Hamlet 2

2008 future cult classic

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Dana Marschz, a failed commercial actor turned high school drama teacher, sees enrollment for his class increase from two enthusiastic students to a multicultural mix of troublesome, apathetic students. Inspired by Mr. Holland's Opus, Dead Poet's Society, and other feel-good movies involving teachers reaching unreachable students, he decides to change their lives. Making matters more difficult are problems at home and a school budget committee that is threatening to do away with his position entirely. The solution? Penning and producing a politically-incorrect sequel to Hamlet.

Steve Coogan hefts this baby on his shoulders and carries it from beginning to end. I think he's absolutely brilliant here, managing at times to take something that really shouldn't work at all and making it near hilarious with just the right facial expression, physical comedy, or line delivery. I also liked Elizabeth Shue in a self-deprecating role, and I've always sort of had a crush on Catherine Keener even though her role in this is arguably completely unnecessarily. The humor here is as irreverent as it gets. Nothing--Jesus, race relations, motivational "teacher" movies, education--is sacred enough not to be sent to the slaughterhouse. Extraneous sub-plots get in the way, and not every single line works. At times, it feels that the writers are trying a bit too hard. Still, this is one of those deals where there is so much stuffed into the ninety minutes, that you never have to wait very long for something you're going to like. I'd see it again, and I'd probably laugh again, likely at different things that made me laugh the first time. Except for when Steve Coogan's character is up late working on his play and yells at his cat. That is something I'll laugh at every time.

Buster Keaton Saturday: Three Ages

1923 comedy

Rating: 14/20 (Dylan: 11/20; Emma: 16/20; Abbey: 20/20)

Plot: Parallel stories about romance and and rivalry from the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, and modern times. Buster falls in love with the girl, courts the girl, confronts a rival, has some kind of challenge, and overcomes obstacles to eventually win over the girl.

Dylan: "The chariot race in this movie is the greatest chariot race in the history of cinema."

Emma: "I still didn't get my spot on the couch."

Abbey: "I liked all the funny parts. My favorite part was when Buster used the [spear] to [pole vault] up to save the girl."

Buster's first independently produced movie!

How's Your News?

1999 documentary

Rating: 4/20

Plot: A group of individuals with varying degrees of mental handicap are exploited by filmmakers to make a road trip from east to west coast incoherently interviewing folks along the way. This film tracks their stops in Connecticut, New York, D.C. Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Las Vegas, and Venice Beach.

The four points I gave this movie were for the street musician on roller blades at Venice Beach. That guy's pretty awesome. Honestly, I should probably give props to the news reporters as they enthusiastically attempt to interview every day people. Sometimes completely obliviously. Seriously, one guy is entirely unintelligible and another guy is just rolled onto the sidewalk and left there with no ability to communicate to wag a microphone at perplexed passers-by. Thing is, there is absolutely no point to any of this. There's nothing revealed about the average American in this like in that Borat movie. There's nothing accidentally revealing about what handicapped people are capable of accomplishing. There's no big discovery, no drama, no developing story. All this ever succeeds in being is mildly interesting and quirkily humorous, and that, I believe, makes the whole thing appalling. If you've seen this and know that I'm missing something (entirely possible with me), then let me know.

Killer's Kiss

1955 smudgy noir

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Well, ignore the poster to the left. Whoever made that apparently wasn't allowed to watch this entire movie first. Her soft mouth was the road to sin-smeared violence!? What? A washed-up boxer gets mixed up in the volatile relationship between a dancer and her ex-lover/employer. Murder, a mix-up, a kidnapping. Oh, snap!

Kubrick's first movie is far from terrific, but there are some visually interesting moments that foreshadow the auteur's later work. It also contains one of the dopiest fight scenes I've ever seen and definitely the dopiest I've ever seen in a mannequin factory. I mean that as a compliment, of course. The story is derivative, and tacked-on ending is especially bad, but this is still a fun little movie with some really cool moments.

Ice Age

2002 liberal propaganda

Rating: 14/20 (Abbey: 19/20)

Plot: The Ice Age cometh, and all the animals are forced to goeth south. Diego, a saber-toothed tiger, succumbs to peer pressure and agrees to kill a human child in order to impress his friends. A surly wooly mammoth named Manny and Sid, a pea-brained sloth, decide to team up to protect the child and take him back to his father. Diego decides to "help," and along the way, as they battle the elements, the trio discover that they are all, to put it in contemporary terms, gay for each other. Meanwhile, Scrat the squirrel has all kinds of trouble with his nuts. Perhaps he needed a sack.

An obvious attempt by the liberal media to introduce the gay agenda to children. This cartoon has multiple gay relationships (all male) including gay rhinos and gay characters who have apparently adopted a child, and the film even builds to a rather awkward mammoth-on-tiger-on-sloth menage-a-trois. This is, of course, after proving that they can raise a child on their own. That this film was made during Bush's administration is unbelievable to me. You've also got all kinds of nutty environmental messages in this. Other than that, the characters are likable, the story has heart, and about half the animation is really top notch. Weather, water, and landscape looks absolutely terrific in this movie, but although the animals usually look ok (at times, suffering from that same rubberiness that the animals in Madagascar have), the people look really jacky. I also like the voice talents in this, a sort of who's-who of homosexual Hollywood. This was the second movie of a sort of double feature I watched with Abbey when she was sick. She also watched a creepy Barbie movie, but I tried to look away as much as possible and will not be reviewing that one.


1941 Disney cartoon

Rating: 15/20 (Abbey: 20/20)

Plot: Dumbo, a large-eared freak, has to overcome obstacles in order to be accepted by society. His mother is imprisoned, he's relentlessly taunted, and becomes an alcoholic. With the help of a down-on-his-luck mouse (a former drug dealer), he learns to fly and becomes the star of the circus.

This is the movie that taught me where babies come from, that elephants are made from rubber, that female elephants are bitches, and how awesome things get when you drink. I really like the way the background music works with the animated action (i.e. rhythmic puffs of smoke from the anthropomorphized train). This looks a little rougher or less lush/textured than Fantasia or, as I remember it at least, Pinnochio. There are some moments when the vocal music really dates things, but the songs you remember are all pretty good. The best, of course, is "Pink Elephants on Parade" which is a timeless classic that will likely still be performed at weddings five hundred years from now. I just wish the pink elephants scene could have gone on for another half hour. Dumbo's got some nice visual humor, sight gags reminiscent of 20's comedies. I don't like all the characters, some of which are just too mean, and I think the high-flying denouement under the big top is a bit quick, especially after the unnecessarily drawn-out scenes from earlier in the movie. Short and sweet.

Abbey's review: "I'm curious to know whether anybody's analyzed this with race relations in mind. There are black characters although they get no dialogue and are mostly faceless laborers setting up the circus tent. Elephants are African though. Then, of course, you've got the crows (Jim Crow?) who really end up being good guys although their mannerisms and language doesn't seem entirely sensitive now. All those white-faced clowns and the white ring leader making all those plans to oppress the black man behind closed curtains? Could Dumbo represent the embodiment of white's oppression of the blacks? How about that scene where the angry gorilla rattles the bars of his cage hard enough to actually break one loose! Does he escape? No, he puts the bar back and accepts his imprisonment! What's that supposed to symbolize? And what's Timothy the mouse represent? Magic feathers? Is alcohol the only answer? Female characters are only in the movie to advance the plot with gossip and give birth. Is the wash of snow at the opening of the film supposed to be jism? The train's a phallic symbol? Don't get me started on trunks! And speaking of penii, where are the male elephants in this movie? Subtext!

Now that I think about it, what was the first Disney animated feature with speaking black characters? Was it Atlantis? Lilo and Stich had a black character, but that was after Atlantis. I can't think of an earlier example unless you count animals, like Dumbo's crows or the horribly offensive King Louie in The Jungle Book who speak with African American dialect. See, this is exactly why Walt Disney is in hell right now."

Sukiyaki Western Django

2007 samurai western

Rating: 14/20

Plot: A mysterious gunslinger arrives in a tense Nevada town where two warring clans, a red one and a white one, are at a Yojimbo-esque stalemate in their battle over some treasure that neither of them can even find. Both sides could use his services, but he's got his mind on something other than treasure. Lots of Gungans gonna die.

Takashi Miike is at the top of my list of directors whose work I'd love to see more of. This movie's an addictively quirky blend of tomfoolery and dramatic action. You've got stylized cartoon gore in a stained-glass world, a grotesque mixture of the wildest West and the wacky East. You've got comical caricatures--a buffoon of a sheriff, the nearly invincible leaders of the rival gangs--who die and then claw their way back from the grave inexplicably, use wind gusts and gravity to absurdly angle their bullets to meet their targets, and survive numerous riddlings with bullets. You've also got extremely goofy dialogue, the goofiness accentuated by the broken English used by the Japanese actors. I really doubt most of the actors even have any idea what they're saying, but it lends a uniqueness to the characters. I love the look of the film, the cultural clash of Japanese architecture and dusty Nevada, sets seemingly borrowed from spaghetti westerns, some looking like they were just vomited from a kaleidoscope. The story's not strong and there are lots of moments that cross the line from cool to stupid, but the odd balancing act between homage and parody makes this an intriguing movie.

Star Wars: Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back

1980 blockbuster

Rating: 20/20 (Dylan: 15/20)

Plot: Well, I had typed some really stupid plot synopsis about how this starts with the characters vacationing in "the whitest place alive" and ends with their enjoyment of the galaxy's first taste of racial harmony ever while holding hands and listening to Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters on the hi-fi. But the computer went nuts when I was searching for pictures of naked Ugnauts, and all my words were lost.

By the way, is there anybody else out there who would love to have a t-shirt with a picture of a shirtless Ugnaut and the words "This be how we doin' it in Cloud City, mo-fo!" on it? I think that was a promotional item from 1980. Maybe I should check Ebay?

I think Yoda is superior as a puppet. I really enjoyed the Toshi Station boy being relentlessly teased by a big-eared puppet. I also really think the dialogue is great in this movie. There's only one scene in this entire movie that I don't like. Anybody want to guess what it is? Otherwise, this movie is perfect. Too bad the next one had to have those teddy bears in it.

Did I have an Ugnaut action figure as a kid? Hell yeah, I did!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

2009 blockbuster

Rating: n/r (I refuse to rate since this was a pirated, incomplete version of the movie. Mark gave it a 4/20.)

Plot: It's the story of Wolverine and his brother Big Claws. The immortal brothers fight wars together and are eventually recruited by a guy to do some stuff. Then things go wrong, and Wolverine becomes a lumberjack.

My brother was able to procure a copy of this so that we were able to continue our tradition of watching a comic book movie at his place for our monthly movie night. It's a tradition that really needs to end. Fortunately for the parts of our brains that like being entertained, this was an unfinished version of the film with incomplete CGI. It was hilarious watching characters randomly turning into computer outline versions of themselves, untouched-up blue screen footage, and choppy special effects. I can't fairly say a lot about this movie, but suffice it to say that I don't think it's very good (a little better, I think, than the one-and-a-half other X-Men movies I watched) but that the finished product will likely be better than what my brother thinks. He claims the additional special effects, etc. will have no effect on the overall outcome. I will say this: I have no plans to bother seeing a finished version of this movie. Like most comic book movies, I was a little confused about what was going on with this.
1974 documentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Orson Welles last film is a documentary on fraud and fakery. He intertwines the stories of a notorious art forger named Elmyr de Hory and his biographer Clifford Irving who also wrote the autobiography of Howard Hughes. Irving also inexplicably has a monkey. The careers of Hughes and Welles are also discussed.

This was really fascinating, stuffed with style and headscratch-inducing moments. It's deceptively entertaining. Cryptically narrated by the golden-voiced Welles (he also recites poetry), the stories weave in and out of themselves with a bombardment of visuals that I believe would have been entertaining endlessly. Not only is it a blast to watch, but Welles himself looks like he's having a blast. He's alternatingly funny, insightful, deceitful, coy, and cool. He starts the movie acting like a magician and the direction in this also looks like the work of a magician, a baffling and strange magician. The guy also sure knows how to write and deliver a line. You really haven't lived until you've heard Orson say, "A ham sandwich." This is really something that I think has to be seen again (Criterion released it recently, so maybe I'll check that out in a few months) because there are so many layers. It's actually worth watching again just to see the multitude of shots of Orson's gorgeous girlfriend Oja Kodar.

Buster Keaton Saturday: Sherlock Jr.

1924 romantic action-comedy

Rating: 17/20 (Emma: 17/20; Jen: zzzzz)

Plot: Our protagonist dreams of becoming a detective which could be detrimental to his real job as a projectionist. When accused of stealing and pawning a watch belonging to the father of the love of his life, he is booted from their home.

A novella of a movie? At a bit under fifty minutes, this is too long to be a short and too short to be feature length. Emma and I picked it because we'd all already seen it and the other two members of the household who are able to remain waking participants of Buster Keaton Saturday have come up missing. Sherlock Jr. sort of takes a while to get going, but it would be a great introduction to Keaton's work since it's got a little taste of everything he's known for. Creativity/invention in the denouement of the motorcycle and car chase and (especially) in a scene involving Buster walking into a movie. There are sight gags, including a tricky safe and Buster's attempt to "shadow" the culprit. There are a few stunts and pratfalls. There's a train. There's a fantastic chase scene. There are clever bits of "dialogue" ("It's your dollar? Describe it.") and romance. There's a down-on-his-luck protagonist who is easy to root for. And there are wonderful "How's he even doing that?" moments. I love a scene where he plays pool with an explosive ball, and this has one of my favorite Buster Keaton moments when he appears to actually leap through both a suitcase and a human being. His buddy Houdini probably taught him that one. My only gripe is that the music used for my dvd copy (composed in the 90's, I believe) is awful.

Trivia: This is the movie in which Buster actually fractured his neck during what looks to be a prosaic stunt and didn't even realize it until years later. This is also the movie that contains the only time Buster Keaton used a stunt double when he was needed to perform the stunt of another actor in the same scene.

Helpful hint: If interested in renting a Buster Keaton dvd, Sherlock Jr. and Our Hospitality are paired together. Since they're both good ones, it might be a great place to start. You'll have to put up with that terrible music though.


1952 talkie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Calvero, a washed-up theatrical clown, saves the life of fellow tenant Terry the ballerina following her suicide attempt. He helps nurse her back to health, teaches her to walk again (she couldn't psychologically), and gives her the confidence to dance. Meanwhile, he dreams of a triumphant return to the stage for one final bow. Terry mistakes her feelings for Calvero as romantic love, but the old clown knows better.

Well, I certainly expected to like this one more. Muddled by dialogue, philosophically hokey and dippily sentimental, this one just seems so talky and dated at times. Thing is, based on story and sentiment alone, this would have been a fantastic movie to end a career on for Chaplin, but he should have insisted on making it a silent movie. It could have been a beautiful farewell, and the melodrama would have been a lot easier to swallow. Chaplin won a belated Oscar for his score, but the music is actually a little too much at times. This is not to say that there aren't some good moments and some very well-written lines. "Life is wonderful if you're not afraid of it" is a terrific line. This is, by the way, the only feature film with both Chaplin and Buster Keaton, but the latter's role is very very small and you really wouldn't even know it was him unless you knew it was him.

Bee Movie

2007 cartoon

Rating: 12/20 (Dylan: 4/20; Emma: 13/20; Abbey: 19/20; Jen: zzzzz)

Plot: Benny has just graduated from bee high school or bee university, apparently majoring in lame puns. He's all set to get a honey of a job (ha ha!), a job that, he is dismayed to hear, he will be stuck with for the rest of his life. He decides to investigate the world outside the hive, develops a crush on a big-bootied woman named Vanessa after she saves his life when David Puddy tries to kill him, and then, after finding out that human beings use honey, decides to sue the human race.

If Benny's stinger ain't a phallic symbol, I don't know what is! Bee Movie starts disastrously, but it does build some momentum and contains some cleverly funny moments here and there. Maybe the nicest thing I can say about this is that it's occasionally cute. The parts meant to appeal to children didn't appeal to me, a child, and I didn't once like the main character. Or really any of the characters. Ray Liotta has a very funny cameo, but other cameos (Sting, Larry King) reminded me why I don't like Dreamworks movies very much. I could have sworn there was a Larry King character in another Dreamworks movie. Shark Tale? It also the Dreamworks' trademark 1960's pop song remade needlessly by some current hip artist except this time somebody thought Sheryl Crow was hip enough for that sort of thing. Because really, why would you want to hear the Beatles when you can hear Sheryl Crow singing the Beatles? I did like some of the voice talent (Jen was waiting for Patrick Warburton but fell asleep before his character's introduction since it was after the first ten minutes of the movie; John Goodman seems to be doing a lot of these things), but Jerry Seinfeld's voice really annoyed me. Nobody wants to listen to a bee screaming for nearly an hour and a half. Also, the animation was a little rubbery, looking more like a Toy Story contemporary than something released in 2007, and the action sequences (of which there were far too many) had too much going on and gave me vertigo which probably means I will no longer be able to walk on stilts to impress big-bootied women. Way to go, Bee Movie! You've ruined my love life.

Monkey Business

1931 Marx Brothers silliness

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Grumpy, Bilbo, Dildo, and Flippo are stowaways on a ship heading for America. Between evading the ship's crew and being as obnoxious as possible, they are hired as body guards by rival gangsters. Despite the promise, monkeys have nothing to do with anything.

Pure, out-of-control zaniness abounds in this nearly plotless wankathon. The boys seem to thrive in this spontaneity, and it's great watching them have so much fun running around a boat, slowing down only to deliver some non-sequiturs or puns that nearly knock the wind out of you. I'd imagine that if a person likes the Marx Brothers, they'd like this movie even though it's not as great as A Night at the Opera or Duck Soup. The lack of musical numbers was a genuine relief after watching the last two which had too much singing. It is always great to see Harpo and Chico attack the harp and piano respectively though. Harpo gets the funniest bits (as usual?), the best dealing with his involvement with a puppet show. Chico, as my friend Anne McInslop would agree, is by far the sexiest of the Marx Brothers, however. I had a near religious experience (i.e. uncontrollable fits of giggling) while watching this, but I can't recall what I would have been laughing at.


1996 drug movie

Rating: 14/20

Plot: The youths of Scotland waste their lives away, spending their hours diving into filthy toilets and screaming at gray babies. Renton tries to kick a heroin habit and make a new life for himself but can't help being yanked back into the squalid same-old-same-old--too-short t-shirts, peeling walls, dilapidated floors, sagging carpets, sickly and lonely halls, and illegal sexual escapades. He probably needs better friends.

Hey! I made it all the way through the movie this time! Funny that I just watched Clockwork before seeing this one. There are a lot of similarities. That film's language, bombastic soundtrack, voice-over narration, and subversive ideas works completely. This one only sort of works and seems to be one of those examples of style over substance. Really, it's hard for me to find a point in all this. It's an exercise in pushing the shock buttons, like an nine year old walking up to you while you're shopping for croutons and shouting "Shit!" just to get a reaction. And actually, you weren't even sure you wanted croutons. You were just going to buy them if they were on sale. I didn't think the characters were fully realized. There was angry spontaneous guy, dumb guy, nice guy, and mother. Watching Trainspotting is entertaining as hell though, and not just because Obi Wan exposes himself yet again. Or maybe that is the sole reason it's entertaining? If this were any longer, however, I would have felt as if my senses had been brutally attacked and would have likely vomited on the carpet only to have my face shoved into my own puke by Danny Boyle. Unfortunately for me, a guy who sort of appreciates Trainspotting but doesn't really like it, this is something you definitely have to watch more than once since so much of the dialogue is unintelligible.
Recommended by Cory.

My Name Is Bruce

2007 junk

Rating: 3/20

Plot: Some Chinese demon is awakened by a storm or by some teenage vandals or by a combination of the two. He begins slicing the heads off the inhabitants of small-town Gold Lick, so they kidnap b-movie actor Bruce Campbell to help them out.

It's hard to tell whether or not this is self-referential or self-indulgent. I do know that every time I see Bruce Campbell, it makes me like Evil Dead II a little bit less. I realize this is actually supposed to be a bad movie, but that doesn't excuse it being so cliched, so unfunny, and, most heinously, so racially insensitive. I'm not sure what the Chinese have done to Bruce Campbell. Maybe there's some joke I'm not hip to, but regardless, I'm not sure I want to be in on it. Most offensive would be the special effects used to create the Chinese demon. No, most offensive are the terrible jokes. There are lots of references to Campbell's previous work (the "Give me some sugar" line is used at least thirty times), but it just seems so cheap. I can appreciate self-deprecating humor, but there is nothing clever about any of this and absolutely no reason to see it.

Buster Keaton Saturday: "One Week" and "The High Sign"

Shorts from 1920 and 1921

Plot: "One Week" is about the week following the wedding of Buster and his blushing bride. They receive property and a house as a wedding gift. When they arrive, much to the chagrin of the man his bride turned down, they find out they have to assemble their house. It doesn't go very well. In "The High Sign," our hero gets himself a job in a shooting gallery at a carnival and joins a gang of criminals called the Blinking Buzzards. Eventually, Buster stumbles into a situation where he is hired to kill the man who just hired him as his bodyguard. Oh, snap!

Abbey: "I vote it a 20 because I liked it when Buster Keaton pulled a rope and the guy was on top of the hole and he fell down. I also liked when he kept going through the walls while the guy was chasing him. That house was funny."

Emma: "Dylan took my space on the couch. He's mean."

Dylan: "The chase scene was my favorite part. The first movie wasn't as good. Both of these movies had trains in them."

Jen: "Zzzzzzzzzzzzz."

Shane: "I believe I saw a nipple in "One Week"! These were both good, and both coincidentally had to do with houses and showed off Buster's engineering skills. Keaton had some kind of engineering degree, probably contributing to the zaniness of the houses in both of these shorts. Great sight gags and gadgets and slapstick with some funky little touches to fill in the gaps. "One Week" impresses with the relentless amount of comedy stuffed into 19 minutes. There was easily a feature-length film's worth of material and ideas in that one, but instead, it was rapid fire comedy that I really hated to see end. The physical comedy, as always, is great in both of these. There's a great chase/fight scene in "The High Sign" when the camera shows all four rooms of a house in which Buster darts around like a Warner Brothers' cartoon character and ingeniously disposes of the The Blinking Buzzards. Two very imaginative and mad shorts. And there was a nipple!"

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy

1996 dopiness

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Scientist Dr. Chris Cooper is working on a pill that cures depression. When the pharmaceutical company bosses start making budget cuts left and right, Cooper feels forced to release his drug even though he and his team are really still in the experimentation stages. The drug works by causing the depressed to focus on their happiest memory and the pharmaceutical company makes a zillion dollars even, to the delight of the company's president, outselling penicillin. Unfortunately, things might be too good to be true.

The Kids' first and only movie has its moments, and it is fun to watch the five of them playing about thirty different roles. The story's strong enough and the satire clicks, both which separate this from a movie inspired by a Saturday Night Live sketch, but the writing is a little too ADHD. Tangents, tangents, tangents. Focus was needed to stretch the idea into a coherent hour and a half. Of course, some of the most random bits are also the funniest bits, so what do I know? Some of the comedy falls flat, and there are a lot of minor characters I really would have liked to see more. I bet they really dig this in Canada!

EDIT: Recommended by my sister-in-law, not my brother as earlier reported. She told me today that I need to see it multiple times.

A Clockwork Orange

1971 satirical dystopian black comedy

Rating: 20/20

Plot: A hilarious musical in which Alex DeLarge and his thuggish pals don codpieces and spend their nights sipping milk and engaging in various ultraviolent acts--beating up inebriated bums, throwing down against rival gangs, stealing cars, rape. After his three droogs attempt a rather half-assed and unsuccessful coup, the lads make their way to what they believe is an easy target, a health camp operator who is alone and apparently rich. Alex is caught and found guilty of the lady's murder. While in jail, he feigns interest in religion and hears of a new "method" that supposedly heals the criminal mind. He undergoes the harsh treatment and is once again released into society.

A "turning point" movie for me when I saw this in high school. Watching A Clockwork Orange made me realize that film not only existed to entertain the (m)asses, but that it could also be artistic. For better or worse, this one turned me to a fan of the sort of adventurous, dangerous, audacious, and chaotic cinema that I love today. This is a wildy creative adventure, and the world Kubrick created could probably not have been created by anybody else. There's really not another movie that matches Kubrick's artistic vision. Is there? And Malcolm McDowell deserved at least a best actor nomination. I can't imagine anybody else playing Alex, and there's a demanding physicality to the role (in fact, he was injured twice and nearly drowned during one scene) that was apparently underappreciated. The actors with smaller roles, from the bum in the opening scene to the the parole officer to the writer, are also terrifically hammy. A Clockwork Orange is also great because of the way the visuals and music compliment each other so perfectly. I guess Wendy Carlos (actually he/she was Walter Carlos when the music was composed) and his mooginess was also overlooked by the Academy. There's a unique perspective/point of view in this one, too, one that forces the viewer to side with a sadistic murderer/rapist. You've got to love a movie that does that! But a lot of Kubrick's trickery let's you see the story alternately as disturbing, humorous, terrifying, and ludicrous. It's also got phallic symbols galore! If you asked me seventeen years ago about my favorite movie, I would have picked this one for sure. That might not be true now, but it'll always be up there near the top. So many memorable moments!

My favorite scene changes every time I see this movie; this time, it was when Alex notices the phallic sculpture, latter his weapon, in a victim's house. His expression, around a comical rubber nose (another phallic symbol), is great! What's your favorite scene?

The Girl on the Bridge

1999 French love story

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Adele, a French hottie, has had a tough life. Just as she decides to end it all by depositing herself in the Seine, a professional knife thrower named Gabor wanders onto the bridge. He's probably looking for a hook-up. He persuades Adele to come along with him so that he can throw knives in her direction while bemused spectators gasp, and they find that together they can find luck. But Adele is a whore and runs off to let some other guys pierce her with their knives. Oh, snap!

Stylish but goofily pretentious. Things looked good, but this was definitely a case of seen-it-all-before as it's reminiscent of every other French movie ever made. I did like the black and white, and there were a couple neat perspective shots, one from a fly's and one from a spinning target's). Vanessa Paradis sure is easy on the eyes. I wish I could think of something else to say about this movie. Maybe that's why I can't rate it higher.

Slumdog Millionaire

2008 best picture

Rating: 12/20 (Jen: 16/20)

Plot: On the verge of winning 400 billion rupees on Indian's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Jamal is arrested on the suspicion that he is somehow cheating. As the police sergeant watches the show with Jamal and questions him on how he knew the answers, his biography unfolds and we watch him growing up with his brother, becoming an orphan, and falling in love.

I really sort of hated this movie. If your favorite part a movie is the montage (fragments of a story told visually with some really terrible background music), then this is the movie for you because the entire movie seems like a two-hour montage. The story stutters along in a clumsy way that ends up getting really predictable and leaving me completely unsatisfied. I really hated the way the film looked. The jump cuts, the angles, some handheld stuff, unnecessary camera movements, the oddly-placed subtitles, the colors. Along with a deafening soundtrack that went great with voices that were nearly inaudible at times, the movie actually made me a little sick to my stomach. Everything was so loud and modern, both sonically and visually. The romantic plot (and accompanying themes) are nearly offensive, but I did like the ideas about how knowledge is shaped by our experiences. I also liked the acting for the most part, especially since a large percentage of the cast was children. I really liked the guy who played the Indian Regis Philbin. This movie tries to be ultra-pessimistic and feel-good at the same time and winds up a choppy, annoying mess that I ain't falling for. I'm shocked that this won best picture.

Buster Keaton Saturday: "The Play House"

1921 short

Rating: n/a

Plot: Buster works as a stagehand for a play house.

"This fellow Keaton seems to be the whole show."

Not as uproariously funny as a lot of Keaton's stuff, but this is worth watching for the craftsmanship and invention alone. This is a very fragmented "story," and again, the story is more of an excuse just to showcase the physical and visual humor. The special effects during the first sequence in which Keaton plays multiple roles (stagehands, minstrel performers [including two in blackface], a conductor, every member of the band, audience members, even some women) are great, and if one Buster Keaton is funny, twenty of them are probably even funnier. The second bit in which Keaton plays a monkey is entertaining, and there are some strange and imaginative visual gags when Buster must recruit some acrobatic soldiers (two of them midgets!) to replace the ones who quit. One of those includes two one-armed men collaborating on their clapping in the audience.

In case you're keeping score, Jennifer dozed off and couldn't make it through 2 minutes of this 22 minute short. She's not seen an entire Buster Keaton feature-length or short movie yet.

Deep Water

2006 narrative documentary

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Cheerful story of Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who takes part in a 1968-69 race in which participants solo circumnavigate the globe. He doesn't win. This details the psychological and physical effects of the gruelling race.

Utterly fascinating Man v. Nature story, made more compelling by the fact that this Crowhurst fellow, a father of four, had absolutely no business being anywhere near this. The story's captivating enough as one of adventure and the drama generally associated with that sort of thing, but the real intrigue is in the decisions this guy makes. Not just the decision to impulsively enter the race but the decisions that take place as he runs into treacherous seas, boat problems, and the mental anguish of being completely isolated for so long. Interviews with family, friends, and competitors are intertwined with Crowhurst's audio journals, his writings, and video he shot during his journey. The lengths he goes to not give up in this race are amazing to watch (basically, he cheats in a variety of ways), and the ending for his story is unforgettable. Equally interesting is the side story of another sailor, Bernard Moitessier, who despite being in contention to win the race, makes the befuddling decision to go around the world a second time instead.


1995 Emir Kusturica joint

Rating: 17/20

Plot: The story of Yugoslavia from the beginnings of World War II to the Cold War to the time when there's ain't no Yugoslavia no more. Marko and Blacky are underground weapons manufacturers, literally working subterraneanly. They also happen to be in love with the same actress. After the end of WWII, Marko fails to tell the inhabitants of his underground city that the war has ended, keeping them working hard on making guns and a tank while being completely cut off from the rest of the world.

I've had this movie on loan from the library (vhs) for over a year. The original due date was February 8, 2008. That's got to be a personal record. Like Kusturica's Black Cat, White Cat, this teeters on the edge of insanity and chaos, madcap and unhinged and unlike anything else out there. The social commentary is about as bleak as it can get (although the ending at least appears hopeful), but the surreal situations and slapstick lighten the load a lot. In fact, at almost three hours, this carnivalesque film is about as exciting as movies can get. I loved the off-kilter characters, and there's something that can be said for a movie that creates a guy like Marko who is doing some really evil things and still somehow manages to be hysterically funny. My favorite thing about the movie is maybe the soundtrack. It's hyperkinetic gypsy music but it's played by a band that just follows around the characters and relentlessly plays, most excitedly at the beginning while they follow Marko and Blacky's fleeing coach and during a wedding when they're crammed atop a wildly spinning pedestal. There's a density, and like a lot of movies that I wind up really really liking, I don't believe I've even scratched the surface after a first viewing. My complete lack of knowledge about Eastern European history probably doesn't help. Underground is powerful and entertaining stuff.

The People vs. Larry Flynt

1996 biopic

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Larry Flynt, a true American hero, struggles for his right to free speech (i.e. naked people, the slander of religious leaders) while the conservatives, those enemies of freedom and democracy, fight him every step of the way, practically setting fire to your Constitution and your flag and stomping all over them. The story also details the struggles of Flynt's wife, Ginavah McDruguser, and her downward spiral.

With friends like Crispin "Hellion" Glover and Courtney Love, who needs enemas? First off, this is an entertaining and sprawling glimpse at the life of Flynt and brings up some important issues about what constitutes free speech. It's a dialogue starter. It's not without problems and the overt propaganda might be one of them. The loose structure and sketchy details might be other problems. The acting is very good straight up and down the cast list. Woody's great, and Courtney Love shows a lot of flexibility in her role as a strung-out skank. She's so good that you can practically smell her through the screen. What a stretch that must have been for her! Crispin Glover, as always, is fantastic, and Ed Norton, playing really the only character who is likable, is solid. The entire movie is fairly effective despite its density and extraneous wanderings. Very similar to Forman's later Man on the Moon, another biopic that I liked even though I had almost no interest or opinion on the subject matter.

Buster Keaton Saturday on Wednesday: Two Shorts

Buster shorts from 1921 and 1922

Rating: n/a

Plots: In "The Haunted House," Keaton plays a bank clerk who gets accused of trying to hold up his employer and winds up mixed in with some real bank robbers and the cast of a terrible production of Faust. Goofballery escalates as they all wind up in a supposedly haunted house. In "Cops," Buster must evade the po-po after accidentally stealing all the possessions of a police officer and his family and then crashing a policemen parade.

A good but not great Buster Keaton Saturday (on Wednesday). Both have a few laughs, but "Cops" is clearly the better, and more coherent, of the two shorts. Most of what happens in "The Haunted House" is just an excuse for the sight gags, some very clever. The running gag involving the stairs, the glue mix-up, and the encounter with the devil are funny, but I really like the subtle stuff more. "Cops" has some terrific acrobatics (especially in the incredible ladder scene), and while it's always fun to watch Buster being chased in his movies (by cattle or policemen or just one guy he's ticked off), watching him being chased by hundreds of policemen is even better. Rapid action and great slapstick. What else could a family* want on a Buster Keaton Saturday on Wednesday? This also served as a great way to cleanse my mind of 4.

*Jennifer was working on homework and unable to fall asleep during these shorts.


2005 Russian artsy-fartsiness

Rating: 8/20

Plot: Three strangers walk into a bar, have a few drinks, and have what has to be the longest conversation in the history of cinema, detailing every single last morsel of their lives. They smoke relentlessly; dogs bark outside. After more than a few lies, they depart and wander around in their bleak little lives. Then, some other stuff must happen. Then, I wake up, confused. Dolls get eaten by dogs. A large-breasted woman and some elderly women disrobe. A guy's arrested. There are some goofy looking pigs. I don't know what's going on anymore and wait for the credits. But they never come, and I'm still sitting here today, agonizing and wishing I were never born.

I know things aren't great in Russia, but surely somebody in the country has a tripod that Ilya Khrjanovsky could have borrowed. This handheld camera work was maddening and made me a little sick to my stomach. The imagery was grotesque enough; I didn't need to see it shaking around. It might be that I'm not Russian and missed some cultural stuff, but I found it impossible to care about any of the characters or whatever the heck happened to them. I was bored at the start, and the dullness sustained. This sort of reminded me of Tartovsky's Stalker, another long movie that a lot of people would find entirely pointless and boring, but whereas that was artistic and moving, this one just seemed like an attempt to show off how avant-garde Ilya Khrjanovsky can be. Good story and good film-making was sacrificed to the great God Artsyfart, the omni-incapable and all-noodling. Oppressive sound effects, extended scenes of walking through bleak wastelands, bread-chewing and breast-exposing babooskas with faces like catcher's mitts, general ickiness, more specific ickiness. It's even got a pretentious title. I mean, what are they going to call the sequel? 4 II? I think I've decided that I really hate modern Russian cinema and long for the days when things like this would be banned and never heard of again.

The Great Dictator

1940 social comedy

Rating: 16/20 (Dylan: 11/20)

Plot: Following a crash landing during World War I, a Jewish barber loses his memory. He doesn't leave the hospital to return to his normal life for years, and things have changed. Adenoid Hynkel, who looks surprisingly a lot like the barber, has taken control of Tomania, and is planning to take over the world and persecute the Jews. The barber falls in love with the neighbor girl, Hynkel falls in love with a giant beach ball, the barber does his best to avoid capture by the stormtroopers, and Hynkel threatens Benzino Napaloni with salami (a phallic symbol). Meanwhile, the man whose life was saved during WWI by the barber stumbles onto the scene and is sympathetic to the Jews' cause.

Jimmy Stewart won the Oscar, but Chaplin was pretty damn good playing dual roles in this. There's a strange dichotomy here. There's the typical physical comedy you'd expect to see from Chaplin's silent movies combined with some surprisingly natural funny dialogue. This was Chaplin's first talkie, and the humor comes a lot more naturally than a lot of late 30's comedy. The improvised faux-German stuff is absolutely hilarious. Not all the comedy works, and some of it that takes place in the ghetto isn't entirely comfortable, but there are definitely some classic scenes--most of the WWI slapstick and sight gags, the scene with Hynkel dancing with the inflatable globe, a fantastic shave-to-the-music scene, the coin-in-the-pudding scene. On the other side of the coin, you've got a lot of melodramatic stuff (probably worse than many late 30's dramas) and the more serious stuff, the best example being Chaplin's passionate speech at the very end of the movie. It's a long speech, and I'm not sure Chaplin blinks during it. I'd always stayed away from this one for some reason (I believe this leaves only one more Chaplin feature-length film I need to see--oddly enough the one with Buster Keaton in it), but it was a lot more enjoyable than I had anticipated. You've at least got to appreciate Chaplin's ballsiness in making this thing. Hitler reportedly watched it twice; I wonder whether or not he liked it. He was known for having a great sense of humor.