Though my weekend was cut short by the Super Bowl and a monster truck rally with my nephew (giant trucks running over things!!!), several films managed to find their way onto my screen. Included in this weekend’s viewing: a cult classic, one that may become a cult classic, an animated version of a wildly popular story, Spanish horror, and Spike Lee. This is the movie weekend that was.
First, I’d like to acknowledge and pay respects to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sunday, news broke that Hoffman passed away. I’m not one for empty platitudes when stuff like this happens but Hoffman’s death feels different. That’s because Hoffman was legitimately one of the best actors of his generation. Hoffman proved his acting chops every single time he was on screen, whether he was playing a creepy cult leader in The Master, grizzled veteran manager Art Howe in Moneyball, a priest with ambiguous baggage in Doubt, his award-winning performance in Capote, the sexually confused Scotty in Boogie Nights, the smarmy assistant, Brandt, in The Big Lebowski, and countless other roles. I can’t think of a single time that I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman on a screen and I didn’t think, “Wow, what a great actor.” And so this news saddens me. RIP, Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Repo Man (1984)
It’s been some time since I’ve seen a film as delightfully jacked up as Repo Man. It’s a film about a teen who throws away his punk rock lifestyle to become a repo man, just as his entire native city of LA is on high alert for a ’64 Chevy Malibu with a trunk full of radioactive alien corpses. It’s like watching an X-Files episode spoofing Reagan’s America, directed by Iggy Pop. I have to admit that I’m a total sucker for any satire and criticism involving Reagan and the Reagan era, and Repo Man hits it out of the park with its sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle digs at what the era represented. Most impressively, it was made when all of it was still going on. It didn’t have the benefit of hindsight and I think that’s why I enjoyed it as much as I did. That, and the fact that the entire thing revolves around punk rock and aliens.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Windy City Heat (2003)
A made-for-TV movie for Comedy Central, Windy City Heat revolves around one of the best practical jokes you’ll ever see. Comedians Don Barris and Tony Barbieri convinced their friend Perry Caravello that he should audition for a movie called Windy City Heat. Caravello auditions for the director (Bobcat Goldthwait playing Bobcat Goldthwait, only speaking through a megaphone in the whole film) and casting director (Dane Cook playing a character named Roman Polanski) and gets the role ahead of Carson Daly, who plays himself in the film. The truth is that there is no film called Windy City Heat, and the only person who doesn’t know it is Caravello. The remainder of the film is the making of a fake film, which only Caravello actually takes seriously. While it sounds like an extremely malevolent prank, Caravello’s own behavior makes it hard to feel sorry for him, restoring order to the fun of the film. The fake film revolves around a clichéd Chicago detective in a pseudo-noir, trying to capture the culprit behind a series of sports-related heists. Items gone missing include William “the Refrigerator” Perry’s actual refrigerator and Ernie Banks’ pants. Don’t dismiss it because it’s a TV movie, because the concept is inspired and there are some truly hilarious moments. In fact, the footage of the film that they made alone is worth the price of admission. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that this film has a cult following.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Lord of the Rings (1978)
I’ve always heard that Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of Tolkein was quite good, and I wasn’t disappointed. The blend of live action with animation works in a very unique way, particularly in how it gives an extra level of terror to orcs and wraiths and such. Without the benefit of the 10 hours that Peter Jackson had (and many more if you count the extended versions), obviously much of the film couldn’t be fleshed out. But it still seems a really great way to introduce a child to the Tolkein universe. Somewhere, there’s a 1980 sequel that wraps everything up- The Return of the King (1980)- but Netflix doesn’t have it. I will be tracking it down.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Here Comes the Devil (2013)
Spanish horror film Here Comes the Devil tells the tale of two children who get lost on a mysterious hill, and return just a little bit different. That storyline has been done several times, though I’ll give Here Comes the Devil credit for doing it differently than most. And it also succeeds with tone and atmosphere. The problem here is that the story is clunky and it jumps all over the map. It robs the film of its effectiveness. While you could do worse than Here Comes the Devil, it’s not a horror film I’d recommend as any sort of must-see.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Jungle Fever (1991)
It’s odd to watch a movie like this 22 years after its release. That’s primarily because the message, about the complex mix of race relations and gender stereotypes in the world of sexuality, has changed so much in such a short period of time. Or in the very least, social consciousness has shifted so far away from it. We live in a very different world from the one where Spike Lee created Jungle Fever. That’s not to say that the message wouldn’t have been powerful at the time. It’s simply that it’s odd to even think about now, like some sociological relic. More importantly, I miss this Spike Lee. I miss the young filmmaker skillfully busting out top-shelf films like Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, even Clockers, and yes- Jungle Fever. Somewhere down the line, that guy devolved as a filmmaker.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
12 responses to “The Movie Weekend That Was”
Firstly, RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman, a true acting great.
Secondly, Repo Man is indeed AMAZING! If you looked up the word ‘cult’ in the dictionary it would say ‘Repo Man’!
Thirdly, I’ve not heard of Windy City Heat but it sounds really funny! thanks
I got Windy City Heat on a recommendation from an Edgar Wright interview. He listed 10 films that people probably hadn’t heard of, from various genres, and that was his comedy choice.
Well that’s good enough for me!
I love Spike Lee, but I have to agree that he’s not as interesting right now. He had quite a run in the ’90s, and while he’s done some great things like the Katrina documentary, it’s more hit-or-miss now.
I think you bring up the key point about Hoffman. Even when he appears in movies that I don’t love, he’s always very good, if not great. Such a tragic loss.
I need to see some of the more recent Lee stuff- namely, the non-feature film stuff. I haven’t seen the Katrina doc but it is, by all accounts, allegedly very good.
I completely agree with you in regards to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The man could do anything, play anyone and bring a flair to his roles that captivated you. He will be sorely missed!
I am going to have to find a copy of the Lord of the Rings animated version to watch. You’ve tickled my cinematic taste buds on that one! I had heard of it but never thought to pick it up. Thanks for jog’n the old noggin!
Netflix has it, although it took forever for them to deliver it to me.
Excellent! Thanks, I have been thinking about re-instating the DVD part of Netflix again. Now I have a good reason! Cheers!
First, I’m watching AO Scott and David Denby talk about PSH on Charlie Rose and they are talking about his filmography but neither one of them is mentioning my favorite performance of his, that in ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”. Also, I was fortunate to have worked with him for one night. I will probably blog about that soon. And Repo Man is one of the GREATEST MOVIES EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s in my personal top 10. “The life of a repo man is always intense!”
That’s one of the few PSH movies I haven’t seen. And I’ll probably hit it up soon now.
As you know, every year I make it a point to see almost everything nominated for Best Picture. I still have to see Philomena and Captain Phillips.. Interestingly enough, I think my favorites so far have been the ones that aren’t considered favorites. 12 Years a Slave was good but I’m not sure I would ever watch it again. American Hustle was good, not great. I actually have really liked Nebraska, Her, and Dallas Buyers Club. The Wolf of Wall Street was pretty good but I always hold it up to Scorcese’s other work.. Gravity’s supporting characters might as well have been dead.
I still need to see Nebraska and Dallas Buyers Club. I hate to say it, but I doubt I’ll get to Her any time soon. I also need to see Philomena.
Gravity is very good, even going beyond the visuals. It’s not my favorite but I think it’s a worthy nomination.
Just from the five that I’ve seen, Wolf of Wall Street is my favorite but I have 12 Years a Slave as the best. McQueen really crams you into those awful sequences and doesn’t let you escape.
As for Wolf, just my two cents but I think it compares favorably with a lot of Scorsese’s other work, and you know I don’t say that lightly. I’d have it somewhere around his top 5. If not #5, then definitely #6 or 7. I mean, this is all subjective and they’re all great films anyway… but Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull… I’d have those ahead of Wolf of Wall Street. Then there’s a meaty 2nd tier with stuff like After Hours, King of Comedy, Hugo, The Aviator… I have Wolf somewhere in there.