“We Make Movies–American Movies; Leave The Films To The French”

I went on a movie binge. I was suffering from withdrawal these last four months–I saw what, half a dozen films while out there?, half of which I’d seen before–so I’ve made up for lost time with some new views and old favorites.

Last Summer In The Hamptons. Have only seen this Henry Jaglom film once, and appreciated it a lot more the second time around. It made my mom realize she could never be an actor, and it made me realize even more that the theatre is my home. Victoria Foyt was, of course, amazing as usual (such a theatre actor, I bet) and Henry J’s cameo rightly sleazy. I wish Martha Plimpton’s character had some more development, but with a cast of complex characters that big–he is forgiven ;). For those of you unfamiliar with Henry J’s work, this is a good, accessible introduction (or re-introduction if you’ve already been alienated).

That Thing You Do!. I’ve had this since it came out in the mid-90s (or the Golden Days Of Hollywood as I call them). Cheesy, light, fluffy, yes, but I love the song and still get goosebumps during the scene when it’s first on the radio. And Tom Everett Scott is so cute. (And I am such a dork.)

Murder In The First. Taped off of NBC years ago, I sometimes hate, some appreciate this grossly edited version. A light and fluffy version of the original, if you will. Best part is when Christian Slater is trying to get Kevin Bacon on the stand–their bantering chemistry, to show how close they’d gotten, is grand.

Life Of Brian. I hadn’t seen this in a while, so it was nice. Though somehow I found myself liking it a lot less than I have in the past–much of my viewing was simply waiting for the next Palin scene.

The Messenger. Hollywood has the potential for good, realistic period pieces, due to their budget for research and effects, and this didn’t disappoint me on that level. It disappointed me on most other levels, though–John Malkovich and Faye Dunaway had parts that were entirely too small and dull for their talents and Milla Jovovich’s part was entirely too big for her talent. I hadn’t realized what a bad actress she was–I guess I’ve always just seen her as the Little Miss Thing in the background.

The Green Mile. I always said, I’m not going to watch it until I read the book. But as that’s obviously not going to happen any time soon, I gave in and watched it. The acting was, of course, superb (even if its best cast member, Gary Sinise, was only in it for ten minutes). I liked the “Making Of” special at the end, especially when Stephen King said that upon seeing the electric chair for the first time, “I did what anybody wants to do when they see it–I said, strap me in.” I love how he totally normalizes his behavior.

Focus. New Hollywood release, but as it dealt with anti-semitism during World War II I thought it might be good (see The Messenger). Plus, William H. Macy is great and so is Laura Dern, although I haven’t seen her in much. Aside from the complete objectification (bimbo-ization? normalization of slut/whore behavior) of Dern, this had a lot of good elements and potential until the very end. It was set up like a tight plot and ended like a day-in-the-life. Now I love day-in-the-life movies, but in this one it was only in the final scene, and was thus a cop-out. It made the rest of the film, which had a lot of color and emotion, become dull and flat.

A Gentleman’s Game. A golf movie as a metaphor for life–at least, for rich white guys–but Gary Sinise was in it, and after The Green Mile I felt cheated. Plus I hadn’t seen him in anything new for a while. Wanted to see how he was aging, ha-ha. (Beautifully, of course.) He could have been in it more, but he had some great moments regardless. (It amazes me–this guy could run the show if he wanted to, it’s quite clear he chooses not to. Priority’s with his family, perhaps. Which is not a bad thing.) Overall the film was good, as long as you’ve not expecting some amazingly philosophical commentary on life and privilege (which the coverbox suggests). It was neat to see Mason Gamble all grown up (well, almost)–great performance on his part.

Ghost World. Saw this in the theatre, got it because my mom liked the book (I can’t believe she made it through a comic book, a graphic novel at that). I am still amazed at how well it came out–even with all the changes for it to have an actual plot, it still maintained the flavor. And Thora Birch as Enid–whoa nelly.

Chaplin. Finally saw this. Incredible. Everyone should see this movie, whether or not they’re familiar with Charlie Chaplin (it helps, of course, if you are–but it will probably get you interested if you’re not). Robert Downey, Jr. is extraordinary, personifying Chaplin’s passion and genius with such intensity and realism. And Geraldine Chaplin with her father’s beautiful eyes. Inspired me even more. I could go on and on about this one but I won’t. :)

Creepshow 2. I was looking for a scary movie when I saw this. They actually made a second one! I hadn’t known that. Hooray for Stephen King and George Romero! Three shorts this time: the first one was lame; the second one was interesting as it was based on a short story of King’s that’s always stayed with me; the third was gruesome and actually had some good shock frights. Of course, this was viewed at night, alone in my room, just before going to bed. Freaked me out just enough to make sure my limbs didn’t stray off the bed as I was falling asleep.

Sleepers. Haven’t seen this in a while. Amazing performances, especially by the kids. Better than the book, which I wasn’t crazy about–the style was too dry and journalistic (much like its author). The film contained enough emotion and imagery for both.

Albino Alligator. My mom and I used to watch this all the time. Day-in-the-life, New Orleans, a speakeasy, amazing performances, Kevin Spacey direction, awesome camera work, Gary Sinise, sociopaths–what more could I want? Oh sure, it’s the tired “white guys with guns” in the words of Jocelyn, but you gotta target someone, eh? ;) I managed to look past that and the rest of the gratuity and view this film almost as a philosophy.

Smoke Signals. Borrowed this from Meredith back at school (she’s obsessed with Sherman Alexie). Thought my mom with her American Indian thing would dig it. (And after all this white guy Hollywood junk I was itching for some diversity). Unfortunately, it wasn’t different enough–at least as far as gender was concerned. The men–the strong, stoic Indian–were still running the show, and the quirky bookish fellow was ragged on constantly and literally taught how to be more macho. And the girls in the background, as mere accessory–such as the gratuitous Irene Bedard, the token pretty skinny femme girl, even if she was “strong and independent” (which is just another archetype, anyway). I am so much more tolerant of this schtick in mainstream movies–I don’t expect much else. I guess it’s just worse to me when I’m seeking something different and find something different–something that questions the norm in other ways, but still leaves that untouched. Don’t get me wrong–otherwise, I enjoyed the film immensely. It dealt with a lot of heavy issues in a very accessible way. It was funny and believable, giving a glimpse into life in the “rez.” American Indians and other marginalized groups should do their own thing and be highlighted for it more often.

Wet Hot American Summer. Saw this in the theatre with Eva. Same greatness, smaller viewing box. Had the same effect as the first time of messing with my perception and action just after watching it. Watch it! (I am, of course, biased, as Amy Poehler is in it.)

Grosse Pointe Blank. Had been a while for this one! This was one of those that I watched all the time a few years ago. And this time I didn’t dislike Minnie Driver so much–I never liked her performance in this. (It’s always difficult when you put a bad or mediocre actor [Driver] next to an amazing one [John Cusack].) The chemistry in the dialog–however unnatural and contrived–is always awesome and funny, and almost made natural by the actors and comedic timing. My favorite part is still him holding that adorable baby–what a doll (both of them ;)).

So I Married An Axe Murderer. Another of the same, watched repeatedly category. Hooray for pre-Austin Powers Mike Myers! The shots of San Francisco in this are gorgeous and made me yearn and pray–especially visiting Alcatraz!

Toys. I first saw this in the theatre (when I was ten or eleven). It was the first time I saw–or at least noticed–Joan Cusack. (And I’ve loved her ever since.) Good stuff. I love toys and stuff so much–makes me wish I wasn’t such a minimalist. Oh well–as long as I can watch this movie every so often I’ll get my fix and be all set!

The Stand. Thank you, Gary Sinise, for having such massive amounts of screen time in this one! My craving for him hadn’t been satiated by any of those others so I settled for this. The only six-hour film I’ve watched in full at least four times and have not tired of. The dialog is contrived and sometimes not delivered too well (that has never been Stephen King’s strong point in writing screenplays) but otherwise it was very well done (especially for a TV movie). Host of not just one but two of the most beautiful men on the planet: Rob Lowe and the numerously aforementioned Gary Sinise. Amazing intense eye shots on the latter–it’s good for that if nothing else ;). And Molly Ringwald is so bad it’s funny–especially when she’s with Gary, which is often (see Grosse Pointe Blank). Great performances by everyone else, especially Jamey Sheridan, Matt Frewer, and Ray Walston (his character, Glen Bateman, was my favorite in the book, and he made it my favorite in the film, too).

Of Mice And Men. As if The Stand wasn’t enough, I got the Gary Sinise starred, directed, and produced Of Mice And Men (which I’ve seen once before). He–and everyone else involved–did such an amazing job. Almost identical to the book. And John Malkovich–holy shit! And I thought he was talented when I’d only seen him play insane geniuses. What a performance–doesn’t even look like him. And of course the chemistry between him and Gary is priceless. And Ray Walston is always good–a natural in any setting. This is probably one of the best movies ever made, as far as I’m concerned. (Great out-of-context line: “You ain’t pettin’ no mice when you walk with me!”)

Con Air. I watched this the day after Of Mice And Men and the contrast between Malkovich performances fucked with my head a bit. I remember watching this movie for the first time years ago, thinking I wouldn’t like it that much. I proceeded to watch it several more times that very week, I do believe. O, the cast! Malkovich, John Cusack, Nicholas Cage (even if he can’t do a Southern accent), Ving Rhames, Johnny Trejo, Dave Chappelle, Colm Meany, Renoly, Steve Buscemi (who’s Garland Greene should have been in it more, but perhaps the mystery makes that so desired)…

The Great Dictator. After Chaplin my mom wanted to see some Charlie movies and so did I. I never finished The Great Dictator when I saw it at Celia’s a few months ago. I love how so many of his movies–especially his talkies, like Monsieur Verdoux–all merely lead to the final soliloquy for some political statement–in this case, a call for humanity instead of war. My mom said this should be re-released now, in this political climate. I’d have to agree.

The Gold Rush/Pay Day, An American Werewolf In Paris, Shadow Of The Vampire, It’s The Rage. Haven’t watched these yet. Have seen the first two–Chaplin feature and short–a few times, eager to watch them again with my mom. After That Thing You Do! I wanted to see Tom Everett Scott in something else, hence the second. (And I wanted something scary, though I plan to be disappointed.) The last two came when my mom said she wanted to see the third again and at the video store it was rent-one-get-one-free and I randomly spotted the fourth, which I’d seen last week on Gary Sinise’s filmography page. (The movie binge turned into a Sinise/Malkovich/Steppenwolf binge ;).)

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