I'll have to tread through this one gingerly, because it's a mine field. It's
a film which is one of the best-reviewed of the year. It has been honored with
many Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture, Drama. It is rated so
high at IMDb that it will soon join the all-time immortals in the Olympus 250.
And I wasn't very impressed. I found it a good movie, but not a memorable
Many reviewers cast their raves in the form of solemn praise for a faithful
literary adaptation. Not having read Ian McEwan's novel, and having received no
motivation to do so from this film, I have no way to determine how successfully
the film transmuted McEwan's literary elements into cinema gold, but I could see
some major problems right from the start.
In the film's first act there are events which are presented from two
different points of view, the first time from the perspective of a 13-year-old
girl, the second in close-up detail from an objective perspective. This sort of
narrative technique makes a lot of sense in a novel, because a 13-year-old
narrator controls every detail of what we see and hear. We only know what she
knows, we only see what she tells us about in the manner she chooses to tell it,
and our perspective is completely limited by hers. If we then re-experience the
same events through the eyes of an omniscient narrator, or through the
counter-perspective of an adult who was also there, we may be shocked and
edified by the second telling. But a camera is not the written page. Although I
may witness a filmed event from the perspective of a 13-year-old girl, I am
still processing and interpreting what I see with my brain, not with hers, and I
am filling in the missing details with my experience, not with her lack thereof.
As I result, I can immediately see what really transpired and I can see that she
misinterprets or misunderstands it. I don't need to have the events run through
a second time. The director ignores this reality and plunges forward with the
retelling anyway. And he uses the repetition device twice, with two separate events. In each
case, the second perspective showed me nothing I had not already figured out the
first time. It was just a superfluous device which slowed down a narrative which
was already crawling at a snail's pace.
As a result of several misunderstandings, combined with some inchoate sexual
jealousy on the part of the young girl, the brat ends up accusing her sister's
working class lover of a serious crime which he did not commit.
His punishment for this crime is to be deported to another film.
It's a good film, but one completely unrelated to the one we have been
The false accusation occurred in a stately English country estate in 1935.
The new film takes place on the battlefields of WW2, in the events leading up to
and including the historic evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from
the French port of Dunkirk. Off-camera, in the five intervening years, our
working class hero was imprisoned, then offered a chance for parole if he
decided to volunteer for combat. His sudden appearance in a WW2 combat film
serves to slow down the main storyline still further. Will the lovers get a
chance to re-unite? Will the little sister find a way to achieve atonement for
her false accusation? Well, I'll tell you ... as soon as I insert this 40-minute
documentary about the horrors of war on both sides of the Channel. There is the
misery and squalor of the soldiers being tended to in the hospitals back home.
There is the grotesque misery of the soldiers in combat and in Dunkirk,
discovering the mass murder of civilians, shooting their horses to keep them
from the Germans, singing sad songs of better days, stealing from the corpses,
coping with disease and starvation. There are some impressive set pieces, but
they serve no purpose other than to delay the awaited resumption of the story we
Say, just what is happening with those three people anyway?
Finally, after nearly two hours of a pace which would lose a race to tectonic
shifting, the film resolves everything with a voice-over narration told by the
false accuser, who is now an elderly novelist. It's actually a brief response to
a chat show question. Time expended: maybe a minute. Don't make the mistake of
leaving the theater a minute early, because without that talk show answer, you
lose ... oh, about 100% of the film's plot.
This film has an excellent chance to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
It may even win, because it has everything the Academy demands of a winner:
impressive literary provenance, gravitas, British accents, and unrelenting
misery. It has some characters dying tragically young, and an old character
dying of a horrible disease. It has an upright young man convicted of pedophilia
and sent to prison. It has the actual pedophiliac escaping scot-free. It has
horrible cousins with terrible family secrets. It has lovers frustrated and
separated. It shows mass murders committed by Nazis. It pictures wounded men
disfigured by combat. The screenwriter made only one miscalculation in his Oscar
grab. At the end, when the 13-year-old girl has become an old woman dying of a
disease which will soon cause dementia, the script should have arranged for the
old woman to die of AIDS instead. That would have made perfect sense, because
the character was born in 1922, and was played by 70-year-old Vanessa Redgrave,
so a 1992 death of AIDS would have fit in ideally. Voila! Instant Oscar. Oh,
sure, the film still has Nazi atrocities and false imprisonment - Mr. Schindler
meet Mr. Shawshank - but without the AIDS, it's only guaranteed a
nomination, not a victory.
Note: the top 1000 voters at IMDb score this film 7.3 which, in my opinion,
is exactly where it belongs. It's a good movie, but not an all-time classic.
If you would like to see a truly great movie with a very similar theme, skip this
film and rent Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement.
Walk Hard started out to be a spoof of the rock era musical biopics. It took
about half of the story of Ray and half of I Walk The Line and combined them to
form the faux-bio of Dewey Cox, who was sort of the Forrest Gump of contemporary
music. He wasn't the brightest guy in the world, but he was right there with
everyone, changing his style of music to suit the times and his surroundings. He
was in India with The Beatles, and backstage with Elvis, the Bopper and Buddy
Holly. He sings with rappers, MoTown artists, folk rockers, doo-woppers,
hippies, old-time blues guitarists, psychedelic rockers, punk rockers, you name
it. He sings like Bob Dylan, Pat Boone, and Johnny Cash. The film incorporates
brief performances from Lyle Lovett, the Temptations, Jewel, Jackson Browne, and
Ghostface Killah. You may think, "Wow, that's a lot to cover in one film!" and
you'd be right. Not only does that agenda serve to pack the film too full, but
it is further jammed by the fact that Dewey does not sing mere snippets of
songs. Virtually every one of his performances consists of a full-length song,
and he gives many performances.
That's a lot of music.
If you go to this film thinking you will see a typical Judd Apatow comedy,
well, there is some of that, but you need to prepare yourself for the fact that
there's only about a half-hour of typical Apatow humor. The rest of it consists
of lengthy parodies of different musical styles. It's a musical comedy, heavy on
the music. The songs are consistently clever, but they are witty without being
laugh-out-loud funny. They supply the kind of humor that makes one in
appreciation of what they are doing and in recognition of their excellent
mimicry. The writers and John C. Reilly manage to ape every musical style you
can think of, but sometimes you get the feeling that they wanted to create a
best-selling soundtrack album rather than a best-selling movie, because the
songs are too good, too much like the real thing. John C. Reilly does a better
job on singing than he does on clowning, not because he lacks the talent for the
latter, but because that's the way the film is structured.
I think the film's pace would have been more appropriate to comedy if each
musical parody had been a short visit to the era's comical highlights rather
than a meticulously accurate but dragged-out set piece. The way it's handled
here, the film is not really a spoof of a musical biopic. It IS a musical
biopic, albeit about a guy who never existed who is singing songs you've never
heard before. I think you'll enjoy the film if you enter the theater knowing what you are in for.
If Spinal Tap was the mockumentary for heavy metal, Dewey Cox is the
mockumentary for every other form of music which was popular in the second half
of the twentieth century. If you are expecting a zany comedy, you will find a
good one in there somewhere,
but it's a very, very short one sandwiched in between long and elaborate musical numbers.
Some of the best comedy pieces involve:
the ridiculous things Dewey Cox buys when he jumps from poverty to rock star
wealth (a giraffe, for example, which eats dinner with the family). OK, maybe
Steve Martin did this better in The Jerk, but it's still funny.
the parody of the Beatles in their psychedelic Yellow Submarine era, complete
with Peter Max-style animation, as performed by the unlikely foursome of Justin
Long, Jack Black, Paul Rudd, and Jason Schwartzman. Long and Rudd are quite
energetic and funny as Harrison and Lennon, complete with appropriately
exaggerated Liverpudlian accents, but the funniest concept is that Jack Black
makes no effort at all to look like Paul McCartney. He basically just plays Jack Black
with an accent,
but declares himself to be Paul McCartney! The Beatles segment ends in a
fistfight between Lennon and McCartney, as shown below:
The film was nominated for two Golden Globes: best original song and best
lead performance in a musical or comedy. The film is not really as good as I
hoped, but there's absolutely no question that Reilly earned that nomination.
He's funny, and her can sing.
There is plenty of nudity in this film, with male and female full-frontals,
but it's all concentrated into one scene, and it is all provided by unidentified
extras from Dewey's wild, dark, drug-abusing, groupie-groping era. More on that
as home media becomes available. (I saw this one in a theater.)
This is the 13th consecutive Christmas on which we
On behalf of all of us who work the Christmas
shift every year
Merry Christmas to All
and to all a good night
* Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).
* White asterisk:
Blue asterisk: not mine.
No asterisk: it probably
Catch the deluxe
version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles,
A Summer in San Tropez
Un été à Saint-Tropez is a David Hamilton film, his most recent, and likely
his last. It is essentially one of his photography books of young women, but
shot with video rather than a still camera and set to a piano score. He
photographs seven women in their late teens as they sleep, dress, and frolic
on the beach and in the countryside. There is some hint of lesbian
exploration, and, in the end, one of them gets married. We see them warming up
for ballet, so they might be dance students. At any rate there is no dialogue
to interfere with our voyeurism.
Many think this might be Hamilton's best film because he stuck with his
strength, soft focus photography of young women, abetted by a piano score both
appropriate and complimentary. Unfortunately, the entire point of this film is
beautiful photography, and the transfer is a rather poor remastering of a VHS
The girls are only identified as Anne, Catherine,
Cyrilla, Ellen, Esther, Helene, Joan and Monika.
Happy Holidays to Uncle Scoopy and all the gang.
For our gift today we unwrap Madchen Amick. I think this film is
the crown jewel for Madchen as she gives up the T & A plus some delicious
full frontal nudity.
Notes and collages
part 1 of 5
Deborah Van Valkenbergh
if I stood up in my job place and shouted "WARRIORS! Come out and PLAY-AAAAAAY...."
most people would know that reference immediately. A cult classic.
Season Two. Episode: "WRATH OF GOD"
A series of tortures and murders start happening at an apartment building when a mysterious- looking very gay man (Anthony Michael Hall) becomes involved with the landlord (Daniel C. Brochu).
it now, they are gay, wait, or are they?
While this goes on, good-looking tenants take showers to show their good-looking bodies.
Keys to Tulsa
Lately I've been doing movies considered classic for their nudity, and
1996's Keys to Tulsa is another that I think could be called a capper's
classic. It's also a decent crime thriller, and Joanna Going, playing
stripper Cherry, is cute as a bug's ear.
Film critic Richter Boudreau (Eric Stoltz) is the loser son of a very
wealthy high society mother, and constantly depends on his mom for money
while barely escaping being fired for missing deadlines and generally
being a screw-up.
Ex-girlfriend Vicky (Deborah Kara Unger), still Richter's true love,
brings her no-good husband Ronnie (James Spader) around with a
proposition: Richter will help to blackmail a local rich businessman who
was seen murdering a hooker. Ronnie has control of the witness, Cherry, a
stripper who also has a drug and booze habit, and they'll all share a big
payday. Richter isn't really interested, but out of love for Vicky, and
with a lot of threats from Ronnie, agrees to help.
Not surprisingly, things don't go as planned, and things get more
complicated as Richter and Cherry get involved.
While not perfect, and draggy in spots, the great cast and interesting
story make this movie well worth watching, and Joanna's free-spirited and
uninhibited portrayal of Cherry make it classic for movie nudity buffs.
American Pie Presents: Beta House
Some items to supplement yesterday's column:
Stephany Sexton: topless in Naked Mile
and then in Beta House
Christine Barger: even if she did shave her coochie her it still should
have been visible in this frame. Hmmm... burger.