This Is Spinal Tap is what Almost Famous would have been if Almost Famous didn’t take itself seriously. Where Famous follows the fictional band “Stillwater” on their rise to success and semi-biographically follows young journalist William — based on the real-life story of director Cameron Crowe — as he becomes a writer for Rolling Stone at age 15, This Is Spinal Tap follows fictitious British band “Spinal Tap” as they embark on a U.S. tour that all but finalizes that their days of glory are coming to an end (hint: watch as their venues get smaller and smaller). However, while the rockumentary-mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap is entirely satiric and parodical in its nature, its brilliance is right on par with Almost Famous, a movie I consider to be nearly perfect.
Directed by Rob Reiner, perhaps better known for his role directing The Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap balances that quintessential Bride humor with a genuine ode to ’80s rock band nostalgia that will warm hard rock, heavy metal hearts, and keep them laughing. The profile of the band starts with a typical interview, wherein the band hilariously describes the mysterious deaths of their various drummers throughout the band’s history. One, they claim, actually exploded. This becomes a theme as the movie progresses, and despite being simplistic in nature, never really stops being funny.
Continue reading This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
According to my mom Misery was the first movie I ever watched start to finish, late one night in one of my first few weeks when I just didn’t want to sleep. Apparently all I wanted to do was watch an utterly insane Kathy Bates hold James Caan against his will in her snowy, isolated Colorado home. A lifetime of watching movies later, I returned to that first movie that started it all for me as a viewer (full disclosure: I can’t seem to find my notes on it from a couple decades back).
My first thought upon re-watching my first film: it’s no wonder I couldn’t sleep! I probably couldn’t sleep for weeks. Kathy Bates is so terrifyingly good as the psychotic Annie Wilkes — writer Paul Sheldon’s (James Caan) “biggest fan” — that bipolar does not even being to describe her. One second, she is exactly as self-advertised: Sheldon’s biggest fan, in pure admiration. However, one slip up by Sheldon, such as killing off the main character in his “Misery” series of novels, and she becomes a different person all together — violent, inconsolable, and capable of anything. Regardless of which mood Wilkes happens to be in, though, it is always clear that she will not let her favorite writer go, ever. They are meant to be together, or at least that’s what she thinks.
Continue reading Misery (1990)
This is certainly one of those films that you either absolutely love or downright hate, and I can understand why. Martin Scorsese’s latest work, The Wolf of Wall Street, really isn’t that much different from many of his other pictures except for the intensity of the vulgarity -the literal sex, drugs and rock n’ roll – which turns certain people off from the film. The use of 569 F-words, numerous sex scenes including a gay orgy, the consumption of copious amounts of Vitamin B (posing as cocaine) and Quaalude’s, as well as speeding cars, helicopters and yachts, all add to the excessive feeling and tone that the movie captures so well, love it or hate it. Whether or not you enjoyed this film, you cannot deny how energized it is and that watching it was probably the quickest 180 minutes of your life.
It is easy for someone watching The Wolf of Wall Street to miss many of the film’s truly great aspects due to this vulgarity. The endless bare breasts and drunken and/or high (usually and) benders that the majority of the characters go on may serve as a kind of invisibility cloak for the less well-trained moviegoer. First off, the wittiness, intelligence, and authenticity of the dialogue is likely the most impressive thing about The Wolf of Wall Street. The script, penned by the Sopranos genius Terry Winter, is undeniably phenomenal; see “the McConaughey lunch scene,” “the Jean Dujardin negotiating scene,” “the epic f@#king DiCaprio speech scenes.” At the same time, however, Scorsese encourages his muses to improvise, delve deeply into their characters and bring that necessary authenticity to their performances and the film. It is this combination of impeccable writing and spontaneous inspiration that makes the dialogue in this film so good.
Continue reading The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)