Friday, March 18, 2011

Worth Mentioning - The Purest Form of Cinema

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week Cody talks of horror, high school, and honkytonk, while Jay takes in a couple documentaries.


This is a much-maligned movie, especially by the people who were involved with the making of it. The director was replaced during filming, the script was rewritten, star Jon Cryer wasn't happy with the outcome and neither was the replacement director - the finished film carries a director's credit for Alan Smithee, the DGA pseudonym put on films that have been disowned by their directors.

As the title makes clear, the story deals with a boarding school misfit named Morgan Stewart who comes home. Once there, he finds that he doesn't fit in very well with his conservative parents and their socialite friends.

The aspect that appeals to me, though, is the fact that Morgan is a big fan of horror. The first shot of the film is of the poster for Lucio Fulci's Zombie hanging on Morgan's wall. Morgan has several other horror posters on his walls - The Exorcist, House of Wax, Tales of Terror, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead - he has a mask collection, he wears a Day of the Dead shirt, he has a chainsaw that's signed by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre director Tobe Hooper (and this in a movie released the same year that Chainsaw and Dave were obsessing over TCM in Summer School).

Morgan meets his love interest Emily (played by Viveka Davis) while he's waiting in line to meet George Romero at a signing in the local mall's Waldenbooks. She cuts in line by pretending to be his girlfriend and they instantly connect by talking movies. The movie even features a George Romero stand-in signing copies of Paul R. Gagne's book The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh: The Films of George A. Romero.

"Horror films are definitely the purest form of cinema," Emily says. She and Morgan then have their first date at a theatrical screening of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! This could've been the basis of one of the coolest romantic comedy stories ever told. I wish there was a lot more of it in the film, the "love among (horror) freaks" story gets largely overwhelmed by the story of Morgan's parents and his senator father's troubled run for re-election.


Another Jon Cryer movie, in this one he plays a twenty-eight year old stockbroker who's on the run from mob hitmen. He seeks help from his teenage cousin and figures that the safest way to hide is to enroll in the local high school. He falls for a senior girl, runs for class president, and as hitmen and the FBI get closer, he even ends up living in the school.

If your cable deal included the movie channels in the early/mid-90s, you've probably seen this movie (and probably remember Jon Cryer's hairstyle). It was shown so often, it was near impossible to miss. Revisiting it now made for an enjoyable and kind of nostalgically comforting viewing.

SKI PARTY (1965)

Frankie Avalon ventures away from the Beach to hit the slopes with pal Dwayne Hickman (best known as TV's Dobie Gillis), emulating and referencing Some Like It Hot as they disguise themselves as females in order to infiltrate the girls' class at the ski lodge.

They woo Deborah Walley and Yvonne Craig (who went on to be Adam West's Batgirl), get involved with Bobbi Bliss, and Hickman-in-drag also catches the attention of a male charmer played by Aron Kincaid. Eventually, Hickman actually even starts to return his affections. "He's a boy and so are you!" "We'll work it out. ... I've never been treated so nicely in my whole life." Surprising for such a film of the time. Of course, they don't stay on that path and soon brush it off with a "I was kidding".

Characters occasionally break into song, including Lesley Gore making a cameo as a bus passenger entertaining the other riders. James Brown shows up later as a ski patrolman and performs "I Feel Good". Speaking of cameos, Dick Miller appears as a taxi driver, but does not sing.

This is total '60s teenybopper fluff and extremely watchable, so much so that I turned it on in the middle of the night with the intention of falling asleep to it, but instead ended up watching the whole thing. Bad for me when I had to get up at 6 AM, but a win for the film.


Factory worker Kyle (Jan-Michael Vincent) and directory assistance operator Jodie (Kim Basinger) have been dating for a year. They're setting up a life together in their little Texas town, sharing a small apartment and living on fast food that Jodie passes off as her own cooking. But things are turned upside down when Jodie's childhood friend Caroline (Tanya Tucker), who's got a successful singing career going on, comes home to perform at the local country bar. Caroline is the only person Jodie knows who left town to live out their dreams, and her visit makes Jodie desperate to move to California and pursue her own childhood dream of being an airline stewardess.

It's been established that I tend to connect with stories about people who are discontent with their station in life, and I also like when movies feature simple-living country life. The inclusion of honkytonk bars is also welcome (Urban Cowboy is one of my favorite movies), so this film had a mixture of several elements that I enjoy.

Kyle and Jodie also have notable siblings - Michael Parks plays Kyle's older brother, Jodie's younger sister is played by Daryl Hannah.

Jay's mentions:

ROGER & ME (1989)
Directed by Michael Moore

This 1989 documentary by Michael Moore focuses on the closing of many automobile factories in Michigan as well as Moore's attempts to interview the CEO of GM, Roger Smith. As a teenager I was always a big fan of Bowling for Columbine, so it was interesting to go back to Moore's older work. This entry is pretty much what you expect from a Michael Moore documentary, only a bit more restrained in scope and presentation. With that said, I actually enjoy the more pulled back approach and thought some of the people Moore follows around in this picture are pretty fascinating. One of them is Fred Ross, an eviction deputy who goes home-to-home and evicts the tenants. Here's a picture of Fred at work during the Christmas season:

There's a great debate on how "honest" of a filmmaker Moore is. I sometimes wonder myself, but at the end of the day, his films always engage me and upset me enough to look into the subject matter on my own. So for that, I will always be interested in his next work. I know at the end of the day it's in my own hands to get to the real truths.

Available on Netflix Instant Viewing.

Directed by Kenny Scott

Per Netflix: Examining the fateful 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 from every possible angle, this thought-provoking NOVA program attempts to answer still-lingering questions about the plane's unlikely flight path straight into a deadly storm. With the aid of CGI weather simulators, aeronautical experts and the plane's actual computer-transmitted messages, the program re-creates the events as they unfolded and tries to make sense of the evidence.

I found this to be a very informative documentary that will teach you a lot about this crash without being confusing if you are not up to speed on the more technical side of air travel. They cram a lot of information into fifty-two minutes, but for an instant watch on Netflix, it's worth every second. At some point in our lives we will all most likely find ourselves on an airplane and I was interested in this from the viewpoint of learning more about air travel throughout the exploration of this ill-fated plane. The presentation was very nicely done and I was able to learn a lot. Before viewing this, I was unaware of NOVA's video education series, but I'll definitely keep a closer eye on their future releases after seeing this one.

Available on Netflix Instant Viewing.

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