December 31, 1999

1999 Year-End Wrap-Up

My Top Five movies for 1999: Fight Club, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut, and Toy Story 2.

December 12, 1999

Toy Story 2

toy2What an odd double-feature! I saw an innocent man executed on Saturday night, and an innocent toy kidnapped on Sunday. Toy Story 2 joins an exclusive club of sequels which are better their originals.

December 11, 1999

The Green Mile

greenmileA bit overly long. Director Frank Darabont sets himself up for relative criticism, by directing another prison movie right after the Oscar nominated (and far superior) Shawshank Redemption.

November 26, 1999

Sleepy Hollow

sleepyBetween Mars Atacks! and Planet Of The Apes, Sleepy Hollow completes the Mediocre Tim Burton Trilogy. Fifteen years later I hardly remember this movie at all. (The day after Thanksgiving, Showcase Cinemas Randolph)

November 19, 1999

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

messengerTrippy and peculiar. Milla "Lelu Dallas" Jovovich is convincing as Joan of Arc.

November 13, 1999

Dogma

A doubting New Jersey Catholic pokes some holes in Roman dogma, while making lots of penis jokes too. dogmaThoughtful and filthy at the same time. Pictured (left): Salma Hayek takes her shirt off. Kevin Smith is a fine screenwriter, but a mediocre, uninterested movie director.

October 23, 1999

Bringing Out The Dead

bringingAfter watching this "night in the life of a paramedic", I wondered if Scorsese had ever seen an episode of ER? I felt like this territory had been covered many times already. Woefully underwhelming.

October 9, 1999

Three Kings

threeFantastic, maybe too intense. I don't think I can watch it again for the brutality and gruesome-ness.

October 8, 1999

The Bone Collector

Jolie's hair looks great like this!
Denzel is amazing in everything, even this by-the-numbers serial killer thriller. Angelina dials it down her "Angelina-ness Factor" to 3½ from her usual 11. (Hoyt's Cinemas Falmouth)

September 11, 1999

Swear Words In Movies On Television

When it comes to swear words in movies shown on TV, you can either dub in a inoffensive word or just leave the swear word out. Some movies have very few swear words, and it's easy to leave the word out, not replace it, and the meaning of the dialog is preserved. Sometimes, however, this can lead to odd results. For example, one time The Sixth Sense was broadcast on primetime ABC television. The blue text is what they changed for television:
Malcolm: Hey... you are not a freak. Don't you believe anybody that tells you that. It's bull**** (a split second of silence between 'bull' and 'and') and you don't have to grow up believing that. You hear me?
Cole: You said the "s" word.
Malcolm: Yeah... sorry.
I guess it would have been even more odd to change 'bullshit' to something else, and preserve Cole's response?

Then there are movies where the swearing is an integral part of the dialog, and a major part of the humor. Watching the film Midnight Run on television is painful. What's the point of watching a scene like this on TV? Just imagine all the changes they made to this dialog- I can't remember them all:

De Niro: I never took a payoff in my life and I'm not gonna start with someone like you.
Grodin: Why not?
De Niro: Because you're a f*cking criminal and you deserve to go where you're going and I'm gonna take you there and if hear any more sh*t outta you: I'm gonna f*cking bust your head and I'll put you back in that f*cking hole [train lavatory] and I'm gonna stick your head in the f*cking toilet bowl and I'm gonna make it stay there.
The following substitution is clever, but I would prefer the "split second of silence" technique instead:
Jimmy (Dennis Farina): You and that other dummy better start getting more personally involved in your work, or I'm gonna stab you through the heart with a broken pencil. Do you understand me?

The Sixth Sense

sixthWow. This is a scary film. No special effects are required to scare. When will the rest of Hollywood figure this out (for example, the non-scary The Haunting)? (Hoyt's Cinemas Falmouth)

July 30, 1999

The Blair Witch Project

blairA mind-numbing, dread-inducing slog of a scary movie. After the blunt-force trauma of the cellar-corner ending, the lights came up and the audience staggered out of the theater in shock, dismay, and anger. Half the audience seemed to be in shock over what they had seen, and a large percentage seemed to be angry at the movie. I don't think anyone was expecting a relentlessly dire and desperate film. (Hoyt's Cinemas Falmouth)

My All-Time Scary Scenes in Scary Movies List

Paranormal Activity (2007) I put this movie first on the list to highlight that they still make scary movies that aren't "torture porn". I watched Paranormal Activity on DVD by myself, alone in the house, with all the lights out. This movie scared the shit out of me. It's a haunted condo horror movie- the couple never leaves their 3BR two-level home for the entire movie. this may be my new standard for claustrophobia. Click Here for my full review.
Psycho (1960) • Two moments of note: The split second after the shower curtain is pulled back, but before Mother pounces on Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), we get an almost subliminal glimpse into the face of madness. Director Alfred Hitchcock must have spent all day lighting this shot, to obscure Mother's face just enough so we only see a glint of insanity off the eyes, and that's enough. On freeze frame, there's nothing else to see. The second moment comes at the climax of the film, when Lila (Vera Miles) has wandered into the basement and discovered Mother, but she doesn't know Norman (Anthony Perkins) is on his way. The one-two punch of discovering both secrets of Mother and son electrifies the whole audience.

Alien (1979) is full of scares, shocks, and gross-outs, but the scariest sequence has to be when Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) goes into the ductwork to find the "chestburster" alien, which escaped the dining area, after escaping from Kane (John Hurt). What the audience and the crew doesn't know is, the chestburster had a growth spurt since he skittered across the breakfast table.
I love Harry Dean Stanton's costume...
and I have a reproduction of his cap!
I have only seen The Changeling (1980) twice, but there are a few sequences which scare the hell out of me. This one is underrated and little-seen; rent it immediately.
The Shining (1980) is good because it's too long, it has plenty of creepy, shocking, and scary moments, but the scene which still scares me is the Twins In The Hallway scene: Little Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) is pedaling around the Overlook Hotel on his Big Wheel, turning corner after corner. Director Stanley Kubrick is brilliant- not only do all these twists and turns disorient the viewer, but it serves to preserve the surprise on repeat viewings. Even a veteran viewer like me doesn't remember which corner will reveal the ghost twins. Then it gets worse. Kubrick cuts in brief glimpses of the twins' untimely demise, but you never know which split-second they'll appear, so you have to watch the whole scene through your fingers, just like poor Danny does in the film. No special effects, no latex, just one line of dialogue "Come play with us Danny..." and a few gallons of fake blood.
NOTE: I have seen The Shining at the Brattle Theater, but I have no record of it in my diary. I remember noticing how different the shot composition appeared, compared to the home video version.
Speaking of blood, one of my very first memories of going to the movies was seeing the theatrical teaser trailer for The Shining. The trailer consists of the Elevator Flood Of Blood Scene. Since the film was released in May 1980, I must have been 7 or 8 when I saw it. I remember seeing the trailer, and asking my older brother next to me if the guests were going to drown in all that blood. My brother said (God bless him) that the hotel was closed and no one was there. I remember thinking "gee, what about the janitor? isn't anyone at the hotel?" The Internet Movie Database Trivia Page for The Shining points out that the MPAA normally wouldn't allow such a graphic scene in a trailer approved for All Audiences (like me at 8 years old!) but somehow Kubrick convinced them the blood was actually rusty water(??). I just wanted the MPAA to know, 23 years later, that that trailer scarred me for life.

Poltergeist (1982) had a profound impact on me because I saw it at Halloween time, a few years before I should have. The part which scared me the most (I think I was behind the sofa the whole time) is when the nerdy scientist goes for a midnight snack. The face-melting scene looks really phony now, but it worked very well 20 years ago...

The Thing (1982) • This was a fertile year for scary movies. This film is soaked in paranoia and simmering fear, interspersed with true shocks and creeps. When Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) is attempting CPR and the man's chest opens like a bear trap, then chops off the Doctor's arms, that's a sign that the patient isn't going to make it. My favorite scare has to be the scene with the severed head which grows spider legs (insert shiver here!)
Silence Of The Lambs (1991) • Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) has discovered Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), but she's all alone with him, and no backup in sight. Bill escapes into his basement, and Clarice must go after him; his latest victim, Catherine Martin (Brooke Smith), is down there somewhere, and Clarice cannot wait for help to arrive. The basement is a true labyrinth, with no sense of order or geography to the place. What's worse is, Bill could be anywhere. Clarice makes an attempt to search some of the rooms, and finds Catherine down in the well, but then the lights go out. Bill has a night vision scope to hunt Clarice in the dark, but he makes the classic movie blunder: he waits until he is standing directly behind her to cock his gun. Clarice (who is so jumpy she'd shoot anything at this point) spins around and unloads all six shots at point blank range.
The most delightfully scary moment in Signs (2002) is when the whole family is barricading themselves in the basement. The aliens are about to break in, and just in the nick of time, Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) discovers a shovel to bar the door (or was it a hammer? a pick? It doesn't matter). Merrill grabs the tool and accidentally breaks their only lightbulb. Yes, it's another "Monsters-In-The-Basement-With-The-Lights-Out" Moment, and it works. I was also creeped out by the moment when Merrill finally sees an alien on the Brazilian TV broadcast. The crowd I saw it with was mostly laughing at Joaquin Phoenix's silly/nervous yelling at the TV, but the moment was perfectly rendered. If I had to imagine what a accidental videotaping of an alien on Earth would look like, that would be it.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Sixth Sense, The Village, The Blair Witch Project

July 25, 1999

The Haunting

hauntingI want my two hours back! So much talent involved in such a crappy movie.

July 18, 1999

Eyes Wide Shut

eyesAn underwhelming but good movie. All of the press attention paid to this movie did not help audience's expectations. I think this film, like most of Kubrick's movies, will age gracefully. (Hoyt's Cinemas Falmouth)

July 5, 1999

An Ideal Husband

idealEntertaining- a busy year for Brit movies.

July 3, 1999

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

southOn a curses-per-minute-basis, this is the most profane film of all time.

June 27, 1999

Tarzan

tarzanI remember the implausible ending to this mediocre hand-drawn Disney movie: We're supposed to believe that Victorian England is so awful that Jane and her father would volunteer to stay in the jungle with Tarzan?

June 15, 1999

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Sillier, stupider, and funnier than the first movie. They brought back Liz Hurley's character, just long enough to blow her up: it turns out she was a Fembot all along, and she self destructs before the credits roll. Have you ever seen a better method for "writing out" a character in a sequel? The Spy of the title is Heather Graham (see her in a bikini, right) as Felicity Shagwell: Graham's pretty, with a great body, but not much of an actress, and not funny even a little bit! The bikini helps...

June 4, 1999

Notting Hill

nottingI loved Four Weddings and a Funeral. I never saw it in a theater, so there's no review of the movie in this blog, but I indeed loved it. It's great despite the fact that Andie MacDowell is a bad actress. She is so terrible in the movie, that it's a miracle that the movie is wonderful. So Hugh Grant and screenwriter Richard Curtis reunited to make another romantic comedy, but this time, they cast Julia Roberts, who may be the best romantic comedy actress in the world. Basic Movie Math 101 means Notting Hill has to be better than Four Weddings, right? Somehow, Julia is not a huge improvement. Her character is so angry and unlikeable in this film. She treats Grant poorly before they sleep together, and then when she gets caught out by the paparazzi, she takes out her anger by lashing out at him. I understand that she is supposed to be portraying a famous actress who has to keep a defensive barrier in front of herself, but the peeks of the woman inside are too brief and completely unconvincing.

May 19, 1999

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

The crowd cheered at the appearance of the Lucasfilm logo and the opening theme music. Then, the indecipherable opening crawl began:
Episode I
THE PHANTOM MENACE
Turmoil has engulfed the
Galactic Republic. The taxation
of trade routes to outlying star
systems is in dispute.
Hoping to resolve the matter
with a blockade of deadly
battleships, the greedy Trade
Federation has stopped all
shipping to the small planet
of Naboo.
While the Congress of the
Republic endlessly debates
this alarming chain of events,
the Supreme Chancellor has
secretly dispatched two Jedi
Knights, the guardians of
peace and justice in the
galaxy, to settle the conflict...
What the heck does all of that mean? In Episodes 4-6, the bad guys were big and strong, and they were chasing the good guys, who were small and weak. The bad guys looked like walking skeletons with skull masks, and were led by the seven-foot-tall black samurai. As an 8-year-old in 1980, it wasn't hard to figure out the basics.
In 1999, you had to have minored in Inter-Galactic Diplomacy to determine who's on whose side.episode1
Then Jar Jar Binks arrived. Then Young Anakin spoke. If you had told me in 1983, that Lucas would make three Star Wars prequels, and they'd all stink, I would have never believed it. On May 19 1999, I bought tickets for two screenings in a row. When I walked out of the first screening, I immediately got in line for the next show. Like I said above, I had assumed my whole life that, when the magic day finally arrived, that I would love Episode 1 so much that I would want to see it again instantly. I stood there in that queue, wishing I hadn't spent the money on the second screening. How f***ing sad is that? (May 19 (twice) and May 21 (once); Hoyt's Cinemas Falmouth)

May 14, 1999

May 7, 1999

The Mummy

mummyWhile waiting twenty years for a fourth Indiana Jones movie to come out, we got to see a far superior movie than Indy 4 would turn out to be: The Mummy (1999). Brendan Fraser is a complete natural at the tough-guy routine, and strikes a great balance with the humor too. I simply love Rachel Weisz. The CGI effects are not great- the technology was suffering from adolescent growing pains in the mid-1990s - but it's not too distracting. I'll give this movie an A.

May 1, 1999

Entrapment

entrapmentTaut thriller, tight catsuit! I respect their decision not to put Sean and CZ-J in a love scene together (Connery is 39 years older than Ms. Zeta-Jones).

April 28, 1999

Pushing Tin

pushingI recently read that director Mike Newell (who directed this film, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Donnie Brasco) was offered the directing job for Harry Potter & The Sorcerers Stone. Newell wanted to accept, but he was making this movie and couldn't bear to do another movie laden with special effects right away. To think, if had not made Pushing Tin, a rambling mess of a movie, he might have made a better Sorcerers Stone than that stiff film Chris Columbus made. He did an expert job with Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire.

April 20, 1999

Twin Dragons

twinAnother Jackie Chan Hong Kong movie imported to America via Dimension Films. I barely remember seeing it-- after looking at the stub pasted in my book, I had to Google it to see what it was.

April 16, 1999

Never Been Kissed

neverAn adorable comedy from Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore is usually the best thing in all her romantic comedies (50 First Dates, Never Been Kissed, Home Fries, The Wedding Singer, Fever Pitch), and America's love for her makes up for the safe, easy movies she makes.

April 9, 1999

The Matrix

The pop universe became so over-saturated by The Matrix and its disappointing sequels, that it's hard to remember exactly how fresh and exciting the first movie was in 1999. matrixWow. When I first saw it, I was completely blown away. A thinking man's action movie, a quantum leap forward for CGI effects, and (this is rare) a perfect vehicle for Keanu Reeves. I complain a lot about bad endings to movies, this one was perfect- Neo's phone call, Rage Against The Machine, and Neo flies? Woo! (Hoyt's Cinemas Falmouth)

March 13, 1999

Analyze This

analyzeThe first in a long series of non-funny Robert De Niro "comedies", Analyze This was followed by Analyze That, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, two Meet The Parents movies, and Showtime with Eddie Murphy. Who told this guy he was funny?

February 28, 1999

The Thin Red Line

thinWhat a mess. I have read that director Terrence Malick shot many many more scenes than appear in the movie. Several actors thought they had principal roles in the movie until they attended the premiere and discovered that their parts had been almost completely cut out. (Loews Church St, Harvard Square)

February 27, 1999

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Before Austin Powers was a billion-dollar comedy franchise, it was one very funny Mike Myers comedy. (Brattle Theater revival, in time for the release of the sequel, The Spy Who Shagged Me)

January 30, 1999

Waking Ned Devine

wakingAnother tweedy English comedy- who can keep them all straight?

January 24, 1999

Shakespeare In Love

shakespeareSimply perfect romantic comedy.

January 2, 1999

Star Trek: Insurrection

startrek9It's one of the odd numbered ones (9) so of course it stunk. There's an attempt at a ethnic cleansing allegory, but they don't quite pull it off.

January 1, 1999

49: Tripping, Running, Escape!

This mix marks the first mix I made which was not recorded to cassette. This mix existed only as a Winamp playlist for a few years, between when I first installed Napster and Winamp on my PC circa 1998-1999, and when I finally upgraded to a new PC with a CD burner in 2001.
  1. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams
  2. A Higher Place, Tom Petty - I will never forget a Liz Phair concert at Avalon: "A Higher Place" was the last song played on the PA system, after the lights were dimmed, but before Liz emerged onstage.
  3. Fastball's hit single was "Out of My Head", but I always liked "Fire Escape" better.
  4. "Tripping Billies" may be my favorite Dave Matthews song.
  5. "Eileen's Song" Burlap to Cashmere was a total one-hit wonder. I have the album "Eileen's Song" is on. I listened to it once all the way through, and I remember thinking that none of the other songs sounded like this.
  6. "Holding Back the Years" I always liked this Simply Red song, but I never managed to get it onto a mix until now. It doesn't really blend with the rest of the playlist? Maybe because the MP3 doesn't sound that great. Perhaps I'll rip this song from my LP instead and see if that makes a difference?
  7. "Stolen Car" Beth Orton
  8. "Ray of Light" Madonna
  9. "Alcohol" This was my Barenaked Ladies phase!
  10. I recently scored 100% on ROCK BAND 2 while singing "My Own Worst Enemy" by Lit.
  11. "I'm Not Running Anymore" John Mellencamp
  12. "Sunflower" Paul Weller
  13. "Circus" Eric Clapton
  14. "Sally Ann" I found this song on 10,000 Maniacs' CD single for "Candy Everybody Wants".
  15. "Last Night of the World" Bruce Cockburn