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Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken

The Rating System

Kex Liked It:
It Sucked:
It Really Sucked:
It Sucked as bad as Eyes Wide Shut:

It Sucked badly enough to bring the world to the brink of apocalypse:


Scary Movie

Last Week: Scary Movie:  

If you get some unusual desire to prove to the world that you are among the 4 or 5 most pathetic morons to ever inhabit the planet, there are two ways of going about demonstrating it that seem reasonably effective to me. First, you could go out and have facial images of professional wrestlers tattooed allover your body. Second, you could conceivably make a film like Scary Movie.

There is a pretty good reason why no one ever created a parody movie of Ed Wood's films: It would have been assinine. Wood's movies were so overpoweringly pathetic all by themselves that no effort at parody could have reached deep enough into the abyss to approach their ineptitude. And even if some demented filmmaker could have accomplished the task, what would have been the point? Wood's movies were self-parodies in a class by themselves.

So, one can only wonder how anyone could have trapped the powers that be in Hollywood at a moment when even they achieved a level of brain deadness sufficient to greenlight a send up of the 3 Scream movies, with a touch of the other recent slasher crap tossed in. We've discussed the appropriate targets of satire on this page before: Take your potshots at Secretariat, but the old plow mare taking her last march to the glue factory is off limits. Its way too easy, and its just dumb.

Then again, so was this movie, and, in all likelyhood, the people responsible for making it. Said "people" just happen to be Keenan Ivory Wayans and his army of siblings, all of whom are either involved in the production or actually play in the film. But the really scary folk were the dregs I watched this film with, who found some capability of laughing like hyneas on nitrous oxide at every pathetic moment on the screen that was apparently supposed to pass for humor. This is the first movie I have ever reviewed that left me wishing that a cyanide capsule had been passed out with every ticket. The least the producers could have done was provide us with airsick bags. How awful was this movie? Well, you have to figure that a movie has decended to a whole new plane of bottom feeding existance when I am able to report that Carmen Electra wasn't the worst thing in it.

Believe it or not, this movie actually plunged to the depth of Dennis Rodman jokes. Jay Leno stopped doing Rodman jokes, what, a year and a half ago?

Everyone knows why: Rodman is yesterday's news, and we have heard them all. But we hadn't come close to hitting bottom yet. We still had to endure the Prince joke, and we weren't even 15 minutes into the film. Doing a Prince joke is about as topical as a Billy Carter joke. Once upon a time, Prince, who thrived in an industry where name recogition is 90% of the game, got the butt plugged idea to associate his identity with an unnamed symbol. By the time he realized he was a dork, The New Kids On The Block shaved their legs, dressed in drag and morphed into the Spice Girls. The world had moved on, and left Prince behind.

All this surrounded the movie's first fart joke, which wasn't funny. The 4 that followed weren't funny either, unless you happen to be one of the less bright productions of a generation that is still struggling to figure out which end of a baseball cap goes forward. The penis, ejaculation, mental retardation or violence humor weren't funny either. Once upon a time, Hollywood could do comedy without doing their damnedest to try to gross me out of existance.

They learned early on from one of the first guys to show up; Charlie Chaplin. I have all his movies and short features, and I treasure them because they make me laugh and cry .Chaplin showed us that real comedy is a human experience that walks a razor thin line this side of tragedy. We laughed with the little tramp because we loved him: We didn't laugh at him because he was a drug addled imbecile with a spastic colon. Chaplin's comedy left us feeling warm, happy and full of the joys of life. Today I left the theater feeling nauseated, depressed and in need of a shower .

While I am on my soap box, I have two other things to mention. First, I want to scold all the moronic parents out there that I saw bringing 8 and 10 year old children to this movie. Folks, it was rated R for chrissakes! Even the gray matter challenged people that made it were able to drag up sufficient intelligence to warn you that the material was not appropriate for people under 17. So here is the deal. When little Billy starts acting as idiotic as the characters on the screen, don't be bitching and whining about Hollywood and doing really unbearably stupid things like voting Republican. Instead, go take a good look at that shiny square piece of glass in your bathroom and introduce yourself to the guilty party .
Now, to the even stupider folks out there who brought babies. I've discussed this before, but you didn't listen, so here we go again. BABIES DO NOT LIKE GOING TO MOVIES. Babies like to sleep. Movies produce constant and often sudden lighting variations and loud sounds that do not produce sound sleep.

They also do not promote sound psychological development. So at some point in the 2 hours, baby is going to wake up howling and annoying me even more than the movie. So spring for a baby sitter, or settle for Blockbuster for a couple of years. By that time baby will become a toddler who is more conscious of the world. Then you can haul your offspring to all sorts of age inappropriate films that are capable of doing some real permanent psychological damage.

Its only fitting to close this discussion with brief mention of the title. Originally, the movie Scream was going to be titled Scary Movie, but somebody decided to change it. Hence, the guilty parties associated with the production of this celluloid pig sty were able to appropriate the title. Thus Scary Movie was supposed to be a funny movie. In reality , it was a dumb movie. Maybe the producers should entitle their next project Good Movie, so we will all be forewarned about the likely realities. But even in the cesspool that has become Hollywood, two projects of this caliber will usually result in your future fan mail being forwarded to:

Occupant Large Cardboard Box
Somewhere on Hollywood Blvd.
 Los Angeles, Ca.

Last Week: American Pie 2:

Incontestable Rule Of The Universe #1: If someone makes a reasonably good movie that inspires a sequel, said sequel is going to suck.

Incontestable Rule Of The Universe #2: If someone makes a reasonably bad movie that inspires a sequel, said sequel is going to suck.

It follows from rules #1 and #2 that if someone makes a sequel, said sequel is going to suck. Period. So the question as to American Pie 2 was never one of whether or not the movie was going to suck, it was merely one of how bad. Going in, the matter didn't look too promising, because American Pie the original wasn't a great, or even good movie, despite its overwhelming popularity among the generation that struggles to purchase pants that fit. That said, American Pie 2 was a surprise in that it was better than the original, which is a little like saying that E Coli is better than Ebola.

I really need someone to explain this one to me: Just why was it that Shannon Elizabeth, who reprises her role as Nadia in this film, is listed number 2 in the credits behind Jason Biggs (returning as Jim)? I mean, she was in the film for all of 8 minutes, tops. You have to figure that Seann william Scott (Stifler), the films most memorable character has to be a little miffed about the billing. Granted, the teen age male audience that will comprise the primary bulk of ticket buyers for this film will be more apt to want to look at Elizabeth than Scott, but face time ought to account for something in billing.

Of course, there was never really much doubt that there was going to be an American Pie 2 . The original cast apparently was contractually locked in if the original was a hit, and it goes without saying it was. Produced for Hollywood pocket change (about $10 million) American Pie grossed more than $100 million worldwide, making it one of the top box office comedies of all time. What better proof can we ask for that there is truly no accounting for taste?

We interrupt this movie review for an important note to Hollywood: Hey, I read in the paper the other day that the big execs in Hollywood are pissing and moaning because all of the summer's projected big budget blockbusters are opening to big first weekends, then sinking like bricks at the box-office week two. The typical example is Planet of the Apes as we note on this page. CLUE CLUE CLUE!!! Look, if you made some movies that didn't suck, maybe they would enjoy some staying power. Lets take a brief look at what you have dumped on us so far during this dismal summer season:

Pearl Harbor: Hey, this is a film about the battle that drug the U.S. into W.W.II 60 years ago. Movie audiences are overwhelmingly comprised of people in the 18-30 age group who don't give shit one about what happened 60 years ago. Get the idea?

Laura Croft: Tomb Raider: I didn't see this one, but if I've already shelled out 20 bucks for a Laura Croft video game, I'm not going to piss away another sawbuck at the cinema to watch something I could be interacting with on my butt at home. Besides, if she'd raided that tomb and found a good script, maybe somebody would have given a crap.

Final Fantasy : Okay, I hear that the animation was cool, but again, I can cover this at home.

Planet of the Apes The original was better. Hell, the sendup on the Simpson's was better.

Jurassic Park III Two too many.

Back to American Pie 2. Okay, I laughed at some of it. Some of it fell appallingly flat: Witness the scene in which Jim stands in for a mentally retarded trombone savant. Not one to surrender to P.C. ever, but some things are just over the line. We could have done without that scene. I suspect that the under 30 crowd will love this film, and the over 30 crowd will either ignore it or find it a mixed bag. I'm sure the original cast wasn't moronic enough to have a second sequel locked into their contracts, so the good news is that this is the last slice of pie film goers are going to have to endure. Reassembling the original group would be overwhelmingly expensive now, and somebody might actually have to come up with an original idea. Maybe they should do a little more searching in Laura Croft's tomb.

Previously: Scooby Doo:

Before I get to this week's review, I'd like to introduce a new movie review feature which may pop up from time to time. So lets jump right in and introduce the K.A.W. Chorus:

Chorus: "Hey Kex, what are you pissed off about this week?"

I'm pissed off about a couple of things. The first of them is cell phones. I'll confess up front that I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century and I actually DO own one. However, mine is not one of those Swiss Army knife jobs that do about a 100 things. Mine has maybe 20 functions, out of which I basically know how to use two. I can answer the thing and make calls. And I don't do either unless absolutely necessary. I don't even have it on 90% of the time.

One of the things I'd never do with my phone is drive while talking on it. You shouldn't either. Lets face it folks: Most of you drive like shit anyway. And if its not bad enough that you are usually reading the morning paper, sipping a cup of coffee, watching a movie on the DVD player and occassionally putting on your makeup while you are doing it, now you have to be talking on the damned phone too. One more distraction most of you really don't need.

The other thing I'd never do with my phone is take it with me to the movies. Cell phones don't give a crap about seeing the movie. So I leave mine in the car, if it even makes the trip. And if you REALLY need that thing in the same sick fashion that Linus Van Pelt needs his blue blankey, at least turn it off when you go into the theater. As I watched this movie, Joe McIdiot two seats over not only got a call in the middle of the movie, he actually answered it! I'm telling you folks, thats a darned good way to lose your phone if you are near me and it happens again.

I'm also a bit ragged about lazer pointers. Look, parents, your 13 year-old kid needs a lazer pointer like Colorado needs more tourists with more matches than brains. If your kid already has one, take it away and smash it into a million pieces. If there is one on their wish list, don't buy it, because I will end up smashing it into a million pieces next time I go to the movies and some little urchin thinks that flashing it onto the screen every ten minutes is cute and funny.

Now we can move along and talk about the movie a little. I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but this film came within an eyelash of getting a smiley. Parts of it were absolutely hilarious, a few for the wrong reasons, but it was among the most entertaining movie experiences I've had in awhile. Only a couple of things prevented it from rising above typical and avoiding a sucky rating.

The most significant drawback came from the very heart of the film's director, Raja Gosnell. Its extremely obvious from a quick review of the man's work, as well as the experience of watching this film, that the man is a mammary fetishist of the first order. Daphne's (Sarah Michelle Geller) cleavage was the film's focal point so often that I began to wonder what we were missing in the background. Geller really wasn't great as Daphne, but that isn't really her fault. She was portraying the cartoon's most undefined character, and the film didn't give her anything to work with either.

Worse, Gosnell also gave us a peak under Velma's (Linda Cardellini) sweater, and we found out that she has a pretty nice rack too. That wasn't on camera very long, but when Gosnell created his opportunity, he kept the camera focus sharp. Isla Fischer was also brought onboard to portray Shaggy's (Matthew Lillard) potential love interest, Mary Jane. She wore a lot of very low cut, and not well covering tops. When Daphne wasn't onscreen, Gosnell found an excuse to keep Mary Jane on so he'd know where to point the camera.

None of this is particularly surprising. Gosnell's last film was Big Mamma's House and there wasn't a particular shortage of cleavage in that movie either. In fact, Gosnell even dressed up Martin Lawrence as a women with large bossoms. The man really is a bit ill. Not that I have anything against gandering at a nice set of female breasts mind you, but anything in excess is dangerous. Incidentally, prior to Big Mamma, Gosnell made Never Been Kissed, in which he kept his camera well focused on Drew Barrymore's chest, along with those of a lot of other young women.

Matthew Lillard is one of the film's bright points, portraying Shaggy dead-on. Freddie Prinze looks lost and confused as Fred. I got the feeling that he was mostly wondering who he pissed off to get saddled with appearing in this movie in the first place. But the true star was the computer animated Scooby, as voiced by Scott Innes. The animated dog was cute and funny, stealing nearly every scene he was focused in....those were too rare since his antics were frequently blurred by Gosnell's focus on female chest anatomy.

This film is really aimed at adults, all of us who grew up with Scooby and the Mystery Inc. gang. A couple of really obvious jokes were missed, but despite the harsh reviews this film is receiving generally, I think most people who see it will go home entertained. It has a lot of flaws, but I'm guessing that the bulk of reviewers out there just don't want to admit that they ever actually watched, and loved the cartoon, so mud is being flung.

Last Week: Winged Migration:

Stunning. Beautiful. Magnificent. But enough about me. No. All of the words have been used to trumpet Jacques Perrin's awe inspiring documentary Winged Migration. If anything, all of these words fall short of adequate description. I'm not sure the really necessary words have been formulated.

If there is such a thing as poetry on film, Winged Migration would define the craft. This is probably the only film ever made for which I'd actually like to see a "making of" documentary. Unfortunately, I don't think that film exists. Too bad. I do know one thing for sure. As soon as this film is released on DVD, it will be part of the Kex household's treasured collection. I think most of the people who see it will fall in line.

While most of the country escapes the heat and settles for crap like Charlie's Angels 2 and a film starring an over-muscled, under brained Nazi portraying a robot, a few lucky film goers are discovering this breathtaking monument to the craft of documentary film-making. Not that this movie is really entirely lost in the lexicon of summer blather. It first hit limited release in mid-April, and has been touring the country since, drawing respectable crowds.

Every week since its release, it has hung in, or very near the weekly box-office top 20. Very few of the major studio releases are, or will accomplish that feat this year. That isn't bad for a film that is only showing in about a dozen theaters around the country on a weekly basis. And this film certainly deserves whatever attention it draws.

Moreover, I'm sure it will be even more popular in rental and video sales, once it hits that market. The hope here is that it will get enough word-of-mouth to allow the many people for whom art house theaters are not really available to catch it in video rental. And I suspect that a very sizeable people who rent it will buy it.

This is a rare nature production that doesn't bombard the audience with largely banal narration. In fact, the narration is extremely sparse, and the movie permits the audience to appreciate its focus: The birds who are its stars. This is quite possibly the most magnificently photographed movie I have ever seen, bar none. You leave the theater not only shuddering from the movie's sheer beauty, but wondering how they accomplished some of the incredible photography the film contains. You almost wish it had been filmed in IMAX, although the equipment involved probably would have made such a project impossible.

This film also serves to remind us of the stakes in the most important battle we are fighting in our time: The battle to save and preserve our environment. The morons who define the political right will tell you that black is white and deny the consequences of our irresponsible stewardship of the planet until hell freezes over. But our planet is dying. There simply isn't an argument to deny that fact.

Our planet is dying because we are killing it. PERIOD, We aren't witnessing the blips of cyclical climatic changes or minor and correctable variations of human intervention. We are witnessing the wholesale destruction of our planet's ecosystem resulting from human indifference to the long term consequences of short term thinking and profiting. If the range of typical planetary conditions in our solar system were to be represented by a band spectrum one mile wide, the range of condtions on our earth would be a slim band one inch wide within that spectrum. That is the narrow range of conditions that permits life as we know it to exist.

Move the mode just a small amount within that one inch slice, and most of the life on earth will perish. Move it outside that little band, and earth will be just as barren and lifeless as all of the dozens of other worlds in our solar system. That is the reality. While life seems from within the confines of earth's environment to be stunningly diverse, the view is simply too narrow. Conditions on earth represent only the tiniest sliver of conditions in the broader spectrum in our solar system.

Our world, our environment, is not disposable. If we mess up our world, we have nowhere else to go. The worst winter day in Antarctica is more pleasant than the balmiest summer day on Mars. The most searingly hot day in the Sahara desert is about 700 degrees cooler than a wintery night on Venus. This is the only home we have.

Ad homenium attacks do not advance a debate, nor are they considered generally permissable. But there comes a time to call a moron a moron; George W. Bush and most of the Republican leadership, for example. The Democrats aren't even pretending to be better these days, and aren't. We can't continue to bury our heads in the sand, and plead the cause of special interests and short term profit. Where the health of our planet is concerned, there are no special interests. In the immortal words of the late Dr. Carl Sagan, "Extinction is forever. Extinction makes pointless the lives of all of our ancestors. Extinction makes hopless the lives of all of our children." Don't let them get away with the lies.

Last Week: De-lovely:

De-sgusting. Yes, I know the spelling is incorrect. But to see this movie is to suffer an agony far greater than can be mustered by any gratuitous butchering of the language. To see this movie is to know the kind of pain you might feel as a jockey in a bare-back, cross country porcupine race.

For those who aren't aware, De-lovely is sort of a biography of Cole Porter. I can only offer that it is sort of a biography, because I personally came away from the film not really knowing much more about Porter's life than I knew going in. Considering that I didn't know squat going in, I couldn't have come away feeling any more poorly enlightened if the entire film had been a fantasy about him participating in celebrity poker.

We first meet Porter (Kevin Kline) as an apparently successful young man in Paris. I actually had to do a little internet research to determine just when that might have been. It turns out that he was hanging around there around 1917 or so. World War I was raging at the time, and I suspect that Paris was probably a city under some rather severe stress. Nonetheless, the way Porter and his buddies frolicked around the town, they might has well have been on vacation at Disneyland. For all the context this film offers as to how events in the world influenced Porter or his life, the man could have lived in Shanghri-La.

In Paris, Porter meets the woman he eventually marries. Even I knew that Porter was rather openly gay, thus the marriage was a sham. But his wife (Ashley Judd) was a social butterfly and divorcee who was abused by her first husband, so the marriage, which was one of convienience only, worked after a fashion.

Not that the movie portrays any of the baser aspects of the relationship. The film doesn't even hint at the abuses Porter's wife faced in her first marriage, and the relationship between them is portrayed as very close, and at least occassionally intimate, inspite of Porters other attractions.

Again, this is probably playing pretty fast and loose with the realities. It is generally acknowledged that the two probably had a close friendship that served to cement the marriage at some level, but to suggest that there was anything resembling imtimacy in the marriage is just another of the film's wreckless surrenders to sugar-coating.

Most of the film is just sort of a light musical that is supposed to be in the spirit of Porter's life, I guess. It actually makes Chicago look like high drama. If we were to believe the proceedings of this film, Porter's tune Make 'em Laugh was written impromptu on the MGM Studio backlot while a number of film extras accompanied Porter's creative whims with a shockingly sophisticated and well correographed dance routine.

But this film makes his whole life look like a show at Radio City Music Hall. The man lived through one of the most tumultous periods of world history. He was in Paris during WWI, presumably lived through the Great Depression, and wrote songs for musicals on Broadway and in Hollywood while Hitler rolled through Europe. But at no point is there even a suggestion that these events had the slightest influence on Porter's world view or psyche. Maybe the guy was just too busy finding boytoys to read the papers.

It isn't just that this movie was a dumb and sheltered view of a man's life. The folks in Hollywood are keenly aware that the leading demographic for movie going is the 13-30 crowd. But clearly a story about Porter's life isn't going to bring Gen Y into the theater in throngs. So somebody apparently figured that they needed some means to make this movie appeal to an audience that doesn't arrive together on the RSVP bus.

How did they figure they were going to pull that off? They got more contemporary music stars like Elvis Costello and Alanis Morisette to dress up in period costumes and perform Porter songs. The guess here is that Costello is sufficiently desperate enough to try to revive his nearly extinct career that this kind of thing can't hurt. But some of the other names in pop aren't going to raise their appeal by dressing like nerds and singing songs that most of their fans can't even begin to relate to. I have some serious doubts that Media Play is going to see a huge spike in sales of Porter records tomorrow. Nor are senior citizens likely to go out and pick up the sound track for this film just because they liked Costello's rendition of a Porter tune.

I guess if you are a fan of Cole Porter music, you might find some degree of enjoyment in this movie. If you are hoping to learn a little more about the man, you might as well skip it. For that matter, unless you are a fan of really bad, tacky looking movies, I don't think there is much here that will appeal to you either. As usual, Kevin Kline displays remarkable gifts, but that isn't enough to save a movie that can't figure out what, if anything, its trying to say. Then again, if I have something important to tell someone, I'm not going to send the message in a singing telegram.

Last Week: Must Love Dogs:

This movie is kind of like another one I once saw. It was about Miss Piggy's search for true love. The title was Must Love Hogs.

It came out about the same time as yet another muppet extravaganza similarly about Kermit looking for his soul mate. It was called Must Love Frogs.

I seem to remember one about a lonely lumberjack who tried to find romance on the internet. It was entitled Must Love Logs.

Or the one about the broken-hearted shoemaker: Must Love Clogs.

Who could ever forget the romantic saga about comic book hero Swamp Thing's search for love and sex; Must Love Bogs.

That one is not to be confused with a very similarly titled movie about a former Boston Red Sox player looking for the love of his life: Must Love Boggs.

Actually, this movie did remind me a lot of one I saw a long time ago. It was actually a lot like Looking For Mr. Goodbar, except there was no brutal knife murder at the end. Well, at least there wasn't one at the end of the movie. I have a feeling a lot of boyfriends and husbands were probably considering it after being dragged to see this film.

Essentially, this is a movie about two of the most pathetic people on the planet who are searching for love on the internet. Sarah (Diane Lane) has just endured the pain of having her husband dump her for a younger woman. She has about 86 brothers and sisters who are trying to find her another man, probably so she won't be hanging around them all the time feeling sorry for herself, something she seems to be pretty good at.

So one of her sisters signs her up for on a real life dating service who's name is mentioned in this film 1247 times. I'm not going to reveal it here in this review, because the bastards haven't sent me a single dime to promote their service.

Talk about missing the all time good bet. Sure, a lot of people are going to see this film, and probably check out the site. But if they really want to promote themselves to a group of people who desperately need companionship of the opposite sex, there is no more worthy a group than the Kexkateers.

Anyway, one of the guys Sarah meets online is Jake (John cusack), a terrific match for her since he is the only human being on the planet who is even remotely as pathetic as she is. Jake has also recently suffered the anguish of having his spouse leave him, and we don't have a single question as to why, which says everything you need to know about the character.

But just to flesh out the review a bit, Jake earns a "living" handcrafting boats that a handful of rich people race up and down rivers at pretentious colleges like Harvard and Yale. There is only one problem: Factory made fiberglass boats are a lot faster, so there isn't a single person in the world that actually wants to buy one of Jake's boats.

So Jake is a really attractive catch out there in the dating world. He is not only the most annoyingly boring man on the face of the earth, but his income and earnings potential is equivalent to a forced air heater salesman in Kuwait.

Naturally, the two of them fall for each other like a ton of bricks, but the first time they want to have a romp in the sack, neither one of them has a condom available. That is probably because neither one of them walks around with any realisitic expectation of ever getting laid again in their lives, and rightfully so.

Complicating matters is the fact that Sarah is a preschool teacher, and she has the hots for one of her student's father. He actually seems like one of the few likable and real people in the whole film, but after they go out once, Sarah gets a wild hair up her ass and comes down on him like ego on Russell Crowe. Her rant comes off like raw hypocrisy, but its not like we can end up liking her a whole lot less anyway.

I won't be spoiling anything by saying that in the end, Sarah and Jake get together, and find what ever happiness two people can scratch together on the salary of a preschool teacher and, presumably, welfare. A hundred million single men on the internet, and Sarah snares herself a guy who makes boats nobody wants. I told you she was a loser.

Last Week: Hollywoodland:

This movie leaves us with a mystery to ponder that has three possible answers. The question is, did George Reeves (Ben Affleck), who played Superman in the 50's television series commit suicide, as the official reports concluded, or was he murdered? And if he was murdered, who did it? Was it his ex-lover Toni Mannix (Diane Lane) or possibly her husband (Bob Hoskins)? Or could it have been his fiance Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney)?

There are a couple of even more immediate mysteries I was wondering about. First of all, who was it that thought that Ben Affleck looked anything like George Reeves? They didn't even use any makeup tricks to try to make Affleck look like Reeves. One could even ask, beyond that, just why Affleck is getting major roles in movies these days anyway.

Stop and think about it for a moment. Clerks II, Surviving Christmas, Gigli, Jersey Girl, Daredevil... when was the last time this guy made a good movie? Depending on who's review you read, this was either Affleck's best or worst performance in quite a while. The former isn't exactly a compliment, and the latter is about as hard a slam as you can throw at an actor.

The story of Reeves' mysterious demise is told through the eyes of private detective Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), who is such a cinematic cliche that the writers should have been beaten sensless with several Sam Spade movie scripts. He has a stuggling business, an estranged wife and a messed up kid. He also drinks too much. Yeah, we've seen this guy in movies before.

Simo manages to get himself hired to investigate Reeves's death by the actor's estranged mother, Helen Besselo (Lois Smith). That is a curious plot contrivance quite obviously designed to introduce someone, anyone into the mix that actually cared one way or another. Besselo hadn't spoken to her son for years and had no way of knowing, one way or another, whether or not the official police account was accurate. Among the other principles, there was a curious indifference.

There is no doubt that some interesting and puzzling circumstances surrounded this case. There were unexplained bruises on Reeves' body that the corner didn't make much of during the inquest. Typically people don't beat themselves up prior to committing suicide, but no one ever inquired deeply as to how they got there. Further, there were two unexplained bullet holes in the floor of the room where Reeves purportedly did himself in. Maybe he missed twice.

Then there is the fact that it took Leonore, and her friends who were gathered downstairs for a party on the faithful night, 45 minutes to call the police after the shooting. That one isn't as mysterious as it might seem. Ordinarily, it could take up to two hours to clean up and dispose of all the illegal substances at a nominal Hollywood party, so maybe that one isn't all that strange after all.

The Reader's Digest style summation of the whole story is this. Reeves was beginning to gain some notoriety as a major film actor, with a small role in Gone With the Wind and a few other major parts. Then along came WWII, and Reeves did his patriotic duty and enlisted. His most significant contribution to the war effort was the production of one of those "be careful where you put your willy, or it will end up dripping and fall off" training films (really). When he went back to Hollywood, he found himself more or less forgotten.

After starring in some forgotten B-films and a few serials, it appeared his movie career was over. Reeves was carrying out a consentual affair with Toni Mannix, who was the wife of a powerful MGM studio executive, Eddie Mannix. Eddie was kind of a shady character with a checkered past; one of those guys nobody really wanted to get on the wrong side of.

A break for Reeves came along in the form of a starring role in the television series Superman, but it turned out to be a poisoned pawn career wise. Reeves became hopelessly typecast and couldn't get serious roles. Eventually his affair with Toni also soured when he tried to form his own production company and met Leonore Lemmon who became his lover.

Eventually Reeves and Leonore became engaged, but Reeves backed out of the engagement. So, the question of motives arises. Reeves was despondent over his failure to develop his own company and get any roles of significance. On the other hand, the cancellation of the Superman series had been reversed when a new sponsor was found. He probably could have made a pretty good living for a few years just doing personal appearances. It just seems bizzare that this man would have been suicidal.

Then there is Toni, who was jilted, and her thug husband, who didn't mind her affairs, but did care about her feelings. Finally, there was Leonore, who was evidently upset over Reeves calling off the engagement.

Finally, why IS anyone giving Ben Affleck good roles these days? The last question is the only one that has much affect on our lives after the passage of half a century.

Previously: The 2008 Academy Award Nominated Animated Shorts: (No collective rating)

Once again this year, I present quick reviews of the five Academy Award nominated animated shorts. Recognizing that most of my readers never get to see most of them, and many of you never see any of them prior to the award show, this at least provides an opportunity to garner some familiarity with the nominees.

This year's group is somewhat unique in that Pixar didn't manage to create a nominated effort, and if fact, all of the nominees were primarily foreign projects. That probably doesn't speak all that well to the state of filmmaking, particularly animated projects in the U.S. these days, since without Pixar in the ballgame, we don't seem to stand much of a chance. Anyway, here is the group:

Meme Les Pigeons Vont Aus Paradis (Even Pigeons Go To Heaven)

About the only conclusion we can come away with after viewing this project is that the French are still just as screwed up as they ever were. The very first problem is that there isn't a single pigeon in this whole damned film. Normally, that isn't really a deal breaker. If I want to see a pigeon, I can walk outside. The stupid things poop on my car daily. But if you are going to make a film with pigeons in the title, it would be nice to see at least one in the film.

This was the shortest nominated project, and it didn't have much of a story. A priest is trying to sell a rather shady old guy on an invention that will guarantee him a journey to heaven. After a phony trial demonstration, the old man is sold. But the plot takes a nasty twist when Death shows up to claim the old man's life, but he tells death that the priest is really the person Death is seeking. I guess that is what passes for a humorous twist in France. I just thought it was kind of dumb.

Moya Lyubov (My Love)

This Russian project was beautifully drawn and animated, and the longest piece in the group. Unfortunately, the depth of the story didn't really justify the length. This could have been equally effective with a running time about 25% shorter. Still, the piece was somewhat like walking through a series of beautiful watercolor paintings. I haven't seen anything quite like this before.

This is basically a story of a young prince torn between two loves. One is a maid at a lower station socially, and therefore somewhat off limits. Still, he eventually realizes that she was his perfect match, unfortunately too late. His other potential suitor is a beautiful woman who isn't quite what she seems to be. His entire attraction to her is based on rather shallow and incomplete perceptions, which ultimately costs him his chance at true love. The story might have been more emotionally impactful had it not taken so long to reach its conclusion, nonetheless, sitting through this piece wasn't entirely painful. This is definitely the second best offering in the group.

Madame Tutli Putli

The primary thing I learned watching this piece is that the National Film Board of Canada should be instantly disolved. This piece was just plain creepy. It ultilized kind of icky looking animated characters with real human eyes, which was unsettling enough, but the story itself was a rather disjointed piece of scifi/horror that could have been written by a group of high school students that flunked their creative writing class.

A rather disturbing looking woman boards a train for a journey to some unspecified location, and ends up evidently going to The Twilight Zone. Her traveling companions are a group of equally weird looking people, but that isn't really the problem with the story. The train stops for some unknown reason during the night out in the middle of nowhere. It is bathed in an eerie blue light, then boarded by creatures evidently bent on stealing human body parts. Everyone on the train is rendered unconcious, and the woman awakens to find herself alone on the train, with vague memories of watching one of her traveling companions cut open. She then sees a butterfly, which evidently leads to recognition that she is also dead. The end. Let's hope the same is true of the film career of the people who made this.

I Met The Walrus

Another project by a Canadian filmmaker, this is a story about an interview that a then 14 year-old boy did with John Lennon back in 1969. The entire film is just little animated drawings that highlight his questions and Lennon's answers. This is the third year I've included this category in my Oscar predictions, and if the past is any indicator, this film will win simply by virtue of being the suckiest.

The term "genius" is grossly overused, but if it can be applied to talents in a single field, I'd concede it to the musical and songwriting talents of Lennon. I even respect most of his political views, but on the whole, said views weren't deeply insightful. At one point, the boy asks Lennon what young people can do to help the cause of world peace. Lennon gives some brilliant answer along the lines of "just help yourself." Good idea John. In other words, if the young folk want to get rich by becoming part of the military industrial complex, which clearly helps themselves, they are doing their part. That was actually one of the more insightful exchanges in the entire piece, believe it or not. This was crap.

Peter and the Wolf

I'm going to pick this one to win because it was the best by such a huge margin that there really shouldn't be any contest. That just means it will probably finish 5th. Most of the principles were Russian. The animation was magnificent, and the story timeless.

This is, of course, another telling of Prokiev's classic musical story. The only other complete telling I am aware of was the higly sanitized Disney version of my childhood, which was nowhere near the quality of this piece, although less gloomy. We Americans have a peculiar penchant for trying to sugarcoat everything for our kids. In any event, this was a thoroughly enjoyable piece, the darker aspects of the tale notwithstanding, and if you have the opportunity to view it, you will be pleased with the results.

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