Bio: Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.
Posts by JPRoscoe:
Movie Name: Hacksaw Ridge
Studio: Pandemonium Films
Release Date(s): September 4, 2016 (Venice Film Festival)/November 4, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) doesn’t believe in raising a weapon toward another man after nearly killing his brother in a childhood fight. When war breaks out, Doss decides he can best serve his country by volunteering to be a medic in the army, but Doss is labeled as a conscious objector when he refuses to hold a weapon. Overcoming the military hurdles could be easy but gaining the respect of his fellow officers could be difficult…yet Doss is up for the challenge. When Doss and his troop are ordered to take Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa, Doss is about to prove that true courage doesn’t come from a gun.
Directed by Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge is a biopic war picture based on the 2004 documentary The Conscientious Objector. The film was generally well-regarded by critics and fans and received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Garfield), Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing.
War pictures kind of leave me numb. It is partially the point of war pictures in that it shows how soldiers have to block out emotion and everything they are seeing to keep fighting. Hacksaw Ridge is a war picture for people who can’t block out what they are seeing. A good story comes to the screen, but Hacksaw Ridge faces the problems many modern war movies face.
I have to admire Desmond Doss, but I also have to question his actions. Rather than state up front “I will not carry a weapon due to my religious beliefs”, Doss joins the military and then acts surprised when this causes a problem. Do you need a weapon to be a military hero? No…Doss proves this, and I don’t know that he would have been allowed to join the military if he had stated this up front, but it also seems like a lot of the confusion would have been avoided and/or just prevented if Doss had been upfront about his beliefs. This alone makes good movie fodder in that it creates debate…something I feel that good movies often do.
Garfield also is a winner. I have always like Garfield from his earliest films like Red Riding and Never Let Me Go. I think Amazing Spider-Man kind of sidelined his acting career by being a so-so box office response. He gives a lot of heart to his character. I’ve never been much of a Sam Worthington or a Vince Vaughn fan because I don’t think they have a lot of range, but they do work as military men who have clear beliefs and actions. Due to being an Australian film, Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths makes sense, but it does feel like rather odd casting.
One of Hacksaw Ridge’s problems is Saving Private Ryan. Though I don’t like the story in Saving Private Ryan, it provided the definitive World War II battle front. It had a gritty realism that Hacksaw Ridge just doesn’t seem to have. Hacksaw Ridge does have some moments, but it doesn’t attain Saving Private Ryan’s battle achievement.
Hacksaw Ridge is a better discussion movie than an actual war movie. The first half of the film interested me much more than the battle half. I knew that Doss would prove himself so it seems like a lot more shooting and death instead of morality questions. The ideals of Doss and his faith is admirable, but war is not pretty and like it or not I don’t know that faith can win wars…but it can’t hurt.
Movie Name: Life, Animated
Studio: Motto Pictures
Release Date(s): July 1, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG
When Owen Suskind began to retreat into his own world as a child, his parents learned that Owen was autistic. Unable to reach him through traditional means, his parents discovered that their son could reach out through his love of Disney films. Using the characters and situations in the film to express his emotions, Owen began to come out of his shell…but learning to communicate is only one step in the challenge facing Owen.
Directed by Roger Ross Williams, Life, Animated is a documentary feature based on Ron Suskind’s book Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism. The film was released to critical acclaim and received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
With autism in our family, there is something in the eyes of kids with autism…you can see it, sometimes even in still images. I didn’t really have to read the description of Life, Animated to guess what it was about…I could tell it from the picture on the cover.
Many people with autism have a fixation and Owen Suskind is no different in that sense. What is interesting is how his parents and Owen used that fixation to bring Owen out of the trap his mind was in. The love of Disney allowed him to not only express himself but allowed people like his parents and brother to talk to him. Moments where Owen gets to meet idols like Jonathan Freeman and Gilbert Gottfried (who both voiced characters in Aladdin) show how celebrities have the ability to really help people with challenges because of what they mean to them.
The second part of the movie is about the challenges of having a growing child with autism. Though Owen would have been a good kid growing up, Owen himself even begins to realize that he can’t be like Peter Pan. He has to learn to shave and take care of himself because his parents won’t always be there. Moments with Owen’s brother shows his own fear of how he can continue to take care of his brother once his parents are gone.
However, the Suskinds are lucky. It appears they have the means, the money, and the time to help Owen cope with the challenges in his life. This isn’t true in most cases. Owen is rather high functioning…imagine if he wasn’t. Imagine, if you were a parent that couldn’t afford to support Owen in his own home and connected enough to take him to a seminar in Paris. This is Owen’s story but it isn’t the story of many people with autism.
Beyond this problem, there is some criticism of the Disney tie to the film. That isn’t a problem for me. If a kid wants Happy Meal toys, and it helps him communicate, give him Happy Meal toys…I don’t care if McDonald’s is the focus. The movie focuses on Owen’s love of Disney, but it can be assumed that he loves other animated films as well…Disney is the number one maker of animated films, so it is Owen’s number one film he focuses on. Reaching autistic kids and getting them to open up helps people understand and reach more kids…Disney is the means for Owen and that if he likes to imagine his life a happy, animated feature, that doesn’t bother him.
Life, Animated is a personal look at a family dealing with autism. It is an idealized look at a challenging situation in that (for the most part) seems to have turned out the best possible results considering the difficulties it presents. This isn’t really a study of autism itself, and that must be remembered when watching it. Life, Animated is about some of Owen’s challenges and through understanding one person, more can be reached.
Movie Name: On the Waterfront
Studio: Horizon Pictures
Release Date(s): July 28, 1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Terry Mallory (Marlon Brandon) could have been a contender…instead he took a fall and now finds himself a dockworker. When Terry is used to lean on a dockworker who ends up dead, Terry decides he must turn against both his brother Charley (Rod Steiger) and his boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) to make up for the death. Teaming with the dead man’s sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) and a priest named Father Barry (Karl Malden), Terry must talk to the Waterfront Crime Commission about what is happening…but taking a stand could be harder than taking a fall.
Directed by Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront is a drama based on the a series of New York Sun articles called “Crime on the Waterfront” by Malcolm Johnson published in 1948. The film was a financial success and received Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black-and-White), Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), Best Film Editing, and Best Screenplay with nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Lee J. Cobb Karl Malden and Rod Steiger), and Best Score. The movie was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1989 and Criterion released a remastered version of the movie (Criterion #647).
On the Waterfront is a cinema classic. I first saw it while pounding out my trip through “Best Pictures” and in the world of Best Picture winners, On the Waterfront is still one of the best of the best.
Despite being a simple story of corruption, the script and the plot are rather layered. You have a guy who has always done what he was told and paid for it. He then decides to try to something right and becomes a pariah because of it. The dialogue and script is snappy, and it has a gritty realism that not every film has. The movie goes strong all the way to the dockside ending.
This is Brando at his best. Along with his “Stella” of A Streetcar Named Desire, Brando’s contender speech is a classic. He manages to be angst-y and sincere at the same time. He has the benefit of a great supporting cast with almost all the players giving an Academy Award winning performance (as recognized in the nominations). The actors involved rarely rose to this level again, but it would have been hard for them to.
The movie smartly was shot in black-and-white. It gives the movie a gritty look but it also feels a bit more timeless. The movie feels urban and presents a less glamorized “waterfront” than most movie which play up the beauty and romance of the water…here it is pretty cold, stark, and mundane. The waterfront is simply a workplace.
On the Waterfront is one of those movies that is always sampled. “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender” is always shown…not only in Brando compilations but in film compilations. It is a movie that people know even if you don’t know it. While that moment is a great moment, the movie itself is also great and a must for fans. The movie isn’t just a contender…it is a winner.
Movie Name: The Last Picture Show
Studio: BBS Productions
Release Date(s): October 22, 1971
MPAA Rating: R
In the lazy Texas town of Anarene, time seems to creep by, but behind closed doors there are other things happening. Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) is having an affair with the gym teacher’s wife Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman) who’s trapped in a loveless marriage while still dreaming of Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd) who is dating his best friend Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges). Jacy vows not to end up like her mother (Ellen Burstyn) and questions if Duane is her best option in Anarene as they approach graduation. Meanwhile, Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) watches over the dying town…but change is inevitable.
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, The Last Picture Show is based on Larry McMurtry’s 1966 novel. The film was released to critical acclaim and a strong box office. It received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Ben Johnson) and Best Supporting Actress (Cloris Leachman) with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Supporting Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. The film was selectred for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1998 and received a remastered release by Criterion as part of their America Lost and Found: The BBS Story (Criterion #549).
Small town scandals are fun…unless you are part of them. The Last Picture Show was a semi-autobiographical novel by Larry McMurtry that had a bit of Peyton Place feel to it. The story feels real because it feels like it is tied to real people…and it remains a sad, beautiful film.
The story is a story of loss of innocence. At the start of the film, the characters are relatively carefree…only wondering how they can score with their girlfriends on a weekend night. As the story progresses, life gets tougher and everything they thought they could count on disappears (including Sam the Lion). By the end of the film, their relationships have changed in the short period of time and even the completely innocent Billy (Sam Bottoms) is gone…it is a hard fact of life.
The cast is young and great in their roles, but even the young actors are outshined by their adult costars. Timothy Bottoms is good as “the lead” who dives into a relationship with an older woman (his brother Sam Bottoms plays Billy) , and Jeff Bridges is his cocky friend who thinks he knows it all. Cybill Shepherd got the role entirely on appearance but ends up being great as the beauty of the small town that thinks she is something more. Randy Quaid, John Hillerman, Clu Gulager, and Eileen Brennan all have small parts. Ben Johnson was convinced to take on a more serious role which won him an Oscar and Ellen Burstyn plays his secret former love. Cloris Leachman has never been better as the wife seeking love because her husband is secretly gay.
Bogdanovich chose to shoot the movie in black-and-white. Not only does it give an even more depressing feel to the town, but it also gives the movie a starkness that both works with the location and the plot. Everything has a coldness to it.
The Last Picture Show is a classic. It is the type of movie that feels like it was a novel but instead of losing the texture of the novel, the script and actors were able to expand upon it and still convey the messages of the novel. Bogdanovich did revisit McMurtry’s sleepy town in Texasville (1990) which takes up The Last Picture Show’s story in 1984 with much of the original cast returning.
Movie Name: She-Wolf of London
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date(s): May 17, 1946
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
A killer is stalking the park and neighborhood surrounding Allenby Mansion and Phyllis Allenby (June Lockhart) worries that it could mean the return of the Allenby Curse. Waking up after nights of restless sleep, Phyllis finds dirt and mud on her and learns that more attacks have occurred. Phyllis fears that she’s a werewolf and the plans to marry her love Barry Lanfield (Don Porter) might be in jeopardy. As the murders get closer and closer, Phyllis’ fears might come true.
Directed by Jean Yarbrough, She-Wolf of London is a mystery horror thriller which is usually lumped together with Universal Studio’s other Universal Monsters. The movie is often available with other Wolf Man films.
She-Wolf of London is actually quite an interesting film in the context of Universal Monsters. The movie really isn’t a monster movie and is more of a mystery. There is horror in that there is a killer stalking the area, but the viewer doesn’t know when, where, and why it will strike again. *****Due to the storyline of the movie, there will be spoilers throughout this review*****
She-Wolf of London isn’t actually a werewolf movie. The reports of wolf attacks are reported throughout the movie and the attacker is described as female (which leads to reports that it is a female werewolf). The actual story involves Phyllis servant Martha Winthrop (Sara Haden) trying to drive Phyllis insane so her own daughter Carol (Jan Wiley) can take Barry as her own and maintain a high lifestyle. It is an interesting society view and the fact that the werewolf doesn’t exist technically knocks it out of “werewolf movie” status.
June Lockhart is charming as the girl who believes she is cursed. Also nice in the film is her friend Carol played by Jan Wiley who could have been evil (like her mother) but comes off as one of the “nice girls” of cinema. Don Porter is bland as the perfect guy and Sara Haden is good as the insane housekeeper.
Visually the movie is more like a film noir since there is no werewolf. The film is filled with long shadows and dark sets. Unfortunately, the movie is very set based and the sets aren’t always the best.
I actually kind of like this entry in the “Wolf Man” movies and wouldn’t even mind a smart rewrite or remake of the film. With some tweaking, a bigger budget, and strong acting, a new She-Wolf of London could be fun. Until then, try to check out this little thriller and enjoy a different werewolf film.
Movie Name: Werewolf of London
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date(s): May 13, 1935
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
A botany expedition to Tibet leads Dr. Glendon (Henry Hull) to a confrontation with a monster over a flower called mariphasa which only blooms by moonlight. Returning to London with the plant, Dr. Glendon nurses his wounds and tries to return to his wife Lisa (Valerie Hobson) and his plants. As the full moon approaches again, Glendon finds himself warned by a man named Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland) that he’s been curse by lycanthropy and will transform into a werewolf without the healing properties of the mariphasa. Glendon finds himself battling Yogami for the plant and battling the monster within himself that longs only to kill.
Directed by Stuart Walker, Werewolf of London was Universal Pictures’ first foray into werewolf pictures and predates their popular Universal Monster The Wolf Man by six years. The film faired poorly at the box office, but is now considered a horror classic.
Werewolf of London was the first mainstream werewolf movie, and it is a pretty enjoyable film. Much of the film’s failure was blamed on the similarities to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which had been released a few years before. The story was a bit more cerebral than The Wolf Man (though like many I do enjoy The Wolf Man more).
The story of Werewolf of London is a bit odd. It is rather a low-key werewolf movie where the werewolf is the thrust but it doesn’t pan out like later werewolf movies which have the beast killed by love. The quest for the cure seems to dominate the film and you get two werewolves for the price of one. Yes, the movie does end with Glendon being shot after going after his wife, but the movie feels more about the battle than the romance (which is unnecessarily confused by a rival romance).
Henry Hull is a decent werewolf. He was benefited by rather minimal make-up and this allows him to be a bit more expressive than other werewolves. I like that the movie kind of becomes a mind game between Hull and Oland. Bela Lugosi was originally pursued for Dr. Yogami, but Warner Oland almost seems to be channeling him at points.
As with all werewolf films, the werewolf is key and I do like the werewolf design. The minimal face make-up was actually a change and the filmmakers had intended to use make-up like The Wolf Man’s make-up. I like how some of the transformation scenes are done…especially the scene where Hull is walking and transforming with columns dividing the make-up changes.
Werewolf of London is a classic movie that many might have skipped due to the popularity of The Wolf Man but deserves an audience of its own. The movie did spawn some greats in that Warren Zevon based the title of his song “Werewolves of London” on the title and An American Werewolf in London was also a play on the title. The film is often collected with Universal’s other Wolf Man pictures.
Movie Name: The Wolf Man
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date(s): December 12, 1941
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) has come home to see his father (Claude Rains) after the death of his brother and meets a local girl named Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers). When Larry and Gwen attend a local carnival of gypsies, Larry is bitten by a wolf…Larry kills the wolf who is revealed to be a gypsy named Bela (Bela Lugosi). Against warnings the warnings of a gypsy named Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), Larry denies the change that is coming over him…and it could cost the lives of those around him.
Directed by George Waggner, The Wolf Man was Universal’s second attempt to make a werewolf movie after The Werewolf of London in 1935. The film started a franchise and unlike other Universal monsters, Lon Chaney, Jr. portrayed the character throughout the series.
The Wolf Man was my monster growing up. The imagery of the film was what scared me as a child, and I can remember staying up late to watch the original movie with poor reception and a flickering image…which led to the Wolf Man moving under my bed as a kid and threatening to grab my feet when I got up at night.
The reason that the Wolf Man was scary is that the Wolf Man was innocent. Frankenstein built his monster, Dracula chose to keep drinking blood, and the Mummy hunted his victims as part of the curse. The Wolf Man was a nice guy who ran into problems through no fault of his own (actually being a good guy trying to protect someone). The infection nature of the lycanthropy is scary and makes for a good story. The father/son aspect of the story also adds a nice dimension to the horror film which at the time sometimes had plots that were lacking.
Lon Chaney, Jr. is great in the movie, but horribly cast. How he is supposed to be the son of English actor Claude Rains isn’t really understandable…he doesn’t look like him, doesn’t sound like him. I guess it could happen, but it seems like a bit of a stretch. Still, Lon Chaney, Jr. works well as the Wolf Man prowling through the perfectly lit woods while hunting his prey. His tip-toe walking and snarling got me as a kid. Another great player in the Wolf Man saga is Maria Ouspenskaya as the mother of Bela Lugosi and the wolf that transformed Talbot. She plays the perfect old gypsy. A stereotype? Yes, but at this time, everyone in movies was pretty much a stereotype.
The special effects are also a showcase for the film. The process that Chaney went through to transform into the Wolf Man is legendary among Hollywood storytellers, and the look of the character combines with the great atmospheric set of the woods that the Wolf Man prowls. Another favorite moment of mine is that when Lon Chaney, Jr. actually transforms into the werewolf, he’s wearing an undershirt…when he goes out as the Wolf Man, he has a regular shirt on…I guess the Wolf Man felt it was better to cover up in case he caught a chill.
The ending is tragic Larry Talbot though the ending of course was all negated by the Wolf Man’s later appearances in the franchise. The Wolf Man was incredibly influential on future werewolf movies. It is referenced repeatedly in the ’80s classics The Howling and An American Werewolf in London. A recent remake starring Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro bombed and another relaunch is in planning. It also contains one of the most memorial made up poems in film history “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright”…a classic line from a classic movie. The Wolf Man was followed by Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1943.
Movie Name: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Studio: Universal Studios
Release Date(s): March 5, 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
When grave robbers raid the tomb of Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) and remove the wolfsbane keeping him from being reborn, the Wolf Man stalks again! Seeking help for his affliction, Talbot turns to the old gypsy Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) who in turn seeks out the legendary Doctor Frankenstein. Uncovering Frankenstein’s monster (Bela Lugosi), Talbot sees the Monster as his only hope in death. Joined by Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey) and a doctor named Mannering (Patric Knowles) following in Frankenstein’s footsteps, the Wolf Man and the Monster face off in a battle which could lead to their deaths!
Directed by Roy William Neill, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man takes place after The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and The Wolf Man (1941). The movie was initially met with negative reviews, but is regarded as a horror classic.
I loved the Wolf Man when I was little and Frankenstein (of course when you’re young you think the Monster is Frankenstein). The idea of both monsters set-up in a grudge match is a kid’s dream and has been emulated in countless movies since.
The story really should be The Wolf Man Meets Frankenstein instead of the other way around. Lon Chaney, Jr. is obviously the star of the movie and is featured throughout the film (while Bela Lugosi’s Monster doesn’t show up until the second half). The story is poor, but most of these old horror movies have the story being incidental to the monster…Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is no exception.
Lon Chaney, Jr. might not have been the best actor of all time, but as Talbot, he does come off as sympathetic…he does a good job making you feel sorry for the guy. Ouspenskaya is great as the gypsy woman, and I find her to be a scene stealer. Lugosi was the monster by default. With Talbot playing the Wolf Man, he couldn’t return as the monster and Lugosi was pretty weak. Some of Lugosi’s problems involve the script which cut out dialogue and the revelation that the Monster has been blinded by his brain transplant. Ilona Massey and Patric Knowles feel kind of thrown in to the movie as the descendant of Frankenstein and the scientist stupid enough to carry on his experiments.
The movies are always about the monsters, and the Wolf Man and Frankenstein Monster are still great looking, iconic creations. The sets are pretty weak, but the black-and-white visuals at least make them look a bit classier.
As opposed to some of the later Universal monster movies, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is still fun. The throw down promised by the title doesn’t last long, but with some great publicity stills for the film, it feels more memorable than it might really be. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was followed by House of Frankenstein in 1944.
Movie Name: Speedy
Studio: Harold Lloyd
Release Date(s): December 15, 1928
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Pop Dillon (Bert Woodruff) drives the last horse drawn streetcar in New York City…and the tracks are coveted by the railroad department which hopes to take over all transportation. Pop’s only hope could be his granddaughter Jane (Ann Christy) and her boyfriend Harold “Speedy” Swift (Harold Lloyd). Baseball obsessed Speedy can’t seem to hold on to a job but when he learns that Pop’s being targeted by thugs trying to force him to miss out on the big sale, Speedy could find new purpose.
Directed by Ted Wilde, Speedy is a black-and-white silent film. The movie was the last of Lloyd’s silent films to be released in the theater and the last silent film of the director. The movie was nominated for Best Director—Comedy Picture which was only given at the first Academy Awards. A remastered version of Speedy was released by Criterion (Criterion #788).
Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last is a classic that has imagery seen all over. It is what Lloyd is most remembered for and even if you haven’t seen it, the imagery of Lloyd hanging off the clock is an image of Americana. With the popularity of the actor and this movie’s rather strange Oscar nomination, I decided to check it out…and really enjoyed it.
The story for Speedy is like a lot of silent films. There is an overall plot and it is decent, but most of the story is made up of gags that could be their own shorts. Be it working at the soda shop, driving a taxi (with Babe Ruth), going to Coney Island with the new suit or the crab in the pocket, Speedy is loaded with gags. The movie has a story but it seems to take a roundabout way to get there in the second half…with the skits built in.
Harold Lloyd has great timing and is a good comedic actor. Clean-cut with glasses and suit, Harold doesn’t seem like a comedy star of today (except for maybe Pee-wee Herman). He gives it all with not only physical gags, but he also is very expressive. This is a necessary conversation for emoting on the silent screen…and Lloyd was one of the best in that aspect.
Speedy has a great setting. The movie shuttles through much of New York City and seeing the ’20s version of the city is a lot of fun. In addition to the stylish shooting, the movie’s trip to Coney Island shows people in their suits and ties riding some of the most dangerous rides…showing how times have changed.
Speedy is a fun film. It showcases the best of silent movies and the best of comedies at this time. Harold Lloyd is a great physical actor, and Speedy was a good choice for his comedy. I realize that silent films aren’t for everyone but movies like Speedy shows a much more attainable film than many other silent movies. An interesting side note is that the movie contains one of the earliest (if not the earliest) middle finger salute on film by Lloyd in an Coney Island mirror…I guess we know what he thought of sensors. Check out Speedy and enjoy a silent classic.
Movie Name: Sex, Lies, and Videotape
Studio: Outlaw Productions
Release Date(s): August 18, 1989
MPAA Rating: R
Graham Dalton (James Spader) has come to Baton Rouge and reentered the life of his college friend John Mullany (Peter Gallagher). John is married to Ann (Andie MacDowell) but sleeping with Ann’s sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). When Graham begins to get Cynthia and Ann to open up about their sexuality, Graham find spilling secrets could change him as well.
Written and directed by Steven Soderbergh, Sex, Lies, and Videotape (or stylized as sex, lies, and videotape) was the first film of Soderbergh. The movie was credited for starting the independent film boom of the ’90s and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay after winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2006.
For ages, Sex, Lies, and Videotape was one of my guilty movies…not because I liked it, but as someone who loves film, I never did see it. I heard stories about it, saw clips, and just never saw the movie until now. Watching Sex, Lies, and Videotape with no nostalgia, it still is a good film and a solid film, but it isn’t my favorite film.
The story is pretty basic, and it does not seem as edgy as when it was released. A couple is secretly having problems because it is actually a trio and the injection of an unknown element into the relationships (Spader) causes an explosion. Despite a very original plot for the time, it is very easy to see where the story is going to go and where the characters are probably going to end up (the only wild card may have been Giacomo who could have either ended up vilified or pardoned).
The acting is good. Andie MacDowell is the “nice girl” at the time and feels like an alternative to Julia Roberts. Spader is generally always good and it is nice to see him play a more likable character (despite the slimy taping) when he often played the evil foil in the ’80s. Both Peter Gallagher and Laura San Giacomo have never been favorites of mine, but they do work in this film.
Visually, the movie is very simple as well. Sex, Lies, and Videotape could easily be a play and you can tell it had a very low shooting budget with the limited locations and settings. Soderbergh still makes the most of what he had, and the movie still looks good.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape was a game changer. It showed that small, low-budget films could make a big splash not only at awards show but at theaters…leading to huge profits if the film was successful. The film put Miramax on the map and make it a big player. Sex, Lies, and Videotape was a start of Soderbergh but a big change in Hollywood as well…which makes it worth seeing just for that.