Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Director: Robert Hamer
Cinema 4 Rating: 8
Alec Guinness, long, long before Obi-Wan Kenobi, plays 8 different parts. 8 PARTS! If that is not enough to pique your interest, then there is nothing I can do for you. If you are interested, when a distant relation of the titled d'Ascoyne family blames his mother's death on the clan, he vows to gain his revenge on them, and take in a sizable inheritance, by doing in the eight members of the d'Ascoynes who stand in his way of the dukedom. The problem? All eight d'Ascoynes, male and female, are played by Guinness, and it might not be as easy as it seems at first. Deliciously dark and riotously funny, but with a typically British understatedness in the delivery of some of the gags (pay close attention to everything going on around the characters). I know some people who come out underwhelmed, but they are wrong. With our American viewpoint, when you think of comedy from the late 40's, it often comes down to Abbott and Costello or Hope and Crosby, with broad slapstick, cheap gags and punny one-liners; extremely fun, but easy to digest. This is another matter altogether; it begs close attention, but it is equally funny, and a bit more intellectually satisfying, even if such a haughty position was being lampooned, as well. Proof that Guinness was a King of Comedy in the 40's and 50's.

Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (1993)
Director: Steven M. Martin
Cinema 4 Rating: 7
Not that Steve Martin! (And especially not the Gojira reporter played by Raymond Burr...) If you have ever heard "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys (and if you haven't, I do not acknowledge your existence) or have wondered what on Earth made that high-whining unearthly noise in countless space travel and haunted house pictures, let me introduce you to the theremin. Invented by Leonard Theremin as the world's first electronic musical instrument, this documentary brilliantly traces his entire life, career and half-century disappearance and reemergence in a puree of insane name-dropping and historical connect-the-dots. When this film came out, after seeing the preview on Siskel and Ebert, I immediately wanted to see it. It never came to Anchorage, and when it was released onto VHS, try as I might, plead as I would, not a single video store in town would carry the film. Despite my fervor, I still didn't want to pay upwards of a C-bill for the new release (after all, I had not actually seen the film, but I will say now, the old VHS pricing system was so idiotic). When DVD's hit the scene, eventually, MGM was kind enough to put the film out under the subtitle of its "Avant-Garde Cinema" wing (along with Bakshi's Fritz the Cat), and I finally had my quarry. After all that wait, that the weird, fascinating, somewhat ungainly film lived up to the promise I had built up in my head was only a bonus. Recommended viewing for any musician (which I'm not).

Scarface, the Shame of the Nation (1932)
Dir: Howard Hawks
Cinema 4 Rating: 8
I did not purchase this DVD, but I probably would have gotten around to it, if only for the fact that Boris Karloff plays a non-monstrous supporting role (and, predictably, quite well). No, I ended up fortuitously with this marvelous, tough film through a friend's gift of the DePalma version of this film, of which I am not really a fan, except in the mode of enjoying a ridiculously cheesy, over-the-top modern melodrama with boatloads of sex, blood and f-bombs. It has become the fashion to believe that DePalma's film is a classic, especially amongst rappers and their followers (the producers of MTV's Cribs made a note of the films in each of the homes that they have visited, and the DVD that is in nearly every celebrity's collection is the '83 Scarface), but I think the film is more of an anti-classic -- revered, though unknowingly, because it is so bad. It's the same standard that makes normal, seemingly functionable people believe that Top Gun is "just the greatest!" The original Scarface, however, is the real deal: tough, uncompromising, more than a little shocking given the day in which it was made, and though limited to a certain degree in its scope, it uses that constraint to its advantage, and the film has a way of making you feel like a caged rat. And all without a titanic mountain of cocaine.

C.H.U.D. (1984)
Dir: Douglas Cheek
Cinema 4 Rating: 5
Someday, I will tell you of the "Ballad of C.H.U.D.", a song of inexhaustible verse (86 total when first written after the movie came out, with a verse for each year) that my buddy Robear and I devised when we were desperately trying to coax our friends into creating an only-slightly tongue-in-cheek fan club for this film. (We were unsuccessful, as always, in these endeavors -- if the Internet were about at that time, it would have been easier.) When we couldn't even get our closest friends to buy into the silliness, we knew it was doomed (and, believe me, we all bought into a lot of silliness over the years, even today -- it's the strength of our friendship, actually). Now, there is a movie review site called C.H.U.D., and the name itself comes up in referential punchlines on TV and in movies, so it seems our work completed itself on its own (if totally without our interference or even effort). When all is said and done, however, the film itself is merely OK, neither as bad as some would decry it, nor as good as the lowbrow wish to believe it. I jumped at getting a copy on DVD when it came out, but I have only watched it once since then, and I believe it would take a gathering of all two members of our club to coax me into another viewing. And, Hey! Is that the famous Wayne Mitchell, dancing elbow star of Psychos in Love, playing the second lead to John Heard in the film? Oh.. it's only Daniel Stern...

Go (1999)
Dir: Doug Liman
Cinema 4 Rating: 7
Tarantino-esque; Tarantino-lite; Tarantino-at-a-Rave; Tarantino with Liman-Flavored Salad Dressing... however I have heard it described, and however I might imagine it has been described, one thing is for sure: I am tired of writing "Tarantino" in this paragraph. Sure, it hops about between story and time in the manner of QT, and it has punchily sharp, cynical pop-culture referencing dialogue like QT''s films, and it is punctuated by bursts of shocking violence much like... well... OK, maybe it is more than a little -esque, -lite, -at-a-Rave, and that last thing. But, unlike so many actual imitators of the "in" style to copy in the 90's and 00's, writer John August has his own axes to grind, and director Doug Liman, of Swingers and The Bourne Identity, has his own completely unique, though equally hip, visual sense. I found this film in a bin at an unnamed retail dive for 6 bucks (shocked I was!), and even if I liked the film only a little, I would have grabbed it. At the time, much like a large proportion of the male population, I had a slight crush on Katie Holmes, even with her squishy-templed cat-shaped head. It is only since her dalliance with that Cruise guy that she has become one of the Unclean. Nowadays, I would have just bought the movie for the diverse cast and the film's remarkable urgency. [For the record, I am partial to women with cat-shaped heads, but you have to admit -- Katie Holmes' face is kind of, well, oddly proportioned -- sort of like John Merrick's great-great-granddaughter (had he ever actually gotten laid).]


Lindsay Lamar said…
Okay, I just had to leave a comment because the whole last review of "Go" just made me laugh out loud at work... well done :)

"ooh all those crazy elephant bones..."
matt fosberg said…

The horror that name brings to mind...

That song...



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