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DAS BOOT (1981) (****)

Sometimes just watching people do their jobs is fascinating. That’s what makes this film so great. The job this film watches is a grueling and life-threatening one.

The film follows a German U-boat mission from start to finish. That’s pretty much it. They experience depth charges, enemy fire and sinking to the bottom of the Straight of Gibraltar. The crew is led by Capt.-Lt. Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock (Jürgen Prochnow, THE ENGLISH PATIENT), a career sailor who is not a Nazi and has little respect for the fools running his country. Along on the mission is photographer Lt. Werner (Herbert Grönemeyer), who serves as the viewer’s eyes and ears into the world of operating a submarine. The Captain’s right hand man is Chief Engineer Fritz Grade (Klaus Wennemann), a man with sad eyes, but an optimistic heart.

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BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) (***1/2)

Having seen two of his films, I’m quickly becoming a Mario Bava fan. Within genre films, he was able to skewer the rich with a keen eye for subtle satire and devious dread.

The plot of this film will read like a typical exploitation horror flick. A fashion house full of pretty models is plagued by a serial killer who slowly murders the women in gruesome and elaborate ways one by one. This film is considered one of the first to be labeled in giallo in Italy. Giallo is a sub-genre of thrillers that are highlighted by the elaborated deaths that take place in them. The word means “yellow” in Italian, which was the color of pulp thriller novels of the time.

The first victim Isabella (Francesca Ungaro) is strangled by the killer who looks like Darkman wearing the mask Tom Cruise wore in VANILLA SKY. Inspector Silvester (Thomas Reiner) is assigned the task of capturing the killer, who could be anyone associated with the fashion house. The key characters include fashion house director Max Marian (Cameron Mitchell, MY FAVORITE YEAR); fashion house owner Contessa Cristina Como (Eva Bartok); Isabella’s boyfriend Frank Sacalo (Dante DiPaolo, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS); the model Nicole (Ariana Gorini), who is also secretly seeing Frank; model and Isabella’s roommate Peggy Peyton (Mary Arden, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE); nervous model Greta (Lea Lander); mysterious model Tao-Li (Claude Dantes); Greta’s fiancée Marquis Richard Morell (Franco Ressel); sketchy clothing designer Cesar Losarre (Luciano Pigozzi); and pill-popping Marco (Massimo Righi).

Blogs

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (2005) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Saturday, December 17, 2005 at 12:07pm

Finally the technology of the movies has caught up with the imagination of C.S. Lewis. This film is the definitive version of the classic children’s fantasy book. This charming tale will quickly win you over.

The Pevensie children live in London during the Blitz of WWII. Their mother decides to send them to live with their uncle Prof. Kirke (Jim Broadbent, IRIS) in the country. There isn’t much to do for the foursome on the giant estate, especially with governess Mrs. MacReady (Elizabeth Hawthorne, THE FRIGHTENERS) barking rules at them.

Peter (William Moseley, TV’s 2002 GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS) is the oldest and serves as surrogate father for the others while their real dad is away at war. Peter’s demands really bother third child Edmund (Skandar Keynes, TV’s FERRARI), who has a problem following orders. The second child, Susan (Anna Popplewell, GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING) is the sensible one of the group and the youngest Lucy (Georgie Henley) is their heart, conscience and spirit.

Blogs

CAPOTE (2005) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Saturday, December 17, 2005 at 11:55am

As this film portrays him, Truman Capote was a complex man. He was two-faced, pretentious, manipulative, caring, sensitive, hypocritical and brilliant.

The central part of this film’s success is the stellar performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman (BOOGIE NIGHTS), who needs to be nominated for the Oscar for his performance. He creates a character who is brought down by his hubris and ego, despite the fact that in the process he accomplishes his greatest artistic triumph.

Though not nearly as flashy as Hoffman, Catherine Keener as Capote’s research assistant Nelle Harper Lee, who over the course of the film gains enormous fame herself for writing TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, is the heart of the film. As Capote’s friend, we see him through her eyes and still care for him despite all his jerkiness. The conversation they have at the movie premiere for MOCKINGBIRD is heartbreaking.

Blogs

Nancy & Nik's Sunday sale

Nik and Nancy are starting to dig into their closets -- the first of many
house sales !!

Vintage clothing from the 20's, 30's and 40's

Hats and accessories

A few just plain oddities

Come buy or just by to say hello

Sunday, November 27 - 11 AM to 6ish (as long as people are buying)

2066 30th Avenue between Pacheco & Quintara in San Francisco

Blogs

GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE!

GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE

Just three more days til Turkey Day at Nik and Nancy's -- We know that we
have been threatening that this would be the last one for years but this
REALLY is!!! . . . much will be revealed on Turkey Day!!!

2066 30th Avenue

Between Pacheco & Quintara in the Avenues

415/681-3189 (but we will not be able to hear the phone ring on Thursday
(much less find it) so please call after Thursday to chat)

Nosh at 2:00 PM

Dine at 6:00 PM

and play the night away!!!!!

BRING: Something delicious to eat or drink to share

AND

Something packaged or canned for the food bank barrel

AND

Blogs

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: SCREAM 2

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:42pm

SCREAM 2 (**1/2)
(First Reviewed: 6/15/04)
Like the original SCREAM film, the characters know the rules of horror flicks — even the rules of horror sequels. Higher body count and more gore. This "rule" typically ruins other horror sequels and succeeds in doing the same with SCREAM 2…

You might be able to guess the killer(s), but you'll never guess why. The film does have some intelligence. I liked the classroom debate about films influencing behavior, the talk about sequel clichés and the identity of the killer was pretty ingenious, especially the killers' line explaining their motivation.

Blogs

SHORT CUTS (1993) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:29pm

Robert Altman is the master of films with large casts where the lives of the various characters intertwine. This film is a look at the lives of 22 characters living in Los Angeles, which clearly influenced the work of Paul Thomas Anderson. The three-hour plus movie plays like a giant slice of life character study of the various cast members.

Ann Finnigan (Andie MacDowell, GROUNDHOG DAY) is married to TV commentator Howard Finnigan (Bruce Davison, LONGTIME COMPANION). Their son Casey (Lane Cassidy) is hit by car on his way to school. Waitress Doreen Piggot (Lily Tomlin, 9 TO 5) was driving the car and tries to take care of the kid, but he refuses to get in a car with a stranger and walks home. Doreen is married to a drunk limo driver named Earl (Tom Waits, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA), who is hated by Doreen’s daughter Honey Bush (Lili Taylor, SAY ANYTHING…), who is married to sleazy make-up artist Bill (Robert Downey Jr., CHAPLIN).

Blogs

SCREAM 3 (2000) (*1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:09pm

SCREAM reinvented modern horror and now stands as a classic of the genre. For fans of the original, SCREAM 2 was a good follow-up. SCREAM 3 is a disaster.

The first place to look for the reason would be in the writing credits. SCREAM creator Kevin Williamson wrote the first two films, but Ehren Kruger (THE RING, THE SKELETON KEY) tackled the third. He tries too hard to copy Williamson’s hip self-referential style and fails miserably. One of the major problems of the film is that it’s made for people who have seen the first two films. I think people who haven’t seen the first two films, or haven’t seen them recently even, will be lost.

Another problem is that Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, THE COMPANY) is really short changed in the film. She’s theoretically the central character in the film, but most of the screen time and action is consumed and driven by the Dewey Riley (David Arquette, READY TO RUMBLE) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox, TV’s FRIENDS) characters. In SCREAM 2, the bickering relationship between the two characters was interesting, but here it’s just irritating and redundant.

Blogs

PHANTOMS (1998) (*1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 9:55pm

This horrible horror flick is based on a Dean Koontz book, which is unread by me. He’s a writer that seems to fall into the categories of love him or hate him. Considering that he adapted the screenplay for this film, I’m not leaning toward the love him camp to be honest.

Like so many horror movies, there is a kernel of an intelligent premise buried within spooky clichés and paper-thin characters. Horror writers really love their monsters, but can’t find central characters that aren’t from stock character central. Dr. Jennifer Pailey (Joanna Going, INVENTING THE ABBOTTS) picks up her sister Lisa (Rose McGowan, TV’s CHARMED) from L.A. to take her to a small town in Colorado so she can get away from the hectic life of the City of Angels. When they arrive in Colorado, the town they visit is deserted or dotted with dead people (or at least parts of dead people). The only living people the sisters run into are Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Ben Affleck, GOOD WILL HUNTING) and his deputies Stu Wargle (Live Schreiber, SCREAM 2) and Steve Shanning (Nicky Katt, SECONDHAND LIONS).

Blogs

THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 9:48pm

Anthony Mann is a director known for his Westerns. James Stewart was an actor who brought great decency to his characters. When Mann and Stewart teamed up, the actor was allowed to explore his darker side. This film was the last Western the star and director would make together and it was their favorite.

Stewart plays Will Lockhart, a former cavalry captain who has bought three wagons and started a hauling business. He rides into the town of Coronado, where his younger brother was killed by Apaches with repeating rifles. Lockhart decides to take salt from the local salt fields back with him to Laramie, but unbeknownst to him this isn’t free salt and has a run in with Dave Waggoman (Alex Nicol, BLOODY MAMA), the son of Alec Waggoman (Donald Crisp, HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY), the richest man in Coronado. With a mission of getting what’s owed him from the Waggomans and to find out who sold the rifles to the Apache, Lockhart sticks around Coronado.

Blogs

THE LONG GOODBYE (1973) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 8:15pm

Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe returns, but this time the dic is transported to the 1970s. Elliott Gould (MASH) plays the Marlowe character as a cocky mumbling slob and he’s wonderful.

Early one morning his friend Terry Lennox (former pro baseball player Jim Bouton) shows up and says he fought with his wife and needs a ride to Tijuana. When Marlowe gets back to his apartment, the cops are waiting for him and want to know where he took Terry, because Lennox’s wife was found dead. The rest of the film chronicles Marlowe’s meandering path to finding out the truth behind what really happened to Terry and his wife.

Along the way, Eileen Wade (Nina Van Pallandt, AMERICAN GIGOLO) hires Marlowe to locate her booze-hound writer husband Roger (Sterling Hayden, DR. STRANGELOVE). Also working into the plot are gangster Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell, HAVANA) and strange clinic doctor Verringer (Henry Gibson, NASHVILLE).

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KANDAHAR (2002) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 8:05pm

Made by Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf before 9/11, the story follows Nafas (Nelofer Pazira), an Afgani-born Canadian journalist, who sneaks into Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban to rescue her crippled sister who has vowed to commit suicide on the first eclipse of the new millennium.

In reality the plot serves as a framework to present vignettes of what life was like under the Taliban rule. However, Nafas’ dogged determination to get to Kandahar and save her sister does create a surprisingly emotional core to the film. As a woman, Nafas has to wear a burqua that covers her entire body and must find men to help her travel across the country.

Her first is a trader, who has Nafas pose as one of his wives. He’s conservative and follows the traditions of the Taliban, but will take Nafas for the right price. In this Afghanistan, anything can be bought and sold because most people are starving.

Blogs

JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:57pm

Director Stanley Kramer was a director who never shied away from taking on topical issues in his films. In THE DEFIANT ONES and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, he tackled race, and in INHERIT THE WIND, he tackled evolution. In JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, he addressed the issue of who is to blame for the Nazis and presents a nuanced argument against many people.

Spencer Tracy (ADAM’S RIB) stars as Chief Judge Dan Haywood, who moves to Nuremberg to head up the trial of four Nazi judges, the top being Dr. Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY). Heading up the prosecution is Col. Tad Lawson (Richard Widmark, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS), a man who saw the horrors of the concentration camps first hand and makes it a personal crusade to take down as many Nazis as he can. Heading the defense is Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell, JULIA), a brilliant, young attorney, who uses the law as leverage in his defense of evil acts.

Blogs

THE INNOCENTS (1961) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:46pm

This is one of — if not the best “creepy” children movie I’ve ever seen. Many elements of this '60s production reminded me of THE SHINING. From the strange children to the perfect use of setting to ghostly influences to the excellent use of shot choices, it is hard for me to imagine that this film wasn't an influence on Stanley Kubrick.

Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr, BLACK NARCISSUS) is hired to take care of two children whose uncle has no desire to have anything to do with them. At first, Miss Giddens only has Flora (Pamela Franklin, THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE) to take care of and all seems fairly well. Then she gets word that Miles (Martin Stephens, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED) has been expelled from his boarding school. He is an unusual boy, who seems to be the perfect child, but will do randomly strange and creepy things. Aiding Giddens is the house’s longtime maid Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins, OLIVER!). But things really take a turn for the worse when Miss Giddens begins to see the ghosts of the former grounds keeper Quint (Peter Wyngarde, 1980’s FLASH GORDON) and the former governess Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop).

Blogs

THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (1962) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:35pm

Luis Buñuel’s EXTERMINATING ANGEL was completed in Mexico in 1962, but wasn’t released in the U.S. until August 1967, which was the same year that his most famous film, BELLE DE JOUR, was released. Buñuel is known for his surrealist cinema and EXTERMINATING ANGEL is his most surreal feature. This satire uses absurdity to uncover hypocrisy.

Edmundo Nobile (Enrique Rambal) is a wealthy elite who throws a party for the rich set in town. Buñuel is not worried about character here, but brings archetypical characters to his party. After dinner, the host and his guests move into the sitting room, where no one leaves — literally. Some unexplained force makes the guests unable to walk out of the room. Once you enter the room, you cannot leave. The guests camp out on the floor for the night and try to remain dignified. However, when days turn into weeks, niceties of decorum begin to fade and the “pure bloods” are savagely at each other’s throats.

Blogs

DIABOLIQUE (1955) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:23pm

This is the kind of film that terms like “nail-biter” and “edge of your seat” were created for. Directed and written by Henri-Georges Clouzot, the film crafts a deviant murder mystery, which puts guilt at the center of the tension. Rumor has it that Alfred Hitchcock missed out on buying the rights to the book this film was based on by mere hours. Cinema isn't missing out on another great film from the master of suspense, because Clouzot's work here rightfully earns him the title of France's Hitchcock.

Christina Delasalle (Véra Clouzot, THE WAGES OF FEAR) is married to Michel (Paul Meurisse), a cruel principal at a private boys’ school that is having an affair with the sexy teacher Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret, SHIP OF FOOLS). Christina knows about the affair and takes sympathy on Nicole when she turns up one morning with a black eye. Eventually, the women decide to murder Michel, ending in them dumping his body in the murky pool at the school. Who will find the body? When will it be found? What questions will be asked when Michel goes missing?

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DEAD RINGERS (1988) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:13pm

Twins have been a common theme in horror films and macabre master David Cronenberg tackles the topic here. Elliot and Beverly Mantle (Jeremy Irons, A REVERSAL OF FORTUNE) are identical twin gynecologists. Beverly is the shy, scholarly scientist, who developed a revolutionary surgical instrument when he was a student at college. Elliot is a flashy ladies man, who serves as the public face for Beverly’s work.

One day, actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold, THE HOUSE OF YES) comes to see Beverly at his office to see if she can get pregnant. During the examination, Elliot switches places with Beverly and seduces Claire. When Elliot gets bored of Claire, he hands her over to Beverly again. Beverly falls in love with Claire, who is quite disturbed when she finds out about Elliot.

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BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:53pm

As for the classic horror films, the FRANKENSTEIN series is considered by many as the best. I haven’t seen enough of the classic monster films to say from personal experience, but from having seen the first two films in the series I cannot argue with popular opinion.

The original FRANKENSTEIN sticks out in my mind more clearly than DRACULA or THE MUMMY, because it has less of the stagey performing that hurts many films from the 1930s. It also has the strangely engaging central character — Frankenstein’s monster. In BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the same things can be said.

The film is part sequel and part remake of the original. The second film has more of the original Mary Shelley novel in it though. The film actually begins with Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester, LASSIE COME HOME) sitting by a fire on a stormy night with her husband Percy (Douglas Walton, MURDER, MY SWEET) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon, NOTORIOUS), who recaps what happened in the first film, which spurs Mary Shelley to tell the real ending of the tale. Considering the first and second film don’t follow the book all that much it seems silly to have Shelley tell the tale, but the brief intro does quickly recap the first film and set up the start of the new film, which takes over where the last film left off.

Blogs

BLACK NARCISSUS (1948) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:43pm

The filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were early adopters of color in their films. Along with THE RED SHOES, this film is a shining example of how color can play a huge role in a picture when used correctly. The intoxicating eroticism of the Himalayan setting is brought brilliantly to life in rich visual splashes. Color works as a mysterious character that haunts every frame of this masterpiece.

Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr, THE INNOCENTS) is a snobby and arrogant nun, who is assigned her own mission in the Himalayas with a handful or so of other nuns under her, despite her young age. A prince has given the nuns an old palace where a harem was once housed. The prince pays his people to attend the school there and the nuns are afraid to treat the sick in their hospital because of the fear that the natives will rebel against them if the patient ends up dying. British ex-patriot Mr. Dean (David Farrar, GONE TO EARTH) tries to help the nuns, but he butts heads with Sister Clodagh due to her holier than thou disgust for his frivolous lifestyle. However, Mr. Dean’s sexual appeal is not lost on off-kilter nun Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron, 1996’s EMMA).

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BAY OF BLOOD (1971) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:15pm

Mario Bava is considered the granddaddy of Italian horror. He was a cinematographer who began directing at age 46. He was always assigned genre films. He is known for his striking visuals, envelope-pushing violence and gore and a distinctive style with off-kilter humor.

This film begins with a fly committing suicide in a lake. Then we move to a highly dramatic scene of Countess Federica Donati (Isa Miranda, THE NIGHT PORTER) rolling her wheelchair to the window on a rainy night staring out at a boathouse in lament. The music swells as she moves back into the room and then suddenly the music is cut off, a noose is thrown around her neck and she is pushed off her wheelchair to hang herself. This shocking first death is only the tip of the iceberg in what surprises lie within the twisted world of this film.

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ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (2004) (***)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:06pm

For me a comedy needs to do two things — 1) establish a world and keep with it and 2) make me laugh. If a comedy can also make me think and care about the characters, then that’s just gravy. ANCHORMAN is just plain lumpy, mashed potatoes, but I liked the taste of it nonetheless.

When ANCHORMAN works, it’s really funny. When it’s doesn’t, it’s dead silence bad. However, the good really outweighs the bad and it moves on so quickly to a new joke that you forget that the one right before really tanked. Sometimes the joke starts out bad and they just go with it until it works. This is where the talent of the performers is highlighted.

Will Ferrell, possibly the most consistently funny guy working in Hollywood today, plays Ron Burgundy — an anchorman for a local San Diego news station, who has made himself a legend in his own mind. The film is set in the 1970s when men ruled the newsroom and sexual harassment was an alien concept. Ron is worshipped by his crew, which includes Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd, THE SHAPE OF THINGS), dimwitted weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN) and sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner, A GUY THING). The station head Ed Harken (Fred Willard, BEST IN SHOW) is pressured to add diversity to the newscast and hires ambitious reporter Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate, TV’s MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN). Ms. Corningstone must endure endless harassment and ridicule, but she hangs in there, trying to hold off her attraction to Ron.

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UNLEASHED (2005) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 5:57pm

I struggled with this film throughout. At times it works on your emotions successfully, but undercuts those emotions with characters that are inconsistent.

The story follows Danny (Jet Li, HERO), a savage hitman who has been beaten of his humanity by gangster Bart (Bob Hoskins, MONA LISA). Danny wears a collar that makes him docile, but when Bart removes it Danny becomes a raging, unstoppable killer. As the story progresses, Danny ends up meeting and eventually taken in by blind piano tuner Sam (Morgan Freeman, MILLION DOLLAR BABY), who has a stepdaughter named Victoria (Kerry Condon, NED KELLY). Sam and Victoria make Danny a part of their unusual family. They also go about teaching Danny to readjust to normal society.

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PALINDROMES (2005) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 5:09pm

Director Todd Solondz is a director of films that are for an audience with extremely open minds. He is not afraid to push buttons, take chances or offend. He is also very cynical and sarcastic, which to some is off putting.

PALINDROMES is his most experimental film and the film in which he has taken the most chances. At the beginning, he brings back characters from his first movie WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE and then runs them through the wringer for the entire picture.

The main character of DOLLHOUSE, Dawn Weiner, has committed suicide and her snobby sister has told their young cousin Aviva that she is destined to turn out just like Dawn, a pathetic loser who will be unloved. Aviva’s mother Joyce (Ellen Barkin, THE BIG EASY) reassures her 14-year-old daughter that she will be fine and that her and her father will always love her. At this point Aviva declares that she wants to have lots and lots of babies so that she will always have someone to love. So Aviva hooks up with horny Judah (Robert Agri), the son of a family friend, so she can get pregnant.

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ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (2005) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:49pm

This independent film came out of the Sundance Film Festival with a lot of praise, winning a grand and a special jury prize. It went on to win several awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Much of the recognition has deservedly been lumped on writer/director/star Miranda July, who previous to making this film worked as a performance artist. Her film could be categorized as a romantic comedy, but that term undermines its dramatic and intellectual depth.

In a world of growing technology, Christine Jesperson (July) finds it harder and harder to really communicate with other people and develop new relationships. She’s working on a museum art piece during her off hours and operates a taxi service for the elderly to make money. One day while taking a client out to buy shoes, she meets recently divorced shoe salesman Richard Swersey (John Hawkes, THE PERFECT STORM), who has a strange philosophical outlook on life that instantly attracts her to him.

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