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Posts from — February 2012

Great Scenes – FIVE EASY PIECES

This is one of the earliest and greatest examples of Jack truly being Jack, playing the anti-hero and societal drop-out in Bob Rafelson‘s Five Easy Pieces (1970), his first starring role after stepping out of Roger Corman‘s b-movie shadow with buddy Dennis Hopper‘s Easy Rider a year earlier. By the end of the decade Nicholson would have worked with the finest directors film had to offer and would come to change our perception on leading-man charisma forever. Just look at a few select movies from his 1970’s run of films: Mike NicholsCarnal Knowledge, Hal Ashby‘s The Last Detail, Michelangelo Antonioni‘s The Passenger, Roman Polanski‘s Chinatown, Milos Forman‘s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestArthur Penn‘s The Missouri Breaks and Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining. That’s the type of decade you could really hold between your knees.

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February 21, 2012   No Comments

Deliciously Dark Valentine – SEX AND DEATH 101

SEX AND DEATH 101 asks you to step outside of normal – with fantastic results.

Ahh, Valentine’s Day – the day we celebrate the monetization of love, when our personal relationships are repackaged and sold back to us wholesale, in the form of giant teddy bears, heart shaped boxes o’ chocolate, or whatever mindless romantic comedy they’ve strategically released on Blue-ray & DVD. It’s the Superbowl of the heart, when everyone’s rooting for the same team – LOVE, and naysayers are branded infidels and treated like Pro-choicers at a Republican rally. But if you’re like me – a fan and supporter who resists being made a lemming in the name of love – there’s a movie for this season of roses: writer/director Daniel WatersSex &Death 101 (2007), a romantic comedy by way of the Twilight Zone. The story of Roderick Blank (Simon Baker), a man who’s soon to wed the woman of his dreams (Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen), who receives via email a long list of his lovers, past present and future – problematic given the fact his fiancée comes in at number 29 of 101 names! The rest of the film chronicles Roderick’s descent into sexual madness (some would call it freedom), and if you accept the central metaphysical conceit – of an “Oracle” run by a group of bumbling technicians (Robert Wisdom, Tanc Sade and Patton Oswalt) – you’ll be in for a fun ride, one in which romantic tropes are skewered and the masculine archetype gets a shellacking. After all, as budding Lotharios are taught, “if you know you’re going to get lucky you probably are,” and this movie takes that idea of a self-fulfilling confidence to its logical extreme. Along the way S&D101 explores unhealthy relationships, asks serious questions about freewill, and examines our individual responsibility for the happiness of others. And despite these noble pursuits, it’s also a lot of fun – because at its core it’s essentially a superhero movie disguised as a romantic comedy – Roderick’s list fulfilling the same function as Green Lantern‘s ring or Stanley Ipkiss‘s Mask. And there’s also an evil villain, Death Nell (Winona Ryder), a serial killer out to eliminate “bad men,” whose crusade mirrors Roderick’s thematically and promises an eventual showdown. Give Waters (who also wrote Heathers) a lot of credit – he still has the balls to explore the vanishing artform known as the dark comedy. Sure, S&D101 has its flaws (mainly related to budget), but it tries more than other films ever do, and achieves many of its goals. And though it won’t sell you any target=”_blank”>giant teddy bears, it’s movie about romance that not only entertains but also makes you think, proving you don’t always have to check your brain at the door in affairs of the heart.

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February 13, 2012   No Comments

Great Scenes – THE GODDESS

Having recently caught a target=”_blank”>trailer for the Michelle Williams vehicle My Week with Marilyn I was immediately reminded of The Goddess (1958) – directed by John Cromwell and written by one of Hollywood’s greatest scribes ever, Paddy Chayefsky. This thinly-veiled deconstruction of Marilyn Monroe is especially noteworthy for its vintage (made 4 years before her death!) and complexity, and seems a fitting reminder of what once made movies great – the way they challenged audiences to look past the visible into the gulf between representation and reality. In this day and age when movies are more primitive-minded and LCD-driven than ever before we need to look to the past to find complex films such as these to feed our malnourished minds. Kim Stanley‘s embodiment of the come-from-nothing-farm girl is more than just a revealing look at the starlet – it is also an examination of attention-seeking compulsive behavior which forever dooms those who seek their happiness in the approval of others. Just look at this scene where Marilyn – a lost soul torn apart by a constant need for attention – ineptly attacks her God-fearing mother where it hurts most.

and here’s another great scene from the movie (available in its entirety on youtube) in which Lloyd Bridges plays “Dutch” – another of Marilyn’s possessive suitors – a thinly veiled Joe DiMaggio?

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February 7, 2012   No Comments

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