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"A GLORIOUS VINTAGE. MAY IT AGE WELL"

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 05:15 (A review of Sideways (Full Screen Edition))

by Dane Youssef


“Sideways” is one of those movies that seems to be made entirely for the scholarly and intellectual. The artsy, deep, hip and high-brow. Films about those people going through a turning point in their lives. Mid-life crisis’s and the like. And ones like this in paticular always seem to reap critical praise, a crowd of feverent fans and prestigious award nominations.

"Sideways" has one of those cool quirky titles that sounds really hip and grabs your attention. You know, it'll be an edgy movie. Like "Entourage," "Purgatory," "Angel Eyes" and the like. Something about "Sideways" says it's going to be different. Smarter. Sharper. In a word, better.

But unlike the title for the Johnny Depp-Winona Ryder vehicle "Finding Neverland," this one doesn't pretty much reveal the whole movie in with it's title. "Sideways" is about something--more than just moving in a different direction.

"Sideways" uses wine and wine country as a backdrop, yes, but the movie is about more than just the symbolism of wine and it's drinkers. It's essentially about people who are connected and realize how hard, brief and fragile life itself is and pursue happiness by any means necessary. And they're so true and worthy of it, we want them to find it and thus, assure we will find it ourselves.

It has the mixed feeling of life.

It’s stars, Miles Richmond and Jack Lopate have been buddy-buddy since their college dorm years. And have always been (and will be) total polar opposites. Miles is just a sad-sack neurotic nebbish with a bundle of neuroses that seem unwilling to disappear no matter how much therapy or medication he can get his hands on. His book won't get sold, his ex-wife is remarried (not that Miles was happy with her), he seems to be closer to death than life and he hasn't made an iota of the impact he wanted to.

Jack’s a less-than-successful actor who's most respected credit was a short-lived role on a soap opera years ago. Now his more recent stuff is the voice-over who mumbles the warning for the side effects from non-prescription meds near the end of the commercial. Jack is living an ideal life otherwise and Miles has seen better days. In fact, he's borderline suicidal--taking plenty of meds and alcohol himself, usually all at once. Jack is about to get married. He wants to go out to local wine country and bring Miles with him, and hopefully out of his funk.

Miles thinks and feels too much. He's been borderline suicidal for a while now and it's only getting worse. He was unhappy during his marriage which led to him giving his wife the perfect reason to end.

Jack is a self-satisfied animal who enjoys giving in to his baser animal instincts. Jack doesn't give so much as a damn about wine that's "just right." He only wants a drink. And the movie illustrates how that's exactly who he is. A total tomcat who enjoys being "on the edge" and flirting with danger, he sort of enjoys toeing the line. The most outrageous thing about Jack is he often gets off lighter than he should. We all root for Miles and idolize Jack.

Maybe a trip out to wine country is just what Miles needs. We all know some big things are about to happen over the course of this one week.

One of Miles' true passions that does bring him happiness in wine. The right wine. And with great wine, you have to know what you're talking about. You treat it as an art, as yourself. It's not like any other drug. It becomes a way of like, not only as art and a way of life, but as a way of who you are.

Paul Giamatti is simply an actor who never ceases to amaze me. From his breakthrough role as the anal-retentive watchdog station manager in "Private Parts" (he was one of the bigger surprises in that movie. The fact that he was passed over for an Oscar nod for this one (as well as "American Splendor" and "Cinderella Man") borderlines on criminal. On felony.

Thomas Hayden Church, who was pretty much just vaguely remembered for his stock idiot character Lowell, the mechanic on the one of the world's most generic sit-com, "Wings" simply rivets here. He’s eons ahead of Lowell and “Wings.”

As Jack, he has the charm of a stud who's about to peak, but doesn't realize and doesn't care. A serial philanderer, he is literally willing to cheat on his fiancée without second thought or guilt right before the wedding. He has a womanizer charm that doesn't seem lecherous or arrogant. We don't mind him cheating. In fact, we encourage it. Let's see where his libido might lead him. To pleasure, now, yes. But we all know it'll lead him into a hornet's nest eventually. And we're anxious to see how.

When the arrive at their destination, two women come into the picture. A waitress, Maya (Virgina Madsen) and a hostess, (Sandra Oh) come into the picture. We know they’re the ones who are going to put everything into play.

Sandra Oh, writer-director Payne's then-wife, moves us in a big way as one of the wine hostess who falls for Jack and his animal way. They wind up having a fast relationship and one of the most surprising moments comes when Miles realizes how fast their relationship is going. We know Jack is sticking his pride and joy into a hornet's nest and we want him to, because we know he'll have a blast and we'll do the same just watching. She isn't just a hottie, she has a wild spirit we'd all want to get into.

And Virgina Madsen (“The Rainmaker”) plays the kind of angel from above here on Earth, walking as a mortal that Miles seems to have been praying for. And when she's on screen, we all feel that Miles may be finally saved. And is there a chance someone like her will rush down at save us when we really need it?

The film owes a lot to the works of Albert Brooks of Woody Allen, where the most effective comedy and drama comes the ordinary plight of the human condition. It's the kind of movie where you keep thinking, "Yeah, this is life. This is so exactly true to life... right down to every last detail."

Co-writer-director Alexander Payne ("Election" and "About Schmidt") along with co-writer Rex Pickett have fashioned their screenplay in a natural true-to-life way all about the fascination of human nature. The ways of ordinary life--laughter, anger, frustration and brain candy--all translate to a cathartic experience for it's little characters as well as it' audience. Composer Rolfe Kent gives "Sideways" a light, loose jazzy score. Sometimes rocking. Not unlike the works of Ryan Shore. And Payne not only directs beautifully and passionately, but manages to get the right feel in every frame. We even identify with his slapstick scenes.

Like most of the population who saw "Sideways," I was relieved to see that the screenplay managed to walk off with nearly every honor for writing there was: The Oscar, the British Academy Award, the Golden Globe, the Independent Spirit Award, the New York Film Critic Circle Award. And it's cast got it's props as well. Speaking as someone who saw this movie as well as others that came out for '04, yeah.

One of those rare and precious years where the Academy actually got it right.

NOTE: This review is dedicated in loving memory to my grandfather, Arthur Benzie. He had a lot of Miles in him. A schoolteacher with a passion for the written word--especially the well-written word. Life was harder than for him than most and he always seemed frustrated that society was doing it's best to become intellectually sterile and eager to turn back mankind's long evolutionary process as quickly as possible.

It all got to him in a big way. Like Miles, he had a deep passion, an insight. For the highbrow and the savory. The man always appreciated a good drink.

And needed it more than he really should have.


by Dane Youssef


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A GLORIOUS VINTAGE. MAY IT AGE WELL

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 05:13 (A review of Sideways)

by Dane Youssef


“Sideways” is one of those movies that seems to be made entirely for the scholarly and intellectual. The artsy, deep, hip and high-brow. Films about those people going through a turning point in their lives. Mid-life crisis’s and the like. And ones like this in paticular always seem to reap critical praise, a crowd of feverent fans and prestigious award nominations.


"Sideways" has one of those cool quirky titles that sounds really hip and grabs your attention. You know, it'll be an edgy movie. Like "Entourage," "Purgatory," "Angel Eyes" and the like. Something about "Sideways" says it's going to be different. Smarter. Sharper. In a word, better.


But unlike the title for the Johnny Depp-Winona Ryder vehicle "Finding Neverland," this one doesn't pretty much reveal the whole movie in with it's title. "Sideways" is about something--more than just moving in a different direction.


"Sideways" uses wine and wine country as a backdrop, yes, but the movie is about more than just the symbolism of wine and it's drinkers. It's essentially about people who are connected and realize how hard, brief and fragile life itself is and pursue happiness by any means necessary. And they're so true and worthy of it, we want them to find it and thus, assure we will find it ourselves.


It has the mixed feeling of life.


It’s stars, Miles Richmond and Jack Lopate have been buddy-buddy since their college dorm years. And have always been (and will be) total polar opposites. Miles is just a sad-sack neurotic nebbish with a bundle of neuroses that seem unwilling to disappear no matter how much therapy or medication he can get his hands on. His book won't get sold, his ex-wife is remarried (not that Miles was happy with her), he seems to be c [profanity removed] to death than life and he hasn't made an iota of the impact he wanted to.

Jack’s a less-than-successful actor who's most respected credit was a short-lived role on a soap opera years ago. Now his more recent stuff is the voice-over who mumbles the warning for the side effects from non-prescription meds near the end of the commercial. Jack is living an ideal life otherwise and Miles has seen better days. In fact, he's borderline suicidal--taking plenty of meds and alcohol himself, usually all at once. Jack is about to get married. He wants to go out to local wine country and bring Miles with him, and hopefully out of his funk.


Miles thinks and feels too much. He's been borderline suicidal for a while now and it's only getting worse. He was unhappy during his marriage which led to him giving his wife the perfect reason to end.

Jack is a self-satisfied animal who enjoys giving in to his baser animal instincts. Jack doesn't give so much as a damn about wine that's "just right." He only wants a drink. And the movie illustrates how that's exactly who he is. A total tomcat who enjoys being "on the edge" and flirting with danger, he sort of enjoys toeing the line. The most outrageous thing about Jack is he often gets off lighter than he should. We all root for Miles and idolize Jack.


Maybe a trip out to wine country is just what Miles needs. We all know some big things are about to happen over the course of this one week.


One of Miles' true passions that does bring him happiness in wine. The right wine. And with great wine, you have to know what you're talking about. You treat it as an art, as yourself. It's not like any other drug. It becomes a way of like, not only as art and a way of life, but as a way of who you are.


Paul Giamatti is simply an actor who never ceases to amaze me. From his breakthrough role as the anal-retentive watchdog station manager in "Private Parts" (he was one of the bigger surprises in that movie. The fact that he was passed over for an Oscar nod for this one (as well as "American Splendor" and "Cinderella Man") borderlines on criminal. On felony.


Thomas Hayden Church, who was pretty much just vaguely remembered for his stock idiot character Lowell, the mechanic on the one of the world's most generic sit-com, "Wings" simply rivets here. He’s eons ahead of Lowell and “Wings.”


As Jack, he has the charm of a stud who's about to peak, but doesn't realize and doesn't care. A serial philanderer, he is literally willing to cheat on his fiancée without second thought or guilt right before the wedding. He has a womanizer charm that doesn't seem lecherous or arrogant. We don't mind him cheating. In fact, we encourage it. Let's see where his libido might lead him. To pleasure, now, yes. But we all know it'll lead him into a hornet's nest eventually. And we're anxious to see how.


When the arrive at their destination, two women come into the picture. A waitress, Maya (Virgina Madsen) and a hostess, (Sandra Oh) come into the picture. We know they’re the ones who are going to put everything into play.


Sandra Oh, writer-director Payne's then-wife, moves us in a big way as one of the wine hostess who falls for Jack and his animal way. They wind up having a fast relationship and one of the most surprising moments comes when Miles realizes how fast their relationship is going. We know Jack is sticking his pride and joy into a hornet's nest and we want him to, because we know he'll have a blast and we'll do the same just watching. She isn't just a hottie, she has a wild spirit we'd all want to get into.


And Virgina Madsen (“The Rainmaker”) plays the kind of angel from above here on Earth, walking as a mortal that Miles seems to have been praying for. And when she's on screen, we all feel that Miles may be finally saved. And is there a chance someone like her will rush down at save us when we really need it?


The film owes a lot to the works of Albert Brooks of Woody Allen, where the most effective comedy and drama comes the ordinary plight of the human condition. It's the kind of movie where you keep thinking, "Yeah, this is life. This is so exactly true to life... right down to every last detail."


Co-writer-director Alexander Payne ("Election" and "About Schmidt") along with co-writer Rex Pickett have fashioned their screenplay in a natural true-to-life way all about the fascination of human nature. The ways of ordinary life--laughter, anger, frustration and brain candy--all translate to a cathartic experience for it's little characters as well as it' audience. Composer Rolfe Kent gives "Sideways" a light, loose jazzy score. Sometimes rocking. Not unlike the works of Ryan Shore. And Payne not only directs beautifully and passionately, but manages to get the right feel in every frame. We even identify with his slapstick scenes.


Like most of the population who saw "Sideways," I was relieved to see that the screenplay managed to walk off with nearly every honor for writing there was: The Oscar, the British Academy Award, the Golden Globe, the Independent Spirit Award, the New York Film Critic Circle Award. And it's cast got it's props as well. Speaking as someone who saw this movie as well as others that came out for '04, yeah.


One of those rare and precious years where the Academy actually got it right.


NOTE: This review is dedicated in loving memory to my grandfather, Arthur Benzie. He had a lot of Miles in him. A schoolteacher with a passion for the written word--especially the well-written word. Life was harder than for him than most and he always seemed frustrated that society was doing it's best to become intellectually sterile and eager to turn back mankind's long evolutionary process as quickly as possible.


It all got to him in a big way. Like Miles, he had a deep passion, an insight. For the highbrow and the savory. The man always appreciated a good drink.


And needed it more than he really should have.


--To "Sideways," Dane Youssef


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A GLORIOUS VINTAGE. MAY IT AGE WELL

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 05:12 (A review of Sideways (Widescreen Edition))

by Dane Youssef


“Sideways” is one of those movies that seems to be made entirely for the scholarly and intellectual. The artsy, deep, hip and high-brow. Films about those people going through a turning point in their lives. Mid-life crisis’s and the like. And ones like this in paticular always seem to reap critical praise, a crowd of feverent fans and prestigious award nominations.


"Sideways" has one of those cool quirky titles that sounds really hip and grabs your attention. You know, it'll be an edgy movie. Like "Entourage," "Purgatory," "Angel Eyes" and the like. Something about "Sideways" says it's going to be different. Smarter. Sharper. In a word, better.


But unlike the title for the Johnny Depp-Winona Ryder vehicle "Finding Neverland," this one doesn't pretty much reveal the whole movie in with it's title. "Sideways" is about something--more than just moving in a different direction.


"Sideways" uses wine and wine country as a backdrop, yes, but the movie is about more than just the symbolism of wine and it's drinkers. It's essentially about people who are connected and realize how hard, brief and fragile life itself is and pursue happiness by any means necessary. And they're so true and worthy of it, we want them to find it and thus, assure we will find it ourselves.


It has the mixed feeling of life.


It’s stars, Miles Richmond and Jack Lopate have been buddy-buddy since their college dorm years. And have always been (and will be) total polar opposites. Miles is just a sad-sack neurotic nebbish with a bundle of neuroses that seem unwilling to disappear no matter how much therapy or medication he can get his hands on. His book won't get sold, his ex-wife is remarried (not that Miles was happy with her), he seems to be closer to death than life and he hasn't made an iota of the impact he wanted to.


Jack’s a less-than-successful actor who's most respected credit was a short-lived role on a soap opera years ago. Now his more recent stuff is the voice-over who mumbles the warning for the side effects from non-prescription meds near the end of the commercial. Jack is living an ideal life otherwise and Miles has seen better days. In fact, he's borderline suicidal--taking plenty of meds and alcohol himself, usually all at once. Jack is about to get married. He wants to go out to local wine country and bring Miles with him, and hopefully out of his funk.


Miles thinks and feels too much. He's been borderline suicidal for a while now and it's only getting worse. He was unhappy during his marriage which led to him giving his wife the perfect reason to end.


Jack is a self-satisfied animal who enjoys giving in to his baser animal instincts. Jack doesn't give so much as a damn about wine that's "just right." He only wants a drink. And the movie illustrates how that's exactly who he is. A total tomcat who enjoys being "on the edge" and flirting with danger, he sort of enjoys toeing the line. The most outrageous thing about Jack is he often gets off lighter than he should. We all root for Miles and idolize Jack.


Maybe a trip out to wine country is just what Miles needs. We all know some big things are about to happen over the course of this one week.


One of Miles' true passions that does bring him happiness in wine. The right wine. And with great wine, you have to know what you're talking about. You treat it as an art, as yourself. It's not like any other drug. It becomes a way of like, not only as art and a way of life, but as a way of who you are.


Paul Giamatti is simply an actor who never ceases to amaze me. From his breakthrough role as the anal-retentive watchdog station manager in "Private Parts" (he was one of the bigger surprises in that movie. The fact that he was passed over for an Oscar nod for this one (as well as "American Splendor" and "Cinderella Man") borderlines on criminal. On felony.


Thomas Hayden Church, who was pretty much just vaguely remembered for his stock idiot character Lowell, the mechanic on the one of the world's most generic sit-com, "Wings" simply rivets here. He’s eons ahead of Lowell and “Wings.”


As Jack, he has the charm of a stud who's about to peak, but doesn't realize and doesn't care. A serial philanderer, he is literally willing to cheat on his fiancée without second thought or guilt right before the wedding. He has a womanizer charm that doesn't seem lecherous or arrogant. We don't mind him cheating. In fact, we encourage it. Let's see where his libido might lead him. To pleasure, now, yes. But we all know it'll lead him into a hornet's nest eventually. And we're anxious to see how.


When the arrive at their destination, two women come into the picture. A waitress, Maya (Virgina Madsen) and a hostess, (Sandra Oh) come into the picture. We know they’re the ones who are going to put everything into play.


Sandra Oh, writer-director Payne's then-wife, moves us in a big way as one of the wine hostess who falls for Jack and his animal way. They wind up having a fast relationship and one of the most surprising moments comes when Miles realizes how fast their relationship is going. We know Jack is sticking his pride and joy into a hornet's nest and we want him to, because we know he'll have a blast and we'll do the same just watching. She isn't just a hottie, she has a wild spirit we'd all want to get into.


And Virgina Madsen (“The Rainmaker”) plays the kind of angel from above here on Earth, walking as a mortal that Miles seems to have been praying for. And when she's on screen, we all feel that Miles may be finally saved. And is there a chance someone like her will rush down at save us when we really need it?


The film owes a lot to the works of Albert Brooks of Woody Allen, where the most effective comedy and drama comes the ordinary plight of the human condition. It's the kind of movie where you keep thinking, "Yeah, this is life. This is so exactly true to life... right down to every last detail."


Co-writer-director Alexander Payne ("Election" and "About Schmidt") along with co-writer Rex Pickett have fashioned their screenplay in a natural true-to-life way all about the fascination of human nature. The ways of ordinary life--laughter, anger, frustration and brain candy--all translate to a cathartic experience for it's little characters as well as it' audience. Composer Rolfe Kent gives "Sideways" a light, loose jazzy score. Sometimes rocking. Not unlike the works of Ryan Shore. And Payne not only directs beautifully and passionately, but manages to get the right feel in every frame. We even identify with his slapstick scenes.


Like most of the population who saw "Sideways," I was relieved to see that the screenplay managed to walk off with nearly every honor for writing there was: The Oscar, the British Academy Award, the Golden Globe, the Independent Spirit Award, the New York Film Critic Circle Award. And it's cast got it's props as well. Speaking as someone who saw this movie as well as others that came out for '04, yeah.


One of those rare and precious years where the Academy actually got it right.


NOTE: This review is dedicated in loving memory to my grandfather, Arthur Benzie. He had a lot of Miles in him. A schoolteacher with a passion for the written word--especially the well-written word. Life was harder than for him than most and he always seemed frustrated that society was doing it's best to become intellectually sterile and eager to turn back mankind's long evolutionary process as quickly as possible.


It all got to him in a big way. Like Miles, he had a deep passion, an insight. For the highbrow and the savory. The man always appreciated a good drink.


And needed it more than he really should have.


--To "Sideways," Dane Youssef


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"FRANK WHALEY ATTEMPTS THERAPY ON-SCREEN"

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 05:09 (A review of Joe the King)

by Dane Youssef


Frank Whaley's "Joe the king" has been called by the filmmaker himself "semi-autobiographical." And such a story about so much pain and misery just makes to almost want to see it just to see how thie guy got where he is today.

It so damn downbeat, you have to ask yourself, "How does all this turn out? This poor little guy... Is there a happy ending?"

Like a lot of actor-helmed vehicles, this one is loaded with big name walk-ons. They work, but at the same time, they disapoint. None of the supporting/bit characters are on the screen enough to make enough of an impact.

"Pleasant View Ave." is chock-full of trite and truths to life--the lead that seems to be born into the hard-luck life, the abusive, alcoholic bastard father, the weak-willed, weak-spirited, whimpering mother who doesn't care if her husband pounds on her kids as long as he doesn't pound on her, the guidance counselor who's all thumbs--aren't they all? Not just a cliche' in movies, but what guidance counselor has ever been worth in damn in life? Was yours?

There is a moment where it is "Careers Day" in an elementry class where it is revealed that Joe's dad is the janitor. He is ridiculed an lashes out (very mildly) at an obnoxious litle teacher's pet and the Dickensian teacher drags Joe and spanks him in front of the entire class. The knife is further pushed and twisted when she makes the whole thing personal by muttering angrily so he can hear, "Just like your father..."

Whaley is clearly dealing with old wounds and knows how to use them so they feel fresh and make you cringe (or worse, relate).

The movie is full of downbeat moments and times where life shows it's ugly face. It seems as if God is very skillfully finding ways to torture Joe... and then skewering it further in smaller ways. In a moment of desperation, Joe attempts to do what his parents can't seem to... save the day.

Joe is not only starving, he descends into petty theft. Then takes it even further. He attempts to dodge his father's outbursts and reach out to his brother, who is trying to eke his way into the "in-crowd" and doesn't want Joe's jinx streak to rub off on him, even to the point of at one point getting out of bed and going to go sleep the closet to get away from his brother's sad vibes.

But "Pleasant View Ave." is not just one long crying jag. There is humor, sweetness and tenderness. People may differ about the nature of the ending, but in the strangest, saddest way, it offers some hope.

The children swear in the tradition of "Stand By Me," the child-abuse or disregard in the tradition of "Radio Flyer" and the atmosphere is reminsent of many other films about working-class life. Unlike "That '70's Show" or "Detroit Rock City" or "Dick," this movie doesn't feel like it belongs solely in the era.

It takes place in the 1970's to be sure, but a story like this feels timeless.

Lead actor/title character Noah Fleiss gives on the the best performances he's probably ever given, although how many movies has he really made? And how many of them really have allowed him to shine? This is definately the one.

Val Kilmer gives a just plain awesome turn as Bob, Joe's stinking, deadbeat drunk of a dad who's one of the biggest problems in Joe's life. He owes money to more than half the town. He dodges his creditors like bullets, drinks himself into a pathetic stupor and lashes out monstrously at his family.

Kilmer, known for playing dazzling roles and pretty-boy parts, puts on a great deal of weight and shows nastier edges that he has since "The Doors."

Since writer/director Whaley and Kilmer first worked together in that film, Whaley obviously saw how powerfully Kilmer could play a violent sadist, always under the influence of drugs. Kilmer has had trouble getting working because he's so damn dificult to work with, so the two were clearly doing each other favors. Another pal of Whaley's, Ethan Hawke plays a friendly, but utterly useless guidance counselor who hopes to get Joe out of his slump at school. And because it's Joe, he makes things a lot worse.

Karen Young is adequate in a brief supporting part as Joe's mother. And hispanic wunderkind John Leguizamo, a natural comedic talent, takes a more dramatic turn here as a flamboyant busboy in an extended cameo at the local rathole diner where Joe is working illegally. When the s--t hits the fan and Joe is at the center of it, it doesn't really come as a surprise that he's the only one who knew all along.

Whaley seems to capture the flavor for this kind of working class life and he seems to bring out the best in child actors, as well as his more distinguished adult friends and peers. He also sends us back to the era without hitting us hard with period music on the soundtrack from the day.

I myself was kind of surprised that this screenplay won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (along with Audrey Well's "Guinevere"). The Open Palm nomination for the film itself, that, I can see. The dialouge is altogether realistic, without being nessicarily sharp or too memorable. And the characters are believable without being too fresh.

Writer/director Whaley does an effective job of capturing the atmosphere of this Upstate New York working-class life and bring out the best in child actors and his big-name celebrity walk-throughs.

Whaley has said that much of the story is inspired by the childhood of himself and his older brother, Robert Whaley, who is featured on the soundtrack and has a bit part.

Good ol' Frank himself also has a directors cameo walk-on as one of many who the deadbeat Bob owes money to. He makes a personal house call, and he seems madder than the others Bob owes money to. He acts as a professional collector--the leg-breaking kind. He seems ready to kill Bob and after it's over, the sins of the father are, once again, visited on the son.

So this is the Whaley E! True Hollywood story. More or less.

There is a painful sadness that runs all throughout "Joe The King," and when you look at Frank Whaley, the roles he's taking on and heard him just talk as himself, you kind of see there's something here that Whaley has in him which he brings to his roles.

Whaley deserves extra kudos for getting as far as he did after being dealt such a bad hand. A backhand, even. What of Joe? What of his friends, family, enemies, acquaintences? If you drink in this one, you can't help but wonder...

"Joe the King" doesn't break any new ground whatsoever. But this is a slice-of-life film, and while technology, trends, art, ideas and ideals are constantly changing, some things remain trite and true no matter what era or part of the universe you're living in. Whaley chooses some appropriate music for his movie and some nice visuals.

"Joe the King" is kind of an acquired taste, like many coming-of-age stories. It's more of a confessional than anything else. If you've lived a life somewhat like this, or in this part of the world or in this enviorment remotely, you'll understand...


--Long Love The King, Dane Youssef


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FRANK WHALEY ATTEMPTS THERAPY ON-SCREEN

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 05:07 (A review of Joe, The King)

by Dane Youssef


Frank Whaley's "Joe the King" has been called by the filmmaker himself "semi-autobiographical." And such a story about so much pain and misery just makes to almost want to see it just to see how thie guy got where he is today.

It so damn downbeat, you have to ask yourself, "How does all this turn out? This poor little guy... Is there a happy ending?"

Like a lot of actor-helmed vehicles, this one is loaded with big name walk-ons. They work, but at the same time, they disapoint. None of the supporting/bit characters are on the screen enough to make enough of an impact.

"Pleasant View Ave." is chock-full of trite and truths to life--the lead that seems to be born into the hard-luck life, the abusive, alcoholic S.O.B. father, the weak-willed, weak-spirited, whimpering mother who doesn't care if her husband pounds on her kids as long as he doesn't pound on her, the guidance counselor who's all thumbs--aren't they all? Not just a cliche' in movies, but what guidance counselor has ever been worth in damn in life? Was yours?

There is a moment where it is "Careers Day" in an elementry class where it is revealed that Joe's dad is the janitor. He is ridiculed an lashes out (very mildly) at an obnoxious litle teacher's pet and the Dickensian teacher drags Joe and spanks him in front of the entire class. The knife is further pushed and twisted when she makes the whole thing personal by muttering angrily so he can hear, "Just like your father..."

Whaley is clearly dealing with old wounds and knows how to use them so they feel fresh and make you cringe (or worse, relate).

The movie is full of downbeat moments and times where life shows it's ugly face. It seems as if God is very skillfully finding ways to torture Joe... and then skewering it further in smaller ways. In a moment of desperation, Joe attempts to do what his parents can't seem to... save the day.

Joe is not only starving, he descends into petty theft. Then takes it even further. He attempts to dodge his father's outbursts and reach out to his brother, who is trying to eke his way into the "in-crowd" and doesn't want Joe's jinx streak to rub off on him, even to the point of at one point getting out of bed and going to go sleep the closet to get away from his brother's sad vibes.

But "Pleasant View Ave." is not just one long crying jag. There is humor, sweetness and tenderness. People may differ about the nature of the ending, but in the strangest, saddest way, it offers some hope.

The children swear in the tradition of "Stand By Me," the child-abuse or disregard in the tradition of "Radio Flyer" and the atmosphere is reminsent of many other films about working-class life. Unlike "That '70's Show" or "Detroit Rock City" or "Dick," this movie doesn't feel like it belongs solely in the era.

It takes place in the 1970's to be sure, but a story like this feels timeless.

Lead actor/title character Noah Fleiss gives on the the best performances he's probably ever given, although how many movies has he really made? And how many of them really have allowed him to shine? This is definately the one.

Val Kilmer gives a just plain awesome turn as Bob, Joe's stinking, deadbeat drunk of a dad who's one of the biggest problems in Joe's life. He owes money to more than half the town. He dodges his creditors like bullets, drinks himself into a pathetic stupor and lashes out monstrously at his family.

Kilmer, known for playing dazzling roles and pretty-boy parts, puts on a great deal of weight and shows nastier edges that he has since "The Doors."

Since writer/director Whaley and Kilmer first worked together in that film, Whaley obviously saw how powerfully Kilmer could play a violent sadist, always under the influence of drugs. Kilmer has had trouble getting working because he's so damn dificult to work with, so the two were clearly doing each other favors. Another pal of Whaley's, Ethan Hawke plays a friendly, but utterly useless guidance counselor who hopes to get Joe out of his slump at school. And because it's Joe, he makes things a lot worse.

Karen Young is adequate in a brief supporting part as Joe's mother. And hispanic wunderkind John Leguizamo, a natural comedic talent, takes a more dramatic turn here as a flamboyant busboy in an extended cameo at the local rathole diner where Joe is working illegally. When the s--t hits the fan and Joe is at the center of it, it doesn't really come as a surprise that he's the only one who knew all along.

Whaley seems to capture the flavor for this kind of working class life and he seems to bring out the best in child actors, as well as his more distinguished adult friends and peers. He also sends us back to the era without hitting us hard with period music on the soundtrack from the day.

I myself was kind of surprised that this screenplay won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (along with Audrey Well's "Guinevere"). The Open Palm nomination for the film itself, that, I can see. The dialouge is altogether realistic, without being nessicarily sharp or too memorable. And the characters are believable without being too fresh.

Writer/director Whaley does an effective job of capturing the atmosphere of this Upstate New York working-class life and bring out the best in child actors and his big-name celebrity walk-throughs.

Whaley has said that much of the story is inspired by the childhood of himself and his older brother, Robert Whaley, who is featured on the soundtrack and has a bit part.

Good ol' Frank himself also has a directors cameo walk-on as one of many who the deadbeat Bob owes money to. He makes a personal house call, and he seems madder than the others Bob owes money to. He acts as a professional collector--the leg-breaking kind. He seems ready to kill Bob and after it's over, the sins of the father are, once again, visited on the son.

So this is the Whaley E! True Hollywood story. More or less.

There is a painful sadness that runs all throughout "Joe The King," and when you look at Frank Whaley, the roles he's taking on and heard him just talk as himself, you kind of see there's something here that Whaley has in him which he brings to his roles.

Whaley deserves extra kudos for getting as far as he did after being dealt such a bad hand. A backhand, even. What of Joe? What of his friends, family, enemies, acquaintences? If you drink in this one, you can't help but wonder...

"Joe the King" doesn't break any new ground whatsoever. But this is a slice-of-life film, and while technology, trends, art, ideas and ideals are constantly changing, some things remain trite and true no matter what era or part of the universe you're living in. Whaley chooses some appropriate music for his movie and some nice visuals.

"Joe the King" is kind of an acquired taste, like many coming-of-age stories. It's more of a confessional than anything else. If you've lived a life somewhat like this, or in this part of the world or in this enviorment remotely, you'll understand...


by Dane Youssef


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FULL OF TIMELESS ADOLESCENT MEMORIES

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 05:04 (A review of Detroit Rock City)

by Dane Youssef


Now here is a film that is designed to preach to the choir. Well, not so much preach as praise. "Detroit Rock City" is a movie that plays out like a throwback to those wonderful days when... you and your friends lived on a steady diet of junk food, teenage smarmy... and great music.

You and your buds had your own band (in the garage, the basement or the backyard) and you had a dream that someday, you'd be up there rocking and rolling for a living.. just like the very bands you worshiped religiously. Some of you made it come true. Made it to that side. Got to live out your dream and was paid the same worship you gave your elders. Most of the others just grew up, and... well...

That's a lot of what "Detroit Rock City" is about. Thankfully, it's really not one of those "topical" movies that just showcase a flavor-of-the-month band in a starring role like "Spice World," "Cool As Ice" or "Crossroads." Films like those feel so passé' and ancient in a week or so. When people go to those movies, afterwords, they just ask themselves, "What was I thinking? God, so dorky! So lame! So embarrassing! Eyecch!"

He's just like me... they're just like my buds. They sound and think just like us... Jeez... some things are timeless.

The cast is first-rate. The look and sound is so flawless, it's... And the music is all there. Director Adam Rifkin gives this an MTV-music video style of cinematography. And Carl V. Dupre' writes like he's about the age of the boys himself. It's almost like one of our heroes wrote it. Well, in a way, maybe they did.

"Write what you know. Tell your own personal story." --- Old Writing rule

The screenplay is the very definition of originality: entirely composed of stolen elements from countless other movies--"American Graffitti," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "That '70's Show," "Clerks," "The Full Monty," "Footloose," "Dazed and Confused" and probably a lot of others. And the character of Trip is obviously lifted and from the Kevin Smith movies.

Of course, let's face it---there's nothing new under the sun and most filmmakers (at least 9 out of 10, anyway) are making movies just like the ones they grew up with. The movies that made them not only want to be filmmakers, but even before that---made them film lovers.

The scene-stealer's in the film are Sam Huntington as the sweet-natured, weak-willed, yet most lovable of the whole bunch, Jereimiah "Jam" Bruce and Linda Shaye as his God-fearing, bible-thumping, holier-than-all mother.

The usually reliable Edward Furlong isn't nearly as good, and his role is much more on-par with that of the forgettable "Pecker," rather than the stand-out performance "T2." James DeBello is a lot of fun as Trip, but not quite Jay from the Kevin Smith films (which kinda feels like that's what they were going for). And newcomer Giuseppe Andrews unfortunately gives the weakest performance as the pessimistic worry wort Lex (although some of his ad-libs from the original script are nice).

Porno legend Ron Jeremy himself appears here is an amusing cameo as the disco club MC. And Former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed has a thin and underdone role as the older woman "Mrs. Robinson" who picks Hawk up at a bar. The type of role she plays in the movie is nothing new for her (and certainly not very interesting), but the original scene (which was cut for length) had a lot more to it, and it really shouldn't have been trimmed out.

The boys (and the cast) feels realistic and genuine. Like the cast of "That '70's Show," they're not just wearing the vintage clothes and hairstyles. They genuinely seem to embody the era. The actors, the clothes, the cars, the music, the lingo, the spirit... this is a movie than genuinely feels authentic.

Although, it's not quite flawless, as precious few movies are (People aren't perfect, life isn't perfect. So why would movies be?) The direction is a bit too much a lot of the time. A little goes a long way, and it seems like Rifkin is indulging himself with fancy camera tricks. And it borderlines on motion-sickness and migraine-inducing at times.

And Dupre's screenplay has a lot of trite', warmed-over and and pedestrian comic material, and kind-of-a cobbled together plot that never feels like it's coming from it's source. The characters are great, and so are most of their lines, as well as some of their moments...

There's a great bit where Trip conjures up a hair-brained (at best) scheme to snake a KISS ticket and gets himself in the worst possible scenario. It's fun watching him try to dig his way out.

This album deserves to go quadruple-platinum and sell more copies than anything Michael Jackson or the Beatles ever did. It's a must-have for anyone who remembers the era fondly or just loves the music. It's retro-cool. The only real problem, as I see it, which kept "DRC" from being a classic in the tradition of "American Graffiti" or "Rock 'N' Roll High School" is that... well, it's never really sends up the decade or that age very much. Nor does it to that for any of it's targets (cruel teachers/parents, disco-fans, over-zealous, Bible-thumping Christians, and any other authority figure).

It really could have used some of that period-lacerating satire that "The Simpsons" or "That '70's Show" does so well. But it's more of a love letter to a time of innocence and wonder. Which isn't all bad, but some more name dropping (and name calling towards that long lost decade) would have made all the difference for the better in the world.

Isn't that always the way? Well, as it should be.


by Dane Youssef


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FULL OF TIMELESS ADOLESCENT MEMORIES

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:59 (A review of Detroit Rock City (New Line Platinum Series))

by Dane Youssef


Now here is a film that is designed to preach to the choir. Well, not so much preach as praise. "Detroit Rock City" is a movie that plays out like a throwback to those wonderful days when... you and your friends lived on a steady diet of junk food, teenage smarmy... and great music.

You and your buds had your own band (in the garage, the basement or the backyard) and you had a dream that someday, you'd be up there rocking and rolling for a living.. just like the very bands you worshiped religiously. Some of you made it come true. Made it to that side. Got to live out your dream and was paid the same worship you gave your elders. Most of the others just grew up, and... well...

That's a lot of what "Detroit Rock City" is about. Thankfully, it's really not one of those "topical" movies that just showcase a flavor-of-the-month band in a starring role like "Spice World," "Cool As Ice" or "Crossroads." Films like those feel so passé' and ancient in a week or so. When people go to those movies, afterwords, they just ask themselves, "What was I thinking? God, so dorky! So lame! So embarrassing! Eyecch!"

He's just like me... they're just like my buds. They sound and think just like us... Jeez... some things are timeless.

The cast is first-rate. The look and sound is so flawless, it's... And the music is all there. Director Adam Rifkin gives this an MTV-music video style of cinematography. And Carl V. Dupre' writes like he's about the age of the boys himself. It's almost like one of our heroes wrote it. Well, in a way, maybe they did.

"Write what you know. Tell your own personal story." --- Old Writing rule

The screenplay is the very definition of originality: entirely composed of stolen elements from countless other movies--"American Graffitti," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "That '70's Show," "Clerks," "The Full Monty," "Footloose," "Dazed and Confused" and probably a lot of others. And the character of Trip is obviously lifted and from the Kevin Smith movies.

Of course, let's face it---there's nothing new under the sun and most filmmakers (at least 9 out of 10, anyway) are making movies just like the ones they grew up with. The movies that made them not only want to be filmmakers, but even before that---made them film lovers.

The scene-stealer's in the film are Sam Huntington as the sweet-natured, weak-willed, yet most lovable of the whole bunch, Jereimiah "Jam" Bruce and Linda Shaye as his God-fearing, bible-thumping, holier-than-all mother.

The usually reliable Edward Furlong isn't nearly as good, and his role is much more on-par with that of the forgettable "Pecker," rather than the stand-out performance "T2." James DeBello is a lot of fun as Trip, but not quite Jay from the Kevin Smith films (which kinda feels like that's what they were going for). And newcomer Giuseppe Andrews unfortunately gives the weakest performance as the pessimistic worry wort Lex (although some of his ad-libs from the original script are nice).

Porno legend Ron Jeremy himself appears here is an amusing cameo as the disco club MC. And Former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed has a thin and underdone role as the older woman "Mrs. Robinson" who picks Hawk up at a bar. The type of role she plays in the movie is nothing new for her (and certainly not very interesting), but the original scene (which was cut for length) had a lot more to it, and it really shouldn't have been trimmed out.

The boys (and the cast) feels realistic and genuine. Like the cast of "That '70's Show," they're not just wearing the vintage clothes and hairstyles. They genuinely seem to embody the era. The actors, the clothes, the cars, the music, the lingo, the spirit... this is a movie than genuinely feels authentic.

Although, it's not quite flawless, as precious few movies are (People aren't perfect, life isn't perfect. So why would movies be?) The direction is a bit too much a lot of the time. A little goes a long way, and it seems like Rifkin is indulging himself with fancy camera tricks. And it borderlines on motion-sickness and migraine-inducing at times.

And Dupre's screenplay has a lot of trite', warmed-over and and pedestrian comic material, and kind-of-a cobbled together plot that never feels like it's coming from it's source. The characters are great, and so are most of their lines, as well as some of their moments...

There's a great bit where Trip conjures up a hair-brained (at best) scheme to snake a KISS ticket and gets himself in the worst possible scenario. It's fun watching him try to dig his way out.

This album deserves to go quadruple-platinum and sell more copies than anything Michael Jackson or the Beatles ever did. It's a must-have for anyone who remembers the era fondly or just loves the music. It's retro-cool. The only real problem, as I see it, which kept "DRC" from being a classic in the tradition of "American Graffiti" or "Rock 'N' Roll High School" is that... well, it's never really sends up the decade or that age very much. Nor does it to that for any of it's targets (cruel teachers/parents, disco-fans, over-zealous, Bible-thumping Christians, and any other authority figure).

It really could have used some of that period-lacerating satire that "The Simpsons" or "That '70's Show" does so well. But it's more of a love letter to a time of innocence and wonder. Which isn't all bad, but some more name dropping (and name calling towards that long lost decade) would have made all the difference for the better in the world.

Isn't that always the way? Well, as it should be.


by Dane Youssef


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NIL BY MOUTH... SOMETHING TO SAY...

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:53 (A review of Nil by Mouth (1997))

by Dane Youssef


"Nil By Mouth" is the very first film written and directed by the great Gary Oldman, a seasoned veteran actor who has still yet to give a bad performance. Oldman grew up in the poorest ghetto of South London, where this film takes place.


And while this movie has been rumored and believed to be a semi-autobiography of Oldman's childhood and family (who wouldn't watch this movie and believe so?), Oldman himself has said that this is not him or his family.


Hey, I believe him. Although he grew up in this environment, he was not directly in the line of fire, if you follow me.

The film sets it's sights on a South London family that defines the term "domestic unrest." A woman, her husband, daughter, brother, their mother and grandmother. As well as the people outside their family who they are connected to.

"Nil By Mouth" represents many of the other families in South London, not Oldman's. The colorful cockney ways of the Great Britain. But more than anything, it's problem of casual brutal urban violence.


We've seen many abusive types in movies--usually one-dimensional and sanitized. But "Nil By Mouth" refuses to white-wash. The fact that this is not a big-budget Hollywood star-vehicle allows this to be a real film-going experience.


This movie wishes to illuminate. Not entertain or delude. This is "slice-of-life," not escapist fantasy. I've told members of my family about it and they've given very mixed reactions. My father and sister disliked the dime-store production values and no-name actors. They asked me why I would rent such a bitter and hateful film. My mother says she has spent her life shunning this type of humanity and lives as if it does not really exist.


"The Way Of The Ostrich."


This is one of those frightening on-screen performances in recent memory. Ray Winstone deserves high praise and immortalization for his acting here in the role of Ray. He seems to be one of those unsavory, brutal characters in movies that stay with us. Like Hannibal Lecter in "Silence Of The Lambs," Like Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet," Like Norman Bates in "Psycho," this performance haunts us like a ghost. The scorned ghost of a murderer...


There is a cringing moment in which Ray answers his wife's question as to why: "I do it because I love you." We cringe because his answer feels more familiar and common than it should.


Ray is not merely an abusive drunk; he is a horrible b**tard, always prone to violent outbursts. When his wife hangs out with a casual male acquaintance, he suspects that she may be having an affair and damn near kills her.


Ray Winstone delivers a powerhouse performance in the role of Ray, a working-class man who loves his family, especially his daughter. But this man has demons. Demons that are so numerous and deep, they cannot be repressed. He can be a likeable, laid-back guy, like everyone else.


But we see that without serious provocation, he instantly becomes raving and homicidal. A side that most movies (and people) tend to shy away from. He will make your blood run cold and near the end, make you cry.


Kathy Burke, best known for her role on "Absolutely Fabulous" takes an enthralling dramatic turns as Valerie, Ray's wife who's sole purpose seems to be to keep the family strung together while putting up with her husband's monstrous outbursts, almost sadomasochistic ally. This is an unforgettable performance.


Whenever there's someone like Ray, there's almost always someone like Mark. Mark is sort of a sidekick or cheerleader for Ray and his violently domestic antics. He seems to be something of a drama queen, hitching his trailer up to the pain in Ray's life. It perhaps gives him an excuse to explode and go ape-s**t the way he does. It's mentioned at one point that Mark himself was worked over by Ray's father---maybe this explains the tie that bond these two.


Jamie Forman is effective as Ray's little right-hand man. Apparently, Forman himself is the son of a real-life legendary gangster in London.


There are scenes where he shows the true symptoms of a violent criminal. I wonder... is the caustic streak of the father burning through the son? Jamie, unlike his old man has apparently chosen a more legal profession. Kudos for him.


Is he just a great actor? Jamie may actually have some demons himself.


And while Ray may be the black sheep of this family, all that really means is he's the blackest of the black. No one here is walking on water. Valerie smokes and drinks despite knowing full-well she's pregnant. No one around her really speaks up in protest about her indirect poisoning of her child.


Valerie's little brother, Billy is a severe heroin addict. Despite the fact that he's occasionally allowed to sleep over at Ray and Valerie's, Ray even feeds him and gives him a banknote here and there, Billy steals a score of dope from their flat.


You can only imagine how Ray takes to this. Billy is scorned, but although he is cast out, he still stays with his side of the family and even retaliates against Ray, stealing an irreplaceable family heirloom.


After this, Billy is not really in trouble.


He is all but dead.


Billy is a severe junkie and spends a lot of time with his friends. And since Billy is a junkie, there's only one kind of clique of friends he can afford: more junkies.


One of his pals, Danny is one of the movie's strangest characters. Danny is literally covered from head-to-toe with tattoos and body-piercing. He defines the term "body art." His whole body is like a big collage explosion.


But he's not the one-dimensional freak/weirdo/thug we'd expect just by getting a quick glance at him. He shows compassion and even sweetness at time like all the other characters, even Ray.


Nearly everyone drinks and smokes. Nearly everyone says "f**k" and "c**t" on a far more-than-regular basis. And their endless stream of profanity and brutal violent mistreatment of one another is like a sad testimony to how tragically pathetic they are.


You can almost hear the violins playing on the soundtrack to each of their lives. They are the victims of their life, their family, their environment, each other and themselves.


Oldman films using the now-traditional and all-too-common (but at the time, novel) hand-held camera technique and 16mm film, thus giving "Nil By Mouth" not the look of a polished, slick and lavish film, but raw, unkempt footage of very real life.


The movie looks like a true documentary, the herky-jerky camerawork makes it look as if we're seeing everything from our own P.O.V. As if we're "there, in the heat of the moment."


And we can't help but think about the little five-year old daughter and the unborn second child of Ray and Val, how their parents impact will undoubtedly shape them. It is an endless, vicious cycle of evil that shows no signs of breaking. And it is running rampantly throughout the world.


This is just one of those movies that... after it's over, you want to do something... something to make things better.


SPECIAL NOTE: The title comes stems from a medical instruction in the hospital not to give a patient food or drink as they're about to go into surgery. The connection in that this movie makes with that title is poetically heart-breaking, like the rest of the film.


--With Open Arms and An Open Mouth, Dane Youssef




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NIL BY MOUTH... SOMETHING TO SAY...

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:52 (A review of Nil By Mouth )

by Dane Youssef


"Nil By Mouth" is the very first film written and directed by the great Gary Oldman, a seasoned veteran actor who has still yet to give a bad performance. Oldman grew up in the poorest ghetto of South London, where this film takes place.


And while this movie has been rumored and believed to be a semi-autobiography of Oldman's childhood and family (who wouldn't watch this movie and believe so?), Oldman himself has said that this is not him or his family.


Hey, I believe him. Although he grew up in this environment, he was not directly in the line of fire, if you follow me.


The film sets it's sights on a South London family that defines the term "domestic unrest." A woman, her husband, daughter, brother, their mother and grandmother. As well as the people outside their family who they are connected to.


"Nil By Mouth" represents many of the other families in South London, not Oldman's. The colorful cockney ways of the Great Britain. But more than anything, it's problem of casual brutal urban violence.


We've seen many abusive types in movies--usually one-dimensional and sanitized. But "Nil By Mouth" refuses to white-wash. The fact that this is not a big-budget Hollywood star-vehicle allows this to be a real film-going experience.


This movie wishes to illuminate. Not entertain or delude. This is "slice-of-life," not escapist fantasy. I've told members of my family about it and they've given very mixed reactions. My father and sister disliked the dime-store production values and no-name actors. They asked me why I would rent such a bitter and hateful film. My mother says she has spent her life shunning this type of humanity and lives as if it does not really exist.


"The Way Of The Ostrich."


This is one of those frightening on-screen performances in recent memory. Ray Winstone deserves high praise and immortalization for his acting here in the role of Ray. He seems to be one of those unsavory, brutal characters in movies that stay with us. Like Hannibal Lecter in "Silence Of The Lambs," Like Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet," Like Norman Bates in "Psycho," this performance haunts us like a ghost. The scorned ghost of a murderer...


There is a cringing moment in which Ray answers his wife's question as to why: "I do it because I love you." We cringe because his answer feels more familiar and common than it should.


Ray is not merely an abusive drunk; he is a horrible bastard, always prone to violent outbursts. When his wife hangs out with a casual male acquaintance, he suspects that she may be having an affair and damn near kills her.


Ray Winstone delivers a powerhouse performance in the role of Ray, a working-class man who loves his family, especially his daughter. But this man has demons. Demons that are so numerous and deep, they cannot be repressed. He can be a likeable, laid-back guy, like everyone else.


But we see that without serious provocation, he instantly becomes raving and homicidal. A side that most movies (and people) tend to shy away from. He will make your blood run cold and near the end, make you cry.


Kathy Burke, best known for her role on "Absolutely Fabulous" takes an enthralling dramatic turns as Valerie, Ray's wife who's sole purpose seems to be to keep the family strung together while putting up with her husband's monstrous outbursts, almost sadomasochistic ally. This is an unforgettable performance.


Whenever there's someone like Ray, there's almost always someone like Mark. Mark is sort of a sidekick or cheerleader for Ray and his violently domestic antics. He seems to be something of a drama queen, hitching his trailer up to the pain in Ray's life. It perhaps gives him an excuse to explode and go ape-s**t the way he does. It's mentioned at one point that Mark himself was worked over by Ray's father---maybe this explains the tie that bond these two.


Jamie Forman is effective as Ray's little right-hand man. Apparently, Forman himself is the son of a real-life legendary gangster in London.


There are scenes where he shows the true symptoms of a violent criminal. I wonder... is the caustic streak of the father burning through the son? Jamie, unlike his old man has apparently chosen a more legal profession. Kudos for him.


Is he just a great actor? Jamie may actually have some demons himself.


And while Ray may be the black sheep of this family, all that really means is he's the blackest of the black. No one here is walking on water. Valerie smokes and drinks despite knowing full-well she's pregnant. No one around her really speaks up in protest about her indirect poisoning of her child.


Valerie's little brother, Billy is a severe heroin addict. Despite the fact that he's occasionally allowed to sleep over at Ray and Valerie's, Ray even feeds him and gives him a banknote here and there, Billy steals a score of dope from their flat.


You can only imagine how Ray takes to this. Billy is scorned, but although he is cast out, he still stays with his side of the family and even retaliates against Ray, stealing an irreplaceable family heirloom.


After this, Billy is not really in trouble.


He is all but dead.


Billy is a severe junkie and spends a lot of time with his friends. And since Billy is a junkie, there's only one kind of clique of friends he can afford: more junkies.


One of his pals, Danny is one of the movie's strangest characters. Danny is literally covered from head-to-toe with tattoos and body-piercing. He defines the term "body art." His whole body is like a big collage explosion.

But he's not the one-dimensional freak/weirdo/thug we'd expect just by getting a quick glance at him. He shows compassion and even sweetness at time like all the other characters, even Ray.


Nearly everyone drinks and smokes. Nearly everyone says "f**k" and "c**t" on a far more-than-regular basis. And their endless stream of profanity and brutal violent mistreatment of one another is like a sad testimony to how tragically pathetic they are.

You can almost hear the violins playing on the soundtrack to each of their lives. They are the victims of their life, their family, their environment, each other and themselves.


Oldman films using the now-traditional and all-too-common (but at the time, novel) hand-held camera technique and 16mm film, thus giving "Nil By Mouth" not the look of a polished, slick and lavish film, but raw, unkempt footage of very real life.


The movie looks like a true documentary, the herky-jerky camerawork makes it look as if we're seeing everything from our own P.O.V. As if we're "there, in the heat of the moment."


And we can't help but think about the little five-year old daughter and the unborn second child of Ray and Val, how their parents impact will undoubtedly shape them. It is an endless, vicious cycle of evil that shows no signs of breaking. And it is running rampantly throughout the world.

This is just one of those movies that... after it's over, you want to do something... something to make things better.


LITTLE TRIVIAL NOTES ON "NIL BY MOUTH":


Unless you're somewhere in the European climate or at least Australian, you'd best hit "closed captioning" or "subtitles" if you want to understand so much as a damn line of dialouge. The thick cockney accents are almost indecipherable. They're so thick, you could choke on them. For me, it was almost like hearing morse code. The characters might as well have been speaking Chinese.


SPECIAL NOTE: The title comes stems from a medical instruction in the hospital not to give a patient food or drink as they're about to go into surgery. The connection in that this movie makes with that title is poetically heart-breaking, like the rest of the film.


--With Open Mouths and Open Arms, Dane Youssef


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NIL BY MOUTH... SOMETHING TO SAY...

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 1 September 2009 04:51 (A review of Nil by Mouth)

by Dane Youssef


"Nil By Mouth" is the very first film written and directed by the great Gary Oldman, a seasoned veteran actor who has still yet to give a bad performance. Oldman grew up in the poorest ghetto of South London, where this film takes place.


And while this movie has been rumored and believed to be a semi-autobiography of Oldman's childhood and family (who wouldn't watch this movie and believe so?), Oldman himself has said that this is not him or his family.


Hey, I believe him. Although he grew up in this environment, he was not directly in the line of fire, if you follow me.


The film sets it's sights on a South London family that defines the term "domestic unrest." A woman, her husband, daughter, brother, their mother and grandmother. As well as the people outside their family who they are connected to.


"Nil By Mouth" represents many of the other families in South London, not Oldman's. The colorful cockney ways of the Great Britain. But more than anything, it's problem of casual brutal urban violence.


We've seen many abusive types in movies--usually one-dimensional and sanitized. But "Nil By Mouth" refuses to white-wash. The fact that this is not a big-budget Hollywood star-vehicle allows this to be a real film-going experience.


This movie wishes to illuminate. Not entertain or delude. This is "slice-of-life," not escapist fantasy. I've told members of my family about it and they've given very mixed reactions. My father and sister disliked the dime-store production values and no-name actors. They asked me why I would rent such a bitter and hateful film. My mother says she has spent her life shunning this type of humanity and lives as if it does not really exist: "The Way Of The Ostrich."


This is one of those frightening on-screen performances in recent memory. Ray Winstone deserves high praise and immortalization for his acting here in the role of Ray. He seems to be one of those unsavory, brutal characters in movies that stay with us. Like Hannibal Lecter in "Silence Of The Lambs," Like Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet," Like Norman Bates in "Psycho," this performance haunts us like a ghost. The scorned ghost of a murderer...


There is a cringing moment in which Ray answers his wife's question as to why: "I do it because I love you." We cringe because his answer feels more familiar and common than it should.


Ray is not merely an abusive drunk; he is a horrible bastard, always prone to violent outbursts. When his wife hangs out with a casual male acquaintance, he suspects that she may be having an affair and damn near kills her.


Ray Winstone delivers a powerhouse performance in the role of Ray, a working-class man who loves his family, especially his daughter. But this man has demons. Demons that are so numerous and deep, they cannot be repressed. He can be a likeable, laid-back guy, like everyone else.


But we see that without serious provocation, he instantly becomes raving and homicidal. A side that most movies (and people) tend to shy away from. He will make your blood run cold and near the end, make you cry.


Kathy Burke, best known for her role on "Absolutely Fabulous" takes an enthralling dramatic turns as Valerie, Ray's wife who's sole purpose seems to be to keep the family strung together while putting up with her husband's monstrous outbursts, almost sadomasochistic ally. This is an unforgettable performance.


Whenever there's someone like Ray, there's almost always someone like Mark. Mark is sort of a sidekick or cheerleader for Ray and his violently domestic antics. He seems to be something of a drama queen, hitching his trailer up to the pain in Ray's life. It perhaps gives him an excuse to explode and go ape-shit the way he does. It's mentioned at one point that Mark himself was worked over by Ray's father---maybe this explains the tie that bond these two.


Jamie Forman is effective as Ray's little right-hand man. Apparently, Forman himself is the son of a real-life legendary gangster in London.


There are scenes where he shows the true symptoms of a violent criminal. I wonder... is the caustic streak of the father burning through the son? Jamie, unlike his old man has apparently chosen a more legal profession. Kudos for him.


Is he just a great actor? Jamie may actually have some demons himself.


And while Ray may be the black sheep of this family, all that really means is he's the blackest of the black. No one here is walking on water. Valerie smokes and drinks despite knowing full-well she's pregnant. No one around her really speaks up in protest about her indirect poisoning of her child.


Valerie's little brother, Billy is a severe heroin addict. Despite the fact that he's occasionally allowed to sleep over at Ray and Valerie's, Ray even feeds him and gives him a banknote here and there, Billy steals a score of dope from their flat.


You can only imagine how Ray takes to this. Billy is scorned, but although he is cast out, he still stays with his side of the family and even retaliates against Ray, stealing an irreplaceable family heirloom.


After this, Billy is not really in trouble.


He is all but dead.


Billy is a severe junkie and spends a lot of time with his friends. And since Billy is a junkie, there's only one kind of clique of friends he can afford: more junkies.


One of his pals, Danny is one of the movie's strangest characters. Danny is literally covered from head-to-toe with tattoos and body-piercing. He defines the term "body art." His whole body is like a big collage explosion.


But he's not the one-dimensional freak/weirdo/thug we'd expect just by getting a quick glance at him. He shows compassion and even sweetness at time like all the other characters, even Ray.


Nearly everyone drinks and smokes. Nearly everyone says "fuck" and "cunt" on a far more-than-regular basis. And their endless stream of profanity and brutal violent mistreatment of one another is like a sad testimony to how tragically pathetic they are.


You can almost hear the violins playing on the soundtrack to each of their lives. They are the victims of their life, their family, their environment, each other and themselves.


Oldman films using the now-traditional and all-too-common (but at the time, novel) hand-held camera technique and 16mm film, thus giving "Nil By Mouth" not the look of a polished, slick and lavish film, but raw, unkempt footage of very real life.


The movie looks like a true documentary, the herky-jerky camerawork makes it look as if we're seeing everything from our own P.O.V. As if we're "there, in the heat of the moment."


And we can't help but think about the little five-year old daughter and the unborn second child of Ray and Val, how their parents impact will undoubtedly shape them. It is an endless, vicious cycle of evil that shows no signs of breaking. And it is running rampantly throughout the world.


This is just one of those movies that... after it's over, you want to do something... something to make things better.


LITTLE TRIVIAL NOTES ON "NIL BY MOUTH":

Unless you're somewhere in the European climate or at least Australian, you'd best hit "closed captioning" or "subtitles" if you want to understand so much as a damn line of dialouge. The thick cockney accents are almost indecipherable. They're so thick, you could choke on them. For me, it was almost like hearing morse code. The characters might as well have been speaking Chinese.


SPECIAL NOTE: The title comes stems from a medical instruction in the hospital not to give a patient food or drink as they're about to go into surgery. The connection in that this movie makes with that title is poetically heart-breaking, like the rest of the film.


--With Open Mouth and Arms, Dane Youssef



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