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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

MARCH 1, 1999: 

AFFLICTION. Writer/director Paul Schrader became a legend for his extremely quotable script for Taxi Driver. His work since then has been uneven, and, when left to his own devices, he tends to create overly ponderous and pretentious films like Cat People and Light Sleeper. It's not that those were bad films, it's just that they should have been better. Affliction is in this same category. It has a half-dozen plots, none of which are deeply explored or well-resolved. On the other hand, Nick Nolte, James Coburn, Sissy Spacek and Willem Dafoe all turn in compelling performances. It's a claustrophobic, human film about the emotional breakdown of a small-town, New Hampshire police officer, but it's deeply unsatisfying on the level of story and script. While it's nice to see that more films without aliens or dinosaurs are being made, it's also nice that there are better choices in that realm than this slightly-above-average effort. --DiGiovanna

MY FAVORITE MARTIAN. A creepy, sexist comedy that portrays women as either pathetic or evil, but always in favor of unsolicited sexual advances. Christopher Lloyd (Reverend Jim from the TV series Taxi) plays a Martian who comes to Earth, beats up TV reporter Jeff Daniels, then becomes his best friend and helps him sort out his romantic confusion. The half dozen companies that paid for some of the most obvious product placement I've ever seen in this comedy-without-laughs should ask for their money back. --DiGiovanna

OCTOBER SKY. Here's a film about teens that doesn't have aliens, a serial killer, or even a prom queen election. (I know, I found it hard to relate to, too.) It tells the true story of Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his high school friends who strive to avert their coal-mining destinies. By experimenting with rocketry, they hope to win a science fair and solicit college scholarships. Most of the adults don't understand their struggle to leave the small town, especially Homer's black-lunged father (Chris Cooper). The maudlin music is obtrusive and the pacing uneven, but the story is generally engaging. It's set in the late 1950s, which in the film and television industries means an excuse to offer the female characters little development beyond cheerleader status. For some balance, follow October Sky by the tasty girl-centered Jawbreaker. --Higgins

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