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Re: Red River Valley
(a Chinese film about Tibet, showing how the Communists
liberated Tibet from the Western devils)
did see "Red River Valley" for the first time
about a month ago on CCTV whatever... definitely good
for a giggle, the Tibetans were all speaking perfect
putonghua, the British soldiers' accents wandered
drunkenly through all possible regional variations from
Welsh to Scouse (including some American). The
"Scottish" sergant had three different accents
in one scene. Everybody kept on blowing themselves up at
the end and it all got wonderfully melodramatic. Hey, it
brightens up my dull little life out here (though
possibly my memories of the film are a tad clouded by
of vodka drunk during
re: The Virgin
so it’s not exactly The Wonder Years, but yet another
treacly tome hoping desperately to tell us something new
about that whole early 70s adolescent girl-thing.
The Virgin Suicides, produced in that irritating
backlit and washed-out color
reminiscent of a bad print of a 1969 Yardley of London
cosmetics commercial, (designed to make us squeal out
“ISN”T THIS REALISTIC!!”) is a look back at
a Midwestern upper-middle class family, run by the
strict Catholic Mrs.Lisbon (Kathleen Turner).
Turner’s face and body aren’t the most interesting
things in this film, I don’t know what are.
If I sit in the darkened
theater wondering about the seam by Turner’s
ears on what must have been a very recent facelift, than
it appears likely that the
film in not very engaging.
If I wonder why James Woods (Mr. Lisbon) isn’t
getting offered roles the overrated Kevin
Spacey now plays; then perhaps the dialogue’s
just a bit too precious.
If, for a moment, I need to rub my eyes and think
that The Virgin Suicides is what the Bradys were
really all about; then I guess there’s no one likeable
this film with it’s morbid themes should make one
hungry for background, analysis, and understanding, as
four out of five
of the Lisbon family’s offspring commit suicide.
Without providing enough history on the
parents’ relationship (which,
presumably was cut for time), The Virgin Suicides
practically sneers at the very characters it should
for either some well-placed humor, or a tweaking
of the macabre angle, The Virgin Suicides ultimately
falls flat, not due to bad acting or bad timing, but
just another victim of a story that’s all dressed up
with no place to go.
Up At the Villa
bad there wasn't more going on 'up at the villa' to
enliven this maudlin film.
The production is based on a Somerset Maugham
short story, but without Maugham's descriptive prose,
costumes wear the actors and the millinery steals the
("the ice queen") Scott Thomas (Mary Panton)
heads an interesting, if not inspired cast of
misfits, as a young down-on-her-luck society widow who
has come to Florence to regroup after the death of her
alcoholic husband. Anne Bancroft (Princess San Ferdinando), falling in and out
of a confused accent, provides the comic relief as an
aging matron who proudly married for money and
encourages Scott Thomas to do the same.
action centers around the Princess' attempts to
integrate her friend into various swanky Florentine
galas, dinners, and clubs, as the murky malcontent of
1930s Italy provides a flimsy backdrop.
its all so many dreary fox-trots and waltzes for our
heroine, until she meets Sean Penn (as Robert Mitchum,
for my money), who plays the small-time semi-tough con
artist and roué, Rowley Flint, and whom she has been
unwittingly set-up to meet by the Anne Bancroft
limited action that takes place begins at Princess San
Ferdinando's dinner party, where, after learning that
the tenor scheduled to perform was AWOL, the chef snags
a prep cook, who also happens to play the violin.
much coaxing (and for good reason), the scruffy cook
(Jeremy Davies) begins to play for the tony soiree,
poorly, and becomes the butt of some tired jokes uttered
by Bancroft, "He's even worse than Jack
Benny!" she intones.
the guests prepare to depart, a tip tray is offered as
appreciation for the violinist.
Mary is the only guest to leave a folded bill
(which, we assume she can ill afford), amidst the stingy
coinage of the others.
Penn then drives her home, detouring in an
unsuccessful attempt to get some lip service, but ending
up with a smack, and the dust of Mary's model T as she
drives away leaving him at Florence's answer to
she speeds recklessly away, upset by the turn of events,
our Mary nearly
hits a shadowed figure out strolling in the wee hours. It is our violinist-- greasy and stale from his walk home.
what every lonely widow needs! She proceeds to seduce him through a series of laughable
ploys (etchings, anyone?)
and soon the two are passionately ensconced
(baths, anyone?) til morning.
well, I'm boring myself with this, but to wrap things
up; the greasy kid falls for her, she rejects him as she
was just using him anyway, he goes berserk, and gives a
soliloquy about being a victim of political unrest, and
then shoots himself in the heart.
no Ghostbusters to call, Mary calls her good friend,
Rowley (Penn), since he's a crook anyway, and should
know his way out of this mess.
dump the body, there's a gratuitous Fascism scene, poor
Derek Jacobi makes a ridiculously gratuitous appearance
as the town homosexual, and Mary and Rowley get away
with their secret,
smiling knowingly, that they'll be together forever.
on the WB?
I just saw "American Psycho" last night and naturally I thought of you. Not because of this particular movie but whenever the topic of "movie" comes up, I think of you. I enjoyed the movie. I found it to be funny and disturbingly scary. I was amused that the movie
seem to gauge that the average audience would be action movie-loving male because the three trailers that preceded the movie were "U-571," "Mission Impossible 2," and "X-Men." I didn't realize that the
80's was so narcissistic and excessive and it was interesting to feel that this was somewhat of a period film when it happened so recently.
Now, I am interested in seeing "I Shot Andy Warhol" and "Go Fish." I don't know if the local Blockbusters would have it since the local stores don't even carry "Wilde."
re: Chinese vs. American movies
I’ve given some thought to your comments about Chinese movies, especially
Hong Kong movies, and how they are probably some of the best of
the past ten years. I think there is a simple reason why the best movies no longer come out of the US and Europe.
Why do movies generally suck in the West these days? Easy: we have good lives now. Movies in olden times, even up until 20 years ago or so, were able to show a better world—even in a dystopia,
like "Planet of the Apes", or "Soylent Green", people have perfect skin. Life has caught up to the movies, so people don't care anymore. They want either "true life" crap, or, thankfully, the novel will return to promenence. I doubt that video games will overtake novels anytime soon, but give it twenty years and we’ll see. The problem with video games is that there is so much work involved—movies are relatively low-tech, in comparison, and all you need for a novel is a good light source.
So why are movies good elsewhere, at least more? Life isn’t so good in many parts of the world, and people in those places want to see something that is better than what they have, just like it was in the West for so long. Story is very important, but story
can only go so far. There has to be something more, something that can grab a person and make them pay attention, and design can do that. That’s why the old black-and-whites are so cool
- they paid a lot of attention to how the shadows worked, how to put people on the screen. I think a lot has been lost by going to color, since scenery has taken the place of plot and acting.
Now as decadence overtakes us in the West, and the sun goes down on us, of course the East will prosper in film. India is probably
the next to be great, and then, perhaps, parts of Africa. I’m not sure about the Muslim countries, mainly because I’m not familiar with the current state of film in those nations, and what they will be able to do. Perhaps story and acting can really take their place in such cultures.
These are a few half-thought-through-thoughts, but I figured you’d be interested. Later!
If you ever check out an international film
festival like the one I was lucky to check out in San
Francisco this April, you'll see how every continent has
great cinema going for it -- and it's sad how they are
completely ignored by most Americans, even those who
claim to be movie literate. But you can't blame them
when these films can't find a distributor in the states,
even for video. That's why we need to get the word
out -- and keep your eyes peeled for these movies
because you'll run into them sooner or later. - KBL
Best Films of '90s
the site looks great.
i haven't seen half the movies on your
top ten, but absolutely agree with you on the other
half. thanks for putting up the site. it's exactly what
i've been looking for--smart, savvy critiques of good
movies by a person whose taste in film i've always trusted.
i'll tell my friends about this cool site.
flowers of shanghai were the two best films i've
seen this year. glad to see them on your list. i'm looking
forward to clicking through the rest of the site at
some point. now that i know it's there,
maybe my video renting will be a bit less haphazard.
From Sisi Lee re:
great that your reveiw
of magnolia was
long! i loved it. but, i didn't think that Moore's
performance was especially good, but then again, i really
didn't care much for her character. i actually found
her story line to be one of the least interesting ones
in the whole movie. did you catch where you actually
saw the word magnolia in the movie? it was on the street
sign at the intersection where all the madness started
with the frogs. although, you probably knew that b/c
of your superior movie knowledge.
i hate your website b/c it makes me procrastinate too much. i find myself
reading reviews of movies i would rather eat shit and die than watch.
re: The Insider
Kevin, last weekend
I had a real treat. The political institute rented a
room in the local theater for a screening of "The
Insider." There's nothing like the feeling
of having a movie put on just for you (and the other
people in your group). And today the institute invited
Jeffrey Wigand to speak about his fight against big
tobacco. He said that the movie captures most
of the important facts about his ordeal: he did receive death threats and a
bullet in his mailbox, and CBS really did capitulate to Brown and
Williamson. From what he described, the feeling of paranoia was actually
worse than portrayed in the movie. Although he wasn't tailed by a burly man
at a golf driving range, he was followed 24-7 by an ex-FBI agent hired by
B&W. And the harassment didn't end after the security guards came in to his
home. Amazingly, during the legal proceedings B&W stepped up their menace.
Several times the cars of his attorneys were broken into, with just
documents pertaining to his case stolen, and not any other documents nor
valuables in the car were stolen. B&W even managed to wheedle documents
from the concierge at one courthouse.
Of course the details of the movie were fudged a bit. Interestingly, his
daughter has spina bifida, not asthma as the movie portrays. Russell Crowe
managed a good impersonation: his accent sounds like Wigand's New England
brogue, Crowe did a good job of talking bluntly. Wigand is practically a
human PowerPoint presentation: when he makes points, he asks a question and
then answers it (Would I do it again? Most certainly.) or he itemizes them
(Number one, number two...). But at the talk, Wigand was boisterous,
irrepressible. I get the feeling that he didn't have the deep internal
crisis that Crowe presented in the movie.
Wigand has a website describing his ongoing battle with B&W and big tobacco.
Check it out: www.jeffreywigand.com