Volume CCCLXXVI- The Votening
For the Week of 10/30/12
Videoport says it only takes a few minutes to vote, and we’re open for 13 hours a day. So go and vote- we’ll be here.
Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!
>>> Dennis suggests using the 3 movies for a week for 7 bucks deal to load up with these solid political-type thrillers, just in time for election day! The Contender (in Mystery Thriller) has a great performance by the always-dignified Joan Allen who, as a potential vice presidential nominee is subjected to some especially undignified smear campaigning from, among others, Gary Oldman’s slimily-evil Republican creep. Bonus points for the idea of Jeff Bridges as the president, loss of points for a particularly silly plot twist. City Hall (in Drama) is an overlooked political drama where NYC mayor Al Pacino bombastically rules his city with charisma, political connections, and perhaps some shady dealings while his right hand man John Cusack (in one of his best overlooked roles) tries to maintain his belief in hizzoner’s honor. A stunning Pacino scene at the funeral of a child. ‘Parks and Recreation’- season 4 is a great series that just keeps getting better, with Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, an idealistic bureaucrat in the small town of Pawnee, Indiana, representing all that’s good (and more than a little silly) in the American character. In season 4, Leslie’s lifelong dream of running for office becomes a reality as she runs for city council against the peerlessly clueless rich offspring of the town’s richest family (Paul Rudd has never been better). Leslie’s journey is hilarious, and incredibly insightful about the political process, without ever becoming preachy, and the debate episode is simply one of the funniest (and ultimately most moving) half hours of TV you’ll see this year. Silver City (in Drama) follows the stumbling-upwards political campaign of the wealthy son of a powerful family (the great Chris Cooper) as he, aided immeasurably by the political operatives hired by his family to prevent the discovery that he is a dimwit, ascends toward the presidency. From director John Sayles [see Matewan], any similarities between the lead character and George W. Bush are entirely intentional.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!
>>>Emily S. Customer suggests The Manchurian Candidate (in Classics.) Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) should be on top of the world. He’s returned from the war in Korea, where his platoon was taken prisoner. Based on grateful testimony from his fellow soldiers and Captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), Raymond was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in battle. He’s the scion of a privileged family; his stepfather is a prominent senator and his mother, the epitome of steely elegance, is the woman behind the man. His friendship with the girl next door is blossoming promisingly, and even his mother approves. As his fellow soldiers keep saying, “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.” So why is Ray so confused and downcast? In director John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate, nothing is quite as it seems. Senator Iselin (James Gregory) is an anti-Communist zealot, a buffoon who’s roundly mocked in Washington. Eleanor Iselin, Ray’s chilly and distant mother, is a single-minded political advisor, controlling and commanding her loudmouthed husband as his cool-headed in-house advisor. And Ray’s war buddies are starting to have nightmares… about him. Don’t let its crisp black-and-white cinematography fool you; The Manchurian Candidate is as fresh and chilling today as it was in 1962. In the opening scene, when Capt. Marco wakes up from a nightmare, you can almost feel the sweat as it drips from his brow; you can almost smell the stale reek of desperation permeating his apartment, piled with political-intrigue books and heaping ashtrays. This is one of Sinatra’s greatest roles and he delivers to the hilt. Marco is not just disturbed but disturbing; his agitation leaps across the screen to infect us, overcoming the audience’s natural resistance to his paranoid intensity and creating an uncomfortable empathy in us. The film furthers this unease by swinging potently between sweaty anxiety and cool dramatic irony, and by presenting us with jarring moments of disconnect where characters speak in seeming riddles. In one such scene, Capt. Marco meets a girl named Rosie (Janet Leigh) on the train, and the two carry on one of the oddest little conversations in movie history. Frankenheimer’s framing and the abbreviated narrative arcs keep us on our toes, guessing what twists and turns the next moment will hold even as we make sense of the moment we’re in.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!
>>>Dennis suggests Primary Colors(in Comedy.) This political dramedy should have just made me sad/annoyed. Based on Anonymous’ (aka Joe Klein)’s thinly-veiled satire on the first Clinton campaign, it also stars John Travolta whom I have come to avoid in all forms. The ads for the film almost ensured I wouldn’t see it; lots of fat jokes, womanizing jokes, and lots and lots of Travolta as Southern governor Jack Stanton, the donut-eating, broad-banging Democratic candidate for president. Yeah- sounds like a grim,
shallow, mean-spirited parade of easy jokes. However, in the hands of comedy legends Mike Nichols (director) and Elaine May (screenwriter), and a cast including Emma Thompson, Kathy Bates, Billy Bob Thornton, Maura Tierney, Larry Hagman, Tony Shalhoub, and a remarkable young British actor named Adrian Lester, Primary Colors is, instead, one of the savviest, funniest, and most insightful films about the American political process I’ve ever seen. As little use as I have for Travolta, his performance here is astonishingly effective, his Jack Stanton, a populist underdog with bottomless charisma and unfathomably low impulse control, as complex and intelligent as the actual man he’s oh-so-loosely based on. The whole film hinges on Travolta’s ability to convey the near-sociopathic combination of idealism, manipulation, media-savvy, and ruthlessness that’s been the dispiritingly necessary cocktail for every triumphant presidential candidate since the invention of television, and dammit if he doesn’t knock it out of the park. It’s an Oscar-worthy performance, and it’s matched by at least three other members of the ensemble. As Susan Stanton, Jack’s ambitious, long-suffering would-be first lady, Emma Thompson (clearly the best actor in the film) is characteristically brilliant, bringing a credible American accent and some nimble willful-ignorance to her role. Susan and Jack, in love with politics and ambition as much as with each other, have fashioned themselves into a White House-seeking power couple, both employing selective blindness to the faults in their relationship as they pursue their shared goal. Kathy Bates just destroys every scene as the Stanton’s longtime friend and political operative, the enduringly-idealistic and unstable Libby Holden, whose return to the Stanton fold (in order to sweep some of Jack’s most recent indiscretions under the rug), points up the inherent contradictions in the political process, and Bates’ ability to play heartbreak. And Lester, like Thompson another Brit playing flawless American, is the perfect center for the film; as the young idealistic advisor, charmed into joining the Stanton campaign by Jack, Lester’s our representative. It’s through his hopeful (but not naive) eyes that we view the machinations of the political system and its too-often distasteful and soul-crushing realities, and his journey becomes ours. Not giving anything away, but his last, silent scene (the last scene in the movie) says more about politics than any amount of well-meaning speechifying. If you’re counting, that’s four Oscar-worthy supporting performances (it really is an ensemble). And if you want to throw in Billy Bob’s turn as a conspicuously James Carville-esque campaign manager, and/or Hagman’s role as a late-comer Stanton challenger with secrets, I wouldn’t argue at all. Sure, we’re all f***ing exhausted by the petty nonsense, bigot-baiting, and outright lowest denominator pandering of this election season (screw you, Republican Party, by the way), but Primary Colors offers a shockingly complex and moving take exactly why that is.
Thrifty Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!
>>>Dennis suggests Matewan(in Drama.) Presented in this election season without further comment. In this superlative historical drama from maverick American independent auteur John Sayles about a coal miner’s strike in 1920’s West Virginia, national labor organizer Joe Kenehan (an early role from the ever-brilliant Chris Cooper) is addressing the beleaguered striking miners of the local union. After they’ve
insulted Few Clothes (leader of the unintentional scab negro workers brought in to replace them, played by the obviously-awesome James Earl Jones), Kenehan slaps his union brethren down: “You think this man is the enemy? Huh? This is a worker! Any union keeps this man out ain’t a union, it’s a goddam club! They got you fightin’ white against colored, native against foreign, hollow against hollow, when you know there ain’t but two sides in this world – them that work and them that don’t. You work, they don’t. That’s all you get to know about the enemy.” Again, presented without comment- except to say vote. Just vote.
Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!
>>> Dennis suggests Schoolhouse Rock. There’s a whole disc just called Election Rock! Your kid will know how a bill becomes a law!
Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests Bulworth (in Comedy.) In the “brass balls as big as pumpkins” category, you’ve got to give it up to writer/director/star Warren Beatty for his decision to dress in a track suit and rap in this 1998 political satire. Wait- don’t run away! As longtime senator J. Billington Bulworth, Beatty is, at the start, a portrait of the middle of the road, accomplish nothing career politico; deeply entrenched, reliant on big money contributors, and almost entirely focused on remaining elected at all costs. And it’s killing him. Literally. As the movie begins, Bulworth, driven to despair by what he’s become, has a gun in his mouth. Unable to pull the trigger, he instead hires a hitman to take him out before election day. Thus freed from responsibility, Bulworth embarks on an increasingly bizarre series of campaign appearances, peppering his blandly inoffensive stump speeches with profanely honest appraisals of what is actually wrong with America and politicians’ sound-bite-friendly glibness. Meeting up with a young, radical black woman (Halle Berry is actually good), and some even more radical African American gang members (led by the ever-brilliant Don Cheadle), recklessly-truthful Bulworth starts, yes, incorporating a stream of consciousness rap flow into his speeches, culminating in a TV talk show appearance which is one of the most breathtakingly audacious scenes I’ve ever seen. As much as I love a lot of his movies (McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Parallax View, Heaven Can Wait, Shampoo), I’ve never been the biggest fan of Beatty as an actor. As accomplished as he is as an actor and director I’ve always kept a certain distance, and the concept of this millionaire white guy megastar rapping for satirical purposes sounds just ghastly, but look at the scene where Bulworth, decked out in street gear, hijacks a live TV appearance, his caustically sensible singsong delivery of the unsaid truths of the election season making the talking head host more and more unsettled. It’s truly mesmerizing, and Beatty’s finest onscreen moment. Cynical, idealistic, and, yes, ballsy, Bulworth is one of the best political satires ever.
>>>For Sunday, Former Videoporter Stockman says- In honor of the season I offer you this triple feature to take a break from the stronger spirits of Halloween you are no doubt imbibing. Well, a break for you, Joe T. Average Renter, who I assume can handle a traditional horror story…unlike yours truly. I get scared when people describe the plot of a scary movie, let alone if I ever actually watch one. So, if you’d like something seasonal, but need a break from wetting yourself in terror I present: the three most ridiculous examples of things that have scared me! In order from least to most ridiculous. My fear of Monster Squad gets the least ridiculous spot solely because I was still young. Monster Squadis obviously not scary any longer. It really should never have been scary. It is not a scary movie, it’s ridiculous. At the time though it was my first PG-13 movie and I think I was like 6 or 7. And I was terrified. And confused because I had no idea what a “virgin” was. It just seemed like a really important made up word. For my second selection, know this, in general I try to avoid shows with even the vaguest undertones of spookiness. Some shows are impossible to
resist despite this. Psych is just such a show, I adore the chemistry and banter between Shawn and Gus far too much to refrain from it. I just don’t watch any episodes before bed since most episodes are all murdery, but I should have probably not watched “Tuesday the17th” from Season 3 at all. I thought I would be safe watching this with my cousin to help protect my fragile psyche! I should know better. I spent well over two weeks sleeping with the light on and begging people to sleep over so I wouldn’t be alone. I still can’t think about it without getting the heebee jeebies. Last and the absolutely least scary thing to ever scare me, Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror episodes! So many to choose from. I’m not even giving myself credit for the fact that they only scared me specifically around Halloween and only when I was a teenager constantly left alone in an old house in the creepy-quaint-village-waiting-for-a-serial-killer-and/or-zumba-prostitute of Kennebunkport. No, there is no excuse for being terrified of the Simpsons. I think my personal favorite is definitely Treehouse of Horror III. It’s not a decision I make lightly! But, my love of “Dad, we did something very bad!”, “Did you wreck the car?”, “No”, “Did you raise the dead?”, “Yes”, “But the car’s okay?”, “Uh-huh”, “All right then.” Is a force to be reckoned with!
New Releases this week at Videoport: The Campaign (if there’s a surer-fire pitch for a comedy, “Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis running against each other in a political campaign” then I don’t know it; it’s pretty funny…), ‘Copper’- season 1 (a play-by-his-own-rules cop (-per) in filthy, turn of the century New York, um, plays by his own rules in this BBC America series), ‘Metalocalypse’- season 4 (the dunderheaded, head-banging adventures of the world’s most popular, violence-inducing metal band continues in this bats*it-insane animated comedy series from the guy who created the still-excellent [and significantly less violent] series Home Movies), Safety Not Guaranteed (indie goodness about an investigative team who investigates the personal ad of a guy [‘The League’’s Mark Duplass] looking for a companion to travel back in time with him; costarring ‘Parks and Recreation’’s Aubrey Plaza), First Position (harrowing, sometimes inspirational documentary about aspiring ballet dancer types), Ruby Sparks (an aspiring writer [Paul Dano] is understandably nonplussed when he finds his newest creation, the titular manic pixie dream girl, sitting on his couch one day when he gets home), Reef 2: High Tide (deep breath…if a crappy-looking Finding Nemo animated knockoff featuring vocal performances by the likes of Rob Schneider, Andy Dick, Jamie Kennedy, and a Jonas Brother sounds great to you then, well, we love you anyway), Elena (from the Russian director of The Return comes this acclaimed thriller about a mundanely married housewife who hatches a darkly-intricate plan when she discovers she’s been cut out of her wealthy husband’s will), Polisse (sort of a serio-comic French SVU, this foreign language dramedy follows the dedicated men and women of the Parisian child protective squad), The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (oddly touching documentary about the years-long journey of former Throbbing Gristle frontman Genesis P-Orridge and dominatrix/performance artist Lady Jaye as they attempt to transform themselves into exact replicas of each other), Bindlestiffs (dark indie comedy about three high school guys who, unjustly suspended, set out on a quest to act out The Catcher in the Rye), The Girl From The Naked Eye (a driver for an escort service [Jason Yee] goes on one of those roaring rampages of revenge when his friend, a young prostitute, is murdered), Secret of the Wings (it’s a Tinkerbell movie! You know- for kids!), ‘Lost Girl’- season 1 (supernatural action series about a sexy succubus who rebels against her society’s rigid rules and tries to help the helpless and find love, without draining everyone she meets of their life energy), Becoming Chaz (documentary about the journey of Sonny and Cher’s daughter Chastity as she becomes her own man), ‘Upstairs Downstairs’- season 2 (the 2010 update of the classic British series continues! Calling all Downton Abbey fans!), ‘Star Wars Clone Wars’- season 4 (the animated adventures of the Star Wars prequels continue to be better than the actual movies themselves)
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: House of Dark Shadows (just in time to cash in on the middling Johnny Depp/Tim Burton cash-in comes this reissue of the TV movie based on the long-running, Maine-set, not very good vampire soap opera), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (finally a DVD release for this 1962 version of the Eugene O’Neill play starring Katherine Hepburn, Jason Robards, and Dean Stockwell), In Love and War (can you picture Chris O’Donnell as the young Ernest Hemingway? Well someone could, and this WWI romance between Hemingway and nurse Sandra Bullock exists because of that), Fear and Desire (Stanley Kubrick’s long-lost first film has been restored, and Videoport brings this poetic war movie to you! PS- Kubrick hated his own film and urged you not to see it, but you’re not gonna be bossed around by a dead guy are you?)
New Arrivals on Blu Ray this week at Videoport: Erin Brockovich, Secret of the Wings, The Campaign, Night Watch, In Bruges, and every single James Bond movie ever!