Monday, April 25, 2005

Weekend viewing

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (W.D. Richter, 1984)
Sometimes it is just as important to see a movie that's garnered a rabid cult following as to see an acknowledged masterpiece or an important touchstone of cultural history. I'm not sure this was one of those times, though. Banzai is absurdist and weird, sure, and has a totally inane sci-fi plot that makes it easy to see why it's got such a devoted fanbase of geeks. But, a few chuckles aside, I wasn't much amused, although there is a certain goofy, let's-put-on-a-show kind of charm about the whole thing. Jeff Goldblum is inherently entertaining, especially since his character spends nearly the entire movie dressed inexplicably as a cowboy. I was struck most by Peter Weller as the title character, though. Where have you gone, Peter Weller? He plays Buckaroo with such deadpan straightforwardness that he completely sells the idea of this dedicated neurosurgeon/rock star/kung fu master/rocket scientist. It reminded me of his performance in David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, where he's another deadpan protagonist in a similarly absurdist world.

La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
I think I have seen too many European art movies to truly be able to appreciate this film, since it just seemed to me like a bunch of European art movie cliches strung together in an episodic structure for three hours. Of course, it's important to remember that many of those cliches were invented here (as was, apparently, the term "papparazzi"), but it's hard to unremember all the other places I've seen them. So, yeah, I found the story kind of meandering (and, man, is this movie long), and the themes ("Oh, the life of the high society, it is so empty and meaningless") a little basic, but it sure does look great.

Less Than Zero (Marek Kanievska, 1987)
I should just stop watching cinematic adaptations of Bret Easton Ellis novels, because they all bore me. I'm not even sure where I got the idea that I wanted to see this movie (perhaps, given that it was right after Buckaroo Banzai on my NetFlix queue, it was from watching I Love the 80s?), but it's totally forgettable aside from Robert Downey Jr.'s prophetic performance as a junkie. It's kind of amusing the way it takes Ellis's nihilistic prose and molds into an 80s teen movie starring Andrew McCarthy, although an admittedly darker and grittier one than the average. Still, it gets a marginally happy ending and an optimistic tone of sorts. The best thing was the soundtrack, supervised by the great Rick Rubin, which included such gems as a cover of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Slayer.

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