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ejwestlake

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Reviews

Alexander
(2004)

aka Nixon in China
I'm a big fan of Stone and loved his Nixon. But after seeing Alexander I am wondering if he is still stuck on the same character study: Boy has issues with his demanding mother, feels inadequate, especially next to a more worthy son. After a short exile (or threat of exile), he returns to glory. His great vision of exporting democracy all over the world becomes more distorted and clouded as he exhausts the resources and goodwill of those around him. He becomes increasingly paranoid.

Stone's postmodern quote of Citizen Kane in Nixon, becomes his post-post modern quote of himself in Alexander. And, to some degree, the story is a parable and a warning about the disastrously blind and insulated leadership style of the current President Bush, marching into Persia to cheers and rose petals not realizing that he would become the benevolent but hated occupier that he is today. Stone seems to be warning us not to pursue this warped vision that has lead so many ambitious world leaders to their disastrous end. Little allusions to Saddam Hussein (Darius), the fact that it was supposed to be Jeb and not George W. that ascended to the White House help to punctuate this metaphor.

Personally, I enjoyed the art direction, the choreography of the battle scenes, and the actors who were all dealing with a script and a concept difficult to pull off. I'm not sure what Stone was doing with the brogue, and I'm sorry our society is so homophobic that he couldn't delve deeper into Alexander's relationship with Hephaistion.

Le violon rouge
(1998)

A bold attempt falls short
I enjoyed the multiple storylines and the way the text interweaves them into the final suspenseful scene of the auction. Most of the film is beautiful and interesting, but it disintegrates when the American actors and English lines take center stage. The spoken text is awkward and stilted. As a result, Samuel L. Jackson is wooden and doesn't seem to have any reason for stealing the violin. He looks neither in love, nor obsessed with an object he supposedly pursued his whole career. At times he has sudden outburst as if the actor suddenly remembered he was supposed to be at the end of his wits. At other times you can almost hear him saying: "I can't believe I'm even saying these lines, somebody please rescue me from this film." I could have easily believed Jackson in this role, but the dialogue and his mistrust for it makes it impossible. Rent the video, and stop the film before he and his even more wooden co-star start saying things like (paraphrasing for effect): "You don't have children?" "No, but I know what you mean. I just want to take this violin apart." Or: "It's like it's this thing . . ." Also, equally unbelievable is when the violin maker rushes in to see the body of his dead wife, sending everyone, including the nurse holding the dead baby, out of the room. This man was making the perfect violin for this child he wanted so badly, but is completely uninterested in him when his body is presented to him.

Cord
(2000)

Implausible to say the least
The makers of this movie had to really stretch to make this work. Some things that bugged my partner and I about it: Anne tries to flag down a driver on a lonely country road and the driver DOES NOT STOP! Absurd given the part of the world she is in. Of course they would stop! Also, the doctor doesn't report the suspicious pregnant woman? The diaper service lady doesn't gossip? The husband is brushing his teeth and just stands there half listening to the answering machine? "Gee, that sort of sounds like my wife. I'd better just stand right here and half listen to it just in case it isn't. . . " The detective doesn't believe him and hangs up? And the director had to make sure that for some strange reason Anne's chains were abnormally long or the last scene just wouldn't work. Also, how is it that after all the beating and starving and drugging that the baby would be normal? It was just stretch after stretch after stretch. You get tired of shouting: "Oh, come ON!" after awhile. I loved Tilly in Bullets Over Broadway, but she's trying way too hard.

As Good as It Gets
(1997)

More offensive stereotypes
I love Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. And I love the part of the movie

that is about them only. But the gay characters have got to go. As a

GLBT person, I was totally offended by the conventional gay stereotypes.

Could Cuba Gooding Jr BE any more fey? Seriously, I've had it with gay

characters in film and on stage who are sensitive and somewhat trouble

artists who act as mere conduits for the straight love story. The fact that

Simon Bishop cared so much about his face after he was assaulted also

bothered me. The most troubling is the subtext of his artistic expression.

Drawing attractive, potentially sexual, young men leads to danger, physical

and emotional harm, and maybe death. But drawing someone of the

opposite sex, such as the scene where he draws Carol, is liberating, and

unlocks the secret of his artistic self. In the end, Bishop gets to be alone, and another gorgeous, young woman hooks up with a scraggly, old man.

Yes, I hope everyone has noticed that this film just wouldn't work in

Hollywood if a beautiful young man hooks up with some old hag. Women

aren't allowed to age - another bit of subtext I hate. *sigh*

Wild Palms
(1993)

Watch all but the last 30 minutes
Because of the open-endedness of Twin Peaks, the network administrators were overly concerned with tying up all the loose ends in this graphic-novel-turned-mini-series. Promises from Stone and Wagner that the series not degenerate into chaos caused a contrived ending to an otherwise fascinating story.

Cameos from Stone himself: "So, the files are open and you were right all along. Tell me, are you bitter?" and William Gibson make this a truly a product of a postmodern time. Loved seeing Angie Dickenson again.

My Own Private Idaho
(1991)

Intelligent reworking of Shakespeare
Whatever you think about Keanu Reeves, River Phoenix, Gus Van Sant, or Portland, this is an intelligent reworking of Shakespeare's Henry IV and deserves a viewing. Van Sant does an excellent job of capturing the dream life of a street youth looking for love and acceptance (River Phoenix) and a rebellious rich kid looking for kicks (Reeves). The movie takes a turn as Reeves, as Shakespeare's Prince Hal, returns to his place in society and rejects the merry band of homeless men from whom he learned so much. Only then does Van Sant make the correlation with Henry IV obvious. Portlanders will recognize that nearly all the scenes (minus Italy) were shot in Oregon. They will also recognize Steve Pachosa, Vana O'Brien, and Tom Peterson in supporting roles. Also, the front of the now defunct Corno's serves as the street from which the street youth hustle.

Mulholland Dr.
(2001)

I love incoherent art.
This is definitely a love it/hate it film. You can't be indifferent. I do like David Lynch and I tend to be the one in my household who rents the films that don't go anywhere. My partner was ready to turn it off before the first hour was up, but I was completely hooked. I love the descent into the bizarre nightmare world. The Club Silencio scene was my favorite, and I love that this film featured two convincing actresses. Like BOUND, only wierd. I'm a little tired of the male voyeurism, but I can't deny that I loved this film.

The Heartbreak Kid
(1972)

Filming location
Students who have attended the University of Minnesota will recognize the mall section of the campus. They will also realize that 1) Lenny is parked in an area where that is a pedestrian only walk way, and 2) Kelly walks over the bridge from Coffman Union (an area where there are no classrooms) after she has supposedly returned from class.

An enjoyable film, although viewers might grow tired of Lenny's continual run of fables about himself, and I don't think many people will buy his fascination with the empty-headed Kelly.

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