Category Archives: Satire

Serial Mom-1994

Serial Mom-1994

Director John Waters

Starring Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake

Scott’s Review #1,432

Reviewed July 8, 2024

Grade: A-

Serial Mom (1994) is led by an uproarious performance by Kathleen Turner, in the 1990s still in her cinematic heyday, the latter-day John Waters comedy fires on all cylinders. She wickedly goes full steam ahead in a pulsating performance deliciously deserving of an Oscar nomination.

The film is directed by Waters, known for perverse and gross-out fare like Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1975) so any chance for an Academy Award is laughable.

Though, Serial Mom is much safer than those films choosing slick 1990s mainstream camerawork over raw shots of dogshit on the sidewalk.

Still, Turner hits it out of the park playing a ‘June Cleaver’ character with a murderous dark side.

Beverly Sutphin (Turner) appears to be an unassuming upper-middle-class housewife living with her dentist husband Eugene (Sam Waterston) and their teenage children, Misty (Ricki Lake) and Chip (Matthew Lillard), in suburban Maryland.

She is secretly a serial killer who kills people over trivial slights or offenses like insulting her son or blowing off her daughter. The dastardly mom uses creative weapons like her station wagon and a fire poker to kill her prey.

Serial Mom is strictly for ravenous fans of Waters and I’m not sure it will win any new fans over. But I’ll stress how much of a mainstream affair it is compared to his more dangerous 1970s films.

It pairs well in look and feel with Hairspray from 1988 and both films star Ricki Lake.

Some have referred to it as a slasher film but that would steer it in the horror vein or knife-wielding maniac territory. Beverly isn’t Freddie, Jason, or Michael Meyers. She is fun and does as much damage with a sneer or a smirk as with a weapon.

Beverly is also the type of woman you’d like to be friends with but are terrified of crossing. After all, she kills in the defense of her kids so she’s a good mother with a wicked sense of humor.

When she delights in crank-calling her neighbor Dottie Hinkle (deliciously played by Waters’s regular Mink Stole) to get a rise out of her, we cheer her on.

Later, when charged and sent to trial for her dirty deeds, she fires her attorney and takes over her case amid rabid fan response. Beverly becomes a local hero.

She’s a cinema villain to remember.

Waters is great because he finds the perfect balance of camp and wit to make a smart film not merely a slapstick one. Many cinema comedies don’t work because the laughs feel canned instead of fresh.

The writing and the cast make Serial Mom a winner.

The ridiculous antics and situations Beverly gets involved in make the audience want to know what she does next. Who doesn’t love a well-to-do character who turns sinister? It’s fun to watch a rich suburban town turn into a shit show of high entertainment.

Besides Stole, my favorite supporting actors are Mary Jo Catlett and Matthew Lillard. Catlett has brilliant comic timing as a neighbor, Rosemary, while Lillard was on the cusp of becoming a horror/comedy star with 1996’s Scream.

Regarding cameos, I could have done without the Suzanne Somers cameo playing herself which didn’t land all that funny but Patty Hearst as juror #8 is a winner.

The ‘white shoes after Labor Day’ sequence is hysterical.

Serial Mom (1994) is a cult classic for the ages and on par with most of John Waters earlier, classic raunchy comedies.

American Fiction-2023

American Fiction-2023

Director Cord Jefferson

Starring Jeffrey Wright, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown

Scott’s Review #1,421

Reviewed February 11, 2024

Grade: A

American Fiction (2023) is an intelligently written expose of black culture and a poignant family drama mixed as one. Cord Jefferson makes his feature directorial debut with the satirical comedy-drama which he also wrote.

The film explores how perceptions of black people, mostly by white people but even amongst themselves, are categorized into neat little boxes.

Usually, the negative stereotypes are assumptions of bad grammar, poverty, and hardships in ghetto situations.

While some may be sympathetic these beliefs are either conscious or subconscious and they are propelled by the media. In the case of the film, through literary works.

Are white people intimidated by intelligent black people, the film questions. How do the intelligent black people feel about themselves?

American Fiction is a witty, smart, funny, and poignant film that will make you laugh as often as it makes you think about the perspectives offered.

Jefferson brilliantly offers up both an education and powerfully drawn black characters. In the middle is a sentimental family storyline that had me enraptured by almost all the characters.

The writer/director bases his film on the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett. Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is a highly intelligent African-American upper-class writer and professor living in Los Angeles.

He is a frustrated novelist-professor who doesn’t make much money or sales from his serious works.

Needing money after moving back to Massachusets on a leave of absence, he decides to write an outlandish satire of stereotypical “black” books, only for it to succeed by mistakenly thought of as serious literature and published to both high sales and critical praise.

He struggles with keeping his alter ego a secret while questioning the lack of intelligence with people assumed to be the liberal elite and the general public.

Wright is great and leads the charge of a dynamic cast. He makes his characters believable and their motivations clear while still showing Monk’s conflict. Monk has lived a privileged life with education, social status, and success.

His experience as a black man is different than other black men and he is smart enough to know this while still wrestling with his feelings.

Wright is dynamic at showing many emotions.

To make the film even better, the supporting characters are delightful with their own stories, making me fall in love with them. Special call-outs are for Sterling K. Brown and Erika Alexander who plays Monk’s brother and girlfriend, respectively.

Brown as Cliff is a successful surgeon but lives a conflicted life as a newly ‘out’ middle-aged gay man. He dabbles in drugs and promiscuous behavior but all he wants is approval by his family.

Alexander is a successful public defender and neighbor of the Ellison’s going through a divorce. She relates to Monk while challenging him on his bullshit and is a richly carved character.

Also, Leslie Uggams Monk’s mother suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Ellison’s housekeeper Lorraine (Myra Lucretia Taylor), and Issa Rae as Sintara Golden are weaved into the canvas seamlessly and with purpose.

The film’s ending left me scratching my head and caught me off guard. While clever, it made me wonder if what I had just seen was reality or fantasy. Providing three different endings as adapted film options it’s tough to know which if any actually happened but maybe that’s the point.

I left the movie theater having laughed out loud, thought, and been entertained.

American Fiction (2023) made me feel like I had seen something relevant that would help me understand people better and give me insight into what other people feel.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Actor-Jeffrey Wright, Best Supporting Actor-Sterling K. Brown, Best Adapted Screenplay (won), Best Original Score

Independent Spirit Awards Nominations: 2 wins-Best Film, Best Lead Performance-Jeffrey Wright (won), Best Supporting Performance-Erika Alexander Sterling K. Brown, Best Screenplay (won)

Barbie-2023

Barbie-2023

Director Greta Gerwig

Starring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera

Scott’s Review #1,381

Reviewed July 23, 2023

Grade: A

Greta Gerwig is a tremendously talented director who is influencing Hollywood films. The gifted woman crafted Lady Bird in 2017 to critical acclaim and forges ahead with another feminist and progressive project.

With Barbie (2023) she takes a traditional and iconic ‘Barbie doll’ product by Mattel and explores the positives and negatives of the doll throughout its existence.

A cool opening sequence harkening to Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey explains the evolution of the doll.

Barbie incorporates gender balance, creativity, thought, satire, and slapstick comedy fraught with meaning. Not forgotten is heart and humanity and a look at how much progress has been achieved for women over the years and how much more is still needed.

As if that’s not enough, Barbie deserves praise for its direction, production design, costumes, music, and cast performances.

Well done.

The film stars Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, who decide to go on a journey of self-discovery following an existential crisis Barbie faces. Deemed the ‘stereotypical’ Barbie she begins having peculiar and ‘un-Barbie’ thoughts of death and analytics and must return to the real world to find her doll’s owner.

She soon longs to return to Barbie Land which is a perfect place. Unless you’re a Ken who exists merely to pine after Barbie. But, do they secretly resent this?

There are a ton of positives to delve into regarding Barbie but one slight miss is proximity to silly comedy and goofiness. This is mostly offset by the meaning of the film but my fear is some audiences may be overwhelmed by gag jokes and lose the overall point of the story.

Let’s take a deep dive. The production design and art direction are dazzling and immediately noticed. Particularly, I’m referring to Barbie Land and its pink and pretty sets. Luxurious pools, streets, houses, and cars are rich with color and ooze a fun vibe.

I can’t imagine these teams being overlooked during the year-end awards season.

Robbie and Gosling looking blonde, buff, and tanned are wonderfully cast and not only look the part but quickly switch from physical comedy to heavy drama without looking foolish.

Robbie, for example, while the classic Barbie type has layers of emotion that she channels. And Gosling could have been looked the buffoon with over-the-top sequences if not for a startling good dramatic scene towards the film’s climax.

The supporting casting is brilliant and includes Kate McKinnon as ‘weird Barbie’ a perfect role for her to release her comic beast. How lovely to see Rhea Perlman again in the small but powerful role of Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel and creator of the Barbie doll.

Finally, America Ferrera and Will Ferrell add both comedy and meaningful spirit to their roles. And how could the inclusion of British stalwart Helen Mirren as the narrator not create credibility?

The main attraction though is the writing. Isn’t it always when intelligently done?

The dynamic duo of Gerwig and Noah Baumbach (famous for among other works the 2019 film Marriage Story) pair well giving equality messages to both Barbie and Ken. While easy to dismiss Ken his role is valued and respected within the overall context of showing that everyone deserves a seat at the table.

I was touched by the film in various moments more than I ever expected it to be. Wonderful sentiments about being a mother are powerfully stated by Ruth and Gloria (Ferrera) during various scenes and messages such as everyone deserving respect and serving a purpose are hard not to get choked up over.

Barbie wins points for diversity and inclusion with nearly every ethnic group represented and a transgender character, Dr. Barbie (Hari Nef) featured prominently.

Providing roaring entertainment, bubble gum sets and design, and a message that will break your heart while exuding intelligence Barbie (2023) is a win.

It’s a story about the wills of plastic and humanity making for a perfect harmonious blend. Who would have thought a film about Barbie would be so important?

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor-Ryan Gosling, Best Supporting Actress-America Ferrera, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Original Song-“I’m Just Ken”, “What Was I Made For?” (won)

Triangle of Sadness-2022

Triangle of Sadness-2022

Director Ruben Östlund

Starring Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean Kriek, Woody Harrelson

Scott’s Review #1,374

Reviewed July 2, 2023

Grade: A

When I realized the director of Triangle of Sadness (2022) had directed Force Majeure (2014) and The Square (2017) I became very interested in seeing it. I’m not sure I ultimately ‘got’ The Square but Force Majeure was a thought-provoking slice of cinematic brilliance that I still think about now and then.

Sure, Triangle of Sadness was rewarded with three Academy Award nominations, deservedly so. Still, Ruben Östlund has a knack for challenging his audience to think outside the box, cinematically or otherwise with a robust look at social classes.

He crafts a subject matter about class systems and the haves and have-nots that has been explored before in film many, many times. But, in Triangle of Sadness, it feels fresh and fraught with many different possible directions.

The wicked dark comedy explores political talking points like capitalism, communism, and socialism and challenges standard ways of thinking.

It’s on par with the popular HBO series The White Lotus but on steroids.

I cannot recommend the film more heavily especially geared toward those desiring expressive and deep-textured films with some meaning.

Despite the dreary title, it’s far from a dour experience. There are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, especially in scenes featuring severe vomiting amid sea sickness.

The rich and famous embark on a luxury cruise with fine dining and servants galore. But after a devastating storm leaves several passengers and staff stranded together on a deserted island the power exchange begins to shift and the social hierarchy is turned upside down.

Events mainly surround a celebrity model couple, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), who are invited on the luxury cruise for promotional purposes. Yaya is a social media influencer.

They are joined by a Russian oligarch Dimitry and his wife Vera, and an elderly couple Clementine and Winston, who have made their fortune manufacturing grenades and other weapons. Therese, a wheelchair user only capable of speaking a single phrase in German following a stroke; and Jarmo, a lonely tech millionaire who flirts with Yaya.

Besides possibly, Therese, there is not a sympathetic rich character to be found.

The yacht staff are more sympathetic although we don’t get to know all characters very well. Highlights are the head of staff, Paula, who demands the staff obey the guests’ without question, Abigail, a cleaning woman, and the yacht’s captain, Thomas Smith (Woody Harrelson), who spends his time drunk in his cabin, and despises the absurdity of the guests’ wealth.

The main events on the ship take a while to get to and the film is divided into chapters. Part 1: Carl and Yaya, Part 2: The Yacht, and Part 3: The Island.

I realized after the fact that the point of the slow build is to show the dynamic between Carl and Yaya, the main characters. Both models and living life based on their looks they are wildly insecure, bickering over money and gender roles.

While not likable nor complete assholes either, enjoyable is a chance to get a fleshed-out perspective on where they are coming from.

My adoration for the film largely stems from not knowing what is going to happen but knowing that at some point the shit is going to hit the fan.

The setup is perfect, especially the put-upon staff. While they are not abused, the relationship is clear. The passengers are in a position of power, the staff is not.

This will soon change.

Late in the game, I unexpectedly found myself rooting for a minor character who takes center stage in the last chapter turning events upside down.

Comparisons can also be found in the recent Best Picture winner Parasite (2019) and old-school international films Swept Away (1974) and L’Vventura (1960).

These are all brilliant films and my hunch is that Triangle of Sadness (2022) will hold up well perhaps achieving even greater acclaim as the years go by.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Ruben Östlund, Best Original Screenplay

The Hospital-1971

The Hospital-1971

Director Arthur Hiller

Starring George C. Scott, Diana Rigg

Scott’s Review #1,369

Reviewed June 11, 2023

Grade: A

An example of the freedom to craft one’s vision allowed in cinematic works during the first half of the1970s, The Hospital (1971) is a testament to the creativity and exceptional writing and what can happen when studios and producers leave the creatives alone to make the film they want to make.

One can dismiss any preconceived notions of the classic medical dramas that flooded television networks during the 1970s and 1980s. The Hospital is not formulaic or contrived.

No, The Hospital is a dark work drooling with satirical examples of the politics and shenanigans within the medical community. Oftentimes, secondary activities come at the cost of good care and quality medicines.

Before you imagine a doctor and nurse cavorting in a janitor’s closet, it’s a deeper film than it appears on the surface despite the inclusion of witty comedy. A lax patient care, staff deaths, and the dismissal of nearby residents because of a new drug rehabilitation project are explored in this fascinating film.

At a rundown Manhattan teaching hospital, chief of staff Herb Bock (George C. Scott) is riddled with multiple personal and professional problems after two doctors and one nurse are found dead almost simultaneously.

He assumes the rash of deaths is due to dimwitted staff who are overworked amid the chaos.

Suicidal, he meets the intelligent daughter of a patient who knocks him off his feet with her studious personality and reflections of the world. Barbara Drummond is played by Diana Rigg.

Immediately noticeable is the clever and well-paced screenplay while I was unknowledgeable of the fact that Paddy Chayefsky had won the Oscar for writing the film. Immediately, the chaos of a city hospital is exposed but not in a cliched way like a series like ER or Grey’s Anatomy might show.

Nobody is going into cardiac arrest on the operating table or having convulsions in the waiting room amid lame dramatic music.

The Hospital is more cerebral than that.

Unknown patients and little-known hospital staff go about their everyday business like clockwork until confusion with daily tasks causes events to go awry.

Like real-life.

The brilliance is how director Arthur Hiller casts regular-looking actors in almost all the roles. They look and act like everyday hospital staff so that the proper tone is set. This is even before we meet and get to know Herb and Barbara. They answer phones, walk around with charts, and hustle after emergencies.

Chayefsky and Hiller mirror director Robert Altman in many ways mostly in the dialogue and how seemingly unimportant scenes mean a whole lot.

In robust soliloquy-style scenes between Herb and Barbara the audience ‘gets them’. They are both desperate, wounded, and unhappy yet possess the sophistication and awareness to realize how similar they are.

They immediately connect, fall in love, and nearly run off together. It’s that simple. They are willing to flee their lives after meeting for five minutes. But will they ultimately take that plunge?

A key character is revealed to be Barbara’s father and a whodunit begins after it comes to light that the deaths are not accidents. Who is responsible and what their motivation is is the key to the story.

Scott does wonderful work with his character and rivals his excellent performance a year earlier in Patton (1970). Herb is more introspective with the world on his shoulders.

The Hospital has more than one daring scene. Herb, though impotent, basically throws Barbara down on the table and rapes her. The shocker is she makes light of it the next day and almost seems to have enjoyed it.

Barbara and Herb are both complex characters that the audience needs to ruminate over.

My favorite part of The Hospital (1971) is the setting. That Hiller puts you inside what a real urban hospital was like in 1971 is brilliance. The satire comes into play with the writing which questions decision-making and incompetence within the hospital walls.

Only, the result is a scathing look at hospital practices and will hit home to anyone terrified of entering a hospital only to never come out again.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Actor-George C. Scott, Best Original Screenplay (won)

Don’t Look Up-2021

Don’t Look Up-2021

Director-Adam McKay

Starring-Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep

Scott’s Review #1,220

Reviewed January 16, 2022

Grade: A

In the times of the Covid pandemic, ‘water cooler’ films have ceased to exist. Once, employees would gather around the water cooler to discuss a current film or television show. These days, with many working from home this activity has waned.

Too bad, because Don’t Look Up (2021) is one of those films.

It was not on my radar until a flurry of scuttlebutt and controversy brought the film to the forefront of my mind and many others. Super topical and mired in irony, everyone should see it, but those who need to won’t.

It’s a brazen and in-your-face look at how science and facts are dismissed by some who can’t see the forest for the trees, or in this case, a giant comet speeding towards planet Earth. In the year 2021, with controversy over Covid preventing mask-wearing and preventative vaccinations, Don’t Look Up portrays those as simply stupid.

As they are.

Those viewers who are conspiracy theorists, Trump supporters, or I daresay even too self-absorbed to look past their own lives are the ones who should see the film the most. You will be mocked and used as fodder for the entertainment of the more intelligent species of human beings.

But, perhaps learn a thing or two?

Led by director Adam McKay, famous for satirical works such as 2015’s The Big Short, he satirizes the current state of worldly affairs masterfully, using political comparisons and the world-weary science versus non-science approach.

McKay also writes and produces.

He enlists an all-star cast who were chomping at the bit to be part of his relevant and brilliant project. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Mark Ryland, and Cate Blanchett are just a handful of participating stars.

Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) is an astronomy graduate student who along with her professor Doctor Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) makes a discovery of a comet on a collision course with Earth. It is expected to arrive within six months and destroy most of the planet.

They are shocked and dismayed when their attempts to get anyone to pay any attention are hijacked by the media and the President of the United States of America, President Orlean (Streep). Instead, folks in high power attempt to use the ‘story’ for either ratings or political gain.

With the help of Doctor Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), Kate and Randall embark on a media tour that takes them to the airwaves of The Daily Rip, an upbeat morning show hosted by Brie (Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry). While Randall embarks on an affair with Brie, the scientists attempt to gain the attention of the social media-obsessed public before it’s too late.

As the title states, just look up?!

President Orlean and her psychopathic son and Chief of Staff, Jason (Jonah Hill), are patterned after former President Donald J. Trump and his son. Their nastiness and dismissive attitude, only thinking of personal gain are despicable.

Hysterically and satisfying, they each get their proper comeuppance.

Orlean’s demise at the end of the film is particularly satisfying. Stay post-credits for this treat.

Don’t Look Up is not a conventional film- it’s better than that. Its special sauce is its powerful message and reassurance for viewers to not take good old-fashioned common sense for granted. Despite the naysayers, the use of one’s brain is a valuable commodity.

The urgency of the matter is not meant to be taken for granted but there is enough comedy elements to classify it as such- a dark comedy.

DiCaprio is terrific in the lead role. Nervous and having difficulty expressing himself, his frustration is felt as he tries to warn the world of impending doom. The actor can play any character and it’s great seeing him add a sexy, middle-aged nerd to his repertoire.

Lawrence is a killer. Her character has no filter and is known to burst into rage making her lash-out scenes pleasing. Kate will call an idiot an idiot. Her outburst at the President is a particularly terrific scene.

Despite the laughter, Don’t Look Up (2021) sends a dire message. It mirrors the current times and what trouble we are in. The grim final sequence when Randall, Kate, and family sit around the dinner table enjoying a Thanksgiving-style meal is also a reminder to keep loved ones close and treasure every moment.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score

If…-1968

If…-1968

Director Lindsay Anderson

Starring Malcolm McDowell

Scott’s Review #1,178

Reviewed September 18, 2021

Grade: A

Malcolm McDowell fascinates me. The mere construction of his facial features astounds me, with his crystal blue eyes and sullen smirk it’s tough to tell what he is thinking.

He stars in If… (1968), a satire of the student experience amid a strict upper-class English public school.

It’s McDowell’s film debut which is worth noting.

McDowell, always associated with A Clockwork Orange (1971) first and foremost made several great films in just a few years.

The film follows a group of fed-up pupils, led by Mick Travis (McDowell) who ultimately stage a bloody insurrection at a boys’ boarding school. But is it real or imagined by Mick?

Mick is conflicted when he is caught between the sadistic older boys known as the Whips and the lowly first-year students, affectionately known as Scum, who are forced to do their bidding.

He and his two henchmen, Johnny (David Wood) and Wallace (Richard Warwick) rebel by exhibiting thefts and defiant behavior causing the ire of both the Whips and the school’s out-of-touch administration.

This conflict leads to an unexpected and bloody showdown.

If… was the subject of controversy in 1968 at the time of its release, receiving an X rating for its depictions of violence against school administration and grown-ups. The specific year was a juicy one in cinema as the more edgy and creative fare was being produced in anticipation of the 1970s.

I champion the film and director Lindsay Anderson for having the balls to make a film of this nature sure to piss off and shock the education system and those who simply don’t get what the film is expressing.

One wonders if English rock band Pink Floyd found inspiration in If… while creating their legendary song ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ from 1979.

The Whips are the villains and the school administrators are portrayed as complacent or incompetent so the finale is quite satisfying from a viewer’s perspective.

One will never forget the image of Mick fiendishly standing on a rooftop brandishing a gun and firing determinedly. His other cohorts join in the action to celebrate graduation ceremonies. For them, it’s a delightful moment since all the parents and family members are in attendance.

It’s only a film but I can’t help but wonder how differently the film is perceived by an audience in the post-Columbine era, a vicious school shooting that occurred in the United States, an incident that led to rashes of similar events.

To clarify, since Anderson made a follow-up film to If… with O Lucky Man! in 1973 and starring McDowell as the same character, we can rest easier in the knowledge that the events in If… are purely the imagination of Mick.

It’s a satire.

And what schoolboy or schoolgirl hasn’t fantasized at how delicious it would be to give bullies or other bastards their just deserts for making their lives miserable?

Another takeaway I got from If… is that it doesn’t have to draw the line at being about a prep school at all. Mick and his friends question conformity and rules. Why can’t the viewer do the same in the workplace or in life itself?

I’ve seen the film twice and can never account for the inexplicable changes from color to black and white in various scenes. Anderson claims that this was done for budget reasons but others have done a deeper dive and hypothesized that the color versus black and white has more to do with fantasy.

Whatever the reason it successfully offers a surrealistic measure.

If… (1968) is a wonderful film that is open to interpretation and much open dialogue after viewing it. Isn’t that what cinema is all about? A discussion of the merits and conclusions of a particular film?

W.-2008

W.-2008

Director Oliver Stone

Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks

Scott’s Review #1,130

Reviewed April 7, 2021

Grade: B+

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again- the United States political landscape forever changed with the dastardly 2016 presidential election. Presidents pre and post-2016 are held to a completely different standard.

We didn’t see this coming.

That said, the film W. (2008) is a biography and satire of George W. Bush, the forty-third president of the United States, who held office during the deadly 9/11 attacks.

Thought by some to be a moron, director Oliver Stone is careful to ease up on the obvious mockery and barbs that are usually thrown at Bush. There is some of that but surprisingly the film contains some sympathetic moments.

For example, a clever addition is a complex relationship between father and son, something shadowed from the spotlight. At least I was never aware there was any friction between Dad and Son.

Fans who lean or are conservative may not like the film. It’s not exactly pro-Bush but neither is it anti. It simply tells a good and accurate story.

Stone wisely features an all-star cast and offers a retrospective chronicling the life and political career of George W. Bush, from his troubles as a young adult through his governorship of Texas and to the Oval Office.

It’s well-made because it provides the uninformed viewer with an important history lesson.

The lineup is juicy featuring an array of elite Hollywood stars. Josh Brolin sinks his teeth into the title role while Elizabeth Banks is more low-key as former First Lady Laura Bush.

In support, James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn play George H.W. Bush and Barbara, while Richard Dreyfuss is fantastic as Dick Cheney.

Finally, Thandie Newton is as delicious as Condoleeza Rice.

Flashbacks are key to his life events revealing the rise of George W. Bush from ne’er-do-well party boy and son of privilege to president of the United States. After giving up booze for religion, George mends his restless ways and sets his sights first on the Texas governorship, which he achieves, then on the presidency.

By a fluke, he achieved this too but lost the popular vote, forever a bee in his bonnet.

However, the country’s involvement in the Iraq war affects his reign and decreases his approval rating.

The historical accuracy appears to be valid and most details are taken from non-fiction books. That’s why the film is perfect for those who wish to brush up on their history or who are intrigued about the life and times of a modern president.

Just be prepared for a bit of comedy.

To be fair, there are moments in W. when it feels like a long Saturday Night Live sketch and the characters are caricatures. It’s not exactly a parody nor is it a documentary either.

Sort of a hybrid.

The heart of the film belongs to Josh Brolin (reportedly he stepped in for Christian Bale at the last minute). Major props go to Brolin for a nuanced, spot-on characterization of the former president.

He’s got the mannerisms down and turns of the head, his walk, and speech patterns. He is careful to take a controversial public persona and portray him with both humor and humanity. Never completely silly but not as a straight man either. The real Bush always had a bit of a devilish aww shucks persona.

Post 2016 it’s tough to care much about W. (2008) though. It’s sort of an “of its time” film.  Too much has happened since the Bush years, or even since 2008 when the film was made.

Donald Trump made so many things irrelevant. I can’t wait until a satire emerges about him. You know one is coming.

Bone-1972

Bone-1972

Director Larry Cohen

Starring Yaphet Kotto, Andrew Duggan, Joyce Van Patten

Scott’s Review #1,121

Reviewed March 12, 2021

Grade: B+

It’s tough to review a film like Bone (1972) because it’s a tough film to categorize. Is it a satire or does it dissect racism and classism?

The truth is it does all of the above and offers a bizarre and jagged cinematic experience that will leave the viewer perplexed, scratching his or her head, and ruminating about the experience long after the credits roll.

I was originally expecting Bone to be a 1970s exploitation film but it’s not that at all.

One lazy sunny day, in Los Angeles’s illustrious Beverly Hills, local salesman Bill (Andrew Duggan) and his wife Bernadette (Joyce Van Patten) bicker beside their luscious pool.

They are horrified when they realize a filthy rat has become stuck in the filter. This provides some symbolism as the film chugs along. When they rush to call the exterminator a threatening black man named Bone (Yaphet Kotto) suddenly appears.

Frightened, they first assume he is with the exterminator company but when he terrorizes them with the now-dead rat they offer him money to leave. While they search for banking materials, Bone realizes that Bernadette and Bill are not as wealthy as appearances would dictate.

Bone sends Bill to the bank to withdraw cash or else he will rape and beat Bernadette. At the same time, Bernadette becomes suspicious of Bill’s financial intentions.

There are moments in the film that left me feeling like I was watching something bizarre or of little sense. I’m still not sure what the opening scene of Bill filming a television commercial featuring cars involved in wrecks with dead bodies inside meant.

The images are bloody and horrific- artistic but unclear is the message.

The conclusion also is unclear. When one character appears to murder another, a third character vanishes. Naming the characters would ruin the story but suffice it to say one may wonder if the entire film was a dream.

The realization that Bill and Bernadette make individually is that they don’t care for one another and would happily leave the other to die. We know little about their life from before but assume, while rich, they live a life of boredom, each yearning for some spice.

How many nights does Bernadette sit alone by the pool drowning her sorrows in Chardonnay?

Yaphet Kotto is wonderfully cast. Soon to be well-known as a James Bond villain in Live and Let Die (1973), his character in Bone starts as menacing and slowly becomes sympathetic almost rootable.

When he reveals to Bernadette that he cannot maintain an erection unless he is raping someone, the thought is sickening, but he also appears vulnerable and feeble.

He gradually becomes my favorite character of the three whereas in a conventional film, he would be the one not to root for.

Bill’s experiences are a mind-fuck.

Tasked with withdrawing money from his bank to save his wife, he thinks why should he? He meets a gregarious woman at a bar played by Brett Somers and a chatty young woman online at the bank, who beds him and makes him a salted steak. They frolic away the afternoon as, for all he knows, his wife could be dead!

The issues of classism and racism are the meat and potatoes of Bone and where the film succeeds. We feel the pain of Bone when he as a black man must stand out like a sore thumb in swanky Beverly Hills.

He has had to struggle for every crumb he has gotten while he sees spoiled brats like Bill and Bernadette getting everything and working half as hard. It’s not fair and the audience is meant to empathize with him.

Larry Cohen, well-known for the low-budget campy circuit, creates a perplexing project with added black comedy. The rat, the chatty girl, the X-Ray lady, everyone in the film is wacko!

Bone is a weird film that I don’t know what to make of.  I took it as a glimpse into social issues and I loved the food references, the steak, and eggs mostly.

The plot and conclusion will leave you wondering but I guess that’s better than forgetting the film five minutes later. I’m still trying to make heads or tails of it.

The Hunt-2020

The Hunt-2020

Director-Craig Zobel

Starring-Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank

Scott’s Review #1,117

Reviewed February 26, 2021

Grade: B

A disturbing satirical effort presumably produced because of the volatile United States political climate circa the 2016-2020 time period, The Hunt (2020) is timely and thought-provoking. The premise is admittedly intriguing and relevant.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t always come together and has little character development. It is cartoon-like and mired in B-movie appeal. I wanted much more background from the characters to figure out what made them tick. It’s not always clear if the film intends to provide dark comedy, provoke horror, or mock stereotypes. Perhaps a bit of each?

The Hunt is quite violent and bloody like a horror film should be but has tinges of cerebralism. Your political affiliation will dictate which characters you root for. Unclear is if the message evoked is a liberal slant or a conservative one and which side the filmmaker’s lean.

Who is the target audience, liberals or conservatives?

While the effort is praise-worthy and will undoubtedly leave the viewer pondering many, details some confusing elements aren’t worked through. There is also ridiculousness that doesn’t work.

On the plus side, The Hunt includes two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, one of my favorite modern actresses! She doesn’t appear until the finale but it was the high point for me.

Twelve strangers wake up in a forest clearing. They have no idea where they are or how they got there, or what country they are even in. A large box is in the middle of the field. When they pry it open a pig emerges along with a plethora of guns and ammunition. Confused, rapid gunfire erupts from the forest and the group realizes they have been kidnapped and are being hunted for their conservative beliefs.

With most of the group dead, Crystal (Betty Gilpin) and Don (Wayne Duvall) traverse the nearby locale which includes an Arkansas service station and other booby traps. To make matters worse, it is uncertain whether the people they encounter are enemies or allies. Finally, they realize they are really in Croatia.

It’s quickly revealed that a group of liberal corporate executives led by Athena Stone (Swank) anticipates an upcoming hunt of “deplorable” at a manor through a group text. Done as a joke, they are caught, fired, and decide to set out to perform the hunt as revenge for their dismissals.

Let’s mention how each side is portrayed because it’s important. The liberals are portrayed as elitist, martini-sipping, kale-eating, judgemental “libtards” who mock conservatives at every turn. They are overly politically correct, live in a bubble, and are essentially pricks.

The conservatives are written as racist, dumb, simple-minded, poorly dressed people who love their guns and believe in conspiracy theories. Crystal is written to be a bad-ass tomboy from Mississippi who can shoot guns, blow things up, and fight. Her character is overdone and not my favorite, although the twist at the end and the references to George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) are pleasing.

The opening sequence and the final sequence are the best parts of The Hunt. As the liberals fly in luxury, sipping champagne and munching on caviar, a conservative wanders to the front of the plane and is killed. At this point, the premise isn’t yet revealed so the audience has no idea what is going on. This immediately made me engaged and intrigued.

I loved the final fight sequence between Crystal and Athena. Craig Zobel who directed The Hunt borrows heavily from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (2003-2004) during this scene and the result is a marvelous battle involving kitchen knives, glasses, blood, and bruises.

The Hunt (2020) is a brave and clever effort. I only wish the mechanics of the characters were better explored. My takeaway is the intent is not to take the film too seriously. But, I wanted to.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls-1970

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls-1970

Director Russ Meyer

Starring Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers

Scott’s Review #976

Reviewed January 2, 2020

Grade: B+

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) was originally intended as a sequel to the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls but was revised as a parody of the commercially successful but critically panned original.

This was not altogether a smart move since it would have been interesting to see a coherent follow-up exploring the lives of the original characters instead of a similarly named film with little to do with the first.

Instead, the film plays like frenetic mayhem with jarring edited scenes, a peculiar character switch and storyline, and completely over-the-top vulgarity. Still, the film is fun and extravagant, but hardly on par with Valley of the Dolls.

I would not even recommend watching them in sequence- the confusion would only be doubled.

To call Valley of the Dolls a “serious” film is laughable, but compared to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, it is.

Director Russ Meyer is known for successful sexploitation films that feature campy humor, satire, and large-breasted women, such as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and Supervixens (1975), are at the helm to create the bombastic and eye-dropping shenanigans.

Famous film critic Roger Ebert co-wrote the screenplay along with Meyer.

Three young women MacNamara (Dolly Read), Casey Anderson (Cynthia Myers), and “Pet” Danforth (Marcia McBroom) front a struggling rock band, The Kelly Affair, managed by Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), Kelly’s boyfriend.

The four travel to Los Angeles to seek Kelly’s estranged aunt, Susan Lake, an heiress to a family fortune. Fans of Valley of the Dolls will need to know that Susan is supposed to be Anne Welles, the central character in that film.

A battle ensues as Susan graciously offers to give some of her fortunes to Kelly, but Susan’s unsavory financial adviser, Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod) will have none of it. Amid the drama, Kelly meets a gigolo who feuds with Harris, while Harris is pursued by a sexually aggressive porn star named Ashley St. Ives (Edy Williams).

Events all take place against the backdrop of the night-after-night Los Angeles party.

While the plot is not the central aspect of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the renaming of Susan from Anne, the same character, as well as the recasting of Barbara Parkins with Phyllis Davis, make things confusing.

Adding to this point, Parkins was originally cast as Anne/Susan but was abruptly fired from the production. This makes any comparisons to Valley of the Dolls other than the title alone, unwise and a waste of time.

The lively revelry is the fun and the beauty of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The film has a cool and groovy vibe and epitomizes the late 1960s psychedelic and colorful aura. The free love and the expressionism make the experience a wild but liberal-minded experience and that is suitable for a film like this.

The intention is to entertain and express the confidence of women. While the female characters are exploited, they are also driven and comfortable with themselves.

A fun fact, and cause for musing, is that as wild and exploitative to women (and men) as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is, Ebert was largely responsible for penning the script.

In the 1980s the critic, who I am a cherished fan of, panned many of the 1980s horror/slasher flicks, especially Friday the 13th (1980) for exploiting women, but he had no issue exploiting them years early.

Makes one ponder the hypocrisy of his comments.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) is daring and never plays things safe. With a hip edge and plenty ahead of its time in same-sex character representations, the film is unique and brimming with hilarious and bizarre antics.

The plot is rather silly and goofy and unsurprisingly panned by critics but has become a cult classic and with repeated viewings, has grown on me more and more.

The production is meant to be watched late at night for better appreciation.

Dr. Strangelove-1964

Dr. Strangelove-1964

Director Stanley Kubrick

Starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott

Scott’s Review #958

Reviewed November 13, 2019

Grade: A

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, more commonly known simply as Dr. Strangelove, is a 1964 political satire black comedy film that satirizes the Cold War and fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States.

The film, timely in the 1960s, is as relevant decades later amid the chaos that ensued during the 2016 United States Presidential election, and the tumultuous years to follow.

The film is powerful, brave, and important.

The story centers around an unhinged United States Air Force general (Sterling Hayden) who orders a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.

The plot then follows the President of the United States, (Peter Sellers), the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer as they try to recall the bombers to prevent a nuclear apocalypse.

The film also follows the crew of one B-52 bomber as they try to deliver their payload.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was fresh in viewers’ minds when this film was released, and President John F. Kennedy was recently assassinated. The United States and the Soviet Union were hardly best buddies.

The film was a robust offering not just for the timing but also because the political satire in the film was fresh. Unintentionally clever is the ironic controversy that exists between the two leaders of the nation nearly sixty years after the film was released.

The acting is great. Peter Sellers plays three prominent roles, and each is quite different from the others. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, a British RAF exchange officer, President Merkin Muffley (what a name!), the President of the United States, and Dr. Strangelove, the wheelchair-using nuclear war expert, and former Nazi.

Each glisten with goodness as the actor chomps at the bit, making them precise and unique, careful never to stray too far overboard into ridiculousness.

Director Stanley Kubrick wisely chooses black-and-white cinematography with stellar results and prominent filmmaking techniques.

The film, as creative and progressive as many 1960s films started to become as the decade blossomed, feels like it could have been made in the 1940s.

Kubrick, well known for masterpieces such as The Shining (1980) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) delivers perhaps the oddest film in his catalog with Dr. Strangelove.

The story does not feel dated and the dialogue remains crisp and razor-sharp in its delivery and meaning. With fast dialogue delivery and a monotone vocal style, the film is entertaining and humorous, not taking itself too seriously, yet offering a poignant and important idea come to life.

The film keeps gnawing at the viewers that as far-fetched as events seem, the possibility they could become real is more than a bit scary.

Who can forget the final sequence of the looming nightmare of the mushroom clouds, set to Vera Lynn’s hopeful We’ll Meet Again?

Since the film has hints of 1940s cinema style, the rude awakening that the 1960s produced in terms of nuclear weapons and insecurity hits home in this sequence.

Dr. Strangelove (1964) is pure satire but frightening in its realism and the uncertainty that one crazy leader could lead an entire nation to detrimental results.

The film highly influenced later satires and unique styles in filmmaking- Wes Anderson’s creations immediately spring to mind.

One can ruminate on the different possibilities the film offers- in a way the absurdity of the situation, and the unthinkable way the situation could easily become reality.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Stanley Kubrick, Best Actor-Peter Sellers, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium

Jojo Rabbit-2019

Jojo Rabbit-2019

Director-Taika Waititi

Starring-Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson

Scott’s Review #955

Reviewed November 6, 2019

Grade: A

Jojo Rabbit (2019) is quite simply put a satire. This type of film, and this style of filmmaking, is not intended for all pallets. The subject of Nazis and Adolf Hitler will hit too close to home for some viewers, especially considering this film is being classified as a comedy, albeit a dark one.

With this risk in mind, the film has a fabulous message, is quirky, well-acted, and a marvelous piece of work. But it is a gradual, acquired taste, and not everyone will leave theaters feeling satisfied. I sure did.

Director, Taika Waititi, a Jewish man, is careful to toe the line with his story, teetering close to the edge, but never going too far overboard.

He is careful not to offend those who may have close ties to World War II, the horrific events that took place or disrespect the scars that remain. Rather, he teaches a lesson of acceptance, humanity, and pathos. A laugh one moment leads to tragedy and tears the next, making Jojo Rabbit quite the robust emotional experience.

The time is the 1940’s, setting Germany, as Roman Griffin Davis portrays the title character, a Hitler Youth who finds out his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa, (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic.

Energetic and excitable, he joins a training camp where he is unable to kill a defenseless rabbit, hence being given his new nickname. Jojo slowly comes to question his beliefs, while dealing with the intervention of his imaginary friend, an idiotic version of Adolf Hitler (Waititi).

He eventually forges a close bond with Elsa.

As the film kicks off it immediately reminds me of a Wes Anderson style of storytelling. Think The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) or Moonrise Kingdom (2012).

With quick editing and fast monotone dialogue, the characters initially appear silly and trite, with witty responses to weird situations. As the relationships deepen the audience comes to fall in love with them. Davis is a wonderful child actor and the heart of the film.

Johansson’s Rosie, the mother, is secretly anti-Nazi. She’s got flair, pizzazz, and a good pair of shoes. She states that to dance is to be alive, words of wisdom she provides to Jojo. They come upon a few dangling bodies perched in the center of town for all to see.

They have been caught aiding Jewish people and are a deathly symbol to present. Rosie tells Jojo not to look away for these people did what little they could do. This scene is a poignant one.

Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), a Nazi captain who runs the youth camp, initially seems to be a buffoon and a one-note character. He deepens as not just his patriotism, but his sexuality is called into question.

The LGBTQ angle is implied, but only skirted over so that the point is vague and mysterious. The Captain stands very close by his second-in-command, Finkel, and a scene at the pool will make many wonders about the true relationship between the men.

Finally, Yorki, Jojo’s best friend, is just adorable, providing sweetness and genuine quality that is undeniably benevolent. McKenzie, as the frightened yet strong Elsa, is courageous to a fault. Stubborn and tough, she softens to Jojo as they get to know each other.

Her mysterious boyfriend, Nathan, never seen on-screen, plays a prominent role and is a key to the relationship between her and Jojo. The characters are an integral part of the film.

Made in 2019, a volatile time on planet earth, and especially in the United States, the film breathes fresh air into the world of inclusion and acceptance. Much of this is slowly revealed as events transpire to a crescendo.

As the war ends, several lives are forever changed, some good, others tragic, but each connected to the others, enriching their respective lives. Waititi celebrates the gift, joys, and heartbreaks of life.

Jojo Rabbit (2019) is a film that makes the viewer think and challenges him or her to soak in innocence and evil. Despite the subject matter, the film is not cold or harsh, nor does it disrespect history. Incorporated are death and tragedy mixed with learning and strong relationships.

The film is a great experience and an important find among many routines and mainstream projects. Jojo Rabbit perks up cinema, and hopefully the viewer, with a beautiful message.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress-Scarlett Johansson, Best Adapted Screenplay (won), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing

The Brady Bunch Movie-1995

The Brady Bunch Movie-1995

Director Betty Thomas

Starring Gary Cole, Shelley Long

Scott’s Review #750

Reviewed April 30, 2018

Grade: B

Capitalizing on nostalgia created from the popular 1960s-1970s television comedy “The Brady Bunch”, 1995’s The Brady Bunch Movie offers a nice treat for fans of the series, fondly reminiscing back to their youth or hours spent enjoying subsequent reruns after the show had ended.

The case with this reviewer, the film version is cute and silly, but exactly as would be expected, and the attention to detail using facets from the original series makes the film wonderful enjoyment and a job well done by director Betty Thomas.

The Brady Bunch Movie is not highbrow nor complex,  nor should it be. The work is just peppered with great jokes and a solid ode to the fun past.

Film fans looking for a good comedy and not having seen the series might miss out on some of the fun as a multitude of references only fans will appreciate abound throughout the length of the film.

The plot is not the strongest quality, but liberties must be taken since the intention is of a throwback and not much more- the story might have existed during the series but lengthened for film purposes.

Larry Dittmeyer, played by Michael McKean, schemes to coax all of his southern Californian neighborhood to sell their houses at a good price, to develop a lucrative shopping mall, presumably so they will all get rich.

When earnest Mike and Carol Brady (Gary Cole and Shelley Long) refuse the business deal, Larry embarks on a plot to use a foreclosing notice issued to the Brady’s as leverage in his deal. The Brady’s, owing $20,000 in back taxes due within a week’s time scramble to raise the money.

Predictably, the Brady kids rush to the rescue with a plan to secure the funds via a singing contest.

The film immediately gets off to a familiar start as we view the comfortable Brady house and all of the cozy qualities nestled inside- unchanged from the late 1960s- the groovy orange colors, the tie-dye, and the plaid outfits are all in tow.

Lovable Alice, in her blue and white housekeeper outfit, Mike, Carol, and all six Brady kids are back at the helm, having never missed a beat.

In short, they still live as if it were 1969 instead of 1995 and are oblivious to the outside world.

A tremendous treat for fans is the cameo appearances of a few of the original cast: Florence Henderson (Carol) and Ann B. Davis (Alice) have the more interesting parts, that of the Brady grandmother and truck driver, respectively.

Oddly, Maureen McCormick’s (Marcia), Susan Olsen’s (Cindy), and Mike Lookinland’s (Bobby’s) scenes were shot, but all cut- a major fail of the film whose fans undoubtedly would have liked to have seen all cast members.

Wouldn’t a group scene versus individual scenes have been a wonderful touch?

Missing is Robert Reed (Mike) who was deceased and Eve Plumb (Jan) who refused to appear.

The plot is silly, trivial, and completely predictable, but yet, so is the television series. As each episode was wrapped up in a nice bow with a defined conclusion and perhaps a lesson or two learned along the way, the film plays similarly.

McKean’s Larry and man-hungry wife Dina (Jean Smart) are perfect foils and play their roles with a relish only adding to the zany fun. A wonderful and timely point is how a Japanese businessman saves the day for the Bradys as a nice cultural inclusiveness touch is added- still relevant today.

An observation made while watching the film in the present time (2018), is the intended point of the film. In 1995, the point was to show how out of touch the Bradys were with “modern times”.

But in 2018 the tide has turned and 1995 now seems dated concerning the Brady years- sadly this gives the film itself more of a dated quality. This is always a risk taken when a film uses its current time as part of the plot.

The cool and hip cellular phone used by one character seems garish and uncool by today’s advanced standards.

Still, from Marcia’s flattened nose, The Monkees’ Davy Jones resurfacing, Cindy’s tattling, Jan’s insecurities, Greg’s cool suave manner, Peter’s breaking voice, and Bobby’s hall monitor job, the familiar stories and antics all resurface in a fun-filled hour and a half of comic nostalgia.

The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) is a light achievement and a nice trip down memory lane for many folks.

High Anxiety-1977

High Anxiety-1977

Director Mel Brooks

Starring Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn

Scott’s Review #740

Reviewed April 11, 2018

Grade: A

For lovers of legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock (as this reviewer is a die-hard fan), the 1977 spoof/satirical feast High Anxiety is a must-see.

The film is simply a treat for the multitude (nearly twenty!) of fun references to Hitchcock classics that fans can easily point out. Such classics as 1964’s The Birds, 1945’s Spellbound, 1958’s Vertigo, and 1960’s fan-favorite Psycho are heavily parodied.

Producer, director, and star Mel Brooks abounds all expectations with a brilliant performance and a smattering of veteran Brooks ensemble players along for the ride.

Featured stars Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, and Cloris Leachman provide wonderful comic performances that are quite lively and memorable without ever being too zany or silly.

High Anxiety is a hilarious and clever production.

Brooks plays neurotic Doctor Richard Thorndyke, who has been hired by the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very Very Nervous. His role is to replace Doctor Ashley, who has died mysteriously at the facility.

Transported by his nervous driver, Brophy, he meets a bevy of peculiar characters led by Doctor Charles Montague (Korman), a man with a BDSM fetish, and Nurse Charlotte Diesel (Leachman), the grizzled head nurse.

Thorndyke immediately receives death threats amid strange shenanigans seemingly following his every move.

Brilliantly, Thorndyke suffers from “high anxiety” a witty reference to Hitchcock’s character of Scotty from 1958’s Vertigo.

As he meets and falls in love with Victoria Brisbane (Kahn), a woman whose father is a patient at the facility, he becomes determined to prove the fraudulence and deceit of Montague and Diesel, while subsequently clearing himself of a murder charge orchestrated by the pair.

The murder scene- occurring in a crowded lobby- with Thorndyke caught red-handed holding the murder weapon as a camera snaps the shot for evidence, is a direct spoof of 1959’s North By Northwest.

To be clear, High Anxiety is not a high-brow film nor does it ever dare to take itself too seriously. It knows what it is and what it wants to achieve and that is to both entertain and please fans of Hitchcock.

The film is an ode and tribute to the general film-making of the director who reportedly adored the picture and the accolades that Brooks received for making it.

There is hardly a better stamp of approval than that.

I adore the casting and the odd characters Brooks writes, specifically Leachman and Korman. The duo ham it up with a script laced with great comic moments for the duo to sink their teeth into.

As Leachman, with her drill sergeant-like stiff posture and pointed bosom (Mrs. Danvers from 1940’s Rebecca), combined with the wimpy and snarky mannerisms of Korman’s character, they are the perfect combination of female dominant and male submissive as they play off of one another in a crisp style.

The sinister way that Nurse Diesel (my favorite character) utters the word “Braces”, a reference to her henchman, drizzles with dark humor and wit.

Piggybacking off of these characters, Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough) gives a fine turn as the doomed straight man with a conscience,  Dr. Wentworth, who just knows something is up at the facility but is too timid to know exactly what it is.

His death scene is one of my favorites as derived from 1976’s Family Plot, the poor man is driven to ruptured eardrums and a subsequent stroke after his car is rigged to blast rock music, trapping him inside.

Brooks and Kahn make a lovable duo as the beleaguered romantic couple is forced into an adventure to prove innocence and rescue Victoria’s father from harm.

A favorite moment is Brooks’s wonderful rendition of the song “High Anxiety” at a hotel piano bar as he successfully woos Victoria is an entertaining romantic comedy moment.

Predictably- he gets the girl.

High Anxiety (1977) is delicious, silly, and peppered with great classic Hitchcock moments that are momentously fun to watch and pick out which movie they each reference is from.

An absolute must-see for all Hitchcock fans or those who simply want a humorous, lightweight introduction to the works of the Master.

The Lobster-2016

The Lobster-2016

Director-Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring-Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz

Scott’s Review #635

Reviewed April 20, 2017

Grade: A-

One thing is certain about the puzzling 2016 film, The Lobster- it is a film worthy of discussion long after the end credits roll and will leave the viewer pondering many facets of the film- a great film to dissect if you will.

This in itself is worth recognition and praise to the power of the film- so many questions abound.

I was immediately struck by how heavily The Lobster contains major subject matter influences from “message novels” (and films) such as Brave New World, 1984, and A Clockwork Orange, as well as creative, stylistic recent film influences from The Grand Budapest Hotel and the Moonrise Kingdom.

The story begins somewhere outside of Dublin, where David (Colin Farrell) has recently been dumped by his wife in favor of another man.

Now single, he is whisked away by authorities to a luxurious hotel in the woods, where he (and the other guests) are given forty-five days to find a suitable romantic partner, or else they will be turned into an animal of their choice.

David is accompanied by his brother, now a dog, and has decided, should he be turned, that he will become a lobster because he loves the sea and they tend to live to be over one hundred years old.

The hotel management adheres to strict rules- no masturbation, mandatory temptations by hotel employees, and a strange outdoor hunting game where the guests hunt other guests to win extra days extended to their stays.

As David befriends fellow hotel guests, he is conflicted and desperate to find a mate. Events take a surprising turn when circumstances allow the rules to change for him and he becomes involved with a short-sighted woman (Weisz).

The plot of the film is strange beyond belief, yet also incredibly creative and thought-provoking. The subject matter is pure dystopian- a facility, presumably controlled by the government, with a rebel group intent on ruining the “status quo”.

Mixed in with all of this suddenly appears an odd little secret romance between David and Shortsighted Woman that begins only during the final act of the film.

One aspect of the film that I found interesting was the odd monotone dialogue that the characters used- almost matter-of-fact in whatever they were saying, even while expressing anger.

This peculiarity perplexed me, but the more I think about it, the more this decision makes the film dark-humored and dry with wry wit.

Another interesting nuance to the film is the multitude of quirky characters, many of whom are mainly referred to by their nicknames. Lisping Man, Limping Man, and Nosebleed Woman to name a few.

And what viewer would not spend the duration of the film imagining which animal he or she would desire to be turned into and why?

My favorite aspect of the film is the offbeat performance by Colin Farrell- typically a rugged, sex symbol, he goes against the grain and plays a pudgy, socially awkward, insecure man, but all the while instilling the character with enough warmth and likability to make the character work- and his chemistry with Rachel Weisz is fantastic.

This turns the strange dark comedy into a strange romantic drama.

A beautiful forest becomes the backdrop for a large part of the film as does the city of Dublin itself, contrasting the film in nuanced ways. Combined with the lavish hotel, the film achieves several different settings for the action, each meaningful in its own right.

Without giving anything away, the conclusion of the film- the final scene in particular- is positively gruesome in what goes through the viewer’s mind, and the resolution is left very unclear. Does David do it or doesn’t he?

Much of the film is open to one’s interpretation and imagination.

Black humor and cynicism are major components of The Lobster, which is a thinking man’s movie. I continue to think of this film as I write this review.

The film flairs with originality and thought and this is a great positive. Confusing and mind-blowing? For sure. A run-of-the-mill film? Not.

The Lobster is a film that gives no answers and is not an easy watch, but an achievement in film creativity- something sorely needed.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Screenplay

The Player-1992

The Player-1992

Director Robert Altman

Starring Tim Robbins, Peter Gallagher

Scott’s Review #601

Reviewed January 11, 2017

Grade: A

The Player (1992) ranks up there with other Robert Altman classics such as Gosford Park (2001), Nashville (1975), and Short Cuts (1993).

The film is an excellent piece of Hollywood satire and centers around a jaded movie executive, played by Tim Robbins, who does an incredible job with his role.

Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a man with no scruples. Feeling usurped by a younger executive, played by Peter Gallagher, as well as receiving death threats, he goes on the hunt for the person he feels responsible for, which leads to murder.

The audience is unsure whether to love or hate Mill, thanks to Robbin’s performance. He is snarky, but also vulnerable and a tad sympathetic.

The film contains a slew of real Hollywood celebrities (Cher, Malcolm McDowell, Bruce Willis) playing themselves and is largely improvised (as many of Altman’s films are).

Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovett star as odd police detectives.

The plot is nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s the realness and the direction that make this movie a must-see, especially for Robert Altman fans.

The Player (1992) is a hidden gem.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Robert Altman, Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Best Film Editing

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Feature (won)

Tropic Thunder-2008

Tropic Thunder-2008

Director Ben Stiller

Starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr.

Scott’s Review #593

Reviewed January 8, 2017

Grade: D-

Tropic Thunder (2008) was a ridiculous film that I found to be harsh, tedious, and very loud. Attempting to be a satire of sorts, it fails on almost every level.

The main issue was with the characters, who are abrasive and unlikable.

The only redeeming qualities are Robert Downey Jr.’s and Tom Cruise’s portrayals, though they both play idiotic characters.

The plot is something of an ode to 1979’s Apocalypse Now, in that the plot throws back to the Vietnam war.

A group of narcissistic actors is filming a Vietnam memoir on location in the jungles of Southeast Asia when they are abandoned and forced to fend for themselves amid a group of drug lords.

The film’s attempt at humor fell flat for me. It just seemed like a group of crazed guys running around the jungle acting wild and the film held little point for me.

Cruise’s part was interesting but way too small.

Directed by, and starring Ben Stiller, who should stick to acting (if that).

How Downey, Jr. scored an Oscar nomination for this drivel is beyond me- despite his acting being one of the better efforts in the film.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Robert Downey Jr.

A Wedding-1978

A Wedding-1978

Director Robert Altman

Starring Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Paul Dooley

Scott’s Review #539

Reviewed December 17, 2016

Grade: A

A Wedding (1978) is an obscure, brilliant gem penned and directed by Robert Altman- a film genius and one of my most adored directors.

I love most of his movies and A Wedding is no exception. The creative way that Altman weaves intersecting storylines and dialogue, thereby creating a real-life tone, gives immense realism to his films.

In A Wedding, he takes a basic life event and turns it into a well-nuanced, fascinating, comical, yet dramatic story.

He is known for having enormous casts (in A Wedding it is forty-eight principles), but every character serves a purpose.

The viewer will feel that they are a fly on the wall of a real wedding.

Altman’s actors primarily improvise the dialogue, speaking at the same time, bringing a realistic edge. I adore this quality.

The film is a satire- people either love or loathe attending weddings and Altman’s film caters to the latter. He creates a setting, from the ceremony to the reception, riddled with awkward moments, and social guffaws.

In pure satirical, soap opera fashion, two wealthy families gather at a lavish estate for the ceremony to commence. Hilarity ensues when the corpse of the matriarch of one family lies in her bed, nobody realizing she is dead.

Other hi-jinks, such as the revelation of a nude, life-size portrait of the bride, the caterer falling ill, and a tornado wreaking havoc.

Slowly, secrets are revealed by the families, as the alcohol flows and the characters become involved in the perilous situations.

Altman does it again as he creates a masterpiece based on real-life situations that most can relate to.

Seven Psychopaths-2012

Seven Psychopaths-2012

Director Martin McDonagh

Starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell

Scott’s Review #422

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Reviewed June 19, 2016

Grade: B-

Seven Psychopaths (2012) is a film that I truly wanted to like more than I did.

It started well with a Quentin Tarantino style that was appealing and the film does contain an interesting premise.

Colin Farrell plays the straight man in a cast of offbeat, quirky characters and is attempting to complete a screenplay entitled “Seven Psychopaths” based on these characters.

Sounds great, but halfway through the movie stopped delivering. I found myself slightly bored.

The film has a unique concept, to be sure, but fizzles during the second act, so much so that it stopped making much sense and lost my interest.

I did admire the creativity, though, and the chemistry among the cast is great, but the overall story in Seven Psychopaths (2012) disappointed me.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Male-Sam Rockwell, Best Screenplay

Hail, Caesar!-2016

Hail, Caesar! -2016

Director-Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Starring George Clooney, Channing Tatum

Scott’s Review #377

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Reviewed February 16, 2016

Grade: B+

Hail, Caesar! is a quirky film created and directed by the Coen Brothers, known for such offbeat films as Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and Raising Arizona.

Hail, Caesar is a satirical comedy about the Hollywood film industry during the post-World War II period of the 1950s.

Including singing, dancing, and scandalous matters, the film includes a bevy of current Hollywood talent including George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, and Scarlett Johannsen to name but a few.

All give fine performances and add humor and wit to the film.

The plot centers on the character of Eddie Mannix (Brolin), a celebrity “fixer” and real-life person, who works as an executive for Capitol Pictures, and whose main responsibility is to ensure that famous Hollywood stars remain out of trouble.

The period is 1951, a particularly scandalous time in pictures. One of the biggest stars of the time, Baird Whitlock (Clooney), is suddenly kidnapped and held for ransom while completing a big epic film for the studio. Mannix must race to keep the crisis out of the news and safely get Whitlock back.

Certainly, there are interesting subplots including handsome, yet talent-less Western actor Hobie Doyle, hired by the studio to appear in a sweeping period piece directed by suave Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), and DeeAnna Moran (Johannsen), unmarried and with a “bun in the oven”, determined to keep herself out of the tabloids.

I loved the look of the film, as numerous films within the film occur. The 1950’s set pieces and set designs are exquisite to experience, particularly the period piece set, lavishly designed with classic doors, a staircase, flowers, and a cast dressed to the nines. It brings back an extravagant time.

The film is a satire, to be sure, but also contains the serious subject matter of communism (especially for that period), Russia, and Russian defectors, all involved in a plot to prove a valuable point.

Despite the film being a comedy, this is worth serious thought. Many writers in Hollywood make money for the studios and are rewarded with underwhelming salaries. The same holds in Hollywood today.

This point can spill over into other walks of life as well and the point of the “little man gets screwed” is explored. Communism is also explored throughout the film as the main message- a message that is important and resonates.

Another interesting tidbit that Hail, Caesar! mentions, though only on the surface, is the burgeoning onslaught of television programming.

Suddenly, more and more folks were purchasing TVs and staying away from the glamour of films opting instead for the comfort of their couch.

What a different time it was!

An intriguing, favorite character of mine belongs to Channing Tatum’s portrayal of Burt Gurney, a Gene Kelly-like character famous for singing and dancing numbers. A sizzling sailor dance gives edge and sexuality to the film.

A revealing scandal involving Burt and Laurence is fantastic and delicious.

My favorite scene belongs to Frances McDormand, shamefully only appearing in one scene- quite memorable. As film editor C.C. Calhoun, she diligently shows Mannix film dailies in the hopes of discovering a clue in the disappearance of Whitlock. When her scarf gets caught in the projector, both hilarity and grotesqueness ensue.

It is a classic Coen Brothers comedy.

Hail Caesar! succeeds as a witty, comical, throwback to a wonderful time in film history, with a political edge, that historians will appreciate and Coen Brothers fans will relish.

Perhaps not their most creative or memorable, but enjoyable all the same.

Oscar Nominations: Best Production Design

Dawn of the Dead-1978

Dawn of the Dead-1978

Director George A. Romero

Starring David Emge, Ken Foree

Scott’s Review #289

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Reviewed November 26, 2015

Grade: B+

One of the better installments by the famed horror-comedy director, George A. Romero, though inferior to my favorite film of his, Night of the Living Dead, Romero focuses slightly more on the comedy aspect with Dawn of the Dead (1978), though for horror fans, there is plenty of gore to satisfy the more blood-thirsty viewer.

This film is glossier and slicker than its predecessor was.

On a slightly larger budget than Night of the Living Dead,  the events largely take place in suburban Pennsylvania, and more specifically, a local mall.

An unknown phenomenon has made non-buried humans change form into flesh-eating zombies that prey on other human beings.

A group of survivors hunker down in a suburban mall and begin a life of adequacy-utilizing the contents of the mall until events threaten their existence. They must form a militant operation to continue to survive.

The four survivors are Stephen and Francine- two staff members of a local television station- and Roger and Peter- two SWAT team members whom they meet in the ensuing chaos.

The quartet steals a helicopter and travels a short distance to the mall.

Having viewed Dawn of the Dead on multiple occasions, I am a fan of the film, but not an enormous fan, and it hovers below my Top 25 Horror Films list.

The main flaw of the film is how it delves into the personal lives of Stephen and Francine midstream, a fact I find meaningless and in fact, stalls the plot.

Francine has realized that she is pregnant and I just do not understand the point of slowing down the action for this purpose.

I am a huge fan of character development (even in the horror genre!), but this development does not work.

Still, the lengthy portion of the film, and with a running time of over two hours (highly unusual for horror), I am enamored with.

The scenes in the mall are fantastic and the action in the final act is thrilling.

Reminiscent of my youth and spending hours as a child, along with my mother and siblings, being paraded around the local mall, the look of the mall in Dawn of the Dead brings back a flood of memories.

From the fake green plants to the mannequins, the pool of water filled with coins, and, of course,  the redundant, but lovely Muzak in the background.

Romero, as he did with Night of the Living Dead, provides a social element to the film.

In the case of Dawn of the Dead, it is the onset of materialism and consumerism that captured the United States in the late 1970s and the 1980s that he focuses on, and it took me a couple of viewings to catch onto this point- the zombies stupidly walking around the mall in a numbing fashion mirroring how many people did during the day.

One character mentions that the zombies are drawn to the mall because it is familiar- much like people frequented the malls at that time frivolously spending away their time and their money.

Some of the deaths, including one main character, are haunting. As the character suddenly “turns”, it is frightening to see them in this new light as compared to how they once were.

And, comically, my favorite zombie character is the nurse. Clad in nurse-gear (white shoes, classic nurse cap, and white uniform) she is creepy yet mesmerizing in her body and facial expressions as she lumbers around the mall.

It makes me smile each time I see her.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) is one of the better, more interesting zombie movies around- I just wish the relationship drama, mainly in the center of the film, had been derailed or modified, as it slows down the pacing of the film.

Still, a good, fun, late-night flick.

Dear White People-2014

Dear White People-2014

Director Justin Simien

Starring Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson

Scott’s Review #274

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Reviewed September 18, 2015

Grade: B+

Dear White People (2014) is a highly creative, independent satire that begs to be watched for no reason other than for its message of existing racism in present times, homophobia, and class distinction.

Set at an Ivy League college and written tongue and cheek, but also with a direct message from newly discovered director Justin Simien, it is a meaningful gem that challenges audiences to think and be entertained and emit an occasional chuckle at the wit and comical lines presented.

Set in the present day- assuming 2013 or 2014, and well beyond the Civil Rights era, the film features a hip, sharp look and a myriad of characters, all with differing perspectives, all Caucasian or black in racial identities.

All the characters attend the affluent and sophisticated Winchester University, a mostly white, conservative school with a small community of black students, who curiously all seem to reside in the same dorm house.

In addition, the Dean is a black man (played by Dennis Haysbert).

Sam White is a rebellious female student, of mixed race, who runs a radio show entitled “Dear White People”, which challenges the current state of racism in America, specifically at Winchester University.

Supporting characters include Lionel Higgins, a gay, bookish student with an enormous afro, excluded from almost all the sub-groups. Lionel is intrigued by Sam’s radio show.

Other characters include Coco- an attractive black girl with typically “white” mannerisms and friends, who try to fit in with the white culture. Troy, a very handsome black student (who tries to act “white”), dates a white girl (who tries to act “black”).

Finally, the film features Kirk, a white student whose father is the school president, who values an old-style way of thinking. Kirk, shockingly, hosts a blackface party, which leads to major controversy at the school and is the focus of much of the film’s drama.

The main theme is race, but different characters have different viewpoints on the subject matter, and all are explored, which makes the film unique and interesting.

Sam, for example, is a true advocate for racial equality and constantly challenges white people’s motivations and actions, blatantly so.

Coco, on the other hand, is resistant to being stereotyped as a woman of color and, in one scene is incorrectly assumed to be from the hood by a reality television producer she is auditioning for.

She is envious of white people and the advantages they have, even going so far as having straight hair and blue contact lenses. Then we have Lionel, who is both gay and black, and considered an outcast. He fits in with no group and curiously seems okay with being his own person.

What is unique and compelling about Dear White People is that it brings up a controversial issue, mixes it in satire, humorously, but presents compelling arguments against stereotypes, also bringing those stereotypes center stage, which most films avoid like the plague.

One black character is frustrated that, in their mind, most black people are content watching dumb black comedies, thereby supporting a negative racial stereotype.

One interesting aspect regarding the score is the use of lily-white classic film music- such as Barry Lyndon (1975)- the most lily-white of lily-white films (British and Irish).

Famous film director, Quentin Tarantino, is called out as being a racist director. What wonderful irony!

Dear White People (2014) is a witty, intelligent slice of inventive filmmaking that is worth seeing if only for its controversial subject of inequality and racism, which is too often forgotten.

An indie treat for those inclined to think a little.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best First Screenplay (won), Best First Feature

Maps to the Stars-2014

Maps to the Stars- 2014

Director David Cronenberg

Starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska

Scott’s Review #266

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Reviewed August 14, 2015

Grade: A-

Maps to the Stars (2014) is a bizarre, unpleasant, film that is as dark and perverse as provocative and fascinating to observe and ponder.

It is more like an independent art film than a blockbuster Hollywood project and was made by an arguably mainstream director, David Cronenberg (Crash-1996, The Fly-1986), I am surprised it was able to be made on a large scale budget due to the negative portrayal of actors and celebrity types, specifically, troublesome starlet and child star.

One must be wary of biting the hand that feeds.

Maps to the Stars is a film where almost all the central characters are unlikable- difficult, unstable, self-absorbed, or all of the above.

The subject matter is ugly but fascinating to me.

The wealthy and glamorous are interesting and, at times the film is like a Greek tragedy containing Shakespearean elements- think Romeo and Juliet in an incestuous way times two. One must watch this film to see what I mean.

Hint- it contains the ick factor.

The plot centers on a Hollywood family, where the son is a famous child star and the primary breadwinner. They are the Weiss family- all struggling to either find success or hang on to it, all the while each of them is neurotic.

The father, Dr. Samuel Weiss, played by John Cusack, is a TV psychologist, hired by Havannah Legrand (Julianne Moore), a highly self-centered, aging actress, struggling to land a coveted role-playing her mother.

Her mother was a young actress in her day, who tragically died in a fire. Havannah despises her due to claimed childhood abuse.

Cristina Weiss (Olivia Williams) is Samuel’s wife. This controlling, ambitious woman strives to get the most money out of her son Benjie, a Justin Bieber-type character with a troubled streak.

Rounding out the family is Agatha Weiss, a troubled teenager, sent away for years after giving her brother pills and setting her parents’ house on fire. Though not directly related to Weiss’s, Havannah, and the limo driver, Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson) become heavily involved with the family as events transpire.

It reminded me of a myriad of other influential film directors in peculiar ways. I noticed elements of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (1992), for instance, in a dark clever mood and the obvious setting of Los Angeles- even the score is similar during parts of the film, as the moody monotone sounds played in the background.

The Ice Storm (1997), American Beauty (1999), and Magnolia (1997) also sprang to mind in their dark and strange worlds (Magnolia) and the inclusion of the dysfunctional family element (The Ice Storm and American Beauty).

Furthermore, to a lesser extent, I saw some Robert Altman ingrained in Maps to the Stars. These aspects are an enormous reason why I loved the film so much.

A prevalent theme throughout Maps to the Stars is one of burning- a victim of burning, a fire set, a character setting oneself on fire. Some characters see dead people. Havannah regularly sees her dead mother. Benjie sees a young girl whom he visited in the hospital before she died, her last wish of meeting the big star.

She suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, who he foolishly thought had AIDS. He sees her in visions and tries to strangle her, instead of strangling an innocent living person.

The film is a weird trip, and the viewer will be dreading an oncoming dark moment.

When Benjie carelessly plays with a gun that he assumes is unloaded we know trouble will occur. He is showing off at an actor friend’s party along with equally obnoxious starlets while talking about poop, all selfish and wanting to party.

When Havannah belittles Agatha, her assistant, we see Agatha’s past anger come back into play as she slowly unravels with rage- Havannah is unaware of Agatha’s knowledge of her betrayal.

One small gripe is the continued use of gross toilet talk in multiple scenes including a raunchy discussion of a fan buying a well-known actor’s waste for thousands of dollars. What was Cronenberg’s motivation for this?

This was a silly, tasteless, unnecessary element of an otherwise great film.

Maps of the Stars (2014) is dirty and ugly but is also a quirky treasure about bad people in Hollywood. Unpleasant characters whom I could not take my eyes off of.

A brilliant film that delves into Hollywood shallowness and madness and does it in a daring, twisted, wonderful, sort of way.

Heathers-1989

Heathers-1989

Director Michael Lehman

Starring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater

Scott’s Review #207

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Reviewed December 25, 2014

Grade: B

My gut tells me that Heathers was quite controversial and influential upon release in 1989 and has sustained a cult following that continues to this day- 2014.

Having seen the film for only the first time, in 2014, the film is good, but now suffers from a slightly dated look and feel. Still, it is a brave and unique expression of creativity.

It is a film that sends the message that the popular kids are bad and that the meek shall inherit the earth. The uncool kids will rise.

To summarize the plot, Heathers is told from the perspective of high school student Veronica Sawyer, played by a young Winona Ryder. She is a second-tier popular girl- she is lieutenant to the generals if you will.

The school is run by three popular girls named Heather. As popular as they are, they are also despised and feared by the other students but carry great influence. They enjoy playing cruel jokes on other students and ridiculing anyone beneath them.

A rebellious male student, J.D., played by Christian Slater, befriends Veronica and they hatch a plan to destroy the popular clique, including another pair of popular jocks.

Shannon Doherty plays second in command Heather.

The tone of Heather’s is surreal and dream-like. For example, in the opening scene all three Heathers- along with Veronica- are on a perfectly manicured lawn in the suburbs playing croquet.

The hierarchy is established as Veronica seems to be buried up to her neck and is the target of the croquet balls making her, without question, the lowest of the four girls. Whether or not this is a dream or real is unclear.

The film is well-written and edgy. It reminds me at times of The Ice Storm and American Beauty, which Heathers preceded, and are superior in my opinion.

Heathers is a teen angst film and quite dark at times- the various deaths are committed viciously (drain cleaner poisoning, concocting a setup for the jocks to appear to be having a love affair with each other and then passionately shooting each other), but with sly wit and humor.

Veronica is, at heart, a good girl, albeit misguided and heavily influenced by J.D., but her intentions of having a fair, just school society are noble. The character is likable.

All the parents are hilariously portrayed as buffoons and have no idea of the darkness that exists in their kid’s lives- Veronica’s parents in particular.

Fearing that Veronica has committed or soon will attempt suicide, they fret that it is their fault stemming from childhood negligence, however, their concern has more to do with themselves than with Veronica’s well-being.

Small gripes about the film are the 1980s style outfits and hairstyles, which, since made in the 1980s is not a particular fault of the films- though it does contain a slightly dated feel to it while watching in present times.

Also, Christian Slater mimicking Jack Nicholson’s voice is odd- was this a decision by the film or by the actor himself? Either way, the imitation is both distracting and confusing. What is the point?

The ending of the film is a happy and satisfying conclusion- however, different from the dark tone of the rest of the movie- rumor has it the studio had some influence in toning down the original ending.

1989 was not a stellar year for film so Heathers deserves major props for thinking outside the box and doing something dark and creative.

Brave, inventive, and unique, Heathers is a cult classic worth a look.

Independent Spirit Award Nominees: 1 win-Best Female Lead-Winona Ryder, Best Screenplay, Best First Feature (won)