Mavis Roberta McGee has a ridiculously large pile of Blu-rays and DVDs of films that she hasn’t watched. In an attempt to watch more of them, she decided to write a column about watching her way through that pile. This is Mavis’s Watchpile.
Hello again! It’s me, the person who has too many DVDs and blu-rays lying around, and here’s some more movies I’ve watched recently that are from that cache of films. Let’s begin!
Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)
I kinda felt like I was watching too many “serious” movies, so what better way to cure that than to watch a Nic Cage blockbuster from 2000? Dominic Sena’s remake of Gone In 60 Seconds more than scratched my dumb fun itch, which surprised me somewhat considering that the three Sena movies I had seen prior to this were varying levels of terrible (especially Swordfish, fuck Swordfish). But Sena captured the 00’s Bruckheimer energy perfectly, what with the endless needledrops, over-saturated cinematography, and questionable racial humor. And the Cage-led ensemble is a hell of a lot of fun, with Delroy Lindo low-key stealing the movie from one of cinema’s strangest leading men. Add in a climactic car-chase that absolutely fucking rules, and you got yourself a movie right there.
A River Runs Through It (1992)
Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It… confuses me. I spent a lot of my time watching it just wondering what it was about this story that apparently demanded a film adaptation. My ultimate conclusion was that this is probably the height of Redford’s folksiness, the same brand that led to him starting Sundance back before it was the launchpad of future Oscar nominees and it was a festival filled with farming documentaries. But there were a number of elements in the movie that worked for me despite my near-complete remove from the story. The film is an aesthetic marvel, excellently capturing the Montana scenery and earning DP Philippe Rousselot a deserved cinematography Oscar in the process. Mark Isham’s score is also phenomenal, even more so when you find out that the score was a rush job put together after the original composer (the legendary Elmer Bernstein) departed the project. Add in a solid cast (with Tom Skerritt’s minister dad being the highlight) and a surprisingly poignant ending, and I found myself feeling surprisingly positive on this movie I am baffled by the existence of.
God, the film industry was so different in the 90’s.
Stir of Echoes (1999)
My 90’s/early-00’s run continues with David Koepp’s Stir of Echoes, which had been recommended to me a few times over the years. Adapted from a Richard Matheson book, Stir of Echoes is an aggressively late-90’s take on the story that is very effective on a visual level – the film’s initial hypnosis sequence is incredible, and there’s some camerawork that feels very De Palma-inspired (no doubt in part due to De Palma visiting the set and giving Koepp some ideas for how to shoot some scenes). It impressed me a lot more than Koepp’s other directorial stab at adapting a horror master (2004’s tedious Secret Window), and the film has me intrigued about another horror/thriller starring Kevin Bacon he has in the pipe… well, I originally wrote that the day before said film, You Should Have Left, had a VOD release date announced, and the film has since been released to mixed reviews. Stuff happens, I guess.
Executive Decision (1996)
As I’ve previously stated, I love 90’s blockbusters. I will watch pretty much every one I come across, no matter what my movie-loving friends say about them. So coming across this one felt like something of a goldmine, what with the stacked cast and Jerry Goldsmith score. And NGL this movie owns. It has all the silliness and earnestness of my favorite 90’s blockbusters, but also with some genuinely tense and horrifying moments. And the cast in this is just fantastic – Kurt Russell is one of the great movie stars of this era, John Leguizamo is surprisingly great as the de facto head military dude following the death of American mistake Steven Seagal (who is fine in the movie, I guess), Halle Berry is incredible as a scared-as-shit flight attendant who is brave despite her fear, and Joe Morton’s near-motionless turn as an injured member of the military team is a reminder of just how underappreciated he is. What a picture, one I liked even more than I anticipated. Movies are good, y’all.
The Loveless (1981)
The Loveless, the directorial debut of Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, co-directed with future David Lynch collaborator Monte Montgomery, is kind of the textbook definition of a “first movie.” The skill is clearly there – the compositions are great, the aesthetic is palpable, and it’s always interesting enough to keep watching – but it’s without much actual shape and structure, at least in a traditional sense. But what works here (the Lynchiness of the whole thing, the visual style on display, Willem Dafoe’s engrossing performance – his first leading role, in fact) really fucking works, so even though it’s probably little more than a curiosity, I still definitely recommend it.
Just look at Russell Crowe there. Dude’s just having the time of his fucking life.
Another dose of 90’s fun, Virtuosity stars Denzel Washington as an imprisoned cop who has to help capture a simulated serial killer when his creator lets him loose in the real world. It’s directed by the guy who did the similarly VR-themed Lawnmower Man with production design from the Johnny Mnemonic designer. Add in electronica soundtrack cuts from Peter Gabriel and Debbie Harry and you have some incredible 90’s kitsch aesthetics. Plus, you have Denzel in action mode facing off against a pre-LA Confidential Russell Crowe devouring the scenery like he was never gonna act again. Why wouldn’t you watch this?
The Deer Hunter (1978)
I was told a lot about The Deer Hunter going in. Mainly that there was a very long wedding scene (it didn’t feel that long to me but okay), but also that some of the film’s thematic resonance hasn’t really held up.
But I guess I’m softer on this movie than most, because this movie definitely impacted me. Aesthetically it’s a marvel – Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography and Stanley Myers’s score are just incredible. The performances are perfect – De Niro, Walken, and Streep are as spectacular as they usually are, but the underrated gem in this cast is John Cazale, whose final performance as he battled terminal lung cancer is the perfect cap to his short, but incredible filmography. And while much has been said of the film’s many excesses (especially the runtime) I think it all comes together for something incredibly moving. It’s very simple thematically, but it did it well, and I’m more than okay with some well-done simplicity.
And that caps another watchpile round-up! I’m getting slower with these due to several reasons, but I’ll keep them coming as long as I have stuff in the watchpile. Stay safe, everyone. See you next time.