CRITERION COLLECTION REVIEWS – VOL. 4 (Being John Malkovich, House, The Long Good Friday)

BEING JOHN MALKOVICH 1HOUSE 1THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY 1

BEING JOHN MALKOVICH 2

Being John Malkovich (1999/dir. Spike Jonze/USA) – One of the best Criterion Collection purchases I’ve ever made, Being John Malkovich is truly one of the best films ever made. Seriously, I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. It’s absolutely bat-shit crazy premise involves a desperate puppeteer (John Cusack), his animal-obsessed wife (Cameron Diaz) and his sexually manipulative co-worker (Catherine Keener) discovering a portal into actor John Malkovich’s brain. You know, John Malkovich? From that jewel heist movie? It had been five long years since I last saw this masterpiece and it’s even better than I remembered. Completely ridiculous yet surprisingly profound, Being John Malkovich is unlike anything ever committed to celluloid. The amazing Criterion Collection features include an audio commentary track by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry, who remarks in a thick French accent, “Being John Malkovich? What the fuck is this?! I didn’t do this movie!” He talks about he loves but resents Spike Jonze for making such a strong debut feature and randomly talks about actor/director Vincent Gallo (The Brown Bunny, Buffalo ’66) being an arrogant asshole for some reason. Grade: A 

HOUSE 2

House (1977/dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi/Japan) – Speaking of absolutely bat-shit crazy, the comedic (?) horror (?) classic House might have Being John Malkovich beat in the bizarre department. Not an easy feat, but if you’ve seen House, you’ll most likely agree that films don’t get more bananas BANANAS BANANAS BANANAS. I can see how a lot of parochial viewers would see this as indecipherable trash, but I absolutely love this film. It’s one of the most relentlessly fascinating and uncompromising visions I’ve ever seen brought to film. Even if it doesn’t have a point, it’s a hilarious blast to look at for 88 minutes. For best results, sit back, relax and let it completely wash over you. Careful of that goddamn cat! Now Streaming on HuluPlus Grade: A- 

THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY 2

The Long Good Friday (1979/dir. John Mackenzie/UK) – A jarringly 70s grind house music score punctuates John Mackenzie’s glacially-paced but ultimately effective crime drama. The Long Good Friday follows gangster Harry Shands’ (the late great Bob Hoskins) battle with the IRA to stay top dog in London. Unfortunately, the Criterion Collection (printed in 1998) doesn’t come with subtitles, so much of the actors’ thick Cockney got lost on these yankee ears. Even with not completely understanding them (I go the gist of what they were saying), it’s an easy story to follow due in part to Berrie Keefe’s remarkably uncomplicated and basic screenplay. This ends up being one of the film’s biggest downfalls as well as the amateurish direction. Despite these crucial shortcomings, the two lead performances are solid. Helen Mirren is wonderful as Shands’ cunning femme fatale wife and Bob Hoskins delivers one of the best performances of his career (and that’s an amazing career) as the angry bulldog-esque crime boss. Hoskins is absolutely riveting and his work in the final scene is among the finest bits of acting I’ve ever seen. Out of Print. Grade: B

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