Cuz Lulu's getting old & forgets what was for breakfast...
Movies Screened @ Home since July 1, 2006...
(Listing home screenings of the whole -- or at least 90% -- of the movie, thereby not including casual channel-landing. Format/channel appended. * links to StinkyLulu's commentary on title.)
• Girl27 (2007)-dvd (+)
As far as Hollywood insider documentaries go, this one's just so so. But as a meditation on the way cultural ideas about rape have (and have not) changed in 75 years, it's pretty interesting. The film tells the story of how a Hollywood historian unearthed a relatively obscure Hollywood scandal -- a 17 year old actress, raped and beaten at a big inhouse MGM event, sues in federal court before disappearing into relative oblivion -- and his journey in piecing together the fragments of this true Hollywood story. As a documentary, it's not unlike what you might see on any cable channel but there's a heart there, derived from the historian's growing emotional investment in the story and its central figure, "Girl27" Patricia Douglas. As a film, the piece successfully maintains the suspense (will he find her, will she meet with him, will she participate in the documentary, etc) while basically spelling out the barebones of the story and the clear implication of a concerted effort on the part of MGM and LA County officials to suppress the story, the case, etc. The film emerges as an emotionally intriguing meditation on the idea of cultural complicity in sexual assault, and a big part of the film's premise is that Patricia Douglas was a brave hero for standing up and claiming her rights as a victim of a crime (and the concomitant injustice that followed the mishandling of the case). I also admired the film's willingness to position Douglas as a difficult figure, with a lot of family wreckage behind her that may or may not have been the result of her assault. The film doesn't really delve into the silencing of the Douglas case and its historical coincidence with MGM's embrace of the Production Code at nearly precisely the same historical moment, and the use of Greta Van Susteran as a talking head is lamely declamatory without offering any particular insight. But all told - not a bad vehicle for thinking seriously about mainstream US film and its complicity in a culture that blithely endorses violence against women.
• Wild at Heart (1990)-dvd (-)
The movie that caused me to fall out of swoon
• Wild at Heart (1990)-dvd (-)
The movie that caused me to fall out of swoon with David Lynch. I commented in my Supporting Actress profile that this film seems to suffer the burden of Lynch's interest in Hollywood trope as metaphor versus Hollywood trope as conceptual device. I stand by that premise, as this film seems to gesture toward the genuinely surprising turns in his later work even as it gets mired in an oddly simpleminded tawdriness. When I first saw Laura Dern in this role, I didn't recognized the kind of depths she was drawing from and toward -- and I was just scared by Diane Ladd. But Nicholas Cage is just way way way out of his depth here. He can recite the lines, and hit the tones, but he has no idea how to play to art. Isabella's great in a cameo, and the incomparable Grace Zabriskie is indelible. Willem Dafoe gives a brilliant scene, but the true art in this pomo popart poop is Diane Ladd's brilliant performance. (Also Harry Dean Stanton is just incredible here.) An awful movie to experience, but parts are interesting to think about...
• Goodfellas (1990)-dvd (+)
There's something just really fun about this movie, especially if you track the Bracco character more than the Liotta or the Pesce. The music, the costumes, the dialogue: this is perhaps the most effective of Scorsese's macho movies. Largely because it's also a genre experiment.
• The Parent Trap (1961)-amc (+)
This is classic, middle-years Disney. Cute, silly, effective. I love the interiors of the California house, and the pranking at camp remains just precious. I was struck this time through how much Addams Family Values seemed to be referencing this camp. Haley Mills is, well, Hayley Mills. And it's hard not to scream "Uncle Bill" -- with his weird body and weirder hair -- when Brian Keith takes the screen. But I have to say I do love Maureen O'Hara in this. She seems perfectly fabricated and perfectly real at the same time, just what Disney flicks of this vintage require. This time through, I was really interested in the mother's Boston family, especially the imperious grandmother. I also really liked the simplicity of the cinematic trickery, so much more engaging than more sophisticated versions. Finally, what the hell with those opening and closing credits by "T. Hee"? I don't know if I'd ever seen that opening number. Buh-rilliant and strange, just like a fractured fairy tale but also so very Disney. Wild, wild, wild.
• Ghost (1990)-dvd (-)
Oh the blessings of diminished expectations. This is a movie I loathed upon "not" sight, avoiding it assiduously for years. And Whoopi's performance bore the brunt of my loathing. The costumes, the wigs, the bugeyes -- I hated the movie, the role, the performance because I believed in my own shallow first impression. O'course, the implicit racism of Oda Mae's character construction remains problematic, and also testament to the curious way that Whoopi "goes there" in terms of the racist heritage of commercial U.S. comedy. BUT, as a movie, this is a well-crafted romantic fantasy, with enough tart humor to counteract the coma-inducing sweetness. Demi gives a really savvy performance, and Swayze's just fine (though his greenscreen self-awareness doesn't always hold together). Tony Goldwyn is cute, but his big bawling baby is not nearly as thrillingly sleazy as it might have been. Goldberg, though, gives a performance well beyond the material, in its clarity and intelligence and humor (though its her charisma that actually takes it to the top). Not nearly as awful as I anticipated all those years, but still not exactly good.
• Carnal Knowledge (1971)-dvd (-)
Oh my f'n goodness. This self-reflexive treatise on why men are pigs is just noxious. The characters are little more than types, and the film's effectiveness rises and falls on whether you are susceptible to this or that performer's particular charisma. Nicholson is at his sexiest -- a misogynist cad desperate to use women to secure his creepily fragile self-worth. (I wonder if Neil LaBute will seem as misguided and self-indulgent as this "men behaving badly" rant.) Mike Nichols' stylized framing tricks are cute, and glibly fascinating, but only really work a couple times (like in the single take scene between Ann-Margret and Nicholson at the revolving restaurant and the extended full-face shot of Rita Moreno's monologue that concludes the film). As if I needed more reasons to loathe Jack Nicholson: he's physically attractive here in ways that piss me off but almost excavate the roots of his charisma. Art Garfunkel gives a surprisingly effective, well-rounded and complete performance -- he charts the character's growth and age physically in ways that are suprisingly sophisticated. The women are generally very good; only Ann-Margret's a little lost -- she commits to the role with gusto but gets a little lost between the scenes, resorting to shrieking and attitudinizing. Her vulnerability is intense but there's a humorlessness to her work (here and elsewhere) that really compromises the character's/performance's foundations. I'm glad I've seen this film. I hope I never have to again.
• The Go-Between (1970)-vhs (+)
A really odd tone-piece about the British class system. Pinter's dialogue lends a really tense air to the proceedings that evacuates the romance from this piece, which is ostensibly about a socially dangerous love affair. There's something about the film -- which is generally off-putting -- that I find fascinating. Director Losey shoots many scenes long, allowing the vastness and irrelevance of artistocratic English life to be starkly displayed. The film is art-directed with assiduous care and I think, on some levels, the movie's more about the shocking absurdity of these social conventions than about any human drama within its narrative. The scenes that interpolate the story as a memory play work only to an extent because I don't think the movie cares all that much about experience. Rather, this is about the social apparatus. The question I have about the narrative: are the Maudsley's nobility, are they titled? It's clear they're somewhere near the top of the social heirarchy but the film, in a way, works best if Marian's marriage carries the burden of the family's social future. And to my naive American eyes, I'm a little foggy. The credits -- for example -- designate Leighton's character as Mrs. Maudsley but Marian -- through her marriage to Mr Scar -- becomes a Lady. What I do love about Leighton is how instrumental she is to the film's structure: she's tossing out clues all along, building the scaffolding for her eruption, and I feel she's the true source of tension in the film. It's an almost really interesting movie. Bates is sexy, Christie is miscast but fine -- the central kid (Dominic Guard) is quite good. Glad to have seen it...
• Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying These Terrible Things about Me? (1971)-vhs (-)
Put this in the list of the proto-pomo Studio self-deconstructions that stopped just short of self-destruction. The piece is an inscrutable, self-indulgent mess. Hoffman plays a superstar/asshole who loathes women as much as he loves them. Hoffman's Georgie is an infantile egomaniac, a little too much pop Freudianism with a whole pile of rock'n'roll fantasizing going on. The movie is an overheated gloopy mess, aiming to be a bildungsroman of the creative soul but ending up more like an R-rated Monkees episode. Barbara Harris blows in about 2/3 the way through, delivering her characteristic wackiness/humanity with a zeal that just refocuses the movie. Whatever movie she's in is fascinating, but once she leaves -- the vacuousness of this movie is all the more apparent.
• Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1970)-dvd (+?)
Hmmmm. Odd. The scenario is curious: an independent divorced woman and a professional gay man live mildly satisfied lives...because they each are hopelessly smitten with the same sexy artist who flits in and out of their flats giving them great sex and a glancing touch of exhilaration? The film seems to be about the "you can't always get what you want" compromises of maturity but there's something hollow in the exercise. Schlesinger doesn't seem to like either character very much, though he clearly identifies with each, and he too seems somewhat smitten with the kind of erotic license and emotional independence of Murray Head's character. The film is most interesting in its depiction of the anxieties of male bisexuality, especially pre-AIDS, especially with the specter of the ill beautiful man that haunts Finch's character's thoughts. In some ways, as the film ends and both Finch and Jackson seem to be moving beyond what they get from Head, the film might be about the second adolescence of independent adulthood, especially with Finch's nostalgic concluding soliloquy about the joys of youth. Finch's casting is unfortunate, though his performance is more than fine. I suspect the film would have made a different kind of intuitive sense had all the character's been legibly the same age -- might have suggested more of the privilege exerted by Head's character in each, rather than making it appear that he's being kept by them both. As it is, the characters do not seem as peers. (Note how different the wedding needles about whether or not Hirsh is to marry would be if the actor was in his later 20s/early 30s.) The film is about the compromises of a love triangle and as it is Finch's casting throws the triangle into a different balance. (Same for what Jackson's character's affair with the middle aged man -- less shocking cuz Head's doing the same, though I suspect it would read very differently if Hirsh was played by a younger actor.)
• The Last Picture Show (1971)-dvd (+)
So much more interesting than I expected. I'm in love with the way the film handles the B&W style - it looks like a sitcom or B-movie from the 50s, which makes the frankness of the dialogue and situations (especially the nudity) much more astonishing and captivating. In some ways, this goes along with Haynes' Far From Heaven in that way. The elliptical annual structure was also nice. The casting of Bridges is brilliant, as is the coup of Shepherd. What's so nice in Shepherd's portrayal of Jacy is that we don't get any psychological/emotional explanation for her casual cruelty; plucking the heads of boys is just a hobby that amuses her -- it's neither the sum of who she is, nor the result of some previous trauma, it's just something she does to keep herself awake. Bogdanovich obviously adores each of these characters and that really manifests in the film's ability to calibrate its lack of judgment on them or their actions. Timothy Bottoms' Sonny is the only cipher -- and, frankly, the charisma of youth helps to float his performance. I'm sorry that the most interesting male characters (the preacher's kid with the short eyes, the english teacher, the coach, the middle aged hunk) got edged out in the adaptation, but the film arrays its 10 or so characters with maturity and clarity... I didn't expect to appreciate the film, at least not to the extent of its reputation. But while I don't love it, I did find it absolutely fascinating, captivating even. No wonder folks loved it in 1971. (So much more intelligent and sophisticated than George Lucas's banal knockoff American Graffiti.)
• I, Robot (1988)-f/x (+)
Cute. Generally effective. Though it is saying something somewhat strange that the most compelling character is a robot. Will Smith does his standard annoying wiseacring, and the casting is obvious, and the subpoint of the sweet black granny is just stoopid...but the film has some really nifty little scifi social commentaries. What seems to be a movie about technoterror, about the anxieties instigated by the escalating intimacies of the relationships between machines and people. But the movie's so obviously about that that it veils the more interesting riffs on corporate/fascist structures of consent as well as some really strange meditations on racist subordination, with the Will Smith character being a variation on the self-loathing halfbreed figure. Somehow, Will Smith's character is the racist here, for being prejudiced against robots (which provides a quaint little magical negro alibi of black people can be racist too). I don't really understand the movie's basic world, or premise -- the whole James Cromwell character conspiracy is unclear to me still. But the character of Sonny, the unique robot, is one of the more interesting anti-monsters. I guess the only real way to make sense of it is to try to give a reading of it in terms of corporate colonialism -- how is the corporation a colonial enterpise? On the whole, much more interesting than I expected.
• Mississippi Burning (1988)-dvd (-)
How do I loathe this movie? Let me count the ways. Or not. It's tedious, boring, clueless and stressful. So many rickety homes and churches bursting into flame, while screaming black folk flee into the darkness. Gene Hackman is so righteous as the progressive redneck that it starts to hurt. McDormand tries to pluck something human from the crushing blades of this meatgrinder of a picture. Dafoe is trying for an interesting study of competing social types at loggerheads in this vital moment of social upheaval, but that's just way way too smart for this dumbass movie. Lurid, exploitative flick premised almost entirely upon one of the most vicious claims about civil rights: that it was all white people's idea. Nasty bad movie.
• Lisa Lampanelli: Dirty Girl (2007)-dvd (-)
Ouch. Not particularly amusing. Or effective. What she does she does well, and with ratifying intelligence. Her schtick is that she's a female insult comic -- bawdy, crude, casually racist. At times it illuminates attitudes but at other times it just seems stuck in 3rd gear -- revving, revving hard, but never clicking into full power. She does a curious thing -- creating an alternative community, where everyone gets to be as racist/sexist/whatever as they already are. The purgative power is fascinating, but nascent. She's very good at what she does but I'm inclined to opt out.
• "Birds Anonymous" (1957)-dvd (+)
Included on The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Vol. 3: Disc 4
"Birds Anonymous" - The Oscar winning spoof of Alcoholics Anonymous -- the basic premise is cute: Sylvester gets 12Stepped into "giving up" birds by a sadsack BA cat named Clarence; he white-knuckles it before nearly "slipping" before a second intervention by Clarence, who ultimately goes out at the end at the mere kiss of Tweety. What I love about the short is the dialogue (see quotes) -- especially Tweety nagging an abstaining Sylvester "Don't you wike me..." (I just think it's hilarious that Tweety embodies Sylvester's nagging disease. The set up is fairly cursory, with the bulk of the action being typical Sylvester and Tweety. But the piece is suggestive of the ubiquity of the basic conventions of 12step meetings, and the general cultural literacy around them by the late 1950s. The treatment here skips over any spiritual dimension and frames it exclusively in terms of willpower and abstaining.
• The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)-dvd (-)
Such a sweet story - the cinematic adaptation is ambitious but the stylization (adjusting the narration from Tuff to Evelyn works only so-so) is a little less broad than it needs to be. Julianne Moore is good, but the narrative is cinematically thin. The problem with the narrative, both textually and cinematically, is the character of the dad Kelly (Woody Harrelson here). The explosive brutality is legible but the episodic structure doesn't really cohere into resonant story telling. All of which diminishes the kind of childlike suspense that the memoir does so well with. The concluding moments with the "real Ryan kids" are gold -- especially the integration of Tuff with Julianne as Evelyn. The opening credits are genius vintage housewifery, as is the integration of actual tv from the period. A lot of the more stylized sections -- studio singers, JM's direct address -- are almost very good...just wish they were pumped up a little more.
• Working Girl (1988)-dvd (+)
I remember sorta hating this movie when it came out, but criminy if the formula pic about the underdog winning doesn't really work. The architecture is really there for a solid romcom with just enough substance to be really emotionally effective. And what a marriage of actor and role with Melanie Griffith here -- her limited charisma really finds a place in the character and she just shines. Her one great performance. Love the teensy cameos by Ricki Lake and Olympia Dukakis. Weaver's the best thing in the picture, and Cusack's just fully human in what might have been a silly wiseacre-ish part. (See Alec Baldwin's negligible performance for a glimpse of how shallow Cyn might have been.) This movie really is among the best of the big 80s pictures. Good to know.
• Dangerous Liaisons (1988)-dvd (+)
I think Cruel Intentions is my favorite version of this story. This time through, though, a few things: I hated Malkovich back in the day, but his is perhaps the only performance that really stands up; I'm so glad Uma learned to act; why is Swoosie so not good. And, though I wasn't among the "she was robbed?!?" screamers back then, I have to admit that those last 3 or 4 minutes of Glenn Close are among the most exciting screen acting moments in all time. That hiccup in her step as she leaves the box. Zounds.
• Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired (2006)-dvd (+)
As stand up feature concerts go, this is pretty standard. But Wanda Sykes is brilliant. Her comedy is so smart -- able to be unapologetically lefty while retaining a general appeal. I think it might be the regular guy raunch that she folds into her rants against Dick Cheney, the Bush administration, and politics generally. Funny funny funny.
• The Accidental Tourist (1978)-dvd (-)
More than a bit glib. It's a lighthearted movie about mortifying, stultifying grief. Wtf? Makes me want to read the book. Kathleen Turner's great, as is Amy Wright. Seems to be right about the time that William Hurt started turning inward toward self-referential importance. He's still in the realm of cuteness, though. Fundamentally underwhelming.
Supporting Actress profile here.
• Alex Borstein - Drop Dead Gorgeous In A Down-To-Earth Bombshell Kind Of Way (2006)-dvd (-)
Alex Borstein's stand-up routine, released it seems to capitalize on Family Guy obsessives. Opening by Teddy Towne/Ted Hardwick is inexplicably unfunny. Interesting bit about using the C-word like the N-word. Mean-spirited Rosie O'Donnell impersonation returns. The best schtick was her use of casting breakdowns as a spot to riff about the way women's roles are written/imagined. Not recommended.
• The Deer Hunter (1978)-dvd (-)
Oh my goodness. This film hurt my feelings. It's just so big, so bombastic, so self-referential. The extended shots of local color (Eastern European working class culture) and nature (verdant mountain crags frosted with idyllic mist) and the garish brutality of SE Asian cities (all dank dark despicable Chinatowniness). Big elaborate set-ups for -- oh -- DeNiro pausing and looking left before moving on. The self conscious epicness intruded on whatever character might have been there. And 'twas just boring, self-important and gruesome. Priorities of technical execution overtook things like narrative and character. Ack.
• I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955)-tcm (+)
Lillian Roth's alcoholism memoir. An early generic template for the trauma drama. Superficially a redo of The Lost Weekend from a woman's pov. Hayward's totally Hayward. Jo Van Fleet gives an electrifying and at times terrifying performance; she's truly great here. The narrative basically track's Roth's descent to bottom, beginning with her first husband's sudden death from a brain tumor and a nurse's encouragement to take a drink to numb the pain. She dabbles with a sadistic, psychotic second husband who encourages her to use him as her "little policeman." Finally she becomes a gutter drunk, before a failed suicide attempt lands her in a AA center of some kind. Thus begins the most elaborate depiction of 12 Step Call that I've yet seen, including a visual redepiction of the man by the bed scene. The film concludes when Lillian Roth basically hooks up with her male sponsor and then violates anonymity by going on This Is Your Life. What's most interesting about the film is how it definitely depicts the way that relations with men inform a woman's experience of alcoholism. A Latin sidenote, Eddie Albert plays the sponsor and his wife Margo (Mexican born) plays Selma, the female AA. Two things on this: this is why Edward Albert was often listed among Latin stars, and begs the question: was Eddie Albert in recovery? (Hooking into my interest in casting and quiet history of AA actors and the recovery projects they choose.)
Maxed Out (2006)-dvd (+)
Diggers (2006)-dvd (+)
Heaven Can Wait (1978)-dvd (-)
Coming Home (1978)-dvd (-)
Interiors (1978)-dvd (+)
California Suite (1978)-dvd (-)
So Young, So Bad (1950)-tcm (+)
Caged (1950)-tcm (+)
Hell's Highway (1932)-tcm (-)
Caged (1950)-vhs (+)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)-dvd (++)
All About Eve (1950)-dvd (-)
Stage Door (2005)-dvd (-)
Harvey (1950)-dvd (-)
F**k (2006)-dvd (-)
Sweet Dreams (1985)-dvd
The Color Purple (1985)-dvd
After Hours (1985)-dvd
Twice in a Lifetime (1985)-dvd *
The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)-dvd
Agnes of God (1985)-dvd *
Desert Hearts (1985)-dvd
Prizzi's Honor (1985)-dvd *
Scar of Shame (1927)-vhs *
Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)-dvd *
The Letter (1940)-dvd *
Fast Food Nation (2006)-dvd
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)-dvd
That Man: Peter Berlin (2005)-dvd
Sparkle (1976)-dvd *
Love, Actually (2003)-usa
I Am A Sex Addict (2005)-dvd
This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)-dvd
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)-dvd
Family Fundamentals (2002)-dvd
49 Up (2005)-dvd
Latinologues, Volume 1 (2005)-dvd
Gay Sex in the 70s (2005)-dvd
Nashville (1975)-dvd *
Fabulous: The Story of Queer Cinema (2006)-dvd
This Filthy World (2006)-dvd
The Heat Is On: The Making of Miss Saigon (1989)-dvd
Leonard Bernstein Conducts West Side Story (1985)-dvd
Farewell, My Lovely (1975)-vhs *
Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough (1975)-vhs *
Shampoo (1975)-dvd *
The Godfather, Part II (1974)-dvd *
Day for Night (1974)-vhs/dvd *
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)-dvd *
Blazing Saddles (1974)-usa/dvd *
Stuart Saves His Family (1995)-vhs
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)-vhs/dvd *
Blacula (1972)-dvd *
Frances (1982)-vhs *
The World According to Garp (1982)-dvd *
Victor/Victoria (1982)-dvd *
The Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005)-dvd
Tootsie (1982)-dvd **
The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)-ABC Family
Anthony Adverse (1936)-vhs *
Young Man with a Horn (1949)-dvd
The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)-vhs *
These Three (1936)-vhs *
Dodsworth (1936)-dvd *
My Man Godfrey (1936)-dvd *
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)-dvd *
Stormy Weather (1943)-dvd
Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)-dvd *
Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)-dvd *
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)-dvd *
The Doom Generation (1995)-vhs
The Miracle Worker (1962)-dvd *
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)-amc
Summer and Smoke (1961)-vhs *
Step Mom (1998)-tbs
Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)-dvd *
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)-a&e
A Raisin in the Sun (1961)-dvd *
Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic (2005)-dvd
The Children's Hour (1961)-dvd *
George White's Scandals (1945)-tcm
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)-dvd *
Show Business (1944)-tcm
The Wizard of Oz (1939)-tcm