Antonia's Line. This flick received this year's Academy Award for best foreign picture, and it has all the banal mediocrity and pre-fab pathos we've come to expect from the Academy. Antonia is an old, dying farm woman, and the plot is a Cliff Notes version of the highlights of her life, given to us swiftly but succinctly, presumably so we may experience sorrow when she dies. The film produces so many rapidly growing babies that it's hard to feel connected to any of the characters, and the plodding narration keeps us further at a distance. This is the kind of ground best covered in novels, and the filmmaker struggles without much success to make her very long story visually dynamic. The occasional jolt of magic realism just makes the whole project more derivative and embarrassing.
Faithful. Chazz Palminteri and Cher star in this comedy about a hit man having a job-related mid-life crisis. Cher plays a housewife with a Rolls Royce and a fancy house--she has everything except the love of her husband (Ryan O'Neal), who has apparently sent a hit man to whack her on their twentieth anniversary so he can run off with his secretary. His plans get complicated though when the wife and the hit man strike up a friendship. The screenplay, based on a play by Palminteri, doesn't have quite enough twists to carry the story off, and events never turn as complex as it seems they should. But Palminteri and Cher have a nice chemistry between them and the movie has a decent number of satisfying moments. I just wish the actors didn't keep saying the word "faithful" over and over, with an unsettling emphasis.
A Family Thing. It goes like this: A white man discovers he's actually the son of a black woman and that he has a brother (black) in the big city. He goes to the city to meet his brother. Against insurmountable odds (you know, race) they strike up a warm relationship. Because we're all just people inside! As dumb, implausible and potentially offensive as this plot sounds, it ends up being a kind of charming little tale of friendship between the two brothers, due mostly to the skill and warmth of Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones. I'm convinced Duvall is one of our most talented living film actors--early in this movie, before the plot chugs into absurdity, he's just amazing. It's a little exhausting though, the way Hollywood movies have reduced the questions of class and race in America to a simple plot device. Oh well, what did we expect?
Fargo. A wonderfully deadpan thriller/comedy about a couple of mediocre psycho killers being chased by a mediocre cop. Frances McDormand is terrific as Marge Gunderson, a patient, pregnant chief of police plodding along after Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy), a financially insolvent car dealer who has his wife kidnapped so that he can scam the ransom money for himself. Of course, the plan goes awry, and half the fun of this movie is watching the perky, have-a-nice-day citizens of the northern Midwest getting caught in the cogs of gruesome crime. Only the Coen brothers could pull off such a effortless blend of humor and gore.
Flirting With Disaster. David O. Russell, director of Spanking the Monkey, continues his investigation of the zany problem of instability in one's parents in Flirting With Disaster, the story of an adopted guy (Ben Stiller) who goes to look for his birth parents. He takes along his wife (Patricia Arquette) and a sexy adoption counselor (Tea Leone), who keeps matching him up with the wrong set of parents. This movie is funny but ultimately quite predictable, with a theme borrowed from the Wizard of Oz and a final ascension of family values. Comedy/insight/entertainment-wise, it's about at the level of Seinfeld, only longer. Check out the wickedly funny performance by Mary Tyler Moore.
Girl 6. This film about an enthusiastic phone sex babe has all of Spike Lee's typically brilliant style along with all of his typically elliptical content. Theresa Randle, as Girl 6 herself, swoons in and out of fantasy so that it becomes hard to tell what's real and what's inside her head. This might be nifty if it weren't for the fact that Lee embeds it all in a male-oriented, typically Hollywood world: All the phone sex girls are drop-dead gorgeous and they all wear skimpy outfits. Is this Girl 6's fantasy or Spike Lee's? Music from Prince livens up Girl 6 but overall, the concept of this film seems so confused that it's hard to tease any meaning out of it at all.
Sgt. Bilko. A made-from-TV comedy based on the series from the Fifties, Sgt. Bilko is the tale of a lovable, greedy Army man just trying to make some money and have a little fun. Bilko (Steve Martin) doesn't believe in discipline, and he encourages his men to gamble, drink and cheat. Bad casting drags this movie down--Steve Martin is just too handsome and likable to pull off his underdog role, and Phil Hartman as his arch-rival Thorne turns in an incredibly flat performance.
Race The Sun. Wave upon wave of clichés pummel the audience in this movie about Hawaiian high schoolers who go to Australia to race a solar car. Halle Berry plays the perky science teacher. Jim Belushi plays the worn-out shop teacher. Boy, do they ever teach those spunky kids a lot about life and perseverance! For masochists only.
LESBIAN LOOKS. The Lesbian Looks video series concludes Friday, April 12, with the following screenings: Homoteens (Joan Jubela), five autobiographical portraits of young gays and lesbians in New York City; Bird in the Hand (Melanie Hope and Catherine Saalfield), a passionate investigation of issues surrounding co-dependency and obsession; and Alice Unplugged, an excerpt from a work-in-progress by UA professors Joyan Saunders and Beverly Seckinger, in which Alice B. Hapless tunes in to late-night TV and finds a pair of provocative infomercials on lesbian life in the '90s. All screenings are free and begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Modern Languages Building auditorium on the UA campus. Call 621-1239 for information.
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