Volume CCXLV- Return to the Planet of the Symbolically-Peaceful Blue People
For the Week of 4/27/10
Videoport has the best selection of films that you don’t have to wait two days to get.
Middle Aisle Monday. (Get one free rental from the Sci-Fi, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation or Staff Picks sections with your paid rental.)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (in Incredibly Strange). As a lifelong avowed horror fan, when I rent a low-budget horror movie I usually end up watching it from between my fingers… not out of fear, but out of cringing embarrassment for the filmmakers. I didn’t have high hopes, but this little sleeper was a fantastic surprise! It’s a remarkably tight story, scary and wry and tense and intelligent. Behind the Mask plays beautifully with the mockumentary style, portraying a spunky team of journalism students who dig up a budding serial killer willing to let them tag along as he builds his legend and targets his first victims. Carefully structured with the clever turns and twists that a smart horror film demands and rich in allusions and details that will warm the heart of any longtime horror fan, Behind the Mask also boasts solid acting, with plenty of subtle levels from the whole cast (which includes appearances by classic horror actors Robert Englund and Zelda Rubinstein). Especially powerful is Nathan Baesel as killer-in-training Leslie Vernon; Basael’s performance veers chillingly between the beaming, affable boy-next-door, the pretentious artist with a profound sense of self-regard, and the coldly manipulative predator. This hot-and-cold performance is at the heart of the film’s moral center, letting the audience almost understand how a seemingly sane and ethical journalist could get involved in this monstrous story to begin with. I was really delighted with this film, which can be enjoyed simply on its surface level as a witty, taut slasher pic or unpacked as a thoughtful examination of horror movies and their fans.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> April suggests The Running Man (in Action). Oh man! Back in the day, Schwarzenegger was f-ing awesome! Too bad he went all governor on us. The Running Man is loosely based on a Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King) novel about a cop in the year 2019 who is convicted of a mass killing, breaks out of prison, and is forced to be on a game show in which he most likely will be killed. The dancers and their leotards are the best part of the game show. You can’t go wrong with this movie! It’s so bad it’s great!
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Miss Alex suggests The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (in Foreign Language). Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant is the story of a glamorous fashion designer who dominates and abuses her live-in girlfriend/assistant as she works to seduce and trap a younger girl, enliven herself and perhaps deter mortality, the destruction of her beauty by time, by dosing herself with the hormones and surges of blood that accompany an erotic life. She is filled with unrequited passion, longings, and unfulfilled desire. The story unfolds in a windowless claustrophobic one room apartment, where the bed is a stage for eating, sleeping, love, sex, communion, thinking, brooding, ritual, and even death. The bed is a site of tragedy, victory, joy, and despair. From her bed/throne/pedestal/soapbox, Petra schemes and designs the fabric of her life; strategies become reality and her fantasy is the delicate thread she weaves. She undresses and dresses to try on different personae, working to find one that would attract and be most appealing to the object of her desire, and more beautiful to the eyes of the world who gaze upon her and await her next invention. We are riveted, too. Bed/erotisme is where life is spawned and taken away, where dreams are had and crushed in one fell swoop. Bed is where we create and destroy ourselves, one another. Bed is where we communicate and dash hopes, stimulate desire and elevate fears; it is the locus of conversation and relationship. It is where we play, have sex, rest, and die. It is the center of the room, the center of our lives. Other objects and furniture such as dresses, shoes, dolls, mannequins, glass, mirrors, bags, tea sets, china, glassware, doors, walls, corners, closets are active props, life¹s furniture and accessories. The objects and our relationships to them form identities and alternate ones we can wear and parade like costumes; they are complicit collaborators, they fulfill the aims of the plot, they give and take, they offer images of life and take it away. ‘Beautiful things don’t last’, Petra warns. Suffering is as much a part of the erotics of our lives as the joy and sensuous contact we make, and people are fickle, they change, and they change. The urgency of our feelings we encounter for one another are seething in Petra, who is so torn, and so desperate to love and be loved in return. We witness how reciprocity is severed, the claustrophobic nature of love as it quickly dissolves from affection and admiration into horror and rage. The film script admonishes, ‘You have to learn to love without demanding.’ ‘One is alone with God.’ And ‘You must have courage to believe.’ The women-girls (Petra, her lover, the new lover, her friend, a second friend, her mother, and her daughter) are seen playing at life, mimicking relationships, fantasizing and writing their own story of life through and with one another; they build a life of the feminine. Men are excluded in the cycling of generations; they are mere conveniences or inconveniences; they are living wallets, names, providers, property owners, status symbols, a social tie or a living noose. The girls-women engage in ritual tea parties, dress up games, teasing one another, quarreling, fussing, weeping, sobbing, caressing, grooming, drawing, dressing and undressing, typing, telling stories, gossiping, tidying, arranging, preparing something, reading, eating, drinking, sewing, playing records, dancing, chatting on the phone and making plans, and talking to mamma; these girl activities are inverted or upgraded to adult experiences, or shown as infantile and adult at the same time. Play is how we test out life as children and as adults; we practice the self we wish to construct and face the world with. The consequences of play/life are more dangerous, fatal, and flawed as adults, perhaps; meaning is more profound, disruptive, and deadly. In Fassbinder’s beautiful tableaux, a moving painting, photograph, and mirror, we experience and confront the nuances of horror and pleasure, the extremes of the feminine, identity, and aging. We witness the unformed, growing unwieldy virginal body and its queasy-making quasi-innocence of adolescence to the cultivated looks we construct to defy age’s wreckage upon our visage, skin, smoothness, moistness, and availability. Fassbinder’s long steady focus on the body’s energetic shifts which surface as emotion, relationship, and futile ritualized activities we concoct to slow the progress and betrayals our mortality won’t allow us to escape. He traps us in the room where we are conceived and die, where Petra conceives herself and dies. Dress and psychic adaptation are strategies to create and alter our perpetual human drama. The overlaps and interchangeable parts there are visible and unspoken truths we cannot deny. A women’s identity splits and accesses realms beyond her biology; she navigates the murky depths of gender, identity politics, mortality, and her own raw humanity, which does not pair well with what society expects, determines, or promotes. These splits and woundings are prodded, irritated, and exacerbated by an awareness of contradictions, perceptions, social codes and mores, and undone by the body’s fate which rests in its continuous discontinuity; a cycling of life-death, death-life. Once again the bed/body/ becomes a grave, an empty hole, where the folds reveal nothingness, and departure is freedom, movement, life.
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>> Dennis suggests that early responsible DVD handling skills are directly related to later high SAT scores.
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Regan suggests Against All Odds (in Feature Drama/the temporary Jeff Bridges shrine in the Middle Aisle). “You’re the only one who really knew me at all…” WHAA WHAA WHAA. Dullsville. This is a remake of some old movie that I’m sure Jackie and Dennis have seen*. Yeah, I
know guys, I shoulda watched that instead**. But the pull of Jeff Bridges’ abs (a close second to Dennis Quaid’s), Rachel Ward’s mams, and James Woods! How could I stay away? How? This was in the permanent Hanrahan film collection. Whenever I went to visit my Oma and Opa, I think it was a double feature with The Wrath of Khan. Which was way more entertaining. And this movie is as unfortunate as James Woods’ hairdo.. HAIRDON’T! Here is the highlight for me, besides when they slimy f**k in an ancient ruin. “Just take her outside and show her what tree you’re gonna do it under that night. Hell, we hit lots of trees.”- Terry. Now you don’t have to rent it. You’re welcome sir!
*Editor’s note: Well, since you mention it, this is a remake of the 1947 film noir Out of the Past.
**Editor’s note: Well, you should have…
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (in Feature Drama). I urge you to make a double-feature of these two
Linklater films, rather than watching either for the first time on its own. In Before Sunrise (1995), a brash young Texan (Jesse, played by Ethan Hawke) is wrapping up few weeks of travel through Western Europe when he meets a gamine Parissiene (Celine, played by Julie Delpy) on the train and persuades her to join him in exploring Vienna for the few remaining hours before his flight home. As they wander from cafe to bar to waterfront to park, their demeanors shift as well, creating a convincingly multifaceted portrait of the self-searching young characters. They are, by turns, sweet, smart, wry, melancholy, pretentious, and earnest. Obviously the two are both straining with frantic to impress each other and in the process of finding their adult selves, trying on personal philosophies and beliefs for each other as they might try on hats. Before Sunrise manages to be both a sweetly sentimental film, rich in the nostalgic yearning for youth, and a gently cynical examination of youth’s excesses and entitlements. To avoid spoiling either film for first-time viewers, I will only say: Before Sunset (2004) reprises the same characters a decade later, and the cautious delicacy that marks their interaction speaks volumes.
New Releases this week at Videoport: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (It’s a new Terry Gilliam film! That means it’s a mess, but a wildly-imaginative, koo-koo crazy wonderful mess. Plus, Tom Waits is the Devil!), It’s Complicated (Meryl Streep and ex-husband Alec Baldwin get all nostalgically-sexy with each other in this middling comedy from the writer/director of such other mildly-pleasant, middling fare as Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, and Father of the Bride), Disgrace (John Malkovich is typically-great as a, well, disgraced South African professor who flees to the coutryside after his affair with a student is uncovered, only to find himself embroiled in an Apartheid-era mess), Transymania (dumb college students head to Romania where they encounter dumb vampires; a sidesplitter from the dummies behind several latter-day National Lampoon travesties; oh, and it was made in 2007 but not released until now…undoubtedly because it’s so good…), William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (documentary about the life and career of controversial defense attorney Kunstler, who went from pro bono work in high-profile civil rights cases to defending drug dealers and getting paid in cash), Jerichow (a disgraced soldier, a kindly restaurant owner, and the owner’s lonely wife? Sounds like The Postman Only Rings Twice, German-style!), 24 City (Chinese drama about the longtime workers at an aircraft factory dealing with its impending closure), ‘Dr. Who- The End of Time’ (is this the end of David Tennant’s Doctor? [It is]), ‘Criminal Minds’- season 3 (Joe Mantagna continues to, I dunno, be a policeman of some sort…).
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Georgia O’Keefe (biopic of the legendary artist, starring the sort-of-legendary Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons), One From the Heart (Francis Ford Coppola basically bankrupt himself making this weird, overblown musical romance; you should see it, as it’s one of the greatest cinematic follies of all time [and has a score co-written by Tom Waits!]), Opium and the Kung Fu Master (another classic Shaw Brothers martial arts film rereleased on glorious DVD!), Sex Galaxy (filmmakers attempt to make a wacky sci fi sex comedy using nothing more than public-domain film clips and stock footage; funny idea…next time they should hire funny people to write the script), ‘Electra Elf’- season 1 (former underground filmmaking legend Nick Zedd directs this, which Wikipedia describes as “a low budget cable access show about a superhero and his sidekick dog”), Madame X (Lana Turner stars opposite Ricardo Montalban(!) as a wealthy wife blackmailed after she does something she shouldn’t in this 1966 melodrama), Portrait in Black (Lana Turner’s up to more sweaty mischief again, this time after she and Anthony Quinn murder her mean husband), The Last Mistress (team up French provocateuse director Catherine Breillat [Romance, Anatamoy of Hell, Fat Girl] and Italian actress and saucepot Asia Argento [Scarlet Diva] in an erotic period piece about the French aristocracy and, whew, is it getting warm in here?), Dirt: The Movie (Jamie Lee Curtis narrates this documentary about, yup, dirt), ‘Jeeves and Wooster’- The Complete Series (Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie [perhaps you’ve heard of him] as P. G. Wodehouse’s famous smart butler and bumbling aristocrat team; seriously, there’s nothing more delightful than this show), The Weathered Underground (it’s like a DVD ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book, only with bad actors), I’m No Dummy (documentary follows around three famous-for-dubious- reasons ventriloquists as they creep everybody the freak out), Dillinger Is Dead (the good people at Criterion dig deep to bring out this decidedly odd Italian art(?) flick from Marco Ferreri in which a buttoned-down gas mask inventor [the excellent Michel Piccoli] makes dinner, seduces his maid, watched home movies, and finds and repairs what may be John Dillinger’s pistol).
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Clerks 2, Waterworld, The Dark Crystal, The Fifth Element, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Road Warrior, 300, Avatar, It’s Complicated, Il Divo, Minority Report, Fist of Legend, Batman, Batman Returns, A Nightmare on Elm St., Gone With the Wind, The Slammin’ Salmon, Sugar, Hot Fuzz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Dead Snow, Smokin’ Aces, Apollo 13, Cocoon, Dreamscape, Seabiscuit, Army of Darkness, Shaun of the Dead.