say anything (1989, Fox), dir. Cameron Crowe, w/ John Cusack, Ione Skye. Rating: NNNNN
Cameron Crowe's directorial debut, in retrospect the great romance film of the 80s, has finally found a home on DVD in a deluxe edition. Lloyd Dobler (Cusack), an aspiring kick-boxer, graduates from high school and decides to pursue Diane Court (Skye), his class's great beauty and most intimidating brain. Written with Crowe's characteristic gift for dialogue (is there a statement of romantic despair more concise than "I gave her my heart; she gave me a pen"?) and directed with his trademark generosity toward both his cast and their characters, Say Anything surrounds its mismatched lovers with a great assortment of supporting players, including Lili Taylor as the girl who's written 63 songs about her ex, Loren Dean, Bebe Neuwirth and Jeremy Piven.
EXTRAS: Crowe plainly enjoys talking about his work. His commentaries, here and for Almost Famous, never feel like the discharge of a contractual obligation. He's joined by Cusack and Skye, and there's 20 minutes of commentary before the movie even starts! It's a bit of a love feast, but there are really interesting bits, like Julia Roberts reading three times for Amy Brooks's role of second friend and not getting it.
Big-screen rating: N/A
sexy beast (2001, Fox), dir. Jonathan Glazer w/ Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley. Rating: NNNN
Just in time for the Oscars comes this first-rate crime thriller. Winstone is Gal, a retired thug whiling away his days on the Costa Brava when Ben Kingsley shows up demanding that he come work one last gig.
On first viewing, Kingsley's performance is such a flamboyant stunt -- Look! Gandhi's calling people "cunt"! -- that it tends to overwhelm the picture. On second viewing, you appreciate the elegant craft of first-time director Glazer and authors Louis Mellis and David Scinto, and realize the Academy made a mistake nominating Kingsley but not Winstone, the patriarchal monster of The War Zone and Nil By Mouth, for some unexpectedly subtle work.
EXTRAS: Unusually, the commentary track isn't by the director but by Ben Kingsley and producer Jeremy Thomas. Anyone who wants to understand film acting should pick this one up for Kingsley's discussion of the character of Don Logan.
Big-screen rating: Kingsley gives a master class on how to berate another human being. NNNN (IR)
Also this week
The Last Castle
The Last Wedding