- Rated X: 1
- Smoke Signals: 0
- The World According to Garp: 0
- The Shining: 0
Rated XBiography of San Francisco smut kings the Mitchell Brothers. One thing I like about Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen is how they don't really take themselves seriously. Estevez did Repo Man; Sheen had a nice cameo in Being John Malkovich, and also did the Hot Shots movies. On the commentary, you get the impression that Estevez (the director) takes himself a lot more seriously and Sheen is the goofball, but the pairing works pretty well. This movie was funded by Showtime, and it's not exactly a big-budget affair, although Estevez breaks out what cheap tricks he can. The movie builds to a "shocking conclusion" which I didn't really see coming--I didn't happen to know the truth of what happened to the brothers; Estevez mentions that he expected the audience would know it but he could trick them about which brother has the bad experience. So for me it just kind of went a little over the top there, since I didn't know what it was building to--and it seemed so unlikely, so not quite motivated. (But, of course, it really happened, and the unlikeliness of it was part of the true story; had he not been fortuitously caught at the scene, nobody would have ever suspected him. So I can't even complain that the 'it really happened' is a cop out.) Tracy Hutson is believably cast as Marilyn Chambers, a girl you could believe did both porn and an Ivory Snow ad. The story of the guys is interesting, their highs and lows, their confrontation with the mob (which, sadly, gets little screen time since so much material is covered), the reactions of their parents; just lots of nice little tidbits. Not sure how to compare it to Boogie Nights, since this is a biopic; there's a lot more porn industry here, and less character stuff. Rating (-4 to 4): 1
Smoke SignalsSupposedly the first movie to be written, directed, and co-produced by a Native American. (Well, one or more.) Two Native Americans road trip to recover the ashes of the man who fathered one and saved the other from the fire that nevertheless orphaned him. Although it's interesting because of its indigenousness--one hopes that this really is the uncut uncensored perspective of at least a few native americans--that interestingness merely offsets what is largely a by-the-numbers road movie / discovery journey. The movie strives for quirkiness, with a radio traffic reporter reporting on the undertraveled road that goes by the reservation, and two girls in a car that drives only backwards (no explanation given); but the quirkiness doesn't connect to the story, nor does it actually seem particularly specific to life on the reservation. Only the character Thomas Builds-the-Fire's strange stories really matter, and in that he is such the storyteller archetype that it's hard to feel the significance. The road story itself is forgettable; they journey, have "adventures", including a car accident that attempts to build conflict with the police sheriff who doesn't believe their story... except he does, and just hadn't gotten around to mentioning that part yet. Bah. Rating (-4 to 4): 0
The World According to GarpRobin Williams is struggling novelist Garp through his battles with his mother. Although at times it's a likeable comedy (especially owing to William's charisma), it's so brutally episodic and covers such a large period of time (no doubt that it really just doesn't work. Rather than striking a tragi-comic tone, it simply oscillates wildly from one to the other; maybe it made more sense in the book, but here, the second son's existence seems entirely to facilitate tragedy and sympathy, and he is too easily forgotten (in projection time). There's also the very strange hypocrisy over adultery on the part of Garp that is never addressed, or even acknowledged by the movie. (It may be that the movie intended you to be aware of it and to react to it, but who knows? Nobody in the movie ever does.) Rating (-4 to 4): 0
The ShiningJack Nicholson gets a job as caretaker for a summer lodge closed for the winter, and things go bad. What things go bad? Who knows. There's never any attempt at coherency about the haunting of the place (but there is a casual reference to it having been built on an indian burial ground, go cliche); the "shining" itself is an entirely unrelated capability of people to communicate telepathically, which, unexpectedly, even works over incredibly long, long distances (which we don't even realize how far until the recipient gets on an airplane); the characters who shine also have a "voice that tells them things", but who knows who or by what mechanism, especially when it takes possession of one of them; certain of the characters see bad things but the others don't, and then the others do later, and... well, that would all be fine if you could at least feel like somehow, somewhere, there was someone for whom it all made sense and we just didn't have all the data; but here it just seems to be to the whim of the storyteller to maximize the shock value of his story. Yeah, some of the images are pretty darn indelible--the river of blood, the run through the maze in the snow, "all work and no play makes jack a dull boy", even the "here's johnny" bit. But a bunch of cool images do not a movie make.
My friend Chris was trying to explain one of his problems with Buffy, the degree to which it is trivial entertainment, and he used an example from an episode called Passion. He explained that on listening to the commentary, the show's creator explained how they felt they needed to show that this particular character really had turned evil, and the way to do that was by having him kill someone, and it couldn't be a regular, but here was this well-liked secondary character who had become more significant lately, and that was just a perfect opportunity, so the now-evil guy kills this secondary character. And Chris felt like this was just too easy, too directly manipulative, too severed from story and arc. I'm not sure it's as bad as Chris things: it is, after all, entertainment, and its job is to manipulate us.
But as I watch Scatman Crothers walk up to the hotel, as Jack has descended into evil madness but the storyteller obviously doesn't want Jack killing his wife or kid, I remember this story from Buffy and go, "ah, ok, I see, right, he's going to bite it for exactly that reason." Things play out as expected, and my complaint here isn't that that's manipulative and all, but just that it's too easily predicted. It's the obvious thing. "Let's have someone come resuce them, but he gets killed instead, so now we know it's really easy."
Oh well. Rating (-4 to 4): 0, but I don't particularly like the horror genre, so add a point or two if you do.