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APRIL 20, 1998: 

The Big One

More ridicule and irreverence toward corporate America from the mind behind "Roger & Me" and "TV Nation." Michael Moore drags a video crew along with him on the book tour for his best-selling "Downsize This! " At signings around the land, Moore is sought out by a procession of the shat upon: the tearful, the indignant, Borders clerks massing to organize. He listens and encourages-and even hugs-but the thickets of corporate structure only avail him this much: if you can't get people's jobs back, at least you can try to humiliate their bosses. When Moore shows up at company headquarters with earnest questions and phony checks for 80 cents (for the first hour of work for a Mexican laborer), all in the name of preserving the sanctity of the American J-O-B, he only meets with the obstinate smiles of the PR hacks whose J-O-B it is not to let their company look stupid. Worse yet, those smiles look an awful lot like the ones worn by the lying, manipulative book publicists whose job it is to chaperone Moore around and not let Random House look stupid. True, the film doesn't conceal that Moore, with a best-selling book for a major publisher, is rapidly losing his grip on his underdog status. Even so, the finale, in which Moore is granted an audience with Nike founder and chairman Phil Knight, is thrilling. When he asks the hip, aging Knight why 12-year-old Indonesians must glue together his tennis shoes under a repressive government, there comes as response a few moments of breathless silence, during which the head of this slick, triumphant world force looks as though he might just fall to his knees and beg for forgiveness. If the underpaid and overworked are trapped at the bottom, and those who prosper from corporate power but know better (like Moore) are trapped in the middle, could that churn of conscience on Knight's face be the look of someone-dare I think it?-trapped at the top? (Ellen Fox)


Fest of the Best

When I was programming movies in college, we quickly discovered that the two-hour restlessness mark did not apply to animation compilations; after one unpleasant, hyperkinetic, eye-burning, headspinning two-and-a-half-hour Tex Avery festival, we realized that the human mind-perhaps even the mind of a modern young 'un with joystick blisters on their fingers where young boys once had them for other reasons-tends to melt down after so much whip-smart, whip-crack cartoon craft. No way I'd sit through these packages in one go, but skipping a couple for snacks and bathroom breaks and calls to the warden might keep you sane. What's up? Fifteen of what some consider Warner Bros.' cartoon best, including "Duck Amuck," "What's Opera, Doc?", "A Wild Hare," "Ali Baba Bunny," "Bugs Bunny Ridges Again," "Another Froggy Evening," "Birdy and the Beast," "Bully for Bugs," "Fast and Furryous," "Feed the Kitty," "High Diving Hare," Knighty-Knight Bugs," "One Froggy Evening," "Rabbit Seasoning," and "Rabbit of Seville." (Ray Pride)


My Giant

Your midget. I like seeing Billy Crystal on the Oscars; it keeps him off of film sets for a couple of days. I don't think anyone could have made much of this distasteful bit of sentimentality, but as director Michael Lehmann marshals the complications with alacrity, punching the clock manfully for the first forty-five minutes or so, it seems we'll actually be spared the worst excesses of the man behind Face Productions. Naaaah. Crystal's Sammy Kanin, a two-bit schmuck of a Hollywood agent, finds himself stuck in Romania, meets a poetry-loving, gentle-as-baby-powder giant named Maximus (Gheorghe Muresan), who he shepherds to America only to reduce him to cuddly friend, life lesson and symbol of life's injustices. This is all done in the process of Sammy humiliating Maximus in a no-rent wrestling gig, insulted by Stephen Seagal, refused an audience by a woman he once loved who now thinks he's an evil monster, and given Sammy's wife to.... Well, it's relentless. I miss Michael Lehmann's earlier work. "Heathers" was many years ago and I would rather see a movie of that ilk than this yuckkkkkkkkk. I'd rather see "Hudson Hawk." Among those paying more good money than audiences to have their names dropped in "My Giant": Caesar's Palace, Sprint, Hilton Hotels, Greyhound, Miller Genuine Draft, Lite beer, Chaps, British Airways, the All-Star Cafe, MG, Hertz and Nissan. Vote with your dollars, folks. 103m. (Ray Pride)


O Amor Natural

Dutch documentarian Heddy Honigman makes an engaging talking-heads documentary about the erotic verse of Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, whose genital-heavy and lushly moist poems were collected in a book after his death. Poems in hand, Honigman hits the streets of Rio, asking a series of men and women of advanced years to read the Portuguese verse aloud and to compare the poet's experiences to their own. It's always fine to see grandmas who's raised eighteen children testify that she must have driven her husband to an early grave "from all that fucking"; one candid respondent tells the camera, "We're old, not dead." Still, the subtitles often seem creakier than the language being spoken aloud. 76m. (Ray Pride)


The Players Club

Directed and written by Ice Cube. A breezy, engaging exploitation item, your basic crowd-pleasing blaxploitation vaudeville entry, about an academically-minded stripper and her experiences with the nerds, losers, gunmen and eye-rolling mack daddies at an L.A. strip joint called "The Players Club." ("Bootiez in the Hood"?) Ice Cube showed a sense of humor in his druggy, profane script for "Friday"; here, all but the nastiest parts of his story have a modicum of offbeat wit and a lot of frisky trash-talk. (I can't resist lines like "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a table-dance today" and "They done fucked up the church of money," or, in response to being locked in a trunk, a malapropism like "Lemme out, I got insomnia!" ) It's like vaudeville: you don't like this eight-minute turn, hold on, another act's coming up shortly. Nicely lit by Maleek Sayeed. With Jamie Foxx, Lisa Raye, Bernie Mac, Chrystale Wilson, John Amos and Mr. Cube. (Ray Pride)


Taz Gone Looney

A mind-melting sixteen Warner Bros. cartoons in a row, newly restored. By name: "Bedeviled Rabbit," "Bill Hare," "Corny Concerto," "Devil May Hare," "Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century," "For Scent-Imental Reasons," "Haredevil Hare," "Hair-Raising Hare," "Way to the Stars," "Hyde and Go Tweet," "Lovelorn Leghorn," "Rabbit Kin," "Tortoise Wins by A Hare," "Water, Water Every Hare," and "What's Cookin' Doc?" Moderate your caffeine intake accordingly. (Ray Pride)


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