Daily Archives: March 25, 2005

Diary of a Mad Black Woman

If memory serves, the following review, written in mid-February 2005, is the only submitted film review  I ever wrote for the Chicago Reader during my more than 20 years on the staff which the paper’s editor chose not to run. I’m posting it now not in order to contest in any way her judgment in this matter — given the possible unwitting offense that this short article might have caused, it was probably sound — but for the (admittedly limited) documentary interest of such a review in its own right.  For the record, my capsule review of the same movie appeared in the Reader on February 25, 2005. — J.R.

DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN  *
DIRECTED BY DARREN E. GRANT
WRITTEN BY TYLER PERRY
WITH KIMBERLY ELISE, STEVE HARRIS, PERRY,
CICELY TYSON, SHEMAR MOORE, TAMARA TAYLOR,
AND LISA MARCOS

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

Once I started recovering from the shock of the hyperbolic jive of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, I had the the sensation I’d just been eavesdropping on a subculture and a franchise I previously knew nothing about —–a discourse in which a particular audience was being knowingly stroked, serviced, and gratified. As playwright, producer, performer, and sometime director, Tyler Perry belongs to that branch of ethnic theater scornfully known as the “Chitlin Circuit,” aimed almost exclusively at black audiences.… Read more »

Give Up the Gimmick [MELINDA AND MELINDA]

From the March 25, 2005 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

Melinda and Melinda

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed and written by Woody Allen

With Radha Mitchell, Will Ferrell, Chloe Sevigny, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonny Lee Miller, Brooke Smith, Wallace Shawn, and Larry Pine

Brainteaser movies have been enjoying a certain vogue in the past few years. The taste for them can be traced back to at least 1994 and the jigsaw-puzzle narrative of Pulp Fiction. But the trend got started in earnest in 2000, with the release of Memento, which tells a complicated story backward, and it gained further momentum two years later when the same gimmick was combined with sex and violence in Irreversible. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Kill Bill have more substantial characters than either of those films, yet part of their appeal lies in the challenge of putting scrambled narrative pieces together.

There are people who say they don’t like to read or write but spend plenty of time doing both on the Internet. Similarly, there are people who say they don’t like to think while watching movies yet don’t mind using their brains when it comes to “puzzle” movies. But there are different kinds of thinking.… Read more »

Don’t Bother To Knock

DontBotherToKnock

Unusually seedy and small-scale for a Fox picture of 1952, this black-and-white thriller is set over one evening exclusively inside a middle-class urban hotel and the adjoining bar. The bar’s singer (Anne Bancroft in her screen debut) breaks up with her sour pilot boyfriend (Richard Widmark), a hotel guest. He responds by flirting with a woman (Marilyn Monroe) in another room who’s babysitting a little girl (Donna Corcoran), but the babysitter turns out to be psychotic and potentially dangerous. Daniel Taradash’s script is contrived in spots, and the main virtue of Roy Ward Baker’s direction is its low-key plainness, yet Monroe — appearing here just before she became typecast as a gold-plated sex object — is frighteningly real as the confused babysitter, and the deglamorized setting is no less persuasive. With Jim Backus as the girl’s father and Elisha Cook Jr. as Monroe’s uncle, the hotel elevator operator. 76 min. (JR)

DontBotherToKnock2

 … Read more »

Up and Down

Chosen to represent the Czech Republic at the Oscars, this Altman-esque fresco by Jan Hrebejk (Divided We Fall) offers a provocative and entertaining satirical account of intersecting lives, classes, and subcultures in contemporary Prague. At first it seems to be about immigration, but eventually it becomes a wry commentary on racism and xenophobia as manifested in every reach of society, from the violence of soccer hooligans to the more genteel prejudice of intellectuals. Along the way Hrebejk delivers caustic ironies about the postcommunist world, though his movie is limited by the rather dubious suggestion that race hatred is a specifically Czech problem. The large cast of characters allows for many strong performances, especially Jiri Machacek as a security guard and Petr Forman (son of director Milos) as a young man estranged from his professor father. In Czech with subtitles. R, 108 min. Music Box.… Read more »

Don’t Bother to Knock

Unusually seedy and small-scale for a Fox picture of 1952, this black-and-white thriller is set over one evening exclusively inside a middle-class urban hotel and the adjoining bar. The bar’s singer (Anne Bancroft in her screen debut) breaks up with her sour pilot boyfriend (Richard Widmark), a hotel guest. He responds by flirting with a woman (Marilyn Monroe) in another room who’s babysitting a little girl (Donna Corcoran), but the babysitter turns out to be psychotic and potentially dangerous. Daniel Taradash’s script is contrived in spots, and the main virtue of Roy Ward Baker’s direction is its low-key plainness, yet Monroe–appearing here just before she became typecast as a gold-plated sex object–is frighteningly real as the confused babysitter, and the deglamorized setting is no less persuasive. With Jim Backus as the girl’s father and Elisha Cook Jr. as Monroe’s uncle, the hotel elevator operator. 76 min. Also on the program: episode ten of the Crash Corrigan serial Undersea Kingdom (1936). Sat 3/26, 8 PM, LaSalle Bank Cinema.… Read more »