Author Topic: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts  (Read 469985 times)

edgar00

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1970 on: December 20, 2008, 09:07:30 PM »
Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis) versus KIDS (1995, Larry Clark)







If I may, I’d like to begin with a question. Have you ever lived a moment, or a day in your lives that you regret?  We’ve all remembered moments that we were less than proud of and told ourselves ‘Gosh (or f*ck!, or crappers), if only I could relive that day again. I would do things differently, I would do them the right way.’ But of course, that isn’t possible. One cannot physically travel into the past to correct ones wrongdoings, or not yet at least.  So that’s why mommy and daddy teach us to ‘forgive and forget’, one of the many important lessons in life, along with ‘don’t leave the stove on while you’re gone,’ (achieved) ‘don’t get high on your own supply’ (failed), ‘go in there with a Trojan’ (classified information). But what if you had to relive a moment to correct you wrongs? What if you were to relive the same day, again, and again, and again, until you’ve finally made things right, with no hints as to what it is you’ve done wrong?

Weatherman Phil Conners (Bill Murray), when on a Groundhog Day assignment in an excruciatingly boring small town outside of Pittsburgh, is forced to go through such a misadventure, for reasons unexplained. He is rude, cocky, needy, picky and egotistical. His co-workers, Rita (Andie MacDowell) and Larry (Chris Elliot) are annoyed and fed up with his behaviour. That night, cranky Phil goes to sleep in the hotel bed and wakes up the next morning, but not really. To his amazement it is still Groundhog Day. Everybody who spoke to him the previous day is speaking to him in exactly the same manner today. All the events that occurred yesterday are happening again. That’s because today is yesterday and yesterday is today. Wowsa. Phil has entered the Twilight Zone, or a better idea for The Happening.

Of course this is Phil’s punishment for being such an arrogant snob with everyone around him. With every passing day he learns more about the pretty Rita and begins to understand that to be with someone so nice, one has to be nice in return. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Nice lesson. I read that in a fortune cookie… I think. I don’t know, it was something cheap anyways.

Director Ramis and writer Danny Rubin play their cards handsomely. With the exception of a few off beat scenes (the suicide ones for instance. Once was okay but they hammer the idea on the viewer’s head a bit much), the movie is mostly good natured fun. The jokes are light and harmless for the most part. Murray has a certain charisma to him that explains why he played in so many of these comedies in the late 80s and early 90s. He is aloof but usually sharp with the one liners nonetheless. There were a few moments during which Murray felt flat, a bit too deadpan even for my tastes, but he was still okay. I should point out that the movie wasn’t as funny as I remembered it. I did see it a long time ago and many of the scenes felt new to me, but I didn’t laugh that hard very often. In fact I didn’t laugh that often period, I smiled a lot. Don’t mistake me, there were some good scenes, but few carried any real good comedic flare.

I don’t think a viewer discount the film entirely even if it isn’t the funniest thing put to screen however. The story is quite well structured for a comedy. The idea is very clever and handled carefully I would argue. There is a moral to the story, as I pointed out earlier in this review, but it stems very naturally from the proceedings. It didn’t feel forced, or spoon fed at any time. Maybe near the end things get a bit too obvious and subtlety is tossed aside briefly, but it doesn’t hinder the rest of the film. There was something interesting in seeing Murray’s character gradually learn what proper, decent, human behaviour is all about. It was a clever idea I felt not to make that journey complete too quickly. What I mean by that is the filmmakers put his character through a trial and error process until he finally understands what is to respect and love another person. Instead of jumping to the logical conclusion after only a few days, he continuously makes silly mistakes, and is thus further punished by reliving Groundhog Day over and over again. For example, at first he tries to remember bits of information regarding Rita’s habits and likes and dislikes in order to selfishly sweep her off her feat and bed her. This is the egotistical path since he’s not really being nice, what with his motive being far from altruistic. It is only from learning from his earlier mistakes that he can improve himself as a human being.

With this in mind, I would argue that Groundhog Day is a good movie to see some genuine character development. It’s a bit on the simplistic side, and I would think it is aimed at the ‘family’ audience (rarely my kind of film at this stage in my life) but it isn’t without its merits, of which there are several.

Small confession: There is one day I wish I could relive again to correct some wrongs, but it involves apple sauce and flames and is far too graphic for this message board. Which brings me to…





Oh, kids these days. They grow up so fast don’t they? One day they are looking at you in the eye in that cuddly way and calling you ‘mama’ or ‘papa’, the next they are taking a leak on the street right before their next conquest for some pussy, or cock, whatever your preference, I won’t judge you.


KIDS
is Larry Clark’s 1995 film about a certain group of youngsters in New York city who are arguably as corrupt as I imagine teenagers their age can be. Drugs, alcohol and lots and lots of unprotected sex are the three virtues these lads stand by. The same standards apply to the young ladies as well mind you. They’re always willing for a good tussle in the sack too. The story unravels over the course of one day in the lives of about 2-3 guys and 1 girl in particular, with a few supporting characters showing up. The two main rugrats of the film are Telly, played by Leo Fitzpatrick, and Casper, played by Justin Pierce. They are the most foul-mouthed teens I had ever heard speak. Man, do those little devils ever like to say CINECAST!, pussy, cock, bitch, fag, asshole, FILMSPOTTER!, dyke, cock-sucker, nigger, or it’s slang version, nigga…  The former, Telly, is on a personal quest for the day. Upon waking up that morning next to his latest lady friend, he deflowered her after using some rather nice and caring words. With one virgin scored already, skinny Leo is on the prowl for one more. Two virgins in the same day. You the man Telly! He is accompanied by his bud Casper as they visit friends, make the purchase of weed and kick the shite out of an overly confident Black guy. On the female of the story is Jennie, played by Chloe Sevigny. She and her friend Ruby (Rosario Dawson, a little bit young, but ‘wassup’ to see her in a film like this nonetheless) pay a visit to the health clinic to test themselves for the HIV virus. Jeannie has only been to bed with one fellow, prince charming himself Telly, whereas Ruby is a screwaholic. The results of their tests come back and it turns out Ruby is fine, but Jeannie is in trouble. But if Jeannie is in trouble, than that probably means Telly is in trouble too. Isn’t he out shagging girls left and right?…

The film holds no punches, absolutely none. This is as raw an experience as a viewer will find in American cinema. It is the anti-Groundhog Day film. There are consequences to the foolish behaviours of these social parasites. They know no rules, no boundaries and live their lives accordingly. They have little concern for consequences, be they emotional, such as when a girl is left for another one, or physical, such as when a man has the living daylights beat out of him and his face turned to marmalade. They are the product of a care free lifestyle gone wrong. They are also the product of poverty. They don’t live in the most glamorous of neighbourhoods, are surrounded by sketchy people who deal drugs or are sick, possibly HIV positive even. It’s a rotten community, rotten to its very core and the children and teenagers that inhabit this world are victims and the violators in this word without a ray of light . People will be turned off by this movie. The teenagers featured are vulgar beyond belief, and their actions are more often twice as worse than their language. But the reality of situation is that such neighbourhoods do exist. When people aren’t educated and don’t have the money to leave their socio-economic status and are negatively influenced by their peers, they will perform dumbass shite. As shocking as this film will be to some, the real tragedy is that this stuff does occur in real life. Albeit the events depicted in KIDS are fictional, none are exaggerations. There is a brutal honesty to the picture that is as unforgiving as it is fascinating.

Fascinating to see young teens and kids rolling blunts, getting high as a kite, demonstrating less than exemplary behaviour towards others? Yes, it is absolutely fascinating because that is where the problem begins. When the children aren’t guided to be model citizens- you, to hell with that. When children aren’t given the means to be decent human beings, trouble is bound to stir. In fact, when they, at their impressionable ages, are encouraged to follow bad behaviour, a shit storm will surely result. At the risk of brining up a cliché, the movie is relevant and carries a certain degree of importance. It may not be a documentary, but damnit if it isn’t far off.

There is one fascinating scene (among others) which is cut between two different locations. At one apartment, the boys are getting their high on, talking about their fornicating exploits, while at the other apartment, the girls are discussing sex. The latter group are not necessarily the brightest people on the block, but they do demonstrate an inkling of more maturity than their bull dog counterparts. There topics range from getting niked with virgins (boys),  losing virginity (girls), eating pussy (boys), the difference between making love, sex and CINECAST!ing (girls), how girls love to suck cock (boys) and how girls hate sucking cock (girls, and it’s because getting rid semen from one’s teeth is as irritating as it sounds). The scene is great I believe because it plainly shows where these youngsters are in the maturity stage, and how they feed off one another’s behavior. Despite the foul and sometimes funny comments, the scene does an impeccable job of setting up these characters. That one scene speaks volumes about how these teens operate.

I’ve gone on long enough, but I would like to point out that Chloe Sevigny is quite good in the film. Her role demands far more emotional weight than anyone else’s in the story and she passes the test with flying colors, if not her HIV test.

KIDS is a must see for those who like their movie watching experiences to be as visceral and brutal as can probably be permitted on screen. Freddy Krueger, Michael and that Predalien can take a hike. The real evil is when youth have a lack of direction in their lives, as is plainly demonstrated here by Larry Clark and his brave, brave cast, who, despite their obvious youth, go in with no holds barred.


Groundhog Day is much beloved by many, and rightfully so. I may not fully embrace the film, but I do recognize its charms. There are some funny moments, Bill Murray gives a fine performance, and the story and its structure hold up throughout the entire film. Not to mention that there is a valuable lesson to be learned if any of you have been acting like a jerk all these years. But I would argue that in KIDS, there is a more pressing lesson to be learned. The lesson about poverty, about what happens when delinquent kids aren’t givn any directions out of the muck holes they were born in. ‘Our children are our future’ so goes the saying.

Some people didn’t get the memo. Kids moves on.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2008, 09:14:20 PM by edgarchaput »
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duder

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1971 on: December 20, 2008, 09:29:03 PM »
What I mean by that is the filmmakers put his character through a trial and error process until he finally understands what is to respect and love another person. Instead of jumping to the logical conclusion after only a few days, he continuously makes silly mistakes, and is thus further punished by reliving Groundhog Day over and over again.

My main problem with this film is I never get the sense that the character changes because he wants to, but rather because he has no choice. You write a character as a jerk and then you punish him until he starts acting like however you think a decent person (whatever that means) should act? What's interesting about that? Is there another angle to this? Do I need to watch it again?
« Last Edit: December 20, 2008, 09:30:37 PM by duder »
...

pixote

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1972 on: December 20, 2008, 09:37:55 PM »
My main problem with this film is I never get the sense that the character changes because he wants to, but rather because he has no choice. You write a character as a jerk and then you punish him until he starts acting like however you think a decent person (whatever that means) should act? What's interesting about that? Is there another angle to this? Do I need to watch it again?

From memory, I'd say that he doesn't change to escape punishment so much as he changes because he figures out that he's not as happy as he could be or, as he learns, wants to be.  The repeating day is really more of a catalyst for the love story, rather than the unseen antagonist of the film.  It creates a situation where Phil realizes that, no matter how no matter how many advantages he's given by the temporal fluke, the person he is can never win the heart of the girl he's smitten with.  But even when he changes, it's not a new ploy to win Rita; it springs more from how Rita's rejection has made Phil realize how self-loathing and miserable he's been (not just on Groundhog Day, but in general).

I don't know if that's any better, but that's how I remember it...

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

pixote

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1973 on: December 20, 2008, 09:41:49 PM »
...adding, I really like Groundhog Day.  Like a lot.  But Kids would have had an even shot with it, with me.  And your review was very persuasive, edgar.  Really nicely done.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

edgar00

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1974 on: December 20, 2008, 09:45:39 PM »
I think Bill Murray's character has given up on the hope of escaping his predicament, therefore he is finding out ways to behave better for that reason. Rather, his repeated experiences with Rita and those around him has shown, quite blatantly at that, that his attitude just doesn't bring upon happiness or kindliness. If he doesn't like them, then they won't like him back, and that's when it starts to hurt him.
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Melvil

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1975 on: December 20, 2008, 11:02:47 PM »
Great read, edgar. I'm not especially anxious to catch Kids based on your review, but I don't doubt it's merit.

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1976 on: December 20, 2008, 11:06:39 PM »
Nice reviews, edgar.  I've made my position on Kids well known but you did a good job of arguing its case.

edgar00

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1977 on: December 20, 2008, 11:14:57 PM »
Election
(Payne, 1999)

versus

My Voyage to Italy
(Scorsese, 1999)



Despite your reservations about My Voyage to Italy, I'm still quite eager to see that film one day. Election I was never a huge fan of, but since I didn't see the other movie, I'll just politely acknowledge your verdict.
-Le Chiffre: You changed your shirt, Mr Bond. I hope our little game isn't causing you to perspire.

-James Bond: A little. But I won't consider myself to be in trouble until I start weeping blood.

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http://crabkeyheadquarters.wordpress.com/

mañana

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1978 on: December 20, 2008, 11:23:14 PM »
Great reviews edgar. Although there are aspects of Kids I do admire, I don't think I'd be nearly as kind to it as you are. But I'm not really part of the Groundhog Day cult, a film I like but usually get bored with before it's over, so I'm not too heartbroken.

Again, great job.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2008, 02:08:42 AM by matt the movie watcher »
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mañana

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Re: 1990s US Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #1979 on: December 21, 2008, 02:29:23 AM »
Beauty and the Beast

Although I have certainly not been completely won over by Walt & the gang, I’m pleased to report that in some respects Beauty and the Beast provided some pleasant surprises. The film zips along and the plot unfolds in a masterfully efficient manner. Almost every song is memorable and as far as catchiness of songs goes, the film has to be among the most consistent musicals of all time. And the Beast’s servants, particularly Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, are all pretty good. With all that said however, for me Beauty and the Beast never reaches anything close to greatness, it’s pleasant but hardly a remarkable film.   

Now the nitty-gritty. In his earlier verdict, roujin was quite right to criticize how the film romanticizes an abusive relationship. The beast is violent, controlling and imprisons Belle in his castle, yet with her love he eventually changes and becomes Prince Charming. That’s right kids, abusive men can change, it’s just up to you to love them enough. 

To Disney’s credit however (not something I say very often) in a few key ways Belle is not one of their typical heroines. Belle loves to read, is independent, and dreams of getting out of this one horse town; she’s meant for bigger and better things and she knows it. Furthermore, Belle also shows tremendous bravery when she sacrifices herself for her father’s safety, which is interesting when compared to Ariel (Little Mermaid, 1989) who got herself into trouble chasing after a hunk. The film however wastes this good start with the whole Stockholm syndrome thing.   

What all this culminated to is a film that purports to be beautiful and romantic and for me is neither. As for the visual beauty of the film, I know the ‘Tale as Old as Time’ dance sequence is memorable for fans and I guess it looked pretty good . And the stained glass prologue was cool too.

Rushmore

I first saw Rushmore during its initial theatrical run when I was 16 and I absolutely loved it. It immediately found a place among my all-time favourites and motivated me to track down Bottle Rocket, which I also loved. With subsequent films my adoration for Anderson waned.  Steve Zissou had its charm but ultimately left me unsatisfied, and the Darjeeling characters seemed obscured by Anderson's style.  I’ve been hesitant to revisit Rushmore considering my responses to Anderson’s most recent work. Like the memory of a scary movie you see when you’re 12 that’s ruined from re-watching it when you’re older; I didn’t want to mess with a good thing y’know.

Rushmore doesn’t hit me like the tonne of bricks it once did, and there are more references to hand jobs than I remembered, but I still do really like it. It’s original, very funny, and quirky before that was such a dirty word. All of Anderson’s trademarks are here, albeit presented in a more restrained fashion: a stylized heightened reality, characters centered in the frame and often staring into the camera, slow-motion, terrific selections of and use of music, and so on. But for me, unlike in his last two films, here he gets the balance right and his characters aren’t suffocated by his attention to the art direction, soundtrack, and costumes. Rushmore is the last time Anderson made a film that resembles our world.

People always talk about Bill Murray and how he was robbed of a nomination, and he is quite good, but the film belongs to Schwartzman. Through a combination of the writing and the performance, Max is the linchpin. Although he comes close at times, he is never cartoonish or too cute. 

Subsequent Anderson films are dry to the point of cracking but here the humour is clever and laugh-out-loud funny. The Serpico production, Max’s speech to the public school class (“you have some great facilities here”), he brings a selection of sandwiches to his meeting with Herman’s wife… and other scenes all had me laughing.     
 
In his first round review skjreva asked “what is going on with the film?”. I’d say what’s going on is exactly what appears to be going on, nothing more and nothing less. Thematically Rushmore is nothing new, it’s a coming-age of film, and like a million other coming-of-age films it’s about a kid learning to like himself. To some Max might appear cocky but I think that’s an inaccurate reading, simmering under his articulate surface is a lot of self-doubt - he is definitely no Ferris Bueller. Evidence of Max’s confidence problems: he’s obviously ashamed of his barber father and the film opens with a fantasy about him being celebrated for solving an infamously hard math problem. Further, his revival in the last act of the film is prompted by Margaret Yang’s confession that her science project was a dud, which kind of makes him feel better about himself.

What makes Rushmore so good is that the coming-of-age story is told by such a stylish and cunning filmmaker. Anderson has a very specific visual style that he marries to a wonderful brand of humour, and in his hands this familiar terrain becomes something fresh and distinctive. I think Ebert got it wrong when he wrote in his lukewarm review that “(the) film seems torn between conflicting possibilities: It's structured like a comedy, but there are undertones of darker themes”. Ebert faulted the film for the very thing that makes it so special. A coming-of-age comedy with dark undertones? Sounds like The Graduate, sounds like Harold and Maude, a pedigree I think Anderson would be honoured to inherit.

Verdict

Beauty and the Beast yielded more enjoyment than I expected and I tip my hat to it for that, but it really doesn’t compare. Rushmore moves on.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2009, 03:16:38 PM by matt the movie watcher »
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