Go, Go Ask Alice, Go Go Second-Time Virgin, and a few more films

Go (1999)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Ranna (Sarah Polley) is behind on her rent, on the verge of eviction, but she might be able to score some cash with a quick one-time deal selling twenty hits of ecstasy.

She's never done anything like this before, though, and it's a bad time to be new to the drug business, as DEA agents are lurking to make an arrest. Thus begins an epic night of early-20s danger and deception.

"In the old days, you know how you got to the top? Huh? By being better than the guy ahead of you. How do you people get to the top? By being so fucking incompetent, that the guy ahead of you can't do his job, so he falls on his ass and congratulations, you are now on top. And now the top is down here, it used to be up here... and you don't even know the fucking difference."

#294  [archive]
MAY 23, 2024

Go's crazy complicated story is told from three interlocking perspectives, but director Doug Limon (The Bourne Identity 2002) keeps it coherent, terrifying, and hilarious, even as everything rolls along at 55 mph. There's a dude tripping, another dude in the trunk, a grocery store Macarena, a woman's face on fire, a hit and reverse-run, a telekinetic cat... 

It's much more style than substance, but it's perfect Hollywood entertainment.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Go Ask Alice (1973)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

"This motion picture is based on the authentic diary of a 15-year-old American girl. The only alterations have been those necessitated by considerations of length and acceptability for family viewing."

Authentic, my ass. 

Go Ask Alice is a famously fake book, originally purported to be the "found" diary of a drug-addicted girl, but actually written by church counselor and serial hoaxstress Beatrice Sparks, as anti-drug propaganda.

This TV movie, based on the book, is preachy, but not as preachy as you'd expect, and also not as hokey. The very notion of Andy Griffith as a priest and drug counselor is preposterous, but he's surprisingly OK. Even William Shatner, sporting glasses and a fat mustache, is OK as Alice's father.

Which is disappointing. I didn't watch this for the message or entertainment, damn it, I wanted camp, some laughs.

Sadly, though, this film is completely watchable. The readings from Alice's diary sound very much like the inside of a teenager's head, and when she's stoned at her own birthday party, her parents don't even notice; only her younger brother does. That's realistic.

There's even a supporting role for Mackenzie Phillips.

The theme song is "White Rabbit," the song by Jefferson Airplane, but it's performed by an anonymous studio band. There are a few other rock standards too, also by soundalikes, one hopes.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Go, Go, Second-Time Virgin (1969)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Rape is my second least favorite of the major crimes, behind only murder. All the other crimes happen, but rape is the one where you're the scene of the crime, and walk around with it forever.

Go, Go, Second-Time Virgin is a jaw-dropping contemplation of rape, that starts with a sickening gang rape while a teenage boy watches. I fast-forwarded through that, a relief unavailable to the victim.

She's Poppo, age 17, and she's left naked and bleeding on a bleak industrial rooftop. With nowhere else to go, she falls asleep there, and is raped again in the morning. Having gotten the general artistic gist, I fast-forwarded again.

Poppo has been raped before, and every survival instinct has been raped out of her. She wants to die, and 'befriends' (if that's the right word) Tsukio, the boy who'd watched her being raped the night before.

He's been gang-raped too, so they have a lot in common, but this is not quite a romance, nor is it a feel-better story about recovery from rape, as the chipper title seems to imply.

Unlike most pop-culture that swirls around rape, it's not a plot element here; it's the plot. Director Kôji Wakamatsu understands the agony, and revels in it. It's beautifully shot in black-and-white that's bleak as noir but more deadly, and with a killer score of jazz and mellow pop as a counterpoint. 

More nihilistic than Nietzsche, this is heavy stuff, poetic wreckage that'll leave you wrecked.

Verdict: BIG YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Go Go Tales (2007)
Streaming free at YouTube, with Spanish subtitles

"Long live the Paradise Lounge!"

Ray Ruby (Willen Dafoe) runs an artsy-fartsy gentleman's club that's on the verge of going out of business. The landlady (Sylvia Miles!) keeps stopping by, sputtering angry rants and threatening to close the club to make way for a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The strippers' paychecks have been delayed. One of them uses a dog in her act, and the animal eats all the "free-range frankfurters" from the concession stand.

Willem Dafoe sings. Bob Hoskins does not.

The strip show must go on, but you know it'll never be a financial success  — an allegory perhaps, for capitalism in general, and/or writer-director Abel Ferrara's career.

Ferrara described Go Go Tales as his "first intentional comedy," but it's never particularly funny so I don't know about that. It is a fabulous freak show, though.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Go Tell It on the Mountain (1985)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

John Grimes (James Bond III) is a teenage boy trying to escape his domineering father, the monstrous minister Gabriel Grimes (Paul Winfield).

It's a big black movie based on a novel by James Baldwin, which I haven't read, with a host of characters dealing with basic soap opera issues, plus whites on a racist rampage.

What reached and angered me most is the vivid and unending awfulness of Preacher Grimes, who never thinks of anything but God, and never stops berating his son for not being godly enough — but the movie loves him.

Winfield's performance is so powerful and the character so frickin' horrid, it's work watching this, and should earn me time-and-a-half at least.

Probably the movie's a masterpiece, what do I know, but there's way way way way too much preaching, and the whole shebang comes off as an infomercial for Jesus.

Verdict: NO.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1972)
The Goat (1921)
God Has a Rap Sheet (2002)
The Gods of Times Square (1999)
Godspell (1973)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting movie recommendations,
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. 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. Wakamatsu is something else, I only saw his last films first (United Red Army the one about Yukio Mishima) and it blew my mind to read his history. And then how he died, or the circumstances around it...

    There's such an intensity to his films, cinematically the most vivid scenes were nothing special (two men in a sauna talking about how many of them need to die) but have burned themselves into my memory.

    1. This was my first of his, but jeez yeah, the intensity. I have four or five on my watchlist now, always open to more even if they don't start with H.

      How did he die? Don't tell me if it's a spoiler!

    2. He was hit by a taxi.

      After leaving a budget meeting for his next movie.

      Which was about the Japanese nuclear power industry, their successful lobbying to maintain nuclear power after Fukushima, and Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) in particular.

      It was basically the end of the China Syndrome and it really happened to one of the greatest living directors.

    3. Three of Wakamatsu's last films were what some (I don't know if he was one of them) called the "Showa Trilogy," "Showa" being the name Hirohito picked for his reign, from what I understand in Japan they call him now "The Showa Emperor." So they're basically supposed to cover his reign. So maybe they're all "H" films?!

      "United Red Army" is first, and is pretty incredible. It's based on the real story of what happened to Japan's version of the Weather Underground. These guys... went further. Much further. Insanely further.

      The second it "Caterpillar," which I haven't seen yet. It's a "revisionist" film compared to how the Japanese officially whitewash war crimes, exposing them in brutal detail. The description is so vile that I have to admit I've been afraid to watch it.

      The third is called in Japanese "11/25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate" about Yukio Mishima, once considered the greatest living Japanese novelist and how he stopped living. Paul Schrader made a biopic about him, "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters." "Caterpillar" was a denunciation of Mishima's ideology so ending here was a curious decision and there's lots of speculation about it.

    4. I know nothing of any of this, but I've added Caterpillar and 11/25 to the list, along with Schrader's Mishima. Already had United Red Army on the list, it's so famous I'd heard of it before I'd heard of Wakamatsu.

      Whose name, by the way, I have not yet typed. Every time, it's been cut-and-paste. Perhaps one day...

    5. Holy crap on Wakamatsu's death.

      There sure are a lot of peculiar coincidences, ain't there? Like, two Boeing whistleblowers dead in a couple of weeks' time, Karen Silkwood, Paul Wellstone's unlucky plane ride...

    6. Art Bell was reporting on ex-Boeing employees dying mysteriously almost thirty years ago. That shit is real!

    7. Every time I've said to myself, "Sure, they're awful, but they wouldn't do *that*," I've been wrong and *that* is exactly what they've done.

  2. I think Go Tell It was on PBS. I remember yawning through it. I didn't care for Go Go Tales but fully endorse your review of Go Go Second Time Virgin. Liking that, I predict you'd love a Wakamatsu festival. He was amazing.

    1. If Wakamatsu's other films are fractionally as intense, that's too intense for a festival. I'll stick with one at a time, alphabetical, with maybe some Loony Toons as a palate cleanser.

      It took a while for Go Go Tunes to reach me. Maybe half-way through it, before I mentally got with the program.

  3. Caution #1: Change of subject
    Caution #2: The new subject is The Beach Boys

    There's a review of a new doc on Disney+ (whatever that is) about The Beach Boys. Here is a review/recommendation from, of all places, The Daily Beast. Did The Beach Boys make the Beatles better? Paulie says they did. Did The Beach Boys come within one album of being the American Beatles. Again, go ask Paulie. If this sounds like ancient history to you, I can assure you it's current events to me. Brian Wilson and The Wrecking Crew came so close to changing the nature and sound of American music that it could make you crazy. That's what it did to Brian Wilson. And he's still out there somewhere in space and time: like Voyager in a bathrobe. Check it out.


    1. Came close? Brian Wilson? Isn't it fair to say that big ol' BW *did* change the nature and sound of American music? Haven't heard nothing much as original as Good Vibrations and God Only Knows.

      Which, by the way, a girl in my youth group at church said was a fine song, but it would've been better as "Gosh Only Knows," because the Lord's name shouldn't be taken in vain.

      A doc from Disney on the Beach Boys? That just sounds like a fatal overdose of wholesome. Hast thou seen it? A recommendation from you would mean more to me than a recommendation from the Daily Whatever.

      Voyager in a bathrobe, man, that's what I'll be if I can retire on Social Security. Already have the bathrobe, all I need is the Voyager...

    2. Nope, I haven't seen it because 1) I really don't know what Disney+ is, and 2) I don't know much about pirating.

      Had The Beach Boys changed American music, you would have heard a lot of close harmony and unusual instruments from groups OTHER than the Beach Boys. Sadly, Pet Sounds crashed and SMiLE splashed. Along came non-harmony boy bands and rap and disco. Away went tuneful, meaningful close harmony and a serious connection with classical music. The Beach boys only changed The Beach Boys, then they went away and died, all except Brian who somehow stayed alive in his bathrobe. Now that his wife is gone he has a non-family caretaker. But there was a time when he almost changed the world.


    3. God Only Knows is a prayer, not an "in vain". It's OK for a kid to not understand that. And an all-powerful force that lacks the characteristic of existence isn't all that powerful. I'm just saying.


    4. Dang, that is a seriously pessimistic outlook on the Beach Boys' impact, and pessimism is my preferred perspective in most things, so you get no argument from me.

      I faded away from the church and then from everyone I knew in Seattle, so I can't claim certainty, but I asked my mom once about that girl from the church youth group, and she said she was killed in a car wreck. Would've been less than 30 when she died, because the Lord works in mysterious ways.


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