American Revolution 2, and a few more movies


American Revolution 2 (1969)

This was filmed during and after the Chicago police riots of 1968, often oddly called "the tumultuous Democratic Party convention" or some such false wordplay. By far most of the blood and mayhem was cops out of control. so effin' call it what it was, please — police riots. But that's not really the subject here, so excuse my mini-rant.

"We're not out to get clobbered, we're out to exercise our constitutional right to protest."

In the aftermath, groups of locals came together to plan strategies for reforming the police. The documentary shows numerous community meetings, lots of earnest conversations, and a great deal of blunt honesty about life under blue tyranny. Then the police send a community rep to attend, and he, of course, offers only blather and bullshit.

The meetings are more interesting than most political meetings I've attended, with white folks having their meeting time and place, and black folks having theirs, until someone has the bright idea that maybe black and white should stand together. The next meeting is big and multi-color, with the Black Panthers' Bobby Lee moderating, and we're shown that black and white participants have lots in common.

The soul of the film is in a moment when some Appalachian honky wearing a Confederate flag on his beret talks about how proud he is of the stars and bars, but then says he agrees with everything the Black Panthers have been saying, and can we all work together?

That's the moral of the story, of course. We ought to be working together. It's undeniably inspirational, but then then movie's over and we're back in the here and now.

It's been more than fifty years since those particular police riots and everything in this movie, and the Chicago Police Department remains one of America's most brutal and corrupt gangs wearing badges. Working together is nice, lots better than working apart, but apparently it's not a solution.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Following (1998) 

This was the first film from Christopher Nolan, who's gone on to a wildly successful career making annoying movies. Here, before Hollywood gave him millions of dollars, he was forced to make a good old-fashioned black-and-white psycho noir that squeezes everything it can into its hour and eleven minutes.

It opens with a brief soliloquy on voyeurism, offered by the film's nameless protagonist; let's call him The Follower. He's a writer who doesn't want to write, so to pass the time he watches random people, following them on the street to their homes or other destinations, to learn about their lives. It's a sicko hobby, but looks like fun, until The Follower follows the wrong stranger.

This wrong stranger is a burglar who says he doesn't break into peoples' homes for the loot, only for the vicarious thrill of intruding into other people's lives. Which, c'mon, is literary or cinematic bullshit — there are no burglars disinterested in loot.

It makes for an interesting plot, though, as this anti-materialistic burglar cons The Follower into being his henchman.

The burglar's name is Cobb, the same name Nolan used for the protagonist in his overrated Inception twelve years later, so maybe that's a sequel to this, or maybe Chris Nolan is simply cuckoo for corn.

As drama, Following works. As a movie, it's worth watching. This newcomer Nolan isn't bad at all. Only once did I have trouble hearing the soundtrack, when a piercing background noise got louder and louder. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Thing (1982)
a/k/a John Carpenter's The Thing

This is the second of three (so far) movies based on John Campbell's Who Goes There? Consensus is, this is the best version, but let's see.

The original opened with a mystery — what's under the ice, at this arctic station? It took a while slowly building the suspense, before the audience knew the answer.

Carpenter dispenses with that element entirely, by showing a flying saucer entering Earth's atmosphere, even before the opening credits. That's the answer — long-frozen space aliens have melted and come to life, and they can take over the bodies of any living thing.

"So, how do we know who's human? If I was an imitation, a perfect imitation, how would you know if it was really me?

We cut straight to the gore, as Kurt Russell finds a bunch of grotesquely altered corpses. There's suspense and shrieks and it's a fine film of this sort — the sort with lots of on-screen grossities.

Kurt Russell is action-movie perfect, though I do wonder why he's in charge of all these men, most of whom look substantially older than he is (was).

Some of the effects, groundbreaking at the time, now look like gross effects from a hundred other movies, which is a problem when everything's dependent on the effects. But mostly it still looks icky as intended. 

It might be because I'd just eaten a large meal, but I nodded off midway through. 

Waking up, I watched it to the end, and the ending is excellent, and there's plenty to like about the whole movie. I've never though Carpenter is good enough to merit having his name above the title, but he wanted everyone to be talking about John Carpenter's Thing for a few months.

Well, here we are 40+ years later still talking about it, and I have no serious complaints about John Carpenter's The Thing,

It's only that my personal preference is for old-school scary — where they talk about scary stuff and visually hint at scary stuff, but don't actually point the camera directly at the blood and guts and veins and arteries and gallons of fluid splattering the walls during the creature's morph process. 

Having seen all three movies within a few months, I'd say they're all good, but original is best — The Thing from Another World (1951). After that, 1982 and 2011 can battle it out for second place.

You want really fabulous, eye-popping un-toppable special effects? Read the original novella.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

• Coming attractions •

The Corporation (2003) 

District 9 (2009)

Hit! (1973) 

The Invisible Man (1933) 

My Life in Monsters (2015) 

Naked (1993) 

They Live (1988)

Upstream Color (2013) 

Within Our Gates (1920)  

Who Killed Captain Alex (2010)   

(plus occasional schlock as needed)

    • And then •

The Cook (1918)

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Delicatessen (1991)

The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)

Good Night, Nurse (1918)

Inherent Vice (2014)

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

Nichols (debut episode; 1971) 

QI (2003)

The Scarecrow (1920)

We Steal Secrets (2013)

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library.

Alter Cineverse Criterion CultCinema Classics DocsVille Dust Fandor Films for Action Hoopla IHaveNoTV IndieFlix Internet Archive Kanopy KinoCult Kino Lorber Korean Classic Film Christopher R Mihm Mosfilm Mubi National Film Board of Canada New Yorker Screening Room Damon Packard Mark Pirro PizzaFlix PopcornFlix Public Domain Movies RareFilmm Scarecrow Video Shudder ThoughtMaybe Timeless Classic Movies VoleFlix WatchDocumentaries or your local library.

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —
Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff.
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  1. Is it not time to review a top-25 movie? How about The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart, a book so exciting the 1941 film was the third time in ten years the book was brought to the screen.

    Yeah, I know Mary Astor sucked, but the rest of the cast is first rate and the direction is excellent for a rookie. Hammett, of course, had been a Pink, and knew a thing or two about gumshoeing.

    Just an annoying request.


    1. The wife was as much a movie buff as me, and we saw a thousand movies together, including Maltese Falcon '31 and '41. I can't rewatch the movies I specifically remember us watching together, so there's a long list of the verboten, sorry, including those two.

      I'll pirating the 1936 version right now, though. Always wanted to see it.

    2. I guess we'll never see eye-to-eye re John Carpenter. I think he's one of maybe the five best, purest genre directors ever. I think his The Thing is tied with Videodrome for the best sci-horror film of that decade.





    3. Dark Star, They Live, and Assault on Precinct 13 are all very good. Also Starman, The Thing, Halloween was good too, for the genre and budget.

      Maybe I give Carpenter short shrift because of 88 Halloween sequels and spinoffs.

      Obviously he's made some very good movies. Not sure what the guy has to do to earn my respect.

      I saw Escape from New York a few years ago and it failed to knock me on my ass, but maybe I wasn't in the right recliner.

      Hated Big Trouble in Little China.


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