May 15, 2010

Things I wrote about movies in 1999.

Ha. This is fun for me to read. 5 years before I started blogging, I wrote up some opinions about movies in IMDB, under the pen name Alizaria. (It's still my Metafilter nickname.) I haven't read these in a decade, so I'm going to kind of blog them right now — mainly for my own amusement, but come in and talk about these things if you want.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
I hated this movie, 19 December 1999

I have in the past loved Tim Burton. I loved Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, and even Mars Attacks. But I hate this movie. The costume drama scenes in the beginning were the sort of poorly done, stodgy things that used to plague historical drama 25 years ago. Then there were all the head-cutting scenes, which just left me cold, and that's the sort of thing that ought to mean something, I would think. Yes, there were some nice bare trees and foggy evenings and the horseman jumping out of the tree was a nice special effect, but on the whole the movie was just boring and pointless.
I didn't admit that I slept through parts of this movie. It was literally "Sleepy Hollow" for me. I was beginning a period of my life when I changed from loving movies — going out to the movies more than once a week — to near-complete indifference. I can barely force myself to go out to the movies 5 times a year, and I watch a movie on TV maybe once a month.
Dogma (1999)
0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
This movie is terrible!, 24 November 1999

Where are the positive reviews coming from? This movie is terrible! The acting was incredibly wooden, like an underrehearsed skit that went on for 2 hours intercut with idiotic scenes of carnage. How many times did 5 or 6 characters just sit around explaining elaborate supernatural rules to each other? That might have been funny if the script were well written and if Selma Hayek could act just a little, but it wasn't. And poor Ben Affleck, trying to act up a storm: was this supposed to be dramatic? It was just out of place and dumb. And Alanis Morrisette as God might have been funny if all the reviews hadn't revealed this plot point and if George Burns hadn't already milked the joke of an unlikely pop celebrity as God years ago. I was horribly bored at this movie and may have set a record for times I looked at my watch. Thinking a comedy should be about 90 minutes, I went nuts waiting for this ponderous two hours to end.
Ha ha. I like the way 0 out of 5 people find my review useful. On IMDB, "useful" tends to mean "liked it as much as I did."
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Focus on Catherine Keener, 22 November 1999

Well, first of course this a very interesting and original film with lots of laughs and many memorable images. And Cameron Diaz allowed herself to look unrecognizable and homely as anything. Yay, Cameron! But let me focus on the wonderful Catherine Keener, whom I adore from "Living in Oblivion" (not to mention the Seinfeld where she paints Kramer's picture). I'm so glad she has a really popular movie to record her greatness for all posterity. The role is perfect for her: so many cutting remarks, said with a smile.

Back to the film. Interesting inquiry into sexuality: what if you love the personality but are not attracted to their body? That's the basic question, which perhaps the writer struggled with in his own life. If only I could be inside the body of someone sexually attractive (like John Malkovich!!), I could then have sex with all the people I find attractive. Actually, this may be where the story went downhill for some people and got quite dark. I can see many people had trouble with Cameron in a cage.... As well you should! If that weren't upsetting, then there'd be a problem....
It's a bloggy question: Do you ever think I wish I could be inside someone else's body, so you could have sex with someone who doesn't find you physically attractive? Or have you ever wished someone you really like as a person could be inside the body of someone you find physically attractive so you would be able/willing to have sex with him/her? 
Festen (1998)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
The Promised Profound Experience Didn't Happen to Me, 21 November 1999

I saw this movie at a university screening room after an elaborate intro by the movie's producer, who explained all about Dogma 95, which I was quite interested in and excited about. But the film seemed to be pretty much of an exercise in following their little rules, which results in a movie that left me longing for the artistry of real cinematography. The producer described the Dogmatists [as] wanting to strip away the pretensions of big expensive films, and that is something I appreciate. But I want to see the actors faces. Take a film like Crumb, really low budget, but you see everything. Celebration didn't seem to really care about its characters or story which I found incredibly trite and unbelievable. I was told I'd be profoundly moved and that people all over the world were really moved by this film, but I just did not believe in the story at all. It was quite a crude effort at writing a family story with a big secret, which reminded me a bit of Sam Shepard plays from the 70s. Big weird family with a horrible secret to be discovered. Or to go way back, Eugene O'Neill. But those family stories are so far better written than Celebration--it is just nothing as a story. And the wearing effect of the visual quality as the movie gets literally darker and grainier as it goes along reminded me of experiences I've had in bad theaters where I've had to complain about the lighting. I like the idea of stripping away pretense and making movie making possible without enlisting the approval of big companies, but I assume in the future it can be made to look better and that the writing will really count and the acting will be good. There was one fine actor in the movie, the father, who was in Bergman's Cries and Whispers, and I started thinking about Bergman, who had very beautiful cinematography: it's not something to be scorned.
I used to suffer for things that people made me think were real art. Now, I protect myself. What am I missing? I blame "Festen."
American Beauty (1999)
Every performance: perfect!, 24 October 1999

Well, it looks like nearly everyone truly loves this movie, and so do I.

A lot of movies that are artistic and admirable still don't really grip you all they way through, but this one did for me. When I saw it a second time, I still felt completely involved at every moment. There was always an image on screen worth looking at, even studying, for all the details of the composition: the composed squares of windows at night and camera viewfinder and so on. There was attention to this. Every performance was just perfect.

Annette Benning was hilarious and really perfect. So funny and moving even as she played the type of character who isn't usually sympathized with. You know it really does ruin the mood if the guy attempting to have sex with you is holding a beer bottle slantwise near the upholstery that you've struggled to buy and maintain. That's why Spacey sounds trite, as one commenter commented, when he rants to her about caring about things. Hey, remember that scene begins with him playing with his new toy and pleased at having bought a new car. You aren't supposed to actually buy his throwback to the sixties mentality: he's just discovered his inner teenager there. Enough has been said about Spacey.

I just want to identify the two actors I'd nominate for their supporting roles. First, Chris Cooper. The long wet closeup is a great sustained performance that feels completely real and unbearably painful. Just to think of it now gives me chills.

Second, Mena Suvari. She is absolutely perfect in this role, funny, moving. I didn't notice how great she was the first time I saw the movie, because she was such a type until toward the end, but the second time I noticed all the perfect detail in this performance. I also saw her in a TV interview: she looked nothing like the character in the movie.

Anyway, I would have said I'd like to see these four actors sweep the acting Oscars except that I'm still trying to deal with the immense awe inspired by Ving Rhames in Bringing Out the Dead.
No one admits to liking this film anymore. You're supposed to hate it. Sorry. I loved it at the time, and I'm not going to censor this. The movie got overpraised, I guess — won a lot of awards — and there was backlash. Also, it had an embarrassingly badly done gay theme.
Lolita (1962)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
second only to "Dr. Strangelove", 7 August 1999

I saw this film when I was in college, and what I remember is walking home after the film, talking about it with my friends and suddenly bursting out crying and being unable to stop. What triggered this was the thought "he really loved her." I give credit to James Mason for that (James, sublime in the bathtub scene). These days, I watch the film again every few years, and though I've never gotten back that original reaction, I love it (with the exception of the business with the folding bed--it's just too tedious, however metaphorical). Peter Sellers ("right in the boxing glove") is constantly hilarious, the clown who drops in from time to time hardly dominates the movie as so many people say. Sue Lyon is also perfect in her role (too bad if she's older than in the book--the book has an entirely different tone). She is complex, not the innocent victim: what could be more boring than a film about an innocent victim? Shelley Winters (who is really quite attractive but willing to make herself ridiculous and gloriously annoying) could not be funnier. One of my favorite films of all time: second only to "Dr. Strangelove" among Kubrick's films. (PS. I hated "Eyes Wide Shut.")
This is the only review of an old film in the bunch. I just get a kick out of watching this movie. So rewatchable.  I love it.

I can see, reading my old reviews, how much I used to care about the actors. I was so interested in how they did their work. Today, I'm just not interested in actors. I don't want to look at them. They've gotten so fake. And it's not just all the plastic surgery. I wonder if I'm sorry I lost interest in movies. Maybe I'd like them if I didn't have other things I want to do with my time. And I'm so impatient. I can't commit 2 hours to sitting in the dark, in the grip of some director's sense of how much time to take telling me a story. I can't wait while an actor speaks slowly and pauses and grimaces to try to make me feel that the words of a script are actually being manufactured inside his cranium. I have thoughts of my own.


traditionalguy said...

Interesting stuff. I am 100% with you on American Beauty. That was a gutsy film and it worked. But where did they hide all the others? Maybe I was too busy back then to see anything interesting.

Chase said...

It is obvious that movies affect you Ann. Your review of Lolita reveals how much (precious).

We raised our children with so many phrases from the movies (and some TV)that we watched together with them. Probably because they got the point so quickly and memorably.

"Why do you keep using that word? I do not think it means what you think it means." (Princess Bride)

"We've done the battle of wits. The deck is stacked in my favor." (Uncle Buck)

"That's the most stupid thing I've ever heard!" and "I love you, son. And maybe - just maybe - your mother loves you, too." (First episode of The Cosby Show)

HT said...

Oh gosh, I HATED American Beauty. Hated it with a passion. Agreed on Catherine Keener though.

chuck b. said...

I think Sleepy Hollow was the first movie I watched on DVD before I had a television so I watched it on my computer and I thought it was incredibly wonderful. But I have no other memory of it, just that I liked it.

I never saw Dogma. Does not even ring a bell.

Loved BJM, although I remember it seemed really grainy and hard on my eyes. Maybe it was the theater.

I agree about the badly done gay theme in American Beauty, a movie I otherwise liked very much at the time. Annette Bening was great and the the scene with her fucking Peter Gallagher (or rather Peter Gallagher fucking her) was esp. hilarious.

And I've neither seen nor read Lolita.

HT said...

I really gotta disagree with everyone who thinks AB is all that. If it is so great, how come there aren't any revivals of it - commercial or critical? I never see anyone looking back on it and extolling its virtues. This movie offended me deeply. I wrote a review of it, but it's somewhere on my other computer - it just ... TRUCKED in stereotypes.

knox said...

I've always sort of meant to see Sleepy Hollow, but now I will definitely avoid it.

I dunno, I thought American Beauty was puke-worthy even when it first came out. You are right, the whole gay story line is the worst aspect of the movie. But it is only one of many cringingly heavy-handed, cliched things in it.

That plastic bag floating around ... so poignant >>eye roll<<

edutcher said...

Agree with you on Sleepy (God, was it awful; I should take it personally since my family is mentioned in the original) and Lolita.

Never a Sellers fan, but James Mason one of the more overlooked actors of his time. Like Cary Grant, he was taken for granted (no pun) because he was always that good.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

So, you were deeply moved by Lolita, and you weren't particularly disturbed by the 7-year-old girls slutting it up to a Beyoncé song.

I'm beginning to notice a trend here.

SteveR said...

I really liked American Beauty at the time and still do. Very good in many ways. Annettte Benning should have won an Oscar, that was a straw that broke the camel's back for me on the Academy Awarda and I have found no reason to become interested again.

Funny how there such mixed feelings about it.

dbp said...

I too thought that the performances in American Beauty were very good. The problem is that it was all spoiled by the utterly predictable plot. The military guy being rabidly homophobic, but in reality gay! Who could ever have seen that coming?

Christy said...

I loved Dogma, found it funny. I do see how you found the acting amateurish, but that aspect struck me as part of the joke.

I thought American Beauty was great when I saw it, but it didn't develop in my imagination later. Did I simply transfer my great admiration for Kevin Spacey to the movie?

The Crack Emcee said...

Wow - totally wrong on Dogma, and the only true stars of BJM (as anyone should be able to see) are the writer, Charlie Kaufman, and the director, Spike Jones. Keener was just another untrustworthy feminist witch - big deal. This was Kaufman and Jones' breakout film, and easily established both, but especially Kaufman and his audacious new genre (the "wind-up" movie) as the defining force to be reckoned with in modern pop filmmaking - no one else has even come close - while just as easily making a mockery of the anti-American austerity criticisms found in Europe's "Dogma 95" movement.

Those two reviews, at least, are absolutely ludicrous.

American Beauty was good, but seemed better than it was to liberals, depraved anti-Americans that they are.

C Black said...

You must know it is not my opinion on your old opinions that matters here, Mrs. Althouse... Who is Alizaria? And what does she want from us? *

*And what Hollywood actress does she most resemble so I can finish fleshing out this scene.

cameron said...

Catherine Keener should get another role like that.

rcocean said...

Yeah, AB made a bid impact at the time and now seems totally forgotten - like Bill Clinton.

I liked the whole an anti-bourgeois attitude, but the Spacey attraction to the young girl seemed creepy and weird, and the gay angle was obvious and badly done.

As for Lolita (1962), I thought it too long and too dull. Missed all the greatness of the Novel, not surprising since Nabokov had an unreliable narrator, wordplay, puns, etc. all of which can't translate to film.

The Novel is so much better, and yes he did love her.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Do you ever think I wish I could be inside someone else's body, so you could have sex with someone who doesn't find you physically attractive?

Only if my interest in the person was purely physical. If I was in love with them, I would want them to have sex with me and accept my ugliness.

Or have you ever wished someone you really like as a person could be inside the body of someone you find physically attractive so you would be able/willing to have sex with him/her?

Absolutely not! If you like someone enough for their personality to want to have sex with them, you should accept them for their ugliness. I've liked guys who haven't exactly been models and still been physically attracted to them. Often times, their personality has made them really hot.

And FWIW, ugly people are often good in bed.

C Black said...

"And FWIW, ugly people are often good in bed." I'm not ugly; but I imagine myself to be, yeah, you do the math.

HT said...

The Crack Emcee said...

American Beauty was good, but seemed better than it was to liberals, depraved anti-Americans that they are.
Well, I'm a big ole liberal and I hated that stinker of a movie.

rcocean said...

Yeah, AB made a bid impact at the time and now seems totally forgotten - like Bill Clinton.


I still love Bill. Never forgot him.

The Crack Emcee said...


It wasn't a stinker, just wrong for all the reasons others have outlined - the "macho man" (a United States Marine, of course; the least likely person to be intimidated by anything) is a gay homophobe: can anybody say "lame" and "obvious" coming from a liberal mind?

And I never forgot Bill's cigars, that he told everyone Monica was a crazy liar - and destroyed her reputation - and he never defined what "the meaning of the word 'is' is".

And now the former President of the United States has put himself up in a lottery to pay off a measly $700,000 debt for the nation's current Secretary of State.

You really must be into unethical behavior, a lack of dignity, and tackiness, bad.

Flexo said...

Wow, who'd have thunk that a film extolling emptiness, angst, and nihilism would simply fade away into the abyss rather than spur a life-long love of the film?

Mena Suvari was definitely the only reason to see the movie.

That said, most of the Best Picture Oscar winners in the last few decades have not held up well.

I remember watching the entirety of Being John Malkovich and never realizing that it was Cameron Diaz.

Most movies today do not interest me in seeing. And then when I see the price of tickets, I definitely lose all interest. Last film I saw in a theater was The Stoning of Soraya M (an excellent film that was totally ignored by "the Academy").

Flexo said...

Speaking of movies that you NEVER want to see again because of their dreariness -- top of the list is "Plenty," with Meryl Streep.

An excellent film with excellent acting by Streep, who plays such a depressing and horrible person, who does nothing but make those around her miserable. A great film, but you walk out of it feeling like sh*t. Who wants that in a film?

The Crack Emcee said...


I do - there's lots of "depressing" films that are damn good - just as I want to see uplifting fare.

I like "art".

Penny said...

"I'm beginning to notice a trend here."

Me too, but the hour is late, and I am determined not to show a "scornful face".

William said...

I saw all the movies on your list. The only one I remember is Lolita, and I haven't seen it in years. Kubrick really did find the human race offensive. The only sympathetic character was James Mason, and he was a pedophile. Shelly Winters knew how to get up your nose. Even when she was young and pretty as in A Place in the Sun, you were rooting for her early death. She would have been a natural for a biopic of Bella Abzug.....The uses of enchantment: when we're young it's no big deal to see a movie two or three times and be happy as a clam to see the happy ending over and over. Now the spell is broken. Happy endings are no longer credible, and no one wants to sit around watching wretched people arrive at their unhappy ending.......I still like to rent big, special effects movies. It's not the magic of the story; it's the magic of the magic that now inspires fascination and wonder. Who wants to watch people coping with reality when it's possible to watch entire worlds collapse and be born anew. Life is very unimpressive compared to what they can do with computer generated reality.

Penny said...

"I wonder if I'm sorry I lost interest in movies."

Interesting question, and one I ask myself as well. Here's what I concluded.

Movies help shape COLLECTIVE emotion, and because of that, they are much more important than we might imagine. More impressively, they do so in a mere two hours, at a relatively small entry fee.

Let me give you an example. This is an article from the Asia Times written about a Bollywood movie that , if the news is believed, will have you understand the power of COLLECTIVE emotion. The movie, “My Name is Khan”, seems to have struck a cord with its middle eastern audience.

“At every screening in Damascus, the full-house audience walks out of the Cham Cinema City complex in tears. Many weep for the lead actresses' loss of her son in the film, but at a deeper level the film touches on something inside every Arab and Muslim: a raw nerve of how unjust the world was to them after 9/11.”

Regrettably, I need to add that I did not do due diligence on the veracity of any of the above in the same way I did for Althouse’s earlier post from that obscure assistant professor that was spouting his own bullshit, and even MORE regrettably linked by Politico, Cato, Instapundit and Althouse.

If this is another circle jerk, then I welcome you to Camp Freeshit, where we rejoice the loss of the fifth estate and those who lost their sense of smell. :D

C Black said...

From one bonfire to another; I wonder between Camp Freeshit and Free Campshit. My sense of Blog-smell is supremely limited to my dilapidated monitor and processor. It is old. I am White, and yet my Apple accessories have not been Freely forthcoming. I am but a poor nomad on this trek to wards the bliss that is race-based-techno-babble-based-poor-mouth-supremacy. Hate is hate. You do not receive a coupon because you are late.

Palladian said...

"Kubrick really did find the human race offensive."

Look around you! Hard to disagree.

Me and Stanley are holding out for the Starchild.

Saint Croix said...

I've gone through periods of my life where I didn't watch any movies at all. And then another period where I quit the practice of law to run off to film school and make movies myself. (Still in that one). In fact I don't bother with cable now. I just have a DVD and watch whatever I want from Netflix. Keeps my TV watching to a minimum and what I watch tends to be a lot better.

Saint Croix said...

The amazing Catherine Keener movie is Walking and Talking.

themightypuck said...

Lolita the book and Lolita the movie are radically different but both good (well the book is genius). Kubrick realized he couldn't really do the book without massive changes. First off, he had to make the girl someone who had just become a woman rather than someone who was about to become a woman. No one would have been able to stomach the movie if Mason was playing a true pre-puberty pedophile.

Penny said...

From one bonfire to another; I wonder between Camp Freeshit and Free Campshit.

The bonfire of the vanities, perhaps.

Would it be better if we squinted?

EWE, C Black. EYE, sea White.

If you don't mind my saying so, this just might be a life-changing "squint".

Instead of gray. How would you feel about yellow?

It's a happy color!

Hold my hand. It's going to be just fine.

Penny said...

And grab Palladian while you're at it, C Black.

Just not on the gonads, please?

He is wont to lose his "mind" sometimes. ;)

jamboree said...

Wow do we have opposite tastes. Wouldn't even turn my head to spit on AB on the street. Forget it. Ripped apart Lolita the book which was assigned in class and got an A+ for doing so by a prof (not GSI or TA) who was a huge fan. The movie was just odd- though I've only seen the old one. I have hated skeevy old guys since I was nine and see no reason to glorify them in "art" - infer from that what you will.

Loved Dogma. The Corporate Boardroom scene is one of my favorites of all time. Damon/Affleck pairing was great.

Let me guess- you weren't raised Catholic. Being Irish-derived was just part of the whole 90s alt vibe - not absolutely necessary, but it helped.

themightypuck said...

Speaking of Nabokov, I always loved the poem in Pale Fire which was supposed to be somewhat terrible but which was actually quite good.

But like some little lad forced by a wench
With his pure tongue her abject thirst to quench,
I was corrupted, terrified, allured,
And though old doctor Colt pronounced me cured
Of what, he said, were mainly growing pains,
The wonder lingers and the shame remains.

Ann Althouse said...

The movie "Lolita" had to be different from the book, because the book filters the reader's perception of what his happening through the words of a monster who does not believe he's a monster. And the words are unusually beautiful and brilliant. A movie can manipulate your mind and keep you from hating a monster, but it can't do what the book did.

Anthony said...

HT & Knox -- completely agree on American Beauty. I stayed until the end, but walked out thinking "WTF was that?"