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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

JANUARY 31, 2000: 

AMERICAN MOVIE. I must admit to witnessing less than half of American Movie's genius. After 45 minutes, I had the urge to saw off my head with a rusty power tool, leading a kinder soul to quickly escort me from the building. Much of the rest of the scant audience was laughing (or making choking noises of some kind). American Movie won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance, which is a good thing. If it hadn't, everyone would swear it was a brilliantly sarcastic mockumentary about a film weenie in Wisconsin who pulls all stops -- like dropping out of high school, living at home and using moronic tactics of delusion and confusion -- to convince his pathetic friends and family members he's going to make the great American movie. Director Chris Smith captures it all in excruciating detail -- the hope, the impossibility, the lives we never want to live. His low-budget exercise in schadenfreude has a particular kind of audience: one that is unflinching, and/or those sheltered from prior knowledge that the Mark Borschardts of the world indeed exist, like a silent, standing army ready to ambush you and insist you watch their films at festivals, parties and premieres; or at the very least, that you listen, trapped, while they explain said movies to death. The marketing says this is high comedy; I say it's horror. -- Mari Wadsworth


CRADLE WILL ROCK. Boiling down this wonderfully chaotic, complex cast of characters and events in New York in the 1930s may be misleading. But in a nutshell, Cradle Will Rock is a fictionalized account of the red scare, the rise and fall of the National Theatre as a branch of Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration, the labor movement, and a clear but hardly unique collision between high art, big business and politics. It's an eloquent and at times overwhelming glimpse into a very realistic 1936, in which Orson Welles (Angus MacFadyen) stages the eponymous musical about Steeltown; Nelson Rockefeller (John Cusack) hires Diego Rivera (RubÉn Blades) to paint the lobby of Rockefeller Center; an Italian countess (Susan Sarandon) sells paintings for Mussolini, and American steel magnates and newspaper publishers (John Carpenter III as William Randolph Hearst) further her cause. A brilliant execution of converging subplots and character studies, which my companion passionately called, "the most boring, agonizing movie I've ever seen." Written and directed by Tim Robbins; also starring Joan Cusak, Vanessa Redgrave, John Turturro and Emily Watson. -- Mari Wadsworth


SUPERNOVA. Extremely cute actors (James Spader, Robin Tunney), cool space-ships and lots of poorly lit nudity can't save this sci-fi thriller from some weird editing and basic plot problems. It's a film noir set in the future as a space drifter brings a potentially dangerous artifact aboard a crippled medical ship. Clipped dialogue, illicit sex, and a couple of laser blasts to the brain later there's some mention of a supernova, though by that point the plot is so muddled that none of the remaining characters really give a damn, and they just go home. Then two people switch eyeballs and the movie is over. Actually, I kind of liked this one, but everyone else tells me it sucked, so don't go see it. OK. Sorry. Bye. --James DiGiovanna


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