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Thrills, Junkies,
Junk (and a Gem)

Video offerings from
Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

A Couch with a View

A Perfect Murder (Andrew Davis, 1998).

After seeing The Lord of the Rings, a Viggo Mortensen retrospective was in order. This film stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Mikey Douglas and darling Viggo in a remake of Dial M for Murder. I haven't seen that Hitchcock movie yet, so take that into account when I tell you what I think of this.

First, is Mikey D the perfect slimeball or what? I only really believe his performances when he's playing a slimeball (wait - doesn't he always play a slimeball?). And he is, in this film, a great slimeball. Second, is Veeeee Go! a good, sexy, dirty slimeball or what? I'd throw away $100 million on him - or at least I think I would - since I'll never be in that position, who knows? Third, if you think Gwyneth Paltrow has any sex appeal, raise your hand. Why was her hair like that? Why did they dress her in those clothes? Why, why, why? The wedding ring was cool, though - beyond cool, gorgeous. And a great little way to show what her marriage was all about - a nice little pretty but dangerous-looking symbol. The ring was one of the only things the filmmakers didn't hit you over the head with in regards to their intentions.

This film was somewhat hard to follow - trying to be smarter than it actually was. Douglas plays a wealthy businessman married to an heiress (Paltrow) who is having an affair with an artist (Mortensen). The husband hires the lover to murder the wife. I was rather lost on what Viggo's character was all about - what were his motivations, did he love her? I guess after he winked saucily at Mikey D I was too busy drooling and wondering how men shave dimpled chins to pay attention. Nevertheless, with all of this going on, I got a few jumps - in other words, I must have cared enough or been paying enough attention to be scared enough to be startled a couple of times. Eventually (after I got over the hair) I started to like Paltrow's Emily. (So much so that this movie, along with The Royal Tenenbaums, may make me start to like Paltrow again.)

I'd been warned that this film was wasn't - it wasn't great, but it wasn't shite. If it's cheap - rent it for a thrill.

The Man With the Golden Arm (Otto Preminger, 1955).

My friend Danae was trolling the classics aisle and she picked up this story of a man's descent into heroin addiction. Not one of the CineScene 100 Essential Films, but that isn't exactly required at this point in my quest to reach true Film Buff status.

Starring Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak and Darren McGavin, The Man With the Golden Arm follows Sinatra's Frankie Machine through his return from a clinic that helped him kick his heroin addiction to his using again. He is married to Zosch (Parker), a crippled woman who would make me use heroin, but he is in love with Molly (Novak). He is a well-known dealer (as in poker) and often on the wrong side of the law. When he returns after "getting the monkey off his back," he decides to turn over a new leaf. He has dreams of changing his name to Jack DuVille (or somesuch) and being a drummer in a big band. Frankie can't seem to catch a break, as no one but Molly and his friend Sparrow (Arnold Stang) wants him to. He's set up to be jailed and has to begin dealing again to make parole. Money is sparse. Zosch is an annoying hag. The list goes on and on. It doesn't take him long to need and get the fix.

This struck me as a rather unfliniching portrayal of heroin addiction, as well as a startling tale of how the downward spiral can seem uncontrollable. It is easy, in our sophistication, to laugh at Sinatra calling Novak "Molly-o" or his dream to be Jack DuVille, but the movie acts as a sort of snapshot of time, showing us what it was like then, and being honest about addiction. (The film was a ground breaker in this respect.) Sinatra's portrayal of his character's desperate need for a fix, and his withdrawal, is tense and frightening to watch. McGavin, who plays Sinatra's peddler (or dealer in current lingo), was rather seductive - much like the drug. Preminger made McGavin's pusher "Louie" a personification of heroin. A smart idea of you ask me. Citizen Kane this ain't, but it's far from bad, and the soundtrack is incredible.

The Poseidon Adventure
(Ronald Neame, 1972).

A disaster flick, hugely popular in its day, about an ocean liner that is flipped upside down by a tidal wave, and a group of survivors who struggle through the ship trying to reach the surface before it fills with water.

Carol Lynley gets the award for Film Disaster Survivor You Most Want to Kill. Not only does she sing that HORRIBLE SONG ("The Morning After" - it won an Oscar - arrgh!) her idiocy throughout the movie could not even be saved by her flair for wearing short shorts and go-go boots.

I don't even know what to say about this movie except that it was absolutely brilliant fodder for every feminist in the world to scream, "SEE!" Gene Hackman (God, I hope they paid him a lot of money) tells the girls to take off their dresses because they won't do for climbing the Christmas Tree; we see Stella Stevens' underwear everywhere; the women either scream, complain, nag, or get bitchy, and generally don't add anything to the proceedings except cheap shots up their crotches (that is, except Shelly Winters' heroic swim, and thank God we were saved cheap shots of her crotch). The plot made no sense and Hackman's final cursing of God was priceless. I'm told this was the disaster film that started the disaster film as we know it. No wonder most of them suck.

Beauty and the Beast
(Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1991).

If I were the powers that be at Disney, I would say after making Beauty and the Beast, "Ah, we've done the best we can possibly do. And now, we've lost Howard Ashman. Let's retire."

This doesn't exactly count as a "View from the Couch," since I recently saw the rerelease of this film on the big screen - billed as the "Special Edition." But I recommend seeing it any way you can. Anyway, I was no less moved by the incredible beauty of the film this time than I was the other dozen times I've seen it. It is in my top ten best films ever made. The story, a fairy tale that carries a remarkable moral, is brought to animation with magnificent splendor and humor. It is thoughtful, colorful, gleeful, full of romance, action and music, all of which delight the senses. You become lost in the world of Belle and the Beast as if caught in silken ropes, wanting never to be freed from something so extraordinary. I love every minute of it.

There are added scenes in the rerelease that make you wonder why they were cut in the first place. Executive producer Howard Ashman's talent is all over this delightful piece. He played a major part in making it the wonderful film it is, and is sorely missed. In my opinion, everything Disney has done since Beauty and the Beast has been a sad testament to the end of their golden era. It's an indispensable gem.

©2002 Lovell Mahan-Moutaw