Friday, May 31, 2013

Month 41 Status Report

May was something of a disappointment in that I only reviewed 22 List films. It's not terrible, but I always shoot for 25. Ah, well.

However, June is going to be massive! With tonight's review of Serpico, I have put up 993 reviews of List films. That means sometime in the next 10 days, I will write and post my 1,000th review of a List film. That's a milestone that I wasn't sure I'd ever really hit. But I'm almost there, and will be very soon.

Shortly after I post my 1,000th review, I'll reach 1003, which means 100 films remaining. This is a more minor milestone, but still one I'm excited about. Once I get there, it's just bottles of beer on the wall and a few months to finishing.

The third milestone I'll hit in June is my 1,000th post. This is my 979th post on this blog, so sometime around the end of June, I'll hit four digits, another milestone I wasn't sure I'd achieve.

For now, though, my allergies are kicking in severely. I'm going to take a blisteringly hot shower and tuck myself into bed for the next day. See you in June.

Good Cop/Bad Cops

Film: Serpico
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

Serpico is a film that is right in line with a lot of American sensibilities, I think. It may also be in line with the sensibilities of other nations; since I’m not as aware of what the typical Norwegian or Spaniard or Sri Lankan have to say about particular character types, I’m not willing to suggest that Serpico is a universal story. It may well be, though. It has the familiar feel of 12 Angry Men, a lone character standing alone against a group who wish him ill. That the lone man stands for truth and justice and honesty is only natural. That in this case it is based on a true story makes it something exceptional.

The film opens with Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) being rushed to the hospital after being shot in the face on a drug bust. We’re unaware in the moment of what might happen to him or if he will survive the car ride, let alone once he gets to somewhere he can be treated. A few frantic phone calls suggest that Serpico’s wound might well have been inflicted by another officer. From here we flash back to Frank Serpico’s graduation from the police academy.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Toppling Dominoes

Film: Russkiy Kovcheg (Russian Ark)
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

I very much feel like I should have a lot to say about Russkiy Kovcheg (Russian Ark), and I very much feel like I don’t have a lot to say about it. That’s the problem with demanding longer reviews from myself—when I get into a position like writing up a film like this, I struggle for something to say. At its most pure essence, Russkiy Kovcheg is a 99-minute experiment and little more. We walk through an art gallery and encounter various periods of Russian history preserved, as it were, like the art itself.

Russkiy Kovcheg is notable not for its plot (it has none) but for its astonishing technical achievement. The entire film consists of a single take, one long, uninterrupted shot. This wouldn’t be notable if it were nothing more than a static camera, but the camera here is almost never still. As the narrator and audience point of view (voiced by director Alexander Sokurov) wanders through this living museum, he speaks with another ghost out of time known as either the Stranger or the European (Sergei Dreiden). At times, the Stranger interacts with the people they see; at other times, the two wanderers appear to be unobserved observers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Die Liebe eines Sohnes

Film: Good Bye, Lenin!
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

One of the great things about the movies is that they are a tremendous opportunity to play make believe. With a good premise you can get away with almost anything. Good Bye, Lenin! is that sort of a film, one that banks on an unbeatable idea for a story and then plays it out by sticking to it as closely as it possibly can. I love it when a film buys into its premise so completely.

In the late 1970s, the father of a family in East Berlin vanishes to the West on the day that the first German launches into space. His wife, Christiane (Katrin Sass), throws herself into becoming the very best citizen of East Germany that she can. In 1990, as the times are changing, she witnesses her son involved in a protest. As her boy Alex (Daniel Bruhl) is tossed into a police van, she collapses. This near-fatal heart attack leaves her in a coma for months.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trying to Find Chinatown

Film: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on laptop.

There’s something about film noir that I find attractive and compelling. I can’t get enough of it. Technically, film noir is a style, not a genre but I don’t really care that much about the specific definition of such things. I dig film noir, and when it’s done well, I like neo-noir just as much. Anything that touches on these sensibilities I find interesting, at least when it’s done well. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is done relatively well. It just doesn't quite feel as realistic as it should.

Cosmo Vittelli (Ben Gazzara) is the owner of a strip club. As the story begins, he has just finished paying off a debt to a loan shark (Al Ruban). With his debt paid off, he decides to celebrate. He takes three of his dancers out for a night out. Cosmo ends up at a poker table where he is extended a very large line of credit by the people who run the game, who turn out to be the Mafia. Cosmo’s luck doesn’t change, and he runs up another massive debt. In the whole to the Mob for $23,000, Cosmo finds himself in a difficult situation—he’s at the mercy of a group of very difficult, impatient men who don’t take no for an answer and who don’t care about which side of the law they are on.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Film: Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

I wonder when watching a film like Fast Times at Ridgemont High if an actor like Sean Penn looks back at it, does he do so with fondness? I imagine he probably does. For what is otherwise a funny but ultimately throw-away teen comedy from the early 1980s, Fast Times has a huge number of people in it who went on to do a hell of a lot more, like Penn. This has to be one of the reasons it was selected for The List. In addition to Sean Penn and Jennifer Jason Leigh and Judge Reinhold (an icon in and of the ‘80s), we get appearances from Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, and Nicolas Cage before he changed his name from Coppola. It’s also the debut screenplay from Cameron Crowe. For what most people think of as a teen sex comedy, it’s got a pretty good pedigree.

The other, were I to venture a guess, is that it’s one of the rare teen films that blends the sort of raucous sex-and-drugs comedy that most of its key demographic are looking for with some actual drama. If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen this, you may forget that there’s more than just Sean Penn getting stoned with Eric Stoltz and Anthony Edwards and Phoebe Cates taking off the top of her swimsuit here.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Film: The Cool World
Format: Video from The Magic Flashdrive on laptop.

When I started this blog three and a half years ago or so, I made the commitment that I’d write full and complete reviews of every film. While I’m certain there are a couple of films that have gotten short shrift, in general I put up 750 words or more on every film (sometimes a lot more). This causes problems when I come across a film like Shirley Clarke’s The Cool World. When I looked for pictures of this, most of what I found were shots of Dizzy Gillespie. For the life of me, I thought this was going to be an underground documentary on jazz. Now that I’ve seen The Cool World, I’d have rather watched jazz.

For this being an independent film, it’s actually pretty straightforward. A young kid in Harlem named Duke (Rony Clanton) wants nothing more than to get a gun from a man named Priest (Carl Lee). With this gun he hopes to take a leadership position in his gang, the Royal Pythons. His goal with the Pythons is to get them to start rumbling again.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Innocents Abused

Film: Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies)
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on laptop.

If you’re of the “animation is just for kids crowd,” you’ve picked the wrong day to come to this website. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies) is about as far from a kids movie as one can get. The film opens with the line, “September 21, 1945. That was the night I died.” You’re not going to get a happy ending from that. I knew going in that this was going to be a rough ride and even then, I’m not sure I was fully prepared for the emotional flensing that is Hotaru no Haka. Don’t for a moment think that this means it isn’t a great film. It is; it’s not specifically an enjoyable film, but it deserves to be spoken in the same sentences as films like All Quiet on the Western Front, Idi i Smotri, and Jeux Interdits.

What the opening means is that we know where this film is going. When we flashback to the effective start of the story (the bulk of the film is told in flashback) and meet our two protagonists, we already have a good sense of their eventual fate. Seita is a teenaged boy, probably about 15, who lives with his mother and his young sister Setsuko, who is four or five. Their father is a member of the Japanese navy and is fighting the war. The story opens at the beginning of an air raid, a massive firebombing of the city of Kobe. The kids’ mother heads to a shelter, but the kids are caught out in the bombing, but manage to get through it. Their mother, however, is horribly burned and soon dies.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Clothes Make the Woman

Film: Pretty Woman
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

There are two ways to look at Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman. There is the happy fantasy version and the unfortunate and sort of ugly truth underneath the happy, happy fantasy. Which view is the real one? My guess is that Garry Marshall’s intent was the first view, but I’m of the opinion that it’s impossible to get through the film without the second view.

Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) is a high-powered corporate raider who buys companies and destroys them by chopping them into pieces and selling off the bits. That he is the romantic lead and considered a hero is possible only in the Reagan/Bush era, but there you have it. Lost in Beverly Hills, he asks attractive prostitute Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) for directions to his hotel. Vivian, we have learned, lives with fellow prostitute Kit De Luca (Laura San Giacomo), who has the charming habit of spending the rent money on drugs. Once at his hotel, Edward decides to hire Vivian for the night to the tune of $300.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Off Script: The Legend of Hell House

Film: The Legend of Hell House
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I honestly don’t know why I’ve had such a difficult time writing about this film. I’ve watched it twice within the last couple of weeks. I watched it once fully intending to write up a review and simply didn’t. I watched it again a couple of days before now, and still, I just haven’t gotten down to writing it up. The problem with The Legend of Hell House isn’t that it isn’t a good film. It really is. The problem is that I just don’t know what I have to say about it more than a sentence or two.

Honestly, The Legend of Hell House can be summed up in a sentence or two. Ready? Here goes: Imagine The Haunting with more bodies and more sex. That’s pretty much it. There’s a little more to it than that, but really, there isn’t much beyond it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Asylum Seeker

Film: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

When you spend enough time with a list like the 1001 Movies, you start to notice that certain people show up again and again. This isn’t coincidence. When you look at the great actors of any generation, they are considered great actors for a reason, whether it’s from being a great actor (likely) or simply choosing well over and over (also likely), certain actors simply have careers of legend. John Cazale, who went five-for-five with films nominated for Best Picture is the winner in this particular rodeo, but there are others who come to mind. Olivia de Havilland shows up a lot, as do Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, and many others. One of those others is Jack Nicholson, who is rightly the most celebrated actor of his generation. Even the greatest actor of his generation has a greatest role and a greatest film. For Nicholson, my vote will always be One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

This is a film that certainly summarizes well, but I’m not going to summarize it beyond the very basics. Randle P. McMurphy (Nicholson) is sent to the state mental institution from prison because it is believed that he might be mentally ill. This comes in part from the series of brawls he’s been in, his current charge of statutory rape, and his shirking of the work detail. Once there, McMurphy battles with Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and bonds with the collection of variously insane men, slowly losing his sanity in the process, this in no small part because of the cold, sadistic nature of Ratched.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tune In, Turn On, Czech Out

Film: Sedmikrasky (Daisies); Ostre Sledovan Vlaky (Closely Watched Trains)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on laptop.

Where do I begin with this one? Put in its most basic terms, Sedmikrasky (Daisies) asks what it would be like if there were two Bugs Bunnies and they were Czech women. Of course, the film is deeper than that, but on the surface, it feels like a modernized Buster Keaton film. It’s 72 minutes of insanity and randomness, food, chaos, unfulfilled sexuality, destruction, and girl power. I’m not going to go anywhere near a plot summary, because there’s no plot here to summarize. There are a bunch of actions that all point in a direction (sort of), but a summary beyond the most cursory is impossible.

Our two consistent characters are both named Marie. While completely different in appearance, they are otherwise completely interchangeable. They aren’t two facets of the same person, but two incarnations of the same personality. One Marie is blonde and generally wears a crown of flowers (Ivana Karbanova). The other is brunette and sports pigtails (Jitka Cerhova). And what do the two incarnations of this personality do? They eat. They are constantly eating, drinking, smoking, or more accurately, they are constantly consuming everything they can. A large section of the film is devoted to their convincing men to buy them endless amounts of food before putting the guys on a train and out of their lives, the men unsatisfied.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Nation Building

Film: Fahrenheit 9/11
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

If I’d had my druthers, I’d have never watched Fahrenheit 9/11 I’m not the biggest fan of Michael Moore mostly because his films eventually aren’t about the planned topic, but about Michael Moore. Every documentarian places his or her spin on whatever topic he or she is making a film on, but few are as blatant as Moore. But I’m a slave to the list. It appears, I watch. I should say in the interest of full disclosure that I swing politically to the left, particularly on social issues. I’m more an economic centrist. But a lot of Moore’s films should be right in my left-leaning social wheelhouse. They just aren’t.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is about September 11, 2001 and the aftermath as well as (and really, predominantly) the war in Iraq that followed 18 months or so afterward. And, as is typically the case, Moore creates a compelling argument for his point of view. Kind of. Actually, I think this film is in many ways less compelling than the arguments he puts forth in Roger & Me or Bowling for Columbine. The biggest reason for this is simply the scope. Rather than focusing on the aftermath of 9/11 or the war in Iraq, Moore takes on everything from the disputed presidential election that put George W. Bush in the White House through to the war and the non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Film: Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie (The Saragossa Manuscript)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

When I write a review, I do my best to come up with a title that really exemplifies the film in question. I’m not always that great at it, but sometimes I get it right. With a film like Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie (The Saragossa Manuscript), the word above is as perfect as I can get, and for the record, I did have to look up the term. An ouroboros is a snake eating its own tail, a long-used symbol for cyclical happenings and self-reflexivity. If I’ve ever seen a film more self-referential and more devouring of itself than this one, I have no memory of it. More likely it’s because this is the most spiraled-inward film in existence.

The problem here is that there is so much self-reference and reflexivity that the film becomes incredibly difficult to follow on a first viewing. In the first part of the film, we get a series of repetitions, actions that happen repeatedly with slightly different results each time. The second part consists of a series of stories within stories within stories, a narrative matryoshka. One person tells a story that involves another person telling a story, that includes a story from another person, and on and on. It’s Inception before anyone had the special effects budget to spin a hotel corridor around. If Russian nesting dolls aren’t your thing, you can consider this a series of nested quotes or parentheses within parentheses within parentheses.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blind Faith

Film: O Pagador de Promessas (Keeper of Promises; The Given Word)
Format: Video from The Magic Flashdrive on laptop.

Watch enough movies and you develop a sort of multiple personality for certain plot points. Sometimes they or a particular character mean one thing, sometimes they mean the opposite. Take, for example, the case of a naïve. There are times in the world of films when it seems that the naïve is truly blessed and that the world was made specifically to cater to a truly naïve character. Other times, in a dark and cruel film world, this world becomes a sort of hell, and everything is set to eventually destroy a character. If you think that O Pagador de Promessas (The Given Word, sometimes called Keeper of Promises) is the first kind, you’re in for a terrible shock.

Ze de Burro (Donkey Jack, played by Leonardo Villar) carries a huge wooden cross from his small farm to the nearest church dedicated to Saint Barbara, which is a good seven-mile walk. He does this because he asked for a miracle to save Nicolau, his donkey, who also happen to be his best friend. When he and his suffering wife Rosa (Gloria Menezes) arrive at the church, it is closed and soon begins to rain. Rosa is taken to a hotel by Handsome (Geraldo del Rey), a local pimp, who preys upon her, evidently to turn her into his new cash cow.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Film: La Double Vie de Veronique (The Double Life of Veronique)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

Krzysztof Kieslowski may well be the most spiritual of directors I have ever encountered. All of his work, at least all of his work that I’ve seen, is imbued with a a spiritual quality that comes across as genuine, simple, and beautiful because it isn’t forced. It’s honest and, for lack of a better word, pure. This is definitely true of Dekalog and of the Three Colors films. It’s also almost immediately evident in La Double Vie de Veronique (The Double Life of Veronique). This is a film of simple beauty and pleasure, and sadness.

We spend the initial part of the film with Weronika (Irene Jacob), a singer in Krakow. She attends a rehearsal for a men’s choir and, unable to control herself, accompanies them, which draws the attention of the choir director, who asks her to audition. When she leaves, she walks out into the middle of a demonstration that is becoming violent. Across a plaza, she sees a tourist board a bus; the tourist looks exactly like her.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Film: L’Albero Degli Zoccoli (The Tree of Wooden Clogs)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

What are we to make of L’Albero Degli Zoccoli (The Tree of Wooden Clogs)? This is a film that runs just shy of three hours (178 minutes and change) and a great deal of the first part of this film—actually all of this film—is about setting up the time and the place and creating an entire world around the simple lives of the peasants who populate the film. In truth, the entirety of this epic can be summed up in a sentence or two, but reducing the story to a couple of sentences would remove the importance of seeing these lives and learning about the people who live them.

But really, the story is as simple as it gets. The main story of the film boils down to this: A peasant family in Italy at the end of the 19th century has a son who appears to have some gift for learning, so they send him to school rather than put him to work on the farm. One day, the boy breaks his shoe on his long walk home from school and the family does not have enough money to get him a replacement, so the father (Luigi Ornaghi) chops down a tree on the property of the man who owns the farm where the peasants work and live. Eventually, this leads to problems, as cutting down the tree is akin to stealing from their employer. That’s really it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Don't Call Me Shirley!

Film: Airplane!
Format: DVD from personal collection on Sue’s Mother’s Day present.

I had plans tonight to watch something emotionally draining and fairly long. Those were my plans at least. I decided that I’d had a pretty rough week and needed something easy, something light and stupid and silly and funny. Airplane! it is. Airplane! was made in a time when people actually understood parody, something the seems to be a lost art based on what passes for a parody film these days.

So here’s the short version if you’ve managed to somehow skip this film. An ex-Air Force pilot named Ted Striker (Robert Hays) has been unable to get near an airplane or even hold a steady job since a terrible war experience. This has caused his stewardess girlfriend Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty) to dump him and get on with her life. However, Ted decides to follow her on her current flight to Chicago. The plane is a Noah’s Ark of personalities and includes a young girl who needs a heart transplant.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sex Made Dull

Film: Loulou
Format: Video from The Magic Flashdrive on laptop.

Typically, I watch a film and, if it’s on one of my several lists, I write down what I got out of it. Now and then, I find that I get so little from a film that I have to hunt for information to see what other people have to say about it. Loulou is just such a film. I sat through it and walked away with almost nothing. I’m not prepared to call it a bad film, but it comes across to me as an empty film, one in which there is almost nothing that I didn’t put there myself.

I read through its short entry in The Tome of Knowledge and found little there, too. Then I remembered that fellow 1001 blogger Adolytsi reviewed this film fairly recently. I generally only read reviews of a film after I’ve posted my review, but I was desperate—I have an empty film to write about. It’s not that I couldn’t put any meaning into this film; I just didn’t really want to. Loulou didn’t seem to be worth the effort of giving it some grand meaning.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Last of the Titans

Film: Clash of the Titans
Format: DVD from personal collection on Sue’s Mother’s Day present.

The world lost Ray Harryhausen today, and the world is worse off for it. The man was, pardon the pun based on today’s film, a titan in the industry. Like a lot of people in my generation, I grew up on some of Harryhausen’s best work--The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and most especially the original Clash of the Titans. The man was special in a way that we’ll probably never see again. Nick Park at Aardman is probably the closest we’ll ever come again to what Ray Harryhausen did. I spent part of the day looking for a copy of Jason and the Argonauts to no avail. So I went to the bullpen and childhood favorite Clash of the Titans.

Watching this as an adult is an interesting experience. This is a film in its 30s, and as a special effect film, it doesn’t hold up as well as my memory of it. The double exposure shots are blatantly obvious and kind of sad in our world of CG and camera trickery, but back in 1981, boy, this stuff was high-tech. But Harryhausen wasn’t known for that—with him it was all of the wonderful stop motion work and monsters and creatures that couldn’t be brought to a film audience any other way.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pure Imagination

Film: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I suppose that there are people older than 20 who haven’t seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but I can’t really imagine how that is the case. I’m overstating, of course—there are plenty of “everyone’s seen it” films that I’ve missed. And part of this is my own childhood. This was the first movie to every really scare me (more on that later). I’ve seen the remake as well, and while that version is far more faithful to the book, I’ll always have a warm fuzzy for the original version of the film. Yeah, I’m tipping my hand early.

Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) is the only child of a widowed mother (Diana Sowle) and four bedridden grandparents. Charlie lives in an unknown part of the world—it looks a hell of a lot like Germany (where it was filmed), but everyone speaks English. No matter. Anyway, Charlie’s family is so unbelievably poor that he is forced to work after school, and on his first payday he buys a loaf of bread to supplement the family’s typical diet of thin cabbage soup.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Pascal's Wager

Film: Ma Nuit Chez Maud (My Night at Maud’s)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu on laptop.

My wife evidently forgot to update the account information when we switched payment plans for Hulu, which means I’m back to the “we don’t have Hulu” Hulu account. The vast number of films I had in my queue are, for me, no longer available. Fortunately for me, there are still a few films that can still be watched on the service without a paying account, and one of those, Ma Nuit Chez Maud (My Night at Maud’s), was the one I had planned on watching today. Sometimes things just work out. Of course, without the pay service, I had to sit through ads. The things I do for you people.

This is a very strange film, reminding me of nothing so much as My Dinner with Andre. Essentially, after about half an hour or so of dealing with our protagonist and his chance meeting with an old friend, we get to a highbrow conversation that dominates the film. This is the sort of film that rewards careful viewing, but is likely to leave a lot of the audience scratching its head. We get threads of conversation on religion and atheism, the nature of love, and the writings of Blaise Pascal, including Pascal’s Wager, which suggests that being religious is a safer bet than irreligion (but which contains several significant fallacies).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Apply Directly to the Forehead

Film: Gegen die Wand (Head-On)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

For a romance, Gegen die Wand (Head-On) contains a shocking amount of blood. Violence and death in a romance is older than Romeo and Juliet, but in the case of Gegen die Wand, I mean it in more of a literal sense—there’s a lot of visible blood going on here. This is both a modern romance and a more traditional one, and like any good romance, it contains a healthy dose of tragedy.

Cahit Tomruk (Birol Unel) is a 40-something Turkish transplant in Germany. He’s spent the bulk of his time in Germany eliminating everything Turkish in his life. We learn that his wife has died and he sees nothing positive in his life. His job is picking up empty bottles in a club. Depressed and at the end of his rope, he drives his car straight into a wall, ending up in a psychiatric clinic, since it is assumed that his driving accident was a suicide attempt. At the clinic he meets Sibel Guner (Sibel Kekilli), another Turk and another person who has attempted suicide. Sibel notices Cahit and immediately proposes marriage.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Watching Oscar: Shakespeare in Love

Film: Shakespeare in Love
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

Shakespeare in Love is a film that I’ve consciously not watched, mostly from the intense backlash the film received starting the moment it won Best Picture. For a lot of people, it’s proof positive that a good campaign around Oscar time can work. After all, in the minds of many, this is a frilly period romance that took down Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. This sort of backlash isn’t really that uncommon. Any film that gets a huge amount of acclaim experiences it at least a little, and when there are other worthy films involved, the backlash is bigger, stronger, and lasts longer.

But that’s hardly the fault of the film. Shakespeare in Love is very much a period piece, and very much a Harlequin romance. I refuse to use the term “chick flick” because I think it’s demeaning, but when that term is used, this is the sort of film that people think of. It’s a film that trades initially on the romance, plyas up the romance throughout, and even contains an additional romance within the romance, since it’s as much about Romeo and Juliet as it is about young Billy the Shake finding an agreeable sheath for his spear.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dire Wolf

Film: Natural Born Killers
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

I’m not sure that Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers can be fully explained. It’s the sort of thing that needs to be experienced, and it’s entirely possible that a true understanding of the film requires being in an altered state. In fact, I might argue that the entire film is something of an altered state. Stone plays with film stock, genre, camera movements, animation, and any number of experimental techniques to present a bizarre and disturbing story that is half hallucination and half indictment on American media and culture.

Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis) are the central characters on a cross-country killing spree. They massacre the workers and patrons of a truck stop, leaving one potential victim alive to tell the tale, something that proves to be their signature. From this opening, we discover something about their first meeting and Mallory’s past. Her mother (Edie McClurg) is ineffectual and weak and her father (Rodney Dangerfield) is abusive both physically and sexually. When Mickey steals the family car, Mallory’s father calls out the law and Mickey goes to prison. But the two are united in spirit. When a tornado strikes, Mickey escapes from prison and returns to Mallory, and the two kill her parents before starting their cross-country murder spree.