Recently Rated Movies #43

Since I revved up the Pylon, this particular feature has been primarily consisted of a list of the films that I had seen recently and, naturally, since it is called "Recently Rated Movies", my IMDB ratings for each film. I would often lead off each post with some pithy comments about one or two of the films, and that would be it. (I believe once or thrice I merely put up a list of movies to play catch up.) Starting with this issue, since a mere movie title and a numbered rating don't really tell the story about how I feel about some of these films, short capsule reviews will be part of the project instead. We're unafraid of innovation here at the Cinema 4 Pylon....

The List:
The U.S. vs. John Lennon Dir: David Leif & John Scheinfeld // 2006 [DVD] - 7
I only knew John Lennon for six years. Yes, I was born in the year of the British Invasion, and the music of the
Beatles was all around me as I grew up. But I only started listening to them when I was 10. Thanks to my cousin Brad, who told me all sorts of urban legends about the Fab Four and their compatriots, I started developing an interest in something other than the Top 40 radio boredom of that disco-laden era, and by the time I was fifteen going on sixteen in 1980, I was well-versed in both their albums and their history. And thus, far past the subliminal influence of their music in my life throughout my childhood, I spent six years getting to know John Lennon. As it was for many people, Lennon's outspokenness and stubbornness appealed deeply to me (he was and is clearly my favorite of the group)... and then he was gone. Late in that same sextet of years, I was engaged, mainly through reading Hunter S. Thompson at an either far too young or far too late age, in a twisted fantasy landscape with ousted president Richard Nixon, where he was either the immediate target of my derision or existed as a Harvey-like invisible friend/monster of the id of mine. (You could say he was a "Crook-ah"...) The U.S. vs. John Lennon details the collision of these two opposing forces of nature, and you might find it surprising that my rating of it isn't higher, even though I loved everything within it. I felt it both a little short, and a little too one-sided, which I say as one who is clearly on the side of the Lennons, as are the filmmakers. The directors had a good idea in adding G. Gordon Liddy in the mix, to whom it is surprising anyone ever goes for a reasoned opinion, and sure enough, he betrays himself as the unflinching idiot that he has always been. I would have invited other stronger naysayers to the Lennon-bashing party, just so they had an equal chance to shove their feet in their mouths. Oh, well... maybe they did ask some others, outside of the handful of FBI operatives who appear fleetingly, and the fire had already been bleed out of them or they simply weaseled out. The parallels to Nixon's torture of the Lennons in the Watergate era naturally has some parallels to the Bush administration's cries of "treason" at anyone who hasn't toed the company line in the Iraq War era, but it is generally waiting there for the viewers to catch it themselves. Until good ol' Gore Vidal steps in and decides to take a completely unprovoked whack at W.'s head. It may not be entirely appropriate given the context of the film, but it certainly makes for good times indeed.

Shortbus Dir: John Cameron Mitchell // 2006 [DVD] - 7
WARNING: Most of my friends who believe that seeing male genitalia onscreen will automatically turn them gay --
which is the vast majority of my friends -- SHOULD NOT SEE THIS PICTURE!! Because you are going to see dicks in this film -- a lot of them. In fact, the opening scene alone will probably have you shut off the DVD player and never return to the film for the rest of your lives. You are also going to see a lot of female private areas, as well -- a lot of them. And, yes, the film is loaded with hardcore sex -- a lot of it. And I don't mean "hardcore" in the casual way that Hollywood people or MPAA jurists refer to hardcore sex: "extra thrusting and rampant nudity", but "hardcore" as in actual penetration, actual fellatio and cunnilingus, and actual masturbation by both sexes. But, and this is the irony, this film is not pornography. The idea here is not to get you off (though I am sure there are those who will anyway), but rather to get you thinking. To engage your mind through the engorging of the groin, so to speak. Mitchell is the snarky brain behind Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and this film is basically made up of the grit of that movie minus most of the singing, spiced with twice the drama, and then salad-tossed with a boatload of orgiastic revelry. Mitchell could be a provocateur on the level of a John Waters, though he is clearly not so much a satirist as an intellectual sexual anarchist. That said, this film is quite, quite funny through much of the film, and while I think most of the first-time film actors came off as a little too untrained for such an expansive and complicated production, by the end, most of them settle into a comfort zone where their amateurishness actually helps the film tell its story. (Not only that, but you could never get famous stars to even approach a film of this type, but that's fine, since they would sincerely distract from its "everyperson" purpose.) The lonely find strength in each other, hearts get broken, minds melt, orgasms may or may not be achieved -- more than just the thoughts and emotions which straight people believe only belong to them (and who also seem to believe that the rest are only aberrations mucking about and ruining their perfectly straight world) are on display here. The film presents the world in a pansexual microcosm, where everyone is best off loving everyone, and where that love is all you need. Proceed with caution, those with frightened constitutions. There is a rousing message in the literally orgasmic finale indeed for all personkind, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Hollywoodland Dir: Allen Coulter // 2006 [DVD] - 5
Man, does this movie want to be L.A. Confidential! It fails miserably, but it certainly tries to capture the look, the tone, and the mood of that film, and all wrapped, much like its Oscar-winning predecessor, around a true incident from the 1950's. Only here, the incident is a little more high-profile given that it is the much rumored-about suicide/possible murder of television's Superman, known primarily to himself as George Reeves. This personal loss of identity and future career to a character adored by millions of Americans, both children and adults, perhaps lead to his putting a gun to his head -- though the movie offers several possibilities as to other suspects and motives that may have proved his was an even more violent end. Adrien Brody stars as the P.I. who initially steals the case presented by Reeves' mother, and then has his life fall apart around him as he doggedly pursues it far beyond his means or talents. Brody takes a pretty good screen beating, but he is far too young for the role, and I never once buy that he can handle himself in any sort of scrap. The true focal point is Ben Affleck, and while I will say it is probably one of his better performances (he even won a Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival, which was a great surprise even to him, since he left the ceremony before he won), I still feel that no point in the film did one ever really get a sense of any sort of interior life beneath Affleck's Reevesian facade. It's just Ben acting as purposeful and deeply hurt as he possibly can without breaking into that slyboots grin of his. Plus, because the movie is so grounded in the real-life case, you know there won't be some fantastic revelation that will bust it wide open after two creepingly slow hours, because no one ever did this in real life, and we are left where we were at the beginning, with an account of a very sad suicide and a lot of rumors. And a little movie engine that can't...

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