Category: 1999


Spring Forward

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The moment when human society surpassed “mere survival” as our primary life’s activity and developed culture and civilization instead is more of a mixed blessing than you’d think. We were finally able to find pleasure in our own existence and life ceased to be a never-ending struggle to not starve, but with that time to relax and ponder our place in the universe, we were struck by the existential questions that have defined modern human life. Why are we here? What’s the point of it all if we’re just going to die someday anyways? How do I find purpose in my life?

And though such philosophical quandaries are the bread and butter of the upper crust and the intellectual who have the leisure of devoting significant parts of their lives to introspection, these are questions that every person faces. And the cultural divide between the academics and professionals from the working class and uneducated makes it too easy for the former to think that the latter doesn’t think about these same issues. The only difference is where the meaning in our lives is derived. And whether that’s God, family, love, or intellectual pursuits, before we die, every man and woman must find their answer to that question.

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1999’s Spring Forward isn’t so much an attempt to answer the great questions of life (look towards The Tree of Life for that type of film) as it is an examination of men who are desperately seeking some meaning and some stability to grasp onto in their lives. And by placing the film squarely on the shoulders of two blue-collar but intelligent guys, Spring Forward avoids the potential snares of intellectual pretension by showing vividly crafted and realistic figures attempting to wrestle with ideas that have eluded the philosophers for millennia. About the only complaint one could lodge against this film is that all anyone does in it is talk, but when the conversations are this good, who cares?

After spending 18 months in prison for committing an armed robbery when his life went to complete shit, Paul (Liev Schreiber) gets a job in the Parks and Recreation department of a tiny New England town, and it’s his last chance to get the pieces of his life back together. When he was in prison, Paul was introduced to spiritual writings from the great minds of all of the major religions, and for a guy that dropped out of high school, Paul is able to find parallels in the writings of these men and the life he’s living right now. But it isn’t until he’s paired with the old Murph (Toy Story 3‘s Ned Beatty) that Paul finds the steady footing he needs.

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When the film begins, Murph is one year away from retirement, and he and Paul couldn’t be more different. Murph hasn’t strayed from the path a day in his life (or so you think at first), and the foul-mouthed, explosive Paul is set up to be a thorn in his side. But Murph’s gay son is dying from AIDS (never explicitly stated as such in the film) and we soon learn that Murph is as much of an emotional mess as Paul is because of his guilt of not giving his son enough love. And over the course of one year, Murph and Paul confide their deepest secrets to one another as they become the father and son they both desperately need.

Spring Forward is structured more like a play than a traditional film and it is broken down into clearly recognizable acts. Each scene is much lengthier than your average movie (they can be nearly twenty minutes a piece) and each time (with the exception of the final scene), the scenes are centered around a conversation between Murph and Paul as the year has progressed and their friendship has gotten deeper. They open themselves up to each other, and in the process, they voice their concerns and philosophies about the nature of the world as they dance circles around one another trying to determine if the other is worth the trust and affection they both need to give.

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Though I was enjoying the film, it finally cohered into a great picture halfway through when its theme and goals were made clear. It’s the beginning of fall and Paul and Murph are cleaning up leaves at a baseball field when Murph has a breakdown about his son. The pair get stoned together and all of Paul’s philosophical jabbering through out the movie finally adheres into a meaningful outlook on life and Murph tells a deeply personal story about an event at his brother’s funeral (which leads to one of my favorite lines in the film where Murph talks about how in a certain Indian tribe, the words for “breath” and “poetry” were the same).

Spring Forward is a beautifully acted and emotionally subtle film that proves to hold an emotional wallop when all is said and done. I’m hard-pressed to name a better performance in Ned Beatty’s career than as Murph, particularly as the layers of his character are slowly peeled away as the film progresses. He starts out as the sage father figure Paul needs, but Beatty makes it clear just how fueled by regret and guilt Murph really is. And though Liev Schreiber’s accent was comically unplaceable, he captured the simmering tension and desperate earnestness of Paul masterfully. And the naked emotional intimacy the two men shared was a wonderful display of masculine vulnerability.

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That the plot of this film is propelled almost entirely by conversations is going to be a turn-off for some. There are exactly two scenes where a major event occurs that isn’t almost entirely an extended conversation (and even then, there’s plenty of talking). So, perhaps writer/director Tom Gilroy (Girls Town) could have done a better job of externalizing these revelations and conversations, but the point of the film was watching men from a very specific walk of life wrestle with these incredibly tough questions. And from that perspective, it is a great film and a worthy heir to the My Dinner With Andre-legacy of existentialist, conversation-fueled cinema.

Final Score: A-

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(a side note before my actual review. My streak of reviewing a disproportionately large number of great films continues. I am not complaining)

When I first saw Oliver Stone’s football epic, Any Given Sunday, back when it was released in 1999, I was unprepared for the complexity and maturity of this masterful film’s storytelling. I enjoyed the movie even then (it broke the mold of your typical sports story that I was tired of even at the age of 10), but it was a film with so much going on underneath the surface that it’s sort of a miracle that a blockbuster like this was even allowed to be made in the first place. It’s weird, in retrospect, that this was the first Oliver Stone film I ever watched considering the man’s large and diverse body of work (and it’s sad that this was probably Stone’s last great film). Though Any Given Sunday may not have the grand political ambitions of Platoon or Born on the Fourth of July, it’s still a powerful and multi-layered film that achieves the rare Stone feat of also being highly accessible.

I call the film accessible because at the end of the day, if you don’t have the patience for the film’s darker subtexts, it’s still a rousing and hard-hitting football drama (which subverts many sports film stereotypes at every turn). But, the power and enduring strength of the film comes from it’s almost apocalyptic outlook on the world of professional football. The film is so dark and unyielding that it still sort of blows my mind that I didn’t pick up on it even as a kid. A man pushes himself to the brink of paralysis for a chance at a signing bonus. A player gets his eye knocked out of the back of his head during a particularly brutal hit. The coach visits hookers. The typical “back up quarterback called into the spotlight” turns into an egocentric gloryhound. A young owner is ruthless in her quest for the almighty dollar but she’s right in her criticism of the old-fashioned nature of the more “morally grounded” coach. The film is harsh in its realistic portrayal of the game.

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In an alternate universe where a second professional football league doesn’t quite rival the NFL but still generates plenty of money, the Miami Sharks have fallen far from their halcyon glory days. Coach Tony D’amato (The Godfather‘s Al Pacino) has lost the fire in his belly, and his old-fashioned dedication to a running game and the basics of football is being torn apart in the face of modern high-powered offenses. To make matters worse, his aging star quarterback Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid) gets injured during the middle of a four game losing streak at the end of the season while the ruthless young coach, Christina Pagniacci (Being John Malkovich‘s Cameron Diaz), is breathing down his neck looking for any excuse to fire him. When his second string quarterback gets injured in the same game, Tony is forced to rely on untested third-string quarterback Willie Beamen (Django Unchained‘s Jamie Foxx) which brings a whole ‘nother set of complications.

It turns out that Willie is a exceptional quarterback. A natural athlete, Willie is as much a threat running as he is passing, and he can read defenses well enough to change plays to shock the other team well enough to get a sneak score. But, Willie’s quick rise to fame goes to his head in the worst way possible, and his own arrogance in his talents begins to alienate him from his teammates even as he’s leading his team to victory. All the while, a slimy team physician (Salvador‘s James Woods) is over-prescribing pain medication and letting injured players stay in the game even though their very lives are at risk because it might be the difference between a loss and victory. As Tony tries to keep his team apart (as Willie’s newfound arrogance starts to tear it apart), the Miami Sharks have a realistic shot at a playoffs berth that may do more damage to the team than if they had simply lost the rest of their games.

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One of the strengths of the film is the bordering on unbelievable depth of its cast. This is easily one of the best performances of the the late period of Pacino’s career and the only one that seems to top it off the top of my head is Glengarry Glen Ross. Tony is world-weary and beaten down and a loser despite the great man people claim he used to be. But, on those rare occasions, we see sparks of the man he could be, and Pacino makes the transitions between those two different Tony’s a magical thing to behold. This was the first performance from Jamie Foxx that gave us a hint that maybe he could be a great actor. And while this isn’t his turn in Collateral or Ray, it was still a hell of a performance from an actor mostly known for light comedic roles at the time. Hell, Oliver Stone manages to even coax a great performance from Cameron Diaz who is a second-rate actress at best.

And, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Alongside his performance in Salvador, I think James Woods part as the unethical team physician is one of the best of his entire career. And it works because it’s clear that Harvey isn’t entirely evil. He honestly believes he’s doing what these players want and what is best for the team even though it violates the Hippocratic oath. Dennis Quaid, another actor that I’m not otherwise overly fond of, shines as the football star who’s over the hill and then some but pushes himself to the breaking point because he doesn’t have any other options in life. And, one of the unsung performances of the film is from real life football legend Lawrence Taylor who more or less plays a fictionalized version of himself in the movie as a football pro with one too many concussions.

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Oliver Stone’s direction has always been peerless (even when his storytelling can be hamfisted and decidedly unsubtle), and Any Given Sunday is no exception. The only other football film I can think of that captures the excitement and energy of football better than Any Given Sunday is the football documentary Undefeated. Utilizing the combination of traditional cinematography and found footage that he pioneered in JFK (an Oliver Stone film I’m still yet to see), Any Given Sunday is a dynamic experience that both places the audience in the glitz and glamor of professional football but it also captures the brutal reality of getting hit by three different 280 pound men at once. I’m actually not sure if football has ever been portrayed this brutally from the perspective of the sheer hell the game puts its players through.

If one can make any complaints about the film, they’d have to be relegated towards its pacing and length. Any Given Sunday is a great film, but it would probably be a better film if it were about twenty minutes shorter. I’m not sure where those cuts could be made. Any Given Sunday is like a house of cards where removing one piece would weaken the whole structure, but I’m sure there’s a way that this tale could have been told more efficiently. By the two and a half hour mark, my patience began to wear slightly thin (so thank god then that the final playoff game climax was so exciting). Also, one bit of the ending seemed at least partially disingenuous because one character’s transformation seemed too neat and upbeat. Although, the final stinger of the film subverts that one last time so maybe I’m over-reacting.

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I’ll draw this review to a close. I’m starving. I haven’t eaten anything today (although to be fair, I didn’t wake up until like 4:30 PM and I hadn’t gone to bed until like 7 AM), and I want to finish the second season of Star Trek. I also need to watch Eve’s Bayou before it leaves my Netflix Instant queue. So, I’ll leave you with these parting thoughts. I’m not sure if I can think of a non-documentary football film that’s better than Any Given Sunday (that specification rules out Go Tigers! and Undefeated). It was Oliver Stone’s last great film and arguably his last good film, period. If you have even a passing interest in the game, Any Given Sunday is a must-see film for its condemnation of the infiltration of money and greed into professional sports. As a scathing indictment of the narcissism that sadly rules the pros today, Any Given Sunday is an unqualified success story.

Final Score: A-

American Pie

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For better and for worse, the resurgence of the teen sex farce genre of cinema (after it faded back into obscurity in the late 1980s) can be traced back to one movie, 1999’s American Pie. Now considered one of the definitive mainstream comedies of the late 90s, it was difficult to know just how influential (once again, for better and for worse) this movie would be. Fourteen years later, knowing everything that’s come after, it’s impossible not to see the blueprint left behind by this flawed but still deeply enjoyable film. In an experiment in comedy storytelling that few have tried to match, we’ve seen these characters grow now for fourteen years, and this was our first piece of the pie.

What makes American Pie work (when its jokes, acting, and occasional casual misogyny threaten to tear the film apart) so well compared to many of its peers is the emphasis the film put on character in addition to its endless scattershot gags. No one would ever confuse American Pie screenwriter Adam Herz with Kenneth Lonergan, but unlike many of the more gag-driven teen comedies to come, the boys and girls living in this world feel relatable. Their concerns are bigger than just having sex, and though the film falters on more than one occasion (consistent humor only comes from a handful of characters), American Pie has aged better than the careers of most of its stars.

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With only a month left of high school, four best friends are desperate to lose their virginity. Socially awkward Jim (Jason Biggs) is more likely to be caught masturbating by his parents than to get any real action, although the cute Czechoslovakian foreign exchange student Nadia (Elizabeth Shannon) seems to have eyes for him. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has a steady girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid), but they can’t seem to make it past third base, and with college on the way and both lovers heading to separate schools, Kevin knows that he doesn’t have very long to seal the deal. Oz (Chris Klein) wants to move past his reputation as a dumb jock and to work on his sensitivity, he joins the school jazz choir where he meets the cute Heather (Mena Suvari). And lastly, the want-to-be sophisticate Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has to figure out a way to fit in with his intellectual and cultural inferiors.

After an embarrassing evening at the house party of the obnoxious and crass Steve Stifler (Sean William Scott), the four make a vow to lose their virginity by graduation. And of course, it’s easier said than done. Realizing prom is their last shot, each boy concocts a scheme to bed the girl of his choosing by that fateful night, but they find themselves in awkward sexual and personal mishaps along the way. Jim tries to have sex with a warm apple pie, Stifler drinks a beer with a special ingredient, Kevin learns the finer works of performing oral sex on a woman, and Oz realizes that becoming the sensitive guy will be a lot harder than just joining jazz choir.

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It’s not Shakespeare. It’s not even Judd Apatow, but American Pie is an uproariously funny movie when all of the pieces fit together. As the series learned by the sequels (and I honestly believe American Wedding is the best film in the bunch), Jason Biggs’s Jim is the emotional heart of the franchise, and the most consistently funny moments in the film (i.e. the parts where I was laughing so hard I woke my sister up from a nap multiple times) are being Jim and his father (Eugene Levy). In one of the most hysterically realistic portrayals of father/son sex talks in the history of cinema, Jim’s dad tries to teach Jim on the finer points of condoms, pornography, masturbation, and sex, and they made me laugh so hard I started crying.

The rest of the movie’s humor doesn’t always work as well (though other characters have their moments that work too). The franchise’s love of scatalogical humor begins with Finch’s inability to use the bathroom in a public place, and it climaxes in one of the movie’s grosser and more overtly unfunny moments. Kevin gets in on the humor when he goes down on his girlfriend which climaxes (in more ways than one) with a most appropriate and gut-busting play on words. And, Vicky’s friend Jessica (Natasha Lyonne) provides a feminist counterpoint to the mostly male-dominated humor of the film (and who can forget Alyson Hanigan’s classic quip at film’s end)

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I’ve always been bothered by the fact that the film never really addresses (unless American Reunion does which I’ve not seen yet) how wrong it was of Jim to videotape a naked Nadia and broadcast over the internet (even just to his close friends, ignoring that it was sent to everyone at their school), and the films’ casual misogyny is present in other places. Kevin is supposed to be the likeable guy in the group, but he treats Vicky like shit most of the film with little real consequence. Finch seems to be the only member of the group whose dishonesty and mistreatment of women gets any real comeuppance (and it mostly has to do with pissing off Stifler, not how he lied to women).

Also, sadly, there’s a reason that outside of these films, most of the cast never really had careers later on. Jason Biggs, Eugene Levy, Alyson Hannigan, Natasha Lyonne, and Thomas Ian Nicholas hit all of the right notes, but many of the other performances fall flat. Chris Klein is an actively bad actor. His performance during the film made me uncomfortable because of how stilted and wooden it is. And, his partner Mena Suvari, who is otherwise a serviceable actress, takes her cues from Klein and is as stilted and wooden as he is. Tara Reid is also a criminally awful actress, and the American Pie films were probably the last role of note she ever had.

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I can’t believe I just wrote 1000 words on American Pie, but as a film that was very much a big part of my adolescence, it’s an important movie to me. I do not think American Pie is a great comedy. But it’s a very good one despite it’s consistent missteps. It’s get a lot more right than it does wrong, and when it finds the voice that works best for it, it’s a hilarious look into those years as a teenager where sex dominated your mind more than anything else. If you’ve somehow not seen American Pie and you can enjoy it’s very raunchy sense of humor (and it helped launch raunchy comedies back into prominence), take a trip with Jim and his friends.

Final Score: B+

 

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Perhaps more than any other genre of film, documentary film-making has the chance to enthrall me with stories that would otherwise seem boring or out of my personal wheelhouse of what I define as “interesting.” From Day 1 of this blog’s existence (literally since the first film I reviewed was the wonderful opera documentary In the Shadow of the Stars), documentaries have proven their resilience over and over again. I had dreaded putting in this particular film, 1999’s Speaking in Strings: Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, for the two months I’d had it at home from Netflix because a documentary about the “bad girl” of classical concert violin seemed about as interesting as a trip to the orthodontist. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

At the film’s ceneter is gifted violin prodigy, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. An Italian immigrant to the U.S. at the age of eight, Nadja showed an exceptional talent for the violin at the young age. And after studying at Julliard, Nadja won a prestigious violin competition which skyrocketed her to the forefront of the classical violin community. Nadja’s visceral and explosive style garnered her as much praise as it did harsh criticism from the classical music establishment. Like many geniuses, Nadja’s personal life is as explosive and passionate as her music and Nadja’s battles her inner demons of depression, alienation, and loneliness to create her haunting and powerful music.

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The film is almost devastatingly intimate. The film’s non-linear structure threw me off for the first fifteen minutes or so of the film but once I got a feel for how the film-maker (Paola di Floria) was dizzying the film’s audience much the same way that Nadja dizzied her concert hall audiences with her theatrics, I got into the flow of the film. By the film’s end, you feel as if you got an invasively personal look in Nadja’s life. With her suicide attempt, her disaffection with the majority of the world around her, the wounds from being lashed by much of the stiffer parts of the classical musical community, and her abandonment issues, you seem to know Nadja so well and how she turns that pain into such amazing music.

The filmmaker’s decision to make a movie about Nadja must be commended. Because I know how on paper, this film doesn’t sound like much. But whether it’s the regular use of absolutely gorgeous violin music (often performed live by Nadja herself) or interesting personality that takes center stage, Speaking in Strings never bores. It is a constantly engaging meditation on both the price of genius as well as the factors that might create a genius in the first place. As far as individuals that have taken center stage in a documentary that I’ve reviewed for this blog, I’m not sure if one has commanded the screen as much as Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

Final Score: A-

I don’t believe in heaven, but if it exists, I hope it sounds just like Agaetis Byrjun by Sigur Rós. In fact, if there were no other sounds than those produced by Jónsi and crew, that would be fine by me. There have been better records made than Agaetis Byrjun, but I’m not sure if there’s ever been a more beautiful LP made in the history of popular music. If someone ever asks you to find music to help them find their center or to get off a depressed slump, just tell them to lie on the couch and put on Agaetis Byrjun. No one will be sorry. Finding yourself drifting away on the intense aural pleasures of Sigur Rós literally heavenly music is one of the most singular joys of modern music that I can think. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve found myself sad or confused or in a rut where I put that album on and almost immediately saw my mood improve. There’s something nurturing and almost womb-like about the record. What better way to introduce Sigur Rós neophytes to their music than their 10 minute epic (if a song featuring a decidedly minimalist aesthetic can be termed epic) “Svefn-g-englar.” I’m not sure if that’s Icelandic or their made up language of Hopelandic. All I know is that this is one of the most gorgeous songs off of easily the most gorgeously constructed album ever made. Also prepare for a music video that may make you cry.

 

Discussions of oblique and cerebral matters like “self,” “identity,” and “soul” tend to take place either in the ivied walls of academia or amongst stoned first year philosophy students. For most people, the simple fact that we exist (which, in fact, isn’t that simple of a fact) is enough to take them through life content with their own self-definition as being “alive.” For screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York and Adaptation), the mind is his eternal playground, and in his debut feature, Being John Malkovich, Kaufman laid out the template of brain-bending and psycho-philosophical cinema that would come to define the rest of his career. Deftly exploring the nature of conscious entities, sexual identity, and obsessive creation, Being John Malkovich immediately marked Kaufman as one of America’s most unique screenwriters and remains one of the most impressive debuts of the last twenty years.

Charlie Kaufman explores, turns on its head, and obliterates the age-old fantasy of “What would it be like to see the world through someone else’s eyes?” Starting his career fascination with neurotic and dysfunctional artists, Kaufman creates the role of Craig Schwartz. John Cusack, admirably playing against type in his best role, brings Schwartz to life as a troubled schlemihl struggling to start a career as a puppet. With pretentious routines including “Craig’s Dance of Despair and Disillusionment” and a puppet re-enactment of early erotic literature landmark “Abelard and Heloise,” his career struggles aren’t shocking. Played with both an innocent sincerity and a creepy depravity, Cusack turns Craig Schwartz into a poster child of “doing it for the art” even when your art is unhealthy and more than a little pathetic. Throw in Craig’s unfulfilled relationship with his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz, also in her best role), who takes care of dozens of exotic animals, and Craig is a melting pot of modern dysfunction.

To allay his financial difficulties (because “this winter economic climate” is killing the puppetry business), Craig takes a job as a filer at Lester Corp, a small company on the 7 1/2 floor of a New York highrise. Run by the 105 year old lech Dr. Lester (Orson Bean in a scene-stealing performance) with his deaf secretary Floris (Big Love‘s Mary Kay Place), Lester Corp is a bizarre enough place to work as it is, but it’s the secret hiding behind a filing cabinet that truly sets Lester Corp apart. One day, Craig accidentally discovers a door which is a portal to the mind of actor John Malkovich. The portal allows the user to spend 15 minutes seeing the world through the eyes of John Malkovich and then, afterwards, they’re dumped on the side of the New Jersey turnpike. With the help of the seductive Maxine (a brilliant Catherine Keener) who both Craig and Lotte lust after, Craig hatches a scheme to get rich by selling tickets into the mind of John Malkovich, but when Craig gets jealous of the burgeoning romance between Maxine and Lotte (but only when Lotte is inside Malkovich), Craig hatches a scheme to use his puppeteering skills to take over Malkovich’s body once and for all.

Along with “Charlie Kaufmann” (and his fictional brother Donald) in Adaptation. and Caden Cotard in Synecdoche, New York, Craig Schwartz was the start of a long line of Kaufman “heroes” who served as much as commentaries on the creative process as they did as characters in their own right. Craig states several times throughout the film that he’s drawn to puppeteering because it allows him to live in the skin of others. One of the great ironies of the film is that he’s derided by many of the other characters and chided as creepy for this statement, but when they have the chance to live in the skin of John Malkovich, it is often a life-changing experience. With Lotte, it is so revelatory that she realizes she wants to have sexual re-assignment surgery. Later, without wanting to ruin one of the major plot points of the film, Craig’s artistic vision is justified when another, more famous performer begins to perform his act. Through Craig, Kaufman tries to show that even with a bold vision, the realization of art often depends on more than the artist and that the idiosyncrasies of an artist can turn off his audience.

With such wildly original scripts, it’s far too easy to give all of the credit to Charlie Kaufman in his films, but Spike Jonze (who cut his teeth making music videos such as the iconic “Sabotage” for Beastie Boys) deserves his fair share of recognition for this literal head-trip of a film. Similar to Adaptation. (though that film would greatly expand upon the technique), the film features a series of visually outrageous moments which surely went above and beyond what was required by the script. Whether it was a scene told from the point of view of a monkey as he tries to rescue his parents from poachers, John Malkovich’s trip into his own head, or a heartbreaking final shot where one character is forever trapped in the subconscious of a small child, Spike Jonze left his indelible stylistic mark on Being John Malkovich and began one of the best director/writer pairings of the 90s/2000s.

Spike Jonze also managed to elicit star-turn performances (easily the best performances from at least three of the stars) from an otherwise less than miraculous cast. Cameron Diaz is one of the least impressive big stars of her generation, but stripped of her natural beauty and given a unique (and delayed) sexual awakening, she turns Lotte into one of the few redeeming and innocent characters in the film. John Cusack made a great and early name for himself as the loveable and adrift Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything, but he’s spent most of the rest of his career mired in romcom Hell. With greasy, disheveled hair, a borderline erotic fixation with his puppets, and a level of mental stability that steadily erodes throughout the film, John Cusack could have been committing career suicide by playing this part. Yet, he committed with such fervor to the deeply unsympathetic role that there is a near universal consensus on his unnerving portrayal being the best of his career. John Malkovich had the difficult task of playing a near satirical version of himself as well as other characters controlling himself, and he handled the schizophrenic nature of the role with shocking ease.

However, Catherine Keener (who was the already accomplished indie actress in the film) gives the truly incendiary performance of the film as a character who is ultimately hedonism and temptation incarnate. From the nonchalant way she carries herself to her complete dismissal of Craig (and even her dismissal of Lotte when she isn’t in Malkovich’s body), she drips with an unattainable sexuality. Three separate characters lust for her (though one is lusting partially against his will), and although Maxine is an obviously manipulative and evil sociopath, it is a testament to Catherine Keener’s sultry performance that it is instantly obvious why everyone in the film wants her. Along the lines of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity or Kathleen Turner in Body Heat, Catherine Keener inhabits a character whose seductive prowess instantly explains the countless misdeeds that are committed to please her.

In addition to his musings on the nature of creation, Being John Malkovichprimarily concerns itself with the definition of “self.” Is your body what makes you “you,” or is there a more spiritual content? Do you have a soul? Does this soul live on even when it is disconnected from your physical body? I don’t think the film is providing serious answers to these sorts of questions (at least not within the context of this film) because Synecdoche, New York presented a deeply cynical take on so-called “spiritual” questions but as a satire of soul-searching metaphysical questions, it’s endlessly clever. Kaufman constantly adds new layers to the script and while the complexity never reaches the recursive nirvana of Synecdoche, his creation of his own rules for sentience allow a striking look at how we view others by forcing us to view ourselves through others’ eyes.

In Being John Malkovich, Charlie Kaufman fired the opening salvo to the world informing everyone that he was a writer of immense talent and such vast imagination and creativity that his films would simply drip with more style than he would know what to do with. In fact, there are moments in Being John Malkovich that are so outright quirky that they almost distract from the actual themes of the film. If Craig Schwartz found a portal into the mind of John Malkovich, Charlie Kaufman has provided his audience with a portal into his own mind and when your time is up, you aren’t dumped onto the side of the New Jersey turnpike. Instead, you’re left wrestling with the writing talent of the most wholly realized artists in the history of American cinema.

Final Score: A

It is rare that I am able to take films about drug abuse very seriously. Nine times out ten, they are preachy and judgmental rather than honest and insightful. Perhaps because I’ve lived with a drug dealer (although I didn’t do the drugs), I know that the issues here aren’t as black and white as the vast majority of drug films make it out to be. I know just how much damage drugs can wreak in a family. On my mother’s side of the family (though not actually my mother), drug abuse was/is a serious issue. However, 90% of films on the subject seem to not realize the subtleties of the issue (or that there are people out there who can get along perfectly fine while using drugs in a responsible way) and want to preach to audiences that all drugs are bad all of the time. There are no exceptions. So, it’s interesting to find a film which certainly seems to come down hard on drug use (especially harder stuff like heroine and falling prey to addiction) that manages to not be an overbearing, moralizing affair. I’m not entirely sure if Jesus’ Son is as insightful and poetic as its writers/director intended but it’s a surreal stream-of-conscious film that accurately captures the downward spiral life of a homeless, drug addicted drifter in the 1970s.

Following about four or five years in the life of the sensitive fuck-up known only as Fuck Head (Almost Famous’ Billy Crudup), Jesus’ Son is a sprawling, non-linear (slightly unfocused) story of one man’s descent into the darkest depths of addiction, his desire (and inability) to emotionally connect with those around him, and his one last chance to get himself out of the gutter. The film takes place through a series of often unrelated, episodes which put together one piece of the puzzle of FH’s fucked up life, and it jumps back and forth through the many years the film covers (often mid-scene as FH’s narration realizes he skipped some important detail). We meet his junkie girlfriend Michelle (Synecdoche, New York‘s Samantha Morton) who introduces him to heroin although she realizes she needs to get clean as he sinks deeper and deeper into depravity. We follow FH’s ill-fated attempts to work in the emergency ward of a hospital along the mentally unhinged orderly played by Jack Black who enables FH’s addiction even though he’s trying to stay clean. We see him after a break-up with Michelle hitch-hiking across the country only to be in a nearly fatal car-wreck where only he and the baby of the family he’s riding with survives.Through out it all, FH is fueled by heroin (and other drugs), loneliness, and his need to atone for his mistakes and make a connection with anyone, anyway he knows how (even if that means being a peeping tom on a family of Mennonites because he covets their potential happiness).

Although the ultimate message of the film is uplifting and hopeful, Jesus’ Son is not for the faint of heart. Co-written by Rampart and The Messenger‘s Oren Moverman, the film has the gritty, lived-in quality you’ve come to expect from his other films (and it was based off a novel which I’m sure provided many of the most immersive details). You see graphic scenes of heroine use. You see overdoses (several). There’s a darkly comic scene where one of FH’s junkie friends shot another junkie (on accident) but they were all too stoned to think to take the man to the hospital. You see the physical toll that heavy drug use takes on the body as the otherwise attractive Billy Crudup (he’s really a cross between Tom Cruise and Christian Bale) into a skeletal, beat up shell of a human being (and the same thing happens to the otherwise [unconventionally] pretty Samantha Morton). While not every scene is a winner, the episodic, vignette style of the film means that certain moments shine through stronger than others. There’s a scene where FH and Jack Black’s Georgie accidentally run over a bunny rabbit. Georgie runs back to collect the rabbit for food but instead cuts out baby bunnies from the rabbit’s stomach. The pair take a shit ton of drugs and despite a snow storm, frolic outdoors trying to care for the bunnies. However, the next morning, when they wake up, we discover that the bunnies (which FH had been keeping in his shirt to keep them warm) had gotten behind FH and he squashed him. The movie is chock full of small (and major) tragedies like that which will stick with me for a while.

I think Billy Crudup is a pretty under-rated actor. He was actually in one of the first movies I ever reviewed on here (Waking the Dead), and he definitely doesn’t get the respect he deserves. This is coming from a straight man, but as good looking and talented as he is, I’m always shocked that he hasn’t had a more fruitful career. This is a weird performance. Not Eric Roberts in The Pope of Greenwich Village weird but it’s strange enough that I could see this being very off-putting to the casual viewer who won’t get what Crudup is trying to accomplish. He’s really capturing the frazzled, burnt out mind set of a kid who’s ingested every drug that comes his way the last 10 years. It makes his performance have FH come off like a bit of a simpleton but you would be too if your blood was more heroin than hemoglobin. However, he didn’t just show FH stumbling through life in his drug-addled haze. We also saw sparks of the sensitivity that makes him such a magnetic and sympathetic protagonist (and why we’re still able to root for him even after he’s destroyed everything around him). This is the second Samantha Morton performance I’ve seen in the last week or so and it was excellent as she was inSynecdoche, New York. Holly Hunter also had a smaller (but pivotal) role towards the end of the film as another recovering addict that FH meets and falls for when he enters a rehab clinic after hitting rock bottom.

However, as I mentioned early, the film is based on a book. The book is a collection of short stories. I’ve never read the book but if I had to wager, I’d guess that the film’s writers just put FH into all of these different stories because the film can be a bit of a jumbled mess. There’s not a lot of cohesion here, and until the very end of the movie, you are never fully able to tell whether a character will be important or just a minor player in larger events. Maybe the film’s lack of focus is supposed to reflect FH’s own divided mental state, but that didn’t make the film any less consistent. Some scenes were brilliant. Some fell flat and it was all the more apparent because of the strength of the better scenes. Still, I recommend the film to fans of independent cinema as well as movies that take a serious and honest look at the issues of addiction and the escapism of drug abuse.

Final Score: B

And the first season of Angel is finished. I actually finished it last night (well more like 3 AM today but whatever), and I’m not going to lie. Considering the season’s twist ending (and the serious shift towards serialized, myth-arc heavy storytelling in the final disc), I almost don’t want to watch the third season of Mad Men and instead just jump into season 2 of Angel. I’m not going to do that because I hate screwing up my system fro my blog. It keeps my indecision and OCD in check (although my drive to do things by the standard I set for this blog are probably an extension of my OCD). However, damn! Those final two episodes of the season were among some of the most intense episodes of the series yet. So, kudos to Joss Whedon and crew (I feel like I never give enough credit to Tim Minear and David Greenwalt for these things) for bringing the strong first season of Angel to an excellent close. I still don’t like the series more than Buffy, but as I’ve said in past posts, there’s seven seasons of attachment to those characters. Angel still hasn’t earned that kind of goodwill yet even if it is off to a much better start than Buffy was at the same point in its career.

The first episode was relatively self-contained although it did introduce a new character who eventually becomes one of the main characters on the show. Angel runs afoul of a street gang that fights vampires despite being ordinary humans. Led by the headstrong Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), the group wages war against the L.A. vampire clans despite the never-ending stream of casualties they face. Though they initially think that Angel is a foe, he is able to convince them that they need his help after Gunn’s sister is captured by the vampires, turned into a vampire, and then Gunn is forced to dust her. In the second episode, Wolfram & Hart attorney Lindsay McDonald (Christian Kane) suffers a crisis of conscience when he learns that Wolfram & Hart plans to send a supernatural blind assassin to murder three children that pose a threat to the company. He enlists Angel’s help to stop the travesty from occurring, and when Angel breaks into Wolfram & Hart to find out the plans for when and where to murder the children, he stumbles upon the Prophecies of Aberjian (but more on that next episode) which he also steals from the office because he was supernaturally drawn to them. However, despite helping Angel with this theft, Lindsay decides to stay with Wolfram & Hart when his ambition catches the eyes of Senior Partner Holland Manners (Lost‘s Sam Anderson) who offers him a promotion to Junior Partner. In the final episode, Wolfram & Hart is desperate to regain control of the prophecy (which Wesley has translated and by the end of the episode believes that they mean that if Angel fulfills an unspecific destiny he can regain his humanity). They send a demon after Angel who nearly kills Wesley with a bomb and mind rapes Cordelia by using her visions to make her experience all of human suffering at once. He even kills the Oracles. While Angel is able to defeat him and recover the Prophecies which Wolfram & Hart had stolen back (and cutting off one of Lindsay’s hands in the process), he isn’t able to stop Wolfram & Hart from performing part of the prophecy which involved raising the Beast. It turns out in a last minute twist in the finale that the raised Beast is in fact Darla (Julie Benz), aka Angel’s sire. Interesting.

“War Zone” had several pretty awesome fight scenes. Whether it was the big gang brawl between Gunn’s people and the vampires or Angel fighting off all of Gunn’s men by himself, the episode had a lot of great action moments. I liked the introduction of the David Nabitt character. He was supposed to be a recurring character (and he shows up again in the season finale) but for scheduling reasons that didn’t happen which is a shame because he added some nice comic relief. I’m not sure how I feel about the character of Gunn yet. He’s got the tragic backstory part down pat but other than that, he doesn’t feel especially well developed to me. However, he hasn’t joined Angel Investigations yet so he’ll have plenty of time to develop in the future. “Blind Date” was probably my favorite episode of the disc (and one of the best of the series so far) because it really took the darkness of Angel to a whole ‘nother level. Like, you thought it was going to be one of those redemption stories and that Lindsay McDonald was going to die atoning for his sins at Wolfram & Hart. Instead, he chooses the darkness over the light even when he’s given a clean way to escape from Wolfram & Hart. It was just a great twist for the ending. “To Shanshu in L.A.” was also great (not even counting the clever pop culture reference in the title if you get the final translation of Shanshu that Wesley gives Angel). There was a really interesting philosophical discussion between Wesley and Cordelia about what drives Angel and whether he could even be alive in a meaningful sense of the word since he is so cut off from the rest of the world. Also, what the main demon did to Cordelia by making her feel all of humanity’s suffering was one of the most messed up things to happen in the series yet. Also, obviously, anything that involves the return of Darla should make for compelling drama next season. Thankfully, Mad Men only has 13 episode seasons I won’t have to wait too long to find out what happens.

I can’t believe I’m going to be watching Mad Men for the first time in like a month today. It’s definitely going to be a serious change of pace from Angel (and a serious change of pacing). I’m definitely glad that Angel finally reached its turn in my (lengthy) queue of TV shows that I want to review for this blog. As far as first seasons go, this was a pretty strong opening statement, and unlike even the best seasons of Buffy (except for Season 5 which was pretty uniformly excellent), I never once felt like in this season of Angel that I was forcing myself to sit through mediocre or bad episodes so I could get to the better stuff. That was always my major complaint about both Buffy and Doctor Who (well until Steven Moffat took over the latter). It seems like the writing on Angel is just consistently excellent (though obviously some stories are better than others). Thankfully, the show that I’m watching in between seasons of Angel is arguably the best show on TV right now. Mad Men should definitely make the time between seasons of Angel much easier to handle. I’ll be back soon L.A.

Final Score: A-

When you live at home for the first time in a while (although it’s really just the first time since last summer) after spending an extended period of time off on your own, you find yourself in a state of mental schism. I’ve simultaneously found myself regressing to some pre-college safety nets (my dad buying me food, getting by without cell phone service, spending virtually my entire day watching sitcoms with my sister) while also rebelling against the reality of my situation. I’m desperate to be around people my own age, to be able to get drinks with friends, to be within walking distance (or public transportation) of places where people my age congregate. It’s a weird situation. Being home has robbed me of much of my motivation. It’s sad but true. I just can’t really get excited about doing anything. So, even though I finished watching this particular disc of Angel a couple of days ago, I’m only just now finding the motivation to sit down and review it. However, in semi-cool news, an article I wrote for work about the Top 10 Bands at Bonnaroo that You Might Not Have Heard Of (you can read it here) has received nearly 1700 up-votes on Stumbleupon. So, that always feels good. Anyways, this last disc of Angel has been the best yet with four truly excellent episodes and what I’m assuming is the beginning of an epic showdown between Angel Investigations and the evil lawyers at Wolfram & Hart.

In the first episode, a client intentionally lures Angel into a trap to force him to become a combatant in an underground demon fighting ring (think Bloodsport but way more cool). If Angel kills 21 opponents, he’ll be let free. However, Angel isn’t going to kill anyone if he doesn’t have to and he’s looking for any way that he can get out of this predicament without having to kill his fellow prisoners to pay his price for freedom. We are also introduced to Lilah, a lawyer at Wolfram & Hart who offers to buy Angel’s way out of the ring in exchange for his silence (which he obviously refuses). In the second episode, an actress whose career is on the downslide is saved by a crazy stalker by Angel (who didn’t know who he was saving). When it turns out that her stalker was hired by her agent to help save her flagging career, the actress decides to convince Angel to turn her into a vampire so she can be young forever. However, the drug she uses on Angel to cause him to be open to her proposal causes him to experience an artificial “pure happiness” and he transforms into Angelus until the drug wears off. The last two episodes are a two-parter where Faith (Eliza Dushku) arrives in Los Angeles after the events in Sunnydale where she woke up from her coma and tried to kill Buffy and then wound up switching bodies with her (and sleeping with Riley. Yikes!). After causing some mayhem in L.A., she’s recruited by Wolfram and Hart to kill Angel. After Angel and Faith have an epic fight, we learn that Faith really just wants Angel to kill her, and he tries to set her on the road to redemption. However, the arrival of Watchers from England hell bent on killing Faith and Wolfram & Hart’s recruitment of the LAPD in their quest to put Faith and Angel down proves to much and to finally atone for her sins, Faith turns herself into the LAPD. Also, Buffy returns to L.A. one last time where she and Angel have a big fight and end their relationship for good.

Besides introducing Lilah to the series, “The Ring” probably contributed the least to the overall myth arc of the series. It was certainly the most self-contained story in the show (even if it did re-establish the theme that Angel only kills when he absolutely has to and he knows that the person he’s fighting is impossible to redeem, i.e. species that are always innately evil) but that didn’t make it any less bad-ass. There was a serious focus on hand-to-hand combat, and the gladiator style battles were all pretty cool. I mean, yeah it was a very simple concept and it was more action-oriented than story but it’s okay to have stuff like that every now and then. Also, it was another moment (that continues so much this disc. just so much) where Wesley really started to grow on me. I still haven’t been able to get over just how much more I like him recently compared to how much I despised him on Buffy. “Eternity” was just fantastic though. Well, the second half was amazing. The first half was more a study on how Angel is unable to become emotionally close to people after A) losing Buffy and B ) after turning into Angelus. He can’t risk experiencing that kind of happiness. When Angel became Angelus that episode, I was instantly reminded by how excellent that Buffy became the second he became bad. David Boreanaz can be a little stereotypically brooding as Angel (though he’s much more interesting and three-dimensional on his own show), but when he’s Angel, he gives Spike a run for his money in the entertainingly evil department. So, you can’t say David Boreanaz is a bad actor. The problem is that Angel is just written a little flatly as a character sometimes.

The real stars of the disc though were of course the two-parters, “Five by Five” and “Sanctuary” (which only partially had to do with the fact that Joss Whedon co-wrote the last episode). Faith is a pretty excellent character. She’s supposed to be the Buffy-verse’s version of the superhero gone bad (think the Red Hood or Superboy Prime). So, she operates in a different realm of moral and ethics than our more stalwart heroes of Angel and Buffy. Watching her descent to the dark side was one of the highlights of Season 3 of Buffy, and here we see here at her lowest. She only took the job with Wolfram & Hart because she wanted Angel to kill her and put her out of her misery. There were plenty of great moments in “Five by Five.” Whether it was the initial scenes between Faith and Angel, the flashbacks with Angel and Darla (where we finally see what he was doing the first years after he was turned), or Faith torturing Wesley, emotions were running high for the whole hour and it all felt very focused on well-established characters and took them in new and exciting directions. However, the final fight between Angel and Faith was simply epic and the scene where she finally breaks down to him in the rain was superbly acted by Dushku (who I don’t normally think is all that great of an actress). Angel (even more so than Buffy) is all about our quests for redemption and who better than Faith to explore that with. “Sanctuary” upped the emotional ante by finding Wesley torn by his loyalties to the Watchers and his loyalty to Angel as well as having the final series appearance of Buffy in a very emotional confrontation with Angel. As someone who just went through a break-up, it was all pretty rough to watch. While I understand the show’s decision to have Faith wind up in prison, I almost wish she had stuck around a while longer because I long for our little group at Angel Investigations to get a little larger. They need at least one more person for them to really feel like as dynamic a group as the Scoobies. I think Gunn shows up next episode though so that should fix that.

Well, I really need to finish Yentl. I think I started it like a week ago. I think I may finally break my rule about always finishing the movies I start for this blog (and to be fair, I’ve broken it once before when I started things out with Downfall but never finished it) and just leave Yentl behind for the next time that I refresh the order of my blog (which I do once a year when I add the new award-nominee films to the list) because I don’t want to start it all the way over but it’s been so long since I watched the first half, that my review would be pretty awful if I just started it again. I feel bad about it, but I think it’s the right way to handle it. However, this incident (as well as the one with Downfall which was seriously on the verge of being an “A+” film) has proven to me that I shouldn’t start any movies unless I plan to sit all the way through it. I don’t have the attention span, memory, or willpower to restart a lot of movies if I don’t watch it all at once. Anyways, one last thought on this season of Yentl. I’ve only got one disc left but the first season of Angel is light years better than the first season of Buffy. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Well, it looks like I’ll be starting Mad Men soon. Cool stuff.

I have a sneaking suspicion that when the fall comes around and I’ll have school work and a real job plus my commitments as a contributing writer to Baeble Music to take care of, this blog may suddenly disappear. Two jobs plus being a full-time student (and my firm knowledge that I can’t fuck my schooling up this time like I have the last two years) means I won’t have a lot of time to invest in my for fun writing. Since I’ll be doing writing at a professional level though, there are worse things that could happen to me. Still, knowing that this blog probably doesn’t have a lot of life left in it is a sad realization. I’ll keep it up and running til I absolutely decide that it’s days are over, but I’m going to miss the hundreds of hours I’ve put into this thing over the last year and a half (more like year and three months). So, let’s use this summer to get as much blogging out of the way as I can if it will be this blog’s last days. And without further ado, we jump into the beginning of the second half of the first season of Joss Whedon’s cult favorite,Angel. I wasn’t as crazy about this disc as I was the two preceding it (primarily because of the very self-contained nature of most of its stories), but even this show’s stand-alone adventures have more bite and wit than the serial stories from lesser programs.

With the exception of the disc’s final episode, the stories on this disc did little to contribute to the overall development of these characters or the myth arc of the series. In the first episode, Cordelia goes out on a date with a seemingly nice and well-to-do man (Ken Marino) and after a sexual evening together, Cordelia wakes up the next day to find herself looking like she’s eight months pregnant. Cordelia (and her circle of friends) have been impregnated with the spawn of a demon (the men were sexual surrogates) and if they come to term, it will kill them. In the second episode, Angel finds himself embroiled in a battle between the genders of an extradimensional race of demons. The men (in a process very similar to the genital mutilation common in some cultures) disfigure the external spines of the women in order to control their sexual desires as well as their minds. The female princess of the race, Jheira (Bai Ling), is on a quest to rescue the women of her species, but her actions have been putting human lives in danger. Now Angel must help Jheira protect her women while also finding a way to keep humanity out of the crossfire. In the third episode, Angel Investigations finds themselves pitted against a more Christian concept of a demon that has possessed a small boy and Angel and Wesley must perform the exorcism. Lastly, we get an episode exploring Angel’s life before he became a vampire (his human name was Liam apparently) with his troubled relationship with his father (as well as the first on-screen presentation of his murder of his family as Angelus) interspersed with new drama in his friendship with Kate when we discover that her father is actually a crooked cop (retired but still crooked) working as part of a demon drug-running scheme. When her father is murdered by vampires, I think it’s safe to say that Kate and Angel’s partnership is going to be forever shattered.

“Expecting” was cool in so far as that whole notion of getting pregnant after one “safe” sexual encounter is a very adult fear. Angel and Buffy have always excelled at translating the growing pains of being a teenager, young adult, grown-up into engaging supernatural foes and a demonic pregnancy works great in the established canon of Whedon metaphors. Also, Alexis Denisof had some great moments of physical humor in the episode (but more on that in “She”). We got to see Dennis again (the ghost living in Cordelia’s apartment) and the little touches of him trying to comfort her while she was freaking out about her pregnancy were well implemented. It’s good to know that Whedon takes canon seriously (not that I didn’t already know that because of Buffy). “She” was the weakest episode on the disc (and one of the weaker episodes of the series) but what can you expect when Bai Ling is in an episode of your show. She’s very responsible for one of the worst episodes in the history of Lost. You’d be crazy not to think her presence on Angel would have a similar effect. I just thought the whole story was a little silly. I think it’s cool what message the show was trying to send about female genital mutilation, but they should have wrapped it in a better story and cast an actual actress, not the sad sham that is Bai Ling. However, the scenes at Cordelia’s party where Angel and Wesley are dancing are without question some of the funniest moments of the show yet. It was just a comedy gold mine. I don’t really like Wesley yet. He’s still a huge tool, but Alexis Denisof is quickly becoming the show’s comedy touchstone. And he’s excelling at the humor.

I actually thought “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” was going to be pretty awful at the beginning but it turned into one of the more legitimately frightening episodes of the series yet. I still firmly believe that the original The Exorcist is the scariest horror film ever made, and the whole notion of exorcisms in general/demonic possession still freaks me out even though I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits or God or any of that nonsense (bet that sentence pissed some people off by referring to God as nonsense. Oh well.). So, the touch of having the little boy be so absolutely terrifying when the demon was called forth was freaky enough. The make-up work was really top notch. But the best part of the episode was the end when we discovered that he was more dangerous and evil as a boy than he was when the demon was in him. The scene where the actual boy tries to murder his little sister in her sleep was among the scariest and most tense things on either Buffy or Angel. This episode was my pick for the best of the disc. “The Prodigal” was pretty good as well because we learned how damaged and scarred Angel was before he even became a vampire which has a lot to do with why he was so particularly evil and psycho as Angelus. Also, Julie Benz was back and ever since the Trinity Killer murdered her on Dexter, I’ve been looking for a chance to watch Rita do something. I guess I’ll have to take Darla (cause I’ve read that she has a more important role on this show. Not sure how since she died in the first season of Buffy but I’m sure I’ll find out). Also, Elisabeth Rohm did a great job the whole episode, and we finally learned a little bit about why her dad was so shut off. It was a really good episode all around.

I’ll stop my ramblings for now (mainly because I need to work on a feature article I’m doing for work about Bonnaroo and also I have some movies at home that I’d like to watch). There’s only two discs of this season of Angel left and before I know it, I’ll be back to Mad Men all over again for a short (compared to the 22 episode seasons of Angel) stay in the offices of Sterling Cooper (though they were purchased in the season finale so I don’t know what to call them now). I’m definitely glad that I’ve been watching Angel so far. At this point, the series still isn’t at the same leve as Buffy although I think the writing has been consistently good at a better rate than Buffy. Angel just hasn’t gelled with me as a character-driven drama yet and I don’t feel nearly the same level of attachment with these characters as I did with the Scoobies (which is sad because these three characters now are all cast-offs of Buffy). I know that every show takes a while to find its center so I’m more than willing to give Angel the time it needs to develop into the cult classic it is now remembered being.

Final Score: B+