Daily Archives: April 21, 2006

When Do We Eat?

This 2005 farce about a hellish Passover seder panders to middle-class Jews as gleefully as Tyler Perry’s movies pander to middle-class African-Americans, though there’s less religiosity and a greater degree of self-hatred in the vulgar stereotypes. The dysfunctional family includes a father (Michael Lerner) who manufactures Christmas tree ornaments, a Hasidic son, a lesbian daughter, another daughter who makes a living as a sexual surrogate, and a druggy son who slips dad some ecstasy (his psychedelic trip is accompanied on the sound track by Jewish folk tunes). Salvador Litvak directed a script he cowrote with Nina Davidovich; among the old pros gamely attempting to navigate the strident humor are Mili Avital, Jack Klugman, and Lesley Ann Warren. R, 93 min. (JR) Read more

The Fastest Gun Alive

If memory serves, this is a slightly better than average black-and-white western (1956), directed by Russell Rouse, with a pacifist theme recalling the much superior The Gunfighter (1950). Rouse, a writer-director who started off ambitiously with such projects as The Well (1951) and The Thief (1952) and would later direct the ingenious House of Numbers (1957), eventually won an Academy Award for writing Pillow Talk (1959), then wound up making The Oscar (1966); this Glenn Ford effort comes just before the decline. With Broderick Crawford, Jeanne Crain, and Russ Tamblyn. 92 min. (JR) Read more

The Notorious Bettie Page

Writer-director Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) and cowriter Guinevere Turner (Go Fish) offer a refreshingly open-minded take on the 50s pinup/porn queen, effectively played by Gretchen Mol as a good-natured airhead. The film captures the garish colors and wispy black and white of home movies and lurid magazines of that period, and there’s something provocative about making Page–who dropped out of modeling after she found religion half a century ago–an almost blank slate on which we’re invited to write various feminist and queer theories. Which, as it turns out, objectifies her almost as much as porn did. With Chris Bauer, Jared Harris, David Strathairn, and Lili Taylor. R, 91 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Esquire, Landmark’s Century Centre. Read more