Looking for America [UNCOMMON SENSES]

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http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/1988/08/looking-for-america/

Published on 26 Aug 1988 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Uncommon Senses

Jon Jost’s 1988 essay film, also known as Plain Talk & Common Sense, is in effect his state-of-the-union address, shot largely during a drive across the country and back, and articulated through an impressive variety of means. Overall the message is pessimistic but honestly and meticulously arrived at, and the Whitman-esque rhetoric of America’s multiplicity is both used and critiqued in a highly original fashion. This sequel of sorts to Jost’s ground-breaking Speaking Directly lives up to its predecessor as a multifaceted self-portrait and as a highly nuanced political statement. Even if you don’t agree with what Jost has to say about the U.S. in the 80s, there’s a lot to chew on; the film offers a veritable workshop of ideas about filmmaking as well as precise applications of these ideas. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1988 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Married To The Mob

When her husband gets bumped off by his gangster boss (Dean Stockwell), Angela (Michelle Pfeiffer) moves from her Long Island house to a railroad flat on the Lower East Side, hoping to start a new life; but neither the boss nor an FBI agent (Matthew Modine) posing as her neighbor will let her alone. Director Jonathan Demme’s farcical and broad 1988 comedy, written by Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns, doesn’t really work, but there are plenty of enjoyable compensations: Demme’s feel for loud, bad-taste decor is as good as it ever was, and there are a fair number of other laughs (even if his efforts to turn Modine into a Stan Laurel figure are doomed from the start), as well as a respectable amount of energy. Pfeiffer is at her best, and there’s plenty of action, although you may feel that some of the gags involving a scorned and vengeful wife (Mercedes Ruehl) are a bit shopworn. 103 min. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1988 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Cane Toads: An Unnatural History

One hundred and two cane toads were brought into Queensland, Australia, in 1935 in the hope that they’d get rid of sugarcane grubs. But the toads quickly overran the countryside, eating everything except cane grubs. In this documentary featurette (1988, 47 min.), filmmaker Mark Lewis extracts as much grim humor as possible from this problemwhich still persistswith all its grotesque ramifications: the strange mating habits of the toads; the ecological disaster caused by their poison, which also serves as an illegal hallucinogenic drug; the popularity of the toads as pets; and so on. (JR)

Published on 01 Aug 1988 in Featured Texts, by admin

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