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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

FEBRUARY 1, 1999: 

AT FIRST SIGHT. It's not a romantic comedy, it's not a horror film, it's that mutant that lives somewhere in between. It's in that special place where grown men dress like clowns and mothers form better bonds with their daughters by dying. This time the couple consists of the uncharismatic Virgil (Val Kilmer), a blind man, and Amy (Mira Sorvino), his true love. She finds a miracle cure that allows him to regain his vision, and they hit many obstacles, such as maudlin music, Kilmer's distractingly huge capped teeth, and bad dialogue. ("So this is what beautiful looks like.") But when all is said and done, all those Coca-Cola product placements Virgil can see don't mean a darn thing. Of course not, because the best kind of seeing is not done with the eyes, but with the heart. Please, take my word for it and stay away from this genre-bending freak show.--Higgins

GLORIA. What a great movie: Gena Rowlands, as a fading gangster moll, hooks up with a cute kid who's fleeing the same gangsters. While this Little Miss Marker idea may seem trite, Rowlands overwhelms every scene, completely engaging the viewer with each raised eyebrow and wrinkled lip. John Cassavetes quirky directing doesn't hurt, either, and while this is a much more "mainstream" movie than Cassavetes' earlier work, it still retains his improvisational sensibility and singular camera style. Oh, wait a minute, this isn't that movie...it's a lousy remake with Sharon Stone struggling to fill Gena Rowlands shoes and Sydney Lumet's cowardly and conservative directorial style dumbing down the more challenging Cassavetes approach. Damn. --DiGiovanna

HI-LO COUNTRY. This boys-and-their-cattle film is a Cormac McCarthy-esque (the sweet McCarthy of The Crossing, not the twisted McCarthy of Blood Meridian) look at two men (Woody Harrelson and Billy Crudup) who return from WWII to their ranch lands and try to live a cowboy life that's fading into the world of corporate farming. While the story is a bit obvious and melodramatic (they're both in love with the same woman, who's married to the factotum of the evil proto-corporate rancher), Harrelson's performance is strong enough to hold attention. He's just such a weird actor, playing an odd cross between his mass-murderer role from Natural Born Killers and sweet, lovable "Woody" from Cheers, that it's always interesting to watch his wild mood swings and enormously overstated facial expressions. Unfortunately, the female characters are treated like window dressing, denied much in the way of screen time or good dialogue. In the end, the cowboys themselves come across as less sexist than the filmmakers, in that they make some effort to understand the women they are attracted to and who are attracted to them. It's too bad that director Stephen Frears and writer Walon Green don't share this interest in women's inner lives, and can only give us a beautifully photographed, slow and sad buddy film, which, while not without rewards, could have been much richer in exploring the relationships it backgrounds against the red skies and grasslands of the Southwest. --DiGiovanna

IN DREAMS. It may be kind of early in the year to commit, but my nomination for the best filmic wig of 1999 goes to the one atop Robert Downey Jr.'s scalp. Sure, some will say it's bad, even evil, but I cheer you on, brave little soldier. When Vivian (Downey) wears this ambitious rug, it makes him want to rid us of bad child actors and, more importantly, expose the false ideal of the bourgeois family. Vivian enters career mom Claire's (Annette Bening) head via her dreams and updates her on his latest murderous adventures. Feeling her class status threatened, Claire attempts to track him down so she can destroy his revolutionary thinking and quit wearing the Communist reds he clothes her in in her nightmares. It's nice to see an arty horror film, but it usually helps to have more sympathy for the protagonist than the antagonist's wig. This latest effort from Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) is at the very least beautiful to watch. --Higgins

SPIKE AND MIKE'S SICK & TWISTED. I don't know what your definition of sick and twisted happens to be, but mine definitely doesn't include farting, masturbation and O.J. Simpson jokes. The warning before the screening stated that smuggling alcohol into the theater was against the law, but it really should have mandated we all consume large quantities of caffeine. The two South Park shorts were fun, but the only other highlights--"How to Use a Tampon" (a dancing tampon!) and "Karate Dick Boys" (karate boys with big dicks!)--were unfortunately too short and unparalleled. The rest relied upon lame punch lines and mostly uninspired animation. The crowd was definitely ready for raunch, but all it got was sore booty. For a really good time, skip the festival and go spend that $7 on some good, old-fashioned porn videos. Maybe Spike and Mike, who claim to bring us "all the really cool shit you can't see on TV," will get the idea that good animation doesn't have to be lumped into some meaningless category, and perhaps it's time to retire the "sick and twisted" criterion. --Higgins


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