If you have cable television, then Oscar nights offer a truly full menu of movie-oriented entertainment.
On Monday at my house, we tuned into E! beginning at 4 p.m. to watch Joan Rivers and her annoying daughter Melissa alternately praise and criticize those stars with nerve enough to actually show up.
When the show began at 6, we flipped to ABC to see that network’s official broadcast. (Not surprisingly, we weren’t alone. The official figures, released Tuesday, indicated that the show earned a 30.3 rating, with each rating point equaling 959,000 households. That’s good, but not as good as last year’s David Letterman-hosted show, which had a 32.5, and even Whoopi Goldberg’s 1994 debut appearance, which had a 31.1.) During commercials breaks, however, we checked out Bravo, which featured slimmed-down film critic Roger Ebert hosting the Independent Spirit Awards. One surprise: Sean Penn actually showed up for that ceremony - and he won.
After the official show’s 9:35 p.m. finish, we flipped back to E! for its special Academy Awards Post-Show ‘96. One highlight: Best Actress Susan Sarandon making it clear that, though she lives with “Dead Man Walking” director Tim Robbins, she hasn’t made it a career practice to go home with all of her directors.
But as this is a video column, let me get back to the Independent Spirit Awards and to writer-director Kevin Smith in particular. Smith, whose debut film “Clerks” won him a bit of popularity two years ago, was acting as an awards presenter.
And, as he explained, he was anxious to do so. For one big reason.
“I just wanted to apologize for ‘Mallrats,”’ he said.
Well, Kevin, this is one corner of the world that thinks you have nothing to feel sorry about. And since “Mallrats” is now available in Spokane on video (see capsule review below), all Spokane-area movie fans can now make up their own mind.
Of course, after seeing it, some may be more willing to accept Smith’s apology.
By now, everyone is familiar with the term “dysfunctional family.” It has been used to excuse everything from bad manners to child abuse. But this documentary by director Terry Zwigoff doesn’t attempt to excuse anything. It is merely the study of a man, underground cartoonist R. Crumb, who may have come from a family that could literally be the dictionary definition of dysfunction. Zwigoff follows Crumb as he creates his illustrations, from Zap Comics to album covers for the Grateful Dead, while he explores his old home haunts and talks to his mother and two reclusive brothers (one of whom committed suicide a year after the interview). Crumb does little more than show us who he is, warts and all, with no apology. But Zwigoff has crafted that disclosure into a touching study of how art can not only express angst of the soul but also, at the same time, act as a release from it. Rated R.
The bad news about this Kevin Smith film is that, with a $5 million budget, it is no better than Smith’s first feature, “Clerks.” The good news, at least, is that it is no worse. So how you experience this 97-minute look at twentysomethings hanging out at their favorite mall, shopping for clothes and comic books, eating custom-made cookies, attempting to see Magic Eye paintings and exploring the emotional minefields of love, depends on how you relate to Smith’s morbid sense of humor. The good jokes are funny indeed, even if they tend to - like “Airplane!” and its clones - fall between five others that play as flat as Shannen Doherty’s personality. The film’s big draw, ex-“Beverly Hills 90210” star Doherty can’t quite get her voice around Smith’s rapid-fire dialogue. In contrast, Jason Lee as her unabashedly boorish boyfriend is a character to remember. Rated R
Director David Fincher (“Alien 3”) makes this newest entry in the serial-killer genre an exercise of style over substance. Then again, when you’re as visually talented as Fincher, there is substance to your style. The minimal and ultimately farfetched plot involves wunderkind homicide cop Brad Pitt and soon-to-retire-veteran Morgan Freeman on the trail of a madman obsessed with the so-called seven deadly sins (vanity, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth). You may find yourself a step ahead of the story, but Fincher gives us plenty of time to ignore that, concentrating instead on Freeman’s expressive face and Pitt’s brooding emotionalism (he is quite good here, as opposed to, say, “Interview With the Vampire”). Besides, there’s a good chance that at least a bit of the dark and the wet and the cold and the slime may still be with you come the next morning. Rated R
Last of the Dogmen
This fantasy involves a mountain guide (Tom Berenger) stumbling onto a lost tribe of Cheyenne and, of course, gaining spiritual power from the experience. Disneyesque in its view of life, “Last of the Dogmen” conveniently ignores the basics of modern life - such as helicopters and camera-bearing satellites - but still manages some sense of entertainment through the efforts of Berenger and Barbara Hershey who helps him try to protect a bit of lost America. Rated PG
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