Back in the early 90′s my friend Lucy had (or so I recall) a videotape of a Russ Meyer movie. I’d never seen one (and in fact, was only vaguely familiar with who he was) so one day we got around to watching it and I wasn’t terribly impressed. The movie was a rather silly and corny one and I had a hard time really paying attention after a half hour or so. Now, after many years and many Russ Meyer movies, I find that I still think that I have a hard time rally giving it my full attention. But, as my RM project must proceed, I watched it again on classic, washed VHS quality dvd. This film is, of course, Motor Psycho!
While it has a classic name and is by the Great RM, I would certainly say it is a mixed bag. Yes, low production values… filmed almost entirely out of doors, washed out and the feeling that someones vision exceeded their pocket book. But that is pretty much on par with all of these things. While half of the story is campy and serious that the movie somewhat redeems itself, in between it does get a bit dull.
Motor Psycho is the story of Brahmin, Slick and Dante, three young toughies driving their motorcycles across the desert to Vegas. Well sort of, though they’ve got the groovy lingo (don’t wig out man, I’m hip), they drive mopeds and have a transistor radio and are rather unconvincing in their appearance.
While they are gallivanting across the desert looking both harmless and obnoxious, they come across a couple out fishing and sunbathing and we learn that, appearances aside, they are seriously out to rape and pillage. These poor folks are just the first of a string of couples who they menace in a most serious fashion.
As might be expected, their actions incur the ire of some of the survivors of these meetings and so Alex Rocco (yes, Moe Greene) and Haji (yes, the Haji) set off in pursuit. While they are exciting cast members to have on the screen, the movie is a bit light on the usual suspects of RM’s films. Though, to make up for it, there is even a cameo by the man himself!
So yes, another Russ Meyer story of sex, sin and the bad folks who are out to cause troubles to the good folks of the world. Lacking the montages, narration and nudity that are somewhat the calling cards of early Russ Meyer films, it is still an alright film, though somewhat more of a standard 1960′s “youth gone wild” type of film.
And, as one might expect, this joy ride doesn’t end well for anyone involved…
Ah yes, the Coen Brothers… I had always been one of those fans who saw all of their movies, as among those films number two of my all time favorites (Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink) and one of my favorite somewhat-guilty pleasures (the Big Lebowski). But the last 10 years or so, it hasn’t seemed quite as necessary. Though I did think that No Country For Old Men was good, I had started to lose my interest with the release of O Brother, Where Art Thou (while I thought the soundtrack was quite good, I was not fond of the casting of George Clooney and the movie just seemed a bit flat to me). And The Man who wasn’t there? Well, I thought that was a bit dull and unmemorable. On the basis of those two movies and the two following movies seeming a bit too Hollywood (though I haven’t seen them), I no longer felt the need to see all of their movies. Then, last year, due to a profusion of interesting movie posters and an entertaining trailer, I decided that I wanted to check out Burn After Reading. It took quite a while, but we finally netflixed it and ended up watching it last night. It was just the sort of movie I needed, both dramatic and funny, light but dryly serious, and predictable but with some fun surprises. And really quite entertaining.
Anyway, Burn After Reading is the story of how some government people and some gym employees come together with generally disastrous results: John Malkovich (recently departed from the CIA) and his wife (who is having an affair with…), George Clooney (a treasury agent) all end up tangling with Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt who play two workers at a local gym looking to make some money. It all starts when Osbourne Cox quits the CIA and decides to write his memoirs, which will be filled filled with details of his CIA analyst life. Unfortunately, some marital issues and some lack of care lead to a CD-Rom of some of his spy details getting out into the world and into the hands of the staff at the local gym. Two of those people decide that they can turn this “sensitive shit” into some easy money. Of course, as it is a black comedy of sorts, rather than easy money they find themselves falling into a web of murder, deception, infidelity (oh so many, all around and interwoven), surveillance, internet dating and mass confusion. Though I thought it started off somewhat slow, at the halfway mark or so it really picked up and threw in some great and surprising violence… And you come to easily understand what they meant in the rating when they state “Pervasive language”… That rating could just be for Malkovich’s relentlessly hostile dialogue alone.
But Malkovich is great as the “always on the verge of great anger” CIA analyst who feels that he has suffered fools for far too long and won’t let them get him down anymore, Brad Pitt as the brainless gym trainer whose big dreams set the train rolling, the always grand Frances McDormand as the gym employee seeking happiness through plastic surgery and internet dating and, of course, George Clooney as the self-obsessed, irresponsible and philandering treasury agent who hasn’t fired his gun in twenty years on the job. One of my favorite aspects though is the portrayals of the officers at CIA headquarters once they start following what is going on, J K Simmons especially has an entertaining character who always has intriguing suggestions for solving all of these problems..
As an addition, as it is somewhat movie related. I suffered a foolish DVD loss in the move out to the east coast. As 7 months have now gone by and I am convinced that no resolution is coming, I put together a page about it… So if you want to read the pitiful details, look here at: Lost causes.
Idly spending the holiday morning coffee time, we were looking at the glorious 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die when it occurred to Caitlin that we should see how many of the movies listed in it that each of us had seen. For those who remember in the way back, Caitlin and I have a number of times got involved in a project to watch movies in an organized fashion. Primarily going through the AFI 100 Greatest Films list. While we certainly didn’t finish that project, it did establish in us the idea of watching movies in an organized fashion, also a way for each of us to see movies that the other likes but that we might not otherwise be inclined to watch (and it also led to the creation of this web log, as there were so many movies that I either wasn’t sure if I had seen or not, or didn’t remember anything about).
Anyway, we’ve always enjoyed this book (and 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, which we don’t actually own) so it was fun to go through it from beginning to end. The movies are listed in chronological order and we have the Revised Edition from 2005 so the newest entries are from 2004. The really old movies we didn’t do so good on and we both somewhat blew it on the great foreign films. Regardless, I had a nice lead at first and Caitlin’s theory that she would catch up when we got to the 1980′s didn’t come to fruition… But then the 90′s came along and she jumped into the lead. The final toll? Ashley 325 and Caitlin 350… And the feeling from both of us that maybe we should start getting back into watching movies regularly (instead of just The Wire).
For some end results: the most surprising entries (on the good surprise side) were The Quiet Earth and Five Deadly Venoms, my worst run was the silent era (as I have only seen 3 of the first thirty movies listed in the book), my best run was a stretch of 1979 in which I had seen 12 consecutively listed movies (Alien, Breaking Away, The Tin Drum, All That Jazz, Being There, Kramer vs Kramer, Life of Brian, Apocalypse Now, the Jerk, The Muppet Movie, Manhattan, Mad Max) and yes, I was once again reminded that I am probably the only person who has never seen Raging Bull.