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"American Beauty" (1999)

American Beauty was released today on region 1 DVD. This put me in a bad position, as I now have to publicly admit to being the only living person to dislike this film. IMDB folks have it the number 5 film of all time (though I doubt that the people who voted would actually rank it number 5 best film ever). All the critics awarded 4 stars. I read every review to see what I missed, and found nothing. I saw the same film they saw. I simply didn't think that what I saw was good. After hours of thinking about it, I now know why I dislike this film.

First, it is a character driven black comedy. For me to enjoy a character driven film, I have to relate to at least one character. I either have to like one enough that I am rooting for them, or hate one enough to root against them. Annette Bening, with her shrill voice, was nearly awful enough for me to hate, but not quite. This film gave me a bunch of dysfunctional obnoxious characters that I just did not care about one way or the other, and would not associate with in real life.

Second, I felt very manipulated by the director. He spent the last 10 minutes of the film nearly shouting that the wife was going to kill the main character, and then had someone else do it. This is not a spoiler, as we are deprived of any suspense in the first two minutes of the film, when we are told that Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) will die at the end.

Third, the footage shot on camcorder by Ricky Fits (Wes Bently) was so poor it hurt my eyes.

And last, I did not need to be told explicitly three times, two in voice over, that the theme of the film is that there is beauty everywhere, and we just have to slow down and look for it. A stronger message came through without being explained, and that was that mainstream America consist of dysfunctional, egotistical, criminal and self-serving jerks.

All performances were good, some of the photography was pleasing, and the pace was ok. There is nudity, of course, from Mena Suvari and Thora Birch. The nude scenes are dark, however, and the images grainy.

  • Thumbnails
  • Thumbnails

  • Mena Suvari (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
  • Thora Birch (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
  • Johnny Web

    Black and White (1999)

    A pretty unstructured film, interesting in some ways.

    James Toback sketched out a plot line, told the actors something about their characters, and let them go from there.

    Worked great for some guys. Ben Stiller created quite an enjoyable and complex character. He plays a cop. In a scene where he confronts the D.A. with evidence that his son committed a murder, the D.A. knows that he must want something in return for keeping the evidence between the two of them. Despite knowing the tension the DA must be feeling, Stiller goes on and on about how he made his own clothes when he was a child, and how he likens himself to Saul of Tarsus, and heaven knows what else, and Joey Pantoliano as the DA is just sitting there fuming, ready to kill him, waiting for him to come to the point.

    Robert Downey Jr reached deep inside himself and found some ... well, you can guess what is deep inside Downey. Let's just say it's some crazy shit, capped off by his making a homosexual pass at Mike Tyson, played by the real Mike Tyson in an improv scene in which he didn't know exactly what Downey was going to do. That Downey must have a death wish, but he sure coaxed some interesting and seemingly genuine responses out of Tyson.

    The movie is different. It is somewhere between documentary and fiction, intermixing actors and rappers playing themselves, with other actors and rappers playing characters, but even the fictional characters drawn from the lives of the actors.

    If you like some experimentation with forms, you may like the sense of documentary immediacy and "truth" that pervades the film. If you like traditional story films, this one isn't your cup of tea.

    The general theme is black-white harmony, the context is a bunch of white Manhattan kids who emulate the uptown hip-hop culture. The "plot" concerns a revenge scheme by Detective Stiller to get back at a woman who dumped him for a black basketball star. Stiller sets up the star with some bribes to throw games, then threatens to arrest him if he doesn't turn State's Evidence against his good childhood friend, who happens to be the most dangerous man Uptown. This gets the basketball player killed - by the DA's son, who is a white boy willing to do anything to impress his way into the company of the toughest and coolest black guys - and that takes us back to the scene described above.

    There is a three-way in Central Park with a black man and two white women (Bijou Phillips and Kim Matulova). Later, there is a mirror three-way with a white man and two black women (Sabine Lumy and Michelle Dent). Finally, a one-on-one brings Kim Matulova back for s short scene in which she and a guy are caught in the act by his returning girlfriend.

  • Dent
  • Lumy
  • Matulova (1, 2)
  • Phillips

    Box Office: They gave it the ol' college try with a 1300 screen release, pretty comparable to the original release of American Beauty, but it died an early death at $5 million domestic gross, compared to a $10 million budget. They thought it would have broad appeal, and it didn't. It's an OK movie, but obviously for a narrow target audience. In fact, although I like hip-hop and kind of like the film, I had a hard time understanding some of the heavier dialects. I'll be more direct. I actually re-watched some scenes with the English subtitles on. So you can imagine that mainstream white middle America could have been totally confounded by the whole experience.

    General consensus: about two and a half stars. Apollo rated it 62, Apollo users gave it 65. IMDb members rated it only about two stars (5.0), but Roger Ebert dropped a three bagger on it. Ebert enjoys experimentation with the forms of cinema, and I suspect he enjoys it rather more than anyone else I know about.

    IMDB summary: 5.0 out of 10.

    DVD info from Amazon. Quite a few features on the DVD. (Some deleted footage, full-length commentary, an alternate take of the Downey/Tyson scene, music videos, director's video diary). Widescreen (2.35:1).

    American Beauty (1999)

    About damned time they got this out on DVD. It's an event big enough that it marks the first time Tuna and I have ever done the same film in the same day. I won't summarize or review the movie. You all know about it, I suppose. Most people, including me, like it, although Tuna didn't, so I'll let him sing that chorus. Let me see if I can add some new thoughts.

    I think I mentioned the other day that The War Zone was arguably the most impressive directorial debut of all time (Tim Roth). Well, American Beauty is certainly another candidate. Of course, this is a slightly different circumstance. Tim Roth never directed anything before, that I know of, and Sam Mendes was already considered one of the greatest directors of the 20th century before he ever made a film. He directed the famous Nicole Kidman performance in The Blue Room, and the highly-acclaimed Broadway revival of Cabaret. Rumor has it that he'll direct Kidman and Cruise in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in London soon, but I don't think that's all been nailed down yet.

    The point is, though, that Sam Mendes never directed a movie before this one, and was paid only $150,000 for all the time he spent on this movie. Now he gets to direct the next Tom Hanks film. I think he's moved up a bit, and his salary is probably now more than the Gross National Product of Peru.

    One thought. The movie is great on its own, but I wonder what it would be like without Spacey. His narration and his facial expressions lend the special tone of peaceful resignation and acceptance to the entire piece, even more so than the music or cinematography. It might still be great, but it would be a different film with any other actor.

    I was surprised to see that people's appreciation of this movie is inversely correlated to age.

    IMDb voters average score:

    Age Under 18 9.4
    Age 18-29 9.0
    Age 30-44 8.6
    Age 45 and older 8.3

    I can't think of another example of a movie that is simultaneously so successful as a thoughtful drama and as a comedy. I don't always like these abrupt tone switches, but I sure like the way it works in this movie.

    In a middle aged man's love for an underaged girl, there is no more distinguished precedent than the novel "Lolita", in which Humbert Humbert rhapsodizes over a young teen. The Mena Suvari Lolita-like character in American Beauty is named Hayes. The original Lolita in Nabokov's novel is Delores Haze. Somebody at IMDb pointed out that Spacey's character, Lester Burnham, is an anagram of "Humbert learns".

    By the way, I'll be damned if I can figure out why the Thora Birch character is considering breast augmentation surgery. I'd say she already has a pretty good sweater full.

    Thora Birch is seen topless in a window, through a video camera. Mena Suvari is seen topless in an aborted sex scene with Kevin Spacey. Spacey and Wes Bentley do rear nude scenes.

  • Birch (1, 2)
  • Suvari (1, 2, 3, 4)

    Box Office: Turned out to be a mega hit, based on the results of the re-release after the Oscars. As of February 13th, it was playing in 7 theaters and doing virtually no business, maxed out at $74 million. But then the Oscars spurred a re-release that peaked at about 2000 screens, and the final box office tally crept up to $130 million. It actually was one of the bigger hits of two different years. It took in seventy million in 1999 and sixty million in 2000.

    General consensus: what can you say? Chosen best picture of the year by the Academy, #5 of all time from IMDb, 93% positive reviews, rated 94 by Apollo. (Unusually, Apollo users provided the one negative note in an outpouring of otherwise glowing reviews, averaging only 70 for 1100 reviews.)

    IMDB summary: 8.8 out of 10. .

    Rotten Tomatoes summary. 93% from all critics, 88% from the elite cadre.

    DVD info from Amazon. The biggest news is what isn't on the DVD. If you didn't already know it, there was an earlier version of the movie that kept going after the current version ends. We hoped to see the original ending on the DVD, but it isn't on there. (Somebody told me that they read this was because the filmmakers wanted to preserve the integrity of the film. As the Deltas would say, "bullshit, bullshit, blowjob, blowjob ... ")

    There is a lot that is there, including the following:

    • Good 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer.
    • Behind the scenes featurette
    • Full length commentary
    • Storyboard-to-film commentary. I really enjoyed this.
    • Digital screenplay (DVD only)
    • The usual bios, trailers, and production notes.
  • Stone Cold
    A few extra pics, but no comments today.

  • Jenny Knight
  • Audrey Marnay (1, 2)
  • Jaimie Richard
  • Stella Tennant
  • Snowblind
    Alice Krige

    Laura Harris

    Anastasia Sharp

    Svetlana Khorkina

    Chloe Nicolle
    (1, 2, 3)

    Comments by Snowblind:
    Welp, I took a hiatus for a couple weeks, from doing anything more than snapping frames. I have a few dozen megs stored up now, but here's what I have stitched together so far.

    First up Alice Krige and Laura Harris from Habitat. These are from my first and only viewing of the film. I hadn't planned on capping it, it's been done over and over again, but when I saw how great they both looked (I was actually watching it on my ATi player) I had to start grabbing frames. Not all that impressed by the actual movie, It was like watching a bunch of different horror/fantasy films all stitched into one. Sorta like watching a cross between Little Shop of Horrors and Warlock The Armageddon and a few other cliche films. Next is Anastasia Sharp in Go Fish. If you haven't seen it (and chances are you haven't) don't bother. Bad acting and ugly lesbians heh. Now I love lesbian films and stuff, but this was a far miss from the artsy lesbian real life flick they tried to make. And the lead girl was the only real hottie, not to mention the one who showed the least skin. I started out to cap everyone in the film, but this was the first one I started (A is the first letter and all that) and when I finished this one, I just couldn't stand the thought of doing more. I still have all the raw caps, so who knows maybe someday I'll do more with it.

    Svetlana Khorkina pokers from the Summer Games, I still have about 175 raw caps of Sveta from the Olympics, but have only done 2 caps yet, tho I plan on doing a lot more when the mood strikes me.

    Next is a set I started back when we had the message board up and running, a few people were asking for caps of Porn Starlets in action. So I did a set of Devon, and a few others, and was just starting to do a series on Chloe (Nicholle) around the time the board had to be taken down. These have mostly been done (except for adding text) since then, but I totally forgot about them until the other night. I also have a set of M. Chambers from Behind the Green door promisednished, so hopefully, for the Hardcore fans out there, I'll have em done soon. A few people from the board have bought access to the Funhouse, and still e-mail me from time to time asking for some of this stuff that I had promised while we were still in operation, so with any lick this will please a couple appetites.

    Comments by Brainscan:
    What an odd collection of scans in the OUT box!

    Adriana Karembeau Adriana Karembeau in a bikini. Not like me to send scans of just anyone in anything approximating clothes, but Adriana ain't just anyone. We measure beauty around here by how unamused Mrs. Brainscan gets when she sees pics of this babe or that. She likes Maggie Rizer, does not much appreciate Giselle Bundchen and dislikes Laetitia, but it's Adriana who really, really pisses her off. I wonder why.
    Amy Smart With some serious pokies. Now, talk about cute...
    Jenny McCarthy She has shown up naked in more magazines more times than anyone in history... and you heard it here first. Allow me to add to the collection.
    Anna Kournikova I found a scan of Anna on usenet from a German telly magazine; cannot swear that the original wasn't adjusted before it got to my hard drive, but all I did was clean it a bit.... really... honest.
    Izabella Scorupco

    Kelly Brook
    (1, 2, 3)

    And we finish with a few paparazzi pics. Izabella Scorupco with way too many clothes on, but damn nice lookin' anyway. Last but not least is a series of pics of Brit babe Kelly Brook from a premiere or a party or something like that. Seems everyone in London with a camera was in the crowd and they all sent in pictures. Shadow posted them last week on his site and I just stuck them together to make it easy for everyone.
    Comments by Oz:

    Cassie Stuart
    (1, 2)
    First up, help is needed. Is this Cassie Stuart? By elimination and working through the credits I think it is. Her character in the movie, Ordeal by Innocence, is not named. I couldn't find any pictures of her on the Internet and I don't have to hand any of her other movies. (The other name I had for her was Anita Carey, but the biography I found for her didn't seem to fit.)

    The movie itself was quite good, starring Donald Sutherland and Faye Dunaway.

    "Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You" Potentially, this could have had a lot of gratuitous nudity. Unfortunately, this was the lot - an unknown taking a bath in champagne.
    Glenne Headley
    (1, 2)
    Glenne ran around in her underwear a bit in Winchell. She also took a bath with a lot of blokes looking on. Unfortunately, we didn't get the show they did.
    Cynthia Gibb Cynthia took her top off, but kept her bra on, in Death Warrant. The movie starred Jean-Claude van Damme so you know the plot.

    Jr. Here...Regis, I believe the answer to that question is "D. Plot Optional". And that is my final answer!

    Bernadette Penotti Just a bit of a nipple slip by Bernadette in Ok Garage. Only a so-so movie.
    Lucy Liu
    (1, 2)
    Payback was the movie and Lucy was into the S & M. You see her outfit and, so, these are non-nude caps. The movie starred Mel Gibson and was quite enjoyable.

    Jr. here again....I really liked "Payback" as well. The cheesy, monotone voice over and the scruffy anti-hero getting beat up ever 5 minutes paid a wonderful tribute to the old school detective movie genre.

    One little detail was a very cool touch...all of the phones, including the car phones were equipped with rotary dials!

    While I enjoyed it (especially the part when Kris Kristofferson gets blown up). One thing that I think is a bit of a negative is the blue filter they used. Great for creative atmosphere, but impossible to get good colors when vidcapping!

    Rene Bond
    (1, 2)

    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

    More cool 70's sleaze! This time from 1972's "Please Don't Eat My Mother". This was a semi-hardcore rip-off of "Little Shop of Horrors". Unknown #5 Even has a nekkid babe being eaten by the plant! Once again, a great rare fins including all kinds of topless and full frontal 'caps. (plus a few mild, hardcore scenes).
    "Sleazy Rider"
    (1, 2)
    No clue when this one was made, but here are the basics.
    Danish film about a cop messing with a biker gang. The bikers get pisses and take their revenge by raping the cop's daughter and wife. Cop gets killed in the end.
    Ariane Sommer
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
    From the October German GQ. Ariane made the cover, and showed odd some cleavage and leg in her layout.
    Sharon Stone
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
    Misc. "at work" type images. Excellent collection for the die-hard Stone fans.
    Claudia Black
    (1, 2, 3)
    Vidcaps from the series "Farscape". The only visible skin is above the neck, Blackshine still scores 2 points in the quality department.
    Penélope Cruz
    Bibiana Beglau
    Kim Basinger
    Isabella Rossellini
    and ...
    Mamie Van Doren Can it be? Mamie still showing off the goods at age 69? Vidcaps by UC99 from the German tv show "Liebe sünde".
    Rhona Mitra More bootleg 'caps of Rhona topless in "Hollow Man".

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