how removed many of the characters were from basic human interactions, and how it seemed to affect them. The pedophilia stuff, to me, is secondary. For many people, it won't be. My other main observation is that this flick is a transition movie from the Epoch of Puke to the Epoch of Come. It has both, hopefully succeeding movies will have only the latter. There's only so much on-screen vomit one person can take.

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