1994: Part 2

*I apologize for the huge gap between posts. College is time-consuming. But I promise I’ll get back into the swing of things as soon as possible!

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Directed by Stephan Elliott. I guessed before watching the film that Hugo Weaving and Terence Stamp would be terrific, having loved Weaving as Elrond in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Stamp from his voice acting as Jor-El on “Smallville.” (Stamp has one of my favorite voices in general.) However, the real discovery for me was Guy Pearce, who plays Adam (aka the drag queen “Felicia”) with gusto. I’d never seen anything with Pearce before, so he was a real revelation, especially in the staged drag show’s “Finally” number. I must also mention Bill Hunter, who provides strong contrast as the kindhearted mechanic who becomes friends with the three main characters. Besides the perfect selection of music, the Oscar-winning costumes by Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel as well as the equally expert (and BAFTA-winning) makeup help make the film a warm and colorful experience. I’m surprised that Elliott didn’t get an Original Screenplay nomination at the 1995 Oscars, not just because it’s a fantastic script but because he did in fact get a nomination from the Writers Guild of America. I must say that I consider Priscilla one of the top ten films of the 90s and I can’t wait to see the Broadway musical. Please watch this wonderful film – you’ll be ever so glad you did. After all, what could be better than a tale of two drag queens and a transsexual journeying across the deserts of Australia in a battered tour bus named Priscilla? (Nothing, that’s what.)

Airheads. Directed by Michael Lehmann. Steve Buscemi, whom I have the utmost respect for (have you seen Living in Oblivion? I love that movie!), makes his character Rex into a truly memorable guy. His “rocker” hair and clothes, in addition to his foulmouthed demeanor, make him one to watch. Brendan Fraser was funny, as I expected him to be since he was hilarious on an SNL episode from over a decade ago that I caught as a rerun on VH1. Adam Sandler was also pretty good, although his act can wear a little thin at times. Airheads is peppered (pun intended, if you’ve seen the film) with interesting actors: Chris Farley, Michael McKean, Judd Nelson, Ernie Hudson, Amy Locane, Nina Siemaszko, David Arquette, Michael Richards, Joe Mantegna and even Harold Ramis. The style and humor of the film reminded me of Freaked, the 1993 film filled with insane and absurd jokes and sharp pop culture references. Airheads is silly but undeniably loads of fun.

The Mask. Directed by Chuck Russell. This is definitely a cherished favorite of mine from childhood. Jim Carrey does double duty as a mild-mannered bank teller named Stanley Ipkiss and – after putting on a mysterious mask – a crazy, sexualized superhero called “The Mask.” Cameron Diaz is tolerable in her feature film debut, though she’s more notable for her sex appeal than any apparent acting prowess. (I suppose I’ll need to see There’s Something About Mary, Being John Malkovich and Vanilla Sky before I can judge her further.) Peter Riegert is enjoyable as the cop hunting down Stanley/The Mask, while Peter Greene is an engaging villain. Extra special praise goes to Max, who played Carrey’s dog, Milo. I don’t always love Carrey, who can be overbearing depending on the character and script (hello, Batman Forever), but here he’s great because he shows both his wild, flamboyant side (especially in the “Cuban Pete” dance sequence) and a sweet Everyman type of likeability. One day I’ll watch The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the two Carrey films that capture his acting ability at its zenith.

Nobody’s Fool. Directed by Robert Benton. I saw the film in a class I took in 12th grade called Literature of the 80s and 90s. (Not that this is relevant, but at the time it struck me as amusing that it was our second Melanie Griffith film of the term, the first being The Milagro Beanfield War.) We read the Richard Russo novel and then saw this film. My teacher mentioned the fact that he saw the film before reading the book, so he could never read the original story without picturing Paul Newman as Sully. I remember having a particular idea of Sully in my head, but I can’t see that image now, only Newman. That’s not a bad thing, though; Paul Newman, a longtime favorite, is in fine form, as is Jessica Tandy. One minor quibble I have is that Newman’s voice was so gruff at times that I couldn’t understand some of his words… but even so, it didn’t detract from his performance. The film is also notable (for me personally) as the first performance I saw from Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays the beleaguered Officer Raymer. While Nobody’s Fool is not perfect – the plotline about Toby Roebuck being a lesbian was completely changed – it’s a well-acted drama with some surprisingly impressive performances. (Who knew Bruce Willis could be so good in a supporting role as a normal small-town man?)

Quiz Show. Directed by Robert Redford. The trio of John Turturro, Rob Morrow and Ralph Fiennes does grand work in this treatment of the 50s game show scandal. I first became a fan of Turturro when I saw him on “Monk” so I had high expectations – and his performance in this film does not disappoint. Fiennes never looked more like an ideal of male beauty than when he portrayed Charles Van Doren. Some reviewers found fault with Morrow’s “overdone” Southern accent, but I didn’t mind it; if anything, it added to his characterization. I loved Paul Scofield, which really surprised me since I didn’t think much of him in The Crucible. I’m glad he got a Best Supporting Actor nomination for such a nice, understated performance. The rest of the supporting cast works well: David Paymer, Hank Azaria, Christopher McDonald, Johann Carlo and Mira Sorvino are all quite good. The script by Paul Attanasio (adapted from Richard N. Goodwin’s book Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties) is excellent, featuring the level of finesse and polish that I also appreciated in The Social Network and Moneyball.

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