MUN Cinema
Fall 1998

Sep 13 The Opposite of Sex
Sep 20 The Spanish Prisoner
Sep 27 Buffalo '66
Oct 4 Men with Guns
Oct 11 Clockwatchers
Oct 18 High Art
St. John's Women's Film and Video Festival
Oct 25 Pi
Nov 1 Regeneration
Nov 8 Wilde
Nov 15 Next Stop, Wonderland
Nov 22 Henry Fool
Nov 29 Smoke Signals
Dec 6 Gone with the Wind

MUN main page

MUN Sunday Cinema Series
Fall 1998

Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more info on each film.

[IMDb] September 13  The Opposite of Sex (USA 1998) 100 mins.
Sony's Official Site
Directed by Don Roos.
With Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan, Lisa Kudrow, Lyle Lovett.
The cast might make you think this Sundance Festival favourite is People magazine, not a movie, but to be fair it's more like Indie People, a small picture with a good crew and a provocative name. Kohl-eyed Ricci (Ice Storm, Buffalo '66) is certainly having her screen moment, having travelled so far from the Addams Family she's practically illegal to look at. Here she plays Dedee, a white Louisiana trash runaway (do you feel a nineties theme coming on?) who shows up at her rich gay brother's house in the midwest. Her wry voice-over narration informs the film's unsentimental take on dysfunctionality. Seducing her brother's new boyfriend, Dedee launches a whole set of misadventures, all of which lead circuitously to Canada (do we smell a tax credit in here?). Cleverly, this film aims at exposing the hollowness of homophobic North Americans, although you wouldn't necessarily know it from the above description. The opposite of conventional, this movie smirks.

[IMDb] September 20  The Spanish Prisoner (USA 1997) 111 mins.
Sony's Official Site
Directed by David Mamet.
With Ben Gazzara, Felicity Huffman, Ricky Jay, Steve Martin, Rebecca Pidgeon, Campbell Scott.

Mamet's scripts are always heady, dense, and illuminating. If you liked his first cinematic experiment, House of Games, you'll love The Spanish Prisoner. It's as mind-challenging and verbal as any other Mamet script (The Untouchables, Oleanna) but more visual. Campbell Scott is Joe Ross, a businessman with a new strategy called `The Process.' His boss (Gazzara) hints at a bonus for pitching the concept to some board members in the Caribbean, but when no money shows up, Joe feels betrayed. Enter Steve Martin as the vaguely threatening Jimmy Dell, apparently unconnected to everything but in a Mametian world there are no accidents. The director-writer-playwright's inspiration for the film is Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, but typically, Mamet twists the original story even further into knots and turns. Audiences have been totally enthralled--imprisoned?--by this stylized morality play, but we are especially looking forward to seeing Mamet's real-life wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, manipulated by her husband's words.

[IMDb] September 27  Buffalo '66 (USA 1998) 110 mins.
Lions Gate Films' Official Site
Directed by Vincent Gallo.
With Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, Mickey Rourke, Ben Gazarra.

Indie filmmaking has long been identified with John Cassavetes' style acting and organic camera work, generally seedy sets and seedier lives. Well, no one has come closer to catching the Cassavetes spirit more than Vince Gallo who does everything but show up for the screening of the film itself. What an eccentric picture this is, and what weird fun. Welcome to the nuthouse. Gallo, once a sullen Calvin Klein fashion model, seems to have had his brain fried over easy by the flash bulbs because here he stars in his own script as Billy Brown, a complex low-life character, a trashy victim of the lower middle class, Buffalo Bills football culture, social entropy, and bad luck. Released from prison where he had to spend some unnecessary sacrificial time, Billy returns to the world of his city and demented parents to try and reconnect with something meaningful. He happens upon the pouty babeliciousness of Christina Ricci's Layla, herself as enigmatic and needy as he is, and the two of them work towards a degree of comfort that is at times moving and deranged. Alarmingly, Gallo has called the film `semi-autobiographical.' As one critic writes, "plot synopsis does Buffalo '66 little credit, because it's a film of astounding textures." Do not let any of the above scare you: Buffalo '66 is hilarious, disturbing, inventive, remarkably original, and utterly unforgettable.

[IMDb] October 4  Men with Guns (USA 1997) 128 mins.
Sony's Official Site
Directed by John Sayles.
With Federico Luppi, Dan Rivera González, Mandy Patinkin, Tania Cruz, et al.

Have you ever seen a John Sayles movie you didn't like or admire? Gettouto'here. The man practically invented independent cinema. How he manages to stay immune to the corrupting influences of the Hollywood system is beyond us, but Sayles pleases his audiences every time by refusing to dumb the world down. Men Without Guns taps into some of the same cultural turf as the sensational Lone Star, but the Latin American setting of his movie is fictional, if familiar. Fuentes, a distinguished doctor, has spent his life training doctors to enter the dark jungles to bring drugs and relief to suffering India tribes. One day, circumstances provoke him to set off into the jungle himself, to confirm what he suspects might be a problem in the making. This journey into the heart of darkness reveals far more of a nightmare world than Fuentes ever imagined, and one partly of his own creation. Brave in every way, Men Without Guns is typical Saylesmanship: compelling, intelligent, timely, and moving.

[IMDb] October 11  Clockwatchers (USA 1997) 96 mins.
Goldcrest Films' Official Site
Directed by Jill Sprecher.
With Toni Collette, Parker Posey, Lisa Kudrow, Alanna Ubach, Helen Fitzgerald, et al.

An absolutely delightful dark comedy starring a talented indie-film crew, all of whom you'll recognize. Very much a study of the corporate workplace, Clockwatchers structures itself around the lives of four young office `temps,' different women who bond, gossip, and compete while working for the Global Credit Association. Margaret (Posey) is the most ambitious and magnetic, aspiring to much more than a drawer full of paper clips. Paula (Friends' Kudrow) fantasizes daftly about becoming a star. Jane (Ubach) hunts for men and the illusion of stability. And Iris (Muriel's Wedding star Collette) flounders in bad dresses and identity uncertainty. Refreshingly animated not only by the lively personae of these remarkable women but also by the witty script which calls for a mix of irreverent humour and pathos, Clockwatchers is just full of surprises. You might also want to rent the brutally insightful male version of this movie, In the Company of Men, and compare its scathing indictment of the workplace to Clockwatchers. We feel an essay coming on.

[IMDb] October 18  High Art (USA 1998) 101 mins.
October Films' Official Site
Directed by Lisa Cholodenko.
With Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell, Patricia Clarkson.

Part of the 9th Annual St. John's Women's Film and Video Festival, High Art is made by and about women. The title plays on the various frames in which this story is told: glamour photo-journalism, drugs, the NY art scene, the trendy appeal of lesbianism, you name it. Ally Sheedy rises from her dubious Brat Pack days to perform the role of Lucy Berliner, a notoriously talented burnt-out photographer who spends her days high on smack in a NY City walk-up. Obviously the role is modeled on the life of Nan Goldin, but Sheedy makes her part as original and audacious as anything you've ever seen. Radha Mitchell plays Syd, a yummy soft-bodied assistant editor at a Vanity Fair kind of operation who finds herself drawn into Lucy's bohemian chic sordidness. Patricia Clarkson plays the lusciously drugged-out Greta, a Dietrich-lipped lover of Lucy who forms the dark base of an emerging love triangle. While all this happens, the contemporary art scene takes a critical beating, as does the generally careerist ambitions of anyone between the ages of 20 and 28. High Art is cleverly shot, appropriately enough, as a textured grainy photograph. Lots of hi-concept and feminist malaise here. Warning: leave your kids at home. This film features great sex, lots of drugs, and some language even the kids on South Park might not dare to speak.

[IMDb] October 25  Pi (USA 1998) 84 mins.
Live Entertainment's Official Site
Directed by Darren Aronofsky.
With Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart.

We mean as in . That's right: the Greek symbol for...for what? For the mystery of the universe, perhaps. A huge hit at last year's Sundance Festival, Pi is the first-time feature from the intensely working brain of David Aronofsky. Part sci-fi thriller, part mystery movie, part religious inquiry, part psycho-drama, Pi is also basically about a nerdy guy's struggle to find meaning. Surrounded by a computer system more complex than advanced Leggo, the unlikely hero of this story is a man-boy with a lot of time on his hands and a brain too wired to relax. He is haunted by questions and coincidences, and as sure of revealing truth in math as we are of getting our money's worth. But all that questioning leads to paranoia and chaos, too, so you have to wonder whether Truth By Numbers is such a good idea when you're lonely. Only a guy could have made a movie like this, but anyone interested in the strange workings of the mind will find it fascinating. If you failed math you'll probably understand why you did after watching Pi. And if you didn't, maybe you can explain it to the rest of us after the show, over a piece of .

[IMDb] November 1  Regeneration (Canada/UK 1997) 105 mins.
Norstar Entertainment Inc./Telefilm Canada
Directed by Gillies MacKinnon.
With Jonathan Pryce, James Wilby, Jonny Lee Miller, Stuart Bunce, et al.

A surprisingly powerful film about the trauma of war surprising because we think we've seen everything by now. Based on Pat Barker's acclaimed novel, Regeneration is a study in personality, and not just in how men become heroes by blowing up bridges or saving guys named Ryan. Set in 1917, Edinburgh, the film features Pryce as a psychiatrist named Dr. Rivers who is facing shell shocked patients everyday. His job is to `regenerate' them--that is, to make them fit for battle once again. His colleague, Dr. Yealland (Neville), favours electroshock therapy, a sure-fire way to get the boys back on the lines. Well, you can imagine what this leads the humane Rivers to think. He is currently treating distinguished poet Siegfried Sassoon, a writer who is not only not nuts but is highly critical of the war. Sassoon, in turn, mentors Wildred Owen, troubled by his own trench-battle experience. A third patient, Billy Prior, can scarcely speak at all. Regeneration shapes a superb cast drawn from Trainspotting, Maurice, and First Knight, creating a quiet world of rich expression and emotional intensity without hystrionics. The big war movies get all the hype but it's the small gems like Regeneration that really deserve the glory.

[IMDb] November 8  Wilde (UK 1997) 117 mins.
Samuelson Entertainment's Official Site
Directed by Brian Gilbert.
With Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Jennifer Ehle, et al.

A hundred years later and Oscar is being given a second chance by a somewhat less homophobic society than late Victorian England, one that can at least lament the persecution of such an oversized and funny man. Stephen Fry was born for the part, a role inspired by Richard Ellman's excellent bio of Wilde as much as by Wilde's own works. The film is a gorgeous period piece that situates Wilde at the moment when he recognizes his sexual identity and decides to act on it, much to the public disgrace of his wife and family and his own reputation. Whether or not this film actually gets at the conflicted core of Wilde's personality is hard to say, but it does capture the spirit of his wit and wicked ways by reminding us of so many of his incisive lines and withering aphorisms. Enslaved by his love to the pretty aristocratic, Bosie, Wilde threw it all away for a petulant boy, but then he did what he had to, and the rest is revisionist history. We admit that we are not sure about the physical correctness of some of the, uh, actual positions into which Wilde and Bosie appear to be, uh, situated, but perhaps this is what they mean when they mention `creative filmmaking.'

[IMDb] November 15  Next Stop, Wonderland (USA 1998) 104 mins.
Distributed by Miramax Films.
Directed by Brad Anderson.
With Hope Davis, Alan Gelfant, Victor Argo, H. Jon Benjamin, Cara Buono, Larry Gilliard Jr., et al.

More from the indie circuit and the Sundance factory: Next Stop, Wonderland has been described as a `shaggy, appealing romantic comedy,' perfect fare for the mid-term blahs. The attractive leads are relative unknowns, the script is verbal and unpredictable, the shooting is organic, and the sets are naturalistic. Most of all, the film refuses to underestimate the intelligen ce of its audience. The simple story involves Erin, a twenty-something nurse with a brain, who has just been dumped by her boyfriend, Alan. He's a thirty-something lefty, a member of the working class who returns to university to study marine biology. There are subplots, lots of interesting friends, another guy, and a hilarious string of bad dates as we anticipate the reconcili ation of Erin and Alan. But do we get it? The movie doesn't so much wander as contrive to weave a wide range of characters in and out of each other's lives, as if this were our week-to-week lives, and not just another stagy script. As we know from so many memorable indie films like this one--from Chasing Amy to High Art--it's hard not to let yourself go with the flow of chance and fate.

[IMDb] November 22  Henry Fool (USA 1997) 137 mins.
Sony's Official Site
Directed by Hal Hartley.
With Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, Parker Posey.

Acclaimed as the best Hartley film to date, Henry Fool is hard to categorize. That's what we like best about it, too: this movie is so good, so entertainingly refreshingly smart and wily, that you'd be a fool yourself if you missed it. Factoid: this movie was inspired by Harold Bloom's `Anxiety of Influence,' a well-known thesis about how artistic originality results from eradicating the signs of others' influence on one's work. The titular figure is a vulgar tenant who exerts an enormous influence on his landlord, Simon Grim. Simon is a garbage man by day but a wannabe-writer always. Henry works his imposing, beer-swilling ways deep into Simon's unsteady life, occasioning a profound friendship that becomes severely tested over the course of remarkable events. When Simon becomes hugely famous after publishing an epic poem, Henry, who had so much to do with Simon's work, finds his own work dismissed as trite. You can see where Bloom's thesis enters into the plot here, but the film is also about friendship, loyalty, and the effects of fame. Not to be missed, Henry Fool takes the prize for the best film of this series.

[IMDb] November 29  Smoke Signals (USA 1998) 89 mins.
Distributed by Miramax Films.
Directed by Chris Eyre.
With Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Irene Bedard, Gary Farmer, Tantoo Cardinal, et al.

Wonderful novelist/screenwriter Sherman Alexie's tale of a young man's journey towards reconciliation with his father is the source of this terrific film. The film practically screams `authentic' at you, because, yes, this is the first ever all-native feature production, not a whitie in sight to sentimentalize the works. Are you listening, Kevin Costner? Handsome muscular Victor Joseph (Beach) learns of his estranged father's premature death. Compelled to retrieve the body for proper spiritual burial, Victor sets out on a journey of discovery, one aided by his childhood pal, the chatty Thomas-Builds-the-Fire (Adams). Along the way these two encounter just about every Indian stereotype there is, but they react with a measure of comic detachment, cynicism, and wit that really forces you to question your own assumptions about authenticity and representation. Smoke Signals is, in fact, a madly comic film that disarms by laughing at itself, while being deadly serious of its subject. Recommended viewing for anyone who still thinks that a cigar store Indian is just a cigar store Indian.

[IMDb] December 6  Gone with the Wind (USA 1939/1998) 222 mins.
New Line Productions' Official Site
Directed by Victor Fleming.
With Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia De Havilland, et al.

Well, someone had to do it, so why not the MUN Sunday Cinema series? Yes, we are bringing you a two-jumbo-popcorn afternoon extravaganza, the digitally remastered, remixed, and reprinted Gone With the Wind, complete with an intermission and the full burning of Atlanta. Fifty-nine years old and still ravishing, GWTW takes us back to a time when movies were big, colour was new, actors kissed for eternity, and Vivien Leigh seemed normal. Tomorrow may be another day, but today we are showing one of the greatest melodramas of all time. For Scarlet O'Hara, the American civil war was just a plain old nuisance, interfering with her parties, flirtations, and compulsion to wear velvet. America might have been on the verge of complete disintegration but Scarlet's major struggle was whether or not to let the handsome Rhett Butler know how crazy she was about him. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll love the exaggeration, spectacular sets, improbable plot contrivances, and stormy love scenes. This epic didn't get eight Academy Awards for nothing. Now is your time to see what all the fuss was about. A big-screen experience for the true cinephile.