Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

My sickbed film festival

There's little positive about being laid up for an entire weekend with a brutal cold–unless you count stabbing sinus pain, weird lung noises, and a trash basket filled with tissues as somehow positive. But being forced to stop living completely for a couple of days does offer a great chance to catch up with both Netflix and TiVo, those burdensome inventions that mock us with what we haven't seen.

I originally planned a blog post about the 1970 film Performance, and how it had been staring at me from a red envelope since OCTOBER. That's right, it sat for six full months from Netflix, while I cycled through plenty of other movies. I could've purchased it several times. Instead, Performance became the prelude to my Sickbed Film Festival. And, herewith, some commentary on many–but not all!–of the movies I watched while bedridden.

Performance, 1970, dir: Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell

I waited six months to watch Performance mostly because I was never in the mood for what I mistakenly thought would be a boring, plotless psychedelic trip. (Why did I add it to the queue, you ask? I'm not entirely sure.) But the famously controversial film–starring Mick Jagger at the height of his fame–was pretty fantastic, in a plotless, confusingly psychedelic way. The backstory is good, too: Apparently Warner Bros. was hoping for a lighthearted rock romp, but what they got was Jagger starring as a washed-up rocker who lives in a weird mansion with two often-naked chicks, doing drugs and making art. James Fox plays a Brit gangster who's hiding out from his former gang, renting a room from Mick and eventually winnowing his way into the Bohemian lifestyle. The foxy chicks slip the straight-laced, ultra-violent Fox some shrooms, and it becomes clear that the life of a rock star and a gangster aren't that different. (Or something like that.) There's essentially a music video plunked into the movie, Jagger singing "Memo From Turner." The film had an obvious impact not only on music videos (some claim what you see below is essentially the first-ever), but on other bands: Oasis paid tribute to the scene with their "Live Forever" video, and Happy Mondays swiped loads of dialogue for their album Bummed. Then there's the filmic influence, which stretches for miles.

Southland Tales, 2007, dir. Richard Kelly

Speaking of music videos plopped right into a film… I also watched the messy, ridiculous, and totally entertaining Southland Tales, which we've already covered both with an insightful review by Keith Phipps and a hilariously accurate My Year Of Flops entry by Nathan Rabin. In the midst of all the confusion, Justin Timberlake takes a moment to lip-sync to a Killers song, covered in blood, and accompanied by a bunch of Marilyn Monroe impersonators. In other words, there is no reason–if you're even the least bit curious–NOT to see Southland Tales. Even if you hate it, it won't be time wasted. I think I loved it, or at least some of it. And the sense of humor, if nothing else, carries over from Donnie Darko.

Mister Lonely, dir. Harmony Korine, 2008

Speaking of Marilyn Monroe impersonators, I got a sneak peek at the new film by Harmony Korine (Gummo, Julien Donkey-boy), which comes out in New York and L.A. (and I think via IFC on-demand) in May. I'm a fan of his other films, so let that be your guide/warning, and I think I loved Mister Lonely. It's about a Michael Jackson impersonator (played by Diego Luna) who has a chance meeting with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (played by the always-excellent Samantha Morton). She takes him to a fantastic castle populated only by impersonators (The Three Stooges, Buckwheat, Madonna, etc.). God, does that sound whimsical and awful? It was and it wasn't. There are also skydiving nuns and a priest played by Werner Herzog. Again, I think I loved it, and I wanted to watch it immediately again after it ended. But I fell asleep instead.

Blades Of Glory, 2007, dir. Josh Gordon and Will Speck

Just so you don't think I'm watching heady art movies under the influence of NyQuil… I re-watched most of the Will Ferrell figure-skating comedy Blades Of Glory. (That's right, I saw it in the theater, on purpose!) It's pretty dumb, but there are some laughs. Will Arnett is funny, and Nick Swardson makes me laugh without even saying anything. (Search "gay robot" on YouTube, and watch the whole pilot.) Also: This is the third movie in a row to feature a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. Weird.

All About Eve, 1950, dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Speaking of impersonators, I had never seen this cultural touchstone, but I happened to flip by just as it was starting on TCM. I fell asleep a couple of times, but I caught the gist. I can't say I was blown away (ducks from projectiles thrown by Scott and Keith), but I'm glad to have seen it.

Marathon Man, 1976, dir. John Schlesinger

Another TCM, but this one I had TiVo'ed ages ago and never got around to watching. (Speaking of: What's your oldest TiVo item? I've got shit in there that's 14-15 months old, yet somehow I find time to watch Rock Of Love.) So this '70s thriller is famous for its scenes of dental torture perpetrated against poor little Dustin Hoffman, a nerdy grad student. I was actually impressed by how people who got injured in this movie actually felt pain and stayed injured, unlike action/thrillers of recent years, whose stars miraculously heal. Laurence Olivier was nominated for an Oscar for his role as the Nazi dentist who comes to New York (from his hideout in Uruguay) to clean up some loose ends and torture some diminutive Jews. Again, I wasn't blown away, but the teeth-torture scene will stick with me.

Cloverfield, 2008, dir. Matt Reeves

Speaking of movies set in New York… I liked but didn't love Cloverfield, a.k.a. 75 Minutes Of Screaming And Shakycam. The concept–that all the footage, like Blair Witch Project was shot by the participants and eventually "discovered"–never fully clicked with me, though I really liked how the "old" footage was interspersed. I couldn't help but think how much better this experience would've been on the big screen. I'll get harangued for saying this, but I saw I Am Legend last week, and actually enjoyed it considerably more than Cloverfield. Not that they're terribly similar, just that they're both sort of apocalyptic NYC movies.

That's it for now. I also watched several TiVo'ed episodes of Jeopardy, and Alex grew a little 'stache back and then shaved it. Oh, and if you're a fan of the band Low, this excellent Dutch documentary popped up on the Internet. It offers some great insights into the band's Mormonism and singer Alan Sparhawk's battle with mental illness. And now, out of my sick bed and into the world. But first, Eragon, which you can read about later this week


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