Daily Archives: December 10, 2020


From the Chicago Reader (June 12, 1992). — J.R.


** (Worth seeing)

Directed by Frank Oz

Written by Mark Stein and Brian Grazer

With Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn, Dana Delany, Julie Harris, Donald Moffat, Peter MacNicol, Richard B. Shull, Laurel Cronin, Roy Cooper, and Christopher Durang.

I’ve seen previews of two summer comedies so far — Sister Act and Housesitter — that have elicited gales of hysterical laughter from their mainly young audiences. In both cases the hysteria and volume of the laughter seemed a bit out of proportion. The one-joke premise of Sister Act — that there’s something indescribably hilarious about nuns behaving slightly irreverently — smacks more of quiet desperation growing out of repression than of something to feel happy about. I suspect that if I were a Catholic I’d feel more offended than charmed by the complacency of this running gag, whatever Emile Ardolino’s efficiency as a director. There’s a certain darkness behind many of the laughs in Housesitter, too, but at least they relate to a zeitgeist I can feel part of.

The main comic staple of Housesitter, apart from the enjoyable physical clowning of Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, is a theme I associate especially with the comedies of Billy Wilder: the baroque complications that grow out of elaborate lies.… Read more »


From the Chicago Reader (July 1, 1992). Reseeing the film recently in a splendid new Blu-Ray edition from Twilight Time, I now regard this as Cy Endfield’s greatest film — and one the best war films ever made, a magnificent epic that succeeds on many levels. — J.R.



The only commercial hit made by Cy Endfield, the neglected, blacklisted American writer-director who emigrated to England in the 50s — an epic and visually quite impressive account of an attack by 4,000 Zulu warriors on 105 British soldiers in Natal in 1879. While the incident is recounted wholly from the British viewpoint, the film is not racist, as some charged when it was released in 1964. Reflecting Endfield’s career-long refusal to plumb his characters’ motivations, it presents all the events at face value, not even delving directly into the causes of the Zulu attack. (Reportedly, Endfield tried to compensate in the script he wrote for the 1979 Zulu Dawn, directed by Douglas Hickox.) While it might be argued that Endfield’s greatest work (i.e., Try and Get Me!) shows a political and social lucidity about class divisions and group behavior that is only hinted at here, the handling of action and spectacle and the direction of actors are truly masterful.… Read more »

Rock Criticism

From the November 20, 1992 Chicago Reader. –J.R.


**** (Masterpiece)

Directed and written by Mark Rappaport

With Rock Hudson and Eric Farr.

In the creation of art, the verb is there to authenticate the subject with the same name.

To paint is the act of painting. . . . To write becomes the act of writing and of the writer. To film, that is, to record a sight and project it, is the act of cinema and of the makers of films . . .

Only television has no creative act or verb to authenticate it. That’s because the act of television both falls short of communication and goes beyond it. It doesn’t create any goods, in fact, what is worse, it distributes them without their ever having been created. To program is the only verb of television. That implies suffering rather than release. — Jean-Luc Godard

You were a great star, Mr. Hudson — one of the biggest. Sorry it all had to end like this. — director Mark Rappaport’s voice in Rock Hudson’s Home Movies

The precipitous decline in the quality of American movies since the 1970s can be attributed to several factors, but three interconnected changes in U.S.… Read more »