Volume 1, Number 17
|The Dreamlife of Angels
(Dir: Erick Zonca, Starring Élodie Bouchez, Natacha Régnier, Grégoire Colin, Jo Prestia, and Patrick Mercado)
BY: DAVID PERRY
When telling people that I would go to quite a bit of trouble to see The Dreamlife of Angels (La Vie Rêvée des Anges), they would say that it had better be good. Luckily it was. After seeing The Dreamlife of Angels, I can well understand why it was honored at so many awards (European Film Awards, César Awards, Cannes Film Festival), especially for its two leading ladies.
The film follows the aftermath of a friendship between two single women after being thrown together at a sewing factory. The main one is Isa (Bouchez), who seems to be a desperate individual in the beginning, but by the end seems the one with a better grasp on her own life. The other is Marie (Régnier), a woman that seems to be at a nice point in her life where everything seems to work out, but she too does not live up to character. On her first day of work, Isa befriends Marie and is invited to share an apartment with Marie that she is watching over while its owners are in a coma. Jobless but happy the two are an undividable pair, that is until Marie begins to change and grow against Isa. When a young bar owner named Chris (Colin) enters Marie's life, Isa sees a different side of Marie only before shown upon a visit by Marie's mother. As the days go by, Isa notices the destruction of the friendship and the coldness Marie has taken upon her one time best friend. All Marie seems to care about is what she can do to make things fine for her to end up with Chris for good instead of simply being his "call-girl". She begins to poke fun at everything that Isa does, especially visiting the comatose girl whose mother owned the place they are residing at.
The two performances are the best I've seen for
this year, perfectly playing off each other. I can understand why the Cannes Festival
decided to give both of them the Best Actress award considering how hard it is to decide
which one was better. The subtle charm of Bouchez is just as entrancing as the terrible
self-destruction going on in Régnier. The screenplay and direction by first timer Erick
Zonca proves just how far French cinema has gone since losing Truffaut. My only real
problem with the film seems to be in the realm of pacing. It seemed a bit overlong and
pushed. I did like what I saw, but thought that at times, I had already seen enough
(especially in a subplot between Marie and a bouncer). All in all, The Dreamlife of
Angels is one of the best films of the year and easily the best foreign language film
I've seen this year. A sweet yet disturbing film, it captures just what I love about
(Dir: Francis Ford Coppola, Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Al Lettieri, Diane Keaton, Abe Vigoda, Talia Shire, Gianni Russo, John Cazale, Rudy Bond, Al Martino, Morgana King, Lenny Montana, John Martino, Salatore Corsitto, Richard Bright, Alex Rocco, and Tony Giorgio)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Through my time as a film critic, I've found that there is one question that seems to pop up the most: "What is your favorite film?" Over the years, my favorites have jumped from Vertigo to The Bridge on the River Kwai, but nothing has lasted in that position longer than the 1972 masterpiece The Godfather. It has been my favorite since I first saw it at 13 or so and I doubt that it will ever be ousted. The beauty of a crime drama amongst family values is forever focused around this film. Despite another great sequel, a mediocre third part, and a rumored fourth, The Godfather remains untarnished and perfect when left alone (the Godfather Legacy blending of Parts I and II work better as an interesting set piece than master cinemateque).
I think that is the secret to the long lasting adoration to this film that myself and many others have found: it cannot be tarnished. When I watch it, I don't think about the fact that Pacino would go on to do Revolution, or Caan with Alien Nation, or Brando with The Island of Dr. Moreau. I don't even worry about the fact that the ingenious direction of Coppola would later be behind the camera of Jack or The Rainmaker. It doesn't matter that there have been two wannabe TV Miniseries from Godfather scribe Mario Puzo. What seems to matter is that all is and will always be perfect with this little 1972 gem.
The fact that it is a gangster film with a heart and soul makes it ever so engaging. Rarely do we see that (I can only think of GoodFellas, Scarface , Public Enemy, and Little Caesar off the top of my head) and only Martin Scorsese seems to be equip with a future film that might do so. The Corleone family, under its Mafioso patriarch, are the side of the Mafia we rarely could see as the FBI made them as scoundrels. When grieving Vito (Brando) tells another don that nothing can bring their sons back, there is a sense of compassion that Al Capone could very well of had, but the news would never allow that to be known. When Sonny (Caan) is upset over the abuse his sister is getting from her husband, it is shown just how tightly woven the family is. The subtle love for Fredo (Cazale) is well put by Michael (Pacino), that is only until it seems that Fredo has taken sides against the family.
Coppola's direction is the best of his terrific streak through the seventies (The Conversation, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now) and shows exactly why he still retains respect after all the terrible things he has made in the eighties and the nineties. The screenplay he produced with original novelist Mario Puzo still serves as the greatest place to grab a piece of dialogue ("Leave the gun, take the canoli", "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes", "Women are more dangerous than shotguns"). It also could be a nominee for the greatest ensemble casts of all time (doing battle with Bridge on the River Kwai, Network, and Pulp Fiction): easily the best work from always great actors like Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton, and Robert Duvall, and the second best from Oscar winner Marlon Brando (only defeated by his work in On the Waterfront).
But one thing that is forgotten in the list of respected people from The Godfather, seems to be its terrific supporting cast. Talia Shire puts her flat performance in Rocky to shame, Abe Vigoda easily makes the viewer forget that his claim to fame is in playing a character named Fish, Richard S. Castellano makes arguably the greatest accomplice ever, and Sterling Hayden even makes his work in Stanley Kubrick films seem simple.
Then there is the indelible John Cazale. Making only 5 films (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter), he serves as the actor with the most seamless filmography ever (edging out those 3 from James Dean). Fredo by Cazale was probably the best cast character in the entire film as Cazale puts forth an edgy, haunted, and beautiful performance that is only overshadowed by the one he would do for the sequel. If you ever have about 13 hours to spend watching films, I recommend hitting his 5 films.
With the workings of a piece of art, The
Godfather would serve, at least in my own mind, as the Mona Lisa of film.
(Dir: Jordan Brady, Starring Billy Burke, Lauren Graham, David Koechner, Kathy Griffin, Henry Winkler, Jordan Brady, Jason Priestley, and Peter Berg)
BY: DAVID PERRY
One thing that I often find myself disagreed with is on the matter of one little mockumentary called This is Spinal Tap. Yes I found it to be funny at times, but not the unbelievable laugh riot that some hold it as. Yet I still seem to agree with most of its fans on other mockumentaries, most notably the recent Christopher Guest film Waiting for Guffman about a stage production. Still I expected to be quite unhappy with Dill Scallion when walking in. First of all, everyone has said that it is funny in the same niche as This is Spinal Tap, plus it is about country music, a genre I am far from a fan of. Nevertheless I gave it a try and found myself in quite the enjoyment.
Dill Scallion is a young Texan that dreams of making it big as a country music star in Nashville. A documentary crew follows him around as he tries out at a local bar that may lead to a record contract thanks to none other than country music star Jo Joe Hicks (Priestley). That chance does not really pan out, but he still gets a chance to record a radio jingle for a Nashville record executive (Berg). So he sets off in the school bus he drives during the school year and heads to Nashville, soon to become a well known star of country music with his band called the Dillionaires, fronted by Minnie Pearl relative Bubba Pearl (Koechner). Under their agent Larry Steinberg (Winkler), they cruise their way to the top of the charts and things begin to go to Dill's head as he finds himself an overpowering girlfriend named Kristie Sue (Graham).
Dill Scallion is at times hilarious in
its mockery of the country music business. The songs (many written by Sheryl Crow) often
are funnier than entire Adam Sandler films and the sight gags work well. My problem was
simply that the film seemed to be trotting old ground. I've seen this egotistical famous
character a million times whether in film or on Entertainment Tonight. I was a
little tired of the Dill and Kristie Sue characters by the half way mark and thought it
was time to delve more into Bubba, which they did not do. Yes Dill Scallion is a
funny film, but the laughs only go so far (the main Dill song is funny the first time, but
rendition number twelve was pushing it). Dill Scallion would have probably been
better as a short film ranging in 45 minutes or so, but as a feature, it only works so
|The Red Violin
(Dir: François Girard, Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Don McKellar, Carlo Cecchi, Irene Grazioli, Jean-Luc Bideau, Christoph Koncz, Jason Felmyng, Greta Scacchi, Sylvia Chang, Liu Zifeng, Colm Feore, and Monique Mercure)
BY: DAVID PERRY
The Red Violin is a bit of a suprise film for me. Upon entering I thought that I could very well be walking into yet another costume drama that takes no time whatsoever to work on an able story (i.e. Valmont), but instead I was treated to a beautifully layered film that is probably the second best I've seen so far this year.
The film follows the life of a red violin, made by an instrument maker for his son. For the duration of the film we are treated to the violin changing hands from a child prodigy in Vienna to a group of gypsies to a famous violin player in Oxford to the communist take over against European goods in China. All this while placed beside the tarot cards of the maker's servant and beside the present day auctioning off of the instrument.
The whole placing of the film was ingenious, as I
was interested in each story, only to again be overtaken by the next. I found myself
especially close to the present day scenes in Montreal with Samuel L. Jackson appraising
the instrument for auction while trying to keep it a secret. The Red Violin was
at times breathtaking (especially in the Vienna based story) and fun (especially in the
Montreal scenes). Girard has proven himself as somewhat of a modern day Milos Forman with
the ability to sell costume dramas (Amadeus) and modern day comedy dramas (One
Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest). Whether Girard has a very promising future is only to
be seen, one must keep in mind that Milos Foreman did direct the aforementioned Valmont.
(Dir: Dennis Dugan, Starring Adam Sandler, Cole and Dylan Sprouse, Joey Lauren Adams, Leslie Mann, Josh Mostel, Jon Stewart, Kristy Swanson, Rob Schneider, and Steve Buscemi)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Let's face it, I have never in my life actually liked a film that Adam Sandler has appeared in. Not Billy Madison, not Happy Gilmore, not Airheads. All of those films garnered ratings in the D and F range. Then he suprised me with The Wedding Singer, which only had a marginal thumb down, so I thought maybe he was on his way to a somewhat good start towards choosing better scripts. That idea was pretty much thrown out the window after his next film, The Waterboy. All of the charm that was present in The Wedding Singer was gone and now he was turning back to the Chris Farley-David Spade realm of post Saturday Night Live acting. So I was back to dismay when entering his new film Big Daddy. What I found was not the charm of The Wedding Singer, but at least much more laughs than his other work.
Big Daddy follows what happens when Sonny Kaufax (Sandler) is stuck with the five year old love-child of his engaged roommate Kevin (Stewart). Named Julian, the kid (the Sprouse twins) is attempted to be taken back to social services, but it is closed due to Columbus Day and Sonny is forced to bond with Julian and sees the child as a jumping board to show his girlfriend (Swanson) that he is able to do things on his own, then she proceeds to dump him for an older man. Like a small child with a puppy, Sonny is hooked and now must have this small wonder to help him do fun things like throwing sticks into the paths of rollerbladers so they can fall in the pond. When the social worker (Mostel) attempts to check on everything, Sonny says he is Kevin in hopes that he can keep Julian. Well the social worker sets him off with the kid and Sonny attempts to bring Julian up in a slacker form, allowing Julian to do or not do whatever he wants. All along the way, Sonny finds himself in a relationship with Layla (Adams), the sister of Kevin's Sonny-hating fiancé (Mann).
I did laugh a few times at the film, almost all of
which were jokes from or on Steve Buscemi as a homeless man. The film does have its
moments, but nothing more. The whole last act is useless fodder that I was not interested
in the least (especially the whole court scene). The rumor that Sandler is supposedly
putting up a more adult performance is a lie as this is just a passive aggressive play on
his Happy Gilmore character. I liked Adams in the film, as she showed why such
good actors in independent films should be forced to do awful stuff like this when trying
for Hollywood mainstream (can we say Sophie Marceau?). And then there is Steve Buscemi,
who could make me laugh at just running a cart into a tree, which he does in this film.
For Adam Sandler, it is great, for a film in general, it is pretty weak.
Blatant Opinion: Continuing my commentary on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars list, I'm going to throw out my personal list. Though the AFI had only 25 on each list, I shall have 50 in each category. My reason is simple: false advertising. The AFI made me think that there would be a list of 100 stars, but instead they had a list of 50 and a second group of 50 to talk about the listed. Since I haven't the clout or the know-how to get 50 stars to talk about my list, I will just settle with a true list of 100 (which makes me happier anyway). Plus if the AFI had had a listing of 100, there would not have been such an astounding listing of those left out made by people like me (how in the world can anyone make a great actor list without Claude Rains?). With each person in the list I shall offer my personal favorite performance of theirs (not best film, but best performance). My listing was chosen from the listing of 500 actors eligible for the AFI list (unfairly leaving out greats like Thelma Ritter, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Martin Balsam, Broderick Crawford, Raymond Burr, ...., and the man I would place in my top five if eligible, John Cazale). So now without further delay, my list of 100 Years...100 Stars:
FEMALE 50. Mae West (My Little Chickadee) 49. Clara Bow (It) 48. Tallulah Bankhead (Lifeboat) 47. Shelley Winters (The Diary of Anne Frank) 46. Barbara Bel Geddes (Vertigo) 45. Ethel Barrymore (Paradine Case) 44. Debbie Reynolds (Mother) 43. Susan Hayward (Reap the Wild Winds) 42. Ava Gardner (The Killers) 41. Rita Moreno (West Side Story) 40. Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) 39. Jean Harlow (Dinner at Eight) 38. Sylvia Sidney (Beetlejuice) 37. Patricia Neal (Hud) 36. Rita Hayworth (Lady from Shanghai) 35. Judy Garland (A Star Is Born) 34. Agnes Moorehead (Citizen Kane) 33. Ginger Rogers (Swing Time) 32. Jane Wyman (Lost Weekend) 31. Merle Oberon (Wuthering Heights) 30. Lee Remick (Days of Wine and Roses) 29. Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night) 28. Carol Lombard (My Man Godfrey) 27. Donna Reed (From Here to Eternity) 26. Lana Turner (Postman Always Rings Twice) 25. Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver) 24. Marie Dressler (Dinner at Eight) 23. Myrna Loy (The Thin Man) 22. Natalie Wood (West Side Story) 21. Teresa Wright (Shadow of a Doubt) 20. Janet Leigh (Touch of Evil) 19. Marlene Dietrich (Judgment at Nuremberg) 18. Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday) 17. Elsa Lanchester (Witness for the Prosecution) 16. Dame Judith Anderson (Rebecca) 15. Vivien Leigh (A Streetcar Named Desire) 14. Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard) 13. Elizabeth Taylor (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) 12. Joan Fontaine (Suspicion) 11. Lauren Bacall (To Have and Have Not) 10. Deborah Kerr (From Here to Eternity) 9. Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity) 8. Lillian Gish (The Wind) 7. Joan Crawford (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?) 6. Olivia de Havilland (The Heiress) 5. Grace Kelly (Rear Window) 4. Bette Davis (All About Eve) 3. Greta Garbo (Queen Christina) 2. Katherine Hepburn (Long Day's Journey into Night) 1. Ingrid Bergman (Spellbound) MALE 50. John Garfield (Postman Always Rings Twice) 49. Burgess Meridith (Of Mice and Men) 48. Paul Muni (I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang) 47. Robert Walker (Strangers on a Train) 46. Richard Burton (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) 45. Gene Kelly (An American in Paris) 44. Robert Cummings (Saboteur) 43. Charlton Heston (The Ten Commandments) 42. Clark Gable (Gone with the Wind) 41. Frank Sinatra (From Here to Eternity) 40. John Barrymore (Grand Hotel) 39. William Powell (Mister Roberts) 38. Burt Lancaster (Birdman of Alcatraz) 37. Ralph Richardson (Long Day's Journey into Night) 36. Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) 35. Joseph Cotten (Shadow of a Doubt) 34. Robert Donet (The 39 Steps) 33. John Huston (Chinatown) 32. Karl Malden (A Streetcar Named Desire) 31. Edward G. Robinson (Little Caesar) 30. Robert Mitchum (Night of the Hunter) 29. James Mason (North by Northwest) 28. Anthony Perkins (Psycho) 27. Walter Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) 26. Roddy McDowell (How Green Was My Valley) 25. David Niven (Separate Tables) 24. Gary Cooper (High Noon) 23. William Holden (Network) 22. Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) 21. James Dean (Rebel without a Cause) 20. Erich von Stroheim (Sunset Boulevard) 19. Charles Laughton (Mutiny on the Bounty) 18. Spencer Tracy (Judgment at Nuremberg) 17. Fred Astaire (Swing Time) 16. James Cagney (White Heat) 15. John Gielgud (Julius Caesar) 14. Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird) 13. Montgomery Clift (Judgement at Nuremberg) 12. Sir Laurence Olivier (Hamlet) 11. Henry Fonda (The Grapes of Wrath) 10. Buster Keaton (The General) 9. Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove) 8. Peter Finch (Network) 7. Humphrey Bogart (The Caine Mutiny) 6. Max Von Sydow (The Exorcist) 5. Sir Alec Guinness (Bridge on the River Kwai) 4. Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront) 3. Cary Grant (Suspicion) 2. Claude Rains (Notorious) 1. James Stewart (Vertigo)
So there, 100 stars that should be seen on a
regular basis (I see a Rains film practically once a week) and their best work. Plus I
learned that no director could get a great performance out of an actor like Alfred
Hitchcock (28 of the listed worked with him and most of them have their work with him
cited as their best, including the top 3 in the male field). In the end, as much as I
complain, I must thank the AFI for what they have done and what they say they are always
striving for: interesting modern America in classic films. Now I think it is time they
bring out the director's list...