Instant Magazine was Boston, Massachusetts's premier pop culture magazine in the 1990s and 2000s with a readership of 75,000.

movie review: heat

by Aaron Sarlo

Published January, 2001

On Saturdays at my job I sleep on a boardroom table. Or rather, I powernap. Or catnap. Or whatever it’s called these days. I arrive at work at 8am every week and work until 10pm and because I’m such a night person and/or because my job offers absolutely no mental stimulation, I use the back of a cushioned boardroom chair as a pillow and sleep on a massive blue table that’s shaped like an eye. Along with the extra down time, my job provides me with hours of continual silence. Not normal, white noise-y silence with cars driving by or rain falling or trees rattling in the periphery, but a stale, humming computer and droning fluorescence that is nudging me closer to mental imbalance every single minute. We’re talking a pure science fiction-type atmosphere personified that whispers instructions to my subconscious while I’m trying to read another Patricia Cornwell paperweight. After weeks of this kind of conditioning, and at the end of each Saturday, as I’m driving home, I tend to catch myself saying sentences like, “If Heat was a woman I would totally fuck it.” Then I laugh because, come on, if I’m losing my soul to gasses trapped in glass that’s a pretty goddamn funny way to do it.

Let me get into (what I honestly hope is the origin of) that statement. Or thought. It’s all the same these days. I was driving down Roosevelt Road thinking about the final scene in Heat where Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are holding hands just as De Niro dies, leaving Pacino holding hands – until the end credits – with a dead man. A connection popped into my head. Pacino’s character, Vincent, was accused earlier in the movie by his emotionally excluded wife, Justine, of feeling more at home among the dead than with her. I think I’m exactly quoting: “You don’t live with me. You live among the remains of dead people. You sift through the detritus, you read the terrain, you search for signs of your prey and then you hunt them down.”  And there was Hanna as described; he’d hunted and killed De Niro’s character, Neil, and was content to stand beside him, holding his hand. So it was then and there, on a Saturday night barreling down Roosevelt in my CRV with Christmas lights when I decided to explain Heat – as I see it – for Instant readers.

Heat is about the significance of human relationships. More to the point, Heat explores through its two main characters the thematic coupling of love and death, of living with passion, love, and loss versus existing alone in a state of emotional equalization. At the beginning of the film we are introduced to Neil MacCauley. Neil is a criminal who lives by a code of emotional simplicity. He allows nothing and no one into his life that he cannot leave in thirty seconds should he ‘spot the heat around the corner.’ In Heat’s opening scene, Neil is alone working, preparing for a heist by stealing an ambulance – which will serve as the escape vehicle. Next, we meet Vincent Hanna, a driven Los Angeles Homicide Detective who we meet as he is making love with his wife – an act that, on paper, is the ultimate expression of love and connection in a healthy relationship. Neil is leading a successful life and yet feels lonely or empty enough to quietly de-prioritize his code of survival in favor of a burgeoning relationship with Edie, a graphics design artist whom he meets in a coffee shop. Neil allows himself the luxury of Edie’s company, aware of the risk he is taking in being with her, occasionally half-heartedly rehashing his code for his crew to hear – only more likely because he might be forgetting it himself. And we have Vincent who is “on the down slope of a marriage – [his] third.” He expends his emotional energy throughout the film intensely focused on one thing: tracking and catching Neil and his crew. That is his job just as Neil’s job is to “take down scores.” And as a result of his fierce devotion to his work, Vincent and Justine bicker constantly, having grown further apart at the beginning of every one of their scenes together. In the end, they decide to separate because it has become clear to both that Vincent’s passion lies not in his marriage or any semblance of love he might have for Justine, but rather in his pursuit of criminals like Neil. Paradoxically it is Neil’s yearning for companionship, his relationship with Edie, which ends up betraying him. Near the end of the film, Vincent is closing in fast which forces Neil to make his survival code’s defining decision. Only he hesitates as if scanning his own instincts for a loophole that would result in escape without sacrifice. That little hiccup of thought is all it takes for Vincent to chase down and corner Neil who has become the human version of his former self: distracted and lost. That Vincent overcomes him is, in those lingering moments of Neil’s regret, inevitable. At the end of the film Neil is dead by Vincent’s hand and Vincent, like a predator showcasing the kill, is alone, working.

And that feeble analysis is really just me scratching the surface of Heat’s dense, multi-layered agenda. I could spend another 2,000 words getting into the supporting cast’s (a finer one was never assembled) characters’ marriages and that significance. I could also detail the film’s use of its characters’ intelligence levels – how the smarter characters are the protagonists and the dumber ones are the antagonists. I could even outline how Pacino is at one end of the spectrum of American morality, De Niro is at the opposite end, and another character, Breedan, fresh from parole, is teetering in the middle and what I think all of that means. But I think I’ve done enough damage. Go rent Heat for yourselves – or better yet buy it! – and watch, really watch it. Director Michael Mann needs all the appreciation he can get because the majority of critics just don’t get what he’s doing. I guess they all need some quality down time on a boardroom table. Or maybe in the rotating blades of a boardroom combine.

Oh, and I just noticed how totally clean this article was, so: motherfucking sweaty horse dick. 

movie preview: summer 2000

by Aaron Sarlo

Published May, 2000

OK I know this article is reaching you midway through summer. Or thereabouts. I am writing this on May 2. I just received my “Summer Movie Preview” issue of Entertainment Weekly and I have a few things to say about it. Well, about the movies -- not the issue or the magazine itself. EW is one of my many guilty pleasures. And summermovies. What can I say? I’m a weak, weak man.

Summer movies are – like almost all movies only waaaaaaaay moreso – conceived simply to take money from millions of Americans. No event movie was ever greenlit on its own merit as an idea. Conversely, however, the cruddier the idea in the pitch the quicker the greenlight. Examples include: Armegeddon, Con Air, Godzilla…I could go on and on. Seriously. Weird, huh?

Which brings me to this summer. I have a feeling it’s gonna suck hard. Maybe I’ll be wrong. I don’t really care, but maybe. Here’s a quick rundown of this summer’s major releases and exactly how much I think that movie is going to have raped the audience when the credits start to roll.

Gladiator – Now, I know that this was released a while ago, but remember it’s still 3 days until its release for me, so I have to make a prediction. Because Ridley Scott directed it and because he hasn’t directed a really great movie in a while I think Gladiator is going to be a lot of fun. It will probably feature some really nice photography and some graphic tiger eating a man or man dissecting a tiger with a broadsword footage. However, it also might feature [shudder] a love scene. (Note to summer movie makers: stop putting love interests into blockbuster type crap. It’s crappy enough already.) So, man cutting up a tiger = good, man fighting for woman’s honor/to be with woman = bad. It’s a crap shoot! Final analysis: Gladiator will be just about to stick the head in and then because of the Ridley Scott factor, because Russell Crowe, and because it has a nice potential to be brutally violent it will immediately feel guilty, stop, and then buy the audience an ice cream cone. Which means it will be pretty good. As summer movies go. [update: that shit won the Oscar™ for Best Picture]

Mission Impossible 2 – I think the producers of this movie want us to call it M: I – 2 instead of Mission Impossible 2 a la the Kentucky Fried Chicken/KFC name change. Whatever. I am truly anxious to see this one. I really liked the first M: I despite that HORRIBLE hand gently brushing the face thing that made me want to vomit every time I saw it. And all those stupid birds. Barf. John Woo is overrated to me. I like his movies, but come on! Still, I want to see Mission Impossible 2. Tom Cruise doesn’t bother me. Even though Eyes Wide Shut was not very good. Final Analysis: John Woo + Tom Cruise = not blood pukingly horrible – maybe good. M: I – 2 probably will just fantasize about the audience. Which = good.

Battlefield Earth – Wow. This looks so bad I can’t even begin. Which means it will probably be phenomenal. Isn’t that always the way? Bottom line: Independence Day set 1,000 years in the future with John Travolta as the head alien. You do the math. Final Analysis: This movie is going to rape what little audience it attracts and then shoot the audience’s mother in the back of the head. Which = yuckybad. Unless it’s somehow unbelieveably good. Then instead of raping and killing the audience it will take the audience to the State Fair. 

Dinosaur – Anybody that likes Disney is a fool. In fact, if you like Disney, please stop reading my articles. If you have a soul and hate Disney keep reading. This movie is going to make a lot of money. People are going to love it. Which is why it’s going to rape them without them even knowing it. It breaks down like this: the cute and cuddly things in a Disney movie are the date rape drugs that sedate you while Disney pumps away. Disney is pure evil. Look a A Bug’s Life. All the “good” bugs had two arms and two legs. All the “bad” bugs had four arms and two legs. I guess if you’re different looking you’re bad, huh Disney? Final Analysis: (Man, I bet Kennedy would be pissed if he knew I was using his phrase like that!) Dinosaur is going to sedate the audience as I mentioned and then begin a year long raping campaign that includes product tie-ins, merchandise, and its video release. The audience will need surgery.

The Patriot – Roland Emmerich couldn’t direct himself out of a paper bag. Did any of you see Godzilla? Jesus Christ! Still, a small part of me wants to see some Redcoats get gored. Is that enough, though to make me sit through 2 and ½ hours of Mel Gibson being stoic? There’s a small chance that The Patriot will be a good movie. Most likely however…Final Analysis: The Patriot is going to rape the audience and then rape the audience’s younger (while still totally legal), cuter sister.

Damn! I just did a word count and I realized that I’m almost up to my limit. OK…quick run down of the rest: Me, Myself & Irene will not rape anyone. It will be really funny. I promise. X-Men is going to rape you like Batman & Robin raped you: hard, fast, and unforgivingly. Maybe. Bryan Singer directed it… The Hollow Man is not going to rape you. In fact, it will give you the nicest back massage of your life and then give you the keys to its car. Trust me. See this one. What Lies Beneath and The Legend of Bagger Vance will not rape you. They’re safe. You may not LOVE them, but they’re going to be well made. But, man, watch out for The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. They’re going to rape the audience with a 14 inch profitmarginerection with spikes on the tip. You don’t want to be in that audience.

Well, until next time when I sit down to my computer and say to myself, “OK, no offensive language this time, Aaron.” Oh well. 

movie review: the empire strikes back

by Aaron Sarlo

Published January, 2000

Every generation has a film that everyone in that generation saw and everyone in that generation loved. Baby Boomers have The Graduate. My generation (which I hate naming) has The Empire Strikes Back. This current, and definitely most idiotic generation seems to have Chasing Amy. I mean, I think it’s going to be Chasing Amy. You never know until years later which film affected that generation the deepest. I didn’t decide on The Graduate to be the Baby Boomer’s film. I heard about a zillion other people say that first. I also heard some people say Easy Rider. Whatever. I am declaring Empire our film over Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or The Breakfast Club because there was no lightsaber duel in either of those two and Judd Nelson was the star of one. So, for argument’s sake, Empire is my generation’s film.

If it’s true as they say that every generation is dumber than the previous one, then it should stand to reason that Chasing Amy, a film of staggering intellectual impotence, should be the one movie that best sums up this generation’s thoughts and feelings and direction (or lack of direction). Granted, by the same token The Empire Strikes Back is no Graduate. For one thing, The Graduate is a lot funnier than Empire. Don’t get me wrong…it’s pretty freakin’ funny to watch Mark Hammill’s look of complete ‘anguish’ when the robotic-looking Darth Vader lobs off his hand and then tells him he’s his father. But, I don’t think it was the director’s intent to make that scene funny. (But, now that I think about it, maybe it was. Maybe after the shot was set up, Irvin Kershner looked through the lens, watched a rehearsal of the scene, suppressed a little giggle, and yelled “Action.” – Yes, I think I like that version better. From now on, I’m going to believe that.) But, still, as a whole The Graduate was a lot funnier. But, conversely, no matter how funny or poignant The Graduate may be it’s still no Empire Strikes Back. I mean, come on…no lightsabers! No Yoda! (Although The Graduate can be redeemed in the ‘No Yoda’ category by the fact that the guy who was the voice of KITT was in it.)…back to my point: No people getting frozen in carbonite! No AT-AT’s! No people getting repeatedly choked to death by the force for not doing their job! No motherfucking Boba fucking Fett!! Now that I think about it, Empire kinda has it all, doesn’t it? But, what, if anything, does Chasing Amy have? Let’s look at that, shall we?

Now, I’m not saying that Chasing Amy is technically bad. The one time I saw it I didn’t catch any boom mics (as are omnipresent in Michael Mann’s Silence of the Lambs prequel, Manhunter) or anyone reading cue cards (as De Niro does in Michael Mann’s beautiful Heat – don’t ask me why I’m picking on Michael Mann…I love his movies). I’ve seen all of Kevin Smith’s films and it seems that he’s technically proficient. And generally speaking his actors are competent, excluding the cast of Clerks, of course. I mean, Kevin Smith is no John Waters on that tip. It’s his scripts that suck Satan’s pulsing cock. The thing about a Kevin Smith film script is that his dialogue is really, really forced. Nobody, and when I say ‘nobody’ not only do I mean nobody but also and more specifically nobody 50 or under, and then even more specifically nobody that would possibly like a Kevin Smith movie has half of the vocabulary skills as one of his written characters. I have heard fans of his say things like, “He writes like people talk.” Which is a load of shit. I write like people talk better than he does. I’ll show you: “Whaddup, nigga?!” See? I’ve heard people say that. My point is this: If Kevin Smith’s dialogue never bothered you before, go rent Chasing Amy and really listen to the characters talk. Forget about the content of their dialogue. Anybody could do a clever send up of the scar-comparing scene from Jaws. That’s no big deal. But to conceive of it, draft it, and then sculpt it into something listenable and swallowable takes talent. I don’t think I could do it. Historically – in the things I’ve written -- my characters’ dialogue has always sucked a little ass. And I’ve been writing for 16 years. Here we go – it just struck me: Kevin Smith writes dialogue like I did when I was 17. KaBAM! That’s what I mean! Next paragraph.

Man, that paragraph took a few words to figure out, didn’t it? Let me reread it to see what the hell I meant by it. OK, first I wanna say that I like the thing about Satan’s pulsing cock. That’s funny. Next, I’d like to say that I realize I started and ended the paragraph on two unrelated topics and then didn’t link them very well in between. OK, I’m not a professional writer. Kevin Smith is and he needs to not suck so much at it. Or else someone needs to pay me what he makes to suck less at it than he does. In all seriousness, I realize that it’s hard to write well. And, the writing of Chasing Amy is my only real complaint. Well, that and Joey Lauren Adams pisses me off. I don’t know why. But, then I really like Jason Lee. Not Ben Affleck so much.  And I didn’t start actively enjoying the things Jay & Silent Bob said until I saw Dogma. Now, there was some tolerable, nay, funnyass dialogue. But, getting back to how hard it is to write, ah fuck it. Chasing Amy sucks. Take my word for it. This generation is getting saddled with a bucket of crap for a film. Someone, please make a better film so these kids can get a little smarter. Maybe the next Star Wars movie… I read once that it was going to be called Rise of the Empire. At least they’ll have the word ‘Empire’ in their film’s title. 

quickie movie reviews: The insider / fight club / american beauty / sleepy hollow / run lola run

by Aaron Sarlo

Published December, 1999

The Insider.  If you like Michael Mann, and I mean really like him, then you’ll mostly like The Insider. There is nothing wrong with the film, mind you. It’s noticeably less atmospheric than Heat, Manhunter, and Thief – which is the main reason I am so attracted to his movies. And that’s what I like about his movies. Everything’s blue, all the streets in the cities are all rainy (and not merely for continuity’s sake), and all the protagonists are emotionally scarred. Fun stuff. ***1/2 (Out of 4)

Fight Club. Now here’s a movie. Made my dick hard in ways I’d never imagined. If you offend easily, go see Fight Club. If you don’t like it, you’re an asshole. Seriously. ****

American Beauty. One of those movies where I just wanna cry at the end because it’s so damned beautiful. Kevin Spacey is so cool I’d let him piss on my face. And I’ve never wanted to fuck Annette Benning so much since The Grifters. Plus the little kid from Patriot Games shows her tits. Finally! And Wes Bentley is from Jonesboro, AR and my best friend knows him. ****

Sleepy Hollow. Solid film, mostly because you get to see inside decapitated neck wounds. ***

Run Lola Run. Released in July. One of the best foreign films I’ve ever seen. Maybe my favorite. Nothing kind or gentle or deeply symbolic about it. Which represents the one type of imported foreign film. And it’s not Man Bites Dog or whatever that suckass movie was called. Man [does something to] Dog. (What a hunk of shit.) -- which represents the other kind of imported foreign film. Normally, I hate foreign films because people that like foreign films ruin them for me by being assholes and staying until the end of the credits discussing what the significance of the color of the salt shaker “in the third reel” was. Man, fuck people like that! In the case of Run Lola I make an exception. ***1/2

movie review: fight club

by Aaron Sarlo

Published November, 1999

A friend of mine once told me, and I’m mondo-paraphrasing since it was several years ago, that the reason we (read: movie goers, TV watchers, complacent dreamer-types) are becoming so desensitized to violence is to prepare us for a sort of conspiratorial bloodbath that’s destined to erase our own history within our own lifetimes. I’m not sure I agree with the time frame, but I am ready to agree that there are many signs that point to this theoretical outcome. I will even say that some of these signs are rampant in our everyday lives. You probably recognize this and in case you don’t I’m not going to name any because you would only disagree with me, start thinking I’m a conspiracy nut, and stop reading. I don’t want you to stop reading. I want you to see how most movie reviewers are incorrect to criticize the one sign I have forced myself to reveal: the movie Fight Club.

Many movie reviewers (as recently re-illustrated in the articles I’ve read on Fight Club) are clueless. They only want to like a movie if everybody else likes it, too. Let me revise that. They will only admit to liking a movie if either a) the movie is a really confusing one by an acclaimed director and praising it will make them look smart (read: Eyes Wide Shut) or b) they’ve heard that other reviewers – the ‘good’ ones like it, so they like it, too. This is a constant in the world of movie reviews. This has always bothered me. Reviewers are either this way, or they’re a Jeffrey Lyons or a Rex Reed YESMAN who’ll say anything is great (one of them actually called Mr. & Mrs. Bridge something like “the bestfilm ever made” or “a perfect film” You’re probably wondering what Mr. & Mrs. Bridge is, and that proves my point exactly.) If Fight Club had been released a decade ago, it would have won an Oscar. And likewise, today, if it were the director’s debut film, reviewers would be scrambling all over each other to be among the first to embrace it. (read: American Beauty – a film of startling parallel to FC. Both are about white collar workers in emasculating jobs trying to feel alive in a supracharged consumerist society (that their job is guilty of helping to maintain) where their most prized purchases end up becoming their reason to live and their means of living become their identity. Both films feature protagonists making drastic personality changes, and both feature scenes where the hero blackmails his superior to remain on the company payroll. Only one film, however, features Meatloaf with tits.) This is the mentality that dictates what is a ‘good’ movie and what is a ‘bad’ movie, what is a trite waste of time and what is a ground-breaking film.

As it is, Fight Club is, in these early stages of its release, getting undeservedly panned. It’s not a bad movie. At all. In fact, it’s terrifically well made. The direction is excellent, the story is original and interesting, the character development is great, the acting is fine (in fact, I have never enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter more, and those of you who just thought of the words Wings of the Dove, blow it out your ass.) Great cinematography, solid script, tight editing. In short, there are few flaws in the movie. I should know. I’ve seen it three times and read the book. Fight Club is an important movie. Fight Club is important for several reasons: 1) If anybody gets around to actually thinking about it, they’ll get a little scared. (I’m not talking about the killer-jumping-up-at-the-last-moment type scared. I’m talking about the ‘boy!-Hannibal-Lecter-sure-was-evil-hey-wait-I’m-seeing-a-psychologist…-type scared.) They should, too. (It’s scary to see legions of people worshipping someone who is insane. Now, I’m not comparing FC to any events in history in any way, but if you see it and somebody says to you, “It was pretty cool but unrealistic. Nobody could organize something that deadly and be totally crazy and get people to listen to him.” You say back to that person, “Hitler.”) This slight, uneasy fear probably occurred in a lot of these early naysayers – not the ones that actually watched the whole thing-- the ones who clicked off and reached for their notebooks when they heard Chloe’s speech about wanting to get laid for the last time before she died of cancer. I read a lot of complaints about that not being funny. I’m not saying it was. I just note that it’s one of the easiest and earliest points in the movie to bail out. 2) It openly embraces fascism as an inevitable form of government. I am not saying that I agree or disagree with this. I am just saying that it is definitely refreshing to see a film take such a stance within a system that generally heralds the expired ideals of an obscenely amended constitution.

In direct contrast to films of that like, Fight Club, a film whose plot pivots on acts of domestic terrorism, hardly introduces American government and its preprogrammed reactive-ness, unapologetically concluding that a pinch of domestic terrorist activity has become necessary these days, despite any predeterminedly inherent horrors.  In Fight Club, no one is ever punished by anyone for their terroristic acts. (Except Meatloaf, and, let’s face it, he deserves to be punished for being named Meatloaf.)  3) Fight Club, unlike any other release this year that I know of, will most help us prepare for my friend’s inevitable bloodbath and the invisible (or maybe contemptuously in-our-faces) corporation-based government that could be defending itself from but, will, in reality, most likely sponsor it. Of course, this all depends on how soon before these theoretical events happen. Fight Club reminds us that violence is everywhere and not entirely unwanted. It also reminds us that it will never go away no matter how many laws our officials try to pass.

Fight Club embraces self-destruction as legitimate, universal expression. In short, for all these reasons and more, Fight Club is valuable as a statement of our pre-modern AmeriCo. Because the America of today - where amendments and bills of a particular nature can be voted down because of unrelated, often politically contrary attachments, where things like Brad Pitt fan pages litter things like the Internet, and where movies like Fight Club get reviewed as homoerotic claptrap - isn’t seeming to appreciate it. Or maybe Fight Club is just a really cool movie. (read: I’m a big, closet case swimming in self-denial.) 


movie review: raising arizona

by Aaron Sarlo

Published January, 1999

Hi. Last issue I promised to complete, in this issue, my two-part diatribe on the overrated/underrated films of our time. This issue would have focused on the overrated ones such as Chasing Amy and Clerks (both directed by a guy who cast Alanis Morrisette as God in his last film “because it seemed so right”). However, I can’t in good conscience do so at this time because I must address a very recent horror that occurred at ye olde workplace. The ‘horror’ was the ignorance of a co-worker, who, for the purposes of this article, will be called Tina. The other day, Tina and I were talking about movies. I mentioned Raising Arizona, as I do from time to time since it is the greatest comedy ever made. When she told me that she had not seen Raising Arizona I was not nearly as dumbstruck as when she said she had never even heard of Raising Arizona. Fuck! Rather than smack her in the face with a two-by-four as she rode by on a motorcycle, which was my right, I decided to write this article so there will be documentation (perhaps to be used in the not-too-distant future by a race of super-aliens that comes to sift through the post apocalyptic rubble we called “Earth” to try and find out what went wrong) that Raising Arizona is the greatest comedy ever made.

One of nature’s constants is that Nicolas Cage, the star of Raising Arizona, used to be extremely cool. Back in the day, before he became a cartoon character, if he was in a movie, chances were that it was a good movie. And if it wasn’t, you’d certainly get your money’s worth watching him act in that not-so-good movie. Vampire’s Kiss, Birdy, Red Rock West…good or bad, your kind of movie or not, it was unanimously agreed throughout the intelligent world that Nicolas Cage made every movie he was in immensely watchable. Raising Arizona was certainly no exception. His performance in Raising Arizona was the finest performance of his career – and I’m including the performance in Leaving Las Vegas that won him an Oscar. And I could easily say the same for the rest of the cast: Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Frances McDormand, hell, everybody in Raising Arizona gave their best performances ever except for M. Emmet Walsh whose best performance was given in Blood Simple. These are some of the finest actors we have. Let’s look at the their track records: Nicolas Cage – Oscar Winner for Leaving Las Vegas, Holly Hunter – Oscar Winner for The Piano, Frances McDormand – Oscar Winner for Fargo, Joel and Ethan Coen – Oscar Winners for Fargo, John Goodman, Trey Wilson, M. Emmet Walsh – all really cool guys and stupendous character actors who need Oscars desperately. So much more than sucky Gwynneth Paltrow, hot as she may be. Raising Arizona is nothing but great actors, great writing, super great direction and a great story. And even if all these people, the actors, director, writers, producers, gaffer, editor, production designer, blah blah blah except Nicolas Cage turned out to be bums the very second after the last “Cut! Print!” was yelled then we still, as a fact of nature, had him to watch and enjoy.

Raising Arizona is also intensely quotable -- the most quotable movie I have ever seen. From the very first line, “My name is H.I. McDunnough. Folks call me Hi” to the very last line, the film’s script never once lags or lapses into Contrivedville. Gems like “Son, you got a panty on your head,” “Do these balloons blow up into funny shapes? – Not unless round is funny” “”Maybe that’s why you call it a way homer. – Why’s that? – ‘Cause you only get it on the way home.” “I’ll be out directly,” “I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash you got,” “We felt the institution no longer had anything to offer us,” “I don’t know they were jammies…they had Yodas an’ shit on ‘em,” “Can I just sneak a peek-a-loo,” “You need a beer, Glen? – Does the Pope wear a funny hat? – Yeah, Glen, I guess it is kinda funny,” “Mind his little Fontanel,” “Slept is the best band ever. Go see them live,” “Mind you don’t cut yourself, Mordecai,” and of course the quote The Grifters took as their 2nd album title from, “I am crappin’ you negative,” litter the already funny dialogue, and solely command repeated viewings just so the viewer may bask in their glory. Somebody should compose a bible of Raising Arizona quotes or something. Or at least stick them in fortune cookies.

Another trait that sets Raising Arizona apart from the slew of other slapstick kidnapping movies with Randall “Tex” Cobb is that the filming. Premium Coen brothers. I’ve been a huge Coen brothers fan since the heady days of Blood Simple. Joel Coen is probably the least pretentious director we have with us today. All his shots are both unique and non-intrusive at the same time. Only Joel Coen could get away with all the low angles, on rooftops of cars shots, shooting up a ladder to arrive at a screaming woman type camera shots that have helped to define him as a filmmaker in his 7+ library of films. Then for an added bonus you got Barry Sonnenfeld behind the camera truly giving life to Tempe, AZ in ways I’m sure no other Director of Photography could in those days.  After re-watching Raising Arizona for the millionth time before writing this article I managed to forgive Barry for Wild Wild West, a film so horrendous I wish I could sue someone for the 2 hours of my life I spent watching it. La Fete du Sisk Rocks!

Wow. Now I sound like a psycho. I’m telling ya, man, rereading your own work is dangerous. Long story short: Raising Arizona is an instant classic. Never mind that it’s a dopey comedy. So were the Marx Brothers movies. And never mind that not everyone will agree with me on this. I barely know anyone who agreed with me that Star Wars: Episode 1 was great. The fact of the matter is this: Raising Arizona requires, as an intelligently written and crafted film, multiple viewings. Its script and direction are beyond reproach. Its cast is a solid, proven powerhouse of talent in its prime. Its as timeless as most of the great classics, more timeless than many including the near perfect, but ultimately dated Casablanca. It is a work of art. The Coen brothers have never been finer. Holly hunter has never been finer. Nicolas Cage has never been finer. Well, maybe he was once in Red Rock West, a film about a down on his luck drifter stranded in Wyoming with his only way out being a job offer to kill someone’s wife. It’s a really great movie and Nicolas Cage is fantastic in it. I don’t know. Maybe it was Utah. 

music review: 'repo man' soundtrack / 'rocky horror picture show' soundtrack

by Aaron Sarlo

Published 1998

Q: What Are The Two Best Film Soundtracks Ever Compiled/Recorded?

I just bought Repo Man on DVD. I had been waiting for it to be released since I bought my player, and when I was finally holding a copy in my hands this afternoon I was so happy I almost peed myself. I have just a few favorite movies and Repo Man is one of them. It is one of the godfathers of the “Cult Classic”, and watching Repo Man always produces a sense of completion in me, along with a deep longing for my youth which didn’t take place in Los Angeles but did occur in the early 1980’s.

I came into consciousness during the Reagan era. I remember what a shit hole the country was. People were out of work, homelessness was camping out on the front pages, corporate America shit out the Yuppie…and all because of Reaganomics. Well, that’s over-simplifying things a bit, but you get the message: the American Dream was carding at the door and only taking plastic. Things were bleak then. And in that bleakness American art flourished. Throughout history when things have sucked economically, politically, or whatever, art and culture have bloomed like tomato plants in a river of shit. Suddenly music was saying something of significance again, and film became fulfilling. America’s youth were just starting to realize that their batch of heroes was in a bathroom stall somewhere doing lines off a hooker’s tits. And it pissed them off to find that out. This is the climate that bred Repo Man. It is a film for Generation X (sorry everybody…the media backed me into a corner!) and for us only. Only we could identify with Emilio Estevez in a film. Otto Maddox is us: finding a makeshift role model in a Repo Man, and, Repo Man is the early 1980’s, an ugly childhood brimming with an impossibly vague sense of hope. 

Los Angeles in the early 1980’s was an amazing place to be. West Coast Punk reigned supreme. This was years before ugly W.C. Punk bastardizations would spawn legions of devoted teens that thought the music was new to the world then and that it was saying something of importance. Back then and there, it was both, as on the Repo Man soundtrack. Songs like the Iggy Pop title track, Suicidal Tendencies’s “Institutionalized,” and Circle Jerks’s “When the Shit Hits the Fan” fit into the whole mix as smoothly as if they were inserted there by John Holmes himself. Sure “TV Party Tonight” isn’t saying anything deep. But what is? A Rage Against the Faggy Machine song?! Whatever! The Repo Man soundtrack captures perfectly a single minute in the West Coast Punk scene and then sprinkles in some Juicy Bananas as an afterthought. Seriously, I get chills every time I hear “Bad Man.” And come on: Black Freakin’ Flag!

I watched it with my father tonight. My father is an extremely intelligent man, and he has watched a lot of movies. When Repo Man was over, I asked him what he thought. He told me that he liked it. I know he didn’t get it the way I do. I think you have to be just the right age and in just the right frame of mind to get Repo Man. Just as thousands were lost while watching The Big Chill, many, too (probably more), are lost while viewing Repo Man. That’s OK. I don’t mind that people don’t understand. And, man, they can stay the hell away from the soundtrack. It’s mine.

Most of America thinks that the Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of the worst movies ever made. They line up Saturday nights to see it at midnight screenings and then make fun of it. They think it’s 35mm of pure camp. Well, it is. But it’s something more. The R.H.P.S. is also a great movie. It’s a well shot, highly original, comedic whirlwind that does what every film should do: kills Meat Loaf. OK, OK, the Meat Loaf thing has been addressed. Now I’ll continue.

Every time I watch R.H.P.S. I find myself tearing up at the end and muttering, “Wow. What a great fucking movie.” Why is that? Am I an idiot? Probably. But, not completely. I know there’s something there. I know what the writer/director intended when he shows Brad & Janet flailing about in the rubble that was the foundation of Frankfurter’s castle. I know what was intended to be seen in the frame during Frank’s heart-breaking finale, “I’m Coming Home.” I know what is really hidden in the celluloid of that film. I’m not going to share it with you. You’d only laugh at me. I’m sure you think I’m Captain Retardo of the Retardo Brigade right about now, and that’s alright with me. The delight is all mine.

As for the soundtrack…I doubt that Tim Curry knew what he was creating when he first sang, “How’d you do? I see you’ve met my faithful handyman.” He probably thought, “What the fuck is this crap I’m singing? ‘Transsexual Transylvania’? That’s gay!” He couldn’t have known. He starred in Legend and McHale’s Navy. And starring in those things takes a certain amount of stupidity. So we’ll run on the assumption that he was working for a paycheck. But, that paycheck (no matter what it was for) was grossly inadequate in comparison to what he (and the whole cast) created in those original grooves. The R.H.P.S. soundtrack is a thing of immense beauty (“I’m Coming Home”), pure rock (“Rose Tint My World”), and unequalled camp value (everything else). The musicianship is thankfully understated. There are scant few instrumental solos, which, in my opinion, are from the devil. Plus, any soundtrack that mentions a Leslie Neilsen movie where he played a non Frank Drebin or Frank Drebin-esque character in the opening track is fine by me. And you like that, too.

A: The Repo Man Soundtrack and the Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack.