1999 Film Journal

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Shop Around the Corner, The (1940-Video) 1/1/99 (***1/2) Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, screenplay by Samson Raphaelson. I didnít realize that Nora Ephronís Youíve Got Mail was based on this classic until a few days ago. My good buddy Don Glass was in town and he clued me in. According to him (he works at a Suncoast Video in Chicago) the movie was out of print but ever since Mail came out people have been asking for it. I figured it would be hard to find, so just imagine my surprise when I ran across it in the "Classics" section at the Video Update. I must say I preferred the original to the remake. Boy, itís hard to believe Jimmy Stewart was ever that young. There were only a couple of things that I found odd: 1) Why was the movie set in Budapest? 2) I wonder if anybody else besides me had a problem with the manipulative behavior of the Jimmy Stewart / Tom Hanks character at the end of the film?

Zorba the Greek (1964-Video) 1/3/99 (***) Directed by Michael Cacoyannis, screenplay by same. Hey, Ma! Iíve added a movie to this journal beginning with the letter "Z." This is one strange movie and it seemed like I never really knew what kind of movie it was going to be. It alternated between the absurdly humorous and the morosely melodramatic. I liked the message ("grab life with both hands and dance!") a lot but donít know how strongly I would recommend it. There also seemed to me to be a little bit of a homosexual undercurrent to the relationship between Zorba (played by Anthony Quinn) and the character played by Alan Bates.

Strangers On a Train (1951-Video) 1/4/99 (***1/2) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. This was real two-fisted suspense. I think one definition of the word suspense is when the audience knows something is going to happen but they donít know quite when and how. The carousel sequence at the end seemed like storyboarded film direction at its most architecturally precise.

Rat Pack, The (1998-Video) 1/5/99 (***) I was really surprised at how well-done this HBO made-for-cable movie was. Itís mostly about Frank, of course. But thereís also a hint of Joey, Dino, Sammy, and Jack.

Thousand Clowns, A (1965-Video) 1/6/99 (***1/2) Directed by Fred Coe, screenplay by Herb Gardner. I figured it out about 15 seconds into this film. It was seeing Jason Robards talking to young Barry Gordon that did it. I saw this movie when I was a kid. It touched me then for some strange reason and it still gets to it. Maybe itís because I still remember what it was like to be a kid like Nick, a loner because heís smarter than most of his peers and more adult than child. Based on a play (also by Gardner), the dialogue was nice and crisp. The only thing about the whole movie that puzzles me a little bit is the ending.

Kalifornia (1993-Video) 1/6/99 (***) Directed by Dominic Sena, screenplay by Tim Metcalfe. I had a couple different people mention this movie within the space of a week or so. So I picked it up. I would generally recommend it. The acting and directing was pretty good. The only thing I could a little weak in spots was the writing, which never quite hit its full potential. Still, I found it to be engrossing and entertaining.

Jerry Maguire (1996-Video) 1/7/99 (***1/2) Written and directed by Cameron Crowe. Somehow this film had a little less of an impact on me this time around then it did the first time I watched it. I was trying to focus on the writing, and maybe thatís why. I still really enjoyed the well-drawn characters, but they didnít come across as being quite as deep as I remember them being. The script seemed a little too obvious at points. It sounds like Iím slamming the movie, but Iím not. I really liked it a lot.

Celebrity (1998-Varsity 2) 1/9/99 (***) Written and directed by Woody Allen. Iím as big a Woody Allen fan as they come. I have to say that straight off. I was a little depressed after leaving this film but not nearly as much as when I left Deconstructing Harry. There is a little similarity between Harry and Celebrity in that the main character is somewhat unsympathetic. I had been warned that Kenneth Branaugh was essentially playing the part of Woody Allen, and he did that quite well, all the way down to the speech mannerisms and hand gestures. It was a little weird, but about 3/4th of the way through the film I finally managed to accept it. I donít want to paint a completely dark picture here; there was actually a lot of funny stuff in this film. Thereís also not nearly as much self-loathing apparent in Celebrity as there was in Deconstructing Harry, and I suppose thatís reason for hope that Woody Allenís next movie is a little more cheerful.

Peyton Place (1957-Video) 1/9/99 (**1/2) Directed by Mark Robson, screenplay by John Michael Hayes. Sometimes I just canít understand the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This movie was nominated (somehow) for NINE Academy Awards. How does something like that happen? Maybe itís just that the subject matter is so tame by todayís standards. At one point maybe it was a real "pot-boiler," whatever that means. I found the dialogue to be so incredibly obvious at times that it was hilarious. I would place it in the same category as Airport in that you should show this movie to student filmmakers as an example of what not to do.

Atlantic City (1980-Video) 1/10/99 (***) Directed by Louis Malle, written by John Guare. Primarily a character study, Burt Lancaster plays an aging man who was almost but not quite a gangster. As the result of a cocaine sale he becomes involved in, he gets hooked up with a young woman played by Susan Sarandon. I have to admit that I wasnít really able to get into this film 100%. Itís a good film, one I would generally recommend, but there was something about it that just didnít click for me.

Plump Fiction (1996-Video) 1/12/99 (**) The idea of doing a parody of Pulp Fiction wasnít a bad idea, but the execution was less than successful. I just didnít find it to be all that funny. I managed to get all the way through it, somehow.

Thatís Adequate (1988-Video) 1/15/99 (*) I canít believe I watched this stupid thing. Whatever possessed me to rent it is completely beyond me. I guess itís because it represented a premise (the history of a fictitious film studio) that appealed to me on some level. I couldnít believe how incredibly unfunny it was. If you are reading this, please, under no circumstances, watch this movie.

Catch-22 (1970-Video) 1/15/99 (****) Directed by Mike Nichols, written by Buck Henry. I canít say anything about this film that hasnít already been said by writers much more articulate than myself, so I wonít even try. It may not be for everyone, but itís a film that really hits you on a gut level. I donít know if I would call it a comedy. Itís a film that demonstrates the incredible power that film can have to transport the viewer to a mental place theyíve never been before. I remember being about 14 and Catch-22 was playing on the late, late show. I remember being really tired and trying to watch it, but I kept drifting off. I couldnít follow what was going on. That was twenty years ago and watching it now I can better appreciate it for what it is. The world is a pretty crazy place, full of paradox and confusion. If youíre sane enough not to pretend to believe in its mad rules, youíre too crazy to live in it.

The Thin Red Line (1999-North Grand 5) 1/16/99 (***1/2) Within the first few minutes of watching this film I felt like I was watching something really major. I guess it would be foolish to compare this film to Saving Private Ryan. Even though theyíre both set against the backdrop of WWII, this was a totally different kind of movie. It was a beautiful film to watch, and I was amazed by the beauty of the images. It seemed to me that almost every shot had a meaning. Most of the shots seemed to ask a question. Not all the same question, though. It really affected me. I should probably try to go see it again while itís playing on the big screen.

Stepmom (1999-Cinemark 12) 1/17/99 (***1/2) Directed by Chris Columbus. I really liked this movie, even though itís obviously emotionally manipulative and itís not perfect. Susan Sarandan was terrific, playing the divorced mother of two kids. I find myself somewhat surprised by that fact that I am becoming a Julia Roberts fan. Iíve really enjoyed the last several films Iíve seen her in. There are a lot of "crying" scenes in this movie, and at the end I felt like Iíd been crying for most of the film. At times it was almost unbearable. I think this is one of those films people will either hate or theyíll love. Iím just a sentimental slob at heart, I guess.

Tales of Manhattan (1942-Video) 1/18/99 (***) Directed by Julien Duvivier. This is a nice little movie about a top coat and the strange luck it brings. Itís similar to A Letter to Three Wives in that itís episodic in nature with unrelated stories linked together as the top coat is passed from owner to owner. One episode in particular stands out: Edward G. Robinson plays a wino who puts on the coat and goes to his 25-year class reunion. The writing is a bit forced at times, but generally pretty good.

Elizabeth (1998-Century 3) 1/20/99 (***) Occasionally beautiful, often dark, this was the story of the early days of Elizabeth I, the virgin queen. The imagery was quite striking/haunting at times. I personally had a little trouble following what was going on mostly because my hearing is weak and the dialogue audio was pretty muddy.

Jules and Jim (1961-French-Video) 1/22/99 (***) Directed by Francois Truffaut. This is a love story about two friends and the woman they both love. Catherine loves Jules. Catherine loves Jim. Catherine loves Albert. Catherine loves Jim again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Again and again. There was something kind of compelling about it all for awhile, but at some point I just wanted to yell at poor Jules and Jim, "Run away! Leave her! Sheís a freak!! Quit enabling her!!"

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990-Spanish-Video) 1/22/99 (***) Directed by Pedro Almodovar. Antonio Banderas stars as a crazed fan who kidnaps a former porn star and heroin addict played by Victoria Abril. The key to enjoying the movie, I think, is to buy into its premise. For me it seemed to work, due in part to the fact that Antonio Banderas was able to make you believe that his character wasnít such a bad guy in spite of the fact that he occasionally slapped women around. It sounds like a real acting challenge, and Iím sure it was. There was a very passionate sex scene that was a real stand-out. It wasnít visually explicit but the dialogue sure was!

Goodbye, Columbus (Video) 2/8/99 (**1/2) This is a movie that was probably pretty important at the time it was made, but itís lost a lot of its meaning. Itís a very dated film and there are some downright lousy performances.

Everyone Says I Love You (Video) 2/9/99 (***) Written and directed by Woody Allen. I really enjoyed this quirky romantic musical. Iím tempted to give it a ***1/2 rating, but I donít know if I liked it quite that much. It had a lot of good lines and I especially enjoyed Goldie Hawnís performance.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962-Video) 2/9/99 (***1/2) Directed by John Frankenheimer, screenplay by George Axelrod. The last time I watched this movie was over 10 years ago. Itís a strange film, one with a strange history. I think itís a pretty interesting film, especially considering when it was made. In a lot of ways it seems more like a modern film than one made in the early 1960ís. There was a short section at the end with a videotaped discussion between Frank Sinatra, the writer and the director. The writer and director served as co-producers on the film. One interesting tid-bit was that Angela Lansbury was only one year older than the actor who played her son in the film. Itís amazing what you can get to work.

An Imitation of Life (Video) 2/10/99 (***) This is a pretty solid drama about two women and their daughters. Lana Turner plays Lora, a woman driven by her ambitions. Itís pretty soapy soap opera stuff, with lots of people yelling and crying. Sandra Dee is pretty darn peppy as Loraís daughter who falls in love with the wrong man.

Crimes and Misdemeanors (Video) 2/11/99 (***1/2) Written and directed by Woody Allen. This movie had two main plot-lines that are only slightly interwoven. In the first, Martin Landau plays an Opthamologist who finds himself having to make a frightening moral decision related to a woman heís been having a 2-year affair with, played by Angelica Houston. In the second, Woody Allen plays a mediocre documentary filmmaker who directs the biography of his successful brother-in-law, played by Alan Alda. There are some wonderful Woody Allen lines throughout, including one of my favorites: "A strange man defecated on my sister."

Something About Mary (Video) 2/13/99 (***) I finally got around to watching this movie. Unfortunately Iíd been told beforehand about all the major gags. I guess I donít really have a good appreciation for low-brow humor.

Shakespeare in Love (North Grand 5) 2/14/99 (***1/2) To be honest, after watching Elizabeth, I wasnít really in the mood to watch this movie. What made it great was a terrific sense of humor and a plot full of twists and turns, mistaken identity and impossible love.

From Here to Eternity (Video) 2/15/99 (***1/2) An absolutely incredible movie, I hadnít watched this film in years.

My Favorite Wife (Video) 2/16/99 (***) A pleasant enough, certainly charming little movie that opens with a man (Cary Grant) who has his wife declared legally dead and then gets married immediately afterward. When his first wife shows up, heís forced to decide who he wants to be with.

Dangerous Beauty (Video) 2/22/99 (***1/2) This was a terrific movie, and well-written. Itís a beautiful movie, full of sensual imagery. It was totally engaging.

Blast from the Past (North Grand 5) 2/25/99 (***1/2) I went to see this film on a day when I wanted to see something kind of dumb and fun. It really delivered. It was a really pleasant surprise.

Practical Magic (Video) 3/2/99 (**1/2) Too much effort was made to create a high-concept film that never quite took off. The film was pretty uneven throughout.

Pecker (Video) 3/3/99 (***1/2) Written and directed by John Waters. I have to admit that I rented this partly because Christina Ricci was in it. Pecker is a really funny and cute movie. The stylized writing and weird sense of humor may not be to everybodyís taste, but I think itís a good example of fresh filmmaking on a small scale.

Life is Beautiful (Century 3) 3/3/99 (***1/2) Wow! Iíve been seeing a lot of really good movies lately. This movie has been nominated for Best Picture for 1998. It starts out as a straightforward slapstick comedy and segues rather quickly into a real heavy-hitting and heart-rending tragedy. This is a pretty interesting technique, and really effective. There were a couple of things that bothered me a little, the most notable being using a small child in what could be called an emotionally manipulative way. Still, it was really central to the theme of the film. That being said, however, this movie really demonstrated the incredible power of film.

Evita (DVD-widescreen-1996) 3/7/99 (***1/2) This is the first movie Iíve ever watched on Digital Video Disc. It was a pretty positive experience. I had seen this film awhile back, but itís still a great movie with wonderful music. Alan Parker did a sensational job directing. I especially loved the character that Antonio Banderas plays, a kind of stand-in for the Argentine people and narrator all in one. Madonna was surprisingly not too bad herself. It definitely reminded me a lot of Pink Floyd Ė The Wall, which Parker also directed. Watching the credits I thought to myself: Geez, it sure takes a lot of people to make certain movies!

Dial M for Murder (Video) 3/11/99 (***1/2) Ray Milland plays a man whoís plan to kill his wife (Grace Kelly) goes haywire. Remade as A Perfect Murder (which I saw recently), itís really a lot of fun.

Call Northside 777 (Video) 3/12/99 (***) Based on a true story, this was a good genre film about a newspaper reporter (Jimmy Stewart) who tries to prove the innocence of a man convicted to a 99-year sentence for killing a cop. The only thing I wasnít too crazy about was the intrusion a couple of times of a celebration of "new technology" in the use of police work. In this case the new technology was the lie detector test and microphotography.

Life is Beautiful (Century 3) 3/13/99 (***1/2) I just plain wanted to see it again. I know I donít do that very often, but Tanya wanted to see it and I was more than agreeable.

Gods and Monsters (North Grand 5) 3/14/99 (***) This was a very interesting film about the director of Frankenstein and the end of his life. Ian McKlellan was terrific as James Whale, and it was really his movie. My main complaint was the casting of Brendan Frasier as the lawn man who becomes his friend. I personally believe that it would have been better if theyíd cast an unknown.

Anastasia (Video) 3/14/99 (***1/2) This was apparently Ingrid Bergmanís return to Hollywood after her scandal. It was a well-done, interesting story about a woman who may or may not have been Tsar Nicholas IIís daughter.

October Sky (Cinemark 12) 3/15/99 (***1/2) I didnít know too much about this movie before I went to see it. Iíd heard good things about it from a couple of people. I enjoyed it very much, even though it occasionally was a little corny. Itís definitely a "triumph of the underdog" movie, which I guess Iím kind of a sucker for. It was directed by Joe Johnston (Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji), who I feel has finally come into his own as a director that people will take seriously.

Tom Jones (Video) 3/16/99 (***) Okay, so I finally saw it. I know my father will be pleased. To be perfectly honest, it amazes me that this film won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was pleasant enough entertainment, but best picture? What the hell were they thinking? Or maybe itís just me.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (Video) 3/22/99 (*1/2) The worst film of all time, huh? I donít think so. But then Iíve seen Manos, Hand of Fate. It was bad in an odd way, primarily due to Ed Woodís script, which seemed like it had been written in one long writing jag. The story made less and less sense as it progressed. The dialogue seemed to follow a demented logic of its own. This film is brilliant in its horrible-ness.

Bride of Frankenstein (Video) 3/22/99 (***) Of course I rented this on account of Gods and Monsters. I hadnít seen this gem since I was a very young child, probably on Creature Feature. There was definitely something to it that still got to me and scared me just a little bit. Iíd forgotten how quickly Frankensteinís creature could move when he (it?) wanted to.

Analyze This (United Artists Theater Ė Albuqurque) 3/25/99 (***) Directed by Harold Ramis. This was a pleasant enough comedy about a mob boss (Robert Deniro) who begins seeing a therapist (Billy Crystal). Funny at times, I found the humor to be somewhat hit and miss.

Ed Wood (Video) 3/30/99 (***) Directed by Tim Burton. Thereís a real soft spot in my heart for this film, and Iíve seen it about four times now. Watching this film makes me want to make movies. I donít know if it makes me want to make good movies, however.

Sliding Doors (Video) 4/1/99 (***) This film employs an interesting gimmick: early in the film the storyline diverges in two different directions. The rest of the film cuts between the two parallel chains of events. I thought the gimmick worked, but the film was pretty predictable.

The Spirit of St. Louis (1957-Video) 4/3/99 (**1/2) I rented this partly because Charles Lindberghís story was featured on Peter Jenningís Century program. There are a lot of problems with this movie: At 138 minutes itís a bit too long. Charles Lindbergh really wasnít much of a character himself, really, although I could tell Jimmy Stewart was trying really hard to make him seem interesting. The use of voice-overs throughout the film was absolutely excruciating.

Hud (Video) 4/5/99 (***) This was a good, although very depressing film. I couldnít help but wonder if Paul Newman at times was deliberately trying to imitate Marlon Brando.

Glen Or Glenda (Video) 4/6/99 (*1/2) This was a hilariously awful film. I may at some point in my life watching it again. There were a couple of times where I was just rolling around, laughing.

The Birds (Video) 4/8/99 (***) Another film I hadnít watched since I was a kid. I remember watching this movie and being absolutely terrified. The movie is similar to Psycho in that it starts going along one path and then suddenly veers into horror. I found Tippi Hedronís performance to be less than stellar and I kept thinking Rod Taylor looked an awful lot like Robin Williams.

Stalag 17 (Video) 4/8/99 (***) I hadnít seen this film in a long time. Itís a little weird watching it considering itís the basis for the TV series Hoganís Heroes, which I grew up watching. I found the A-plot (thereís a spy among us) was a little bit weak. The B-plot (Animalís Betty Grable obsession) was allowed to take up way too much screen time.

The Matrix (North Grand 5) 4/14/99 (***) A lot of people at work recommended this movie to me, so I finally went to see it. The first thing that struck me was how stylized the dialogue was. It was very definitely a comic book brought to the big screen. I think it was pretty successful as a science fiction film, though, in that it managed to create a world I believed.

Jail Bait (Video) 4/15/99 (*1/2) Another Edward D. Wood classic! This was a lot of fun to watch. The writing, acting, and directing was atrocious. The script committed one cardinal sin that I thought was very interesting. (SPOILER) The main character was killed off about a half hour before the end of the movie. It made me wonder, "Okay, whoís the main character now?"

I Confess (Video) 4/15/99 (***1/2) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. This is a terrific movie about a priest who becomes a murder suspect. Heís torn between his own freedom and the holy order to protect what has been told to him in confession.

Cool Hand Luke (Video) 4/17/99 (***1/2)

Five Easy Pieces (Video) 4/21/99 (***)

Mr. And Mrs. Bridge (Video) 4/22/99 (***)

West Side Story (Video) 4/28/99 (****)

The Nunís Story (Video) 5/6/99 (**1/2)

Johnny Guitar (Video) 5/7/99 (**1/2)

U.S. Marshalls (Video) 5/10/99 (**1/2)

Nobodyís Fool (Video) 5/11/99 (***1/2)

Teahouse of the August Moon (Video) 5/13/99 (**1/2)

Them! (Video) 5/14/99 (***)

Love and Death (Video) 5/18/99 (***)

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (Video) 5/19/99 (*1/2)

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Cinemark 12) 5/20/99 (**1/2)

Anatomy of a Murder (Video) 5/23/99 (***1/2)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Video) 5/25/99 (***1/2)

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Cinemark 12) 5/29/99 (***)

The Empire Strikes Back (Video) 5/30/99 (***1/2)

Six Days, Seven Nights (Video) 7/25/99 (***)

Austin Powers (Video) 7/27/99 (***)

Oh, God! (Video) 7/28/99 (***1/2)

Alien IV: Resurrection (Video) 7/29/99 (***)