Bad Movies! - The Back Files (April 1998)

April 1998:
April 28: Network (1976, 121 minutes): Twenty-two years (of obsessive TV-watching) later, Iím just now seeing this film. I kinda wished Iíd seen it earlier, before the farce turned to reality. Now, it all made my head spin too fast.

April 29: The Getaway (1972, 122 minutes): A couple months back, I watched the re-make with Basinger-Baldwin, and of course it was awful I as expected. BUT, I didnít think much more of this original version! Ali McGraw has as much dramatic intensity and skill as a brick. Admittedly, Iím biased because the Jim Thompson novel these films are based on has a great insane ending that neither film uses.

April 30: Threesome (1994, 93 minutes): Help, this howls! Imagine the three worst college-age people you know. Now, imagine youíre trapped in a tiny room with them and have to watch them screech and holler out their sexual attractions to one another. And why are there so many Baldwins, each worse than the last?

April 26: Naked in New York (1994, 91 minutes): Fairly engaging tale of man-boy-playwright, Eric Stoltz, having to confront life, love and nudity (yes, he is a natural red-head). Lots of big stunt-casting in this flick. The film lacks a conclusion or a point, but it was pleasant enough while it lasted.

April 25: Heart and Souls (1993, 104 minutes): This is a big budget version of the long-gone FOX show, Hermanís Head. Such a tired premise Ė man being stalked by angel-y persons changes into nice guy. Like if you were being followed about by a whiny Charles Grodin 24-7, youíd naturally become a better person and not a homicidal maniac. Itís quite lame and thereís lots of hugging.

April 25: The English Patient (1996, 162 minutes): I didnít want to watch, it seemed awfully long and too J.-Peterman-in-the-desert, but I rode it out. I loved the opening shot and sobbed hysterically through the last 45 minutes. Iím too embarrassed to say anymore.

April 23: Change of Habit (1969, 93 minutes): Crazy man! Any film that starts with nuns doing a strip tease and ends with the question: Jesus or Elvis? is OK by me! Mary Tyler Moore is a nun, Elvis is a ghetto doctor. Totally. Itís demented but Elvis is deliciously slim. The "curing" of the autistic child is super bizarre!

April 23: The Stranger (1946, 95 minutes): Lots of nice signature Orson Welles deep-space cinematography in this tale of an escaped Nazi criminal hanging out in Small Town USA. Welles plays the bad guy, the plotís a bit hoary, but all is mitigated by a spectacularly gruesome conclusion.

April 22: Crusing (1980, 102 minutes): When this tale of a cop going undercover in gay S&M clubs came out, there was mucho protest from the gay community in San Francisco, where I was living. 20 years later, who can remember the specific complaints, but Iíll register a protest here and now: this film sucks, blows, bites, etc. Itís just a bad film, period Ė a narrative that goes nowhere and slowly, wooden acting, mish-mashy editing. It feels like critical sections were cut. Other scenes are outright inexplicable Ė whatís with that big black cop wandering around the precinct in just a jock strap? Al Pacino is a block of concrete til the "dramatic conclusion" where he terrified me barking out "insider" sex commands like a quarterback: "Iím party-sized!", "Hips or lips?!" The film seems to want to say something about hetero men, cops and latent homosexual tendencies but doesnít.

April 20: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, 135 minutes): One of those giant movies, Iíd never ever seen. Itís a extra-long X-Files! Aliens come to earth to play with our governmentís giant synthesizer. Rock on.

April 19: Carnosaur (1993, 82 minutes): Ah, the poor manís Jurassic Park! Naturally, I hated JP. More people should have been eaten - Laura Dern, those annoying bats, hell, everybody. Carosaur delivers, this baby is mad and hungry.

April 19: Liar Liar (1997, 87 minutes): I had hoped this would be funnier. I like a good braindead yuk-fest as much as the next person, but this didnít work right for me. Too much scrunch-up face from Jim Carrey, not enough funny asshole behavior/lines and enough already with the family values stuff. Thatís not funny, itís boring Ė and can somebody get these child actors a decent haircut?! Why do they all still have hairdos like Adam Rich?

April 18: Mary Janeís Not a Virgin Anymore (1997, 100 minutes): Mark your calendars! I went OUT to the movies. First time this year. This is a funny little indie feature by wunderkind auteur, Sarah Jacobsen. Assorted hipsters work at a funky movie theater, live, love and fall down. This film is on tour around the USA this spring and summer, so keep an eye out for it.

April 15: Chinatown (1974, 130 minutes): Havenít seen this is a long time. Saw it in the early 80s twice. Once, properly, on a big screen but the second time was one of those pure dementia movie experiences. Some low-rent set-up, and the projectionist dicked up some lens or something Ė ultimately this Cinemascope film got all squished, and what played out on screen was Chinatown but as if played by midgets! This film holds up well Ė still a snazzy piece of filmmaking, nice attention to period detail, Jack Nicholson playing somebody other than himself. Some great back-history to this film would be reading Cadillac Desert or catching the PBS series of the same name Ė a truly gripping tale of the real-life Southern California water battles.

April 14: Final Analysis (1992, 125 minutes): Iíve come to really enjoy these truly bad psycho-sexual-legal thrillers. There was a whole clump of them after Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction. You can guess the plot of this one easily, but Eric Roberts has some hilarious bad-boy scenes. Most of the film Ė story and look Ė has been ripped off from Vertigo.

April 13: Backlash (1956, 83 minutes): I donít take kindly to Westerns (which this is). Beats me why I taped it, probably by mistake. Well, I sat through it, and was it confusing. In glorious Technicolor, but I couldnít say much else about it.

April 12: Bad Lieutenant (1992, 98 minutes): Iím sure a popular choice for Easter Sunday. Harvey Keitel plays this grotesque of a Bad Cop, barely making some redemption. Make sure youíre up on your Dodgers and Mets history. A running sub-narrative involves the playoffs and had me insanely confused. An LA team that used to be in NY. A Mets player that is now a Dodger, help.

April 12: Beautiful Girls (1996, 110 minutes): Youíve seen this movie a billion times before Ė a group of idiot guys reunite for the high school reunion and discover what everybody else already knows Ė theyíre stunted idiots.

April 11: Birdy (1984, 120 minutes): Normally, Alan Parker movies make me squirm, but this was OK. A boy and his birds. The flashback parts work better than the contemporary narrative which frankly demands too much acting skill from Nicholas Cage.

April 11: Body and Soul (1947, 104 minutes): An old boxing flick. All the critics say "best boxing movie ever made" - Iím not sure I agree, itís the same old story of the fixed fights. I personally really like The Set-Up (1949), a dark little boxing film shot in real-time with really grim fight scenes. Raging Bull, a great movie, and so is the less-seen, Fat City (1972), about the non-glam world of amateur boxing, unmitigated by any money.

April 9: Brillant Lies (1996, 90 minutes): An Australian movie about he-said-she-said workplace sexual harassment. It feels kind of like a better-than-average TV movie (actually itís based on a play), and thereís nothing groundbreaking about it, but it was fairly funny in places. Lies lies lies.

April 8: The Big Clock (1948, 95 minutes): Noirish take on an evil-media-empire mogul and editor set-up for a murder. Some super 40s streamline executive suites! Charles Laughton is great as the all-controlling, time-obsessed mogul. Maybe you already work for this guy?

April 7: Benny and Joon (1993, 98 minutes): Another entertaining (see Rain Man below) mentally ill person, Mary Stuart Masterson. She meets entertaining half-loopy, Johnny Depp. Two halves make a whole, naturally. This film was less fey than I feared it would be. Some of Deppís silent film comedian homages work; others are a little forced.

April 7: Bound (1996, 107 minutes): In the vein of the Coen Brothers, this is slightly-exaggerated, blackly funny, bodies-piling-up, heist-gone-wrong flick. Shot compactly in a few rooms. The much hyped lesbian angle is just window dressing. Thereís a great gag on money laundering.

April 6: Body Heat (1981, 113 minutes): A pretty decent and tight noir adaptation. Set in Florida, this film feels sticky, hot and humid. Itís not so much black-and-white as this awful orange haze. Effective though. Like other good noirs, you can see a mile away the tumble the good-guy is gonna take, but itís entertaining getting there.

April 6: Baby Itís You (1982, 105 minutes): Roseanne Arquette and Vincent Spano are unlikely high school sweethearts, then take different paths out of Trenton, New Jersey in the late 60s. Minimally plotted and less sprawling then other Sayles films, itís oddly sweet. I saw this film (in an empty theater) when it first came out and found it excruciating to sit through Ė not the filmmaker's fault, I was kind of at the same age and place as Arquetteís character. Now happily, adolescence seems as alien to me as the late 60s hairdos.

April 5: Waiting for Guffman (1996, 84 minutes): The small town of Blaine puts on a show for the 150-year-anniversary! Another funny "mockumentary" by Christopher Guest. There was another came-and-went small town "mockumentary" from 1995, Dadetown that would be a great double bill.

April 4: Booty Call (1997, 79 minutes): Immediately prior to screening this flick, I saw a piece on the ABC Nightly News about how the French were attempting to reach their men with HIV-prevention information. Apparently, les hommes just donít want to know, so the government was resorting to running some hardcore porn on TV with imbedded safe-sex messages. (It says something else entirely about men who canít process a life-saving piece of information unless itís surrounded by porn?!) So hereís Booty Call, which is sometimes funny, generally vulgar, an extended sex-joke skit, BUT oddly, the film explicitly spells out some basic safe-sex data Ė latex v. lambskin, dental dams, etc. Undoubtedly, the French government enjoyed making their own porn flicks, but they could have just rented this.

April 4: The Big Carnival (1951, 111 minutes): Yow, one of the darkest films to come out of the Hollywood system. Opening shot to closing shot Ė pitch black cynicism. Naturally, I love this movie. A boozed-out newspaper reporter, Kirk Douglas, delays the rescue of a man trapped in a cave in order to have a Bigger Story. Whatís shocking is everyone elseís complicity. When I first saw this film years ago, I thought the man-in-cave-national-news-drama was a bit exaggerated. After Jessica-in-the-TX-well and a hundred other "news events" later, this film is even more timely today.

April 3: Party Girl (1995, 94 minutes): Inversion of the hoary plot twist: buttoned-up librarian turns into crazed party girl. Here, Manhattan club-chick, Parker Posey, pins up her hair and pines for the Dewey Decimal System. Not much plot, could be snappier, but entertaining enough.

April 2: Flesh and Bone (1993, 124 minutes): Pee-yew, stinks. I have never understood the attraction of Meg Ryan, but that Dennis Quaid! Itís like watching a brick act. This "thriller" has about zero plot and take more than two hours to unspool. Itís pointless. Probably just a his-and-her vanity piece so they could do bad Texas accents together.

April 1: Metropolitan (1990, 98 minutes): Quite amusing low-key "little film" by the same guy who did Barcelona. Light jabs at the Manhattan debutante scene at the end of the 80s, some smart dialogue.


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