Cameron Crowe's film about groupies, Lester Bangs, and learning to ROCK in the '70s.
The Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society), using nothing but a 16mm camera and their unadulterated obsessions, document the Black American Pimp: the Blaxploitation hero/cultural caricature of our often-hysterical, sexed-up society. Winner of last year's Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack
The story of Ramblin' Jack serves only as a canvas upon which to explore a more complex, more compelling fable: that of his largely forsaken daughter Aiyana Elliott, the film's director.
Best in show
A dog show docu-parody from the makers of Waiting for Guffman.
Bless the Child
Why is the fate of the universe always left to adorable six-year old kids? Director Mace Neufeld's attempt to recapture the chilling ambiance that he produced in the "The Omen" is a tough row to hoe, especially with super-ho' Kim Basinger playing a recovering Catholic who, in the midst of an all-out war between good, evil, the Messiah and the Devil, has the audacity to question her faith. Why not just worry about your nails, Kim? Still, in spite of Basinger's annoying navel gazing, there are some gripping plot twists and pretty cool special effects to boot.
Bring it On
High school cheerleaders must endure endless practices and bikini waxes to compete in the national championships!
Broken Heart's Club
Broken Heart's Club = Your typical Romantic Comedy + lots of gay men -- hetero sex scenes.
* But I'm a Cheerleader
Director Jamie Babbitt's feature debut may be a bit forced, but Natasha Lyonne as a cheerleader thought to be lesbian, is both believable and charming. Lyonne is sent to a homosexual rehabilitation camp run by RuPaul and Cathy Moriarty, and learns the valuable lesson that sexual orientation isn't as cut and dried as one might think. (Wm. Steven Humprey)
* The Cell
The whole movie smacks of Alice in Wonderland, yet relies on the founding images of Catholicism; at one point Jennifer Lopez appears as Virgin Mary, ready to kill the evil beast with her enormous sword. Unfortunately, Lopez and her co-star Vince Vaughn remain true to the same, paper-thin characters they always play; beautiful, compassionate, out to save the world, blah, blah, blah. But the movie is undoubtedly worth seeing anyway--just think of them as background. (Katia Dunn))
A hard-hitting tale of an Indian American lesbian up against the momentum of three millennia of Indian culture. Reena is a lesbian biker/tattoo designer who lives a "fuck you" lifestyle in stark contrast to that of her more conventional sister. When Reena is asked to make a profound sacrifice, she is hurled into the never-never land where personal choice wrestles with family loyalty.
In this Hollywood version of the Lewinsky affair (with the Clinton character recast as a woman), the Democrats make all the great speeches you wish they'd made during the 104th Congress and the Republicans are as simply evil and as plainly hypocritical as you wish they were. The first hour of the movie--featuring murders, behind-the-scenes White House meetings, strong arm politicking, and secret memos--is actually a blast, but once the the trite sermonizing kicks in (Democrats are pro-choice!) you'll start wishing they'd just cut to more footage of the sex scandal. (Josh Feit)
Mike Hodges' 1998 masterpiece Croupier makes a convincing case that a sleazy and specialized profession--in this case, the guy who rolls the ball and collects the chips at a roulette table--is a perfect metaphor for existential malaise. (Sean Nelson)
* Dancer in the Dark
Lars von Trier's new film may be an self-absorbed intellectual trainwreck, but Bjork is fucking awesome! See review this issue.
Dances for a Small Screen
Filmmakers and dancers choreographed this cinematic blossom specifically for the camera. Also showing: Bella Figura, a film version of the 1995 Jiri Kylian ballet, and Dune Dance, showing the weird juxtaposition of sand-propped, ballet improv.
The DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGOISIE
One of Buñuel's most loved works, this classic follows four inept dinner guests endlessly trying to stage a sit-down meal. All of Buñuel's obsessions wind up on the invitation in this consistently brilliant, very funny film. (Jamie Hook)
DR. T AND THE WOMEN
Richard Gere as a gynecologist? Ewwwwwww!
Perhaps one of the greatest and grossest (with the largest amount of vomit per square foot of film ever) movies in recent decades, this 1973 thriller sparked in-theatre hysteria and a new genre of psychological thrillers.
Sly Stallone stars as a New York mob enforcer who travels to LA for his brother's funeral. When he discovers that his brother has been murdered, Sly sets off to take revenge on the people responsible. By the way, you can place a bid on the goatee Stallone is sporting in this "brilliant" film on eBay. No shit!
In Brooklyn's Red Hook district, punchy Diana wants nothing more than to kick some ass in the ring, but nasty Daddy poo-poos the idea. It's an interesting, moving story with a bunch of crappy sub-plots seeping in to ruin the whole thing.
The Gold Rush
Charlie Chaplin's 1925 classic, with a live score by Austin's jazzy vaudevillians, the Asylum Street Spankers.
The Ladies Man
Poor Tim Meadows. He stuck around long after the last talented SNL cast member cashed in and went home and still finished behind latecomers Molly Shannon, Chris Kattan, and Will Ferrell in the SNL 90-minute sketch sweepstakes. Now it's his turn to expand a paper-thin premise that made four minutes seem like an hour into a feature film.
Le Dames du Bois de Boulogne
Bresson's film about a scorned woman (Maria Casares) seeking revenge by luring her ex into a marriage with a hooker. Damn, those French are nasty!
Right on the heels of The Exorcist's re-release comes this pale imitation of a diabolical thriller, starring Ben Chaplin as an unwitting Antichrist and Winona Ryder as the black-eyed, whispery mope who must convince him of his impending demonic possession. The few moments of suspense toward the end don't make up for the dull, plodding, wreck of a script, and it would take a superhuman suspension of disbelief to swallow the ridiculous plot lines ("SEX" spelled backwards equals 666?). You'll be wishing the devil would just hurry up and take you long before the film's "day of reckoning" arrives.
A Man Escaped
Stark, cold, existential Bresson film about being a prisoner and escapism, both literally and figuratively. Makes you wish you could still smoke cigarettes and chug whiskey in movie theaters.
* Meet the Parents
Jewish complications ensue when Ben Stiller meets the pop of his new g-friend, Robert DeNiro.
Night and the City
No, not the so-so 1992 Robert DeNiro flick, but the original 1950 touchstone of film noir. An elusive classic, the movie was taken out of circulation for decades by its studio and handed around to film buffs like premium heroin. Richard Widmark plays a winsome hustler whose brains are not quite big enough for his ambitions. Working as a caller for a slimy nightclub, Widmark romances the boss' wife, lynchpins cons and otherwise stays on the run through the bawdy post-World War II streets of London.
Betty (Renèe Zellweger), a diner waitress, settles comfortably into a thick confusion after accidentally witnessing her sleazy drug-dealer husband's murder. She instantly blocks out reality, and drives to Los Angeles in pursuit of her favorite soap-opera character, whom she believes is her long-lost true love. On paper, this sounds great--onscreen it's surprisingly disappointing. After watching these relentless caricatures strut around for 112 minutes, it's difficult to keep caring, and to keep rooting for Betty in earnest. (Min Liao)
Our House in Havana
In Stephen Olsson's documentary, Silvia Morini returns to her native Cuba after 38 years of living in America to discover what havoc the Revolution might have wreaked upon the life of her memory. Also showing is I Was Born a Black Woman, which chronicles Benedita da Silva's youth in poverty through her election to the Brazilian senate.
The latest documentary from the makers of the incredible The Celluloid Closet, this documentary tells the tale of gay men who were persecuted by the Nazis. Their stories are a still unheard voice in history. Narrated by Rupert Everett.
Radical Film Fest
The Cross Border Labor Organizing Coalition (CBLOC) presents these films every Thursday. This week, see Tiempo de Victoria, which consists of FMLN propaganda from El Salvador's civil war. Also, figure out what the hell to do when existing political parties provide nothing beneficial to...well...virtually anybody who's not rich, white, and between the ages of 28 and 45, by watching Protest in LA: Unmasking the 2000 Democratic Convention.
Remember the Titans
Denzel Washington coaches a bi-racial high school football team. Will they win the big game? Or more importantly, will they have any nudie locker room scenes?
We've seen this movie before: A British fishing village, a lot of friendly villagers, the local pub, and a big plan that involves flouting the law in a relatively benign way but leads to an extended situation comedy. (Monica Drake)
Smiling Fish & Goat on Fire
If you liked Party of Five, you'll love this film! Two real-life brothers play cinematic siblings in an ain't life challenging movie. Somewhat more sophisticated than an afterschool special, the plot is textured with jokes smarter than your average frat boy. The real treat: the art of the filmmaking itself. Tutored by Martin Scorsese, the Martini brothers (yes, their real names) are sharp filmmakers. If you can sit through the boy-meets-girl, must-learn-to-share-with-brother plot, it is worth the price to watch two rising directors.
Solomon and Gaenor
Wales has long been a cinematic parasite on Britain--until this film. Set randomly in 1911, this atmospheric tale of Welsh anti-semitism shines a light on the long neglected history of racism in a country otherwise known for its strange cuisine and prodigious output of challenging, mixed-verse poetry.
Sparked!/A Luv Tale
Sparked addresses the famous dykey problem: lesbian death bed. The solution it offers? Find a new partner! (duh). Shown with A Luv Tale, yet another story of the straight-girl-gone-butch.
Steal This Movie
The charismatic clown Abbie Hoffman, who vitalized the leftist movement in the '60s, is unfairly remembered now merely for going underground for six years to escape prosecution for a drug bust that was the culmination of nearly a decade of invasive and unconstitutional persecution by the CIA's infamous agent of Fascism, the Cointelpro. He deserves a film as funny, sexy, and controversial as his life. Though Janeanne Garofalo and Vincent D'Onofrio give it their best, this, unfortunately, is not it. Despite his being permanently six feet under, I'm sure this plodding biopic is giving Abbie a really bad trip. (Tamara Paris)
* This Is What Democracy Looks Like
This documentary fills the void left by both major media vessels and underground, activist film/zine testimonials in their coverage of the 1999 WTO protests. Well-edited from footage by 15 filmmakers, it profiles people who know exactly what they were protesting and lets the film speak for itself, as opposed to sweeping over the issue or bleating reactionarily. Ranging from exhilirating shots of solidarity (in the form of dancing, chanting, puppets, and music) to emotionally intense, undisputable police brutality on peaceful protesters, the most important issue here seems not to be the WTO itself, exactly--it's how quickly and unremorsefully Constitutional Rights can be snatched away. Excellently made, and an imperative watch for anyone who believes in democracy and human rights. (Julianne Shepherd)
The Tic Code
A 10-year-old jazz pianist teams up with a respected sax player--but they both have Tourette's Syndrome! Hilarity and heartbreak ensue!
The Trial of Joan of Arc
Minimal, quiet, and foreboding film about the devastating saint. Bresson does more on-film justice (and canonization) to Joan of Arc than any other filmmaker.
Hey, karaoke fanatics! As part of Peripheral Produce, this is Russ Forster's documentary about Tribute bands, which was filmed in the "heyday of the tribute scene in the late 1990s." Find out what motivates bands (and you) to want to be, say, Ace Frehley for a song or a gig. You might even find some lost part of your psyche in the process!
Two Brides and a Scalpel: Diary of a Lesbian Marriage/A Boy Named Sue
A documentary about George Douglas Scott (father, husband, pulp mill worker) and Linda Fraser (psychotherapist, lesbian, opera singer). George comes out as a transsexual, preps for sex-change surgery, and falls deeply in love with Linda while practicing to be the woman he wants to be. Shot over two years, Two Brides is an "intimate video diary" detailing George's monumental life changes while his relationship with Linda develops. (Warning: The film contains surgical procedures.) Shown with A Boy Named Sue the story documenting one female to male transsexual's chemical and emotional gender change.
Urban Legends: Final Cut
While working on her film thesis (a documentary about "urban legends"), a student becomes deeply annoyed when a murderer begins systematically killing her entire crew.
Urbania is is an attempt to mingle urban legends with one man's suppressed memories of a nasty attack. Dan Futterman plays Charlie, a man teasing out a life in Manhattan, super-attuned to the con and churn and chatter of urban sprawl: his eyes flit from one part of the frame to another as he stalks through a long, dark night of the soul. Charlie is bitter, funny, and often cruel, and Shear's visual style is assured throughout. The story doesn't deliver on its earlier promise, shifting into a more simplistic resolution than necessary, but I marveled at much of Urbania's comic and visual daring. (Ray Pride)
Waterdrops on Burning Rocks
Francois Ozon, that voracious beast of French cinema, picks at the bones of German aberrant Rainer Werner von Fassbinder in this adaptation of the uber-director's early journal entries and answering machine messages. The setting is a sauna, and the sexual stakes (or is it steaks?) are at their highest as Farce turns to Fear.
Way of the Gun
A kidnapping plan goes awry (as they often do) in this film starring Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro (which literally means "The Bull Loves Spaghetti").
"What's cooking?" is the titular question in this cinematic smorgasboard, which takes the sacramental Thanksgiving feast as its raison d'etre. Director Gurinder Chadha serves up a delicious stew of four minority families on everyone's favorite turkey day, and doesn't skimp on the visual gravy!! With such stars as Alfre Woodard and Joan Chen in the stuffing, this is one filmic feast is enough to make you break your celluloid diet.
The Woman Chaser
A not very interesting black-and-white anachronism fest, Woman Chaser takes a decent 1960 Charles Willeford LA noir novel about a 1950s wannabe film director who loses his mind and makes a spoofy hash of it. Patrick Warburton ("Seinfeld"'s Puddy) gives it his chunky all, but it's not enough to bring life into this drearily scripted and clunkily directed item: dig those bongo drums! The script's called "The Man Who Got Away"; so did Willeford's novel. (Ray Pride)
Woman on Top
Spoiler alert! In one scene, the bronze goddess Penèlope Cruz captivates a man with her exotic good looks, distracting him to some lighthearted comedic end.
This movie is all fine and dandy, but there's one area where I got beef: Where the Hell is Psylocke?
* Young Frankenstein
One of the few Mel Brooks films which is truly hilarious. Starring Gene Wilder, Cloris Leachman, and Marty Feldman.