October 15, 1995

Strange Days

In the not-too-distant future, a former cop-turned slimy hustler (Ray Fiennes, surprisingly effective) stumbles into a Rodney King-style police murder coverup in the days leading up to The Millenium. In the mid 1990s, a slew of films included "virtual reality" or "cyberspace" elements--The Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity, The Thirteenth Floor and The Matrix spring to mind. Strange Days features a skullcap-mounted video/audio recorder which perfectly captures an individual's experiences: When played back with the same skullcap, you see what they saw. A pretty cool concept, well rendered and included in the film. A great cast, including Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D'Onofrio, Richard Edson, William Fichtner, Josef Sommer, and Nicky Katt. Not a perfect film, but there is lots to recommend it. (Maine Mall Cinema)

October 14, 1995

To Die For

todieforI remember first learning about this movie from a movie poster. It said NICOLE KIDMAN and TO DIE FOR, and the tagline "All she wanted was a little attention." The combination of the title, the tagline, and the photo (Nicole intensely opening her blouse) made me think the movie would be some kind of sexy black widow thriller, or maybe a Fatal Attraction-style sexy stalker movie. There's plenty of sexual manipulation going on in the movie, but it's really about a crackpot in the woods of New Hampshire who believes she's the next Katie Couric. Kidman uses her sexual wiles to convince three teenagers (Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, and Alison Folland) to murder her husband (Matt Dillon). An edgy breakout performance from Kidman, who steps out of Tom Cruise's shadow and becomes more than That Australian Actress. Creative (or financial) freedom has allowed her to star in plenty of artistic and critical successes (Portrait of a Lady, Moulin Rouge!, Dogville) and fewer paycheck choices (Batman Forever, Practical Magic, The Peacemaker). There's no explaining her ill-advised attempts at comedy (The Stepford Wives, Bewitched).

October 8, 1995

How To Make An American Quilt

I remember NOTHING about this movie. (Maine Mall Cinema)

Winona Ryder's Wilderness Twenties

Ryder made thirteen movies in her twenties, when, to be blunt, she struggled to find an identity in Hollywood. Much of the time she seemed determined to make movies of all her favorite books (Age of Innocence, House of the Spirits, Little Women, How To Make An American Quilt, The Crucible, Girl, Interrupted). She made two movies which barely got released due to studio problems (Boys, Lost Souls). She was horribly miscast in Alien: Resurrection. She was 22 years younger than Richard Gere in a movie nobody wanted to see, Autumn In New York. That leaves her appearance in an unremarkable Woody Allen film (Celebrity), and her two unqualified successes: Reality Bites and Bram Stoker's Dracula. So where does this tattered trail of movies lead us? Ryder clearly would have been content to make period movies for the rest of her life. She made a series of good comedies in her teens, but totally gave up on comedy in her twenties (except for Reality Bites). All of her other choices are almost non-choices. I get the feeling that she made whatever movies came her way, agreeing to make movies not because she liked the material, or she was well-suited for the role, or it would advance her career. She never really made a "paycheck movie" in that span. Based on what we know about her personal life, she seems to be a profoundly sad woman who doesn't like this business at all.

October 2, 1995