Dennis Harvey

Purple penetrator

Guy Ritchie reaches -- and reaches -- for his Revolver
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Being rich and famous dupes so many into thinking they have profound life wisdom that must be shared. Is it simple narcissism? Is it that when material desires are fulfilled too easily, spirituality becomes the top high-end item left to acquire?

Guy Ritchie may do stupid things, like remaking Lina Wertmüller's reactionary-in-1974 Swept Away as a 2002 vehicle for his wife, Madonna, whose acting kills entire movies on contact. But he's also clever, at least regarding surfaces. Read more »

Uncuddly Leigh

Margot at the Wedding and Jennifer Jason Leigh in the movies
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Jennifer Jason Leigh is nearly 50 years old. She looks about 15 years younger, yet without that plastic appearance redolent of cosmetic surgery. For a while she was a real movie star, if not quite a popular one, sustaining widely seen films through performances such as her homicidal nut in Single White Female (1992) and tightly wound abuse victim in Dolores Clairborne (1995). Read more »

Romania dreamin'

Cinematically speaking, Bucharest is best
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Programmers in the film festival, cinematheque, and rep-house exhibition worlds are forever hunting for undiscovered cinematic flavors. They are like truffle-sniffing pigs. No offense intended — after all, truffles are valuable for their rarity. Read more »

Fellini in Arkansas

Seeing "Red-State Cinema"
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"Ahm tired uh yer uppity, citified ways!" leering slob Odis (Gene Ross) tells houseguest Helen (Norma Moore) in S.F. Brownrigg's Poor White Trash II, a 1974 movie also known by the equally savory title Scum of the Earth. Read more »

Silencers, please

Dean Martin is propped up for a Bond imitation
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The James Bond movies had a cultural impact like no other film series in the 1960s, spawning umpteen imitations, from cheap Europudding productions (the ones directed by Mario Bava and Jess Franco are quite delightful) to Hollywood spectaculars. There were rival series too. The most popular — and critically loathed — starred Dean Martin as Matt Helm. In Donald Hamilton's original books Helm is a tough customer involved in relatively realistic adventures. Read more »

Rat with wings

Jonathan Livingston Seagull flaps again
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SEVENTIES FLASHBACK The '60s were all about changing society. When that didn't pan out, the '70s went all inwardly focused, pursuing pleasure and spirituality. Both goals frequently commingled as fads, cults, and pop religio-psych fixes. The Age of Aquarius dawned no more: Planet Self-Help was rising, and exotic waves washed across the shore of American consciousness.

Perhaps nothing in that era's landscape of seekerdom spread its populist wings farther — or became a more dated Me Decade punch line — than Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Read more »

Lovejoy and company

Film: America labors with its childhood in "My Kid Could Paint That"
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"Think about the children!"

That cry, most memorably a mantra for Reverend Lovejoy's wife, Helen, on The Simpsons, encapsulates the pervasive movement to childproof American life. Parents no longer have the time, will, or ability (so they claim) to properly censor all aspects of culture their kids might be exposed to, so a rising chorus demands the government do it for them.

Yet these efforts only underline the scattershot nature of an institutional overview of today's wide-open mediascape. Read more »

Take it sleazy

Supertrash Peepshow
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CULT FILM Erstwhile cofounder of San Francisco's late, lamented Werepad — a "beatnik space lounge" (among other things) — Jacques Boyreau, also a filmmaker (Candy Von Dewd), lives in Portland, Ore., these days. But he's dropping into town again with a characteristic surprise package in the form of the Supertrash Peepshow at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Read more »

Scary Larry

The Last Winter certifies Larry Fessenden as a horror auteur
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Nature enjoyed rebelling against arrogant, polluting humankind in the paranoid ecosploitation cinema of the 1970s: Prophecy, Phase IV, Frogs, Sssssss, The Food of the Gods, and even the Oscar-winning fake documentary The Hellstrom Chronicle all suggested Mother Nature was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Back then, though, nature was just bitching within safe fantasy confines. Read more »

Tough turf

The Warriors at the Red Vic
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CULT FILM "WAAAR-ee-erzzz — come out to PLAAY-ee-ay!" This catchphrase, first spoken in an annoyingly unforgettable singsong (and supposedly improvised) by actor David Patrick Kelly, has infiltrated pop culture to the extent that it's been sampled or mimicked by musicians from Twisted Sister to the Wu-Tang Clan to the Offspring. If you don't know — how could you not? — it's from The Warriors, Walter Hill's 1979 urban action joyride. Read more »