cinephiles. Welcome to the second thrilling installment of Jahnke's
Electric Theatre. Please help yourselves to champagne and
So much for getting a tradition going. Here we are, just two weeks
into this little experiment, and already the Hell
Plaza Octoplex is temporarily closed. Yes, believe it or
not, the luck of the draw was with me for the past two weeks. I saw
nothing that was bad enough to be hung in the hall of shame. This is
bad news for those of you who enjoy seeing me vent my spleen on
something I truly despise, but good news for me.
Even better news is that this time around we've got two movies vying
for your consideration in The A-Picture.
I highly recommend both of these movies without reservation. Since
they couldn't be more different, instead of pointlessly trying to
choose one over the other to be this week's A-Picture,
I'm doing a double feature this time around. One of them is now
available on video. The other just opened theatrically in Los
Angeles and should be rolling around to other major cities soon.
A-Picture - I'm Not Scared
It's been awhile since I've seen a movie quite like this one. The
scene is rural Italy, 1978. A ten-year old boy is playing around an
abandoned farmhouse with his friends. He goes back alone to retrieve
his sister's glasses and discovers another boy, about his age,
buried in a deep hole, starving, half-blind, and shackled by the
ankle. I'm Not Scared is a
remarkably tense and creepy film, reminiscent of The
Reflecting Skin and the original version of The
Vanishing. It isn't quite at the level of those two
modern classics but it's a powerful and well-made movie in its own
right. This is my favorite kind of horror film... one that most
people wouldn't consider a horror movie because it's just too real.
The scares in I'm Not Scared
are plausible and very close to home. (***
A-Picture (Part II) - Inside Deep Throat
Filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato know how to make great
documentaries. They know that half the battle is finding a subject
worth exploring for an hour and a half. More importantly, they know
that just because you've won half the battle doesn't mean you've won
the war. Their latest, Inside Deep Throat,
goes behind the scenes of the seminal (pardon the pun) XXX movie
that briefly made porn not just mainstream but downright
fashionable. The section on the making of the film itself is a
highlight with hilarious interviews from most of the key players.
The movie then goes into the impact and the aftermath of Deep
Throat and it's a complicated, fascinating tale touching
on feminism, censorship, the mob, even Watergate. Few movies have as
succinctly or as vividly painted the changes in this country in the
past thirty years. Inside Deep Throat
is funny, lively and thought-provoking. And by the way, if you're
not interested in the subject matter... first off, I don't believe
you and secondly, I also highly recommend Bailey and Barbato's 2000
documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
And the Rest
The Five Obstructions
Love him or hate him, Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier is
unarguably making movies unlike anybody else today. In this one, Von
Trier revisits one of his own favorite movies, Jorgen Leth's short
The Perfect Human, and
challenges Leth to remake the film five different times following
five different sets of arbitrary rules set by Von Trier himself.
It's captivating watching Leth turning himself inside out trying to
follow the rules. The Five Obstructions
is probably of more interest to hardcore film aficionados than
casual moviegoers (and of those, probably better appreciated by fans
of Von Trier). But I found it very interesting and a testament to
what a flexible format film can be in truly creative hands.
Pennies from Heaven
Dennis Potter's original 1978 miniseries is probably the main
reason I didn't see anything for the Hell
Plaza Octoplex this week. I just didn't have the time
since this clocks in at over eight hours. A full review of this will
be appearing at The Digital Bits
soon. Suffice it to say if you haven't seen any of Potter's BBC
work, you should. It will blow you away. (***
Everybody loves the late Ray Charles and, to its credit, Taylor
Hackford's biopic makes you wonder why because he was a bit of a
bastard. Hackford does a good job balancing the highs of Charles'
career with the lows of his personal life. And they may as well send
Jamie Foxx his Oscar now to save some time during the telecast later
this month. The highest praise I can give his performance is that
not once during the film did I think I was watching Jamie Foxx as
Ray Charles. Well, maybe just once, during a particularly
ill-conceived dream sequence toward the end. And this isn't Best
Picture material by a long shot. It's much too long and has a few
amazingly clubfooted moments here and there. But it's no better or
worse than countless other movies of its type, from The
Buddy Holly Story to Sweet
Dreams to La Bamba.
At its best, when concentrating on the creation of that amazing
music and focusing on Foxx's performance, it's very entertaining.
Road to Singapore
Not real sure why I bothered to watch this one, other than I'd
never seen a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby movie before and this one was the
first in the series so I thought I'd give it a shot. It has not
exactly inspired me to seek out the other five but it's pleasant
enough. I think I only laughed a total of three times (and all of
those thanks to Jerry Colonna) but I've certainly seen worse movies
from this period. And in defense of Hope and Crosby (not that they
need my defense), every critic I've read agrees that Road
to Singapore is not the best in the series.
That'll do it for this week. I'll be back in a fortnight with
another satchel full of movies past and present. And if we're lucky,
the Academy Awards will have ended by the time the next Electric
Theatre goes out, so maybe I'll have some thoughts on
that annual train wreck as well.
Dedicated to Arthur Miller, Ossie Davis
and John Vernon
"Electric Theatre - Where You See All
the Latest Life Size Moving Pictures, Moral and Refined, Pleasing to
Ladies, Gentlemen and Children!"
- Legend on a traveling moving picture show tent, c.1900