It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine.

2007 movie

Rating: 16/20 (Anonymous: 14/20)

Plot: Paul, a middle-aged man suffering from Cerebral Palsy, is wasting away in a nursing home. All he wants to do is be like everybody else and often fantasizes about just that. Except "everybody else" in this case is limited to men who strangle women after they sleep with them.

This isn't widely available, and a lot of people would argue that it shouldn't be. This is far from a perfectly-constructed movie. Heck, it's far from a competently-constructed movie. But there's a backstory that transforms this from just a movie to a work of art. The screenwriter and lead is the late Steven C. Stewart, a guy who really did suffer from Cerebral Palsy and who spent the better part of his life imprisoned in a nursing home. The great Crispin Hellion Glover brought his story to life. He does it cheaply--with some gross colors, some really obvious classical music choices, and more than a few editing errors. But there's a refreshing naivete with both the writing and the direction (the latter, possibly intentional) that makes this like outsider art. Outsider art made by an insider? When I was trying to put some words together, I had trouble coming up with anything better than "hideously beautiful," cheap and oxymoronic. Typing "hideously beautiful" embarrasses me as much as some of things I laughed at (uncomfortably) while watching this movie. There's a very dark humor throughout the story as well as some unintentionally funny (or are they intentionally unintentionally funny?) moments, especially any time Crispin Glover's dad Bruce is on-screen. If Bruce Glover doesn't win my yearly Torgo for his small role here, I'll be surprised. I really liked the beginning and end of the movie (a framing device), a terrific scene with police detectives and bendy straws, and a final murder scene that stretches so far into ridiculous territory that it hits you in the eye and makes you ejaculate raisins. Literally! Watching this movie with a crowd of people was fascinating to me. I believe most of the crowd liked what they saw, probably because they came to the theater knowing exactly what to expect, but I think it was liked in different ways. I don't frequently watch movies in big crowds, but I can't remember ever seeing a movie that got this much of a reaction, and that's worth something right there. Well, maybe Ernest Goes to Camp.

I saw this at the IMA. Crispin Glover showed a slide show and read from eight of his novels. Then, he showed this movie. Then, he came back out and kind of answered people's questions. My appreciation for America's finest actor has grown. I didn't stick around to have my cd cover autographed and get a picture because I was tired. I really hope he comes back to Indy some time to show his first movie.

One final note: Although I don't think any of you will see this (other than Larst), I do feel the need to warn you. The violence isn't graphic, but there's a lot of sex. This isn't for everybody, but for the right, open-minded audience, this delivers.

Evil Dead 2

1987 greatest movie ever candidate

Rating: 20/20

Plot: Ash and his girlfriend accidentally unleash evil in a secluded cabin. The evil longs for their souls, and Ash has to fight against trees, anthropomorphized decor, zombie creatures, his dead girlfriend, a deer head, and his own hand in order to save his.

Question: Is there a better performance in the history of cinema than Bruce Campbell's here? I doubt it! Once this thing gets going, it stays going. Horror-comedy chaos, quotable, a disturbing (and impossible) amount of blood, ingenious special effects, a creative visual sense. This movie's got it all! The scenes that make me want to watch this over and over again: 1) the possessed hand, 2) the scene where everything in the room starts laughing at Bruce Campbell, 3) the woodshed transformation scene, 4) the scene where the evil thing is chasing Ash through the house, 5) almost every other scene in the movie, the exception being the scene where his dead girlfriend is dancing. No, that's brilliant, too! Evil Dead 2 also has a great ending, one that really makes the lame sequel even more disappointing. This movie is and will always be a religious experience.

There will be no comments for this movie because I don't want anybody wasting their time typing about how right I am.

Marjoe / Thoth

1972 documentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Follows Marjoe (combines the names Mary and Joseph) Gortner on a tour of Pentecostal tent revivals and churches. Marjoe became a preacher at age 4, exploited by his parents but winnin' souls to Jesus throughout the Bible belt. He resurrects (pun intended!) his career as a rockin' evangelist in his twenties, not as a believer but as a charlatan. He assembles a film crew to chronicle what will wind up being his last revival tour.

I knew of Marjoe because I had a copy of some recordings he'd done as a child. He's a fascinating figure, and I watched this wondering why the heck he was allowing himself to be filmed since it would end his fraudulent career as a half-chicken/half-Rolling Stone
fire-and-brimstoner. I probably didn't need to see him at work so much, especially in the sort of uninterrupted way he's shown, but he's charisma is addictive and it's easy to see why so many are duped by this sort of thing. The Pentecostals are bewildering and fascinating anyway, but this behind-the-scenes stuff is just great. Marjoe shows us the man behind the curtain, divulging secrets of how these little medicine shows work. It's amazing to me how likably greasy this guy is, and I thought the footage from his youth was, aside from slightly creepy, really great. He was even greasy as a kid.

I was going to write about it separately, but Thoth, a documentary short (forty minutes) about an eccentric "spiritual hermaphrodite" street performer, was also included. I really enjoyed watching it, too. Here's a guy who performs a one-man opera in a tunnel in Central Park, accompanying himself on a gypsy's violin and foot percussion. I was blown away by his otherworldly vocals. There's nothing terribly interesting about his life story although I did find it all uplifting in an odd sort of way. The best thing about this documentary might be the footage of the crowd watching his spirited performance. There's one shot where the camera pans over several people with their mouths wide open. Cory, you can go ahead and add this to the list of individuals with whom you'd not want to spend time.

Wool 100%

2006 Japanese weirdness

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Two sisters live in a cluttered house. They don't do much other than go on daily treks to dig through people's trash in order to add to the clutter. One day, they bring home a musical doll and several balls of red yarn. That night, a girl appears and begins to disrupt their lives, using the yarn to make an oversized sweater before screaming, unraveling, and beginning again. The past starts to bleed into the present.

More evidence that the Japanese are nutty. This is a movie with a different tone, a pace that would likely frustrate Westerners, and a surprising bit of mindblowing visual flair in the middle. The latter, a startling animated sequence, is too good for words and such a contrast to the subdued tone of everything that sets it up. It's brilliant. Minutes later, the audience is treated to a kind of low budget puppet show, tiny hands manipulating wooden dolls in a doll house. There's a wonderful simplicity to the whole thing. I do think this movie has some problems when it attempts to get a narrative going. But the characters are intriguing. The setting, before they de-clutter anyway, is one of those that gives your eyes a reason to wander over every inch of the screen. And the quirkiness is refreshingly original. This is not for many, but a handful of freak magnets will find this rewarding.

Buster Keaton Saturday: Film

1965 Samuel Beckett film

Rating: n/r

Plot: An old man hides his face from the camera as he runs along a wall, eventually arriving at his nondescript apartment, an apartment as tired and wrinkled as the man. He hides from his mirror, tears up some pictures, and meets a new friend.

Buster Keaton and Samuel Beckett? Damn right I'm in! This is less like Waiting for Godot and more like Waiting for Something to Happen, but it's a fascinating and haunting philosophical short. I wondered how Keaton, just a few years before his death, would do in an experimental film. His face is barely in it, but his movements (especially when we see his hands) are about perfect, and a nearly comedic episode involving the removal of a pair of pets makes it seem like Buster really was the only choice for this thing. It's entirely soundless, creepily soundless if you ask my wife, and the film's got this grainy quality, kind of like everybody's favorite Eraserhead, that makes it all ominous and a bit disturbing. I'm very glad that I stumbled across this. Quite literally actually. I was in the process of falling when I spotted this and grabbed it to keep my balance.

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster

1964 monster mayhem!

Rating: 15/20

Plot: All kinds of stuff going on here. There's an assassination plot involving the princess from some anonymous country, a princess who, following her leap from a plane, decides that she's a Martian. You've got a giant, red-glowing, sometimes-magnetic space rock. There's some minuscule fairy twins who speak in unison and are BFF's with a phallic giant moth creature. Rodan and Godzilla reemerge and have trouble getting along. And a new threat to earth--a no-armed, three-headed, flying thing with terrible breath--needs to be stopped. Man, do the Japanese know how to bring it or do the Japanese know how to bring it?

What badass monster-on-monster-on-monster-on-monster action this one has! It took a bit of time to get to the monster fracases, but luckily, all the stuff involving the human characters was interesting enough to sustain. The other Godzilla movies I've watched had me really missing the guys in suits throwing rocks at each other and pushing each other around, but I actually enjoyed the parts of the plot involving the human characters. I really liked the main bad guy, a guy so bad that he never removes his shades. The bad guys, by the way, might be the worst "killers" (that's what they're called repeatedly) in movie history. I don't believe they succeed in coming close to killing anybody in this, do they? I'm not even sure they could hit a wall with a bullet if a wall happened to be their target. The princess is cute while the fairies (too little for me to use my "little person" tag) and the peripheral characters, mostly because of the terrific dubbing, cracked me up. I wish I had a pair of miniature fairies to keep me company actually. But the monsters are the stars of the show here, and in this one, you get four of them--Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and the title villain. I'm still most impressed with the special effects that make Ghidrah work (still not sure how that happens actually), but it's a lot of fun watching Mothra wiggle around, Rodan pecking at Godzilla's head, and Godzilla getting angry and throwing a hissy-fit. The fight scenes were thrilling and hilarious. There's a wonderful scene where Godzilla and Rodan are playing volleyball with a rock, one of those scenes that starts stupid, goes on for far too long, keeps going long after any human being would think it could possible go on for, and finally becomes almost a religious experience, a work of dadaist art. Fist pumps may have been involved. I also really liked the score. One question though: How could the end of this movie actually have been the end of the movie? Ghidrah, a threat to destroy earth, flies away with his tail between his legs because he's got Mothra web all over his face? That really does him in? Seems like he could go wash that off and be back five minutes later to continue the fight.

Cory recommended this bad boy.

Sons of the Desert

1933 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The boys have promised their fellow Sons of the Desert that they will be attending a convention in Chicago. Their wives
don't like the idea, so they devise a plan to lie about a doctor-recommended trip to Honolulu so that the fat one (Hardy) can convalesce. The plan doesn't work out too well.

It doesn't exactly wear its seventy-seven years well. A lot of the humor, especially anything that has to do with Charlie Chase. He squirts water from flowers, paddles other men when they bend over to pick up his wallet, and has trouble keeping in his giggles while he makes a prank phone call. Laurel and Hardy take turns falling in large containers of water and banging their heads on things. I actually didn't think this movie was as funny as the recent Laurel and Hardy movie (Block Heads) that I watched, but it's more cohesive and has a much more believable story. I also like the roles the wives play, and there are some clever verbal exchanges and baffling spoonerisms from Laurel. The most interesting line for me, at least in the context of the early-30s, was one of Chase's lines about a woman being an old organ pumper. Risque! I like the way this Laurel and Hardy stuff never seems too strained. There are some moments when it becomes completely obvious that these are guys who know they are trying to be funny, but a great deal of this is pretty natural.

A Simple Plan

1998 drama

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Three of the dumbest men in history stumble upon the wreckage of a plane and a bag containing over four million dollars. They all could use the money and make a simple plan because, although they're three of the dumbest men in history, they realize that if they come up with a complicated plan, the movie's title wouldn't make any sense. That simple plan, essentially just keeping their mouths shut and being patient, doesn't work out, and things turn tragic. Oh, snap!

My favorite thing about this movie: There are four puppeteers listed in the end credits. I didn't even realize the movie had puppets, but this confirms my belief that Billy Bob Thornton isn't actually a human being. This film's a mixed bag. It's almost like somebody got their hands on a lost, never-filmed Three Stooges script, decided it needed a lot of blood, and filmed the thing. The trio are stupid, unbelievably stupid, so stupid that nothing they seem to do, no decision that they make, seems natural or realistic. At one point, Bill "I Might As Well Be Nic Cage" Paxton's character's wife (Bridget Fonda, doing her best to channel Holly Hunter) says, "Nobody'd ever believe that you'd be capable of doing what you've done." And she's right. I just had trouble buying what they were selling with these characters. Part of the problem was that I didn't think the acting was great. Bill Paxton seemed bored with his character, and Billy Bob Thornton seemed to be playing a caricature rather than a real person, almost like he was doing sketch comedy instead of a movie. Having said all that, I did find it all entertaining enough. I like Raimi's direction and, despite multifarious flaws, the story's told competently enough. As the characters tiptoe on the edge of disaster, Raimi tiptoes back and forth from tragedy and dark comedy. There's little flair, but there is an underlying sense of humor that I really like and a particularly Raimi-esque physics-defying moment that takes place in a kitchen that made me laugh. There are times when this flirts with greatness, but far too many times when it settles for a more color-by-numbers suspense story. It needed a moment, something to pull me into the drama so that I could accept the unbelievable turns of events. A Simple Plan succeeds as a movie that makes you wonder how you'd react as a normal person who found himself in a similar situation. What it doesn't do is sparkle.

Cory's recommendation.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars

1964 science fiction movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: See Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe. Except it takes place on Mars. And the main character might be a homosexual. And he has a monkey. And he passes his time by playing the bagpipes.

A lot of the special effects in this, specifically the ones used to make whatever desert they filmed this in look otherworldly and Martian, are a complete mystery to me. I'm not sure exactly how they got the look they got, but I sure liked it. Great jagged landscapes, great unnatural colors, great weird non-scientific crystalline structures that you'd expect to see on Superman's planet rather than on Mars. There's a bit of 2001 in this, both in its lonely, introspective flavor and the cool visuals. It's pretty quirky but played sincerely enough, the performances of Paul Mantee as the protagonist especially strong in one of those roles where he's mostly forced to convey emotions and advance his character without anybody else to bounce lines off. Victor Lundin as Friday is less stellar. I definitely liked the movie more before he came along, especially since, arriving with him were these really silly swiftly-moving ships that I never could figure out if I liked or not. Adam West also has a small part. And there's a monkey in a space suit! In my opinion, all film adaptations of classic literature could use a monkey in a space suit. Little Women? Anything by Shakespeare? Don Quixote? The Count of Monte Cristo? Moby Dick? Those could all use a monkey in a space suit. This is definitely worth seeing. Unless you're a scientist. I reckon this stuff would really piss off a scientist.

It's a Gift

1934 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A hen-pecked grocery store owner with a bulbous proboscis decides it's prudent to sell it all and move his wife and two kids to California to become orange orchardaires.

Add Tommy Bupp to the list of terrible child acting performances. Did directors tell all 1930s child actors, "Hey, in this scene, I want you to scrunch up your face and scream your lines," or did all children in the 1930s just act that way naturally, something to do with the Great Depression or something? I enjoyed this movie, but it suffers a bit from the same problem that every W.C. Fields movie--there's a flimsy plot, less a plot actually and more of an excuse to just string together some very funny scenes. Ultimately, it doesn't matter a bit because those scenes are very funny. The film's in ten-or-so minute chunks where a situation is set up so that funny stuff happens. Fields' Bissonette has difficulty shaving, locating kumquats and controlling a blind man, sleeping peacefully, getting his car started, and having a picnic. The genius of Fields in this is that the funny comes without overdoing things. It's a stark contrast to the supporting cast (although to be fair, the wife's hamminess is a necessity), Fields subtlety, comic timing, and delivery shining naturally. The one-liners sparkle and the visual gags surprise. It's a Gift is a joke movie, a written comedy, but there is a lot of visual humor, some, I'm positive, that I missed. This is definitely the type of comedy you have to watch and listen to closely. You won't want to miss anything. My favorite moment: "She walked right in front of the car."

Cory's recommendation.


2004 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A tired guy who owns a sock factory in Uruguay finds out that his brother, who also owns a sock factory in Brazil, is coming to visit. The siblings' relationship isn't a good one. The host brother convinces his co-worker to pose as his wife during his brother's stay. Their wheels spin.

Whisky's dry, one of those so-dry-that-you-might-miss-that-it's-even-a-comedy comedies, not unlike a Jarmusch or Kaurismaki with its mostly-static camera, deadpan delivery, and characters almost too quiet to be noticed. It's so subtle that it hurts. Unlike Kaurismaki, however, this isn't as, well, happy. There's a little more despair with these characters. The three actors who play them are terrifically subdued, embodying destitution, bringing the characters to the closest they'll ever get to life. To be completely honest, this might have less humor than any other movie calling itself a comedy that I've seen. It's one of those Shane comedies. A sock's full of poignant moments in this and several scenes that ended ambiguously, making this one of those (again, Shane-type flicks) that can be seen from different directions. The title, by the way, refers to what people from South America say before they get their pictures taken. Like "cheese" in America. I've never really thought about it, but I guess anything with a long e sound would work there.