Saturday, January 22, 2005

Movie Rentals, Week of 1/17/2005

After a long break, I’m starting up the weekly mini-reviews once again. Here is what I watched this week:

THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY (1969): This late 1960s film—or, for that matter, Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel on which it is based—is still as fresh and relevant as ever. The film follows desperate individuals competing for money in a dance marathon—a gruesome contest and spectator sport popular in Depression-era America. Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, and Gig Young (who won an Oscar for his supporting role) star. The advertising tagline for the film was “People are the ultimate spectacle”. How true today in the age of reality TV.

This film was part of my Depression-era viewing theme in anticipation of the new season of HBO’s CARNIVALE. To that, I added an interesting little documentary RIDING THE RAILS (1997), made for PBS’s American Experience series. In the grip of poverty, thousands of teens stowed away on freight trains and crisscrossed America looking for work and adventure. Using the reminiscences of the youth (now in their twilight years) along with archival footage and folk song soundtrack, the doc explores this Depression-era phenomenon.

THE TAO OF STEVE (2000): This small indie film centers on Dex, a lovable schlub of a guy who manages to bed and break the hears of a succession of woman by using self-styled rules he calls “The Tao of Steve”—“Steve” being the epitome of masculine cool, Steve McQueen. When a woman named Syd enters his life, however, love threatens his cherished rules and shakes the foundation of his identity. This is a great first film by director Jenniphr Goodman, and Donal Logue completely owns the role of Dex.

ROCKETS REDGLARE! (2003): Filmmaker and friend Jim Jarmusch calls Rockets Redglare (born Michael Morra), “a con man with a soul.” This low budget documentary turns the camera on Rockets and his pals, including Steve Buscemi, Matt Dillon, and Julian Schnabel, as they tell the story of this relatively unknown fixture of the early 1980s New York scene. Born a heroin-addicted baby, Rockets turned a horrifying childhood into edgy stand-up comedy, a succession of supporting actor roles, and stints as bodyguards for Jean-Michel Basquiat and The Sex Pistols. Indeed, it was Rockets who found Nancy Spungen dead of the bathroom floor of the Chelsea Hotel. Plagued by addiction, ballooning weight, and a host of health problems, Rockets tells his remarkable life story with unflinching honestly, humor and grace.


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