Spalding Gray

Spalding Gray

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Monster In A Box Review


Extraordinary
After proving his ability to dazzle audiences with his monologue Swimming to Cambodia, Spalding Gray returns with this follow-up that outlines his experiences in Los Angeles (having found minor fame with the prior film), traveling to Russia as part of an American cinema tour, fearing he has AIDS and seeking psychoanalysis, and -- most importantly -- attempting to write a novel called Impossible Vacation (which can now be found used for about a quarter). Directed with a light hand by documentarian Nick Broomfield, Gray remains on top of his neurotic game here, with, as his therapist says, his subconscious so close to the surface you "can see its periscope." Awesome.

Monster In A Box Review


Extraordinary
After proving his ability to dazzle audiences with his monologue Swimming to Cambodia, Spalding Gray returns with this follow-up that outlines his experiences in Los Angeles (having found minor fame with the prior film), traveling to Russia as part of an American cinema tour, fearing he has AIDS and seeking psychoanalysis, and -- most importantly -- attempting to write a novel called Impossible Vacation (which can now be found used for about a quarter). Directed with a light hand by documentarian Nick Broomfield, Gray remains on top of his neurotic game here, with, as his therapist says, his subconscious so close to the surface you "can see its periscope." Awesome.

The Killing Fields Review


Excellent
People never really got the message about Cambodia that they did about Vietnam. Thanks to movies like The Killing Fields the story can be told, and in fine form. Sam Waterston plays New York Times Sydney Schanberg, who's angrily covering the war from the front lines, but the film (and the Oscar, ultimately) belongs to Haing S. Ngor, who plays Dith Pran, Schanberg's Cambodian translator and assistant. When the shit goes down, Pran can't get out of the country as easily as Schanberg, and the story he tells from the months that followed are epic and heartrending.

Beyond Rangoon Review


OK
Beyond Rangoon is absolutely typical of the way Hollywood can take a compelling story, full of genuine characters and heartfelt emotion, then hack it to tiny bits and put it back together, Frankenstein-like, into a sappy, overwrought drama that is without a soul and without a point.

The story is "based on actual events." Patricia Arquette plays Laura, an American doctor trying to find peace after the brutal murder of her husband and son. With her sister (Frances McDormand), they embark on a tour of the exotic East, including a peaceful stopover in Burma, a war-torn country ruled by military dictatorship (As they say, "In Burma, everything is illegal."). Laura's passport is lifted, and she finds herself trapped in the capital city of Rangoon, while her sister and their tour group head off to Bangkok. The Burmese pick that time to revolt, and Laura finds herself caught up in a civil war, which basically amounts to dodging bullets in the jungle while covered in mud.

Continue reading: Beyond Rangoon Review

Swimming To Cambodia Review


Essential
With Spalding Gray's recent appearance at the Paramount (in Austin), we have a perfect excuse to revisit his masterwork, the highly-acclaimed Swimming to Cambodia. If you aren't familiar with Gray, he is a singularly unique entertainer--a monologist whose films and live performances consist of his "raving, talking head" behind a desk for 90-plus minutes, and they are always completely enthralling. In Swimming to Cambodia, Gray relates his experiences during the filming of The Killing Fields, a movie in which he had a minor role. Along the way, Gray speaks ostensibly about the malignancy of the early 1970s: Vietnam, the Kent State massacre, and the genocide committed by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, on which Fields is based. However, it is through Gray's subtle parallels with the evils of today--our urban strife, sex parlors, drugs, and deviants--that Gray's message really proves that we have become callused by the past and that our innocence has truly been lost. Laurie Anderson's tribal score and Demme's perfectly-executed direction take us right inside the mind of this eccentric genius. And it's one hell of a visit.

Beaches Review


Terrible
In the history of men going to the movies, there are few horrors as singularly terrifying as the movie Beaches. With its combination of precious tragicomedy plot, copious singing, and Bette Midler, the horror trifecta is already complete. But there's plenty more: Not only is Midler heard here singing about her tits (her words), Mayim "Blossom" Bialik plays the 11-year-old version of brazen Bette. Chills don't get much colder than this.

Watching the 1989 movie today, it's not just an unabashed chick flick, it's also revealed as a plain-old Bad Movie. For starters, it's not really about anything, instead preferring to work (or not) as a collection of loose scenes that illustrate the ups and downs of two friends (Midler and Barbara Hershey) from their pre-teens to the grave. Things happen, but not much. The film's only real plot point comes in the last act (spoilers ahead if you care), when Hershey's character croaks on us, sticking Midler with her daughter.

Continue reading: Beaches Review

Revolution #9 Review


Very Good
Tim McCann's Revolution #9 is a muted freak-out, an exploration of the kind of slipping-down life from which it's impossible avert your gaze.

Michael Risley plays Jackson, a seemingly normal man who out of the blue becomes convinced he is being beseiged by secret messages in e-mail spam and a TV perfume ad. After confronting the nephew of his girlfriend (Adrienne Shelly) as being in on the conspiracy, Jackson's world becomes more and more bizarre, even hunting down the photographer (Spalding Gray, in a small but fun role) who shot the perfume commercial.

Continue reading: Revolution #9 Review

Gray's Anatomy Review


Very Good
You know from the start that this is not your typical Spalding Gray video (there are now four in release). First off, as opposed to his typical man-behind-a-desk scenario, Gray's Anatomy begins with ten minutes of other people's monologues, and the film continually cuts back to them as it progresses. Compared to his stage version, Gray has pared out about half of the original material regarding his wild search to cure a rare eye condition, a quest which led him from a Native American Sweat Ceremony to a Filipino psychic surgeon and beyond. The guts of the story are still there, but with Soderbergh's bizarro direction, you may have a hard time plucking them out. Yet, in spite of Soderbergh and the painful lack of an audience/laugh track, Gray's story is immediately compelling, proving that once again, a talking head can truly entertain an audience. And we are given a welcome relief from the usual Laurie Anderson cacophony with a smooth score by Cliff Martinez. While I've always felt this monologue was a bit disappointing due to its lack of a real ending, Gray's Anatomy makes for required viewing for anyone wrestling with a medical condition and the angst that surrounds it. Gray fanatics and neurotics in general are also encouraged to pick up a copy.

Twenty Bucks Review


Very Good
Check to the right... and that's only part of the cast. Movie stars great and small came out for this production, the ultimate production of a screenplay that's been floating around since the Great Depression -- seriously, it was originally written that long ago.

The story is simple: There's no real plot or central character -- aside from a $20 that makes it way from a random pickup across several days and dozens of handlers. From a homeless woman (Linda Hunt) intent on buying a lottery ticket with it to the G-string of a stripper (Melora Walters) to a pair of thieves (Christopher Lloyd and Steve Buscemi) to many more characters normal and exotic, the bill gets filthier and filthier until its ultimate demise (and rebirth, back in the hands of Hunt's street urchin).

Continue reading: Twenty Bucks Review

How High Review


Weak

Writing a review of a stoner movie is an exercise in futility. I mean, quality isn't really an issue if you see "How High" in the, ummm, blunt condition the filmmakers have in mind, now is it?

There are laughs to be had in this screwball comedy about two ghetto ganja hounds (hip-hop artists Method Man and Redman) who accidentally ace their belated college entry exams and get into Harvard. How did they do it? After smoking some wicked weed grown in soil mixed with the ashes of a dead buddy, they're visited by the guy's ghost who gives them all the test answers. How he knows the stuff is, of course, never explained.

So these two dudes toke their way through freshman year, pulling "Animal House" pranks on the snooty Oreo dean (Obba Babatunde), copping booty from frat boys' babes and sorority virgins in argyle sweaters, and getting hookers for their geek dorm-mates, the Chinese wannabe gansta ("You East Coast, I Far East Coast!") and the pathetic whitebread frat pledge.

Continue reading: How High Review

Spalding Gray

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Spalding Gray Movies

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Beaches Movie Review

Beaches Movie Review

In the history of men going to the movies, there are few horrors as singularly...

How High Movie Review

How High Movie Review

Writing a review of a stoner movie is an exercise in futility. I mean, quality...

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