Monday, December 13, 2004

More Movies

Superstar in a Housedress - It's a common enough problem with documentaries--interesting topic, but the filmmaker lacks experience at his craft. Jackie Curtis, of the Warhol scene, is the subject, and his life is certainly an interesting one. The film gets repetitive (how many times was it beat into our heads that Jackie liked to shock others by ripping up designer clothes before wearing them?) and uses a standard, talking-heads, interview everyone he knew approach, but the interviewees include Harvey Fierstein, Lily Tomlin (who also narrates) and countless stars of Warhol cinema. If, like me, you just want to learn more about that era and what it was all about, this is well worth seeing for the cultural history (really put Hair in perspective for me, after all those Broadway docs this year) and also for some laughs. Curtis, Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn shape up as an intriguing trio who contrast nicely, suggesting that even more work could be done on this scene. The movie certainly left me wanting to see the film Women in Revolt again (despite Paul Morissey's disgusting caveman-sexism evidenced in Superstar), though I'm still not all that interested in Warhol's famously unimaginative films. I wish there'd been a little more analysis in Superstar, but I found this worth my time.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.

The Incredibles - Maybe because of the early commercial tie-ins and the blatant family-audience pandering, I was reluctant to see this one, despite Pixar's track record, but it was very entertaining, if slickly so. The movie grasps at a solid insight in its formulation: "Everyone is special" is another way of saying, "No one is." It feels like a resonant observation, a reminder that as a society we're losing our appreciation of excellence. The film has won universal praise for its early sequence showing superheroes being taken to court for damages and being forced to retire and enter a federal relocation program. In other words, the film has the cheek to suggest that while we love our superhero stories, our society has very little respect for real do-gooders like, oh, I don't know, doctors? Of course, it's a lot easier to root for true meritocracy when the whole family has superpowers--we want to believe that no child will be left behind--but it's worth asking if the story ever really puts this idea to the test. It's a lot of fun, though.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.

Moog - How strange to hear someone playing "Old Man River" on a theremin! This disappointing documentary was rather thin for such an interesting topic, playing at times like a commercial for the guy's instruments. There's no narration, no strong p.o.v., and the best parts are simply when the filmmaker lets Mr. Moog ramble on camera, because he's a surprisingly philosophical and spiritual man.
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 4 stars.

George Lucas cleaned up his impressive, Orwellian downer, THX-1138, adding special effects, as he has to Star Wars and, even, I've heard, to American Graffiti. In a sense, Lucas is the ultimate Hollywood dreamer, in denial about aging, at least of films. In updating the look of his older films, he seems to think he's achieving timelessness, when really he's creating a jumble of fashions.
Rating (new director's cut): 3 out of 4 stars.
Rating (original): 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.



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