Wednesday, March 30, 2016

852. C'est arrivé près de chez vous

C'est arrive près de chez vous
Man Bites Dog
1992
Directed by Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, and Benoit Poelvoorde








Ugh.  Here we are again.  Yet another film with a brutal rape sequence, not to mention all the other scenes that feature horrific acts of violence.  I will briefly try to see if there was any credible reason for this film's existence, then hopefully, move on and forget about it quickly.

A crew of filmmakers follow around a serial killer for the purposes of a documentary.  At first, they just record his crimes but gradually, the entire crew begins participating in the murders.  I guess the point is that society views violence as a sick form of entertainment?  How about people stop making films like this then?

Anyway, we all know I hate seeing sexual violence on screen.  It almost never has a viable purpose, other than to show a naked woman or demonstrate that we are dealing with a "bad" guy.  Or, I suppose, to give our male hero something to avenge.  Of course, it is sometimes used for humor, but I can't even talk about that.

Once again, I have to use one of my favorite Roger Ebert quotes: "the star rating is unsuited to this film.  It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine."

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

Received a NC17 rating for its American release.

851. Yuen Ling-yuk

Yuen Ling-yuk
The Actress
1992
Directed by Stanley Kwan








I knew this was going to be a bit of a chore to sit through.  Biopics always are.  I was hoping I would find this one interesting because of the subject matter.  No such luck.  I am still glad I endured this one, though, as Maggie Cheung's performance was incredible.

The film tells the story of Ruan Lingyu, a silent movie actress who, at the age of 24, committed suicide, as she couldn't handle the intense media scrutiny of her personal life.  The movie alternates between reenactments and discussions of the film by the cast and producers.  There are also a few interviews with people who knew Lingyu.

It is an interesting format for a biopic; the film Reds used the same approach.  I guess the format can't be done unless the film is over two and a half hours.  I suppose the style worked, but I think I would have preferred just the reenactments.  Like I said, Maggie Cheung was stunning here; she had a presence that made her stand out even when she was surrounded by other people.  Maybe I should start spending two hours a day on my eyebrows...

I pretty much summed it up in my first paragraph: dull, but brilliantly cast. 150 movies to go!  Okay, I swear I will stop with the countdown.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Maggie Cheung won Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival, making her the first Chinese actress to win a major European film award.

Monday, March 28, 2016

850. Conte d'hiver

Conte d'hiver
A Tale of Winter
1992
Directed by Eric Rohmer









Only 151 movies left to go people!  I know, I know...speed it along.  I will try my best, dear readers.

The film opens with a rather nauseating montage of a young couple falling in love over vacation on a beach.  At the end of the trip, Felicie accidentally gives Charles the wrong address.  Consequently, he doesn't find her (I guess they can't all be Rex Hofmans).  This is particularly unfortunate, as Felicie is pregnant with Charles' child.  Five years later, Felicie is still missing Charles and is pursued by two very different suitors.

Roger Ebert said there is sadness in Rohmer's work, but never gloom.  Once again, Ebert demonstrates that he is the perfect human.  There was a certain sadness in this.  I think we all would like to believe that our lives are defined by our big decisions, but in reality it is our small mistakes and even smaller strokes of luck that dictate the direction our lives take.  This entire film was hinged on coincidence, which was, at times, frustrating.  Ultimately, though, I think the style was a statement, rather than simply implausible storytelling...right?

Anyway, I can't go too high on my rating for this one, as Felicie's indecisiveness kept pissing me off.  I am not saying it was unrealistic, but it was definitely annoying to witness.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The second in Rohmer's "Tales of the Four Seasons" series.

Friday, March 25, 2016

849. Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer

Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer
1992
Directed by Nick Broomfield










I have never actually seen Monster, although I have heard Charlize Theron's performance praised many times.  Apparently, she doesn't wear make up and gained a lot of weight.  Like that's hard.  Ba-dum-tshh.

This film is a documentary on Aileen Wuornos, a female serial killer (although she claims all of the men she killed were trying to rape her).  Broomfield actually interviews Aileen, as this is before she was executed (but after she was sentenced).  That's obviously the creepiest part of the film, but Broomfield also gets chilling footage of her exploitative lawyer and adopted mother.

I don't know what to make of Aileen.  It seems like she often tries to tell people what she thinks they want to hear, but, not being that intelligent, rarely pulls it off.  I did feel sorry for her, and given the way prostitutes are treated, I don't doubt that she was attacked.  I also think the death penalty is an archaic and brutal practice, but I won't get into that too much.  I think I had enough time on my soapbox during my review on The Rapture.

One of the best documentaries I have seen.  Highly recommended.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Charlize Theron would watch this film in between takes of Monster to perfect her character.

848. Unforgiven

Unforgiven
1992
Directed by Clint Eastwood









The Western genre is dying or, arguably, dead.  I am pretty sure this is the last one in our Book, which is quite disappointing to me (although I realize that the genre is outdated, formulaic, and often racist).  At least the Western goes out with a bang.

Quick Mike and Davey Boy Bunting cut up a prostitute after she laughs at Quick Mike's tiny penis.  I suppose Mike had to reclaim his fragile manhood.  The sheriff, Little Bill Dagget, refuses to arrest the two cowboys, instead making them pay a fine to the brothel owner.  The other prostitutes are furious, and put a $1,000 bounty on Quick Mike and Davey Boy.  The Schofield Kid, a young man eager to win the money, recruits William Munny and Ned Logan to help him.  William and Ned are both retired gunfighters, but they agree to kill the two cowboys (because we all know what a hero Eastwood is to women).  Their task is further complicated by the fact that Little Bill does not allow guns in his town.  In conclusion, gun control is clearly evil.

I always love how Eastwood will pay homage to spaghetti Westerns, and you can definitely see that here.  The sets are just beautiful and the acting is a lot better than in our previous Eastwood directed films (Freeman raises the bar, as does Hackman).  It's a little on the long side, but the climax more than makes up for the wait.

So a great movie and hey, an Eastwood Western without rape.  Gotta grab those while you can.  Okay, I'll stop...

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The concept had been floating around Hollywood for 20 years before Clint Eastwood decided to direct the movie.

847. Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross
1992
Directed by James Foley








I feel a lot of pressure to adore this film, as I don't think I ever seen a negative review about it.  I would just like to read one review slamming this movie, so I am certain human beings aren't programmed to adore this and I have some sort of mechanical error.  I didn't think it was terrible by any means, but I am still not sure that I saw a masterpiece.

The owners of Premier Properties send Blake to motivate their salesmen.  Blake takes his job pretty serious, and after a rather frightening monologue, he informs the salesmen that only the top two salesmen will receive the Glengarry leads, while the rest of them will be fired. Understandably, the salesmen get a little...desperate.

Everybody raves about the performances in this film and cites the acting as the main reason they like it. The cast is, undoubtedly, extremely talented.  While Pacino never impresses me that much (or, at the very least, never seems to live up to the associated hype), I thought Spacey and Baldwin were incredible.  Still, did anyone else find this rather dull?  I get that it was a stage play, so we aren't going to move around a lot.  But with no women and no change of scenery, I felt very trapped.  Of course, I am sure this was the intention, to make us feel as claustrophobic as the salesmen.  Still, I didn't enjoy the sensation, since I was mostly uninterested in the story.

Apparently, the cast called this "Death of A Fucking Salesman."  Honestly, the title is a lot better than "Glengarry Glen Ross."  Worth watching for the performances, but still rather boring.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Alec Baldwin based the performance of his monologue on the speech in Patton.

This film is still used to train salesmen.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

846. Romper Stomper

Romper Stomper
1992
Directed by Geoffrey Wright







If all the characters in a film morally repulse you, is it still possible to enjoy the movie?  I am thinking yes, but I am not entirely sure that this film proves that theory.

Hando is the leader of a violent gang of neo-Nazis.  His gang mostly targets the Vietnamese, although I am sure they hate all non whites equally (they are fair like that).  Hando begins a romantic relationship with Gabrielle, the daughter of the an abusive, wealthy man.  The gang discovers that their favorite pub has been sold to a Vietnamese family and they...retaliate, I guess.  I miss the days when rumbles in movies consisted of pirouettes and yelling "POW!"

So obviously, the majority of characters in this film are garbage, which means I didn't really care about what happened to them.  I suppose the movie is effective in exposing the audience to racism and illustrating how ugly it is.  But um...I already kind of knew that.  Hopefully you did too.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Daniel Pollock (Davy) committed suicide before the film was released.

845. Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs
1992
Directed by Quentin Tarantino








This is very exciting, as it is our first Tarantino film on The List.  I am a fan of his, although I am not quire sure I could adequately defend any of his movies against his critics.  The dialogue, at the very least, is always witty and quotable.  Anyone have an opinion on The Hateful Eight?  I saw that in theaters in 70 mm.

Eight men (Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, Mr. White, Mr. Brown, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Joe Cabot, and Nice Guy) are planning to commit a diamond heist.  They decide to have breakfast first, in conspicuous outfits, because obviously, that's the smartest course of action.  They discuss the practice of tipping and the lyrical meaning behind "Like a Virgin" then leave for the robbery.  Although we don't actually see the heist, it presumably, doesn't go so great.  The remaining men agree that it was probably a set up.  Now they must figure out which of them is the rat...

This is a pretty brutal movie.  I am sure some people want to watch it simply for the excessive violence (probably the same people who laughed every time somebody said "nigger" in The Hateful Eight).  Fortunately, there is more to this film than torture scenes.  Like I said before, the dialogue was excellent and the movie is full of fun visual clues, which makes it a great film to revisit.  It can be hard for a writer to handle so many different voices, but each character has a distinctive personality and an interesting screen presence.

Not my favorite Tarantino (that honor would probably go to Inglourious Basterds) but still a wonderful movie.  Truly one of a kind.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Mr. Blonde and Vince from Pulp Fiction are brothers.

No dialogue is spoken by a woman.


844. The Player

The Player
1992
Directed by Robert Altman








I kind of hate both Robert Altman (for MASH) and Michael Tolkin (for The Rapture).  However, this was absolutely brilliant.  It must be my romcom moment when I realize that the hunky male has a softer side and isn't such a jerk after all.  Although in this case, I suppose it is males.  No complaints here.

Griffin Mill is a Hollywood studio executive who is tasked with the difficult job of green lighting story pitches.  A new story executive comes on board, threatening Mill's job security.  He starts to receive death threats, which he presumes are coming from one of the many writers he has rejected.  He decides to investigate, but his sleuthing only creates more problems.

This film is pretty hilarious to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of American film.  It pokes fun at serious "artists" as much as it mocks manufactured Hollywood garbage.  It still manages to be somewhat light hearted, as hundreds of people from the industry are in on the joke.  I loved the character of Mill.  Yes, he was an asshole, but I still found myself cheering for him.  The ending has got to be one of the best I have seen.  It fit so well thematically with the rest of the movie, while wrapping everything up perfectly.

Highly recommended.  I might just end up kissing Tolkin or Altman (or both) in the rain.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Among the celebrities who made cameos were Cher, Susan Sarandon, Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, Burt Reynolds, Marlee Matlin, Jack Lemon, and Jeff Goldblum.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

843. Strictly Ballroom

Strictly Ballroom
1992
Directed by Baz Luhrmann









This is the first film in Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy and easily the worst entry.  At least he improves but still...yikes.

Scott dreams of winning the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix dancing championship.  His...unorthodox moves convince his dance partner Liz that he doesn't have what it takes to win, so she deserts him in favor of another dancer, Ken Railings.  Scott to finds a new partner in Fran, a somewhat dumpy beginner.  But she's not a good dancer yet!! She also has the audacity to not wear make up!! How on Earth will they win the big competition??

Everyone, even the people who adore this film, even the filmmakers can agree that this plot is incredibly tired.  I suppose you are expected to find the presentation so unique that the predicability doesn't matter.  Luhrmann will certainly succeed in this approach in his later career, but I really felt like he failed with this one.

I guess overacting is essential to the style of this movie but the cast still got on my nerves.  The love story was ridiculously unconvincing.  I think Scott would have been a lot happier if he had ended up with Ken.  If they were going to include a film on this List with the basic dance movie plot line, I wish it had been Dirty Dancing.  The choreography was better in that movie and you know....Patrick Swayze.

Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge are both incredible, but this entry is entirely skippable.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Paul Mercurio had to dance the final sequence with a sprained ankle.

842. La double vie de Véronique

La double vie de Veronique
The Double Life of Veronique
1991
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski






I have been writing since I woke up this morning but decided to take a short break to watch this film.  Because, obviously, I don't make enough time to watch movies.  This was, surprisingly, quite enjoyable.  I say surprisingly because I wasn't overly impressed with Dekalog Jeden.  Fortunately, Kieslowski redeemed himself with this film and I am now looking forward to The Three Colors.

Weronika, a pretty Polish woman, has a beautiful soprano voice and dreams of singing in concerts.  Meanwhile, her doppelgänger Veronique works as a music teacher in France.  Veronique begins to realize that she might have a connection to an unknown person, meeting a mysterious (and handsome) stranger in the process.

I know that summary was a bit vague, but I am not sure what was intended to be straightforward, and what was intended to be a plot twist.  I actually didn't realize we were dealing with doubles at first; I thought that Weronika was just bilingual.  Let's all take a moment of silence to marvel at my daftness.

In any case, this film is gorgeous.  The cinematography really has an other worldly quality that is stunning to watch.  Actually everything about this film seems ethereal, from the cast to the scary marionette dolls.  It is also a pretty fascinating concept; the idea that we could be living virtually the same life as someone else, sharing the thoughts, emotions, and dreams of a complete stranger.  Thankfully, I already know that my doppelgänger is my sister; everyone thinks we are twins.

A very enjoyable way to procrastinate writing.  Back to the salt mines...

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Andie MacDowell was Kieslowski's first choice to play Veronique.

841. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse
1991
Directed by Eleanor Coppola, George Hickenlooper, and Fax Bahr








I love seeing behind the scene footage; I must have watched the LOTR extras twenty times.  This was way more interesting than Apocalypse Now, so at least something good came from that nightmarish bore.

This documentary details all the disasters that took place during the filming of Apocalypse Now, from the bad weather to the monstrous egos of the cast.  Francis Ford Coppola is portrayed as somewhat...demanding but everyone walks away looking slightly insane.

I wish there were more documentaries like this, as filmmaking (obviously) interests me.  I see some behind the scenes footage of The Shining, but it was mostly Stanley Kubrick being sweet to Danny Lloyd and I have to assume that wasn't the usual Kubrick persona.  I would love to see a documentary on the making of Titanic, which I read was just as nightmarish as the filming of Apocalypse Now.  Just with hotter people.

Essentially a movie for film buffs and I think it is safe to say all of my readers fit under this category.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Marlon Brando refused to be interviewed, as he believed Francis Ford Coppola still owned him two million dollars.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

840. Tongues Untied

Tongues Untied
1991
Directed by Marlon Riggs









I took a film class once that made this required viewing.  I had already seen in it for this List but the professor didn't believe me.  I suppose most people haven't seen it and I must have an untrustworthy face.  The professor also rejected me when I asked him out later.  Let's all pretend it was because he thought I was a liar.

Anyway, having now seen it twice, I am quite familiar with it.  Basically, it's a documentary on black homosexual society, which pretty much faces persecution on all sides.  Marlon Riggs also details his own experiences, which includes losing friends to the AIDs virus.

I think a lot of people might look at this film and think it can't interest them if they aren't black or gay.  This is pretty unfair, as I think it is supremely important to listen to voices that don't necessarily reflect your own viewpoints or history.  Isn't that what art is about?  Anyway, it is only 55 minutes long, so it's not that much of an investment.

Heartbreaking at times and enlightening at others, it's definitely a film people should see. Twice.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Includes footage of Eddie Murphy doing a homophobic stand up routine.

839. Slacker

Slacker
1991
Directed by Richard Linklater








As someone who hangs out with a lot of stoners (not that I would ever engage in such debauchery...ahem) it is impressive how real this movie seems.  I almost feel like I have had the same conversations that are presented here.  Whether or not I actually enjoy watching high people muse for 100 minutes is another matter altogether.

There is no real plot here.  The film will mostly follow a character, have them interact with another character, then follow that character around for a little while, have them interact with another character, then follow that character around for a little while...and so on and so forth.  It is an interesting idea for a film, although I confess I got tired of the format near the forty five minute mark.

I don't really care what happens in a movie if the dialogue is good.  While not all of these moments were winners, enough were to make this film worth a watch.  I particularly enjoyed the conspiracy theory conversation, having just reviewed JFK.

Not necessarily a stand out movie, but still decent.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The movie that inspired Kevin Smith to be a filmmaker.

838. JFK

JFK
1991
Directed by Oliver Stone









We have been on a streak of great movies, but I am afraid that will come to a crashing halt with some of the films coming up (Strictly Ballroom...ugh!).  Oh well, let's enjoy it while it lasts.

Basically, the film follows New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison as he tries to solve JFK's assassination.  I think we can all agree there are some missing pieces in the "official story," though some of Stone's explanations are equally dubious.  In true Kevin Costner fashion, Garrison becomes obsessed with the mystery, neglecting his family and making some powerful enemies along the way.

This is the kind of the role that Kevin Costner is perfect for; he is never entirely convincing as a romantic lead.  He can have kind of a dull screen presence, and the fact that he could give insanely long speeches in this film and remain interesting is a credit to the script.  I do think the three and a half hour running time was a bit...excessive.  The middle part of this film dragged a little, but I still feel like it was relatively well paced.

Only 13 more years until the official assassination records are open to public.  Then everyone can stop bitching at Stone for putting forth his own thesis.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The real Jim Garrison plays Judge Earl Warren.



Monday, March 21, 2016

837. The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs
1991
Directed by Jonathan Demme








I just watched the Siskel & Ebert review for this film on YouTube.  Siskel called the film "exploitative" and said that "the horrors of female abuse are too much with us, I think now, to be trifled with more in the movies."  It's, perhaps, a valid point and the horrifying depiction of a trans man still makes me cringe.  Still, the performances in this film are incredible and it works quite effectively as a thriller.

Clarice Starling, a FBI trainee, is asked to interview Hannibal Lecter in prison.  Hannibal is a former psychiatrist and serial killer, who also seems to be omniscient.  The FBI believe Hannibal might provide insight in tracking down another serial killer, Buffalo Bill, who skins his female victims.  It quickly becomes clear that Hannibal might become more of a threat than Buffalo Bill, despite being incarcerated.  But at least Hannibal doesn't dance.

I have to give this film five stars on the basis of Anthony Hopkins' performance alone.  Every expression, every inflection, and every movement he does is absolutely perfect.  It kind of makes Brian Cox's performance look embarrassingly bad.  Of course, Cox didn't have a brilliant script to work with like Hopkins did.

Jodie Foster is also fantastic here; the kind of reluctant respect and reverence she has for Hannibal is fascinating.  Definitely a disturbing film that, unfortunately, ruined the song "American Girl" for me.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Only horror film to win Best Picture.

The majority of the film was shot in Pittsburgh.  I actually pass the building where Hannibal was kept in his cage nearly every day.  Lovely.


836. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
1991
Directed by James Cameron










Ah, the age old debate.  Which Terminator film was better?  I like to pretend that there were only two Terminator movies.  I would like to think I didn't see a trailer for the remake, in which James Cameron pleads desperately with the audience to go see Terminator: Genisys (spelled incorrectly for some artistic reason I'm sure) in a super pathetic way.

Skynet has sent yet another cyborg into the past, T-1000, this time to kill John Connor.  Luckily, future John sent back a cyborg as well to protect his past self because obviously he knew it would work, since it already happened.  But wouldn't Skynet know it didn't work if John still existed in the future?  Oh right, I forgot my rule.  Don't think too hard about time travel movies.  Anyway, John fears that T-1000 will also try to kill his mother.  He and his trusty cyborg decide to rescue her from a mental hospital, which she was sent to for warning people about the upcoming apocalypse and bombing computer factories.

How bad ass was Linda Hamilton in this?  Her performance alone was worth the price of admission; it was fascinating watching her transform from an ordinary girl in the first film to a unstoppable warrior in this.  T-1000 was also a fantastic villain.  I actually didn't find the special effects to be too overpowering.  Even with the CGI, you still had some very human scenes to balance out all the explosions and fight scenes.

There are many valid criticisms of this movie (yes, we all want to punch young John in the face), but I still had a blast with this one.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Linda Hamilton's twin sister was used in the shots when there are two Sarah Connors.

The special effects shots total sixteen minutes of the film.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

835. Thelma & Louise

Thelma & Louise
1991
Directed by Ridley Scott







I will try not to get to cranky as I talk about this film, which I think a lot of people dismiss as a "chick flick."  Of course, if two males starred in it, it would be treated with a bit more respect.  After all, it deals with serious themes that aren't simply "women's topics."  Okay, wait, I am already getting annoyed.

Thelma Dickinson and Louise Sawyer decide to go on vacation together to escape their bleak existences.  Thelma is married to a control freak while Louise works a miserable job as a waitress.  They stop for a drink and Thelma dances with a creepy guy who then tries to rape her in the parking lot.  Louise shoots him and saves Thelma, but doesn't want to turn herself in, as she doesn't think the police will believe the two of them that he tried to attack Thelma.  Probably accurate.  The two then go on the run, kicking ass along the way.

My crush on Susan Sarandon really intensified after watching this film.  These characters are fascinating, particularly Louise.  After a lifetime of oppression and persecution, the women finally snap.  Unlike in A Question of Silence, the females are actually sane.  I supported the women for the entire duration of the film; in fact, I almost felt like they had no choice (especially when Brad Pitt came into the scene; you just have to sleep with him if you get the opportunity).  At the very least, I felt like they pursued their best options.

A beautiful bond is on display here, as are two beautiful women.  This is an important film to watch, especially in the context of this List, which isn't exactly brimming with female representation.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

George Clooney auditioned for the role of J.D. five times.

834. My Own Private Idaho

My Own Private Idaho
1991
Directed by Gus Van Sant








Everyone always criticizes Keanu Reeves for his acting ability, but he was pretty outstanding in this.  And in Dangerous Liaisons and The Matrix, he was...fine.  So see?  Point proven.

Mike is a gay prostitute, whose "services" are sometimes interrupted by fits of narcolepsy.  Thankfully, he is often aided by his friend Scott.  Scott is also a prostitute, even though he has a rich inheritance to fall back on.  Presumably, he wants to piss off his father, although he might have taken the whole "adolescent angst" bit a little too far.  Mike yearns to find his mother, who he often dreams about, and Scott agrees to help him look.

This is an odd movie.  At times, it seems quite normal, but then the director would do something strange, like having the magazine covers talk to the audience.  It could have felt uneven, but it ultimately worked for me.  Apparently, it was inspired by Henry IV and you can definitely see Shakespearean qualities in the characters.

My only complaint is the ending, as it broke my heart but I can't really blame the filmmakers for that.  Still, I just wish that for once a gay couple in a movie could have a happy ending.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

River Phoenix wrote the campfire scene.

For the American video release, the front cover of the jacket showed River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves both with women, in order to market it as a straight film.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

833. The Rapture

The Rapture
1991
Directed by Michael Tolkin








Okay, I am really going to try to be nice about this one, although it will be a bit of a struggle for me.  I am an atheist, but I grew up in a predominantly religious area.  I wrote an article for the school paper about being an atheist and people got a bit...peeved.  I think I am still listed on a few Catholic websites' hit list.  I also got dumped by a football player for being "the atheist."  Ah, the tragedies of our time.  In any case, I will try to be fair and keep the judgmental comments to a minimum.

Sharon is a young woman in Los Angeles, who (hide your wives and children) enjoys having sex and drinking.  She is informed that the Rapture is coming, so becomes a born again Christian.  Apparently, this still counts as devotion and will get her into heaven.  She gets married and has a daughter but certain...events lead her to believe that God is maybe not so benevolent after all.  I guess she doesn't have access to the news, so didn't know this before.

It is hard to watch a film with religious themes without having your experience colored by your own beliefs.  I think I was able to avoid this by not expecting this film universe to be our own; this is not our world, this is Tolkin's world.  In his universe, God is real, the apocalypse is coming, and letting God into your heart (whatever that means) will get you into heaven.  I accept all that.  Whether you believe God is real in our world doesn't necessarily have to factor into your enjoyment at all (although making snarky comments is always a blast).

That being said, this movie sucked on its own accord.  The acting is terrible and I don't think I have ever seen a more obnoxious lead character (keep in mind that my exposure to Adam Sandler films is limited).  The ending was just ridiculous and the whole thing reeked of pretension.

There.  I apologized if I insulted anyone.  Don't be afraid to come back at me in the comments, as I like when discussions of film can branch out to bigger issues.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Michael Tolkin said that the ill timing of the release was the reason behind the poor box office performance.  Sure it is.



832. La belle noiseuse

La belle noiseuse
The Beautiful Troublemaker
1991
Directed by Jacques Rivette









Our streak of drawn out films continues with La belle noiseuse, which clocks in at four hours.  I guess the intention of this one is to portray every mind numbing moment of the artistic process to illustrate how exhausting it is.  Point taken, I suppose, although as a writer, I am painfully aware of this already.

Frenhofer is a retired artist living a quiet existence with his wife, who used to be a model.  They are visited by a young couple, Nicolas and Marianne.  Nicolas is an aspiring artist and offers Marianne up as a model for Frenhofer's unfinished painting, La belle noiseuse.  Slowly, Frenhofer creates his painting, unsure whether he still has what it takes to make something beautiful.  Slowly.  Very slowly.

I know it would have been totally cliche, but I was hoping for more of a passionate love story between Frenhofer and Marianne.  I guess their connection was more artistic and intellectual than sexual.  How dull of them.  At the very least, it would have been a bit more exciting; as I said, this movie moves at a snail's pace.

It is, undoubtedly, quite beautiful but I was ultimately disappointed a bit with the story.  It seemed reluctant to move in a significant direction, at least until the end.  I never thought I would say that about something inspired by Balzac!

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

One of Kurosawa's favorite films.

Friday, March 18, 2016

831. Naked Lunch

Naked Lunch
1991
Directed by David Cronenberg









In addition to having seen this movie, I also read the book.  Really, a lot of homework to do for a story I did not enjoy in print or on screen.

William Lee works as an exterminator, who is having a bad reaction to the bug powder.  He believes he is a secret agent who received a mission to kill his wife (who is also addicted to bug powder).  So it's almost like Total Recall, only grosser and with less attractive people.

William Burroughs is one fucked up man and as a writer he receives more attention for his strangeness than his actual talent.  He saw the world, and the writing profession, in a very ugly way, which we are forced to sit through here.  I suppose it would appeal to some people; the aesthetics and the whole structure are quite unusual.  But it doesn't take a lot of skill to portray a world in such a dirty, disgusting way; optimism and beauty are much harder, and much more rewarding, to produce.

Not my cup of tea.  Are we done with Cronenberg yet?

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Cronenberg's first non horror film.  Is it, though?

830. Gǔ lǐng jiē shàonián shārén shìjiàn

Gu ling jie shaonian sharen shijian
A Brighter Summer Day
1991
Directed by Edward Yang








I tried to give this one a shot, but I knew I was fighting a losing battle.  Four hours and I can only point to about two things that happened.  Only one of those things was interesting.

Man, I really do not feel like writing a plot synopsis for this one.  As I said, only a couple things happen of note, so I am not sure what would constitute as a spoiler.  Basically, the film is a coming of age story following a group of teenagers in Taiwan.  The most startling parts of the movie were when a young Taiwanese boy would sing rock and roll songs in a high pitched register.  It was...endearing.  And decidedly strange.

Apparently, there were over 100 amateur actors involved in this movie.  While no one was absolutely awful, a lot of them didn't have much of a screen presence.  I also think this is a case of the culture gap being just a bit too wide; I had never heard of the crime this film was based on, so really didn't have a lot of interest in the story.

Definitely a dull four hours, although I guess I shouldn't complain.  We have Satantango coming up.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Based on a true story.





829. Delicatessen

Delicatessen
1991
Directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet








Apparently Empire magazine has claimed this film is "simply essential viewing for vegetarians."  Speaking as a vegetarian, I would hardly call this a must see, although I guess we are portrayed as heroes/weirdos.  Seems about right.

In post apocalyptic France, food is scarce and used as currency. A butcher posts job opportunities in the local paper (because apparently that would still be a thing) in order to lure victims to his shop.  He then slaughters his "workers" and uses them for meat.  When a former clown applies for the job, the butcher is so impressed with his knife skills that he decides not to kill him right away.  This gives the clown time to start a romance with the butcher's daughter.  The whole thing is rather disgusting, but at least we don't have to see graphic clown sex.

This film is very delighted with its own strangeness, but I am not sure it entirely worked for me.  I didn't find it overly disturbing, but the absurdist humor really didn't work for me.  I suppose it would go in the Siskel and Ebert category of "Comedies That Didn't Make Us Laugh."  I guess its aim wasn't to crack the audience up; its intention was probably to blow us away with the odd visuals. Admittedly, it was unusual but overall, it was an ugly film that I wanted to look away from.

I can see some people loving this one.  I didn't, but hey, it was something different and that can satisfy the taste buds sometimes.  More than Dominique Pinon can, anyway.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The year that this film takes place is approximately 12,150 CE.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

828. Dà Hóng Dēnglong Gāogāo Guà

Da Hong Denglong Gaogao Gua
Raise the Red Lantern
1991
Directed by Zhang Yimou







I have really been loving the Chinese films lately and we continue our happy trend with Raise the Red Lantern.  See, I can enjoy a Chinese movie without kung fu.  I'm cultured.

Songlian is the newest and fourth concubine of the Chen household.  Every night Master Chen chooses a concubine to sleep with.  The chosen concubine always receives red lanterns and a foot massage.  What a prince, right?  It's a constant competition between the mistresses to become the favorite of Master Chen and it quickly becomes clear that Songlian may not have what it takes to live such an existence.

Visually, this film is absolutely stunning.  Based on Zhang Yimou's earlier film Red Sorghum, I knew that I was in for an aesthetic masterpiece.  I was surprised at how engaging and heartbreaking the story was, as the plot in Red Sorghum, structurally speaking, was sort of a mess.  Kind of like that last sentence.

I read that this film was adapted into a ballet; that is something that I would love to see.  At least, that's what I say now.  When I actually saw a ballet I was bored and confused.  See?  Cultured.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Banned in China during the early nineties.

827. Boyz in the Hood

Boyz in the Hood
1991
Directed by John Singleton









I really struggled to write my Do The Right Thing review, as I was trying to balance the importance of the film with the fact that I just didn't enjoy it that much.  This, coupled with my white guilt, made the review rough to get through, and I fear we have the same problem on our hands with this one.

Basically, three young men, Tre, Doughboy, and Ricky, live in the Crenshaw ghetto of Los Angeles.  While Tre struggles to maintain an identity outside of the ghetto, Doughboy and Ricky find themselves unable to escape violent gang life.

There is a fantastic cast here and I am not just saying that because of my everlasting crush on Morris Chestnut.  There is real talent here; it makes me want to check out more of Ice Cube's work.  Still, it is a rather predictable plot arc, so I can't honestly say I fully enjoyed my time with this one.  I did find the characters interesting; the racist black cop in particular stood out to me as a point of view we don't often see.

So worth a watch, but don't expect any surprises.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Will Smith turned down the role of Tre, as he was committed to working on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

826. Once Upon a Time in China

Once Upon a Time in China
1991
Directed by Tsui Hark







I am becoming quite predictable in my reviews.  I like anything with kung fu in it and despise anything with gratuitous sexual violence.  That's going on my tombstone.

Basically, the film tells the story of professional bad ass Wong Fei-Hung, a martial arts expert who stood up against foreign forces during the Qing Dynasty, when China was getting royally screwed over by Western powers.

We all know the plot isn't that important in kung fu movies, but I was quite pleased with the story in this one.  For one thing, the Qing Dynasty is the period of Chinese history I am most familiar with, so I had enough context to really enjoy it.  It was also fascinating watching the human body overpower Western technology and weapons.  The bullet flicking move was one of the coolest things I have seen in a kung fu movie (sorry Jackie Chan).

I think this one has a bit more to say than the typical kung fu movie and is therefore worth a watch, even if this genre isn't your thing.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Jet Li's voice was dubbed in post production, as he couldn't speak Cantonese.

825. Total Recall

Total Recall
1990
Directed by Paul Verhoeven









I wouldn't say that I was a fan of Schwarzenegger, but I find myself always enjoying his movies.  Maybe I am harboring a secret crush.  A scary thought.

In the year 2084, Douglas Quaid is an "ordinary" construction worker, because normal people have wives as hot as Sharon Stone and have Fezzik-esque strength.  He frequently dreams of Mars and a strange woman who, in typical Schwarzenegger fashion, is not his wife.  He goes to Rekall, which is a company that implants memories of vacations, in order to live out his Mars fantasy as a secret agent.  Soon, it becomes unclear whether he is simply experiencing his fantasy, or if he is actually a secret agent whose memory was erased.

It is fun to try to work out what was real and what was fake, but overall this film doesn't demand that much cerebral analysis.  I suppose it does make an interesting statement about escapism, but overall it is simply an entertaining action movie, with cool (and sometimes gross) special effects.  It certainly serves as a nice break from the cheerful tales of Henry Lee Lucas and Edward Scissorhands.

We can still look forward to Schwarzenegger in T2 and I can further analyze my bizarre feelings.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

One of the first Hollywood films to use CGI.

Body count of 77.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

824. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
1990 (Wikipedia says 1986, but The Book says 1990.  As The Book goes, so goes my nation)
Directed by John McNaughton








Let's all guess if I liked this film!  And so my reputation as a pearl clutching prude will live on...

Henry is a serial killer who shares an apartment with the mentally impaired Otis.  Becky, Otis' long suffering sister, moves in with them after escaping an abusive husband.  Otis eventually joins Henry in his murderous activities and Becky finds herself attracted to Henry.  And then Otis finds himself attracted to Becky, which is just the icing on the disgusting cake.

Obviously, this is completely horrifying to sit through.  I am not saying it should be censored by any means, but honestly, I just don't see why anyone would want to watch this.  I suppose it is effective in that it is deeply disturbing.  Hurray, McNaughton!  You figured out that filming an entire family getting massacred is chilling to watch!  You cracked the code!

This movie will definitely haunt you, so I suggest staying away at all costs.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

Michael Rooker remained in character for the duration of filming.  Uh...

Loosely based off of the life of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.

823. Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands
1990
Directed by Tim Burton








Tim Burton is decidedly not for me.  I don't mind quirky films, but every character in his world is strange simply for the sake of being strange.  I just can never comfortably mesh with his fantasies.  I mean, who would even want to seduce someone with scissors for hands?  Wouldn't you be...nervous?  What a strange fetish.

Basically, a guy has scissors for hands and everyone has trouble dealing with it.  The beautiful Kim Boggs actually likes Edward for what he is, but her boyfriend Jim (their names rhyme! How fantastical!) is only interested in using Edward to steal his own father's money.  In summary, we are supposed to feel for the outcast, but everyone else is so weird, it's hard to feel like he is out of place in any way.

Something about the entire concept just rubs me the wrong way.  I feel like Burton was so in awe of his own creativity that he failed to notice the story wasn't that good.  Given how odd everything else was, I at least expected a unique ending.  Unfortunately, the climax was cliche and unsatisfying.

I am being particularly harsh.
RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The film was inspired by a drawing Burton did as a child.  Ugh, give me a break.

Vincent Price's last screen appearance.

822. Close-Up

Close-Up
1990
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami









Correct me if I am wrong, but this might be the only Iranian film on the List.  It was quite an interesting find, so I might have to explore more movies from Iran.  If you didn't pick up on my subtle hinting there, I am asking you to leave recommendations in the comments.

Hossain Sabzian is riding home on a bus when day when an elderly woman comments on the book he is reading, The Cyclist .  She says that she loves the movie adaptation of The Cyclist, which was directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf.  Sabzian, a cinephile, claims that he is Makhmalbaf and is riding the bus home to find new film subjects.  He tells the woman that he wants to use her family for his next movie, but will need money for filming.  On the outside, Sabzian's scheme seems like an audacious ploy to steal some money.  However, it is clear to the audience that Sabzian simply likes thinking of himself as a famous director.

This is a strange film, as it is part documentary, part reenactment, with everyone playing themselves.  It's certainly an intriguing format and one that you have to admire for its uniqueness.  I can't honestly say I was on the edge of my seat for the entire running time.  By the last half hour, I was ready to call it quits.  The driest part of the film for me was the courtroom scenes, although I suppose they were necessary.  The showing is always more interesting than the telling.

Still, one that was worth sitting through.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

In the 2010 Sight & Sound poll, it was voted as the 42nd greatest film of all time.

Monday, March 14, 2016

821. Trust

Trust
1990
Directed by Hal Hartley








I watched this film yesterday with my mother.  Having exposed her to all sorts of horrors from The List (including Koyaanisqatsi and Atlantic City come to mind), I was quite nervous about this one.  Thankfully, this turned out to be a strange but enjoyable comedy and a vast improvement from The Unbelievable Truth.

Maria is a knocked up high school drop out.  When she tells her family about her pregnancy, her father dies of a heart attack, leading her psychopathic mother to promise that Maria will "pay."  Maria is then dumped by her boyfriend, presumably for "letting herself" get pregnant (whatever that means).  Meanwhile, Matthew is an intelligent, socially conscious young man who is frequently abused by his tyrannical father.  Instead of just punching his dad in the face (because honestly, he could take him) he carries around a grenade that he fantasizes about setting off.  You know that Maria and Matthew will hit it off, because apparently Adrienne Shelley loves men with deep-seated emotional issues.

It is hard not to compare this to The Unbelievable Truth, as it is the same actress, the same director, and the same weird take on suburban lives.  Trust is superior in almost every way.  The dialogue is much more believable and beautiful here.  The dialogue in The Unbelievable Truth almost sounded anachronistic at times and just didn't have the same flow.  Matthew Slaughter is also a much better character than Josh Hutton.  Matthew is just as odd as Josh, but he is a bit more accessible.

A great comedy and one that makes me wish there were more Hartley films on the List.  Obviously, I can only watch his movies if the supreme dictators allow it.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Shot in 11 days.

Hartley was so entranced with Shelley's performance in The Unbelievable Truth that he made this movie right afterwards, despite not having the time or the money for filming.

820. Archangel

Archangel
1990
Directed by Guy Maddin










Man, people have really been nostalgic for early Soviet cinema lately.  First Asthenic Syndrome and now this.  If we were going to resurrect a dead genre, can it not be silent Soviet war films?  How about screwball comedies?  Or film noir?

By about five minutes in, I was asking myself "what the fuck am I watching?"  I apologize if this plot summary is a bit rough.  A one-legged Canadian soldier, Lt. Boles, arrives in Archangel to assist in the Bolshevik Revolution.  His lover Iris has died, but because he has amnesia, he believes she is still alive.  Meanwhile, Veronkha is married to Philbin, who also has amnesia and can never remember that Veronkha is his wife.  When Lt. Boles sees Veronkha, he believes she is lost lover Iris.  Then Veronkha gets amnesia...okay, I am going to stop.  This is getting stupid.

I think everyone on this film did their best to behave as weirdly as possible.  I suppose part of the nostalgic feel was to make everyone talk in a bizarre way, making it seem like it was dubbed in English.  I mean, that was intentional, right?  Who knows.  The film is filled with strange imagery, including a scene where a man strangles an attacked with his own intestines.  Gross.

This film wears its strangeness with pride and I can definitely see why some people would take to its weirdness.  I, on the other hand, found it to be incredibly grating.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

First film of Bif Naked.  I don't know who that is but I had to include it because of his name.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

819. Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman
1990
Directed by Garry Marshall








I don't want to seem like a snob for disliking this film.  I don't have a problem with the romantic comedy genre, which you could probably tell after I declared passionate love for When Harry Met Sally in a previous post.  But something about this movie rubs me the wrong way.

Edward Lewis, a wealthy business, takes a detour through Hollywood Boulevard on his way to Beverly Hills.  He encounters Vivian Ward, a prostitute, who tries to pick him up.  He tells her he only wants directions (give me a break) and will pay her if she shows him the right way to go.  He decides she is not so gross after all and ends up paying her for sex.  The morning after, he extends their "contract" to include the whole week so that she can accompany him to social events.  Because apparently Richard Gere can't get a date for free.

I mean, the whole premise is just so ridiculous.  It is laughable for all the wrong reasons.  Prostitution is too serious a topic to be dressed up in this fluffy, romcom garb.  Are we honestly supposed to believe Vivian doesn't have a pimp?  Or doesn't have any kind of drug problem?  I think we are supposed to think all her problems are solved at the end of the film.  I suppose Edward could pay for the therapy.

There were smaller moments in the film that were just baffling to me.  I guess we were supposed to feel empowered when Vivian told off the snobby shop workers after Edward gave her his credit cards?  In your faces, bitches!  She has a rich boyfriend now!  Hurray underprivileged women everywhere!

I would probably avoid a gritty, realistic film about prostitution in Los Angeles, as it would be extremely upsetting to me.  But I can't stomach this either.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Julia Roberts got so nervous filming the sex scenes that she broke out in hives.  Hot.




818. Hitlerjunge Salomon

Hitlerjunge Salomon
Europa Europa
1990
Directed by Agnieszka Holland








We have seen some really fantastic World War II movies on this List, but this might be the best of the lot.  I think I watched most of the film through my fingers.  I haven't felt that tense watching a movie since Wages of Fear.

The film is based on the real life of Solomon Perel, a German Jew who escaped the Holocaust by joining the Hitler Youth program.  It is incredible to me that this is a true story, as the bulk of the action seems to stem from almost Dickensian coincidences and lucky breaks.  Well, perhaps lucky isn't the right word...

This is such a brilliant film.  I have trouble writing this review, because I am not sure I can describe what makes this movie so special.  The premise is obviously fantastic and keeps you at the edge of your seat throughout the film.  I mean, having to lie constantly would be hard enough (although not according to my ex boyfriends), but all the Nazis had to do was see his penis and it would all be over.

The supporting characters are just as fascinating as Perel.  Leni and Rosemarie were particularly repulsive/compelling.  I also found the ending to be extremely powerful.  I believe he acted heroically, but he must have felt a good deal of survivor's guilt, in addition to his constant fear and paranoia.  I really have to add his book to my to read list.

The best film of the nineties so far!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

The movie was met with a lukewarm reception in Germany but went on to become an international hit.

Friday, March 11, 2016

817. Dances With Wolves

Dances With Wolves
1990
Directed by Kevin Costner









I feel like this movie had really good intentions, but still ended up being quite racist.  I suppose it is a step in the right direction, given the racism in past Hollywood westerns.  Still, I can't get through this film without cringing.

John Dunbar is wounded in the Civil War, but his bravery in battle allowed the Union army to successfully win the battle.  For his heroism, he is allowed to choose his new post.  He ends up picking Fort Sedgwick, which is a deserted fort on the Western frontier.  He enjoys his solitude, but his tranquillity is interrupted when he encounters the Sioux tribe.  The tribe is initially hostile to Dunbar, but they eventually accept him.  Dunbar bonds with everyone and becomes a better Native American than the actual Native Americans, and saves the tribe!  Hurray for white men!

Okay, I am oversimplifying things a bit.  Parts of this film were really fantastic.  The cinematography is just beautiful.  It reminded me how visually stunning the western genre could be.  Like I said, this is certainly a step in the right direction.  I mean, we actually had Native Americans playing Native Americans!  Other parts of this movie are very frustrating.  Of course Kevin Costner would end up with the only white woman in a hundred miles.  Of course.  The concept of an entire group of people being helpless without one white man is also annoying.  We see the same theme in later films like Avatar or The Last Samurai.

Still, there is no denying that it is a gorgeous movie with some breathtaking moments (any of the scenes with buffalo were incredible).  But it has some major flaws that are hard to overlook.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Two of the buffalo were borrowed from Neil Young, who apparently has buffalo to spare.

A language coach taught the cast how to say their lines in the Lakota language.  To make things easier, the coach did not the "gendered speech" aspect of the language.  Many Lakota people saw the film and thought it was funny that the warriors spoke like women.

816. King of New York

King of New York
1990
Directed by Abel Ferrara









I am officially allowed to put weight down, which means I now have an eccentric limp to rival Verbal Kint's.  Pain is still an issue so I assure you, I will still be pestering everyone with an absurd amount of movie reviews as a way to distract myself.

Frank White was recently released from prison.  He dreams of being the mayor of New York.  Given recent...events, this ambition doesn't shock me as much as it would have BT (Before Trump).  He attempts to kill the other crime lords and provide opportunities for lower classes.  Basically, he's Robin Hood, but creepier.  Great, now I am picturing Christopher Walken in tights.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this one.  I watched the film in a state of slight detachment.  It was easy to see what the filmmakers were trying to do; it was almost like they were trying to tell a gritty, dark superhero story.  I feel like in someone else's hands Frank White could have been a fascinating character.  In a way, he was, but I never felt like the audience could really access who he was.  Maybe that was Walken's fault...maybe it was the script.

I am rambling a bit.  I suppose it was an effective film, but I really didn't enjoy my time with this one.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Wesley Snipes was living in his car during production.

815. Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder
1990
Directed by Adrian Lyne








Oh look, a Vietnam War movie.  We really don't get enough of those.  I kid of course.  At least this one did something different with the topic.

Jacob Singer is injured in Vietnam and haunted by the memories of what he witnessed there.  He also lost his son before the war, so overall, he is quite a cheerful person.  He lives in New York City with his girlfriend Jezzie and works as a postal clerk.  As his hallucinations and flashbacks get worse, Jacob begins to suspect that his problem isn't simply PTSD.

So this is an interesting concept.   If the Vietnam War doesn't provide the ingredients for a horror movie, I don't know what does.  Still, there was something decidedly cheesy about this.  Maybe it was all the special effects.  Impressive for 1990, not so much now.

The ending is what really made this film for me; it certainly wasn't the usual message you get at the end of a war movie.  It's not flawless, but it is still worth checking out.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Lyne turned down the opportunity to The Bonfire of the Vanities to work on this film.

814. Goodfellas

Goodfellas
1990
Directed by Martin Scorsese









Sometimes I feel like if you have seen one gangster movie, you have seen them all (particularly since Robert De Niro is constantly the star).  However, this film is certainly something special.  Hell, it's worth seeing just for the opening lines.

Henry Hill has aspired to be a gangster his entire life.  He jumps at the opportunity to work for a local mob leader Paulie Cicero and his associates Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito.  The plot is pretty standard as far as this genre goes: Henry rises, Henry falls.

It is hard to put my finger on what makes this movie unique.  In a lot of ways, it is like every gangster movie we have seen before.  The performances are obviously spectacular.  At this point, you kind of expect Robert De Niro to be amazing.  Joe Pesci's skills caught me by surprise, as I didn't find his performance in Raging Bull to be that impressive. Perhaps the reason this one stands out to me is the likability of the characters, as our usual mobsters are crass rapists.

 Definitely one of my favorite Scorsese films.  And if you like it, you can then watch Casino which is basically the same thing.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

The word "fuck" is used 321 times.

Tommy's mother was actually played by Martin Scorsese's mother.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

813. Reversal of Fortune

Reversal of Fortune
1990
Directed by Barbet Schroeder









My sister decided to watch this movie with me today after I told her Glenn Close was in it.  Mention anything remotely connected to The Big Chill and she is hooked.  We watched it mostly in silence.  After the credits rolled, she asked "What was that?"  I am still not sure.

Sunny von Bulow slips into a coma after going into diabetic shock.  Her husband Claus von Bulow is convicted of attempted murder, as it is believed he injected her with an overdose of insulin.  Sunny is rich and Claus is a cheating creep, so it's hard to blame anyone for this verdict.  Claus hires Alan Dershowitz to win his appeal, but Dershowitz isn't convinced Claus is innocent...

It really sounds more interesting than it is.  I can't entirely fault the film for this, as this is based a true story.  The Book makes it sound like it was a great artistic decision to leave the ending ambiguous, but really, the filmmakers didn't have any other move unless they wanted to risk getting sued.

The attempts to make Alan likable (since Claus was such a robot) weren't entirely successful.  He still felt a bit wooden to me.  Only one thing really happens throughout the entire two hour running time.  Maybe I am being too harsh.  I just saw Gone Girl yesterday and it is hard not to compare the two, with Gone Girl being vastly superior.  Of course, that's a fictional story so there is more room to be creative.

Certainly not the worst thing I have ever sat through, but I am more curious about how this made its way into the Book than I am about the actual von Bulow case.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The real Sunny von Bulow died at the age of 76, having spent the last 28 years of her life in a coma.

812. S'en fout la mort

S'en fout la mort
No Fear, No Die
1990
Directed by Claire Denis










Really?  A movie about cock fighting?  I think a lot of my readers think I am squeamish when it comes to unpleasant topics in film.  That is certainly the case here, as I am really against animal cruelty (and don't call me a hypocrite because I am a vegetarian).  Of course, the Book really doesn't care and continues to feature movies where animals' throats are slit on camera.  At least here no animals were actually harmed.

Dah and Jocelyn decide to pair up and organize illegal cockfights.  Jocelyn is more attached to the roosters than Dah, with his favorite bird being No Fear, No Die.  The duo take on another partner, Pierre, who owns a space with a nausea-inducing light show.  Pierre urges Jocelyn and Dah to make the fights more violent by adding razor blades and spurs to the mix.  Jocelyn begins to lose it, with his growing attachment to Pierre's wife not helping matters.

Chances are that unless you are following the List, you haven't heard of this movie, as it only has two IMDb reviews (one of which is written by someone who worked on the film).  I think it is a hard movie to make heads or tails of (HA! Animal humor), but I may be over thinking it.  I felt like the director wasn't very concerned with making a statement about animal cruelty.  She seemed more intent on making a comment on race, although what that comment was, I am not sure.

An interesting one to contemplate, but I definitely could have avoided it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

First of eight collaborations between in Claire Denis and Alex Descas.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

1980s Oscars!!

Hello everybody!

It's Oscar time again and at least here you might have actually heard of the movies (I'll be here all week folks!).  Here we say goodbye to the eighties and select the best (and the worst) of the decade.  I have had a great time with these movies. They certainly made my recovery time less hellish.  Feel free to create your own categories in the comments!

BEST PICTURE: The Princess Bride
NOMINEES: Star Wars: Episode V-The Empire Strikes Back
                       When Harry Met Sally
                       The Breakfast Club
                       The Killer
                       Children of a Lesser God
                       Crimes and Misdemeanors
                       Fatal Attraction
                       Die Hard
                       Cinema Paradiso
                       Raiders of the Lost Ark

WORST PICTURE:
NOMINEES: Sunless
                       Koyaanisqatsi
                       The Ballad of Narayama
                       Landscape in the Mist
                       The Asthenic Syndrome

BEST DIRECTOR: Woody Allen
NOMINEES: Francois Truffaut
                       Rob Reiner
                       Martin Scorsese
                       John Hughes
                       Claude Lanzmann
                       Spike Lee

BEST ACTRESS: Glenn Close
NOMINEES: Isabelle Huppert
                       Sigourney Weaver
                       Marlee Matlin
                       Anjelica Huston
                       Li Gong

BEST ACTOR: Dustin Hoffman
NOMINEES: William Hurt
                       Robert De Niro
                       Ben Kingsley
                       Jack Nicholson

BEST LINE: "God is a luxury I can't afford."
NOMINEES: "You killed my father.  Prepare to die."
                       "Come with me if you want to live."
                       "I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life        
                          with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
                        "Out of the fire of love comes ashes.  Even the greatest love eventually fizzles out."

811. Beiqing Chengshi

Beiqing Chengshi
A City of Sadness
1989
Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien








The previous Hsiao-Hsien film on the List was A Time To Live, A Time To Die.  It was quite boring to sit through, although at least I had some idea what was happening on screen.  I will blame the age old scapegoat for my stupidity and confusion: the subtitles.

The film kind of feels like a history lesson, attempted to be related in an entertaining way.  As I don't feel like writing an essay on White Terror, I won't go into too much detail.  Basically, the movie tells the story of a Taiwanese family during the period of White Terror which followed the February 28 massacre.  If you don't have a useless Asian history minor like me, that sentence will require some googling.  I don't know what I am bragging about, though, because I still had no idea what was going on.

So yes, I got bored fairly quickly as I realized right away I was lost and the subtitles weren't going to help clear up my confusion.  It did look beautiful at least. I feel like I just sat through a two and a half hour lecture.  Informative?  Perhaps.  Entertaining?  Not at all.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

First Taiwanese film to be shot in direct sound.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

810. The Unbelievable Truth

The Unbelievable Truth
1989
Directed by Hal Hartley







Before I watched this, I read about Adrienne Shelly's murder, which was staged to look like a suicide.  Kind of put a damper on the whole experience.  I was still able to enjoy it, but all the conversations that the characters had about murders were...uncomfortable.

Audry believes that the world is ending.  She has an idiotic boyfriend and an overbearing father, so maybe it is just wishful thinking.  Her father hires a new auto mechanic, Josh, who has recently been released from prison.  Audry is instantly attracted to him, despite the fact that Josh allegedly killed half of her friend Pearl's family.  Strangely enough, Pearl does not seem too distraught about their relationship.

The Book blames unpolished acting for the parts of this film that don't work.  I don't think that is entirely fair, as everyone seemed to ground their larger than life characters well.  I think the director was trying a bit too hard to be quirky.  Some of the dialogue was just strange and I am not sure what artistic purpose it was supposed to serve.  Did people honestly say "don't be sore" to each other in the 80s?  And Josh's conversation with the prostitute?   The tone just didn't fit in with the rest of the movie.

Still, it was enjoyable enough and told an offbeat, weirdly optimistic story.  Worth a watch.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Filmed in 11 days.

809. Say Anything...

Say Anything...
1989
Directed by Cameron Crowe








Say Anything brings us one of the most iconic movie moments of all time and I suppose that alone makes this film deserve its place on The List.  It is a decent enough movie, but I am so spoiled with John Hughes' teen comedies that I am a bit picky.

Lloyd Dobler wants to be a kick boxer, which he claims is the sport of the future.  He falls for Diane Court, who is going to attend a fellowship in England in the autumn.  Her father disapproves of the relationship but teenage hormones will not be denied.

The plot here is pretty thin but the movie works because of the charm of the characters.  Lloyd isn't particularly sexy or rebellious, but he is a respectful guy who treats Diane well.  The dialogue is genuine and funny.  Yes, the film is predictable as hell but I was too pleased with everyone to notice.

Iconic and unmissable.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The song "In Your Eyes" was added in post production.  What was actually playing on the boom box was a song by Fishbone.

808. Sex, Lies and Videotape

Sex, Lies and Videotape
1989
Directed by Steven Soderbergh










We had people talking about sex in The Decline of the American Empire.  Now we take the logical next step and tape people talking about sex so that James Spader has something to masturbate to later.  Cinema truly progressed in the eighties.

John is married to Ann, but is sleeping with her sister Cynthia.  He doesn't feel too guilty about it because Ann has never had an orgasm and at least Cynthia has the decency to fake it.  John has invited an old college friend, Graham, to live with them until he finds a place of his own.  Graham can't sustain an erection around women so he interviews women on their sexual fantasies and...enjoys the tapes later.  Apparently, no one told him about pornography.

Parts of the film are kind of silly.  John is a ridiculously douche-y character.  I get that the filmmakers wanted us to hate him enough so we would cheer for the Graham/Ann (Gran, if you will) romance, but at a certain point, they went overboard.  He didn't feel like a character, he felt like a plot device.  Also, I have a feeling Graham and Ann's sexual disorders were a bit simplified; I find it hard to believe either one of their problems would just magically go away because they are in love.

Still, the dialogue in this movie is great and feels real.  It is easy to look past the flaws and into Spader's seductive eyes.  Maybe that was just easy for me.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Jennifer Jason Leigh turned down the role of Cynthia, later regretting the move.