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Sunday, August 17, 2003


I've been catching up with a few movies these past few days. Perhaps I shall give them a due review.

First, two films directed by Brian De Palma:

The Untouchables
This one exceeded my expectations, delivering a rousing, stylish action-adventure set in gang-dominated prohibition times. I enjoyed the whole cast, led by Kevin Costner as Elliott Ness, and includes Andy Garcia as a sharp-shooting new recruit, Robert De Niro's hammy-as-can-be Al Capone, and the showstopping Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone. It's not what you'd call a "serious" crime picture, no, it's a bit too much fun for that, but it also doesn't lack a serious side. De Palma scores with the climactic shootout scene in the train station, with the baby carriage hurdling down those steps, bullets (and blood) flying every which way, in Peckinpah-esque slo-mo. I want to see Once Upon a Time in America and Miller's Crossing, for comparison's sake.

Great soundtrack, too.

Dressed to Kill
Yuck and double yuck.
I've heard this referred to as the prototypical De Palma movie, and frankly, if I'd started here, I probably wouldn't have wanted to move onto any others. It's trashy, B-level, exploitative schlock, in my opinion, and only merits credit for directorial style (which sometime becomes tiresomely overcooked) and good performances, put in by Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson. Gore fiends are probably the only ones who would truly appreciate this gruesome attempt to out-psycho Psycho. I get the feeling that, like a lot of the director's work, so much of this could be laughed at for its sheer audacity and depravity (see my Femme Fatale review... )

Shakespeare in Love
I hadn't intentionally avoided this splashy, well-designed semi-historical romantic comedy, as I guess you'd call it, until now, but I'm glad I finally gave Old Willy and friends a shot. Will wasn't so old, of course, in 1593, when this delightful 1998 Best Picture Oscar winner is set, so there's plenty of opportunity for those concerned to carry on in a very... mischievous manner. Yes, there's Elizabethan hijinx aplenty, which in my book makes for a very entertaining, and entirely scholarly show. The entire cast is splendid, even the sole Yank (as far as I could tell...) Ben Affleck. J. Lo, however, was nowhere to be found (and I'll leave the obvious humor to your collective imagination). Recommended for those who have enjoyed Romeo and Juliet, for those who have hated Romeo and Juliet, and for those who think that Romeo and Juliet is the name of a 70's sitcom.

Being There
It's hard to find words to describe this movie. So very hard, so very strange. Umm... I guess I should still try. It's weird, not in a David Lynch kind of way, but in a... unique way. It's weirdly weird, I'll say that. So, Peter Sellers, in just about his final role, is a very... *simple* man whose life is disrupted when the old man, for whom he works as a gardener, dies. The rest of this story unfolds in the supremely simple, matter of fact way that you might expect, but to a degree that you really wouldn't ever expect, if that makes any sense at all. This film makes a whole lot of sense, really, you just have to see it, as "Chance," the... how do I say this?... borderline retarded TV addict strolls about, wholly self-contented, never more self-aware than your typical garden tool. One other film comes immediately to mind in regards to this character, and that is Forrest Gump. Compared to this utterly banal but attractively succint late middle-aged WASP, Gump was a genuine sophisticate. Much like that chocolate-munching southerner, Chance's naivete is his main draw, his charm over credulous Washingtonian navel-gazers. A gasp-inducing final shot, after Chance's name is brought up as a Presidential candidate, will make you scratch your head in wonder, and consider whether there really was a deeper meaning, after all.

Saving Private Ryan still should have won the '98 Oscar. Says moi.



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