The American President. A film that aims to prove the adage that behind every successful man is a woman, with an emphasis on the behind. This sexist vision of America serves up images of men with political power and women with sexual power as the President of the United States (Michael Douglas) braves the perils of dating. If you can crowd the sexism out of your head, The American President has some funny moments, though much of it's of the I'm-the-Commander-in-Chief-and-you're-not variety. Not for the impressionable. (Postscript: The critic's mother would like to register dissatisfaction with this review. She thinks The American President was romantic, charming and as enjoyable as When Harry Met Sally. She argues that the role of the film critic is to steer moviegoers to good entertainment, not to raise their consciousness, and suggests that the two are incompatible. Thanks for the input, Mom!)
Belle de Jour. Catherine Deneuve is fascinatingly vacant in this re-release of Lois Buñuel's 1967 portrait of a woman's erotic imagination. The film was racy in its time and it's racy now--in fact, since the clothes are back in style it hardly seems dated. Deneuve is the bored wife of a handsome doctor who doesn't turn her on. She lies chastely beside him, having elaborate degradation fantasies, which she tries to live out by secretly working as a prostitute. Fantasies, dreams and reality intertwine as Deneuve glides through it all on cruise control, her make-up perfect, her icy surface concealing a knot of contradictions. The film, like Deneuve, has a formal coolness that masks an active imagination. Here as in many of his films, Buñuel gives equal time to dream and waking life. But for all its naughty pleasures, Belle de Jour is only a teaser compared to Buñuel's surrealistic classics like The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.
Casino. A film that lodges midway between The Age of Innocence and Taxi Driver on the Scorsese scale. DeNiro, Joe Pesci and a bunch of jowly Italian guys have returned from Good Fellas to screw, bash and plug one another again as the director continues his romance with the Mafia mystique. DeNiro plays a Casino chief who has everything: money, prestige and a fox (Sharon Stone), which in Scorsese's world means he has everything to lose. Set over more than a decade and thick with narration, Casino is an uncannily alienating movie. It's hard to sympathize with any of the characters and it's so long that sometimes you just want it to be over. Still, no one has as much style as Scorsese; the camera lurches and rolls through this film like the entire town of Vegas is a sinking ship. Totally violent, but where else can you watch silver-haired old men beating each other to a pulp?
Goldeneye. Sorry to disappoint, but this is the most lackluster Bond movie in years. We can forgive 007 his sexism, his archaic cloak-and-dagger ways, and those ridiculous one-liners; but we simply can not forgive him for being boring. The opening scene does boast the highest freefall in history, which was probably a real adrenaline rush for the stunt-double. But from there, Goldeneye continues on a downward spiral, in spite of the spirited vileness of Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp, the Russian archbabe with the lethal-weapon thighs. Pierce Brosnan is not to blame: It's the script that's tired, not the acting. And there aren't nearly enough gadgets. With all the obscene sums of money they're willing to spend, we think the next one should be an IMAX production. Now that would be something worth $7.50.
Nick Of Time. Yes, it's 90 minutes of screen action shoe-horned into one 90-minute movie. The only other film I know of set in real time is the first half of Ingmar Bergman's 1962 Winter Light. Winter Light is the existential tale of a priest confronting his lack of faith. Nick Of Time is the thrill-packed story of a man forced to attempt a political assassination to ransom his kidnapped daughter. Winter Light observes subtle nuances between frustrated characters. Nick Of Time has Johnny Depp in it. Both movies have a lot of clocks. Which is the better film? You decide.
Toy Story. In real life, you probably wouldn't enjoy listening to Tom Hanks and Tim Allen argue over who's more exciting to play with. But in Toy Story, the familiar voices take us on a giddy ride into the Brave New World of computer animation. This may be the best Disney film in years, with a feel-good story that takes its cue from The Velveteen Rabbit rather than some glib socio-ecological scenario. The result is a full-length animated feature that's refreshingly original. This, no doubt, is in large part due to Joel Cohen's involvement with the story. Best of all, none of the characters sing.
STUDENT FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL. Count your lucky stars that one of the most aggressively international and independent student film festivals in the world stops in Tucson this weekend, with award-winning works from Australia, Israel, Mexico, Argentina, Canada and the U.S. The University Film and Video Association (UFVA) festival offers free screenings of short works starting at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, December 1 and 2, in Room 150 of the Harvill Building, 1103 E. Second St., on the UA campus. Call 322-6465 for information.
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