In which I attempt to watch every film in The Criterion Collection and end up watching a lot that aren't. Click here for the rating system.


A Woman Under The Influence

"I love you, but you're crazy."

Want a meaty movie? Here's a film you can sink your teeth into. The great grandaddy of New Wave Cinema (and here you thought it started in France!) released this classic in 1974 with a startlingly brilliant cast of Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk.

John Cassavetes couldn't get a distributor for this film. He hauled it around New York under his arm trying to get cinemas to show it. It wasn't until a fan of his, hot new director Martin Scorcese, threatened to pull his own film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" from a film festival if they didn't show Cassavetes piece.

Reviews on this film are mixed. Some critics feel it is too over the top and yet poorly constructed. Others think it is ahead of its time for cinematic realism. The actors themselves look back with astonishment at the work they did for Cassavetes usually without so much as one run through and often before they even realized the camera was rolling.

On a gut level I understand this movie. It's a love story of a man whose ability to express himself to his wife is challenged by her inability to understand herself. The two are in a fight to show their love and the world around them spins dizzily along for the ride.

This film was a new experience for me. It reminds me of other films but none of them American. In fact I was shocked when the characters started speaking in English. It wears the face of a foreign new wave film, but is in fact a predecessor. Good to watch and subtly intriguing. Worth watching and thinking about.

Favorite moments: Gena Rowlands rocks it out as a crazy lady, kids trying to cope with father, final scene "going to bed."

Butterfly Effect

"I'm a butterfly in time! And I'm frying my brain!"

I think I know why this movie didn't do as well as the creators had hoped: it wasn't complete. The idea of the story was substantial but the presentation was spotty. The plot was missing too many important screws, so to speak, in order to keep it together. I applaud Ashton Kutcher's move away from fart comedies to do this dramatic role. I think it suits him. But I wasn't buying the whole "I'm so in love with this girl I've known since I was seven and I have to go back in time and save her" bit.

You know what? Honestly, I enjoyed this movie. Sure there were glaring flaws in the plot construction, sure I wasn't buying Amy Smart as a hooker, but still, somewhere behind its garbled identity crisis exterior of horror-meets-love story, it was kind of entertaining. Even sweet, in a mildly pleasing way without the usual sugar-rush that comes with it.

Like Chinese food, this movie goes down easy, but will leave you a little hungry. Enjoy with a coke and a couple of chili dogs.
Favorite Moments: The walls shaking and blasting into the past, evil Tommy becoming a cleancut goody-two-shoes.

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