Volume CCLXXXIX- The One About the Nice Royal Man Who Had to Overcome Something Played by That Nice Actor Your Mom Likes
For the Week of 3/1/11
Videoport gives you a free movie every day. That actually happens…
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 Possession (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) If you’ve heard only one thing about writer-director Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 cult film Possession, it is almost certainly one of these two: either A) it features a rather untidy scene of Isabelle Adjani flipping out in a subway underpass, or B) it is completely banana-cakes insane. Both of these are understatements. Possession is often labelled a cult horror film, and it qualifies on both fronts, but it’s also something weirder, something odder, something more self-aggrandizing than just cult or horror… something
that might best be summed up as existential nutjobbery, or maybe domestic drama as eschatological disaster. In the first few scenes, Mark (Sam Neill) returns from a long business trip to his home in cold-war-era Berlin and to his family. But his wife Anna (Adjani at her most luminous) isn’t sure she wants him to stay… and isn’t sure she wants him to leave… and that’s the most certainty we’ll see from either of them for the next two hours. We know, as Anna might not, that Mark is some sort of shady governmental agent, that he wants to quit, that he’s being shadowed and that their home is under surveillance. (Mark’s work means that a pall of nuclear-holocaust anxiety hangs over the first act of the film, but our writer-director downplays it until, rather suddenly and with a jarring comic note, he cashes in on it in the last act.) Though Mark and Anna insist repeatedly on the necessity of maintaining normalcy for their only-occasionally-appearing young son, Bob, both disintegrate almost immediately. Indeed, it happens at such a frantic pace as to be almost entirely uncinematic in its nature; it’s hard to develop empathy for characters who start out screaming and never stop, or to be anxious about their state of mind when they both go insane in the film’s first act. The story itself is pretty coherent, surprisingly enough, if completely mad; Zulawski himself cheerfully recounts his elevator pitch for Possession: “it’s about a woman who [redacted] with an octopus.” And, uh, it is, if by “octopus,” he meant some tentacled… thing… that is either a mind-controlling monster, a gestating doppelganger, or a lump of abstract guilt and fury made carnal. Or all three. But even this uneasy coherence develops despite the best efforts of Neill and Adjani as Mark and Anna. I can’t blame either actor; they are swinging for the fences in these roles, reeling around in an unremitting wallow of screaming marital discord, spitting blood and keening with agony and smashing cartons of yogurt again walls and trashing their homes and WHAT THE HECK. They’re clearly doing everything in their power — and I do mean everything — to present a harrowing portrait of a marriage in turmoil. No, it’s the director who should be taken to task: he simply eschews moderation, ignoring the narrative and aesthetic forms that allow us to engage thoughtfully with a work: how quiet allows tension to develop, how calm lows allow us to see fervid highs and vice versa, how repetition robs even the most shocking displays of their power. Possession consists almost exclusively of climactic scenes, highly pitched scenes, vivid disorienting scenes that would be staggering if they were set against a backdrop of daily life, or if they capped a slowly climbing rise in activity. Instead, these scenes spit out like the rambling of a madman, no punctuation or pause or respite. The whole movie passes like a fever dream, howling its fury and anxiety… up until the last few minutes, which are quieter. Here, the film’s most haunting moments unspool in relative calm, with no blood or beatings or tentacle-thingies, with none of the hysterically overwrought agony of the previous two hours, just the simple pleading of a child and an unforgettable sound in the background. It’s almost worth seeing for those few minutes. Almost. Allow me to leave you with one last work: BANANACAKES.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Andy suggests The Outrage (in Action/Adventure.) You might have noticed this movie on my “Andy picks his favorite Westerns” shelf, alongside such undeniable classics as The Searchers, Rio Bravo, and The Wild Bunch. Does that mean I think The Outrage is as good a movie as those other ones? Goodness, no! It’s a pretty nutso movie, though, and extremely entertaining. It’s nearly a scene-fo-scene remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, but set in the Old West. Paul Newman tries to out-overact Toshiro Mifune as a Mexican(!) bandit who sets the plot in motion by
confessing to a rape and murder. But that’s just his side of the story. If you’ve seen Rashomon, you know the drill…but this time, it’s in the Old West!! The Outrage is also recommended for the delightful hamminess of the supporting cast, including William Shatner and Edward G. Robinson.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental…OR…get 4 movies for 7 days for 7 bucks!)
>>> Regan suggests you put down that copy of Grown Ups (in Comedy.) I do not recommend this movie! My boss wants me to watch more movies and less TV shows. So, instead of watching several discs of ‘Parks and Recreation’, I watched this star-loaded crapfest. My farts smell funnier than this piece of schitzki. DO NOT RENT THIS. Rent ‘Parks and Recreation.’ It’s super ha-ha. HA-LARIOUS. I know that’s misspelled. I did it on purpose.
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Videoport customer Riley Guffor suggests ‘Boston Legal’ (in Comedy.) Watch ‘Boston Legal.’ It’s funny and the cast is great. Captain Kirk has mad cow disease. He’s partners in a law firm with Murphy Brown who used to be married to Magnum P.I. Guest stars include Marty McFly, Ugly Betty’s sister, a Golden Girl, a Designing Woman, and a spokesperson for Jenny Craig.
>>>Videoport customer Joe suggests Out Cold (in Comedy), saying it’s “Spinal Tap for snowboarders” which sounds like a compliment to me.
>>>and an Anonymous Videoport Customer sent a note back with the movie Middle Men (in Feature Drama) simply saying “Yuck! Gross!”, and then there was a little drawing of a sad face with its tongue sticking out. Which sounds less complimentary…
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests Return to Oz. Chronic insomnia, electroconvulsive “therapy,” steampunk pumpkinheaded adversaries, and a cabinet full of disembodied heads screaming horrifically? You know, for kids! Free on Friday!
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests The 7th Victim (in Classics.) Thank Videoport’s Andy for donating this and a couple of other of classic Val Lewton horror/suspense movies to the store recently. (Videoporters occasionally just do that, which is either really dedicated or really weird, depending on your point of view.) Anyway, Lewton’s films are uniformly great, and much more interesting than what was passing for ‘horror’ at the time. There’s a level of subtlety, and genuine darkness, in them that keeps them alive, and creepy. In this one, sweet-faced Kim Hunter is expelled from her boarding school after the older sister who raised her stops paying the tuition and disappears. When Hunter heads to NYC to find her, she’s told the sister has sold her business and left town, but some plucky detective work discovers a rented room in her name containing nothing but a chair and noose hanging from the ceiling. Yipes. Some further digging hints that some of the sister’s socialite friends might not be what they appear and…well, that’s all I’ll say (because people who spoil movies should also disappear mysteriously), except that Hunter’s a sympathetic, and unusually-competent female lead in a horror film, and that, in a Lewton film, you can’t always be assured that things will turn out the way you expect, or want them to. Thanks, Andy.
>>>For Sunday, Regan salutes Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin, and throws down some unrelated movie recommendations. Just do what she says… By the time this is printed, I’m sure Aaron Sorkin will be “Oscar Winner Aaron Sorkin!”* Which is totally deserved. How many crackheads have won an Oscar? Like 4? 5 maybe?** Poor Whitney Houston was robbed! But I would like to mention the fecking amazing TV shows that Mr. Sorkin wrote before becoming an Oscar winner. A little show you may have heard of called ‘The West Wing.’ And ‘Sports Night,’ which rules also. My boss thinks I should watch more movies. I think these TV shows are smarter and funnier than most of the new releases aglow on the wall. Don’t be jealous movies, I love you, too. Here are some of yous I’ve enjoyed lately:
–Conviction (in Feature Drama.) Give Sam Rockwell an Oscar already!
–Temple Grandin (in Feature Drama.) My mother and I love quoting this made-for-TV gem.
–Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (in Documentary.) Yeah, politicians are a-holes. But some are a-holier than others.
–Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (in the Kids’ Section.) I can’t help it. I love sad dog movies.
–Freakonomics (in Documentary.) Just when I thought abortion couldn’t get any better! It did!!
–Enter the Void (in Incredibly Strange.) Say it with me. Paz de la Huerta.
*How did she know?! She’s a witch!!
**Actually, only Jessica Tandy.
New Releases this week at Videoport: 127 Hours (James Franco cuts his arm off! By now
we’ve found out if this behavior was enough to win this one an Oscar!…Editor’s note: NOPE!), Faster (Videoport’s Sam says this action thriller starring the ever-personable Dwayne “Call me ‘The Rock’ and I’ll give you the People’s Elbow” Johnson is a throwback to the blaxploitation days; I’m pretty sure he meant that as a compliment… ), Love & Other Drugs (professional cutie-pies Jake Gyllenhall and Anne Hathaway star, surprisingly-nudely, in this romantic comedy about a hunky pharmaceutical rep peddling seemingly-unnecessary viagra, and his twinkly abs…), ‘Blue Mountain State’- season 1 (raunchy sitcom about a trio of high school football stars who end up in the titular football powerhouse…and party school), Psych 9 (a young, unstable woman suspects the shady psychiatric hospital she’s employed in might not be one the up-and-up; costarring several people [Cary Elwes, Michael Biehn, Colleen Camp] who probably look away when this new addition to the Videoport horror section is brought up at parties), Jeff Beck’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Party (Jeff Beck plays the guitar. He’s pretty good at it. Other people who are also good at guitar are also in this. Playing guitar also. Enjoy…), ‘Intelligence’- season 2 (continuing Canadian series about an unlikely alliance between the organized crime unit and, well, organized crime), Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (the new, floppy-haired Doctor must play TARDIS of Christmas past with some sort of Space Scrooge to save the day), Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (documentary about the troubled musical genius and subject of the brilliant [and, shockingly, out of print 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould]), Burlesque (Cher and Christina Aguilera star in this PG-13 version of Showgirls, with Aguilera’s aspiring singer/dancer singing/dancing in Cher’s house of PG-13 sin.)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: Repo Chick (enduringly-cool cult director Alex Cox
has made a direct-to-DVD sequel to his legendary Repo Man; was such a course of action wise? Rent it and find out…), The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (the young, dimply Hugh Grant plays a fastidious English surveyor caught up in the quaint, colorful shenanigans of a remote Welsh village in this comedy everybody’s mom loves), Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (in the second really ungainly title of the week, this Wayans Brothers parody of all those movies it spells out clearly in the title; such is the level of humor within…), The Bad Mother’s Handbook (Twilight‘s Robert Pattinson stars in this dysfunctional family drama from 2007), Dog City (from the Jim Henson empire comes this TV series about a dog detective who fights canine crime in the titular poochy metropolis and can confer with his own animator in the real world; find it in the kids section at Videoport), ‘Downtown Abbey’ (did you miss ‘Upstairs Downstairs’? Well here’s a new BBC series about an early 20th century wealthy family and their army of servants), The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman’s version of the Mozart opera gets the full Criterion Collection treatment), The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (the infamous antics of the titular, legendarily-white-trashy family form the substance of this acclaimed documentary which Videoporters have been looking forward to for months), Summer Wars (new in the Videoport anime section…this thing!! I’m sure it exists!!! My internet is down!!!), The Chalk Garden (little Hayley Mills stars as a devious little girl who tries to get her succession of governesses to quit, much to the consternation of grandma Deborah Kerr), Bad Day to Go Fishing (in this new addition to the Film Movement collection, an alcoholic former wrestling/weightlifting champion and his conniving manager attempt to grift a living out of unsuspecting South American crowds), Megamind: The Button of Doom (hey, you know Megamind? Well here’s a little added adventure they threw in), When Night Is Falling (lengendarily-moving and sexy Canadian lesbian drama about a straight-laced professor falling for a traveling carnival performer; directed by the talented Patricia Rozema who made one of ‘my favorite movies that no one has ever seen’ I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, which you can rent from Videoport’s Comedy section…),
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Get Low, Faster.
Your Post-Oscar “What Else Did They Do?” Checklists
Best Supporting Actress Melissa Leo can be rented in:
-Venice/Venice (in Drama)
-‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ (in Mystery/Thriller)
-21 Grams (in Drama)
-Hide and Seek (in Mystery/Thriller)
-The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (in Drama)
-American Gun (in Drama)
-Stephanie Daley (in Drama)
-The Cake Eaters (in Comedy)
-Mr. Woodcock (in Comedy)
-Frozen River (in Drama)
-Righteous Kill (in Mystery/Thriller)
-Don McKay (in Mystery/Thriller)
-According to Greta (in Drama)
-Everybody’s Fine (in Drama)
-Welcome to the Rileys (in Drama)
-Conviction (in Drama)
Best Director Tom Hooper can be rented in:
-The Damned United (in Drama)
-‘John Adams’ (in Drama)
-Longford (in Drama)
-‘Elizabeth I’ (in Drama)
-Red Dust (in Drama)
-‘Prime Suspect 6’ (in Mystery/Thriller)