lloyd dobler, alright…

Say AnythingI know, we’ve all seen Say Anything so many times that there isn’t really any reason to comment on it. But I will anyway. Though to make it interesting, this time (admittedly the first in many, many years since I’ve watched it) we watched it with the Commentary (from Crowe, Cusack and Skye). it was only the third DVD I’ve watched the commentary on (the other two being This is Spinal Tap and Roger Ebert’s great commentary track on Dark City), and I thought it was alright, it felt very natural, like they really did enjoy making this movie and it is certainly worth sitting through if you are a fan of this movie, though I started to wonder how many times Skye was going to mention that if they hadn’t both been romantically attached during filming that they probably would have become so.

To me, this is the film that straddles the line between Cusack’s dorky teen comedies of the 1980’s (The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead) and his more mature roles of the 1990’s (The Grifters at least, though his delightful portrayal of Caspar the Food Pirate kind of invalidates that theory). Say Anything falls in here as a very serious comedy. Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut is one of those great films that is very funny, but not with the usual “cheap jokes a way as to make you laugh all the time” style, and is also very serious but not in a way that you feel like they are trying to be serious. The movie really just has a natural flow between ups and downs, all gravitating around John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler, who is also generally both up and down. It is the story of a very individual fellow, a dorky and very charmingly serious kickboxer who falls for a girl that most would considered out of his league and pursues her until, well maybe not the ends of the earth, but the ends of the movie at least. The love interest is, of course, Ione Skye, who portrays an uncomfortable “brainy beauty” just about as well as you could expect her too. She has an interesting role as she isn’t so much a major character as she is the pivot between John Cusack and John Mahoney’s great and touching portrayal of her obsessive and overly-protective father. There are many great and now iconic scenes (though I’ve never found the “In your eyes” scene to be that great) and everything really does work together well.

Say Anything

Say Anything also features a fun turn by Eric Stolz, a great, scene stealing role for Lili Taylor as Lloyd’s best friend Corey (certainly one of the key roles in the film, and most entertaining with her now infamous obsession with her ex-boyfriend Joe) and a very early appearance of Jeremy Piven.

build my gallows high, baby…

Out of the PastIf you are trying to survive a Noir film, doing so isn’t a case of watching out for your enemies, getting away with the dough or beating the cops in that car chase. The key move you need to make is to outsmart your Femme Fatale. If these guys could only see the ends of their movies, they’d snuff those broads the first time that they cross paths and the sad thing in these films is when the mark is too dim to even know that his girl has gone bad on him until its too late!

Luckily, in Out of the Past our lead fish isn’t that big of a fool. Robert Mitchum is Jeff Bailey, a once-detective, now gas station owner living a low-profile life (under a fake name, even) in an out of the way California town. When his old “friend” Joe wanders by the past comes calling… And not in a good way. See, years ago Jeff would do some work for the local kingpin about town, Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas!) and the last job that he did for him was to hunt down Whit’s girl Kathie (Jane Greer) and bring her back. Well, Jeff did hunt her down in Mexico, but he didn’t bring her back. In fact, he never came back either and, instead, he moved on to a new life and tried to leave his past behind. As we all know, those peaceful new lives can only last for so long, especially as this Joe fellow still works for good old Whit and says that he would like to see Jeff something fierce… So back into the past he steps.

Out of the Past

Out of the Past is a good Noir from 1947 directed by Jacques Tourneur (who earlier brought us Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie!) and it has all of the classic elements: missing money, a femme fatale, tough guys, murders, double-crossing, gunfire, fisticuffs and, most notably, an endlessly hard-boiled dialogue of smarmy one-liners! I thought it was better than most Noirs that I’ve seen and, though the dialog did seem a bit much in the early scenes, the story kept me involved from start to finish.

Out of the Past

either wide awake or way too drunk…

Rock And Roll Won't WaitHow about a film about the Murder City Devils? While I have quite a liking for this band, I didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect from a movie about them. here was Rock & Roll Won’t Wait, and I just had to see. It turns out to be not so much a documentary but rather a tour diary of sorts or, better yet, a home movie that gives them a lot of chances to talk about themselves. Rock & Roll Won’t Wait is filled with a lot of “backstage” moments, live footage and then the guys in the band talking about being in the band.

I didn’t really find it that interesting. And of course there is a bit of the pat old stuff… “we’re not in it for the money, who joins a punk band for the money”, “we don’t have tattoos to be part of the tattoo thing”. They do just ooze that Seattle Rock/Punk hip look in their appearance, and while I don’t take issue with what they are saying, it just seems like it should go unsaid and stating it makes it sound a bit defensive.

Regardless, it is a short movie (under an hour) and a nice document of a great band… And a great live band, though that doesn’t really come across in the footage here. When I saw them Spencer seemed almost too drunk to stand up, but it was a hell of a show.

Starting Out In The EveningAlso, we watched Starting out in the Evening. A good movie, mainly due to Frank Langella (yes, Dracula [or for the kids out there, Skeletor]). Frank plays a retired Literature professor who is also an old and ailing “literary novelist”. He had published a number of novels many years back, all of which are basically unknown and out of print and he is quietly living and working on his most recent novel (10 years in the making). Suddenly he is approached by a young graduate student (Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under) who wants to write her master thesis on his work and hopes to revitalize his career. She becomes quite the pest, trying to insert herself into his closed off world, analyze aspects of his life that he doesn’t want to talk about and basically become a bit much for an old fellow to handle.

Though Lily Taylor (as his daughter) and Lauren did good jobs, I found both of their characters to be somewhat annoying. Frank Langella was certainly the meat of the movie, not only did he do a really great and moving job with this character, but I found the character very compelling. I really loved his dedication to his art and with all of the pop fiction crap that is out now, it is nice to see a movie that is basically a homage to the (seemingly) dead art of literary fiction.

simultaneously horrified and fascinated…

Hamlet 2Based on a silly and fun looking preview that we saw this weekend, we ended up netflixing an odd little film called Hamlet 2. This nutty comedy is the story of a failed actor with stars in his eyes who has become a rather failed (and quite frustrated) drama teacher in a high school in Tuscon. He is rather an odd duck, always with a short-temper, a flair for the dramatic, traveling by roller skate and faltering at the “family” thing with terribly and wonderfully caustic wife. In all of this, the major trauma for him and his class of two devoted students seems to be the continually terrible reviews of their plays by the drama critic of the school newspaper. But this erratic little scene gets a life-altering shake-up when, due to school program cutbacks, a the class is suddenly filed with a mob of seemingly street-wise toughs who are completely disinterested. As they are quite nonchalant about the drama class it works to inspire his desire to make something of himself, so he tries to taken on the role of being the acting teacher who will inspire to try and get the class to create something great.

Hamlet 2

Working in desperation to save his program and also satisfy his creative needs by doing a play that is both original and big, he sets out to write and produce Hamlet 2! That being somewhat of a combination of Grease, Hamlet and Jesus Christ superstar, which features: Jesus and Hamlet in a time machine (the plot device to make up for the all of the lead Hamlet characters dying in Hamlet), the Gay Men’s Chorus of Tuscon, topics unfit for decent company, lots of dancing and the classic tune “Rock me Sexy Jesus”. Anyway, it is a ridiculous comedy that is irreverent, un-pc, completely and quite entertaining and has some seriously funny moments. In the midst of that, they manage to be crude, crass and make fun of just about everyone (though support everyone at the same time). Keep in mind that it was written by Pam Brady, who also did writing for: Team America, South Park & South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut… And it shows.


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