In its examination of aspirations, complacency, and the fine line between talent and persistence, few documentaries have come close to capturing the pursuit of artistic ambitions with as much raw sincerity as American Movie.
While being a low-budget exploitation film, Race With The Devil transcends its genre trappings and sets itself apart from other drive-in movies of the 1970s. It understands that true horror — the kind that gets under your skin and lingers with you long after the credits roll — doesn’t come from blood and guts, but from the universal fear of the unknown: not knowing who to trust or who is out to get you.
Following the success of Easy Rider, Peter Fonda tried his hand at directing with two wildly different films. Both feature a score by the influential musician Bruce Langhorne, and one is a minor masterpiece that attempts to rewrite the rules of the western genre.
Thief has been hailed as a Marxist neo-noir classic, a cinematic bridge between the gritty realism of the crime-dramas of the 1970s and the hyper-stylized action films of the 1980s. But besides being a genre bedrock, Thief is a nuanced character study that serves as an allegory for the trappings of capitalism.
For the latest installment of the VIDEODROME column, we sat down with writer and screenwriter, Kim Morgan, to discuss Frank Perry’s Play It As It Lays (1972), Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins, and driving in Los Angeles.
Unlike Lynch’s other commercial work, which highlights his aesthetic trademarks while showcasing the brand’s merchandise, the Georgia Coffee campaign is as much an advertisement for the product as it is for Twin Peaks, simultaneously exhibiting the series’ seismic impact on pop culture as well as Lynch’s uncanny ability to straddle the line between the mainstream and the avant-garde.
The Seventh Continent is classified as a family drama, but it’s undoubtedly a horror film, perhaps one of the most horrifying films ever made. It’s nihilism as an aesthetic, misanthropy as a philosophy, and construction as deconstruction.
Like its lead character, Sling Blade walks a fine line between mishandling sentimentality and portraying somber reality. But its characters are never caricatures, transcending tropes with an often excruciating amount of empathy and depth, none more so than Billy Bob Thornton as the tortured Karl Childers.
The violence and bleakness at the end of Over The Edge sets it apart from other like-minded coming-of-age/juvenile delinquent films; it chooses to resolve itself as a cautionary tale for adults instead of a celebration of youth for teenagers.
Is True Stories a musical, a comedy, a documentary, or another Talking Heads film? In retrospect, it’s all of these things and more. True Stories is an oracular film, predicting the changing landscape of Texas while simultaneously capturing America in all its peculiarities circa the mid-eighties.
For the latest installment of Aquarium Drunkard’s VIDEODROME column, we sat down with writer and cinephile, Matthew Specktor, to discuss Shoot The Moon (1982), the Hollywood cycle of divorce films from the eighties, and his upcoming book.
If Lady In A Cage presents a worldview, it’s decidedly misanthropic. Footage of baseball games and fighter jets are juxtaposed with heinous news reports and acts of savagery. This is America in decline, blissfully aware of its ignorance but unwilling to confront the nightmares its pacification has spawned.
There are two ways to evaluate Less Than Zero: a standalone film that functions on its own cinematic merits, or the adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel. Like most pieces of media that live in various forms, the appreciation or dissatisfaction largely stems from which one was encountered first, and the personal sentimentality placed upon that experience. But there’s a third way to approach Less Than Zero, and that is as a holiday film.
Rather than characterize Baker as the trumpet-wielding James Dean or a playboy jazz rebel, Weber shows Baker for who he was: a deeply flawed man, with bruises and blemishes and all. The contrast between Baker’s personality and musicality makes Weber’s profile of Baker that much more heartbreaking. How could someone of so few words be so lyrical and poignant in their musicianship? How could someone who lived so crudely play so gently and sing so sweetly?
The documentary shows news reports and photographs from a town decaying into chaos throughout the 1890s: murder, suicide, mental insanity, epidemics, arson, and economic collapse. Whether following one of the many Black River Falls residents taken to Mendota Asylum for insanity or tracing ghost sightings in the area, Wisconsin Death Trip displays a community in complete decline, stripping away the romanticization of the American frontier to reveal its true agony and despair.