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Sunday, June 05, 2005

New Post on Sunday

A Couple of Movies I Just Saw or Resaw

In The Soup

This won the Best Picture award at Sundance the year it came out, beating out a superior Buscemi-intensive film, Reservoir Dogs by Quentin Tarantino. It tells the story of Adolpho Rollo, a dude with money troubles that wrote a screenplay he wants to make into a movie. He finally gives up on his filmmaking dream and tries to sell his screenplay, causing him to meet Joe, a total scumbag who unfortunately drives the rest of the movie’s narrative. It’s meant to be a movie about a guy with a lot of ideas and passions that gets in over his head with a criminal and his weird entourage in order to get his film made. The problem is, we the audience have no real reason to care about this guy, so when he makes a bunch of bad decisions, we just get annoyed with him. About an hour into this black-and-white indie nonsterpiece, I realized I hated all the characters – the aimless and blank (it’s quite a feat to make Buscemi seem blank, don’t you think?) main character; the repellent, manipulative, and omnisexual Joe; the mean and non-radiant love interest; the bickering mobster landlords; Joe’s omnisexual and stupid girlfriend; The repellent Frenchman who is married to the love interest; Joe’s pointlessly ruthless brother…

…Ok, so Joe’s brother is kinda cool, in a Tarrantino sort of way. But the whole movie seems to be attempting to reach David Lynch’s quirky and ominous Blue Velvet tone but isn’t committed enough to get it done and isn’t smart enough to succeed despite its failings. The movie is amateurish, and in a bad way. To use an analogy, Blue Velvet is to In the Soup as Nirvana is to Candlebox. I don’t think I can say it any better than that.

Hoop Dreams

In the special features to the new Criterion DVD, they have every single instance where the late Gene Siskel and the on-time Roger Ebert talked about this film. They trumpeted it when it came to Sundance, they trumpeted it when it came to theaters, they trumpeted it for a Best Picture nomination in 1994, they had twin coronaries when it wasn’t even nominated for Best Documentary, they were the public face of the movement that eventually reformed the documentary nomination process, and they both named it the best picture of the 1990’s when that decade was done. Whew.

While I think they might want to tap the breaks a bit on that last one, it is probably the best documentary of all time. For those unfamiliar with it, I’ll summarize: 2 black kids from the inner city of Chicago (Arthur and William) are recruited to play for a prestigious Catholic High School in the suburbs. William immediately plays with the varsity team, and becomes a rising Chicago prep star; Arthur plays with the freshman team and is kicked out of school during the first year because his family can’t pay his part of the tuition. The filmmakers follow them from their 8th grade year all the way through High School graduation, and time brings a reversal of fortune for the two boys and tragedy and comedy for each of their families. It’s really about the inner city of Chicago and people finding hope there, told through the eyes of two prep basketball phenoms.

The commentary track featuring William and Arthur is awesome. They are funny, thoughtful, and illuminating as they discuss what was going through their heads the whole time. It’s a window into a world that is seldom seen even in our enlightened age: the world of the struggling urban non-criminal teenager. It’s not exciting or sexy – it’s just a noble struggle that’s sad and uplifting in a genuine way. What else do you want from a documentary, Holmes?

In The Soup: 1 ½ overpriced popcorns out of 5

Hoop Dreams: 4 ½ overpriced popcorns out of 5

6 Comments:

  • At 9:36 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    Well, that did it. I just moved Hoop Dreams to the top of my Netflix queue. Funny. I'm gonna watch a basketball movie this week.

    You should know that White Chocolate and I have been making superfluous references to the Marqutte basketball team in the last couple of weeks, but calling them by your alternate names. The favorites are the Waderivers and the Interchange. But when someone says "interchange" we always say "you mean the team, or..." So much comedy! You've succeeded where no others have: making basketball a part of my recreational life.

    Oh, and also, I went to dinner earlier this week with my friend Sam Cholke. Sam had just seen Eraserhead for the first time the day before, and was enthused. We started talkin' David Lynch, and I got the the part where I rented Blue Velvet as a 13 year old. He topped me with this one:

    "My grandma rented Blue Velvet because she thought it was about Bobby Vinton. But she watched the whole thing because, she claimed, she kept expecting Vinton to show up." Wow.

     
  • At 2:00 PM, Blogger Mike Pape said…

    Watching Blue Velvet as a 13-year-old was bound to mess with your head. I'm very sorry that America has failed you.

    I can't believe his grandma watched the whole thing...that's pretty messed up. Within about 10 minutes I suspect a normal person could have figured out it's not about Bobby Vinton. I can't imagine my parents watching it, much less my dear departed Grandma.

     
  • At 6:15 PM, Blogger Danny said…

    Hey, I just wanted to suggest another documentary by Steve James (hoop dreams dood). It's called Stevie and I have to admit that it is hard to watch, but that it is truly great. It's the story of a back woods man that Steve James (director) knew when he was a graduate student at SIU and volunteered as his mentor. I won't tell you any more, but I will beg you to rent it...please please please!
    Also I just want to add that I am pretty sure that the summer when we rented "Blue Velvet," "A Clockwork Orange," and "8 1/2" would have to be one of the most confusing and somewhat pretensious time of my life. But they did show boobies...and at 13 complex inner-monologues and the contemplation of relationships/love/life don't mean much compared to the aforementioned.

     
  • At 12:17 PM, Blogger Mike Pape said…

    That's quite a trifecta there, Dan. I'm not sure which one of those movies I would have liked least at age 13 -- probably Blue Velvet, because I wouldn't have appreciated the weirdness of it. I'm sorry that you too had to go through that.

     
  • At 12:23 PM, Blogger jill said…

    i think "the aforementioned" would be a good name for a band.

     
  • At 1:09 PM, Blogger Flybeard the Sailor said…

    Yeah, "the aforementioned" would definitely be playing at Cornerstone.

     

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