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vanveen13

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Posts posted by vanveen13


  1. I admit I enjoyed this movie as eighties dreck, but it’s utterly ineffective as horror and lifeless as comedy. I saw it when it came out and hadn’t liked it at the time. Now I think I can articulate what’s gone so wrong with it.</div>

     

    The first thing has to do with Star, the Jami Gertz character, who’s clearly been shoehorned into this picture. She’s hopelessly miscast as a she-vampire whose erotic aura of suffering is supposed to give her a mysterious mesmerizing glamour completely entrancing to the Jason Patric character, when in fact she comes across here as she does in almost all the movies she did in the eighties, as a bland spunky Jewish girl from Jersey. She also screws up the theme of the film. It’s called The Lost Boys from Peter Pan, about kids who never have to grow up; no girls allowed. The idea you could remain young and hang out with your buddies forever and ever and ever is both appealing and frighteningly pathetic. Also, because this group of Lost Ones is supposed to be in their late teens there ought to be a sickly homoerotic undercurrent. The romance needs to be between Patric and Sutherland’s blond New Wave vampire-thug, as he slowly seduces Patric to the dark side of male bonding. By using Gertz as Patrick’s way into the club, however, all this is short circuited; we’re never given even a whiff of anything darkly perverse going on between the boys; nor do we feel that Patrick’s character is particularly interested in being one of the gang. They just stand between him and his getting the underwritten girl. Gertz and Patrick are so uninteresting together that their “steamy” love scene, shot in corny dissolves and saturated with terrible music, is MTV kitsch, good dull clean teen fun.

     

    The second big prob is that the filmmakers are incompetent in dealing with basic vampire lore and rules. You’re never really sure which vampire things apply to whom here. Garlic doesn’t work, but holy water does. What about crosses? If Max, the master vampire, has to be invited in, how come the rest of the gang is able to simply crash the place? The weird thing is, there was a convenient device introduced in the movie which could have spelled all this out for us: the vampire comic book that the Frog brothers gave to the Corey Haim character. Yet we’re never shown even a frame of it! As a side note, if the bathtub filled with holy water has a plunger in it, as it must, then why do all the other sinks spew gunk and the toilet explode? Joel Schumacher is a filmmaker without style. There’s plenty of stupid slick spectacle and overwrought set decoration, but he has no idea how to make use of cinematic means to express what’s in the material. All that flying camera and the characters’ annoying screaming is simply goofy and tiresome.

     

    The third thing wrong is the most enjoyable. At the beginning of the movie Schumacher gives us a montage of all the punks and freaks that live in Santa Clara, California, but they are nowhere near as odd as the normal, E.T. style family, our protagonists, who move there. Clearly none of these people are related to each other. Patric and Haim could not possibly be brothers, Dianne Wiest’s insultingly conceived mom character could never have popped out these eerie showbiz kids, and the grotesquely cute codger grandfather belongs to another film altogether; his saving the day at the end is groan-inducing. But the strangest part of all this is Corey Haim, whose frosted coif and bizarre unchildlike wardrobe make him look as if he had been styled in a New Wave gay ice cream parlor, which Max the head vampire also seems to patronize. During every single scene with Haim all I could think was, what in the hell is this kid wearing?!!! And at that level, I suppose, it was an effective horror-comedy.


  2. I admit I enjoyed this movie as eighties dreck, but it’s utterly ineffective as horror and lifeless as comedy. I saw it when it came out and hadn’t liked it at the time. Now I think I can articulate what’s gone so wrong with it.</div>

     

    The first thing has to do with Star, the Jami Gertz character, who’s clearly been shoehorned into this picture. She’s hopelessly miscast as a she-vampire whose erotic aura of suffering is supposed to give her a mysterious mesmerizing glamour completely entrancing to the Jason Patric character, when in fact she comes across here as she does in almost all the movies she did in the eighties, as a bland spunky Jewish girl from Jersey. She also screws up the theme of the film. It’s called The Lost Boys from Peter Pan, about kids who never have to grow up; no girls allowed. The idea you could remain young and hang out with your buddies forever and ever and ever is both appealing and frighteningly pathetic. Also, because this group of Lost Ones is supposed to be in their late teens there ought to be a sickly homoerotic undercurrent. The romance needs to be between Patric and Sutherland’s blond New Wave vampire-thug, as he slowly seduces Patric to the dark side of male bonding. By using Gertz as Patrick’s way into the club, however, all this is short circuited; we’re never given even a whiff of anything darkly perverse going on between the boys; nor do we feel that Patrick’s character is particularly interested in being one of the gang. They just stand between him and his getting the underwritten girl. Gertz and Patrick are so uninteresting together that their “steamy” love scene, shot in corny dissolves and saturated with terrible music, is MTV kitsch, good dull clean teen fun.

     

    The second big prob is that the filmmakers are incompetent in dealing with basic vampire lore and rules. You’re never really sure which vampire things apply to whom here. Garlic doesn’t work, but holy water does. What about crosses? If Max, the master vampire, has to be invited in, how come the rest of the gang is able to simply crash the place? The weird thing is, there was a convenient device introduced in the movie which could have spelled all this out for us: the vampire comic book that the Frog brothers gave to the Corey Haim character. Yet we’re never shown even a frame of it! As a side note, if the bathtub filled with holy water has a plunger in it, as it must, then why do all the other sinks spew gunk and the toilet explode? Joel Schumacher is a filmmaker without style. There’s plenty of stupid slick spectacle and overwrought set decoration, but he has no idea how to make use of cinematic means to express what’s in the material. All that flying camera and the characters’ annoying screaming is simply goofy and tiresome.

     

    The third thing wrong is the most enjoyable. At the beginning of the movie Schumacher gives us a montage of all the punks and freaks that live in Santa Clara, California, but they are nowhere near as odd as the normal, E.T. style family, our protagonists, who move there. Clearly none of these people are related to each other. Patric and Haim could not possibly be brothers, Dianne Wiest’s insultingly conceived mom character could never have popped out these eerie showbiz kids, and the grotesquely cute codger grandfather belongs to another film altogether; his saving the day at the end is groan-inducing. But the strangest part of all this is Corey Haim, whose frosted coif and bizarre unchildlike wardrobe make him look as if he had been styled in a New Wave gay ice cream parlor, which Max the head vampire also seems to patronize. During every single scene with Haim all I could think was, what in the hell is this kid wearing?!!! And at that level, I suppose, it was an effective horror-comedy.


  3. One of the odd assumptions made by our genial hosts this week is that Harold and Maude and Being there somehow specifically appeal to privileged artsy straight guys. I was introduced to both films by females who loved them, passionately. Was told about Harold by a brilliant, sardonic goth girl in high school whom I very much wanted to impress (I did not) and eventually saw it one afternoon when a close female friend of mine sat me and her sorta boyfriend down with the video tape to watch it in the house of a friend who was out of town. While the two of them proceeded to get sloshed and make sloppy love in every room of the house around me, I concentrated my mortified eyes on the screen; every washed out groovy image was thus burned into my mind for all eternity. Being there, thankfully, was chastely brought to my attention by my lovely late aunt one Christmas a few years later, who assured me it was both funny and smart, unlike most movies.

     

    Now onto the hetero issue. To me, the unconventional romance in Harold has always had an obvious gay subtext to it. In Shampoo, my favorite Ashby film and one of my top ten favorite movies of all time, Carrie Fisher meets Warren Beatty's George in a notorious sequence. He tells her he's a hair dresser and she asks him if he's gay. He says he isn't. Fisher asks if he's sleeping with her mother and suggests that having a thing for older women is "kind of faggoty, isn't it?" So perhaps Ashby's mind was right there along with mine. Anyway, the point is I've always associated Harold with gay men. In fact, two of my closest friends, gay of course, are like various aspects of Harold. One actually drove a hearse for several years and is an inveterate, outrageous prankster with a wonderfully unflappable mom. The other guy is boyish and very normal looking, almost preppy, yet debauched and rebellious under all that seeming "niceness." I go into all this so that we don't necessarily essentialize stuff, which I think Amy sometimes has a tendency to do because she's so wary of male rule breakers and counter cultural dudes who thumb there noses at the mainstream, for some reason associated by her with Trump's loutish, Philistine behavior.

     

    But back to the movies: Like Amy, I don't care for either of them that much. The romance in Harold has no spark to it; even as a sixteen year old I wasn't much moved by Maude's bohemian life force or whimsical little rituals--they seemed forced the way certain productions of You can't take it with you do when the cast tries too hard for a sparkling blithe effect. And I felt nothing about Maude's death. The only thing I really enjoyed in the movie was the power struggle between Harold and his mother, which was very funny. Harold's mother's boredom and her refusal to be upset by her son's behavior gives her an odd glamour and dignity that saves her from being a too easy satirical target. Still, I think our hosts are crazy if they truly believe this woman is in any shape or form doing the right thing as a parent. Harold's childish fake suicide pranks seem exactly the right response to a mother who doesn't care what her son's emotional wants and needs are. To her he's simply an animated encumbrance. You get the feeling she just wants to marry him off to an appropriate mate and be done with him, a form of living death. Therefore she doesn't react to these stunt suicides, because at some level she doesn't think of Harold as being a live creature.

     

    When I first saw Being there I loved it, but then when I saw it again I thought it was terribly boring and obvious. Plus there's a kind of contradiction in this material that's annoying. I haven't read the Kosinsky novel but other ones I've picked up by him are incredibly grotesque, perverse and disturbing so I wouldn't be surprised if the film has lightened his themes somewhat: put them through the Capra corn grinder that is. The problem has to do with the way the film pretends, on the one hand, to be a satire of how shallow and stupid our society is when it takes the empty statements of a mentally retarded man as the sage pronouncements of a wise philosopher guru, which isn't believable at all the way it's presented, and so misses its mark almost entirely. But then on the other hand the movie winds up lauding the effects of the main character's vacuous stupidity on those whose life he ultimately graces. I think these people really are meant to seem as if they'd been helped and opened up spiritually by this Candide with a charmed life. The idea ultimately is that the adult world is so sophisticated and corrupt that it can only be saved by an encounter with true innocence, unencumbered by soul rotting intelligence, ideas and hard won life experience. And I don't think you can have it both ways. The bludgeoning image of the character walking on water at the end connects him to the christlike, noble idiots of Dostoyevsky, but without that demented author's neurotic contradictions and ambivalence about what it means to try to embody divine goodness on earth.

     

    Thus in this difficult deliberation, I'm coming down on the side of Harold and Maude because it made me laugh, because it's against the squares, and because to me it's kind of gay. Plus, the movie meant a lot to a number of people I love and admire. Sorry Amy. I get your take on it though. Man, I cannot wait 'til we finally learn where exactly the line between your bohemian and conservative sides lies. We keep getting hints but I don't yet understand what lies beneath, a bad film by the director of Forrest Gump.


  4. I'm not really sure that this is a movie that had a great effect on films in general, and I think it's quite flawed, yet it's a really interesting subject. I was surprised Amy didn't bring up how much Pauline Kael hated the thing. She thought it was a total phony about how men like to view themselves as rotters and insensitive jerks always on the make. Interestingly, her take was that the movie negatively flattered men, which I thought was funny.

     

    In any case the film is probably different for most guys than it was for our female hosts. Partly it's because the schematic structure of the material is somewhat muddled. The idea is that the Nicholson character is supposed to come across as a strong sexist stud who's actually very sensitive. His slobby macho act is a way to hide his vulnerability, which he projects onto the women he's involved with as rage and frustration, but there's something missing and we never quite get the sensitivity and intelligence that's supposed to be there. The irony of the first part of the movie is that he actually has much more feeling for the Candice Bergen character than Garfunkle, who seems smart and tender but who's self serving and self pitying; his icky neediness is totally narcissistic and there are few scenes more unpleasant than his whining Bergen into having sex with him. This is important because it seems to me that Bergen's choosing Garfunkle over Nicholson doesn't derive from her feeling safer with him, as Molly Lambert suggested, but because she thinks he's weaker and needs her more than NIcholson does, a terrible way to pick a spouse.

     

    I also think the stuff with Ann Margaret is strong and pathetic, but it's wrong to view the material in black and white terms, with the women as pure victims and the men as evil oppressors. Terms like "good" and "evil" don't apply to this sort of subject matter; after all, much as we may sympathize with Margaret's predicament there is something truly ugly and manipulative in her suicide attempt, which after all gets her what she thinks she wants from Nicholson, until she becomes fed up with him, divorces him and takes him for a bunch of money. We're glad she got away in the end, yet she really was dishonest and did put one over on him. My point is that we should not be too quick to relate this film, and these men, to people like Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer, whose crimes are completely out of the realm of the kind of self centered mistakes the men in this movie make, which have more sides to them than I think were discussed..

     

    Which brings me to the problem of the movie's end. It's far too moralistic and jars with the early part of the movie. I wish it hadn't felt the need to punish the Nicholson character in such an on the nose sort of way, making him impotent and forcing him to see prostitutes who talk up his manly ego to remind the audience how pathetic he is. It's ridiculous. Life almost never winds up with justice being served in such clearly ironic terms; that sort of thing only happens in melodrama. It's cautionary silliness: Don't be a sex-only womanizer, the movie says, or you'll wind up unable to have sex altogether! But what really would have happened, to both these men is that they would have wound up married to lovely younger women between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-five, changing diapers in their completely stable homes, writing off their early adventures as an immature sowing of wild oats.. Also, I wish the movie would have made the women more complicated and complicit than it does--after all women are contributing to the way society works as well as men do. And the film's pace is slightly off. It takes a good deal of time in the beginning part then rushes to its editorializing end., Still, I'm going yes with this movie because of the performances of Nicholson and Garfunkle, and because the opening shot of Bergen walking in out of darkness is one of my favorite shots in all of movies.


  5. I really think this should have been a Holiday Vs. Philadelphia Story or HIs Girl Friday Vs. The Front Page. As we have to go with what we got, though, I picked Friday, because it's the funniest of the two movies. While I like Philadelphia I don't love it. I much prefer the Cukor, Phillip Barry, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn romantic comedy Holiday, where the Hepburn character is just so wonderful and unusual; plus that film shows playwright Barry's sophisticated wealthy progressivism with Grant as the man of the people and a distinct satirical disdain for wealthy phoniness, not to mention it combines romance with actual ideas.

     

    I don't think our hosts have it right with their views of either these films, however. Again, the ideological correctness they go on so awkwardly about seems to be getting in way of what the movies are saying. Have we become so prissy we are now obliged to feel sorry for the Ralph Bellamy character in Friday?! ! He's a bourgoise boob who has nothing to offer Russell but a foursquare home, a picket fence, a passel of brats, church on Sundays and being bossed around by her mother-in-law--that is a life of pure chloroform conformity. So of course she winds up with Cary Grant, because she's as ambitious and hilariously awful as he is, and could never fit into the American Dream propagandized by journalists, no matter what she thinks she ought to want. In her interview with the murderer she basically feeds him a bunch of hooey about his being almost inadvertently brainwashed into killing his victim, something you know she doesn't really believe. She and Grant are obviously two bohemian peas in a pod. Also, to make a correction others have probably already made, Molly Malloy, or whatever her name was didn't die in that jump! It would have been cool if she had, an early form of black comedy.

     

    As to Philadelphia, why does Mr. Klimek think that the movie should somehow be obliged to point out to the audience that it, the movie, disapproves of the father's outrageous rant that Hepburn is responsible for his infidelity? I can think of no more grotesque an idea than the movie indulging a lecture telling us he is wrong when we're adult enough to decide for ourselves. Also, the film's handling of class and especially gender is far more progressive than either of our hosts suggested. Even though the movie tells us technically that Hepburn and Stewart didn't actually sleep together we know movie code, that it's just being coy, and we read it as saying that really they did, and Hepburn isn't villified for this; in fact we like her better. We're all are human and make mistakes, the movie says, and it strikes me that the film comes out against slut shaming in favor of open minded fun. Grant and Hepburn love each for their folly, not in spite of it, and that's the movie's bid for real freshness. The man she nearly married instead is unnattractive not because he's a vulgar working man but from the liberal aristocratic point of view that he's nouveau riche, wants a fancy trophy wife to add to his quality lifestyle collection in order to up his stock in the sophisticated monied world. Grant's irrepressible irresponsibility is extremely appealing. He wants Hepburn to be a flesh and blood woman.

     

    I think in this way the movies are sort of similar, written from a bohemian perspective of Us against the Squares, but I guess maybe that doesn't read for modern audiences since it's either seen as elitist or in terms of gender politics with all women from the past viewed as victims whether they're ruthless bad girls or soppy goodies. But movies of the thirties and early forties were far more skeptical and funny about human behavior than the modern sentimentalism of nomenclaturial social acceptance and the assumed efficacy of positive role model characters.

    • Like 2

  6. Thus far I'm one of only three people who does not think that even the first "Back to the Future" should be in the canon. To me it's a bland, lifeless movie that reminds one of special holiday sitcom versions of things like "It's a wonderful life." Fox, the hero, gives a flat performance. The whole beginning of the movie is nothing but tedious setups for, I think, very unimaginative payoffs. The only performances I liked were Lea Thompson's teenie bopper, though she's so undeveloped that after her first zonked out moments nothing more happens to her; and Christopher Lloyd's eye popping scientist. Everything else in the movie is flat and mechanical. I saw this when it first came out and even as a kid I thought it was a little bit much that, in the end, Fox got everything he mentioned wanting, including that SUV he was salavating over. It becomes a little gross. It's weird to me too that no one's ever noticed some of the incredibly lazy writing. In the scene where Crispin Glover is spying on Thompson and Fox inadvertantly keeps his parents from meeting, he's hit by a car, I believe, and knocked out. Yet no one thinks to take him to the hospital. They instead let him lay around for hours unconscious in Thompson's bedroom so she can fall for him and screw up the future. Couldn't the writers have come up with any better way to complicate the situation than this piece of flimsy baloney? Biff is such a banal meanie that I actually wound up feeling sorry for him as a kind of victim of the narrative, assigned the role of mega asshole with no attempt to understand him as person at all.

     

    And another thing. It's funny how Amy and the guest host discussed the film's sexism, but didn't even notice the worst stuff in the thing, which has been bugging me since the eighties. The movie seems to suggest that once Crispin Glover's character grows a pair, steps up and punches Biff out for trying to rape Thompson this gives him enough confidence that he not only becomes a successful business man and a published writer, but his newfound virility also seems to cure his wife of her frigidity and bitter alcoholism! I don't usually give a crap about whether or not a movie is politically correct, but it does seem to me that this is a particularly pernicious message; worse it's artisically cornball, straight out of the fifties movies I think this picture maybe likes too much.

     

    As with so many of the trashy, high concept, studio movies of the eighties I grew up with, like "Ghostbusters" and "Gremlins" and "Big Trouble in Little China" and "Mannequin," I just don't understand how anyone could think such a shallow, obvious film could be a classic for the ages. Meaning, I disagree with Amy and think this really is just a nostalgia pick for those who were elementary school age or so when they discovered it. A classic film would never pre-program every audience reaction the way this one does, with script characters who are nothing more than rhetorical devices. Or if it did, they, the characters, would be so robustly caricatured that they would take on a strange unique cartoony life of their own as with, say, the suburban figures in Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands." That movie was also a little sentimental but had a few genuinely magical surprises in it. I of course realize that I ain't gonna win this one, but I have say "No" here, because I couldn't even sit through the whole thing the last time I tried to watch it. What's next? "Just one of the guys"? "Real Genius"?

     

    And when did this film become so influential? I'd all but forgot about it until five or so years ago when millenials started claiming it wa so great.

    • Like 1

  7. Much as I enjoyed this movie, it's really not very good, and we don't need any more sub par horror films on this list. Do we think this is such an important film that all lovers of the medium should watch it? Direcctors like Castle and Corman are important to the history of American film, but for their influence not their actual crappy work. They're footnotes to what grew out of their form cheap independent cinema.

     

    I'd also like to suggest that we not give filmmakers points for being sincere instead of cynical, as Corman was said to be on the show, not entirely fairly either, though mostly fairly. Whether you really mean well or not as an artist is of no importance; excellence is all. Castle is not too great. And frankly he had no good reason to be upset with Hitchcock. Hitchcock was a businessman who set out to beat Castle and his ilk at their own game, and did. Plus, it's not like Castle invented dumb gimmickery, it's always been legion in a world short on good ideas.

     

    The question is: Is this schlock cinematically transformative schlock in the way that Night of the Living Dead or Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween or Detour were? If your answer is "no" then this should not be in The Canon.

    • Like 2

  8. This is a movie I'd avoided for years, but I'm glad I finally watched it, alot. From the Kael review I'd assumed it was going to be a scuzzy, verite movie about sex.Instead it's a stylized mediation on the way love and desire are blurred and corrupted by movie fantasies. The weirdo atmosphere of the apartment where Paul and Jeanne play house devolves to a kind of self loathing porno, a rotted version of the Billy Wilder film "Love in the afternoon" starring Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn, somehow overlaid with Jean Luc Godard's "Contempt." The way the camera pans around and the lush music goes in and out abruptly, without warning, is one of Godard's most famous techniques for calling attention to movie magic.

     

    But where "Love in the afternoon" was coy and pretended that an ending in which the young girl and the old rotter winding up together could ever really be happy, "Last Tango" plays out the situation without illusioins, power trip perversities and masochism right out front, and ultimately goes the opposite way. The old guy wants to hang on to the young chick, but instead of giving herself up to him she comes to her senses at the end and slips out of reach, because she's only been playacting her desire to be opened up completely through "real" "earthy" and "demonic" sex with an experienced older man she's fantasized as being aggressively dominant. Just as she plays at being the young filmmaker Tom's muse. She wants to be unconventional and bohemian yet deep down it's obvious she's a self-serving middle class girl, who'll always and ultimatley see herself as basically "nice," who'll go through all the usual self-serving stages of a priviledged life. What's great is that the film keeps an objective distance from her, doesn't score points off her behavior, let alone judge her in any obvious way for using Paul and cheating on Tom, who hardly sympathetic. Her reaction to the butter rape is the clearest indicator that she hasn't even begun to understand who she actually is yet. And I love the way the film allows transitions between the apartment affair and Jeanne's everyday life to feel a bit smeared and confusing, so that often we have the sense that she's not so much dating or in love with Tom as she is performing the part of perfect girl-woman for him; as she tries to do in a whole different way with Paul as well. At the end I'm still not sure if even she knew that she was never ever really going give up her easy life for a gasbag, angry middle aged man like Paul.

     

    There's a similar smudging that goes on with Paul too, a dread and horror that underlies his storyline, dramatizing his self-loathing in creepy and suggestive ways. I.e. the film's been done in such an overipe and moody atmospheric manner that for awhile this viewer thought maybe it would turn out Paul's wife hadn't killed herself but that Paul killed her for being unfaithful to him with one of her flophouse tenants. But in the strangely macabre, Poe-esque scene where he sits with his wife's dead body, accuses her of being a "pig fucker" and sobs over her in total grief we see that he feels as if he'd killed her or over looked something essential about her that led to her cheating on him and ending it all, and it destroys his sense of himself as being above phoney civilized banal notions of love and marriage. This is why he's so hostile and violent to Jeanne. He needs to obliterate the possiblity he can be hurt again, even as he clings to Jeanne for any life he can get out of her,

     

    Director Bertoluci, who parodies Godard in Tom, the young filmmaker character, has learned a great deal from him too. He's taken Godard's Brechtian way of layering naturalistic and highly artificial, poetic and idea-laden cinematic effects so as to frame what we're seeing with our remembered ideas about movie love. But where Godard tended to intellectualize and editoriize with ironic straightforwardness about the underlying themes of his films, as they unfolded, Bertoluci allows the audience to stay with the story, find its own way to the fim's meanings, which do fall into place but remain strange and ambiguous, like the Tango contest scene near the end of the movie. Obviously it makes a satirical comment about fake entertainment style eroticism yet it's charged with a sense of myteriousness because utimately everyone fakes up their roles as lovers to a certain extent; Paul and Jeanne, then, are as much puppet dancers as those around them even as they flale about gracelessly, with rom-com charm. And Jeanne's shooting Paul at the end is also reminiscent of Godard, like the sudden deaths of the heroines in "My life to live" and "Contempt," but Bertoluci's take seems less adhoc, more rigorously relevant to the theme that cinematic romance and maybe even sex itself, the way it's coiffed and styled to entice, is just the inescapable, transient and shadowy underside of the middle class strait jacket we're all forced to inhabit whether we like it or not. It's terrific to see a film that tries do something, goes so far and is so cold blooded in its approach. So this is a hard yes for the canon to me.

    • Like 1

  9. I really like this film a lot and think it's worth putting in the cannon. There's a slight slackness in it, because as fun and fascinating as this idea is for a movie (and book) the idea isn't quite developed with the imagination it should have been, similar to The Stepford Wives. Yet this movie has stuck in my head for decades. Unlike most of the other people in the forum, I prefer the second half of the film when Rock Hudson starts his new life and it's just an empty fantasy that has no depth, history or meaning to it--the whole thing's a narcisitic commercial day dream turned nightmare. He wanted a second chance to be free of modern adulthood banality but in going for it becomes more trapped than he was in his previous life as a man in the gray flannel suit. The sixties shades of paranoia that develops out of his coming to realize that his new sexy California lifestyle and girlfriend, designed and canned to his specifications, is totally fake and empty, suggest something I've never quite seen in portrayed in another movie, something really creepy a film like Her ultimately avoided. I think, especially, that the hot free spirit lover who's only with Hudson because the corporation which made him over wanted him watched and kept in line--is just a very bizzarre and frightening idea. What does she think about sleeping with this guy and acting like she cares about him for her job? And how long is she willing to do this? The best part is that when Hudson, unhappy with bohemian artsiness, asks for yet a third chance you suddenly see he hasn't figured out that what he feels in all his lives is pretty much the price of being human. He thinks he can escape the human condition itself if he can get the right setup going for himself, without understanding he's doomed. The way it relates to the Stepford Wives, I would say, is that Hudson's horror at realizing his new girlfriend is a fake is what the husbands of Stepford would probably have felt with their ghastly robot mates, prompting them to try escape the consequences of what they had done. My problem with this movie isn't a total paranoid freak out. Just as the Manchurian Candidate wasn't far out enough and the straight thriller elements were used to hold things together made some of it clunky and campy, the relatively realistic handling of this speculative idea holds it down, giving it the heavy feel of a drama from the golden age of television. If only the movie could have jumped into the weirdo tone of the cocktail party scene near the end and sustained it this might be up there with something like A Clockwork Orange. Still, it's well observed. I love the scene where Hudson talks to his widow and discovers she didn't know him any better than he knew himself. It's flawed but it has a nightmare truth that gets under the skin.


  10. I saw this movie when it came out, in high school and thought it was really bad. Not in an exciting way, but in a bland eighties movie way. Glenn Close is good in the first scenes, the rest not so much since she's such a hack shrew. The sexism of the film was considered pretty retrograde even at the time--Kael's review dismissed it in a page and a half; it was reviled in Susan Faludi's Backlash. It's weird the stuff Amy brought up about De Palma. The story that he has always told was that he didn't want to make it because it was too much of a rip from the Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty for me and he didn't need another film people would claim he'd stolen. I had no idea he had wanted to get rid of Douglas, a good thing in my opinion, and unlike Amy I really like the concept he had of Close wearing a Kabuki mask in the finale. The irony is that the movie's climactic bathroom scenes are a cheap knock off of cheap knock offs of the nightmare from Carrie!

     

    Anyway, Heather Matarazzo's belief that the test audiences who wanted Close's character good and killed must have been men is just terribly naive--many women often blame other women for tempting their husbands and in conversations I had about this movie back in the eighties, bitching over the gruesomely unimaginative character played by Anne Archer, most women I talked to liked the movie, admired Archer and felt she had the wisdom of a sage. I'd like to suggest from the male point of view that the movie's sexism and misogyny are secondary aspects of the film's main purpose, which is as a hypocritical parable warning to men that no matter how exciting and sexy modern women may seem, they represent a trap not liberation; diddling with them will only wreck your family and therefore no matter how hard, so to speak, it is to resist you should keep it in your pants. The movie makes Douglas' cheating seem like an innocent act in which he is the victim because for this fantasy gone bad to work Douglas can't be morally responsible in a realistic way; if he were then men in the audience wouldn't be tempted; the giveaway to what a cheat all this was is that Archer is so clearly more attractive than Close's aggressive hard career woman is. At some level you're aren't supposed to be too tempted or else the puritanical lesson wouldn't feel satisfactorily learned. Fortunately this movie's phony warning to men came to naught and something like 70 percent of men admit to cheating on their spouses. I think that's one for life: men can cheat and bunnies don't get boiled. What's really wrong with Close is that she'd want such a tiny stick in the mud like Douglas--forever! Were she together she would have gone off, had her kid and left him alone, you know, like Jenny Fields did in The World according to Garp.

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  11. I enjoyed this podcast a lot, and though I voted yes for this film I would have preferred Desperate Living--I just figure there prob won't be another of these Waters films coming up. I'm not sure I buy the idea that Waters is so sincere and open and ultimately positively divers that this is what makes him an okay director; sincerity or "deeply felt"ness are to my mind bunk critical filler words that mean little to nothing, considering that all art is highly mediated and the idea that the artist just really likes his subject a whole bunch seems not much related to the distance and disinterest necessary to creating a work of actual artistic worth, comic or otherwise. Plus you all forgot one of Waters' funniest lines: "I always wanted to be a sellout but no one was buying." Female Trouble is tasteless, has some classic comic hysteria which gives this movie the requisite laughs to make for a very funny film; Waters' goofy queer perverseness, his love of tawdry second-rateness is taken to such a fun extreme that in my opinion that's his real bid to originality as a filmmaker--I don't really think he has much style frankly. To see Waters' sensibility with something like real cinematic brilliance you have turn to the movies of Pedro Almodovar.

     

    One other thing I'd like to add has to do with something Amy didn't bring up, which is odd considering how she always does her homework. Divine got her name from a novel by the controversial french gay author Jean Genet: Our Lady of the Flowers, which featured a criminal drag queen named Divine. The connection is interesting because of the way it relates to Waters' aesthetic and shows his roots in a literary as well as the film tradition. Genet, in turn was influenced by Baudelaire who wrote Flowers of Evil. Baudelaire had a kind of early form of a goth outsider provocateur sensibility in which he deliberately sought to praise and embrace evil, take it on himself and embody it as a rebellion against bourgeois banality. Genet in turn, common thief who educated himself in prison, decided to celebrate the criminal as the ultimate sexy outsider and turned his gay predilections into a metaphor for power and how the border between the powerful and the passive blurs at the point of masturbation. Waters in turn, influenced by these ideas ran them through the pop superstar outlook of Andy Warhol. He transformed Baudelaire's fascination with Evil and Genet's devotion to the criminal into a worship of bad art for bad art's sake: he seems to have gotten the idea that submerging his sensibility in the second, third and fourth rate was a means of giving the finger to the acceptable and the appropriate. Big budgeted slickness was to him, in the days of Female Trouble, related to middle class respectability. I think this is what's interesting about his movies: that his very love of shittiness is thought to be a blow to the pose of middle brow quality. For instance he preferred William Kastle's movies to Hitchcock's transformation of that type of movie in Psycho. Personally I can go without ever seeing another Kastle flick and be fine, but Waters upside down view is what gives his camp a satirical uniqueness at its best.

     

    Loving the new incarnation of the show Amy!

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  12. This movie is ugly and tedious; it ought to have been consigned to television, with its shallow plasticy performances and just general unpleasant sweatiness. Not everything of cultural significance should be in the canon, especially a movie referenced culturally for campy effect more than due to its inherent quality.

     

    Further, I'd like to plead with Amy to have a smack down with Devin on his odd faith in Authorial Intention, which used to be considered a fallacy. I bring this up, because on each and every episode Amy suggests that movies sometimes do things the filmmakers might not have intended and Devin shuts it down. He's claimed that having been on the sets of movies he knows that everything put into them are the results of careful choices, though in fact that just is not always true. I've been on the sets of films as well and the way they come together is often dependent on what can be done and the accidents that get in the way of achieving what was wanted; and the desperate measures taken to rejigger what one wound up with. This insistent belief that the viewer may not see themselves as smarter than the picture (I guess a form of unbearable elitism to Devin) has led Devin to some absurd assertions. In the Forrest Gump episode, to the observation made by Amy about Gump's putting the white feather in a Curious George book being ironic, since the character is utterly incurious, Devin confidently claimed her subjective reaction was one hunnerd percent intended by Zemeckis. As Amy's interpretation itself was questionable this idea of Devin struck me as highly fucking Dubious. Even a meticulous director like Kubrick made mistakes in the Shining, and was certainly not capable of programming all different responses to it, which as we all well know have been all over the map and contradictory. Therefore how could there not be accidental meanings coming off movies like stink waves? Don't let Devin make you feel like you're being snooty, Amy, push back against Devin's intentional fallacy hard. It won't be difficult winning that argument. Think: Jaws.


  13. Obviously we're going to need a Meryl Streep movie in the canon, or two, but what should it be? My own feeling is that it's probably going to be the Mike Nichols film "Silkwood," but I'd like to make a stretch for the great director Fred Schepisi's essentially neglected 1985 film "Plenty." It's an adaptation of the great David Hare play about a woman who is completely disillusioned after WWII, thereby becoming a fascinating pain in the ass. The main character, and Streep's performance of it, are wonderfully ambivalent. Is she rebelling against a bourgeois cage of respectability or merely self-destructive? Perhaps she's both? Streep here is the female equivalent of the Jack Nicholson character in "Five Easy Pieces," acting out, attitudinizing, only set against a shifting political background, England's moral decline and hypocrisy during the cold war era--Because she's a woman there's an extra added dimension in that the film plays with the audience's probable inclinations to reject female anger, arrogance and nastiness as crazy; that may indeed be the case, the movie doesn't resolve our blurred feelings about her. It's beautifully photographed and Meryl Streep has never been more glamorously neurotic than she is here; Sam Neill, her hunky wartime over night spy lover, has never been sexier either; and Tracy Ullmann, in her first movie role, I think, gives a terrific, spunky supporting performance as an independent bohemian girl, which adds a little sparkle to the proceedings. The movie wasn't well received at the time, but I think the Canon ought to take a second look at this sophisticated picture. Plus, you all are constantly looking for complex films about women. Well here you is.


  14.  

    I agree with a lot of your points but I think you're way over simplifying the experience of Jessica Harper's character. I think we can imagine that her and Bernadette Peters were raised in similarly conservative and probably religious households where women were taught early and strictly to be ashamed of their sexuality. The two women represent very different reactions to that experience but just because one of them is more modern does not make the other illegitimate. I think Harper's character cares for Martin's on a very deep emotional level even if she can't bring herself to express it physically. That scene you're talking about where she puts lipstick on her nipples is really gut wrenching. She forces herself into a vulnerable and humiliating situation because she loves him and she is scared that she is going to be replaced. It's the ultimate damned role where she has been taught all her life to be chaste and virginal and now is expected to be sexual and to please the needs of her husband. He is completely unsympathetic to her and berates and belittles her for not complying to his advances. She is obviously very repressed but as far as her ideas being backwards, I think it only looks that way to modern eyes.

    I wouldn't disagree with you entirely except to wonder why we should privilege Harper's feelings over Martin's, who's as unfairly trapped as Harper is. I mean there's no divorce in this period and it would just be so awful to be with someone doesn't want you. And I admit I just wasn't wrenched by the lipstick. It's not all that pervy. To me it was kind of cute. And don't you think if she really loved him so deeply she would never have helped kill him? No matter what he may have done to her it's no way the same as being unfairly lynched! I do think her situation is unfair, I just think that everyone's situation in the movie is unfair and I think this modern idea we've gotten into that all women are pitiful victims while the dudes have it made is kind of ridiculous. I found Devin's take to belong to this fatuous new form of dubious gender sensitivity.


  15. I re-watched this film, despite having seen it dozens of times as a kid. And wowee zowee, what a great film. As a matter of fact, this is the film Rob Reiner considers his best work. As someone who was a twelve year-old boy when they first saw this, and who is revisiting the film ten years later, it feels as real as a film can get. Reiner and the cast capture boyhood friendship so authentically. Most of their dialogue is so right, just focusing on inane banter and hangout conversations. The part where Chris is saying he wishes he was Gordie's dad feels right. I remember being twelve year-old and saying big, ill-fitting things that seemed profound at the time, but were just grasps at being a deep, adult person, much like when Teddy talks about how much he likes smoking after dinner.

     

    Also, independent of Devin's reading of the film, this time around, I 100% got the same homoerotic vibe between Chris and Gordie. They do love each other very deeply. They don't just get along, but they allow themselves to be vulnerable with one another. When Chris fires off the gun and Gordie is upset, Chris doesn't just blow Gordie off. He stops him, grips him, and earnestly tells him that he didn't know the gun was loaded. Minutes later, after they run into Ace and Eyeball, they do that thing where they kick each other's butts, and they don't think anything about it. They have an intimacy with each other that the film is CLEARLY addressing. And you know what? I was sold by that ending. There's a romantic tension that the film plays so subtly that it's easy to miss, but Gordie and Chris love each other, 100%, on a level that they maybe couldn't articulate or express directly, but it's there. Also, if I remember correctly, the end of "The Body" has Gordie confessing that his work isn't all that well-received, but his books keep getting made into super successful moments, which I love.

     

    Anyway, yes. 100% yes. This is a small, near-perfect film. It may even be the best Stephen King adaptation. I wish I had more to say about how well-paced it is, and how much I love the dynamics between all of the characters here. The only thing I'd say is that Amy seemed to have problems with the tone. For one, I like the shot of the dozens of holes. It's a great visual joke, and it lends to the next moment where Vern sticks his head up to hear his brother and his friend, and he looks like a gopher. It's a comedic moment that fits the character. The flow of the film flows with the characters, and it's always logical and real.

     

    Also, having recently been a teenager, I don't find Teddy to be a bully. He's an annoying jerk, for sure, but I don't think he's being malicious. He's just fucking around. When Vern explodes at Teddy, Teddy not only doesn't retaliate, that outburst comes as an extension of the conflict of events within the film. Plus, these kids all pick on each other a little bit. Vern gets it the worst, but you know what? This whole movie happens because they go along with Vern's plan. They're not running trucks off the road in a game of chicken.

     

    With that in mind, could we PLEASE work on getting female coming-of-age films in the canon? If Stand by Me illustrates the unique experience of being a twelve year-old boy among other twelve year-old boys, clearly there have to be other films that capture that for women and girlhood that aren't anime--because we're never getting an Only Yesterday episode, despite my constant badgering.

    This is such a nice well written quote. I have a different take on this movie, but it's such a wonderful thoughtful piece in its own right.

    • Like 1

  16. I've loved this film for many years, one of the most original movie musicals ever made after Fosse's "Cabaret." Both films use the mechanics of musical numbers to refract not only the emotions of the characters but reflect on the social facts fixing their fates, which I think has to do with the sort of thing both these movies derive from, a kind of mini tradition spawned by the Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill team up of "The Three Penny Opera." In fact I think "Pennies" can be seen as "Three Penny" in an American key, with its low corrupt characters in a squalid depressed setting ironically played off against fun music, in order both to entertain on a pop level while simultaneously forcing viewers out of the situation so they'll think through all the social forces gnawing at and around the characters.

     

    I bring all this up because Devin's take on the Steve Martin character seems just incredibly overblown. Sure he's a shallow self-interested sort of dude, but hardly a sociopath. Although I agree that Jessica Harper is a wonderful actor who finds a way to bring out something more than the usual cold wife routine used to justify the husband's philandering, still she's a pretty creepy woman, who obviously doesn't want anything to do with her husband physically. Her views about sex seem so repressed, prissy and backward she's like a young version of Norman Bates' mother! And then later she's willing to help get her husband lynched for a murder he didn't commit just to get back at him for cheating and having her put lipstick on her nips! Gimme a break. What's so great about the film, however, is the way that its characters are each put in all these unfair situations; each has their moment but eventually gives in to pettiness. It's a kind of chain: firstly it's unfair Martin should be tied to such a cold fish forever. On the other hand it seems unfair Harper should be forced to stay with a man she clearly has no feeling for. It's super unfair Martin can't make a go of things and then when he has a little completely understandable extra-marital nookie it's unfair Martin should be expected to have to take into account all the effects such a connection might have on Bernadette Peters' life--only a saint could manage that a hundred percent of the time. Then again its dreadfully unfair Peters should fall into such a vulnerable position, lose her job and be forced to prostitute herself all because she had a little fun. The problem isn't that any of the characters are sociopaths but that they're trapped in the tawdry social infrastructure of the movie's Depression Era world, its poverty and powerlessness. Because of this any move they make turns sour and petty, even fatal. The characters are so stuck in their own crap they don't notice what's wrong with life, the universe and everything. In fact, the bright musical fantasies function not merely as simple minded wish-fulfillment (which is what I thought Devin would object to) but a strange complicitous means with which to lubricate the aspects of their oppression; the gaudy Hollywood showstoppers are ultimately sops used to let off the steam, put the blame on mame, suggest there's no place like home even though whatever neighborhood it's in doesn't seem to be on the map.

     

    Devin asked the question: Why is Martin put to death for a murder he didn't commit? He's right that it's presenting a cosmic sense of doom, but not a tragic one, the characters are too small for tragedy. What happens to them is absurd; their pathos comes in the tininess of their hopes, dreams and failures. Think of it in terms of the Richard Wright novel "Native Son" whose dangerous main character and naturalist noir ironies are quite similar to Pennies'--except that the Bigger Jones character understood the nature of the bars on his cage. I will say that the blindness of the murdered girl is maybe a little too symbolically on the nose--her blindness is that of fate, which might ultimately have been anything because Martin's doomed. And The happy-unhappy ending which Devin tied himself in knots hating on because it wasn't like the seventies films he compared it to seemed totally in-apposite. Firstly, the dark anti-heroes of "Taxi Driver" and "Five Easy Pieces" were far more unusual and substantial types than the Martin character, who seems to me quite normal. Plus Devin sort of mischaracterized those movies, suggesting that they just kind of ended without trying to push editorializing ironies on us, which is an interesting interpretation of both movies I think. The sad little point to "Pennies" is that its characters continue deluding themselves even in the face of death. The reason is that from their trapped perspectives they can't see what's wrong, because they're made of the same awful stuff as everything else in the movie, even as they long to be free of it.

     

    And frankly, I don't understand where this rule that only Steve Martin's character should be allowed to have fantasy musical sequences comes from? The platonic realm of pure forms? Devin takes this further to suggest that it's somehow against the inherent nature of the film's structure for Walken to do his striptease number instead of Peters, when clearly this is her character projecting onto Walken what he's trying to turn her into. The scene is one of the great joys of cinema! It's the wittiest striptease ever filmed along with Rita Hayworth's in "Gilda" and one in "The Ruling Class". By having Walken strip and dance in front of pictures of nudes as he does it underlines and sends up what is done to women in such circumstances; Peters' character in particular. If Peters had done it herself it just would have been her exploiting herself rather than fantasizing about exploitation, as, say, the wonderfully creepy strip in Altman's "Nashville" almost feels like it does.

     

    Anyway that's my lengthy argument for why "Pennies" is a great movie and should be in the canon.

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