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J R's Images & Ideas

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If the questions were What The Bleep or Waking Life, then one of the answers surely must be Naked***, which is full of intelligent talk (though not wall-to-wall like those linked above), mean-spirited life and sex, and — a certain sense of serious quirk. At first I hated the repetitive music, later it seemed to fit nicely. I didn't like the characters at the begining, either. Didn't until the end. Then I just wasn't sure.

Narc**** is on the dark, far side of Noir, colorful, fast-paced from the get-go, stylish (although I'm getting tired of blue scenes in movies and question their appropriateness — in another decade or so this technique is going to be embarrassing — "Oh, yeah, that looks like an Ought Two flick."), intelligent, excellently acted, directed and edited. Vicious, fast and strong. Gritty.

Negotiator*** is a great playoff between dual stars Samuel Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Both are police negotiators, and the movie was a good cop getting set up vs. bad cops stealing money detective story. Psycho-drama, lotta violence, lotta beautiful cinematography, lotta tense close-ups of faces and lotta great B-movie actors plus the two stars. Smart, tense, action thriller. NS 1998

Nature: Koko****, on the same topic and using the same characters, is fascinating, humane and beautiful. The biggest difference between these two documentaries is time. Hokey in the 70s. Beautiful when Nature does it 35 years later.

Barbet Schroeder's Koko: A Talking Gorilla* is lame and so unintelligent it's unwatchable by anyone with a soul. Its mindset is stuck in the 1950s, confusing communication with rote signing. Monkeys have thoughts and feelings, but this movie does not.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind**** is lovely, touching, adventurous, ecologically astute, smart without getting intellectual, even spiritual. I'm new to good anime but I just stacked a bunch more into my queue. Nice.

Nelly & Monsieur Arnoult **** A gentle but intelligent comedy / tragedy about two people who love each other but just can't quite connect. Very smart. Gently funny.

The Net ***/ is a loose drama about being caught up in computers and the Internet almost entirely lacking a human network of friends and family, plus a big bad enemy. 1996 

Bill Maher's New Rules*** are impressive and were probably a lot funnier the week what they're mocking happened (I still don't have cable, and won't get it, because I have a couple other things I need to do in life), but in retrospective, they're still funny.

Happily, I did not recognize the historical importance of The New World***/ until near the end, when I finally recognized his name. I must never have heard hers, or surely I would have snapped to that. It's an unfamiliar take on very familiar history, I suppose. But more than that, it's mystical, an achievement few works achieve. And many try. Beautiful, spiritual, realistic, fascinating. A long, slow romance with few met expectations.

Next Stop Wonderland***/ is full of near misses and if-only's in the dating games. Cute, smart, pretty. Vaguely like Sliding Doors. Great date movie, if the guys can laugh at themselves. And we might as well. We're either pretty funny or kinda pathetic. Sweet flick. NS 1998

A lot of movies from 1975 are seriously dated and getting into them takes time and the ability to forget time. Gene Hackman in Night Moves***/ sucks us into the detective adventure rife with personal agendas almost immediately, and except for the cars, there's nothing to hold us into thirty years ago time. The acting is superb, nuanced and subtle, with remarkable performances by very young James Woods and Melanie Griffith (who shows a lot of breast). Intelligent, involving and, as they say, action packed.

Nights in Rodanthe*/ is the smarmy and entirely predictable story of two people who meet in an old hotel on the banks of a hurricane and fall madly in love. Hokum. Not altogether repulsive hokum, but hokum.  

Thanks to the idiot hype of NetFlix I rented Night of the Hunter*/, which it described as one of the most frightening movies of all time. Ha! Full of cardboard characters, lame acting and a simpering story brimming with Bible quotes, this mid Fifties flick makes me wonder about all that decade's movies, which is a sub-theme I'll be investigating this year.

I grew up in the Fifties, and I saw a lot of movies then, a rare few of which still simmer in my mind. So it will be fascinating -- to me, at least — how those treasured movie moments rewind this year. Hunter features less-than-sterling performances by both long-time fave badguy Robert Mitchum and the semi-comatose acting of a young, slim Shelly Winters. Neither help this miserable flick much. It feels like a movie made of a popular novel that a lot of people already cared for and about.

Night Watch**** is an extreme torrent of vivid, violent, magic, movie making. Light vs. Dark. Deep, complex plot, distinctive characters, quirk and mayhem from Russia. Way over the edges. Can't wait for Day Watch. Nothing like it. Wow.

I rented Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin: Nine Hundred Nights*** to see who was playing lead guitar, so maybe I could figure out whether he knew what he was doing or just fudging. I've been listening to her and them for forty years, and I needed the back story and to watch me some fingers. When I see a performance, I have to see everybody's fingers, so I understand how it happens, what makes this noise or that. That lead guitar was so strange and amazing and good and awful, I had to see it. Now I know what I saw was the rise and fall of Big Brother & The Holding Company, which led into the precipitous rise and fall of Janis Joplin. The band kept going, but never at that level. So I'm watching fingers, and every note, is right and there is no fudge. With or without Janis, BB&THC rocks strange and raw high energy. But with her it was amazing.

I accidentally re-rented The Nines thinking I was getting another of the recent spate of 9 movies. I saw the alien-contact race-relations turnabout Project 9, had seen the enigmatic The Nines, now have seen 9**** and loved it enough to watch all the bonus features. I think yet another of the recent 9s is a musical, so that'll eventually stir into the mix. 9, however, is the best of them so far, and though none of its actors are human it is ultimately very human and science fiction at its best also. Man — in the form of a series of animated rag dolls — versus machines that have taken over. Each rag doll is a part of a human, and each plays its part against the machines. Very poetic, cinnematically beautiful, intelligent and deeply human.

Three shorts comprise The Nines**** but I didn't figure that out till later, what with recurring and sometimes self-aware characters and self-reflexive plots smudging through each other, and I'm probably going to have to watch it a couple more times to strip out the separate plots. Heartwarming, strange and weird, this movie plays with itself, and it's a joy to watch.

The Ninth Gate** has Johnny Depp but doesn't use him for much. It has special effects, too, but fails to put them to any use, either. There's lots of murder and mayhem. And the story could have been compelling, but it doesn't go anywhere, either. Too bad. 2000

Though in almost every respect controversial, Noam Chomsky: Distorted Morality***/ densely layered conclusions are in no way complex or unreasonable. Using the U.S.Governments own definitions and policy statements, and hewing a consistently conservative (though perhaps not Conservative) line, Chomsky carefully posits that the U.S. government (we the people) is The major terrorist organization in the the world today.

A kick in the pants to America's wars on terrorism and drugs. This very intelligent speaker, logician, writer and philosopher stands at a podium on some college campus in front of an audience of college students — and a least one baby ocassionally squalling and a couple of cell phones (in the background) and speaks the truth about recent and critically unreported United States history.

An aging hippie radical, I'm blown away by the power of his logic and the force of his observations. Startling revelations and understandings of governments and who is really responsible. Of course — We have met the enemy, and it is us. Ooof!


Noam Chomsky - Rebel Without A Pause*** is perhaps too much about Chomsky and not enough about his ideas, which continue to thrill for their quiet, intellectual understanding of the basics supporting the American Way of Life — politically and socially. Really smart guy. I wanted to hear him just go on and on. His earlier DVD was one, hour-plus lecture on politics. This covers more territory in less detail, including answers to unheard questions in different places, so he begins to repeat himself. Still, I listened to every second, including the extensive additional material. He understands what everyone else seems intent upon ignoring. And makes it make sense.

I saw Nobody Knows**** as an unreleased preview flick at Talk Films in Dallas. At two-and-a-half hours, it was way too long, especially on a Sunday morning. Maybe an hour's worth of chopping would get this bleak film about a the family of children abandoned by their too-young, alcoholic mother in Japan viewable, but all those excruciating details were wonderful storytelling. Marvelous character development, luscious Cinne, superb acting.

I thought, as the movie started, that I'd seen every Paul Newman movie out there. Only about three-quarters into it did I recognize a beat-up old house that reminded me I probably have. Already, I'd settled into Nobody's Fool***/, like a well broke in pair of old boots. It's a gentle little movie with lots of soft quirk. Interesting but not entirely fascinating characters that do their bit without getting in the way. No action, hardly any passion. Humor's dry but human. Slow, easy, almost european pacing. Only a very little violence, and the pig deserved it. A nice movie like they usually don't make anymore. Sweet without the bitters. Nonconformist without unkindness. So glad I saw it again.

Normal**** is about being normal, then not being normal, until the end, and then it's still not really normal, but it's good enough. Transexualism finally movied right and good. A little tear-jerky, marvelous acting, eminently believable with a little bit of redemption.

Not sure how I missed Northfork**** when it came out, but it's one strange movie. Surreally mixing three distinct story lines with quirky characters and characterizations in a setting that as weird as it is is real as it is on the edge of this edgy film. It's about transitions, change and forced change, love and resurrection; set in the 1950s more or less; in Montana.

I'd read and loved the book, The Notebook** and was eager to show off the movie DVD, but what a disappointment. The wrong actors — except James Garner and Gena Rowland, the wrong characterizations, the wrong story in the wrong order — all the magic of the original gone, gone, gone. In place is this dreadful, drippy dud, filled with bad acting, bad directing and gorgeous cinnematography.

Perhaps the ultimate 50s romantic comedy adventure spy thriller, North By Northwest***/ is certainly a classic, but so dated, in absurd high contrast color, nothing ever out of focus, studio lighting everywhere, even in exterior night scenes, and broadly comedic drunk driving, cop and courtroom scenes. Still, it's entertaining, well put together, though never really credible. And the actors are fun to watch.  

No Such Thing*** is the quirkiest Beauty and the Beast yet. The acting is not perfect, but neither is the execution in this bleak little jewel that's alternatively broodingly serious and broadly comic. The story, however, is quirkly as a millenia old Icelandic monster. 2002


There's nothing overtly funny about No Man's Land***/ except the absurdieties of war that pile up through the movie. After a long while the obvious realities come through as hilarious, though there's no comedy. The stupidities of command pile on the stupidities of enemies who have way more in common than two men bent on killing each other, which pile on the stupidities of the "Peacekeepers" who d. I kept hoping against hope that the guy stuck on the bouncing betty mine would roll over and let that mine kill everybody in sight. Later, while thinking how wonderful this movie was, I realized that I'd hardly noticed it was entirely subtitled. 2002

Notes on a Scandal**** is brilliant. I shook with nervous dread as the first affair began in its lurid sensuality. I hadn't wanted to start this movie, never sure why those happen. But all those famous actors lured me in. Beautiful people in beautiful cinematography. Intense story, fierce plot. It's about love, of course, and relationships. Users and abusers in several dimensions. Startling, shocking even, then near the end, it turned, cleverly to darkest humor.

Not One Less** is about a 13-year-old substitute teacher who leaves the rest of her class in turmoil while she tracks down one who's gone to the big city to work. Primarily a Chinese propaganda flick, this lilting loser is fascinating for its insight into life in China but almost entirely lacking in plot. It just went on and on and on, carefully sidestepping Hollywood clichés. 2000

Somehow in the five decades of my active movie watching, I managed to miss Alfred Hitchcock's spectacular Notorious****, but now I've finally caught up. Great, now hackneyed spy plot, amazingly carried out in a gothic post-war mindset. Scrumptious, sumptious black and white sets, gripping plot, spectacular acting and everything else. Wow.

Notting Hill*** was pleasant, much better than I thought it would be, although I don't remember much else about it less than a month later. I have returned to NetFlix — I just couldn't stay away.

I wanted to like The Number 23*** because the number 23 keeps coming up in my own life. My zip code, my birth date, used to be my phone number. Etc. Plus Jim Carrey is amazing, and I loved Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind like a devotee to a new religion. This film shares similar sorts of spiraling logic and plot arcs though memory loss and redemption. 23 starts fascinating of character and plot, devolves into a dark, stylish, nearly macabre Sin City strangeness, almost but doesn't quite recover, and has all the makings of a cult classic. Eternal darkness of a marked soul.

Nurse Betty**** is quirkier than Pulp Fiction, funnier than anything this year or last, and utterly unpredictable. It combines a zany selection of film genres — the road, the relentless bad guys chase, the mistaken identity, the amnesiac, the striving young actress, etc. Laugh out loud funny, ironic as hell, dark and light and heavy, often simultaneously. 2000

I was all excited about Nurse Betty*** when I saw it on the big screen, but it sorta falls apart on second showing. I like that her flipped out unreality turns into reality, and the father-son, killer team are a riot. Dad the philosopher, and junior mean and kinda stupid. Nice fantasy romp.

Nutty Professor ***. Okay, Eddie Murphy's back. He's finally funny in this one. And fat is funny 1996


It seems a simple thing to design an object. What's it for? Who uses it? Asking the simple questions almost designs it. But there's more. Much more. Objectified***/ gets at the rest of the story. Superbly. With good design throughout.

I saw the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou***/, read the ingredients, and bought it without listening. The music is old timey original, bluegrass and spiritual, cornball country of the highest order, real sing-along serene — and fabulous! After that, the movie — quirky, goofy and oddly surreal, with characters to match — seems more of an excuse to string all that fine music together than anything else. But what a fun romp. Based on the Coen Brothers' strange sense of humor and Homer's Oddessey, this flick is uniquely original. 2001

Ocean's Eleven**/ was another disappointment. Lots of razzmatazz, more intricate plot than I could follow or believe. Most of the actors looked like they were having fun, although Julia Roberts looked more like she was in pain. Made me want to see the original again. The Rat Pack, at least, was fun, inter-involved and thick with plot. Except for Brad Pitt and George Clooney, who had actual chemistry, most of this eleven were two-dimensional and pasted together by studio hacks. 2001

October Skies*** is pleasant, based on a true story, attention-holding, an over-dramatic father/son struggle, heart-warming and tear-jerking, 1999

Cindy Sherman's Office Killer**/ is goofy, black, dark (noir). The titles are great. The acting is steps below what we've come to expect, probably because Cindy is directing and hasn't ever before. The story is wildly improbable and full of holes. The movie truly is "outrageously gruesome," but it's sorta fun as well as funny. 1998

I wouldn't recommend Oldboy**** to anyone. Twistiest plot I've ever encountered. Strange, beyond quirk, well into crazy. Violent. Vicious. Mean-spirited. Evil. That's the bad guy. Our hero sporadically engages in much of the same, is confused, controlled, loses his edge near the end, goes bonkers himself. Then lives happily ever after. From Sixth Sense we learned that movies need obey their own rules. This movie makes up the truth as it goes along, so we never have any basis of reality. It comprises an experience, not any sort of reality.

Somehow I missed Once Upon A Time in America***/ the second time it came out. Big movie with a plot so big it doesn't quite all fit even in this behemoth. Gangsters with a lot of violence, even a vicious rape. Plenty not to like, but a strong story till near the end of friends and lovers and the business of crime.

1,000 Journals***/ inspired me to start another of my journals. Not entirely unlike the ones in this journal, mine were words written, art cut and pasted, streaks, original art, stolen art, borrowed art, pieces of stuff glued, taped, nailed, drilled, etc. in. Mine were of travels, and so are these. Mine will stay mine; these were variously shared.

They were sent out via 1000journals.com, which I never heard of till I saw the movie, but I'm glad I saw the movie, of the making of a 21st Century community established by sending 1,000 journals out to people who wanted them, leaving them at bus stops, on benches, tables, in bathrooms, all over the world, then seeing some of them come back decorated, written, drawn, etc.


Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior* is just the sort of stupid little dumb-ass movie about violence and kung-fu fighting that got Chan and Lee before him into the market where they could eventually make real movies. Don't know if this guy's style is all that unique, but I wouldn't mind seeing him in a semi-intelligent movie some time. He must have some sense of humor, he made this bomb.

I hadn't seen On The Beach*** in 40 years. Hope it'll be another 40 before I see it again. Grim tale of nuclear warfare till the world was enveloped in radiation and what the last humans left did with their time. Gregory Peck was implacable. Fred Astaire is a much better actor than Ava Gardner. The Young Anthony Perkins was superbly grim. Intended as an intelligent warning against nuclear war, and probably had an effect. Did on me.

Opal Dream*** was an endearing little movie from Australia about a whole town of people crazed for the lust of opals, who eventually let down their designs on each other to bury a little girl's two invisible friends. It's about family — a brother, sister, mother and father, and by extension, the whole town, who let go their less than firm grip on reality long enough to believe in the impossible. Quirky, and for all that, real.

Open Your Eyes*** seems like a lurid psychodrama in which a narcissist can't match his reality with his lover, so he kills her. All the way through I kept waiting for the cheap trick at the end that'd explain everything. Only it wasn't all that cheap. Like Sixth Sense, the movie actually followed its own rules, turning plot twists into a genuine story as our hero flashes in and out of reality. This is the Spanish original for Vanilla Sky. (There's a little time travel in it, too.)

Operation Condor* — I was prepared to like this. Jackie Chan's a great stuntguy, but he's a tasteless director. 1997

The Operator**/ never quite breaks the bonds of reality or credibility, but soon as I recognized the city as my own Dallas, I was hooked. A morality tale of a driven lawyer at odds with humanity, tamed by a Zen telephone operator. Or something like that. Fun, not exactly funny, not always intelligent, but engaging — a little like a distant cousin to Sneakers by way of Jumping Jack Flash (the one with Whoopie). 2003

Essentially, The Opposite of Sex***/ is about and narrated by a young woman who is mean-spirited, self-absorbed, manipulative, vicious and a bitch. But the movie is superb, hilarious and scary. It has to do with sex, of course, even has some in it, which is a break from a recent trend. Gay sex, bi sex and hetro sex, it hardly matters. The narrator offers asides, so the flick is self-reflexive as well as abusive. It's also very smart and out to teach us all several fine, less than subtle lessons. The guy sitting a couple rows behind us who laughed big, nervous guffaws at all the gay stuff got (verbally) nailed by the narrator near the end of the movie. A movie that can do that is special, indeed. 1998

Ordinary Decent Criminal** has Kevin Spacey and some other now famous actors (including the lady DA from The Practice), but it's a goofy, unrealistic, sometimes downright stupid, caper flick that's not nearly as smart as it thinks it is. 2003


I'd hoped to get Ordinary People**** to watch with my parents, too. But it arrived too late. Robert Redford directs this fascinating yet ordinary story pitting Donald Sutherland against Mary Tyler Moore in the only serious role I ever her saw her do. Moore was scintilating as the stone cold bitch, incapable of loving after her favorite son died. Gradually, her other son and husband dealt with the untimely death and came together on the other side, but she never did. Wonderful psychodrama that made it okay for a lot of us to seek professional help, it also put Pachebel's Canon on the popular hit parade.

The Original Kings of Comedy*** is a bizarre, cross-cultural experience that is hilariously human through the first half, then gradually gets less funny and more viciously violent — often toward children — toward the end. Mostly it's a documentary of a concert by four Black comedians, although there's a few slice of life snippets thrown in for transitions. I went, because it's by Spke Lee. As such, it's a rude awakening and remarkably strong statement that refuses to bridge the gaps between the races with wicked humor. And it's often a hard movie for whites to understand. Subtitles would have helped for about half the dialog. Harsh language and rude behavior often make this strongly musical film play a raucous comedic tune. But experiencing this film in a mixed race audience marks the differences between the races in a noisily telling way. 2000

Orson Welles' F for Fake: Disk 1: The Film***/ is a film-watcher's hoot. The Master toys with his and our medium in a variety of stylish and sometimes silly and dated manners, but the whole of it, like that old Kris Kristofferson song is "... He's a walkin' contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction. Takin' every wrong direction on his lonely way back home." That might have been about Ramblin' Jack Elliot, or Orson Welles. This mockumentary takes certain liberties with the truth, but at its heart it's about charlatans, and having Orson slide through it like a Don Quixote is marvelous theatre. I can only imagine Disk 2 will be a disappointment, but I'll let it sift up to the top of my NetFlix Queue, and see. Eventually.

The Others*** is a pleasant little horror flick with fine characters and characterizations, a real, intelligent plot, and intriguing twists and turns all the way to the end.

Once I started Once Around***/ I only wanted to stop. It is a difficult film to watch in the way it is difficult to see our own families disintegrating around us. Ultimately it was not as disastrous a relationship movie as it seemed along the way, but getting through it was a challenge. Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter are why I bothered. For the characters it was a once in a lifetime joy not without difficulties. For everyone around them it was major cause for worry and concern. Ultimately it is about family and the possibilities of joy.

Out of Sight**/ is about stupidity in criminals and cops and about intelligence any way, and what it'll get you. But it never sinks to actually being stupid (until the end). Meanwhile, it's glossy and big and put together carefully, if not exactly chronologically. (Not chron, lots o' logic). This flick has glitz and glam and buckets of that elusive stuff called Style. It's an almost-good movie that's mostly smart, beautiful, has enough action, barely enough steam and is fun to watch unfold. 1998

Owning Mahoney**/ was hard to watch, because gambling scares me. Phillip Seymore Hoffman is good, of course, but I could hardly wait for this sucker to be over, and now, a week later, I don't even remember how it did, but I was so glad it was, it hardly matters.



I rented Painted Lady*** thinking it were a movie. It is instead two episodes of Masterpiece Theater, and though theatric, no masterpiece. In it Helen Mirren plays a has-been singer whose friend is murdered, and to catch the killer and get back the painting stolen from the victim and to pay off the murdered man's errant son's gambling debts (the plot continues to spin nearly out of control...), she becomes an international art dealer (just like that, oh and she reads one book). If you can believe any of this plot, you'd probably have more interest than I in seeing the conclusion that's not mentioned in the menu. I called Netflix's 24-hour help line (buried deep in their public menus), and a nice woman helped me find the second half hidden in the Scene Selections. No mention anywhere else. I watched till the end, which was a silly as the rest of this labyrinthine story and noted the stupid visual pun but didn't catch the lifting of Sister Wendy's PBS lecture. Masterpiece, my foot. 1997

Pale Male***/ is the fascinating story of a Red-tailed Hawk who takes up residence in New York City's Central Park under — or should I say — over the watchful eyes of many of NYC's people who become fans. Told with grace and style and intelligence.

I haven't figured out Todd Solondz' Palindromes***/, either. A set piece on the topic of bearing and aborting children, love and excuses for it, in a surreally unreal connected disconnect of, and related to. without ever quite making it all the way to reality. Disconcerting that the actresses for the main character kept changing significantly — we especially liked the little Black girl with the lazy tongue. But that was hardly the only disconnect. Strange. Thoughtful. Weird.

Panic***/ is a humanely funny yet deadly serious movie about a murderer for hire (William H. Macy) who wants to quit the business. And other complications. Lotta famous actors. Superb screenplay. Everybody's believable. The funny's only in tiny details. The serious is everywhere else.

Pan's Labyrinth**** was a kind of wonderful. A child's story, but not a movie for children. It has both implied and on-screen violence, and it's about a vicious fascist in the Spanish Civil War. But it's also about magic and fairies and a princess who has to prove her princess-ness by completing three (It's always three.) tasks. Beautiful, haunting, truly evil sometimes, spooky, gross, gruesome. This one has it all. The special effects are spectacular. Like nothing you've ever seen. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Pandaemonium*** is lurid, florid and psyche-relic — a period trip movie. The drug of choice is laudanum, a tincture of opium, choice of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This is the story (or at least a story) of the creation of the great Romanticist poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan mixed with a nasty complication of characters with William Wordsworth. Oddly engaging, unsettling, downright goofy a time or two. 2003

I'm in the middle of watching a DVD of Paper Wedding****, a lilting story that, when Hollywood redid it some years ago as Green Card, turned from poingnancy to light comedy. I remember liking it then, but compared to the original, it's fluff. I rented it, because I fell for Genevieve Bujold in Dead Ringers. She was less wonderful in Coma, rented for the same reason. But here, she's superb as the woman who does a favor by faking a marriage, so he can be a legal immigrant. They've just passed the exam, and they're separating, we hope not forever, but that's the plan. I'm doling this movie out, like holding myself back from reading a great novel too fast, so it lingers. Every time I start it up again, I find a smile lighting my face. It's a sweet, gentle, slow movie. We get to know the people. They're each a little sad, a lot intelligent and, so far, a least, afraid and holding back, staying alone.

Paradise Road**/ is something of a cross between The Bridge On the River Kwai and Women In Cages with a little bit of the Von Trapp family thrown in for audio pleasure. British and other women caught by the Japanese after they belatedly attempt to escape Singapore during World War II, then spend the war as prisoners of it. Lot of famous women actors, decent enough story, adequately presented and a good enough script and plot but nothing outstanding.

The Parrots of Telegraph Hill**** was a big surprise. Not sure what I was expecting, but it was more than that. A, kind, affecting, intelligent, gentle and interactive story about the wild parrots who live in and around San Francisco's Telegraph Hill neighborhoods — you know, the ones with rickety wood stairways all the way up through a lush paradise of colorful flora — the man who befriends them, studies them, names individual members of the flock and learns more about them than anyone else ever has, got to know them as person- — well, bird-analities. Full of sweet stories about individual birds and their relationships with others in the flock. Beautiful, poignant and utterly amazing. The guy's journal is online.

Paprika***/ is a strange anime of psychobabble dreams mixing a hard-bitten detective, a tyrannical egomaniac, alter-ego heroines, a good doctor and other characters in an overly un-simple evil vs. good adventure in quavering dimensions. Noisily fascinating in a dull way, sci fi ish in a better way in colorful but not really high quality animation, at least not on the DVD I saw of it.

Paranoid Park*** is like a bad dream, persistent, nebulous, and not enough details, like sleepwalking, a lot like falling. On the visual theme of skateboarding, it rolls and rocks, and there's a few tricky moments, then it rolls some more. There's a death in it that looks like murder and self-defense and mostly nobody sees but a couple guys know and try to keep it quiet.

Anonioni Michelangelo's The Passenger*** fiddles with identity and other errant meanings in a long, dull globe-trotting extravaganza that made so little sense I was joyed to see parts of it set in and on the Catalonian master architect Anonio Gaudi's buildings in Barcelona and Lourdes in soutwestern France, where the BVM appeared to Bernadette — even if it was all in black & white. (Will somebody please explain the extravagently expositional end scene. By then I was too bored to care, and it obviously tied everything together...)

Passion in the Desert**** is elegant, strongly visual inter-species communication without a lot of talk. The best big cat movie ever. A soldier, a magnificent leopard and the dessert. Fabulous story, incredibly fine, big cat action, brave acting. Almost sex (AS). 1998

[In this same category I'd also nominate Paulie***, a lark in eagle's feathers. It's not high art, just good fun and feel-good, and by far the second best inter species communications flick this year.] V

Well, I saw The Patriot*** much sooner than I expected or wanted to. It's long and often beautiful and just as often excessively vengeful and violent — we get to watch a head blown off by a cannonball, lots of people get shot at point blank range and way too many nasty, blood-splattering hackings with swords and hatchets. Historically inaccurate, of course, smarmy in many of the wrongest places, eminently predictable in others. And if you look at all carefully in the backgrounds of sweeping panoramas, you see remarkably bad digital fakery. 2000

Another view of Paulie is just above.

I love interspecies communications, whether it's Flipper, Mr. Ed, Francis, Dr. Doolittle's pals or Paulie***/ — an endearing, sometimes smarmy, usually smart, kidflick about an intelligent parrot with an attitude, some very nice friends and hilarious cameos by Cheech Marin and Buddy Hackett. Saw it again, recently, on video. It's still charming. 1998

Paul Klee: The Silence of the Angel***/ is a remarkable and affecting film about an artist I knew little more about than I liked the work I'd seen, but I'd only seen a little. As a moody chronology and intellectual explanation, this dark, lilting, intelligent history follows his life and especially his work, tells us what he was thinking, often in his own words, and mimics his sometimes forlorn presence by the appearances of a rag doll he may have created — although it is neither introduced nor credited. The DVD also offers a slide show of 150 of Klee's work we control the timing of. I assume it is presented chronologically. That simple showing was mesmerizing, although I suspect several pieces were sideways.

Paycheck** is another really stupid Ben Affleck movie with bad sci and low fi. Insipid car chases, mediocre love story and a bunch of kill-crazy angry bad guys who want to rule the world. Truly lame.

I knew Pay It Forward*** was gonna be sappy and was rewarded with nasal congestion and tears. A touching love story with Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt ( who looked more unpleasant in some scenes than Spacey, whose whole face had been torched ). Much fun and funny in the betweens. A strong push against alcoholism, a kid with a great idea, and the love challenge team to become a good but not great movie, seriously marred by killing off the kid in the sappiest of endings. Excellent acting, interesting setting, nice intersticing of time ( Kurt Vonnegut called it chronosynclastic infidelium long before Pulp Fiction repopularized the technique, which was very effective here). Nice mix of lousy and great filming. 2000

Pearl Harbor*** is a belabored romantic triangle set on the historically significant time at the beginning of WWII. Lots of excitement then, though the rest of it just goes on and on. My father flew into the melee that morning, and my neice gave him the DVD. I wonder how he liked it. 2001


Pecker** is John Waters' very accessible, but lame film about the rise and fall of a young photographer's talent for documenting his odd life and quirky family and environment — and the people who sell him out and swallow him whole. Slightly denser than It's In The Water — and better acting, but thin and predictable. NS 1998

Now, here's another not-a-time-travel movie billed as one, but it's more like a dream sequence or a go back and do over movie. This time with likable characters and mostly intelligent story and script. With Kathleen Turner and Nicholas Cage (the 1986 versions), some 50s cars and music and ideas. Lilting, gentle and fun. Peggy Sue Got Married***/.

I don't remember all that much about Penlope***/, except that I loved it all the way throug. Romantic as heck. Sweet. Gentle. Smart most of the way till the end, which despite everything going for it is a cop-out without making the movie a dud. I'd see it again. I'd enjoy it again.

The only major flaw we caught in The Perfect Murder**, which we didn't realize till the credits was a remake of Dial M for Murder, was that these incredibly rich folks' house only has one telephone, and it's nowhere near the waterfall-fed 2-acre bathtub, so naturally she's gotta drip out of the bath (not literally, of course, movie people don't drip, and she doesn't even look wet) to answer the kitchen phone and get attacked. Otherwise, intense, exciting, interesting, mostly smart, with some brief bits of mayhem. Piddly-little sex. 1998

The Perfect Storm***/ isn't perfect. Many of the giant, seething waves in the hurricane scenes are fakey looking. But the characterizations ( except maybe the lead character ), the acting, almost all the other special effects, the story, the continuity, the dialog, the cinnematography, the pure adrenaline, high-energy adventure of it and the everything else is so good, the ocean graphics and Clooney's sometimes distracted acting hardly matter. I was so blessedly relieved to leave that theater and get out into the 106-degree Texas heat, because then I could finally relax. 2000

Perfume***/ is wicked. About a boy, unloved and enslaved since he was a baby, born with an amazing nose. He yearns to save the scents of women, learns the sense of perfumers from Master Perfumer Dustin Hoffman, then steals beautiful women's essences after murdering them. Sex, strangely, is no part of this, although gender is. It's a synesthetic movie, showing us what scent does, making us believe in its presence while letting us handily forget about the smelly parts of rigor mortis and rotting flesh.

Humphry Bogart's big chance to act in the movies plays out in The Petrified Forest**/, which must have seemed intense when it was made in 1940, but in retrospect looks goofy, often laughable, although the radio drama story plugs away. It looks like they invested in one tumbleweed and had it blow through four times. This film has not aged well. Bogie seems a caricature of his future self, incredibly and absurdly short, but Leslie Howard keeps the mix intelligent and interesting.

Personal Velocity**** is superb. Three stories combo that starts out looking like another one of those serrendipity collision courses plots, but except for one line on the radio shared in all three stories and played out in the last, there's no Hollywood drear here. The plot is empowerment and escape, and the emotional content and intellect is palpable, credible and deep. The cinnematography is lyrically leading edgy with lots of stylish yet appropriate movement, and the stories are realistic and human. 2003

Phantom Museums: Quay Brothers Short Films*** is very very strange. Animation like you've probably never experienced before. You might not want to again after this, but it is different and amazing, if not exactly entertaining. More like deep-think provoking.

Phenomenon ***/ — Nice flick. Gentle, sweet, a little silly. But a crowd-pleaser. Feel good flick of the summer. About a man who gets zapped by the universe into become way too smart for his own good. 1996

I've watched two documentary movies about two of science fiction's best writers in the last two weeks. In both, the hero/protagonist has seemed loony tunes crazy over the edge bonkers. Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth*** presents one of America's greatest writers being his own highly individualized and curmudgeonly old overweight guy both wickedly smart and goofily stupid in so many ways.

Philip K. Dick: The Penultimate Truth**/ is constructed as a secret government agency's paranoid investigation of whom we learn from countless talking heads in his life actually was a paranoid schizophrenic, who just happened to be one of America's best and most fascinating writers.

There's a commonality about both movies that's striking. The Harlan Ellison movie is better, but they're both marginal. Unless you know who these guys are, you'll probably not be interested in learning what they tell us. I'm a fan of both, even more of a fan of Ellison now I've seen how uniquely individualist he is, less of Dick, now that I see how paranoid and crazy he was, but I'm still a major fan of both their fiction and will continue a course of serious study of both their books.

Not to find out more about their authors, but to enjoy more of the books. What I've read so far was thrilling. I'll probably watch every movie they've been associated with, too.


Phoebe in Wonderland**** is a complex film about a little girl who acts strangely except when she acts in a play about the Alice. It's told rapidly and deeply intelligently. The story is an intriguing mix of reality and Through the Looking Glass fantasy in parallel and opposing worlds within the world of the film. Startling. Intense. Stirring.

Pi**** is Good Will Hunting on acid. In garrish black and white, 1998

Pi**** is Good Will Hunting on acid. In glorious, high-contrast black & glaring white. Color would have been too ordinary. Soft tonalities would have rendered it sweet. Instead, it's jarringly obsessive/compulsive/paranoiac, full of quirky, POV camera work, ultra intellectual plot lines, and superb, symbological "meaning." Pi is a superb, if difficult and sometimes violent movie, startlingly visual, with few Hollywood film making conceits. And it's a gang of Hassidic Jews who are the really mean bad guys here — the best new concept for villains since Twister's Evil Storm Chasers! This flick presents an abstracted reality that engages its audience in intellectual facts and fantasies. About a unified field theory of math and probability, it's a paranoid romp through the mind of obsession, and it's one of the best movies of its year. NS 1998


Piece By Piece***/ is about a whole different set of outsider artists, the men and women who mark and tag their colorful if often gaudy ways across our urban centers. Graffiti artists. Some would say a contradiction in terms. The music is wonderful and as exciting as the stories, the legends, the lores and the artistic styles. A lexicon of new terminology for the new form of expression and destructions. A lot of information piled in fast, just like the real stuff, piece by piece.

Pillow Book***** is beautiful, smart and surreal with human clarity. A genunine plot — full of passion, obsession, revenge and a bunch of naked male bodies. Visual subplots of proscenia — how we see, with formalist movie presentations, plus lots of apertures, doors, windows and mirrors. A beautiful movie that works on many levels. Almost accessible Greenway, at last. 1997

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl*** with Johnny Depp just goes on and on and on. Swashbuckling, live and dead pirates, a love interest of sorts, all kinds of shenanigans in the playing out, the writing, the special effects. Fun, often amusing, but just as often stupid.

Pitch Black** was a tired rerunning of an ancient sci-fi theme. The good guys crash land their rocket ship on a strange new planet that just happens to provide all the human ammenities, like air and water. Then they're beset by lurid, dreadful beasts when the planet loses its multi suns every once in a while. Exciting, amusing, scary, but plodding characterizations and plot.

Pixar Short Films**** is a fascinating history of Pixar Studios style and technique — and especially humanization of animated cartoon characters from primitive to sophisticated. Superb. Glad I got to see the transition.

Plan B***/ is a poignent story, with quirky characters, intelligent dialogue. it's funny, sardonic and sure. About Being True to Yourself. 1997

Comprising a seeming unrelated series of intimate conversations between and among characters we come to care for, Playing By Heart***/ focuses on love as well as romance without the irrelevancy of a plotted story. Scenes step by step in a progression without linear logic, but in the end we discover their relation. Poignant, wise, humanely funny and beautiful. S 1999

Pleasantville****, like many of the best movies on this list, gives us a new way of seeing. It's about a lot of things, very entertaining, thought-provoking, remarkably intelligent for a big Hollywood movie. 1998

Pleasantville**** was an utter delight. I'd seen it before, and liked it then, and I loved it all over again. I thought my monthly movie art group should see it. I took from it the theme for my recent minimalist trip to the Rockie Mountains. Early in my trip journal, I quoted, "There are some places," Bud says in Pleasantville, the visually subversive movie,"where the roads keep going." And that was exactly where I wanted to — and did — go.

Truly subversive a movie.

Some movies are just so close. Then they turn around and fail. Some obvious, others subtle. The Pledge*** is a little of both. Incredible cast; lotta big names. But a little movie, at its best brimming with human warmth. About a retiring detective who sets out to get a child raper. Stoops to gross manipulation. Then still almost pulls it off. The mixed messages and motives does the movie in. Close, though.

Plymptoons* - tedious.


Poerrepoint*** was chief executioner and hanged 608 English persons from 1933 to 1955. He was kind, gentle, and mercifully quick. Until he executed his best friend, he was not altogether bothered by his job. Then he did and was. Serious, sad tale, a Masterpiece Theatre production.

Point Blank***** is a remarkably contemporary movie for 1967. Taut, psychological thriller about a man (Lee Marvin) with revenge on his mind and beautiful women in his life. Smart, subtle acting, sensual cinematography and enigmatic editing. It's vicious, stylish and memorable, mixing the timeless flow of surrealism, gritty realism, lots of violence and a twisting, chronosynclastic timeline. Vivid noir.

Pollock**** was great, not nearly as sad as I'd read, although it is not a feel-good flick. Strong cinematography, excellent acting, I still remember many scenes and just loved watching Ed Harris be Jackson Pollock, especially his painting scenes. Usually pseudo-biographical films about artists don't show the act of creation at all, very rarely this fluidly. 2001

Studio Ghibli has produced many magic-infused (in one way or several) anime movies, this was a little stranger than some, with a more spiritual (and over my head) theme, but still delightful, especially in the details of annimation and stuff going on in the backgrounds. Ponyo***/ is lovely, but maybe a little too stupided down.

POPaganda: The Art & Crimes of Ron English***/ is a little more involved than most art documentaries, and we appreciate the little things like its own soundtrack, but mostly that's what it is. A movie that documents Ron English in both his legal and illegal art forms. Legal in galleries and chapter transitions and illegal glued over billboards. Actually one of the more intelligent art movies, since it gets at the artist's true motives directly from the artist who has lots of those, many of which skewers McDonalds and other symbols of Corporate America. 2004

Porco Rosso**** is classic, utterly amazing anime. A way fat swashbuckling World War II pilot against the fascists, his merry band of cutthroat competitors and conspiratorial crew, almost a romance and always romantic in that more worldly meaning. Exciting and beautiful and intelligent.

Portrait of a Lady***/ is beautiful, harsh intrigue. Great story, well presented. 1997

Possession***/ is wildly romantic. It twists and parallels through two time lines two sets of lovers growing their love. Not unlike time travel fiction, we go back and forth, but the separate plot lines proceed. There is no infidelity to time. It's a bit of detective, a bit of evil storm chasers (a la Twister). Only this time, the men in black are competing historians digging up the past. I liked being caught up in the stories. It seemed intelligent as I watched. Since then, its IQ unraveled, and the logic failed. 2002

I thought I wanted to see The Postman*/ despite what I'd heard. But I was wrong. Another Kevin Whoozit washout.

Practical Magic*/ ought to be called Predictable Magic. It's truly stupid in so many ways it'd take a long paragraph just to list. Amusing, entertaining but in no way different from Hollywood's usual insipid take on magic and romance. 1998

I love and have loved the two-hour-long nearly every Saturday Prairie Home Companion***/ public radio show for decades, but the movie version is sad, slow and kinda ill, executed in a minor key. It's not funny even when it's supposed to be and almost never wry, and having all those stars replacing real singers and musicians seems just stupid. I was glad to see — and hear — Robin and Linda Williams, but I still cherish the time many years ago, when I saw a live show, even if it wasn't broadcast. 2006

The Preacher's Wife***/ is warm and fuzzy. Good gospel and jazz. 1996

The Prestige**/ was confusing. About magicians and their tricks, stealing from each other, and hating and murdering each other, and it goes on and on and never really gets anywhere.

A Price Above Rubies**** is anything but typical, nor Hollywoodian. Renee Zelweiger charms as a married Jewish lady who finds her own way and the little miracles she meets and makes along the way. Wonderful, joyous, complex, involving, difficult, innovative plot, beautifully filmed, very well acted. A gem. 2003

Prick Up Your Ears**/ could have been about writing or plays or being famous or a bunch of other things but it got stuck on being gay, then didn't say anything new about it, very two centuries ago. About friendship and madness and stupidity. Not much emotion. Not much plot. Not much of a movie.

I liked Primary Colors***/ but had had the book read to me (audio book. My eyes blur out when I try to read more than twenty pages of text). Like the book, the movie made great fun and good seriousness of presidential politics. Despite all his idiotic shenanigans, it made me glad I voted for Bill, skillfully making the point that he cares. 1998

Private Parts*** sounds obscene but it's not, tho there's naked female bodies and tits aplenty. It starts off kinda lame, veers off into social-commentary funny, then steers back somewhere in between. Lotta little laughs. Some big ones, too. 1997

I am delighting in the stories around and about masterpieces of modern paintings, first Manet's Le Déjeuner Sur L'Herbe, then James Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother, the title of which the Netflix jacket entirely misses, and Edvard Munch's The Scream. Each is explained in high and low art terms, often with kitsch of it and art critics' responses. Thoroughly fascinating, I'm looking forward to more. The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Masterpieces 1851 to 1900***/.

Another edition of The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Masterpieces of Sculpture***/ brings us, again, three major works presented in history, the history of their materials and need, art criticism the people who initially and subsequently encountered it, in all its kitch and glory — Michelangelo's David, Edgar Degas' Little Dancer and Rodin's The Kiss. Fascinating and involving.

I am continuing my art education, especially of my beloved Impressionists, by viewing The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Impressionism and Post Impressionists***/ about Auguste Renoir's Dance at the Moulin De La Galette, Vincent van Gogh's The Sunflowers and Georges Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Despite minor issues of the volume rising and falling without reason, this series is amazing for its scholarship and historical understandings.

Another Julianne Moore movie, one she's in all the way through and she carries it — about an incompetent alcoholic boob played to distraction by Woody Harrelson and an entirely overcompensatingly pre-women's liberation 50s too-positive (or so it seems till near the end) mother who supports her ten kids by winning contests. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio*** is a bittersweet movie with large and small triumphant ups, depressing downs and a weepy ending.

Proof***/ is smart, sharp, a little reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind. She needs proof: she's not crazy like her father certainly was; she is mathematically brilliant as her father was; and she can trust the man who says he loves her.

I tried to watch The Producers* (remake) but I couldn't even force myself to watch this stupid stupid stupid movie, but then I'm not a big fan of musicals.

I'd forgot that Emily Watson was in Punch Drunk Love***/ when I rented it, or that would have been reason enough. Plus, I'd long wanted to see a good Adam Sandler movie. This is. The soundtrack is — probably intentionally — annoying and perfectly appropriate. The movie is also visually intereesting, even quirkesque, almost starring the sun glints and backlit glows and light smears most directors hide. It is also a vicious film, but mostly bloodless (although the ill-directed Ms Watson bleeds a little after the most violent scene) but its endearing character development saves the day.

The Pursuit of Happyness*/ with Will Smith and his real-life son, is a long, slow, dull, dreary sap of a movie that I couldn't finish.

I've been waiting for Push*** a long time. It's the only sci-fi flick that other watchers have deemed good enough and it got out on DVD today or yesterday or last week. All the way through this slam-bam violence psy thriller I've had the feeling this is like the pilot for a series. Now I'm sure of it. Oh well. Some fascinating idea, some really stupid ones. All messed together with high action, lots of murder and mayhem.

Puzzlehead***/ is dark, slow, inventive, human. In it a man who does not know how to love creates an android with his own memories, psychological makeup and dreams, which of course get them both in difficulty with each other. It plays out with European fragility and pacing, so very slowly and deeply. Chilling, with a dark joy.



The Quiet American**** is elegant, superbly acted, perfectly paced, sexy, adventurous, true to life, historically as well as literarily accurate, philosophical, smart as well as intellectual, gentle, violent and beautiful. Micheal Caine is luminous, but so is Vietnam.

The Quiet Earth**/ was probably a better book. The movie, an inexpensive Aussie sci-fi flick, didn't really make that much sense. The idea — there's always an idea in science fiction. Too often it's all there is. Like this one — is that the three people on earth who were dying when it happened, were the only three left afterwards. The only people still on earth. Everybody else disappeared when it happened. Like the Neutron Bomb or something. Everything else was still there. All the buildings, cars, machines, products. Stuff still there but all the people except these three, gone. A threesome, almost a little love story a couple times. A little bit of intrigue but not much action. Interesting at the end, but not much cumulative, except visually.

Quills**** is a wicked, yet moral tale, based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade, vividly illustrating the causal effects of art on humanity. It probably has an historical accuracy of minus seven, but it is a lot of mad and frenetic fun. It's sexy, intelligent, bawdy, sacrilegious, bizarre, loony, sometimes over the top, regularly predictable, consistently hilarious, glaringly beautiful, and strikingly cinematic. Of course it takes liberties with the truth, it takes liberties with eveything. It makes us think. And it's a great movie. I was in a one-third full theater, and not a single person talked. 2000

Seeing Quils***/ again was a delight. I remembered it as hysterically and sardonically funny, but I only laughed a few times. Mostly it was shocking and amazing. Deeper than that, though, it was outrageously funny. 2000




I had low expectations of Rachel's Getting Married**** hoping it would be a flaky comedy, but a lot of it's not funny. It is, instead, human and real. The music is noticeable and here that is a good thing, in ways it is about music, so sound co-stars in this very believable and entertaining movie about real family values.

Random Hearts*** is a little teary and romantic, but nicely done. Excellent story about love and loss while being something of a detective story, too. Nice. 1999

Ransom ***/ — Fast-paced, very intelligent, lots of plot turns, wrenching, tense, violent. 1996

Ratatouille*****, however, still is fabulous, and the two animated short features it came with were worth watching the whole thing all over again. Just as funny, enrapturing, and engagingly spirited as the first time I saw it on the big screen. All five asterisks worth. Wonderful characters, beautiful amazing animation, involving intelligent story. And funny. Funny ha-ha, funny smart, funny human.

Ray*** is a big, brash biopic about Mr. Charles, his ups and downs, highs, lows and ups again, a tad melodramatic, my big fun with it was figuring out which arrangements were classic and which new for the movie. Great music, of course, and an interesting story, but this sucker is long.

Something must have got lost in the translation from Somerset Maugham's classic novel, but Bill Murray helped. The Razor's Edge*** is almost a good movie, mired though it is in old style English stories of the aristocracy, of stupid men and stupid women and stupid romance. Just too confusing and, well, stupid. But even an enlightened Bill Murray doesn't make it sing.

Doesn't happen very often but. Unique plot, fascinating characters, solid cine. Never saw any of it comiing, step by step logical down its own inevitability, obeying the rules. Seen a lot of movies lately, but now, once again, I've truly been movied. Un film de Jacques Audiard. Didn't mind reading the subtitles. Amazing. I'm actually shaking. Truly a visceral response. Yeah, it's a love story and a heist flick, and romance with a dowdy deaf girl and a seedy ex-con. Superb. Those guys are still bouncing through my mind. Read My Lips****

I really only started to watch Real Genius*, which had proved itself mistitled within the first seven minutes. I'd thought it might be interesting to see one of Val Kilmer's earliest films, but I was wrong. This is one insipid flick.

It is so refreshing to see real people, especially real women, in a movie about real people. No svelt starlets with impossible dimensions, flawless faces or perfect hair. No absurdly handsome stars. Hardly any White people at all, for a blessed change. Real Women Have Curves**** is genuine, honest — and smart, too. Contemporary young Chicana learns to love, know, and express herself. Then she breaks with family and ethnic traditions. Heart-warming in the best possible way. Obviously, this fine film was created mostly by women, and though it's not perfect, by any means, it is so very different from every other movie anywhere, it has to have four asterisks. 2003

The Rekoning*** is momentarily volving, e- and in-, a set piece in the face of drama, sad Cher, evil nobleman, a priest in need of forgiveness and a merryless band of players...

I watched Rebecca***/ with my mother. She knew and loved Alfred Hitchcock's most successful movie well and would foretell telling moments all through it. I may have seen it on Saturday afternoon TV years ago, but it was mostly new to me. We loved hating the evil maid, still devoted to the eponymous first wife, whose death — and life — was the mystery throughout this second wife tale.

Rebel Without A Cause**** - James Dean in an American original, which I was startled to learn, was not in Black & White, although early reels of it were shot that way. Apparently, the studio caught on quickly that it was not just another teens in trouble — we called them JDs back then ( Juvenile Delinquents ) — flick. Boy Howdy.Here's a film that started its own genre without succumbing to cliches, even now, it flows and follows naturally, doesn't even seem all that dated. Amazing really, for a flick that's nearly fifty years old.


I chose to see Recruit*** because it has Al Pacino and it's a spy flick. I don't read much about movies anymore, since I don't see them in theaters. So I don't know how well this one did. But I'd bet it didn't do well. Too many forced switchback "twists" and a mangled story make this flick not completely predictable — just mostly.

Red Dragon*** is not nearly as moody or bleak or scary as the original version of this Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal prequel, but it's slicker and much more predictable. 2003

Besides a great, riveting, high adventure story, realistic acting, beautiful sets and scifi special effects, The Red Planet***/ has simple, direct, fictional science, the perhaps too-obligatory artificial intelligence gone mad bad guy, plenty of adventure, tension, human foibles, character quirks, basic humanity and a glued-on romantic interest. Best of all, it's great escapism — and Val Kilmer stays largely on the lighter side of his sometimes gloomy characterizations. 2000

She's a watcher, adjunct police person who watches a city (in Scotland) through the eyes of a bank videos around the city she can zoom and pan and follow and focus details. One day she sees someone she knows. Someone disturbing. She engages him in lust and sensual sex, (frontal nudity of both sexes, amazing if it wasn't real.) A plan. Revenge. Slowly we discover the plot after it has unfolded. A dark mystery going through. A quiet redemption by the end. Characters developed. Some beautiful visual passages. Red Road**** messes with our emotions and perceptions, tells a strange and provocative story about people and pain and retribution and renewal, too.

The Red Violin*** has the grand sweep of history, fine acting and an engrossing story following one superb instrument through the ages switchbaking to the present. A little goofy at the end, but beautiful cinematography and fascinating detail. 1999

I still think 9/11 was a U.S. Government conspiracy. That George W. Bush's Presidency was a lie, and I am convinced that the United States of America is the world's biggest and worst terrorist. Israel's only a distant second. So a movie like Reflecting Pool*** is right up my alley. It presents facts in evidence and not about the fall of the Twin and other towers. It's scary. It could have used better actors and better scenarios, which would have lent it more credibility. But it scares the willies out of me, because it's probably true.

Reindeer Games** has one of those plots that Hollywood writes to sucker audiences. It sorta makes sense, but more than that it messes with our heads. It's not as smart as it thinks. Worse, it's violent and mean. 2000

I stopped that last review in mid-sentence, and now I can barely remember the movie it's been so long. I've just had the pleasure to watch Reign Over Me***/ in which Adam Sandler is a man who lost his family in the World Trade Center disaster, and he does not want to remember. Then his old college friend Don Cheadle befriends and helps him and himself become human again, and Liv Taylor and a couple other people see through all the crazy bullshit to find the human in there. Bit of a weeper, but mellow and smart..

I guess Hollywood is just figuring out this country got integrated sometime last century, but they haven't quite got to the understanding that we're still major racists. In Remember the Titans***, we watch a redneck town go from hating to loving Blacks in one, long school year after the new team wins every game. I know the story isn't true. The school was already integrated before the championship year, however. But that's the highly fictionalized — replete with endless postscripts — story in this tear- and knee-jerking liberal flick. Denzel's pretty good, but he's been better, too.

Acting's good, story's a tear-jerker. But the cinematography and direction is seriously lacking. We're always tipped something new is about to happen, becaue the visual set-up is too different from everything gone before. It's a good story with endearing, if never quite credible characters. But I'd sure hoped to find a better flick to break my all-time record with... 2000

It seems only fair that Bill Maher's title for this flick is Religulous**. It is riddiculous, but it's also mean-spirited. Religions probably are, too, but an insipid and mean movie about it proves few points.

Rendition**** is the searing story of a man mistakenly stolen from his life by the idiot CIA, tortured and jailed for having a name similiar to somebody they heard might have been a bad guy. Told in an odd, choosy infidelium of time circling back on itself. Gripping and angrifying.

I hadn't seen Repo Man*** in a long time. Decades. Expected much more. Maybe it needs an audience. When I watched it again with the commentary, it came alive. Usually those things just bore me. And this commentary was less than spectacular. Just took me back to where I was when I first and second saw this low budget gem. Goofy characters, simple (!) plot, glow in the dark spiritualism, Absent Minded Professor special effects. All pretty laughable. Which is plenty.

In the same Cable TV vein — only this one hasn't yet been cancelled, yet, Dennis Leary's character-driven Rescue Me**/ at first seemed fascinating — following NY firemen after 9/11, then rolled quickly downhill into utter predictability. Perhaps irascible, but after two disks of six episodes and the pilot, I don't care anymore.

The Return***/ was long and deep. Two boychildren, a mother and mother's mother in the background, this is the two boys and their estranged father, gone for ten years, now back without explanation for leaving or coming, dealing badly with his sons. We're pulling for the kids. Dad's on a secret plan of his own involving a buried treasure but that's almost insignificant compared with all the psychology with father and sons. Long, slow paced Russian film by a first-time filmmaker, visual, seering and nuanced. Smart.

The only thing I didn't like about Requiem for a Dream**** is the title. There's not much dreamy about this scintilating, innovative, hard-edged movie that tracks addiction like few flicks have. Silly frillies like 28 Days pale in comparison. This is more in the vein of Trainspotting, maybe crossed ungently with The Cell and Sid and Nancy. I'm talking gritty, realistic, yet still overboard enough ( same director as Pi, after all ) to be fantastically real.

The performances here are first-rate. Ellen Burstyn is truly great as the mom drowning in the diet pill and downers rollercoaster. And the kids are fine on their own, sweat-laced, hard focus downer dive to the physical and emotional depths of white powder. The cinematography is kinetic; the story rides the choppy rails of close-up details, all edited together in a unique and viscerally visual, sometimes even surreal, cinemtic flow. Certainly one of the best this year. 2000

Rest in Pieces [below]

Revenge* is a long and tedious film about, guess what, yeah, revenge. At the time, it must have been a  particualry good and important (he says sarcastically) place for the Dances With Wolves actor to put all his money, and then some.

Revenge of the Sith*** had too much of everything. I rarely knew why what was going on was going on, but I didn't really care. It was in focus, digital, crammed to the gills with excitement, except that the politics and the romance (if that was what it was) seemed to go on forever. I'm sure kids love it. I just didn't much care, but it was a pleasant way to while away a big chunk of a Sunday afternoon.

Reversal of Fortune*** was a lot better than I expected, even though I''m a major Jeremy Irons fan. The mixed message legal team that finally got the eccentric character off was worthy of several me-too TV shows. Wonderful Roshomon look at possible scenarios. Marvelous storytelling. 2001

Revolutionary Road*** is about quiet and noisy desperation. It's a character study of a marriage gone wrong. He's a tyrant, and she lives in fantasy. Neither has a notion of who they really are or who is the person they married. The title is the street they live on.

Richard III ***/ makes it difficult to understand Shakespearean language. Stunning visuals. Rather too simple. Intriguing adaptation set in Nazi-invaded England. Way over the top. I loved it. 1996

The Ricthie Boys***/ were Germans and Jews who left Germany for America before World War II, then went back to infiltrate so they could interrogate German Prisoners of War and anybody else with information that could save Americans. This reverse espionage was dangerous and fascinating and often funny. Lots of talking heads, some in action, reminiscing, painting feelings from back then. Very well put together.

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles***/ is particularly good at what it does. The story is story of and by itself, but it is also a slowly evolving metaphor. The Chinese are probably particularly adept at this sort of weaving. This movie is about a father and a son. But the father is not the father of the son we see. The father is the father of a son we do not see, yet it is that relationship that is strengthened by the story we see. The son is the son of a person in the movie we do see. It is the relationship of the aforementioned father and this other man's some that makes this movie — and the metaphor.

I didn't believe any of the characters or any of the situations in Riding in Cars with Boys*** until two-thirds through it. Then I still didn't believe it. Like the Heroin addiction that the filmmakers just slipped in on us without a hint all the way through. Uncredible. Still, I liked the story, the characters — especially at the altogether too happily ever after ending — and the results. Go figure. 2002

The Ring***/really is scary. And stays scary past the feel-good ending all the way through the horrors of it all. Out of the Blair Witch school of scares. Remarkably good plot that actually goes somewhere. Good enough acting. Solid plot themes, intriguing, chilling central video imagery. Nice and scary. A fine fun flick. 2003

Ringu***/ is, like they say, much scarier than the Hollywood remake. Grisly, gutsy, original. Scary but not fascinating.

Rivers and Tides**** is an amazing little film about sculptor Andy Goldsworthy who makes intuitive art — he says so in probably the only bit of gratuitous exposition in this gently beautiful film. He's talking to his wife, who probably already knows, and we figure it out as he goes about creating his art — in Scotland and in America. This is a deeply intelligent, even moving first-person singular film about an artist. It's about process. We watch the idea spark, his actual step by step work. We even get to see him fail as well as succeed. Some of the more beautiful scenes are of his work in situ, in rivers and tides and the wind. Stunning in its simplicity. Luscious three-dimensionality and his understandings of what he is doing and why — almost never what I might have expected. Exquisite film about making art.

The Road to Perdition***/ is smart, sharp, beautiful, exquisitely gentle and humane for a bunch of paid killers, but violent, too. Great actors acting well. Solid story, cinematography, plot, etc. 2003

The Rock ***/ — High adventure on Alcatraz with Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage. Goofy plot with lotsa holes. Fun, tho. 1996

Robots*** was goofy fun. A lot of visual information very fast. In slow mo I could probably count dozens, if not dozens of dozens of film homages/rips, which means it would be rewarding on reviewing. Important for kids — and me. I stopped and backed it up often to catch those fleeting glimpses. Not perhaps a great film, but a real hoot.

Robot Stories*** were only four, counting the extra short short about a mouse, adding to an hour and a half, and they were well acted, interesting in the exploration of humanness and robotness. Nice mix. Lots of human touches. I smiled often.

Roman Polasnki - Wanted and Desire** and Rest in Pieces - A Portrait of Joe Coleman** are two guys who make art that sets our minds on edges, both of whose personal lives are as jarring as their art, and neither of whose first-person-singular information I care to digest. I got the Polasnki thinking it was one of his movies, and those I'd see in a flash, no waiting, no considering, just watch it and be amazed. Coleman's probably as much a part of his art as Polanski is, but I don't much care.

Romance*** shows anything but in this dark (as in gloomy) view (as in lots of male and female frontal nudity and overt sex acts, including a supposed rape) in the meandering tale of a woman who is verbally 'loved' but not physically by her verbally abusive boyfriend, and the strange cast of men who love her in other ways.

I am once again utterly and completely fascinated with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead****, and I expect to watch it in snippets and whole gaping chapters again and again whenever I bore of everything else. It'd been about ten years since I last indulged in this magnificent bit of flying existentialism, and it might be half that long again till I do again, but what a lovely perversion.

The Royal Tennenbaums***/ was quirky, and often funny, though a little too goofy around some corners. Great characterizations, amusing ruse of an excuse for a movie. Terrific soundtrack that not only intruded into the visuals but made them more exciting, helped make the movie truly different, advancing the craft in intriguing ways. 2001

Rounders** is Good Will Hunting plays poker. Smarmy and derivative. Ed Norton is his sleazy, low-life friend, "Worm." That's as inspired as it gets. Worm loses Will's money. Will has to earn it back before the bad guy kills him. Will is a compulsive gambler and his movie ends all hunky dory. Ho hum... NS 1998

Rules of Engagement** was utterly predictable, although I liked Ghandi briefly as a sniveling ambassador to a fictional middle eastern county. 2001

A Rumor of Angels*** is too sappy in too many moments, but overall it's a gentle exploration of grief. Vanessa Redgrave is good. The kid's good, but Ray LIotta as the dad way overacts. Other than that, nothing wrong with it couldn't be fixed with a decent script. This one often makes no sense.

Anybody in America who still thinks justice is free hasn't been paying attention. Runaway Jury***/ (shot in old New Orleans) may be an extreme case and a tad on the Hollyweird side of drama building into tension and release. But with Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, John Cusack and a bunch of other actors we'd recognize if not exactly put names to, we're likely to believe it. Wickedly smart with a fiercely twisting plot, superb acting and strong cinematography, this film reminds us of just a few of the ways criminals — here a gun manufacturer, but it's the same for Big Tobacco, Big Oil and other special interests — pay for their own justice.

Run Lola Run**** is a frenetic, Groundhog Day plot in which Lola runs to help her boyfriend out of a jam. Just as she gets where she's running, she's chroned back in time to start over. Along the way she learns from her mistakes, and plot twists reconnect in intriguing ways, providing a visual and intellectual delight. 1999

The local paper called Rush Hour**/ smart. I try not to read newspaper reviews, just concentrate on the headlines and number of stars. However, this may well be Jackie Chan's best movie role yet, but it is truly and incredibly stupid, nonetheless. 1999

The Russian Ark**/ seemed like a great idea — one, whole movie long, camera on, drag it through a large building that holds the cultural heritage of a nation, with lots of costumes and acting and history and dancing and color, etc. all the way through, then turn the camera off at the end. The spectacle of it was pleasant enough. The story — if one can call that a story — baffled me. I liked looking at the building and traveling back and forth in time (sorta), but overall, I'd rather they had edited together a bunch of different takes like most other movies do.

Ryan**** is weird, honest, human and marvelous. About a real-life annimator who rose fast, then dropped out of sight after becoming addicted to cocaine, then booze. The interview looks like it was done under the influence of some amazing drugs, but probably wasn't. Real interview about a real person, that looks unlike anything you've ever seen. The life histories and showings of Ryan's Academy Award nominated, pre-drug and booze annimations are great, short and superb. The movie passes strange on the right going way faster than the limit.

This following extended review is taken from ThEdBlog on DallasArtsRevue. Only the bolded movies are new here.

I've been watching art movies. Not art house movies, but movies about artists. My favorite is still Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudi*****. It's exquisitely visual, as I wrote on my movie pages and have added to the DARts Art Movies page. Oddly, the subject of this latest artist movie, Dallas artist Rusty Scruby, mentions Gaudi.

They have visions in common. Both create natural undulating surfaces in service to their art. Both are complicated people who obsessively make complex art. Even elements of the artists' work are similarly interconnected. Rusty is still very much alive, and Antonio has been dead since 1926. Gaudi is world famous. Rusty's working on it.

My understanding and appreciation for both artists deepened as I watched their movies, although Gaudi has been one of my heroes since college. I have seen Scruby's work but had passed on it as gimmicky. Now I see both sides.

Not surprisingly, Hiroshi Teshigahara is more deft a director than Quin Mathews, but Quin's work here is solid, although the lengths of the titles may be instructive. Rusty Scruby - Beyond the Plane, A Portrait of The Artist in Motion**** verses Antonio Gaudi.

Teshigahara's film moves us through the Catalonian master's buildings — and his mind. Quin's shows Scruby in motion as a human, a creator, craftsman, theoretician, exhibiting artist, salesman and musician. I didn't learn about Antonio's personal life, but Scruby's is populated with three-dimensional characters who help.

I award more asterisks to innovative movies on the leading edges of their form. Teshigahara qualifies. Mathews is good at what he does, and I'd give him points for following his form to function, not fashion. But I want more of Scruby talking and less of the people around him — some of whom have not got comfortable with the camera like Scruby has — although it was pleasant to see some old friends we share, and they wouldn't be so 3D if they didn't share who they are, too.

The moments when Scruby talks about his obsessions and how they feed his art are intellectually enthralling. Set my mind to rambling about my own craft's concerns (and more). Many artists don't know what their work is about. Most think they know but get lost in theories and forget facts. When artists speak knowingly from their selves as they make art, it's inspiring.

Difficult to get long-dead artists to give the real skinny or go off on personal tangents. Talking heads, even if they're moving around the screen, don't cut it. In Picasso: Magic, Sex, Death****, a very personable and knowledgeable old friend narrates telling details, but the movie provides rare few short movies of Pablo in action. We see and hear but do not necessarily understand. The master's voice is curiously missing.

Many artist movies screw up talking art-crit nonsense. The narrator of Artists of the 20th Century: Man Ray**/ runs off at the mouth through a long series of sloppily=prepared copies Ray's work, then stops dead at a gleaming phallus. It's wonderful education to see the work of artists, famous or not. Worth the price of admission. Even when a movie fails, getting to see dozens, even hundreds of their work is fascinating, though sometimes we have to turn off the sound.

In the Picasso movie, reflections of people moving in his work on the walls of active places show us it's real and alive, not some stupid slide Ken Burnsed in and out of. Seeing the textures — Scruby's art is vivified by them — like seeing a sly silhouette etched in a Picasso painting, is stirring.

A more recent favorite is Magritte, An Attempt at the Impossible**** (reviewed below), that incorporates much of the Original Surrealist's work, intelligent biography, understated art-criticism and surreal vignettes that reveal and promote understandings of specific work. Similar to the quick, colorful painting-inspired back-story scenes in Frida, only better, more intellectual and stranger.