My wife and I took in the 1990-something classic, Presumed Innocent, this evening. The big takeaway is that Raul Julia dominates the movie in the role of Rusty’s defense attorney, Sandy Stern. In hindsight, I suppose I knew this because the only parts of the movie I remember involve Julia. Otherwise, it is an interesting and somewhat complicated plotline, and I actually had to pay attention to keep up.
A couple of big moments: In a brilliant cinematic moment, Stern stands behind the prosecutors during his cross, and we get to see the DA and ADA’s reactions as he dismantles their witness. The scene where he undresses Dr. “Painless” Kumaga bests the climax of A Few Good Men, for sure. It must be nice to see a script like this come your way.
A friend recently sent a letter via snail mail to ask my opinion of a NYC 80s cult classic titled, Liquid Sky.
I couldn’t find Liquid Sky in the fantastic collection at my local library (APL I’m lookin’ at you!) and was feeling stumped. So I asked another friend who happened to have been a NYC filmmaker for quite a few years and might have some insight for me. She tracked it down on the Dark Web, a place called…YouTube.
Liquid Sky refers to heroin and this opiate takes center stage in the drama. Apparently, the unseen aliens who zap anyone reaching orgasmic ecstasy within range of the saucer they have landed on the protagonists’ downtown penthouse are into any type of endorphin rush.
The odd part of this at times difficult film (you have to pay attention to keep up with the patchwork plot) is that it’s not a celebration of Bacchanalia or the hedonism of late 70s & early 80s NYC New Wave/No Wave culture. I’m not sure if the death by sex theme here, a mainstay of any slasher movie you’ve ever seen, is not simply a moralistic take by the producer/director and writers. (This 1982 film is pre-HIV/AIDS hysteria as revealed by one character who references that she might get syphilis —as a worse case scenario). Is it merely a critique of American society by the Russian filmmakers, using as a cultural trojan horse the ultrahip stylings of New Wave fashion and music and the general vibe of 80s underground New York City (of which I’m a sucker for). Certainly, it’s an intelligent film, under the far-fetched script and cheeseball special effects. And the bad guys (and a girl!) get what’s coming to them—or more accurately stated, what they are coming to.
I watched a film made this year called Execution, directed by Stavit Allweis, that was even more raw and had arguably even cheesier graphics. Basically it takes place in one room. The guys are rolled in one by one. Their heinous crimes against women are announced and they are killed before us in one way or another by a group of women. Not exactly a parable, as in Liquid Sky, but more honest in many ways. That is, if the point of Liquid Sky is revenge. I’m not exactly sure about the point. The more questions I seem to answer for myself, the more pop up. I know that the film is a kind of ethical minefield, with complicated and unsympathetic characters. I think Liquid Sky would certainly appeal to any nihilistic readers (or readers with nihilistic tendencies) of the L&D Report.
Another feature in Liquid Sky is the language. It’s got more blue streaks than a Midwest hair salon. The amount of F-bombs that get dropped would would make Tony Montana look up from a pile of blow. But it never seems inauthentic. It just seems New York.
Anne Carlisle creates a stand out performance of both characters, Margaret and Jimmy. This rivaled, if not surpassed, Cate Blanchett’s double turn as Cate and grungy cousin Shelly in Coffee and Cigarettes.
I certainly would drop Liquid Sky solidly in the NYC indie film, New Wave genre canon, along with Smithereens and Downtown 81. There’s hints of Scorsese’s After Hours and Jarmusch’s Permanent Vacation. There’s an air of Daryl Hannah’s Pris in Blade Runner. There’s the flair of David Bowie and there is a charge that’s reminiscent of Prince’s First Avenue in Purple Rain. Not even the film’s own disparaging take on the scene can erase or beam up the intrigue and excitement of that particular NYC zeitgeist.
This is a previously unreleased review of Edge of Seventeen, at the request of one of our long-time readers….
A Thursday night special midnight feature here at The Report, with the world premiere of The Edge of Seventeen, the latest high-end portrayal of teen angst, in the spirit of Election, Juno, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, and probably a half dozen others that escape me at the moment.
Without giving too much away, let me just sat that it is like watching a slow-motion nervous breakdown of the main character, portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld brilliantly reprises her role from True Grit as the surly teen down one parent, only this time it’s her unreasonably good-looking brother looking after the family, while Steinfeld inflicts misery and discomfort on those around her and on the audience. The lesson of this particular film, it seems, is that some young people might have stellar reasons for being miserable and depressed (aside from just being teenagers), and yet still not give us any cause to like them. L&D favorite, Woody Harrelson, is solid but unspectacular in a limited role as the wise adult character. And friend of The Report, Hayden Szeto, is very convincing in his portrayal of an insecure, wealthy Korean-American kid. Though he kind of got shorted on the character complexity front, they did reward him with a couple of good moments….
Some other tidbits, we learned that the new James Franco vehicle (Why Him?) might be a bit funnier than originally thought, as E17 featured an R-rated trailer that featured some spectacular swearing and a Moosey teabag. Also, we feel Ed Norton probably hasn’t seen a decent script come across his desk for some time, possibly since Fight Club. Finally, there was no mention of curling, either in the previews or the main feature.