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.
Well, it’s a day that ends in ‘y’, so Maeve’s been watching movies again. Because what else am I supposed to do when I’m working an unpaid internship while looking for a paying job and also an apartment? Anyways, let’s get to the good part.
Carlito’s Way (1993)
Another one of my dips into the magical world of Brian De Palma, I’m happy to say that Carlito’s Way fucking owns. De Palma is on his A-game, the ensemble cast is outstanding, it’s 145 minutes long and unlike other films with that kind of runtime it earns it, and it’s got an amazing footchase. This is probably one of Al Pacino’s best performances, it’s definitely Sean Penn’s best performance, John Leguizamo, Luis Guzman, Viggo Mortensen, and John Ortiz are all here and they all kick ass, and I’m furious that Penelope Ann Miller wasn’t more of a big deal after this. It’s basically “what if Scarface (1982) was good instead of bad” and I am here for it. What a picture.
House of Usher (1960)
House of Usher was my first real foray into the world of B-movie icon Roger Corman, and I gotta say, this was very appealing. The first of Corman’s eight adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe stories, this did some of the best things any movie could do: be 80 minutes long, be absolutely sumptuous aesthetically, and have Vincent Price doing his thing. I wouldn’t call it a favorite of mine, but this was a bunch of fun. I have Corman’s second Price-starring Poe adaptation, The Pit and the Pendulum, in the stacks and I am very much looking forward to giving it a try sometime soon.
Clear and Present Danger (1994)
I have less to say about Clear and Present Danger than I thought I would. I guess I appreciate that it’s a dad movie about straightforward government corruption and having kind of a more nuanced take on the US government’s commitment to the war on drugs than I expected. Otherwise it’s just a really well-made dad movie, and while I definitely appreciate that, it’s not always gonna be 100% for me.
But hey, Willem Dafoe’s here and he rules whenever he’s onscreen (which is less than I wanted but, you know, okay.) Henry Czerny gives good sleazebag, and Harrison Ford will always be a joy to watch when he’s this level of keyed-in. It’s fun to watch movie stars be movie stars
Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
Nancy Meyers is a director filled with infinite charm. Something’s Gotta Give is my third dip into the Meyers well (after watching her Parent Trap a million times as a kid and recently seeing the lovely It’s Complicated) and this was where it was confirmed to me that I love her. All the Meyers charm is here and turned up to eleven – gorgeous interior design, a pleasant soundtrack, and movie stars giving some of their most charming movie star turns. Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton are of course fantastic together, but you’ve also got a stacked supporting bench – Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau, Frances McDormand, and Rachel Ticotin among others really show up for the brief periods that they’re in the movie. But it’s Keanu Reeves that low-key steals the whole thing, playing the nicest puppy dog of a man in any film I’ve ever seen and also performing his comedy effortlessly. It’s a top-five performance of his, hands down. What a wonderful movie.
Scream 2 (1997)
Wes Craven’s Scream is one of my favorite movies. I only saw it for the first time last year, but I absolutely loved it – a satire of horror that was also a great horror film in its own right, pitch-perfect on every level. I also loved that the killer in the movie took a fucking beating – such a little thing, but I appreciated it so much.
So I went into Scream 2 with that in mind, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the conceit of it at first (I’ve heard enough talk about movie sequels for a lifetime) by the time the story got moving I was sucked into it. The returning cast and the new players alike are great, the kills are fun, and it’s an excellent time capsule of the late 1990’s. The movie made me sad that Jamie Kennedy died, that alone makes it deserve an Oscar.
Terms of Endearment (1983)
What a lovely picture this one is. James L. Brooks has always been a fascinating name in the world of film and TV, and when watching his directorial debut, Terms of Endearment, it became very clear why it was such a smash upon release and resulted in Oscar after Oscar. It’s a sweet, charming, and ultimately melancholy film about relationships, and it is a hell of a watch. Every performance is pitch-perfect, and it is sumptuously lensed by Andrezj Bartkowiak. Looking forward to continuing into the James L. Brooks oeuvre.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
Ed Zwick – weird director! Kind of the king of 6/10 movies your dad likes when he’s on his game, but also he’s made some truly awful films *glares at his franchise-killing Jack Reacher sequel*. Fortunately, Courage Under Fire falls in the “good” category. “Rashomon but about a military investigation” is a solid pitch, and the prestige-y cast, cinematographer, and composer do their damndest to pull it to the finish line and succeed. This movie probably killed it on TNT back in the day, to the point where I felt like I needed to pause at some points and watch commercials (I didn’t, because I’m not a psychopath). In conclusion, worth the few bucks I got the blu-ray for.
And that’s it for another rendition of Mavis’s Watchpile! Maybe one of these days I’ll accept that I don’t need to watch every movie ever made, but for now, I’m still gonna keep going. See y’all next time!