Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cairo Movie Journal '97

It’s a long story. To sacrifice clarity for brevity, about nine years ago, after some time traveling around the Mediterranean and Middle East, I met up with my father and brother in Cairo, Egypt. My brother Scott was out visiting Pops who was working as contractor on a small military base about an hour east-northeast of downtown Cairo. A tiny village, out in the middle of nowhere. Before the American technicians were needed out there, the local villagers had never even laid eyes on white folk. B.F.E. for real.

Apparently not all the locals were friendly and we Yanks were discouraged from wandering outside the grounds. For reasons various and clusterfuck I wound up getting stuck on-base for nearly two weeks. Luckily they put my brother and I up in one of the vacant American villas complete with a/c, a stocked kitchen, Armed Forces Network cable TV with MTV from India (Dahler Mehndi, anyone?), and what became my saving grace, a VCR. We hit the base’s video-rental operation everyday. Sometimes twice a day. It was some kinda adjunct of the post office there. A one-man operation, but, goddamn, did they stock a lot of movies. Numerous dubbed bootlegs sat side by side with actual releases, each one carefully numbered and catalogued.

What follows was taken from my travel journals that summer. I spent plenty of time swimming in the pool and boozing at the tiny bar and reading a couple of books but nothing inspired a play-by-play quite like cathode Hollywood parading through the air-conditioned, army-issued villa. I still don’t know if these are funny, sad or somewhere in between, but keep in mind, I was basically held captive at the time.

(Forgive the gratuitous swearing and pseudo-pondering, plainly I've moved so far from that kinda sophmoric nonsense. Huff. Puff. Etc.)


ESCAPE FROM LA – Good and silly. Much campy effects. Packed with plenty of Carpenter’s “beware of humanity” themes and post/pre apocalyptic humor.

2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY – Good movie that ultimately unifies 10 different stories. Altman, Tarrantino inspired. Drugs, guns, blackmail. Good acting as well by Aiello, Spader.


SLEEPERS – True story. Fucked-up story. DeNiro good but a lot of the points that could have been made and the drama that could have been exploited were left at less than their full potential in order to presumably follow the book’s direction and sideplots. A little too long.

THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY – Shit, I haven’t seen this movie in so long. I liked it much. It was perhaps a bit tedious but still brilliantly original. Fucking Benny Hill meets National Geographic and possibly tips its hat to Monty Python. Good shit.

THE PLAYER – Aint seen this since it came out in ’92. Brilliant. I remember this as the movie to turn me on to Altman. I got to notice more nuances now that I know the plot. The Lyle Lovitt shit was brilliant. Altman got to the point that he was using any excuse to put Lovitt in front of the camera. It hit most in the lineup scene. The lady calls him out again and for a second time he as forced to face forward, etc. Altman is obviously making us just look at the dude. And he is a funny looking guy… Another Lyle moment… When he’s in the police station and Whoopi asks him the name of the movie he saw the previous night. He turns and says, “Freaks,” then repeats the line “one of us, one of us,” over and over again. Kind of making fun of himself… I think. Goddamn Altman is a genius. Never does he let up on his critique and hammer-on-thumb assault on Hollywood. Maybe I’ll see this again before I leave.

STARGATE – Somebody finally capitalized on Egypt’s vast mythological resources (someone in Hollywood, anyway). Just mixed ‘em with some sci-fi and big guns. It was OK. The first half was better than the second. The second just didn’t deliver what the first promised. Oddly, this is the third movie I seen so far with James Spader in it. (Crash was the first in Istanbul) and the second movie with Kurt Russell.

MARS ATTACKS – OK. Funny little Martian guys. Best part is Sarah Jessica Parker’s head on a dog’s body… shit, that was creepy. Is Burton losing his touch or is he just getting bored?

THE ROCK – Kick ass, shoot ‘em up action movie. American action.

CADDYSHACK – Gonna hang onto this so I can watch it a few more times before I’ve gotta turn it back in.

PRET AU PORTER – Another Altman film. Very good. Guts the fashion industry in the same way he hit the music industry in “Nashville” and Hollywood in “The Player.” Was very light and silly. Showed the varying degrees of bankrupt lives led by the people in industry for the most part. The couple of side stories were great also. Tim Robbins and Julia Roberts story as two reporters thrown into a hotel room together after all their clothes went missing was great. All they did was drink and screw. Good flick.

STAR TREK : FIRST CONTACT – I heard this was supposed to be dark compared to many of the other Star Trek films. “Not silly” is more accurate. Not much interesting shit going on here.

THE DOORS – That dude is just a shit talker making it up as he goes along. Jim Morrison sucks too. What a sham. Good filmmaking in the drug scene anyway.

SERIAL MOM – Pink Flamingoes it aint. Good it aint either. Not even good in a Waters-genre sense. Not even “Hairspray” mediocre good. Not even close. I’m sure there were some good parts but I can’t remember them.

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA – Fucking excellent as always. I just realized this was a John Carpenter film. Amazing I didn’t already know that. Or maybe I did.

LORD OF ILLUSIONS – What the fuck? A decent build-up and then it turns into a friggin’ Matlock episode with a touch of gore. This goddamn sucks.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY – Bond. What’s the connection? I live these movies. Brain-dead, soupy-plot entertainment. I don’t really know.

SON OF THE PINK PANTHER – Benigni is a comic genius.

CASABLANCA – For the 50th time. I can’t believe my father can also quote this movie. Albeit the more trite quotes, but still. I didn’t know it was in his repertoire.

THE RELIC – OK action suspense about some fucking corn-dog monster in a museum. Penelope Ann Miller is such a nugget that I had to watch the whole movie.

REMO WILLIAMS – Not nearly as good as I remember. I enjoyed so little of it. New trivia: Star Trek series woman captain is the heroine.

DIE HARD 3 – Better than I remember. Actually well written and full of (somewhat predictable) twists. I can say I enjoyed it, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

FARGO – Better again. What a fucked-up story. All kinds of shit going on with the various strongly developed characters. What’s the deal with the guy meeting Marge at the bar trying to get with her then spilling his guts come to find out later that it was all a lie? That was very strange. It was only there as an incident separate to the main plot. There just to reinforce the weirdness of the entire project… and maybe the false true-storieness as well. The movie is of course excellent and creepy… and weird.

VISCIOUS CREATURES – “A Fish Called Wanda” cast. Not as good but it had its moments. Cleese’s supposed getting caught in sexual trysts – way hilarious. Curtis was mildly nuggety even at her age.

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING – 2nd time I’ve ever seen it and it was just as kick-ass. British Colonial machismo and bravery in northern India about a century ago. The machismo seemed well-founded in those times or at least more valid. I should like to read the Kipling story. It’s probably even better than the movie. Best scene – when the priests cut down the rope bridge and Connery is singing the fight song. It pulls together ideals of horror and dignity and all the bullshit that armies and governments and corporations today try to get you to swallow and makes them actually seem valid. Great flick.

CADDYSHACK – Again. Cannonball. Cannonball coming.

CITY HALL – Pacino and what’s his name. Beginning was rough and the end sucked but the middle was excellent. Quick and complicated plot and character development. Mucky at times but the plot usually hashed it out. Maybe worth seeing again.

HUDSUCKER PROXY – What the 5th or 6th time I’ve seen this. Still good. Still great to look at. It is a little bit long but who cares. Latest revelation: Sam Rami helped write it. Which explains why his boy “Ash” is in it.

12:01 – Pretty shitty flick. Not entirely dissimilar to “Groundhog’s Day.”

JURY DUTY – Long live Pauley Shore. Not only is he funny, but he solves crimes.

INDEPENDENCE DAY – Not as bad as I thought it would be.

MARS ATTACKS – Again. Wasn’t too good this time. But, “Maybe we could live in tee-pees, cuz they’re cooler in a way.”

BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD – Not as good as first time I saw it, but the quality laughs still come through.

THE GRADUATE – Very nice, very nice. Second time to see it. Good interviews before and after on this copy. Maybe a drifting obsessive type can actually fall in love after all. Just a nice all around picture… though it hardly scratches the surface of the “anti-establishment” ideal it touts so triumphantly. But who’s counting?

HIGH SCHOOL HIGH – For an hour and a half movie it had approximately five minutes of laughs…. That’s being VERY generous. Those laughs were good but they didn’t come very easy. Had to sift through the entire pile of shit to get them.

HAPPY GILMORE – Fucking great. Better than I remember. Maybe not all around better than “Billy Madison” but the first ½ hour is comic genius. Those two movies will become classics. I guarantee it.

REAR WINDOW – What’s to say except, “Excellent.” One point of interest however was what I noticed of the background noise. The background sounds actually played as much of a role in the movie as any of the actors. As much a role as the courtyard or surrounding buildings. From voices to horns to singing to piano – the music of the neighborhood provided the sound track… the score of the film. I’d like to watch this again bearing this idea in mind.

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