I've decided to go to a Writer's Conference in a couple of weeks. Just want to spend a weekend with other freaks and weirdos. I really need to figure out if I'm going to keep writing fiction. I love doing it, but if anything it's even lonelier than screenwriting.
Stuff we've watched lately that you should see. Because I would never steer you wrong, would I?
(Everything here is available at my favorite video store, Videotheque. Support them, please.)
Northfork - The Polish Brothers are these twin brothers from Montana who make atmospheric indy films. I missed Twin Falls Idaho, but this one is pretty cool. Moves slowly and has all kinds of odd religious overtones, but Nick Nolte and James Woods are as good as I've seen either of them in a long time. And it's beautiful on a wide-screen TV. It nearly put June to sleep, though.
Whale Rider - I normally avoid anything where the word "inspirational" is used in the reviews featured in the ads, but this one got to me. A world you won't normally see--a Maori village in New Zealand--and an unlikely girl-heroine. Beautifully acted and nicely written, if slightly simplistic. I'm going to sit down and watch it with my 8 year-old girl soon.
I Capture the Castle - I'm a sucker for coming of age stories about writers, probably why I dug Thomas Wolfe so much in college. I just wish I had read this book back then (it was written in the late 40s). The movie is great. Good performances all around, nice writing, a great setting in an old castle (natch), and if you've ever struggled with the written word, this one will get your number. Along with Adaptation, last year was a good one for movies about writers (and I didn't even see The Hours).
The Man Without a Past - The funniest Finnish movie I've ever seen. I don't believe that the Finns are known for being funny, and the humor is dry and brittle like the landscape, but I dug it. A welder is mugged getting off a train in a strange city and wakes up with no memory of who he is. He falls in with an encampment of down-and-outers who live in converted shipping containers near a Harbor and gets a job working at the Salvation Army, where he turns the SA band into a blues band and falls in love with a stern matron of the Army. Don't know why I thought it was so funny, but sometimes it's like that. Again, June went to bed before it was over.
Beware of a Holy Whore - Fassbinder always cracks me up, and this is one of my faves, recently out on video. A depraved look at filmmaking, the way it really is on the set, with Eddie Constantine floating through this thing like a ghost and Lou Castel doing a great Fassbinder impression as the tyranic director.
Tunes of Glory - As a huge fan of The Horse's Mouth, I was really excited to see Criterion release this subsequent collaboration between Alec Guiness and director Ronald Neame. And what a strange, wonderful film this is, a battle of wills between a rough-and-tumble Scottish officer (played by Guiness against type) and an upper-crusty career officer (John Mills) for the hearts and minds of a battalion of old soldiers trying to make sense of the post-WWII world. The movie feels very modern, with two less-than-appealing lead characters and an extremely downbeat ending. Kind of like The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp meets Look Back in Anger.
People Will Talk - Get this one: Cary Grant as a pro-abortion gynecologist and medical school professor with a secret past and Hume Cronyn as the bitter fellow prof who tries to get Cary bounced from the school. And Walter Slezak and Jeanne Crain as his pal and love interest respectively. But the best part is Dr. Praetorius' (yes, that's Cary's name) assistant/pal/bodyguard named Shunderson, played by a Scottish actor named Finlay Currie. The guy has an amazing near-Tor Johnson vibe and gets to single-handedly thwart Hume's attempted HUAC-style investigation. And actually, after all the rest, that's what the movie really is, a reaction to the Hollywood blacklist, and a good one, at that. Joe Mankiewicz was a fricking genius.
Be Cool - Horrifyingly, mind-numbingly bad. This is perhaps one of the most mis-begotten monstrosities in recent memory. Where to begin? Beat after beat is lifted from the first film, shamelessly and often illogically. Harvey Keitel is embarrassingly bad, Uma Thurman looks bizarre in some kind of airbrush tan, Cedric the Entertainer? Doesn't. Steven Tyler? Just one of many odd little moments. In fact, the only ray of light in this piece o' shite may be Andre 3000 from Outkast who has some real star power, hidden behind a bunch of extremely lame jokes. BTW, in the lifted-from-Get-Shorty category, he's the dumb nephew that the bad guy is forced to take into his employ. Remember the drug courier in the first film? Sigh. I know Travolta will do anything for a paycheck, but he needs to channel Meatloaf and when faced with a script like this one, "I won't do that."