Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
 

Modern-ish movies? I’ve seen them, and I’m writing about them!

You know who loves movies? Everyone! Let’s take a look at some I’ve watched “recently.” (I say that because I saw two of these in the theater … during the summer!)

Carnal Knowledge (1971). This is pretty strong stuff for 1971, and it still feels pretty bold for 2023, after the conservative backlash that began in the 1980s and continues to a degree to this day. Mike Nichols and Jules Feiffer, the director and writer, don’t pull any punches when it comes to male sexuality, as Nicholson and Art Garfunkel (???) play college friends who examine their sex lives over a few decades during and after school. Neither man is admirable – Nicholson casually begins an affair with Candice Bergen, who Garfunkel is dating, simply because he’s jealous of Garfunkel, while Garfunkel gets bored with his marriage to Bergen later in life and begins dating different women just for the excitement. I suppose the movie is most famous for Nicholson’s big fight with Ann-Margret, which comes in the middle section of the movie (there are three sections, each with different women – Bergen in the first, Ann-Margret in the second, and Rita Moreno in the third), as it’s a brilliant and harrowing scene that shows all of Nicholson’s fierce, passionate, and (frankly) ridiculous emotions about relationships (Ann-Margret was nominated for Best Supporting Actress – the movie’s only nomination – for her role, but Leachman won for The Last Picture Show). It’s interesting looking at this movie from a 50-year perspective, because I doubt if Feiffer and Nichols were trying to make these men admirable, but I assume in 1971 some people thought they were perfectly fine, especially Garfunkel, who’s perfectly reasonable as he explains why he wants to cheat on his wife. Today, however, they come off even more pathetic than they did at the time, as they’re obviously immature fools, dictators of the women in their lives and absolutely incapable of introspection and empathy. I’m also not sure what audiences thought of the women, but today, their stories are tragic – they each only appear in “their” section, so Bergen disappears from the movie after the “college” section, although Garfunkel marries her and stays married to her, and so we can only speculate about her life, but she obviously did not become a lawyer and novelist like she claims she wants to be early on. Nicholson practically imprisons Ann-Margret when they get together, subtly-not-so-subtly implying that she shouldn’t work (he frames it as she doesn’t need to, but the implication that she shouldn’t is clear), which takes away her purpose in life. Only Moreno, playing a hooker, has any power, and she uses it to toy with Nicholson in the final section, a Nicholson who has entered middle age alone, living in a sterile apartment and unable to get erect without a great deal of encouragement from Moreno. The final image is of Nicholson with an erection (Nichols just focuses on his face – the movie is raw, but not that raw!), and it’s a fiercely ironic shot, as it’s filmed as a moment of triumph but it’s ridiculously pathetic. It’s a powerful movie, with very strong performances (of the main quartet, Garfunkel is the weakest, but, I mean, it’s Art Garfunkel), and while I’m not sure if Nichols and Feiffer meant their two leads to be so weak and silly (I suspect they did, but I don’t know), it’s fascinating watching this through the lens of 50 years of feminism and changing cultural mores. I had heard about it for years, so I’m glad I got a chance to check it out.

Marathon Man (1976). I had never seen this, so I was glad I did, although it’s not that great a movie. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, because there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Olivier to leave Uruguay (which looks nothing like Uruguay) and come to New York, or if there is, I missed it. I get that his brother was doing something with the diamonds, and I get that Roy Scheider and others are couriers who … transport the diamonds? but I’m still not sure why the Shadowy Governmental Agency is helping Olivier so much (I know that he helped them find other Nazis, but it also seems like his usefulness is at an end) and why Olivier stabs Scheider when, ostensibly, they’re working together. I guess Olivier is cleaning house of the couriers (Scheider’s not the first!), but it’s unclear. It’s also unclear what Marthe Keller is doing – Hoffman pursues her, somewhat obnoxiously, so did she know he was like that and would pursue her, or did she just get lucky? Even the dental scene, as brutal as it is (and it’s well done), is kind of odd – Olivier is trying to discover whether it’s safe to get the diamonds, but as we can guess, there’s no reason for him to worry, as he has governmental people in his pocket. And then he wanders through the diamond district, with its many old, Holocaust-surviving Jews, just to find out what diamonds are worth? I mean, I get it’s the 1970s and we don’t have the internet, but, come on, Olivier – they’re fucking diamonds! It’s certainly not a bad movie – it’s nice and tense, and while Hoffman is probably too old to be playing a grad student (I mean, yes, grad students can be any age, but it feels like he’s supposed to be much younger than his actual age, which was 38), he has that deer-in-the-headlights look down pretty well, so the fact that he has no idea about what’s going on is well done. Olivier got nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and he does a pretty good job, and Scheider, Keller, and William Devane all do well, too. As usual, I love movies filmed in New York in the 1970s, because it’s such a shithole, and John Schlesinger makes good use of that. It’s just … a weird plot, from the inciting incident (which might feel real to a native New Yorker, but seems ridiculous to those of us who didn’t grow up angry at everyone) to the ending, which is also a bit wonky. Still, it’s a decent thriller. Nothing wrong with that.

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (1979). I love this ridiculous movie, which, if you haven’t seen it, is based on the principle that a basketball team can win solely based on the fact that its players are astrologically compatible. Yep. The Pittsburgh Pythons are terrible, until their water boy – James Bond III – comes up with the idea that the players should all be Pisces because their star, Moses Guthrie (played by at-his-peak-‘fro-ness Julius Erving) is a Pisces. So their owner, Jonathan Winters (who also plays his own evil twin), gets rid of all the players and they hold open tryouts and assemble a goofy team of Pisces who immediately start winning and eventually win the league title. It’s goofy, but a lot of fun. Erving isn’t as bad as you’d expect in the lead role, Bond is pretty good, Stockard Channing hams it up as the official team astrologer, and the team – which features Meadowlark Lemon as a preacher who just wants to play ball – is fun, too (in a somewhat shocking move, they actually hired a native – Branscombe Richmond – to play the Indian on the team). A lot of NBA players appeared in the movie, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the end, when the Pisces – they change their name mid-season – are in the finals. There’s a silly love story between Erving and Bond’s sister, who tells Dr. J that Tyrone won’t be a basketball player, so he needs to study to get a scholarship to college, so Erving … plays basketball for her on a street court and changes her mind and makes her fall in love with him? Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense, even in a movie that is as ridiculous as this is. Still, it’s a lot of fun. The basketball scenes are fun to watch, and the comedy is goofy. And the fashion is aMAzing – it’s 1979, after all – as is the groovy soundtrack. You know you want to watch it again!

First Blood (1982). With all the ridiculousness of the latter “Rambo” movies, it’s sometimes hard to remember how excellent this movie is, but it really is. It came out at a time when the American soldier was not held in as high esteem as they are today, and it’s jarring to see police officers hassling a soldier, no matter how much of a vagrant he looks like, for no other reason than they don’t like the look of him. It’s a pro-soldier movie, certainly, but director Ted Kotcheff and writers David Morrell (who wrote the novel on which it’s based), Michael Kozoll, and Stallone himself don’t pull punches when it comes to Rambo’s mental state. There’s a LOT going on in this movie, and while it’s a terrific action movie, it’s also a thoughtful examination of America’s psyche and what Vietnam did to the country. From the first scene, in which Rambo learns that the only other soldier who survived the war has died from cancer brought on by Agent Orange, to the last scene, in which Stallone breaks down remembering how another buddy was killed by a bomb rigged to a shoeshine boy’s box, this is a fierce look at not only how Americans treated soldiers who, in many ways, didn’t have any idea what they were fighting for or even who they were fighting against, but also the government that did it to them, as Rambo is a trained killer who can’t hold a job in civilian life because his skills aren’t transferable and the Army threw him away. It’s not just about Rambo, either – Brian Dennehy’s sheriff is also, it’s implied, a Vietnam vet (he has medals in his office, and in the novel, he’s a Korean War vet, but he’s too young for that in the movie), and his determination to bring Rambo in reflects another aspect of the more traditional PTSD exhibited by Stallone. Dennehy can’t let it go, because the order in his town (after living through such disorder, it’s implied) is all he cares about, and his pride in that order drives him to madness, and Dennehy is marvelous in the role. There’s also the pointed criticism of “toxic masculinity” (not called such, of course) and the macho culture of faux tough guys, from the sadistic policeman who tortures Rambo and kicks the whole thing off, to the deputies who think they’re on a breezy hunting trip before Rambo shows them differently, to the National Guardsmen who blow up the cave Rambo’s hiding in and later pose in front of it “just like Iwo Jima.” All of this is done more subtly than it would be today, when things would be pointed out a lot more annoyingly, and it’s impressively done in the context of a terrific action movie. Even Stallone’s weepy speech at the end, which is a bit over-the-top, feels earned, because Rambo has barely said anything throughout the movie, but when he talks to Delmar’s widow in the beginning and awkwardly gives her the photo of their group as consolation, and when he talks to Trautman on the radio while he’s in the cave, you can feel him falling apart, so the speech at the end is just a person who has broken completely, and Stallone sells it well. They might have ruined the character with subsequent movies (although I always go to the mat for Stallone’s final speech in the second movie, because it’s awesome), but dang, this movie rules.

Valley Girl (1983). This movie is enjoyable almost solely due to the almost unbearably charming chemistry between Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman (who is, I guess famously, not on the poster), who are just adorbs together, because otherwise, it’s a bit of a mess (ok, the soundtrack slaps, too). I mean, there’s no reason, really, why Julie should dump Cage’s Randy (really, “Randy”?) when she does, even if we keep hearing about how she’ll be a social pariah if she doesn’t. Due to the movie’s short length (this was the Eighties, people – no time for character development!), we don’t really get much of Julie’s interactions with her friends or ex-boyfriend, so it’s not really clear if she’s become a social pariah or not. Then, when Cage shows up at her prom, she suddenly decides she doesn’t mind being a social pariah and dumps her boyfriend all over again. I mean, her boyfriend (played by excellent character douchebag Michael Bowen) is a douchebag, no doubt, but he also doesn’t really do too much that’s beyond the pale (I mean, he tries to sleep with one of Julie’s friends, but that was after she dumped him). His attitude is certainly terrible, but it’s not worse than most preppy dudes’ attitudes in the decade, and he doesn’t act exceptionally badly with Julie. Meanwhile, her friends (including Elizabeth Daily, who’s probably best known for Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure or for singing in Better Off Dead) just kind of tell her she’s going to be a pariah without ever really dumping her (and Heidi Holicker, despite getting angry about “losing” her best friend, seemed to enjoy herself a bit when she went down into L.A. with Julie and Randy on their first date). There’s also the very weird side-plot with Michelle Meyrink (looking much cuter here than she does in Real Genius), the boy she likes, and her predatory step-mother (Lee Purcell), which never goes anywhere (thank goodness) but takes up valuable time. But Cage and Foreman are wonderful, no doubt, and they and Martha Coolidge make the “valley girl/punk” romance work so nicely that you can forgive a lot of the random lousiness. They’re just excellent, and Coolidge wisely lets them be. And who doesn’t love the musical montage with “I Melt With You”? Soulless Commies, that’s who!

April Fool’s Day (1986). Deborah Foreman hasn’t made a lot of movies in her life, and here I am, watching two of them recently! This is a fairly lousy horror movie, because it’s far too speedy (slightly less than 90 minutes), so the director and writer (Fred Walton and Danilo Bach) throw some stuff into it that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t get developed, and it feels very undercooked. In any horror movie, the first victims are just going to be stock characters, I get that, but man, are these characters nothing-burgers. Foreman plays Muffy, who invites a bunch of her friends for a weekend at her family’s sprawling estate on an island (it was filmed in British Columbia, but the girls go to Vassar, so I guess it’s supposed to take place in Maine). It’s around April first, so of course there are pranks, but then the people start dying, and that’s no joke! What’s annoying about it is that early on, something happens that is clearly an accident, yet everyone thinks the person hurt by the accident is somehow killing them, which makes no sense. There’s also no kind of “Are they really dead?” thing that you’d expect from a movie with this title – once the first body is found, all pranking is immediately dismissed, even though that might make a better plot. There’s a girl invited that only Muffy knows, and it seems like something very serious happened with her, but we never find out what. And a lot of people end up dead without us seeing anything happen to them – the survivors just find their bodies, which seems odd. It’s not a bad cast of teen-adjacent actors – Foreman (23/24 at the time) does a nice job as Muffy, who may or may not be keeping a deadly secret; Clayton Rohner (27/28 at the time and probably best known as the dude who falls in love with Joyce Hyser in Just One of the Guys) is weirdly fun; Deborah Goodrich (26/27 at the time) is solid as the slutty friend; Leah Pinsent (17/18 at the time) is interesting as the nerdy friend no one else knows; Amy Steel (25/26 at the time) does good work as the level-headed friend; Ken Olandt (27/28 at the time and who I first saw in Summer School a year after this) is solid as Steel’s boyfriend; and Tom Wilson (Biff Tannen!) is fun as the goofy misogynist. It’s a dumb movie, to be sure, but it’s not terrible if you feel like being nostalgic and have some time to kill.

Sabotage (2014). This is a decent enough action-thriller, although it seems a lot was cut, which makes it feel awkwardly plotted in places and rushed in others. Arnold plays the leader of a DEA undercover team that, in the beginning, steals $10 million from a cartel on one of their missions, but when they go to collect the money, it’s gone. They’re suspended by the DEA even though none of them crack about what happened to the money (this is the biggest plot hole in the movie; it’s never explained how their bosses knew exactly how much money they stole, as Arnold’s team blew up the rest so it would look like the money got destroyed during the firefight), and eventually they’re re-instated … except then they start getting killed, and it’s clear someone is getting revenge for the theft. Is it the cartel? All signs point to yes, but it’s a movie, so you always have to be careful about twists! Arnold does a nice job as the brooding, long-time warrior with a personal stake in the game, and his crew is pretty good: Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard (who doesn’t get enough to do, sadly), Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Max Martini, Kevin Vance, and Mireille Enos stealing the show as the drugged-out, slightly crazed woman on the team. Detective Olivia Williams and her partner, Harold Perrineau, are trying to investigate, but of course the team has secrets (I mean, the big one about the theft, sure, but others, too), and they don’t want to share. I guess David Ayer’s original cut was too long and focused more on the “whodunit,” and the studio wanted it shorter with more action, and the action is very good – Ayer shoots it very well, it’s nice and bloody, and it feels realistic. The problem is that the solution is a bit weak (I was surprised they didn’t go with what I thought was the obvious answer, which would have been obvious, sure, but also might have been stronger), but such is life. Movies are weird – this is a perfectly good action movie starring Arnold, but it did terribly at the box office, and I wonder why. It’s not a bad way to kill a few hours!

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (2023). This is a mediocre spy movie, which is too bad, because Guy Ritchie certainly knows how to make a good movie. Here, though, it’s almost as if he’s bored, which … why make it, then? It’s also too bad because the cast is pretty solid – Statham does the Stath thing, Hugh Grant is having a ball as a charming weapons dealer, Josh Hartnett shows up as a movie star who needs to work with the spies and doesn’t think he can pull it off, Cary Elwes is the spy team’s boss, and Aubrey Plaza is very good as the new tech person on Stath’s team. What I did like about it is that the team is not only competent but doesn’t get rattled, even when things are going poorly. I like the movies where the good guys have to overcome adversity, sure, but there’s something to be said for a group of professionals who are so good at their jobs that even when things turn to shit, they know how to react without freaking out. The movie looks gorgeous, too – it was filmed in Qatar and Turkey, and Ritchie makes good use of the scenery. It’s a fun, goofy movie that’s a pleasant way to spend of couple of hours, but nothing that you should really seek out. Oh well.

Barbie (2023). There’s a lot of good stuff in this movie, and there’s some … not “bad” stuff, just kind of dull and overripe stuff. Greta Gerwig knows how to make a movie, and the visuals are stunning and the references (beginning with a tremendous 2001 sequence at the beginning of the movie) are fun. The sets and costumes are wonderful, and the metatextual bits work very well (Helen Mirren as the narrator has a wonderful line about casting, and I’m stunned Mattel allowed themselves to be so savagely satirized, but as my wife put it, they’re making a boatload of money off this movie, so why would they care?). Robbie and Gosling are terrific, as usual (both are underrated because of their looks, but they both know what they’re doing), Michael Cena is weird as Allen, Will Ferrell is Will Ferrell (he’s past the phase of his career when he actually tried to be interesting and is now just “Will Ferrell,” which works, generally, in the movies he’s in), and America Ferrara and Arianna Greenblatt as a mother and her teen daughter who doesn’t have time for her shit are the stealth MVPs of the whole thing. It is, however, awfully derivative, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not swooningly original as many reviews seem to think. And I’m going to bang the drum for subtext again, because Gerwig and Noah Baumbach (the co-writers) obviously don’t believe in it or, as usual, think the audience is too stupid to get it. It’s very up-front about its propaganda, and they’re not wrong about the way women are treated, but man, the movie screeches to a halt whenever a character starts talking about it. Ferrera’s “big speech” about being a woman is the worst offender (she delivers it well, because she’s a good actor, but man), but it’s all throughout the movie, and it’s frustrating because there are some subtle moments that show Gerwig and Baumbach could have easily made a truly great satire but they went for the more gentle stuff (and that might have been interference from Mattel, who couldn’t let them be too subversive). It’s definitely not anti-man like the mouth-breathers on Fox News have been saying, but they’re so far up their own bungholes that it’s not surprising they think so. I don’t know – it was worth seeing, it’s a gorgeous spectacle, it’s empowering, it can be very funny, but it feels the smallest bit hollow. Mattel and Hollywood will surely take the wrong conclusions from it – not “Hey, Greta Gerwig makes good movies and Margot Robbie knows how to get good movies made and America Ferrara is a good actor!” but “Let’s make more movies based on our dolls and toys!” – but that’s the way it is. I do wish I liked it more, but it’s still a pretty good movie. And yes, the final line is excellent.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023). I wanted to see this once I saw the trailer, but it flopped early on and I was worried I wouldn’t get the chance, but the wife was game, so we managed to check it out before it left the theater. It’s a pretty good horror movie, based on the famous part of the seventh chapter of Dracula – the part that deals with how Dracula gets from Bulgaria to England on board the Demeter. It’s a classic set-up for a “closed system” horror movie – Alien-on-a-boat, in essence – and director André Øvredal does a pretty good job. Visually, the movie is terrific – I suppose it was filmed at least partly on a ship, and it makes good use of the claustrophobic conditions and stormy weather. It’s very tactile, I suppose, as it feels like we’re walking the planks and experiencing the pitch and yaw of the boat. The visual effects are pretty good, too – Øvredal doesn’t go crazy with Dracula, so when we do see him, he’s pretty scary. The cast is fine – Corey Hawkins is the lead, and they do try to explain what a black man is doing in 1897 Bulgaria; Liam Cunningham brings nice gravitas as the captain; David Dastmalchian is almost unrecognizable as the first mate, but he brings his usual steadiness to the role; Aisling Franciosi does nice work as the woman on board (why is she on board? you’ll have to watch the movie!); and Javier Botet is having a grand time as the count. The biggest problem with the movie is that we know, and the characters know, that’s it Dracula. For marketing purposes, I assume, they give away the fact that it’s Dracula in the trailers, even though most people who want to see this movie already know and casual viewers might like the surprise. But because they have to identify Dracula, that means the characters know it’s Dracula, and they do stupid horror movie things that they shouldn’t do simply to make it more tense instead of, you know, smart. In the book, the captain writing the log has no idea what is happening on board, and it makes it extremely eerie. It’s still a scary movie, but they know enough about Dracula that they think they can fight back … but they do it stupidly. It’s a bit frustrating, because I know why they do it – Dracula sells tickets! (or, in this case, does not, unfortunately), but that means it falls into the trap of so many horror movies, and has the characters do stupid things because the plot dictates it. It’s not enough to ruin the movie (I will give them an out because they don’t really know too much about Dracula), but it is annoying. Still, this is the kind of movie that would benefit from word of mouth, not from getting crushed because it didn’t have a big opening weekend. I miss slow roll-outs of movies to build momentum. Oh well.

I went through a bit of a lull in the fall when I wasn’t watching many movies, which is why I saw the last two here in the theaters in August but didn’t get this post done until now. Such is life! Chime in with your opinions, snide takedowns, or tangents about Bram Stoker, the third Rambo movie, or Simon and Garfunkel songs in the comments. I welcome it all!

13 Comments

  1. conrad1970

    I’ve only seen First Blood from that list, it was a great movie before the series just got silly. Pretty much like the Rocky franchise.
    I’ve not even heard of any of the other films, apart from Barbie. Which I have no desire to see ever.

    1. Greg Burgas

      I don’t stress it enough, but if you’re someone who likes how movies are made, Barbie is really well done. I certainly understand not wanting to see it, but it is, in a technical sense, a really amazing movie.

  2. “especially Garfunkel, who’s perfectly reasonable as he explains why he wants to cheat on his wife. ” I’m not so sure that’s out of fashion even today. Lots of people who cheat have reasons why it makes perfect sense for them to do so, but not their spouse. I am now curious to see the movie though.
    Deborah Foreman is hysterical in My Chauffeur though the movie suffers from a long stretch in which the focus is on Penn and Teller, whom I like but they’re a distraction here.
    I liked Barbie more than you including the Big Speech (I also loved “We do patriarchy, we just do it quietly” from the one executive). As always it’s unsettling to see Ferrara, whom I remember from “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” is now old enough for a parent role (I think the first time was when Robbie Benson played Melissa Joan Hart’s dad on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch). And Will Ferrell is old enough to be grandpa.
    I found Marathon Man underwhelming though the tooth extraction scene is … memorable.

  3. So I didn’t see the Last Voyage of the Demeter, but I did see the trailer, and it was one that definitely gave the impression that it was showing us way too much. As in, the movie was going to be more enjoyable going in knowledge-free.

    Operation Fortune was a fun one.

    Barbie — I think you might have articulated what I found to be off with it. I thought it was excellent overall, but I think you’re right, pounding me over the head with the subtext (or maybe, the subtext becoming the text) sapped it of a bit of its power. But then, I’m dumb about movies that don’t tell me everything as well, so what do I know?

    And sir, Vassar is in upstate (depending on your definition of the word) New York, so I’m not sure why you’d think April Fool’s Day would take place in Maine! Although your description of some plot elements remind me of another, more recent-er horror movie.

    1. Greg Burgas

      I’m pretty sure someone in April Fool’s Day makes a vague reference to Maine, which is why I think it takes place there. It doesn’t have to take place near Vassar, as it’s a weekend getaway!

      Also, didn’t they remake it? Maybe that’s why the plot elements seem familiar?

  4. David107

    Apologies to any who know this story, but Marathon Man gave birth to one of my favourite movie annecdotes.

    To quote from the Marathon Man page on Wikipedia: “Marathon Man is famous in acting circles for an often quoted exchange between Hoffman and Olivier concerning a perceived difference in their approaches to acting.

    In the usual telling of the story, Hoffman, a proponent of method acting, prepared for a scene in which his character had been awake for three days, by doing the same himself. Following much goading and verbal put-downs by Hoffman, who criticized Olivier for not being as committed to his art as Hoffman, Olivier remarked, “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?” In an interview on Inside the Actors Studio, Hoffman said that this exchange had been distorted; that he had been up all night at a nightclub for personal rather than professional reasons, and Olivier, who was aware of this, was merely joking.”

      1. Jeff Nettleton

        There is a sort of sequel to that, allegedly. During the infamous filming of Hook, just about everyone was at odds with everyone else, including Hoffman and Robin Williams. Supposedly, Hoffman had trouble with a line and Williams repeated the Olivier quote and Hoffman nailed the line on the next take. At some other point, Williams had trouble with something and Hoffman returned fire.

  5. Edo Bosnar

    On Marathon Man, I first watched the movie a few years ago and more or less share your opinion: not bad, but not great, either and disappointing in many ways. And I think my favorite part is that geriatric car chase in the side streets of NY at the very beginning. (And yes, I also like movies filmed on location in 1970s NY, but also a few other major US cities, like Chicago, Detroit and LA, esp. when the focus is on the seedier sections.)
    I more recently read the novel, which a) surprised me when I realized that the movie was an adaptation of it and not the other way around, and b) also disappointed me, as it not only suffers from some of the same story problems as the movie but also kind of drags at places. Also, in the book, the main character, Levy, is described as tall and skinny, almost kind of gawky, none of which can be used as descriptors for Dustin Hoffman.

  6. Jeff Nettleton

    I watched part of Carnal Knowledge, in high school, on Cinemax, but I was too young to appreciate and too bored by the film to watch very much of it.

    I like Marathon Man; but, then again, I like that kind of post-War espionage thing. I can remember if it is brought up in the film; but, why the CIA would protect Olivier’s character is down to contacts within Latin America, to fight any Leftist groups, as the CIA backed a ton of Right Wingers, after WW2, all the way through El Salvador, the Contras and Honduras (and Fujimora, in Peru) up through the 80s.

    First Blood is a good movie, but the book works better. For one thing, it was written in 1972, when a sheriff harassing a long hair was more believable. Also, him being a Korean War vet adds a lot of subtext to the character, both in the mistakes he makes and how Rambo reacts and in his own feelings of alienation, due to not “winning” his war. I also read Morrell’s Rambo, First Blood Part II, where he had to put a note at the beginning that, in the original novel (SPOILER) Rambo dies; but, he lived in the film, so he is alive for the sequel.

    I don’t think I have seen more than the trailer for the Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. Valley Girl is the only thing I have seen from the rest of the list. decent film, better soundtrack than movie, though, with some excellent Josie Cotton songs plus a pretty good mix of New Wave, rather than pop acts.

  7. I had wanted to catch Demeter in theaters on that $4 movie day, but ended up seeing Blue Beetle instead. If you’re going to see Blue Beetle, doing so in a theater filled with a Latino audience is the way to do it. But Demeter still isn’t on a streaming service.

    Barbie, meanwhile, was my #1 movie of the year, an instant five-star masterpiece. I was stunned. I was not in a hurry to see it, but my friends wanted to do Barbenheimer. We caught Barbie first, and it blew Oppenheimer out of the water. It’s a movie that doubles down on every ridiculous joke, and also has a trenchant if, yes, unsubtle message. And I couldn’t believe I felt seen by dumbass Ken. Definitely the best surprise of the year for me.

    (My other favorites of 2023 so far are Beau Is Afraid, Godzilla Minus One, A Haunting in Venice, Dungeons & Dragons, aaand Infinity Pool, I guess. Some other good ones beyond that.)

    1. Dungeons and Dragons was a blast. I love it for barreling ahead and not stopping to explain anything to newbies, for the cast, and for some of the lines (“Just because that sentence is symmetrical doesn’t mean it makes sense.”).

      1. I know nothing about D&D and am generally not a fantasy guy, but it’s just a really fun, entertaining movie. I watched it with some friends. My friend who *is* a big D&D and fantasy guy agreed to let out a small “woo” every time they referenced some D&D thing. There were a lot of woos.

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