Daily Archives: October 7, 1994

I Like It Like That

This stunning 1994 debut by writer-director Darnell Martin was the first movie by a woman from a ghetto background to be produced by a major studio. A raucous comedy-drama about a volatile Latino couple trying to raise their three kids and stay out of troublewith the world and with each otherin a Bronx ghetto, it manages a truce between Hollywood pizzazz and authenticity while positively jumping with energy (though it runs out of steam a little before the end). The charismatic heroine, played by Lauren Veleza mulatto, like Martingoes after a job with a recording executive (Griffin Dunne) after her husband (Jon Seda) tries to steal a stereo and winds up in jail; among the other characters are her brother (Jesse Borrego), who’s a transvestite botanica owner, and her downstairs neighbor and worst enemy (Lisa Vidal), who’s an unwed mother trying to wangle away her husband. (Rita Moreno also does a delightful turn as her disapproving mother-in-law.) While keeping up a frenetic pace, the movie manages to speak thoughtfully about parenting, marital sex problems, jealousy, gossip, lotteries, record promotion, inner-city crime, and homophobia. It’s not common to find so much bombast and wisdom coexisting, but from the evidence offered here Darnell Martin is an uncommon talentoffering an eyeful as well as an earful.… Read more »

Ed Wood

A charming black-and-white fantasy by Tim Burton about the late Edward D. Wood Jr., a writer-director-actor at the lowest reaches of 50s Z-budget filmmaking, recently accorded cult pantheon status by virtue of his eccentric personality (he was a straight transvestite) and his very personal form of ineptness. Suggested by Rudolph Grey’s oral history Nightmare of Ecstasy, the movie concentrates on the time period during which Wood’s three best-known works (Glen or Glenda?, Bride of the Monster, and Plan 9 From Outer Space) were made; these efforts are all treated as holy writ, but the man himself, despite Johnny Depp’s best efforts to convey Wood’s greenhorn enthusiasm, remains elusive. Such a project requires remembering a time when camp (as an attitude of affection as well as derision) wasn’t yet part of the mainstream sensibility, and this is clearly beyond the range of Burton and writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. They opt instead for a sort of pie-eyed postmodernist fancy that in effect transports today’s audience back to the 50s–it’s derisive at a premiere of Bride of the Monster, respectful at a premiere of Plan 9 (absurdly set in Hollywood’s plush Pantages Theater)–in a way that magically transforms a singularly miserable and abject career ending in alcoholism and indigence into the feel-good movie of the year, budgeted for a cool $18 million and radiating tenderness (at least for the guys in the story; nearly all the women are regarded as betrayers and spoilsports).… Read more »

Cinecopia

I can’t vouch for the first 22 editions of the Chicago International Film Festival, but the 30th threatens to be the best since I moved to this town in 1987. Much of the usual fat and filler has been trimmed away, and the selections this year are unusually thoughtful and judicious (thanks in large measure to the efforts of coprogrammer Marc Evans, who knew where to look). Happily, there’s more attention given to older films, and the overall spread of films promises a veritable bounty to anyone ready to take the plunge.

This presupposes in many cases a pretty hefty commitment–taking a whole day (or much of one) during one of the busiest seasons of the year–but the payoff is experiencing something not generally available in an ordinary night at the movies. Regrettably, even many of my more serious colleagues have been forsaking such adventures at the film festivals in Cannes, Toronto, and New York, focusing instead on the same big commercial releases you’ve been hearing about for months. But here’s your chance to delve into riches never dreamed of in Entertainment Weekly. Having seen exactly half of the 118 separate programs being offered, I can testify that at least 40 of the features are well worth seeing and perhaps a dozen fall under the category of essential viewing.… Read more »