The Girl From Chicago And Broken Strings

Two race movies made for segregated black audiences. The 69-minute The Girl From Chicago (1932) was written and directed by independent black pioneer Oscar Micheaux, who’d been an able filmmaker in the silent era but became mannerist and slapdash once he turned to talkies, consistently selecting terrible camera angles, extracting stridently false performances from his players, and apparently making up his scripts as he went along (on occasion he can be heard offscreen feeding lines to the actors). The muddled plotabout a Secret Service agent (Carl Mahon) courting a small-town schoolteacher while fighting the numbers racketis made all the more indigestible by a lousy 16-millimeter print. However hokey, Bernard Ray’s Broken Strings (1940, 60 min.), showing in an excellent 35-millimeter print, is comparatively touching and professional. Clarence Muse (frequently a servant in Hollywood pictures) stars as a classical violinist whose hand is paralyzed in an accident. His adolescent son (Walter Washington) saves the day by becoming a star swing violinist. (JR)

Published on 26 Sep 2003 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

The Nasty Woody [ANYTHING ELSE]

Please go to

http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2003/09/the-nasty-woody/

Published on 26 Sep 2003 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

No Comments >>

Underworld

In a gothic city (i.e., Tim Burton’s Gotham City) where vampires and werewolvesmostly Brits and a few Americanshave been at war for centuries and everyone falls to the ground in slow motion, Kate Beckinsale, an action vampire, strenuously underacts while everyone else, vampires and werewolves alike, strenuously overacts. She’s also the only one permitted to make a fashion statementone that mainly says The Matrix rules, though her black rubber suit suggests Batman again. I spent most of the movie’s endless 121 minutes trying to figure out where and how she could buy such a cute outfit in a city where it’s always night, there are no stores or restaurants, and the subway is used chiefly for shoot-outs. This is the silliest horror movie I’ve seen in years, though some of the special effects are pretty good. Len Wiseman directed Danny McBride’s ponderous, humorless script, and Scott Speedman costars. (JR)

Published on 19 Sep 2003 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

Cinemania

This 2001 American-German documentary by Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak isn’t very popular among normal cinephiles (if such a term isn’t already an oxymoron) because it exhibits five of the most extreme and dysfunctional cinemaniacs in Manhattan, figures already somewhat legendary among patrons of the Walter Reade Theater, the Museum of Modern Art, Film Forum, and similar venues. Roberta Hill, a pack rat who saves ticket stubs and flyers, was banned from one of her haunts after assaulting an usher who tore her ticket in half, while Harvey Schwartz, who lives with his mother in the Bronx, memorizes the precise running times of everything he sees. The filmmakers aren’t exactly cruel, but they focus on compulsion rather than passion, which by implication tends to tarnish the more intellectual and scholarly members of the breed. 80 min. (JR)

Published on 05 Sep 2003 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

Party Monster

I came, I saw, I sufferedthough so far I’ve been spared the 1998 documentary of the same title by the same filmmakers, Fenton Baily and Randy Barbato, as well as James St. James’s 1999 nonfiction book Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous but True Tale of Murder in Clubland. This docudrama about flamboyant, drugged-out New York queens dissing one another focuses on the rise of Michael Alig (Macaulay Culkin) from protege of St. James (Seth Green, who sometimes seems to be lampooning Gary Indiana) to king of the clubbers, not to mention casual killer of a member of that bunch (Wilson Cruz). If this were witty, it might have qualified as a downtown version of All About Eve; if it were believable, I wouldn’t have come away feeling that the actors (including Dylan McDermott and Chloe Sevigny) were wasted. I’m so out of here, one character remarks when he can’t take any more. My sentiments exactly. 98 min. (JR)

Published on 05 Sep 2003 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>