A Gooden Miscellany!
Friends, Readers, Fellow Video Venturers,

In my quest to review all the videos on earth, I have watched more than I've had time to share with you. Some of these films are fading in my memory behind the sounds and images of other films. So, before it's too late, here is a slew of short glimpses for you to browse including the new, the old, the mainstream and the hard to find. Three bonuses are here, too: 1) A brief discussion of last week's subject, Mulholland Drive inspired by several bright readers; 2) A blind auction for a rock and roll video and a rock and roll DVD; and 3) A look at a film that's now struggling with Spiderman to get some theater play outside of San Francisco. It's the first time I've reviewed a film that's not yet available on VHS!

I am delighted to clear out this backlog, and I hope you will enjoy the change of pace. And finally, a hearty thank you to Mark Sinclair for his dedicated maintenance of my site--along with his own brilliant Post-It Theater.

The Cockettes

My Rating:

Generously documenting a decidedly San-Francisco-in-the-70s phenomenon.

What to eat while watching:

A good documentary is hard to come by. Not only do the filmmakers have to walk the delicate line between artistic assertiveness and journalistic integrity, but also the subject matter has to be interesting in itself. The Cockettes, a new film about a group of San Francisco acid-dropping, drag-queen, performance-art hippies makes the grade in my book.

This loose troupe began giving free shows in San Francisco theaters, mainly comprised of Broadway show tunes, garish drag and nudity, and they garnered something of a cult status. Though the flakiness and egotism that eventually ended the phenomenon are clear in this depiction, we also see a great deal of love among these people and a true dedication to a free way of living. When this silly, sexy art show goes to New York City, the contrast with that serious and jaded place is stark. Nonetheless, the Cockettes, allied with such luminary freaks as John Waters and Divine, seem all to have loved the experience, and the documentary's tenderness is palpable and infectious to the audience. See it if you can! Support independent cinema!

The Last Polka

My Rating:

A little too long for something a little too subtle.

What to eat while watching:
Cabbage rolls and coffee!

John Candy and Eugene Levy star as Yosh and Stan Shmenge, The Happy Wanderers in this post-SCTV farewell performance. SCTV watchers will remember the monotoned polka duo who sent up John Williams' "Star Wars," Disco and other fads of their day, all in an effort to get fabulously wealthy.

This hard-to-find video is the last concert the two gave before retiring. Why retirement? "No comment," Stan Shmenge jokes. As a faux-documentary, Last Polka risks comparisons to the king-of-the-genre Spinal Tap. But the Shmenges one-up Tap by playing to a colloseum containing only six people.

Performances by Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, and other SCTV vets make this a sentimental if not uproarious trip, and there are quite a few chuckles anyway. Candy's deadpan is as priceless as Rick Moranis' facial hair. I'm willing to work with die-hard fans to get a copy of this from my friend Marty for you see, but I'll need proof of fanaticism.

Petulia (1968)

My Rating:

Someone said this film is a classic, which, given the fact that it's now 34 years old, is true by definition, if it were a car.

What to eat while watching:

Julie Christie plays the wigged-out title role in this tragic tale of love and society. Bored with her glamorous life, Petulia seeks a break from her rich husband, David. She meets Arthur, a doctor, well played by George C. Scott. Their affair is doomed from the start. She basically jerks the guy around, and he tries to maintain an even keel. But the woman is seriously disturbed, mainly because her husband, rich though he is, is physically abusive, and her in-laws are bent on keeping up happy, healthy appearances.

The film is extremely dated, so I can't think of much to recommend it except the performances of Scott as well as Big Brother and the Holding Company and The Grateful Dead. 60's fans will enjoy the flashbacks. San Francisco also figures prominently, as in The Cockettes, a more timeless film.

Rebel Without a Cause

My Rating:

It's definitely worth seeing this classic-in-every-way teen flick.

What to eat while watching:
Whatever you want, just don't spill it on the carpet.

I can't resist quoting comedian and lovable zany, Phil Fleischmann who said: "I'm a rebel. When I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I put the peanut butter and jelly on the outside. I'm so much of a rebel, I spell it with three l's. And not all together at the end, either. I spell it R-E-L-B-L-E-L: rebel."

Enough with the jokes, though. This movie is serious; very dated, but serious. And pretty cool, too. James Dean, as we know, embodied something fundamental for his generation. He was the archetypal youth of the disaffected fifties, the teen angst-monger who would not buy into the false veneer of suburban contentment. It's James Dean's energy that runs through the Beat Poets, through Punk Rock, through Rock and Roll.

The datedness and slow pace take some patience, but there is still a lot to recommend this film, from the strong acting to the good script to the pure youth energy that infuses it all. And you don't want to have never seen Rebel Without a Cause, do you?


My Rating:

A little contrived, but so what? The footage of the moonwalk is reason enough to see this film.

What to do while watching:
It's slow-moving enough to get in a little household tidying while the tape runs.

Where were you when humans first walked on the moon? I was probably sitting in a wet diaper in front of the old black and white. That's why this film is such a delight to see. Apart from the semi-interesting tale of an Australian space tracking station, this movie has a good 20 minutes of footage of the space walk.

The frame tale is decent. A fatherly Sam Neill plays the Australian scientist/widower running the station and leading his team while American interloper Patrick Warburton learns to stop being such a hard-nose NASA guy and get along with the down-to-earth Aussies. You couldn't ask for a much more pleasant evening's viewing than this dish. It's historically fascinating with an air of heartwarming feel-goodness wrapped in the spice of Australia (Vegemite).

Mulholland Drive

My Rating:

Could this be one of Lynch's greatest? It's been a good discussion, at least.

As I said last week, I didn't think this was so fun to watch, but for anyone who'd like a plausible theory of what's actually going on in Mulholland Drive, some bright readers have sent in some comments. Brian Adams (THE Brian Adams? It could be!) says: "Ooh, but it cuts like a knife! But it feels so right!" And he also says:

"The last third is reality. Diane did come to Hollywood, and the explanation given to the director's mother is the truth: She won a dance contest. (Watch the intro to the movie with the dancing.) She got roles in movies through Rita. Camilla got her roles by Mafia-type influence and turns out to be pretty twisted as she toys with Diane not only by marrying the director but fooling around with another girl. This leads Diane to hire the hitman at Dinkies. The first two-thirds are a dream Diane has. The beginning of the film shows a first-person view of someone's head descending onto a pillow: Diane is going to sleep."

Adams gives quite a few details that support the reading, but another reader suggests something quite different, positing that some or all of the characters are dead and in some kind of ghost-like state or purgatorial plane. After my first viewing, I thought it was all about some kind of voodoo soul-swapping, and this still seems a plausible reading to me.

But yet another unnamed reader, a film critic himself said, "Leave the [expletive deleted] story for the [expletive deleted] viewer to figure out for him or herself. All these different interpretations work, but the film is great on its own without needing to understand it. It just packs a huge emotional [impact], and anyone who tries to define it for everyone else is a [long and graphic expletive deleted]."

Finally, one Peter Vader (a relative of Darth) says not to blame Blockbuster for censoring Laura Harring's full-frontal nudity: "I read somewhere credible that David Lynch claims responsibility for the fuzzing of the naked Laura Harring parts. Explaining (in so many words), 'otherwise pictures of her would be everywhere.'"

Video/DVD Blind Auction

My Rating:

I just want to give something back.

I have two collector's items for rock fans. To bid, simply e-mail me your blind bid. There is no opening bid and no way of telling who has bid what. That's why it's blind. Highest bid wins.

Item 1: Bad Company In Concert DVD: Merchants of Cool
Can't Get Enough of their love? Well, this DVD will satisfy your classic rock cravings with extensive footage and features of Paul, Jaz, Simon, and David. Who? Bad Company, that's who! The guys who brought you "All Right Now" and "Can't Get Enough (of Your Love)" Opening Bid: ?? Minimum Increment: ??

Item 2: David Lee Roth's No Holds Barbecue (VHS)
Diamond Dave, now on tour with Sammy Hagar, released this video recently. It's a long mix of his music and goofage. Sounds like he wants to get in on the rave/DJ scene: the songs have that trance-groove thing going on and the footage is an extended party/photo shoot with a lot of hot women. Roth questions his own sanity. Opening Bid: ?? Minimum Increment: ??

Want to share a happy story with Gooden?

Gooden loves to share!

For your collection: The Cockettes, The Last Polka: Good Luck., Petulia, Rebel Without a Cause, Dish, Mulholland Drive, Blind Auction

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