"Velvet Goldmine"

Velvet Goldmine (2002) purports to be an insider's look at the Glam Rock period. A reporter (Christian Bale) is assigned to find the truth behind a faked on-stage assassination of a rock star (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), and his subsequent disappearance. He first interviews the star's first manager, then his ex wife (Toni Collette). The story of his rise to fame, developing his on-stage bisexual persona, his love affair with another rock musician played by Ewan McGregor, the faked assassination, the split from his wife, and his subsequent seeming disappearance are chronicled with a whole bunch of what we are supposed to believe is music. We do eventually learn what happened to him.

IMDb readers have this at 6.6. Call it a chick flick, kiddie division, as women score it 1.2 points higher than men, with the under 18 set 1.9 points higher. Possibly it is the full frontal from male stars that impressed them. Toni Collette shows breasts and buns in a couple of poorly shot sex scenes.

The film was nominated for an Oscar for Costume Design, and garnered many nominations for make-up, costume, and even one for music editing. Note that this film full of 80s rock didn't receive a single music nomination, which reenforces my personal belief that nearly no music came from the 80s. There were also no nominations for writing or acting. The 80s Glam Rock music scene didn't much interest me when it was happening, and it doesn't much interest me 20 years later. The story was slow, the surprise ending telegraphed, and I gained no insight into the industry. The only external review I read was Ebert's. He was also not impressed. This is a D+. If you consider Glam Rock music, you might want to see it, otherwise, there is not much of interest.

  • Thumbnails

  • Toni Collette (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

  • Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)

    Red Riding Hood (2003):

    Now here's a perfectly plausible premise. A twelve year old American girl is abandoned in Rome, left only with a crust of bread, a magnificent apartment, and credit cards without spending limits. How can she endure the harshness of her existence? She turns to people-watching. As she observes more and more people, she sees more and more sins - shoplifting, infidelity, you name it. She realizes that the police can do nothing about these activities, so she herself is determined to be the angel of vengeance.

    Of course, all angels of vengeance need a theme, so hers is "little red riding hood", and she has an imaginary friend who looks like a really high-tech "big bad wolf." Either she or the author seem to be a bit confused about what a "red riding hood" is, because she actually wears a black hood, but I guess it's OK, because she wears red boots. Together the girl and the imaginary wolf travel through Rome with a box of power towels, bringing shoplifters and other petty criminals to the grisly deaths they so justly deserve.

    ... until Red Riding Hood's grandma shows up to spoil all the fun. Get it? Riding Hood likes the wolf, hates the grandma. Oh, that's good stuff.

    Anyway, Red overcomes this obstacle in a direct manner - by carving up grandma with some of her power tools.

    Then another guy shows up to spoil her fun. This is a man who sees that she's insane and tries to change her. Although he's a good samaritan, unfortunately, he's the world's stupidest samaritan and tries to trick Red by dressing up as her imaginary friend. I've tried this plan many times myself, and have found that it has a critical flaw: I don't know exactly what other people's imaginary friends look like! Drat the luck! Despite that obvious shortcoming in his scheme, he almost manages to pull it off - he puts on a disguise and looks exactly like the imaginary friend. Luckily for the film's exposition, he is such a perfect match that the audience can't tell the difference!

    Red, however, has no trouble telling them apart, and carves him up with power tools.

    A woman named Antonella Salvucci showed up just long enough to take a shower. If you know how slasher films work you'll realize that cleanliness is next to godliness, at least in the sense that those who take a shower will soon be next to God. Salvucci was, therefore, in the film long enough to got scrubbed up on camera. and then ...

    Well, do I need to mention the power tools?

    Anyway, I sort of lost interest at that point. I think maybe Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi got directly involved in the escalating violence in the Roman streets, and was just about to solve it when he was mysteriously cut up by power tools.

    Hmmm. I wonder who did it?


    • Antonella Salvucci (1, 2, 3, 4)


    Crash (2005):

    "Short Cuts" meets "Two Days in the Valley" meets "Grand Canyon" meets "Pulp Fiction" meets "Magnolia" - which is to say it is an episodic ensemble drama which takes place over a short period of time and features unrelated lives which are somehow mysteriously and fortuitously interconnected.

    Yes, this technique has been overused. And, yes, it lacks credibility when everyone keeps running into everyone else in a metropolitan area of ten million people. But you have to realize that this is no longer a trope or a device, but merely a screen convention. Is it believable that two Nazi officers speak to one another in English? Of course not. We accept it because it is an accepted convention of English language films. There are several ways to do it, and we accept all of them. In some movies they speak German with subtitles. In other movies, they speak English with German accents. In other movies, they simply speak the English of native English speakers. Neither of the last two options is believable, but we accept those choices because they are conventional. The same is true of the coincidences in these ensemble dramas. We just accept the fact that any given dozen people in L.A. will not only run into one of the other twelve, but possibly several of them. Face it, dude, if I choose you as one of my twelve people to focus on, there is nothing you can do to avoid meeting the other eleven. It works just like in that Final Destination movie - your destiny is sealed. Even if you decide to stay home in bed all day, one of the twelve will come to the door to sell you Grit Magazine; another will fly a private plane through your second story; a third will arrive with the paramedics who respond to the plane crash; and so forth. It is also noteworthy that the other eleven will not only run into you, but into one another as well. The kid selling Grit will be the nephew of the pilot, and will sell a subscription to the paramedic.

    That's a wacky ol' thang I like to call Karakter Kismet.

    I blame Thonton Wilder for this convention.

    "Thornton Wilder? There's a blast from the past! Wasn't he a great playwright and novelist from many decades ago?"

    Yup, but he's the man to blame. Last week I blamed Eugene O'Neill and his play Strange Interlude for all the unnecessary gimmicks used in "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" to reveal the thoughts of the characters. This time I blame Thornton Wilder and "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" for all the mysterious interconnections that permeate ensemble dramas. That book featured a humble monk who decided to investigate the lives of some people killed together while crossing a collapsing bridge. He wanted to determine why God had chosen those particular people to die that day. He spent five years researching five people who were crossing a bridge on the same day and found the highly dreaded "mysterious interconnections." Since Wilder was a great writer, he was able to use the technique to create a Pulitzer winning novel, and in the end the interconnections really meant nothing at all. The monk abandoned his quest for the link between them, set aside all thoughts of the meaning of their deaths, and decided to write about the meaning of their lives: "Almost no one remembers Esteban and Pepita but myself. Soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves should be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough."

    Unfortunately, very few of us remember the beauty and depth of Wilder's story, but the goddamned mysterious interconnections live on.

    This is yet further proof of my hypothesis that great playwrights can be blamed for everything which can not be blamed on the Bossa Nova. It always boils down to that choice. Let's say you get fired from your cushy job as a drawbridge oiler. Maybe your wife ran away with her tango instructor, a guy named Raoul with a pencil-thin moustache. You could blame yourself, but you should not. The culprit is either George Bernard Shaw or the Bossa Nova.

    In defense of Crash, it does earn the right to use the much despised mysterious interconnections because there is actually a point to it. The film posits that we seem to hate one another all too often, and yet we depend on one another. Sophisticated Thandie Newton hates the racist white cop who once felt her up under the flimsy pretense of a weapon pat-down, and yet the same cop later saves her life after an auto accident, by willingly assuming a risk to his own life that he might have avoided. How should she feel about him then? She hated him. She needed him. Perhaps she later hated the fact that she needed him.

    Crash is about racism, but not about the kind of racism that causes us to jail or even hang strangers for their skin color, but about the kind of racism that permeates the everyday lives of most of us. What small, unarmed white woman, no matter how liberal and sophisticated her thinking, has not felt fear at walking alone on a deserted city street directly toward two large young black men? Would she feel the same fear if they were white? If the answer is no, it's racism, and most of us are guilty of it. Oh, don't act blameless. You are guilty of it as well, no matter who you are. Yesterday I was in a convenience store, expecting to have to explain a complicated request to the clerk in words he would understand. I didn't know the guy, but my mind worked in that direction because he had an Asian face. As it turns out, he was a Japanese-American college student who spoke English approximately as well as William Buckley Jr, but that isn't really germane. He might have turned out to be incapable of understanding me, just as I anticipated, but my point would still be the same. I assumed he would be unable to speak English only because he looked Asian. If he had been a blond guy in the same job, I would have assumed no such problem. That's what prejudice is all about. The word itself means "to judge in advance" - to assume that an individual will behave a certain way because he or she is a member of a certain group.

    This kind of racism is an important part of our social conditioning. How many times in high school were you reminded that your school was better than Such-and-such Academy? How many times did you start a sentence with "kids from that school are ..." This social conditioning is nothing uniquely American. As an American expatriate for many years, I can't tell you how many times I heard how "you Yanks" or "you Americans" think. What the hell is that all about, anyway? Am I supposed to think like Darth Cheney or Good Time Ralphie Nader? We seem to want to validate ourselves by believing that the group we belong to is the best one. Not merely "as good as" the others, but better. Perhaps it is because we are unhappy with our personal accomplishments and need the vicarious superiority of the group we belong to or would like to belong to. Or not. What the hell do I know? Ask Dr. Phucking Phil.

    At any rate, Crash is about that kind of racism, the kind of assumptions we make about individuals. Ryan Phillippe plays a liberal cop who ends up shooting a black hitchhiker because a situation escalates from a simple misunderstanding -  he gets irritated and distrustful because the black man says he loves ice hockey and country music. Phillippe assumes that he's being ridiculed, and an atmosphere of antagonism develops. As it turns out, the black guy was speaking without irony, but who would have guessed? We make assumptions. Even good people. The film goes to great pains to establish that Phillippe is a compassionate liberal man, then ends up turning him into a murderer for having made the wrong assumptions about a black man. The film goes to great pains to establish that even the "bad cop" (Matt Dillon) is a good man deep inside, a guy who risks his life for people and cares tenderly for his dad. Yet he is filled with racist assumptions which in his case are very close to the surface. Those assumptions are a part of our lives, not because we are evil, but because, as the old song goes, "you've got to be carefully taught" to be a racist, and our society teaches us well.

    I don't love this movie the way some of the critics do (Ebert: ★★★★), but I like it. Assuming you have no problem accepting the much abhorred "mysterious interconnections" convention, it packs a lot of emotional punch, and I liked the fact that it used humor to lighten the load of the ongoing ominous music and Greek Tragedy plotting. I really enjoyed the banter between Ludacris and Larenz Tate as two intelligent black carjackers who are always bickering about how black males fit into society. They function as kind of a Greek chorus for the film, and provide the kind of funny, everyday insights that Travolta and Jackson provided in Pulp Fiction. The film could have used more of that humor, especially from the non-black characters. Are black people the only Americans with a sense of humor?

    The director is named James Haggis, so Crash is without a doubt the best film ever directed by a man named after a Scottish specialty food, but at this moment it places only second among all animal offal theme films of the past year. The Haggis film is rated 7.4 at IMDb, but last year's Scrapple is rated 7.6.


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    • The yellow asterisks indicate that I wrote the review, and am deluded into thinking it includes humor.
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    • If there is no asterisk, I wrote it, but am too ashamed to admit it.

    Jr's Polls
    Scoop came up with a good idea for our next poll that should stir up some conversation, if not some controversy.

    This week's poll....

    Email Scoopy Jr. if you'd like to add nominees or offer suggestions for future polls.

    Here are the results of our previous polls:
    The Top 20 Nude Scenes of 2004
    The Best Nude Film Debuts of the 80s
    The Best Nude Film Debuts of the 90s
    Which actress has been the most convincing playing a stripper.
    Who has the best bum in Hollywood?
    Best All Time Television Comedy
    Best Nudity in an Oscar-winning performance
    The Top 20 Best Straight Sex Scenes
    Best Lesbian Love Scenes

    'Caps and comments by Spaz:

    "All In Good Taste" (1983) (not!)
    Canadian comedy about a filmmaker (Jonathan Welsh) sent out to make an exploitation flick. Would have been forgotten if it wasn't for an unknown Jim Carrey in a small role. Only available in the UK as all copies in North America have been destroyed for some reason. Now to find the other lost Jim Carrey flick "The Sex and Violence Family Hour" (1983).

    "Dead Silence" aka "Wilbur Falls" (1998)
    Heathers-type dark comedy.

    Puppets Who Kill season III: episode Dan and the New Neighbour
    Originally titled Dan and the Transsexual as Ellen Dubin's character was packing heat. This is the season three finale.

    Linda Rennhofer was best known as the jiggly blonde from the Canadian hicksploitation tv-series Funny Farm (a Hee Haw knockoff). She finally went nude in her last role in "Candy the Stripper" (1993) where she gave a triple-B performance as a stripper (something most mainstream actresses would never do).

    Another great batch of HDTV 'caps featuring the latest Prime Time Skin

    Carmen Electra
    (1, 2, 3)

    Showing a bit of cleavage and leg during her recent guest starring role on "Joey".

    Drea de Matteo Wearing another tight and semi-revealing outfit that is the norm for her "Joey" role.

    Elsha Cuthbert
    (1, 2)

    The über-cute actress looking great while doing the late night talk show circuit. #1 features her stopping by Conan and in #2 we see her chatting with Letterman.

    Jaime King
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

    The Model/Actress looking great in a bikini and being covered by whipped cream on Thursday night's episode of "The O.C.". #1 and #2 are collages by DeadLamb, the rest are large, single frame bonus 'caps.

    Hélène de Fougerolles
    (1, 2)

    The French actress showing some brief shower scene toplessness in 1998's "Que la lumière soit" aka "Let There Be Light".

    Karen Medak
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

    The busty, brunette b-babe topless in a couple of scenes from the direct-to-vid movie "A Girl to Kill For" (1990).

    Julie Judd We see a very pink nipple view in these scenes from the French movie "Livraison à domicile" (2003).

    Valérie Rojan Flashing her big'uns in scenes from yet another French movie, 1987's "Il est génial papy!".

    Geri Halliwell vid

    Geri Halliwell 'caps
    (1, 2, 3, 4)

    Here's a cool find...Recently a French film crew caught the former Spice Girl showing a bit of nipple while she was doing an interview. The camera dude was kind enough to zoom in as far as he could to reveal as much skin as possible. Merci, French dudes. (by the way, the video clip is a zipped divx .avi)

    Ali Landry A great collage by ZonononZor of the actress and Doritos babe in a bikini, and posing for "Holding Your Own Boobs" magazine.

    Amy Lynn Baxter
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

    Señor Skin 'caps of the actress and frequnet Howard Stern guest baring all in scenes from "Amy Lynn Baxter's Web of Desire".

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