Film Clips

AFFLICTION. Writer/director Paul Schrader became a legend for his extremely quotable script for Taxi Driver. His work since then has been uneven, and, when left to his own devices, he tends to create overly ponderous and pretentious films like Cat People and Light Sleeper. It's not that those were bad films, it's just that they should have been better. Affliction is in this same category. It has a half-dozen plots, none of which is deeply explored or well-resolved. On the other hand, Nick Nolte, James Coburn, Sissy Spacek and Willem Dafoe all turn in compelling performances. It's a claustrophobic, human film about the emotional breakdown of a small-town, New Hampshire police officer, but it's deeply unsatisfying on the level of story and script. While it's nice to see that more films without aliens or dinosaurs are being made, it's also nice that there are better choices in that realm than this slightly-above-average effort. --DiGiovanna

Film Clips BLAST FROM THE PAST. It's October 1962, and the Webbers (Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek) think a nuclear war has started. Just as they enter their bomb shelter, Mrs. Webber gives birth to a boy. Oddly enough, 35 years later that boy has become Brendan Fraser, who really doesn't even look old enough to be Brendan Fraser's age (30). So he rises to the surface world where he is mistaken for the son of God. Now, Fraser is cute, really cute, but not quite Jesus cute, so at this point the movie starts to strain its credibility. Nonetheless, he bumbles about with the help of Alicia Silverstone (remember her from those Aerosmith videos?), learning about all the zany stuff that's happened since the Kennedy administration, like cheap sex and Internet porn. Then more craziness ensues. Because it's a comedy. --DiGiovanna

HILARY AND JACKIE. The true story (well, this is widely disputed, but at least the putatively true story) of Hilary and Jackie Du Pré, two sisters whose lives seem like a PBS docudrama. Both were promising musicians, but Hilary decided to settle down and raise a family while Jackie went off on a globe-hopping tour of classical music superstardom. Of course, the family-oriented sister has a quiet, happy and fulfilling life, while the famous sister is incessantly unsatisfied and must come to a tragic end. Still, a very original directorial style saves this from being a simple cautionary tale, and makes for some aesthetically appealing, if downbeat, cinema. --DiGiovanna

JAWBREAKER. An 87-minute rock video, replete with teenage girls in skin-tight clothes, hot cars, cute boys and a prom scene. Or maybe it's a parable for the image-over-substance, ends-justify-the-means, murder-with-a-smile Reagan administration and the society of shallowness and hypocrisy that it fed upon and encouraged. Or maybe it's just a collection of scenes from Heathers and Carrie strung together over a throbbing rock soundtrack. Or maybe not.

MY FAVORITE MARTIAN. A creepy, sexist comedy that portrays women as either pathetic or evil, but always in favor of unsolicited sexual advances. Christopher Lloyd (Reverend Jim from the TV series Taxi) plays a Martian who comes to Earth, beats up TV reporter Jeff Daniels, then becomes his best friend and helps him sort out his romantic confusion. The half-dozen companies that paid for some of the most obvious product placement I've ever seen in this comedy-without-laughs should ask for their money back. --DiGiovanna

OCTOBER SKY. Here's a film about teens that doesn't have aliens, a serial killer, or even a prom queen election. (I know, I found it hard to relate to, too.) It tells the true story of Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his high-school friends who strive to avert their coal-mining destinies. By experimenting with rocketry, they hope to win a science fair and solicit college scholarships. Most of the adults don't understand their struggle to leave the small town, especially Homer's black-lunged father (Chris Cooper). The maudlin music is obtrusive and the pacing uneven, but the story is generally engaging. It's set in the late 1950s, which in the film and television industries means an excuse to offer the female characters little development beyond cheerleader status. For some balance, follow October Sky with the tasty girl-centered Jawbreaker. --Higgins

OFFICE SPACE. Mike Judge's first non-animated feature makes an ideal, male-populated companion piece to the female-centered Clockwatchers. Like its prececessor, many of Office Space's laughs come from the thrill of seeing the banal frustrations of work life amplified larger than life--there's a hearty sense of release. Our hero, Ron Livingston (a cool young actor we'll likely be seeing a lot more of), is yet another desk drone workin' for the man at a cubicled company called Initech, which has an environment just real enough to believe and just cartoony enough to be hilarious. "The man" turns out to be Gary Cole (last seen as Mike Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie), easily the most hideous incarnation of a "polite" boss ever conceived. Office Space has a story similar to that episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza decides to do everything the opposite of how he would normally do it--a darned funny episode, so we can forgive Mike Judge his easy plot. Not to mention that the smaller characters, like the computer programmer with a perpetual paper jam, generate enough interest to keep the movie alive even without a plot. Surprisingly, after twisted office logic has been successfully manipulated and anarchy satisfyingly reigns, Judge gets a pang of conscience and horseshoes the story back onto itself. Because it avoids condescending to its characters (something Clockwatchers could have learned from), Office Space's extra dose of reality works, leaving it far better than anyone could have expected from the creator of Beavis and Butthead. --Woodruff

THE OTHER SISTER. A mentally retarded woman (Juliette Lewis) tries to liberate herself from her emotionally retarded, overprotective WASP of a rich mother (Diane Keaton). Well, that's what it's supposed to be about; but in spite of having legitimate concerns, Keaton's character is just too bitchy to be sympathetic. Casting Tom Skerritt as her nobly whipped husband, and giving Keaton a lesbian daughter whom she refuses to accept, pretty well stacks the deck against her. The Other Sister is really only about laughing and "awww"-ing at the sweet, childlike antics of the mentally retarded. Lewis plays the cutest, most well-adjusted and capable retarded person in the world, and she falls in wuv with Giovanni Ribisi, who is apparently the only other 'tard in San Francisco, and also a cutie. The movie turns surreal as these two fit, attractive, intelligent actors take turns grunting at each other for two hours. (As a reviewer on NPR said, The Other Sister makes retarded people seem like really fun pets.) Technically, Lewis' performance is amazing, but you can only take so much accomplished fakery before the twinkly eyes and bad enunciation send your senses into space. This may be the role Lewis was born to play, but that's not necessarily a compliment. After inhabiting semi-retarded characters in previous films (Cape Fear, Kalifornia), the arc of her career suggests that a Broadway production called Retard! The Musical is just around the corner. --Woodruff

RUSHMORE. A very sophisticated comedy with the trappings of a teen film, Rushmore is the strange story of a love triangle involving Max, a 15-year-old boy (newcomer Jason Schwartzman), Rosemary, a 30-year-old woman (Olivia Williams) and Herman, a 50-year-old man (Bill Murray). Murray is fabulous as the sleazy, irritable and pathetic millionaire Herman Blume, but Schwartzman's performance as Max is every bit as good, producing the best comic pairing since Meryl Streep and Al Pacino teamed up in the remake of Breakfast at Tiffany's. Max is editor of the school newspaper and yearbook; president of the French club, German club, chess club, and astronomy club; captain of the fencing and debate teams; founder of the Double-Team Dodgeball Society; and director of the Max Fischer Players, and Schwartzman gives him the compelling air of an immature underachiever. Rushmore is easily the best comedy of the last year, so show your disdain for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (who failed to give Rushmore even a single Oscar nomination) by going to see it three or four times, and then write them a letter reminding them that they've given the best picture Oscar to Platoon, Forrest Gump, Braveheart and Titanic, so where do they get off? --DiGiovanna

VELVET GOLDMINE. Most teenagers, whether they recognize it or not, are sexually empowered by the rock stars they're into. Todd Haynes (Superstar, Poison, Safe) offers an incredibly fun and thought-provoking look at the seemingly superficial era of glitter rock from just such a personal perspective by examining the careers of the Iggy Pop-ish Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) and David Bowie-like Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) via gay-curious Arthur (Christian Bale). As usual, the director uses a number of stylistic devices, such as voice-overs, fantasy sequences and amazing costumes, to create an otherworldly realm that is nonetheless incredibly tangible. Haynes calls this film a "valentine" to glam rock, and it certainly looks tenderly at a time when androgyny, high heels and all things pretty led to questions about sexual identity and a lot of great music. Put on your platforms and vinyl and go see Velvet Goldmine before you lose the chance to see it on a big screen; it's definitely one of the year's best. --Higgins

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