Volume CCCXXXVIII- The Fast and the Bi-Curious
(porn companies, please feel free to use that one…)
For the Week of 2/7/12
Videoport gives you a free movie every day. And, unlike that last Blockbuster in the area, we, you know, exist and stuff…
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 the later films of David Lynch (all in the Middle Aisle.) While your editor was out of town enporn joying a well-deserved evening watching the Footballdome*, I indulged in a one-woman David Lynch festival: Mulholland Dr., Inland Empire, and Lost Highway**. Lynch is a controversial director, beloved of some and reviled by others, and both factions cite his trademark non-linear, non-rational narrative flow, the confusingly fluid threads of story and character that weave up the uncanny fabric of his films. Me, I love it: watching one of these films feels like nothing so much as tapping into the unconscious. It’s like watching a dream — someone else’s dream! — play out on the screen before me. And like any dream, these are loaded with images and events, some meaningful, some nonsensical, some seemingly nonsensical but deeply meaningful. You can painstakingly tease out the meaning from the nonsense (um, mostly… maybe), but it isn’t necessary to become a discerning student of film to enjoy these films, any more than it’s necessary to study non-representational art to enjoy a Rothko. Just sit before it, soak in it — and fall into that world.
*That’s what it’s called, right? I grew up in Texas; evvvverything’s a something-dome.
**And if you’ve seen Lost Highway, you’re asking yourself what I asked myself: is it advisable to
watch the impossibly creepy few minutes of The Mystery Man (Robert Blake in an indelible performance) when you know you’re going to be alone all night… in the dark… in the deep deep dark? Yeeeeah, probably not as it turns out.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Dennis suggests Another Woman (in Classics.) Former Videoporter David M., who is currently wrapping up a chronological survey of all of Woody Allen films (as he’s done recently with Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa- how cool is Dave, by the way) expressed something close to outrage when informed that this mid-career Allen drama had been placed in the Classics section. “It’s from 1988!”, he cried, and not without reason. For one thing- that’s not very long ago. And for another, it’s a pretty well forgotten (some might say forgettable) piece of Woody-nation; a minor movement in the autumnal, increasingly-dour dramas the Woodman was turning to at the time (see: September, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Alice.) Well, sometimes I think Videoport’s owner and mastermind Bill will shift something that’s simply not renting into a new section of the store, no matter how tenuously it fits there, in order to try and rescue it from rental obscurity, so Classics it is.
And, watching the film, there’s some “classic” about it after all; in fact, I’d call it one of Allen’s most heartfelt, and certainly best acted, of the films he makes when he wakes up and decides that comedy is not an appropriate pursuit anymore. The plot’s a simple one (which cribs liberally from Bergman’s Wild Strawberries): Gena Rowlands plays a late middle-aged scholar who takes an apartment in order to work on her latest book free of distractions. While there, she realizes that the air vents in the old building allow her to hear, with convenient clarity, the sessions of a therapist downstairs. She listens, against her better judgement, to various patients, becoming enthralled by the tearful confessions of a suicidal, pregnant younger woman (Mia Farrow), whose recollections of her life and problems mirror Rowlands’, sending Rowlands mind back over her own history. It’s a creaky, hoary old structure, what with the too-convenient air vent device, some very literal dreams, and Woody’s ever-deepening penchant for the somewhat arch dialogue of wealthy New Yorkers over-explaining themselves, but Another Woman really works best as an actor’s playground, with Rowlands, Gene Hackman, Martha Plimpton, Betty Buckley, Harris Yulin, and David Ogden Stiers and John Houseman (both playing Rowlands’ father at different times) turning in precisely-observed and affecting performances. Rowlands (saddled with much of the aforementioned archness) is typically-fine; as a woman who has closed herself off from life in favor of a dry intellectualism, her journey might have given the late-career Woody some pointers to avoid, and there’s a heartbreaker of a dream scene between her and former almost-lover Hackman that has stuck with me for years. (Her line, “I think of you more than once in a while” is what does it…) Hackman, one of the few people in the film who seems to be visiting beige Woody-land from the outside world, is as alive and energetic onscreen as he’s ever been. (Buckley’s one scene,too, almost breaks the movie open, her naked emotion, suitably for the scene, jars everyone into dull silence.) As for Farrow, playing younger, she gets to really go for it, too- the fragile waif thing she’s done many times, of course, but, in her tearful, anguished therapy sessions, she gets to display an unaccustomed fire. Overall, Another Woman is mid-minor Allen- certainly better than the insufferably-insular dramas of the last decade or so (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger made me want to throw things; Melinda and Melinda just made me sad and tired), with a handful of exceptional performances. Oh, and it uses that one Erik Satie piano piece like a scalpel- possibly one of the most melancholy pieces of music ever.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental. OR, get four non-new releases for a week for seven bucks!)
>>>Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘In Treatment’ (in Feature Drama.)* Whew. This HBO drama (adapted, sometimes word-for-word, from Israeli series “Be Tupil”) centers around therapist Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne) and a few of his talk-therapy clients, with heavy emphasis on “talk.” Most dramas elide events and compress time so we cover days or weeks in a single hour; “In Treatment” instead plays out almost in real time — well, really half-time: each episode covers a 50-minute therapy session, compressing it into ~25 minutes. This creates an intense atmosphere: just two or three characters sitting in a room, facing their deepest anxieties and greatest hopes face-on. It’s an actor’s playhouse, packed with drama and humor and a trove of perfectly relatable, gut-wrenching little moments where we recognize ourselves and our own histories in these vastly different people. For me, the weekly highlight of Season 1 has been Paul’s mid-week sessions with Sophie (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre), a teenaged gymnast who arrives at her first session with casts on both arms after colliding with a car on her bike. She’s a perfectly crafted (and perfectly acted) character, so vivid and real, sometimes infuriating, sometimes heartbreaking, always loveable.
*Editor’s note: And, since the first season of ‘In Treatment’ is a full 9(!) discs long, this Wednesday deal (4 movies for a week for 7 bucks) is the perfect way to rent it. I’m just sayin’…
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>> Former Videoporter Stockman suggests PORN!(In the Porn Section.) It’s soon to be Valentine’s Day which means love is in the air. I can smell those delicious pheromones from here! So take a chance on some porn! That’s right, in case you didn’t know Videoport has a porn section, discreetly hidden behind the movies for sale up front across from the cube of registers. It’s okay, don’t be afraid! Videoporters have seen and heard it all, there’s no shame in renting some porn! And check it, you know every time you’ve been annoyed that we wouldn’t let your husband/wife/cousin/friend/cat/helper monkey/lamp rent on your account? Well, happy day, the same rule makes it so that we’re legally unable to tell ANYONE but you what you just rented! Videoporters will follow your lead, you want to make it a funny experience to diffuse your embarrassment? You want to make it a silent
serious subtle endeavor we never speak of again? You went to deflect with small talk about the other movie you’re renting to cover it up? Done and done! Maybe this is all too much for you, but you’ve always been intrigued, just take a gander for funsies! Just step in to say you did it! Or rent some of the more absurd options so that you have an anecdote to tell! Nothing makes a story better than referencing the myriad of Big Ass She-Male Adventures (yep, that’s real) or Girlverts (also real) in existence. There’s also the joys of a porn parody, truly the production value on Bitantic is impressive! Maybe that’ll help give you the courage to really explore the magic and wonder that is the Videoport porn alcove. I leave you with this, the greatest porn title to ever be: Every Nerds Big Boob Boat Butt Ride (I don’t think I could make that up, that puppy is as real as it gets).
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>You can just come in and get a free kids movie on Fridays, no other rental necessary. We think that is nice. You know- for kids!
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Former Videoporter Stockman suggests Blast From the Past(in Comedy.) This is one of the most tragic movies to recommend. It’s so depressing, because this movie is saddled with two leads that people tend to feel violently towards. Inevitably recommending this movie ends up
failing because of an intense hatred someone has for Brendan Fraser or Alicia Silverstone. Far too often, both! And I don’t blame you, for either. While I personally harbor them no ill will, I do understand completely where everyone is coming from in both cases. I won’t attack them, but I certainly won’t go out of my way to defend them. I’ll defend them mildly if I’m feelin’ it, but I’m not going to pull a rant muscle trying. Well, maybe Brendan Fraser a little, I just IMDB’d him and I forgot how many worthwhile ventures he’s been a part of (School Ties, Gods and Monsters, his guest spot on Scrubs, a bit role in Brain Candy, and I’m a personal fan of the under-appreciated Airheads. I’ve actually never seen Encino Man.) Anyway, the point being, if I could somehow be given a free pass for these type of stars, one movie where I could say I’m playing my “No, seriously” card and a person would have to try it. This would be my gem! It has so much going for it that’s good! Christopher Walken! Sissy Spacek! Dave Foley! The most endearing ridiculous plot! Of all the ridiculous, pointless, whole filled, implausibly impossible plots this one really is the number one most endearing. Basically Brendan Frasier is raised in a fallout shelter when his Dad Walken thinks there’s an atomic apocalypse. He emerges in the late nineties an ultra gentlemanly innocent with a barrage of talents honed 30 years. Those zany nineties never saw such a crazy sight! The magic is in the screenplay, so many golden re-watchable nuggets of zip and zing. I just IMDB’d the writer and guess what else he did, Enchanted! Everyone loves that damn movie. Maybe that’s my new ace in the hole to get you to watch it.
>>>For Sunday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Gods & Monsters (in Feature Drama.) I’ll second Stockman’s enthusiastic rec of Blast from the Past, a delightful little rom-com that is exactly what it’s trying to be and about three times better than I expected, and I’ll second her defense of Brendan Fraser with three little words: Gods and Monsters. Ostensibly a bio-pic of director James Whale
(master of high-class gothic horror including Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Invisible Man, and The Old Dark House), Gods and Monsters actually draws its story from a novel about Whale’s last years. Long retired from film-making and from the giddy Hollywood whirl, Whale (Sir Ian McKellan) finds himself drawn to his quiet, pleasant gardener, Boone (Brendan Fraser), and finds ways to draw the handsome young man into his world. McKellen was deservedly Oscar-nominated for his role as the dreamy, brooding James Whale, as was Lynn Redgrave* for her turn as Hanna, Whale’s housekeeper who dotes on and disapproves of him in equal measure. Some reviewers found Fraser mis-cast, but I think he’s a perfect choice: he presents as such a solid, stolid presence, suggesting that Whale’s growing infatuation and fantasies spring from his own imagination — and that solid, stolid calm leaves us all the more disquieted when it breaks. Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Chicago, Kinsey) knows what picture he’s presenting here; Fraser’s Boone, like Frankenstein’s monster, begins as a passive, plodding, harmless creature until he’s jolted through with the master’s electricity.
*who, as far as I can discern, is an OBE but not a Dame. Go figure.
New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘Downtown Abbey’- season 2 (ATTACK!!!!!!!!!!!!! I mean, for all you fans of this genteel British period drama, the new season comes out today, so…ATTACK!!!), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 1 (I think it’s about vampires of some sort? Maybe a mummy? I’m sure you guys know what you want…;[coming out on SATURDAY, 2/11!]), Anonymous(did you know that some people think that Shakespeare didn’t write his own plays and that some nobleman wrote them instead, since no one who wasn’t a rich
aristocrat could possibly have written things so sublime? And did you know that the guy who directed such brilliant, Shakespearean works as Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Independence Day is one of them? And that I’d sincerely like to find where that guy lives and give him a stern talking to about classism and all-out dumbass gullibility?), The Sunset Limited (Written by Cormac MCarthy [No Country for Old Men], this is basically a two-man play with Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee ones arguing about the existence of God, the nature of good and evil, and all that stuff; directed by Jones, written by McCarthy and with two certified cinematic badasses doing the acting- I’m in…), Outrage (director/star Beat Takeshi/Takeshi Kitano returns to his insanely-violent, undeniably-mesmerizing yakuza roots in this tale of old school Japanese gangsters teaching the new generation a few things about honor, loyalty, and being shot in the face), The Mill & the Cross (old pros Rutger Hauer, Charlotte Rampling, and Michael York star in this biopic about painter Pieter Bruegel’s creation of the titular painting), Restless (director Gus Van Sant [My Own Private Idaho, Mala Noche, Good Will Hunting] helms this quirky romance about a manic pixie dream girl and a funeral-loving guy who meet up to smooch, and discuss their meetings with a kamikaze ghost pilot; now that’s quirky…), The Elephant in the Living Room (does your neighbor have a dangerous wild animal for a pet? According to this gripping documentary, it’s way more common than you think…[see an interview Videoport’s Dennis did with the filmmaker HERE!]), Knuckle (you remember that Brad Pitt character in Snatch? Well this documentary follows real-life Irish Traveler bare-knuckle boxers, presumably with more-intelligible accents), Project Nim (amazing, heartbreaking documentary about a 1970s experiment to raise a baby chimpanzee as a human child), Rebound (comedy about Catherine Zeta-Jones romancing her younger neighbor, played by the dull guy from the Hangover movies), Steve Coogan Live (check the British Comedy section for this presumably-cringeworthy and hilarious live show from Coogan [Saxondale, The Trip, I’m Alan Partridge]), 3 (from Tom Tykwer [Run Lola Run, Winter Sleepers, Heaven] comes this saucy romance about a middle-aged couple who don’t [initially] realize that they’ve decided to spice up their lives by having an affair with the same hunky young dude), Janie Jones (Alessandro Nivola stars as a spoiled rock star on the fade who finds himself saddled with a teenage daughter [Abigail Breslin] he never knew he had; yeah, it does sound a lot like Somewhere, now that you mention it…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: A Rumor of War (from the acclaimed Vietnam book by Phil Caputo, this 1980 telefilm starring Brad Davis and Keith Carradine comes to you via Videoport owner Bill’s devious way with hard-to-find imports.)
New Arrivals on Blu-Ray this week at Videoport: Restless, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Bad-Part 1.