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BULLY
2001


July 17, 2001
Cinemateque at the Towne

A group of teenagers in a Florida town grow tired of being picked on by the school bully and lure him to a swamp where they beat him to death.

-->Directed.....Larry Clark [Kids]
-->Marty Puccio.....Brad Renfro [drug addict, The Client, The Cure, Sleepers]
-->Bobby Kent.....Nick Stahl [The Man Without A Face, The Thin Red Line]
-->Lisa Connelly.....Rachel Miner [estranged wife of Macaulay Culkin]
-->Ali Willis.....Bijou Phillips [Almost Famous]

This was the definition of a film that is nothing more than adolescent semi-porn masquerading as an issue movie. Just because the kids suffer prison as a consequence of their crime, doesn't make the close-ups of Bijou's crotch, or the bordering-on-rape teenage sex okay to show. I've been angry at Larry Clark since KIDS came out. KIDS was shocking, but ultimately had a lot of truth about how a particular set of kids in New York City had indiscriminate sex with each other and how acting that way in the age of AIDS was playing with fire. Then I read a piece in the Village Voice about how KIDS may have been the most widespread male-kiddie-porn film ever seen. The slow, misty shots of the pre-pubescent boys wrestling and smoking and drinking, all without shirts on, was far too prevalent to be incidental. When I saw KIDS again, I felt the exact same way as the Voice author. KIDS is still a worthwhile piece of film, but you have to get past the naked boys to get to its heart.

KIDS is a walk in the park compared to BULLY. Incidentally, I just saw Ebert and Roeper refer to this film as a 'masterpiece'. I've never disagreed with so many people about a single film. The story is simple: Marty and Bobby are lifelong friends. Bobby picks on Marty all the time, in private and in front of other people. There is a scene where Bobby pimps out Marty and makes him dance in another one of Larry Clark's fantasy sequences, this one an amateur night at a gay dance club. It is implied that Bobby pimps Marty out for actual sex but we don't see this. Just after this scene, Marty is driving Bobby's car and he hits the curb and Bobby yells at him and then hits him right in the nose, then he pulls his arm back and hits him again, full in the face. I don't know what kind of brain this Marty kid has, but at that point, the friendship is over. This isn't like an abused kid or an abused spouse type thing. These are high school kids. They can stop hanging out with each other. But for some reason Marty doesn't leave.

Lisa and Ali happen upon the two boys at their job and they end up going out that night and having sex in Bobby's car. Bobby grabs Ali's head and moves her into oral position while Marty and Lisa have sex in the back seat. The one truthful scene that is still in my mind is while Bobby's getting oral in the front seat, he looks in the back seat and watches Lisa's face the whole time. Lisa become smitten with Marty, even getting excited when she ends up pregnant. Ali likes having sex with Bobby, and on another day, he shows her a gay porn tape, which she doesn't want to see, before forcibly raping her.

These are terrible kids doing terrible things, but that's not what makes the film terrible. When Bijou climbs up to the front seat of the car from the back, the camera angle is on the floor and we zoom in on her crotch in her short cutoffs. When Bijou walks around the supermarket, her ass is hanging out of those same shorts. When Bijou is on the phone while getting a pedicure, we again get a crotch shot, which has nothing to do with the story or even any of the characters. The other three leads get the same treatment. It's one thing to show kids nude having sex. That's natural. But the lingering camera showing Renfro's shaking boxer shorts during the amateur dance night, and Bobby working himself up in front of a mirror, and two other characters having sex in a bedroom full of teenagers is just a fantasy come-to-life for the director. Miner, who is less exotic than the other women (girls) gets a bit better treatment. Her sex scenes with Renfro are for the most part pretty natural. She is naked a lot and not shy at all, which is probably an honest characterization. But Heather and that Leo-looking guy from Dawson's Creek and Bijou and Renfro all seem to me to be exploited in the name of anti-violence. That's what sickens me.

I'm a fan of exploitation films. I watch the 'skinamax' films on the Satellite. I enjoy porn. I talk openly to most people about most any topic, usually to the embarrassment of the other person. But I don't pretend that I watch 'Buttman' because I enjoy the travelogue aspect of seeing Montreal. I don't kid myself that it's more than it is. BULLY pretends to be art, but it is really a bunch of extremely attractive young people who were talked into scenes that they'll be embarrassed about in a few years. I just saw THE WAR ZONE which is about incest and has nudity and is extremely hard to watch, but not a second of it was exploitative. BULLY was entirely without any merit, until the actual murder begins to take place.

At this point, it gets scary and you can see the kids actually act a bit and they're all dressed and you wonder who will crack first. These scenes are just a hint of what Clark could have done had he not been so in lust with his cast. They are probably good actors, but we don't know that from this film.

Don't pretend to be a huge reflection on society's moral decay when you're nothing more than an erotic teen film.


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THE WAR ZONE
1999


July 15, 2001
IFC

A teenage boy discovers that his father is having an incestuous relationship with his sister.

-->Directed.....Tim Roth [A World Apart, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Vincent & Theo, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Reservoir Dogs, Bodies, Rest & Motion, Pulp Fiction, Little Odessa, Rob Roy, Everyone Says I Love You, Gridlock'd]
-->Written.....Alexander Stuart
-->Dad.....Ray Winstone [Quadrophenia, Ladybird Ladybird, Sexy Beast]
-->Mum.....Tilda Swinton [Aria, Orlando, The Beach]
-->Jessie.....Lara Belmont
-->Tom.....Freddie Cunliffe

Not the most uplifting tale, but haunting in normalcy of the family. Mom and Dad love each other and have just had another baby. Tom is around 15 years old, his sister Jessie about 17. They've moved from London to a cold and miserable coastal town because of Dad's job change. They are open and loving and cuddly with each other. Nudity isn't hidden amongst the family. Then Tom sees his sister and father in the bathtub. He begins by screaming at her in private. She is a bit embarrased about the whole thing. She thinks Tom is just jealous and wouldn't care if he had a girlfriend of his own. The mood gets more and more deep until the only conclusion that could possibly happen takes place.

The pacing and lighting and mood is at once happy and tragic. Quite a debut by Mr. Roth. The way that Dad doesn't wink at his daughter and is never seen shushing her or threatening her makes him even more of a monster than he otherwise would be. This is a hard film to watch, with a particular scene that goes on long after its point has been made, but it will stick with me for a long time. All of the performances are great, especially the two kids. I look forward to seeing them again in something much more light.


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THE LIMEY
1999


July 15, 2001
Showtime

After he leaves prison, an English criminal goes to Los Angeles to discover how his daughter died.

-->Directed.....Steven Soderbergh [Sex, Lies, and Videotape; King Of The Hill; Out Of Sight; Pleasantville; Stir Of Echoes; Erin Brockovich; Traffic]
-->Wilson.....Terence Stamp [The Collector; Superman; Superman II; Legal Eagles; Wall Street; Young Guns; The Adventures Of Pricilla, Queen Of The Desert; Bliss; Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Bowfinger]
-->Terry Valentine.....Peter Fonda [Easy Rider; Futureworld; The Cannonball Run; Bodies, Rest & Motion; Ulee's Gold; Jackie Brown; The Passion of Ayn Rand]

Stamp is fantastic as a criminal who will not stop until someone answers for his dead daughter. Although this sort of revenge movie is pretty common, in the hands of Soderbergh it reaches a new level. Dialogue is overlapped, we often don't see the character talk. The timeline is askew as we skip forward and then backward. Fonda is sleazy as can be as a record producer who lives with a succession of young girls. Fun to watch.


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MY AMERICAN GIRLS: A DOMINICAN STORY
2001


July 15, 2001
P.O.V.

Documentary about woman who left the Dominican Republic twenty years ago to make her fortune and raise her three very different daughters.


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HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
2000


July 15, 2001
Camera Cinema Club

The life and times of a transvestite would-be glam rock star.

Written, Directed, and Starring.....John Cameron Mitchell [Band Of The Hand; Girl 6]

Really unique and creative story of East Berlin boy (Hedwig) who marries a U.S. Serviceman who brings Hedwig to Kansas, where Hedwig is abandoned, but finds solace in a glam rock band. It's a musical with fantastic songs which move the story along nicely. There is animation onscreen which explains what the song lyrics alone probably couldn't. At the center of all of this is Mitchell who is a petite, David-Spade-looking guy, but when he gets into the drag and wig becomes a performer that Cher or Tina Turner wouldn't want to challenge. It was funny to be sure, what with the performances at the local salad bar restaurants. But it had a surprising amount of heart in it. It was about finding love and loving yourself and all that other gooey stuff. It really worked on me. I was smiling throughout. We've already had two good musicals this year. I guess that's our quota. Bravo to Hedwig.


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STANLEY KUBRICK: A LIFE IN PICTURES
2001


July 14, 2001
Cinemax

Documentary about Stanley Kubrick with clips of all his films.


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LEGALLY BLONDE
2001


July 12, 2001
AMC Mercado

Ditzy sorority president is dumped by her boyfriend so she follows him to Harvard Law School where she starts to shine as an attorney.

-->Directed.....Robert Luketic
-->Elle Woods.....Reese Witherspoon [King Of The Hill, Friends, The Man In The Moon, Fear, Freeway, Overnight Delivery, Pleasantville, Cruel Intentions, Election]
-->Emmett.....Luke Wilson [Scream 2, Rushmore, Preston Tylk]
-->Vivian Kensington.....Selma Blair [In & Out, Can't Hardly Wait, Cruel Intentions]

Check your brain at the door. It's not unpleasant to sit back on a Summer's night and let a movie unspool in front of you without you having to lift a mental finger to figure it out. The full house at my screening couldn't have been happier. Funny things happen, the nice people win at the end, and everyone goes home happy. Selma Blair is the best thing about this film. She'll find her lead role soon that will rocket her to fame. The character of Elle is supposed to be so unbelievably hot that no one could picture her at Harvard Law. She has several scenes where she laments her appearance saying 'all they see is blonde hair and big boobs'. But the thing is, Witherspoon is attractive (especially her eyes), but she's not drop dead gorgeous. The dialogue should have been changed somewhat to reflect that while Witherspoon is blonde and good-looking, there are, in fact, women in law school who are more attractive than she. But that's sort of beside the point. The film is about how a clueless young woman can bring a different perspective to a trial than someone who is brilliant, but doesn't know people. It could have been worse.

I'm still amazed at the reaction that gay jokes receive in this day and age. The crowd just about had a riot when one character was discovered to be gay. We really haven't come as far as I thought we had.


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LUCAS
1986


July 8, 2001
HBO

A studious 14-year-old boy tries for the football team after falling for a new 16-year-old girl at school.


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THE COMMITMENTS
1991


July 7, 2001
HBO

Dublin youth, believing that the Irish are the blacks of Europe, form a soul band.

See the U2 Pop Culture Database for more information.


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DREAM FOR AN INSOMNIAC
1998


July 7, 2001
HBO

See the U2 Pop Culture Database for more information.


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TOKYO EYES
1998


July 3, 2001
Towne Theater

The young sister of a policeman falls for a young man wanted for shooting at people in Tokyo while wearing a disguise of thick glasses.

-->K.....Shinji Takeda
-->Hinano.....Hinano Yoshikawa [Looking like a younger, cuter, though strangely less Asian Phoebe Cates]

Stylish and fast-pace story of a video-game loving, techno music dancing kid who pulls guns on people when they prove themselves to be bullies. The story is funny and you can't help rooting for the young man not to get caught. The lovers are attractive and cute together. Strange development of brother-sister relationship keeps the audience in the dark for about an hour.


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GEKKO NO SASAYAKI
MOONLIGHT WHISPERS
1999


July 3, 2001
Towne Theater

Japanese high-schoolers fall in love, and what should be his dream relationship turns into her reevaluation of what being in love means to different people.

-->Directed and Written.....Akihiko Shiota
-->Written.....Masahiko Kikuni and Yoichi Nishiyama
-->Takuya Hidaka.....Kenji Mizuhashi [Fishes In August]
-->Satsuki Kitahara.....Tsugumi [Instantly jumps aboard the MichaelVox Top Ten]
-->Tadashi Uwmatsu.....Kouta Kusano

I promise this is like nothing you've ever seen before. A terrific conversation starter. Takuya secretly pines for the gorgeous Satsuki, a classmate, even going so far as to spar with her in martial arts before class. He says he enjoys it when she hits him on the head, it makes him know he's alive. A classmate gives him a note to pass to her but she declares that she would rather be pursued by Takuya and not the more experienced classmate. Takuya is beside himself with joy. It's a dream come true. They begin an incredibly beautiful courtship with conversations, walks, video games, bike rides, and of course, sparring. A locked drawer contains proof that what he wants out of their relationship is quite different than what she had in mind, but later, she realizes that his way has its charms (and perks) as well.

I don't want to say any more about the plot because it goes in ways an audience has never seen before. What begins conventionally goes way over to the other side by the time the film ends.

This sort of slice-of-life film from Japan is pretty rare. The parents are over-protective, both families have money, sex in high school is a common thing, and even in rigid Tokyo, a man (or kid) can have needs that aren't exactly common.

I was most impressed by this frank and honest-to-a-fault story. The power that each lover has and uses in their own way is a joy to watch.


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SONGCATCHER
1999


July 3, 2001
Towne Theater

Female music professor is passed over for promotion, so she heads up to the mountains of Carolina to visit her teacher-sister, and discovers that old English folksongs are being sung there.

Sort of soap operaish story of mountain people distrusting the city-educated strong-willed woman. The music is fantastic and honest but there are subplots involving lesbians, coal miners, and religious fanaticism. There is not doubt where love will blossom. Also, each and every hillbilly is profficient on more than one instrument. Sort of a white trash supergroup.



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MOULIN ROUGE
2001


July 1, 2001
Century Union City

Still holds its magic after a second viewing. Nice to hear the crowd react to surprises I already knew about.

See the U2 Pop Culture Database for more information.


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THE SWEETEST SOUND
2001


June 30, 2001
P.O.V.

Very funny documentary on the nature of naming people. Do we feel more connected to people who share our name. What are the most popular names. Do we secretly wish we were the only person on earth with our exact name. There are visits to the Jim Smith club and the filmmaker has a dinner party where he invites 12 others with his name.

SEXY BEAST
2001


June 29, 2001
Los Gatos Theater

Retired thief is forced out of retirement by psychotic former associate.

Not quite as good as advertised, but it really is something to see Ben Kingley as such a despicable character.


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