Thursday, January 05, 2006

Mini Reviews - Sweetback, Gigi, Night of the Living Dead, Madagascar, & Pipe Dream

Another week, another list. I was hungry for movies after my holiday dry spell. So I watched almost anything I could! I know you think I watch a crazy amount of movies, but hey, when we got our little home theater, we basically cut ourselves off from TV. So if I am in front of the screen it's to watch a movie -- though sometimes we do rent TV show DVDs. We are really digging Lost Season 1 and Coupling Seasons 1 and 2 right now. (The british version of The Office was also excellent.) And if I have to go too long without watching movies, I go through withdrawal. It got worse after we started getting Netflix, and extra worse with the home theater. What can I say? Movies are my thing! So let's see what I watched this week, shall we? Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Gigi, Night of Living Dead, Madagascar, and Pipe Dream. I was so desperate that to fill the gaps between Netflix shipments I raided our stash of unwatched bargain-basement (and free) movies.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (Van Peebles, 1971)
Peebles is a fugitive from the law after he beats up some cops who are wrongfully beating up a young black man. And as a fugitive, he runs, and runs, and runs, and runs. Only making stops to have some explicit sex along the way.
I hated this movie. I angry-hated this movie. The movie made by son, Mario Van Peebles, about the making of this movie is absolute brilliance and one of the best movies I have ever seen. The actual movie, made by Papa Melvin? Disgusting. Absolutely one of the worst movies I have ever seen. And I can't tell you how angry I am to have been made to watch a child porn scene (I am NOT exaggerating) involving Melvin's entirely nude, 13-year-old son, Mario, and a fully grown, fully nude woman. After the initial disgust, there were slight less shocking reasons to be disgusted. Still the disgust remained. And boredom crept in. Imagine if Run Lola Run had never gone anywhere, and then add disgust. Basically it was 97 minutes of running shots. (In addition to the initial child porn scenes and several soft-core porn scenes involving Van Peebles, SR. and several women.) I understand that he was angry. That the black community was angry. Sure. I understand this movie broke incredible ground for the independent film community (which exists in part thanks to this movie) and the black community (whom had never really been catered to or fully represented in real, sexual, angry, and gritty terms) but why did it have to be so disgusting and SO boring? With it being such an important film, it's too bad Van Peebles didn't spend a little more time on a script. He experimented significantly, could have been interesting, and imagine if it had been groundbreaking AND good. Just imagine it!

Gigi (Minnelli, 1958)
Bred to be a courtesan, Gigi has been taught the proper, and dignified ways to be a kept woman, but Gigi, bless her, has a mind of her own.
You couldn't have had a more different movie follow SSBS than this one. I think I came back to this one, because I needed it like comfort food and a hot bath after the previous film. There is something about watching your old favorite again and again. Life is predictable and makes sense when scenes happen the way you want them to, because you remember them that way, and you know every facial expression and every beat of a movie. This movie is that for me. But it was fresh and new seeing it on a big screen for the first time. And I was moved to tears (after more than a decade of regular Gigi-watching) at the end. See? Even French whores find love. Life is good. Ahhhhhhhhh.... I am in my happy place again.

Madagascar (Darnell, McGrath, 2005)
A quartet of misfit animals escape the New York Zoo in attempt to return to "the wild." They end up shipwrecked in Madagascar with a bunch of strange lemur-natives.
Cute. Fairly funny. I wanted more depth, more humor. But we laughed fairly often. See? I am even having trouble thinking of what to say about it. Must be missing something. I always have something to say, right? Ummmm.... Oh yeah! My favorite joke, even though I saw it several times in previews, is when the lemur-native leader asks their new friends where "you giants" come from and when they answer "New York" the lemur screams to the surrounding crowd of lemurs, "All hail the New York Giants!" That was pretty funny. Still, the whole native thing. Not sure about it. Aren't we past that kind of reductionism?

Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)
Due to a freak accident, droves of the recently dead return to life. And boy are they hungry!
I have had this in my stash for some time. Figured it was time I watch it. It's a classic after all. Guess what? Ok, it was hokey, and made by a novice - often reminded me of student films. But it actually wasn't too bad. I don't think I would watch it again. But it was O.K.! I had some real suspense working in me a couple times when they left the house to do stuff. But yeah, I also sniggered a little at some of the sillier moments. My favorite thing about it is that this is one of the absolute best portrayals of black men I have ever seen. He was... ordinary! Not ghetto, not stupid, not a clown, not angry, not idealized. AND he was resourceful, and one of the only characters in the film that actually had any kind of ability to move forward in the plot with any kind of efficacy. That's quite unusual. And people say that movies today are more progressive? Pah!

Pipe Dream (Walsh, 2002)
A plumber, dissatisfied with his perceived class limitations, cons a friend into helping him make a fake movie to meet women.
Also in my freebie/cheapie stash. Not too bad. It was similar to The Last Shot, maybe slightly better. More interesting. The class issues and everyday people are a little easier to swallow than the way-over-the-top implausibility of the FBI making a fake movie to catch some crooks. But that movie was ok too. Both were, ok. This one was slightly more interesting but had much worse acting. Sooooo.... yeah. Not a huge recommend here.

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