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Stories by Scott Marks

A drunken bacchanal from Vincente Minnelli, Stanley Donen, and Rock Hudson

More alcohol consumed than at a fraternity hazing

Once upon a time, movie alcoholics had a name, and that name was “funny drunks.” This week’s politically incorrect offerings put a spigot on two booze-enhanced works of art before uncorking one mean drunk of ...

The Wolf Hour: Prisoner of the past

Locked away on a mysterious journey with a brooding agoraphobic

A shade of wet newsprint grey smudges the facade of the still-standing South Bronx apartment. From the opposite side of the street, the only visible sign of life in the tenement is a faint glow ...

The Irishman: Small-screen Scorsese

Netflix is to theatrical distribution what Trump is to detente

We begin by giving thanks to the local publicist who was swell enough to arrange a press preview of The Irishman in an auditorium to my liking. (Reading Cinemas Grossmont #5.) That said, it angers ...

Bad taste with the PCA, NC-17, and John Travolta in drag

If the film’s main goal was to unmask, the detective work paid off

This week we offer up an uncut aggregation of bicycle thieves, censors’ needs, and cleaner Waters. — Scott Marks The Bicycle Thieves (1948) It was the first film to openly challenge the almighty Production Code ...

Honey Boy: Shia LaBeouf’s daddy issues

A film about a boy who both wants and deserves a better father and the inescapable reality that he will never get one

January 1, 2019. The following Nostradamic text, signed “Anonymous,” arrives at the stroke of midnight: “The year will end with Shia LaBeouf’s self-penned biopic cracking your top ten.” Did I miss an announcement piece in ...

Playing With Fire: Andy Fickman is an unhaugty auteur

How does material like this make the final cut of a film geared for the entire family?

Has it really been six Christmases since Andy Fickman and Walden Media gifted audiences with the historically and hysterically misguided family frolic Parental Guidance? Last weekend, Fickman and Walden rattled the cage and East County ...

What Will Become of Us: Frank Lowy in three equal parts

Memories of a mall man

The last thing a movie critic needs after a hard day at the multiplex is more visual distraction. Despite having that chunk of logic firmly planted in my brain, I still proceeded to heed a ...

Nazi monster Halloween

Before it was over, our heroine had undergone a type of defilement the screen had not experienced since Pasolini’s Salo

Nazi monsters for Halloween. Black Book (2006) Whenever a Twitter poll asks people to name their favorite horror movie, I generally list Leni Riefenstahl’s Hitler-commissioned documentary Triumph of the Will. Forget about latex boogeymen, costumed ...

Dolemite is My Name: the film of Eddie Murphy’s career

My good will towards Murphy extended just far enough for the unmentionable to be mentioned

The business card placed in my hand by a former student read: “Redeemable for one free blowjob.” He had my attention. “I found it inside the sleeve,” he explained as he handed the Rudy Ray ...

Roger Corman at the Dollar Tree

Local live wire faves

This week’s trio of discs came to me from various sources, reliable or otherwise. — Scott Marks The Black String (2019) Sensing a local angle, PR rep Justin Cook saw to it that a copy ...

Woman’s Liberation Cinema: from Kate Millett to Jane Fonda

“If Charlton Heston were a woman, would he have maintained the same career?”

Take a break from the E! True Hollywood Story mode of storytelling that’s currently passing for documentary filmmaking with these three gritty women’s documentaries. Three Lives (1971) A novelty at its time of release: this ...

Renée Zellweger’s Judy Garland sings a sad song

Who among us wants to die with a bunch of nobodys?

Pick a celebrity biopic. Any celebrity biopic. Beyond the Sea? Okay. With the lighting just so — and the camera at a safe distance from its subject — a person could swear that it was ...

JLo and Marc Anthony: box office gold?

The black-and-white footage is a textbook compendium of video interview clichés

Three films and no common thread; it’s that kind of week How the West Was Won (1962) When I was six, the owner of mom’s beauty parlor rigged a raffle and my family “won” tickets ...

Fagara: Sisters doing it for themselves

A film told from a feminist point-of-view by three smart, strong, and self-reliant actresses

Occupational Hazard #29, aka The Installment Plan: when a critic oversteps a self-imposed two-film-a-day limit, conks out halfway through a picture, and finishes watching it the next morning. The rating for Heiward Mak’s Fagara was ...

Blake Edwards’ most personal, and impersonal, works

At the core of the film’s publicity was the playful tarnishing of Julie Andrews’ unassailable image

Two from Blake Edwards and a different shade of Pink Panther. Darling Lili (1970) One of director Blake Edwards’ most polished and personal works, Darling Lili was a musical released at a time when both ...

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles: Keeping it surreal in the land without bread

If I were asked to name ten favorite filmmakers who forever changed the face of cinema, Buñuel would be five of them.

Luis Buñuel’s third film, Las Hurdes (Land Without Bread), was the director’s only documentary. For his first feature, visual effects designer Salvador Simó’s Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles puts into cartoon motion an ...

Dazzling stereoscopic table-top animation from Max and Dave Fleischer

“Mommy. Is ‘dancing on the moon’ another way of saying ‘making babies?’”

Welcome to the transmogrifying squash-and-stretch universe of studio animators Max and Dave Fleischer. Much of the humor flies in the face of political correctness, it’s my honor to announce. For links to the shorts, visit ...

Benjamín Naishtat’s Rojo: More dead hippies

All the viewer needs to know about the political climate is established in the silent two-minute launching shot.

The opening shot is a film’s calling card, an image of introduction. The best of them shape, inform, and herald the tone for what lies ahead. So instead of wasting an audience’s time with an ...

Shelley Winters holds her breath

Robert Mitchum: “The only bit she’ll do convincingly is to float in the water with her throat cut.”

Who said you can’t keep a good gal down? Not Shelley Winters. As sure as bummer follows Winters, we dug up a trio of watery grave ballets: two worth owning, one worth stoning. A Place ...

The Reports on Sarah and Saleem: an unfamiliar lover

A handily played round of “guess who’s coming to Shabbat dinner”

“There are millions of Jewish guys you could have chosen,” barista Ronit (Rebecca Esmeralda Telhami) admonishes her Israeli employer Sarah (Sivan Kerchner), “Are you that desperate? With an Arab?” Sarah’s difficulty in answering the question ...

Larry Cohen horror trio

Will dad eventually bury his shame and call the child his own?

What’s the best thing about Midsommar? It allows me to introduce to you a trio of similarly-themed (and infinitely superior) nightmarish epics directed by a true Master of Horror, Larry Cohen. It’s Alive (1974) The ...

Forky: a life on film

After decades of service, the three-pronged plasticware gets a shot at stardom

He may be this year's emerging superstar, but Forky arrived on the scene long before Toyota began cranking out hybrids. Half-fork, half-spoon, and all-heart, his is a presence so large, they might just as well ...

Leonard Cohen’s “So Long Marianne” muse

Credit the acid, speed, and sunshine for helping to fuel his “spiritual search.”

There’s no mention of Robert Altman’s breathtakingly grimy McCabe and Mrs. Miller in Nick Broomfield’s (Lily Tomlin, Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam, Whitney: Can I Be Me) latest celebrity biodoc, Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love. ...

Free and legal movies and shows on Tubi TV

Groucho: “I love my cigar too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.”

What streaming service offers thousands of free and legal movies and television shows? Here to entice are a trio of offerings currently available on Tubi TV. You Bet Your Life (1950) It was the quip ...

The antidote to Crawl: gator flicks with Ed Norton, Burt Reynolds, and Playmate Claudia Jennings

A pet baby alligator, flushed down the toilet, grows to three times its original size before going on a killing rampage

A trio of crocodilian companions to help celebrate the opening of (or act as an antidote to) Crawl. Alligator (1980) Screenwriter John Sayles and director Lewis Teague drew from what they learned while working together ...

The gargoyle doth text

This germoke is hired to prevent possible piracy, not play usher.

Oura Culpa! Mr. Lickona took a vacation and this reporter missed the screening of the much-anticipated Midsommar. Once I ran to advance screenings; now I run from them. Why? Because I would much rather try ...

American movies and the 4th of July

Superman II ruined comic book movies for me

The old man was never one for fireworks. It had something to do with his surviving the Invasion of Normandy. Friends and relatives would take me to see displays of fire-flowers (as my maternal grandpa ...

Three comedies with Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby

The only constant in the so-called trilogy are vertiginous episodes staged on and/or going out and over a window ledge

From director and star Sidney Poitier comes an unlikely trilogy of comedies. Uptown Saturday Night (1974) An inexplicably tender, untroubled exchange between Steve (Sidney Poitier) and his wife Sarah (Rosalind Cash) prefaces a raucous boy’s ...

The Raft: Director Marcus Lindeen’s drifting documentary

No books were allowed on board; entertainment was limited to singing and swapping stories.

Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés found the inspiration behind his notorious “Peace Project” the day his flight home from a conference on the history of violent behavior was interrupted by a hijacking. Art imitates life, and ...

Authors J.T. Leroy, Truman Capote, The Dying Gaul, and their muses

Spot-on impersonations of otherwise resistible characters

Authors and their muses are the subjects of this week’s binge-watch. J.T. Leroy (2018) Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy was a manufactured commodity, the wispy offspring of a prostitute mother that writer Laura Albert (Laura Dern) bamboozled ...

American Woman: Life, not Lifetime

Take a walk through Deb’s hellish, decades-long search for her daughter’s whereabouts

When the Lord said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” He wasn’t referring to American Woman’s Deb Callahan (Sienna Miller). Deb can’t remove the butt from between her lips long enough to cuddle with ...

Telly Savalas trio of terror

A splashy ‘70s subgenre of Italian horror released during the rise of Kojak

Who scares you, baby? Give a lick about this Telly Savalas trio of terror. Lisa and the Devil (1973) Giallo: a splashy ‘70s subgenre of Italian horror with soft, overlit nightscapes filmed in garish Eastman ...

Isaac Cherem’s Leona: Circumscribed hearts

A refreshingly crisp and commonsense take on heritage

The three o’clock bell sounded the close of business day for most grade-schoolers. Not Scooter. While others were off in a field hitting balls with sticks or in the alley playing pinners, from ages nine ...

Swiss Model Airplane Glue will never replace Famo Hair Remover

A rite of passage for male chowderheads worldwide

A cinematic counterpart to word association, this trio of films came to mind spontaneously and without reflection while watching The Garden Store trilogy. Cookoo Cavaliers (1940) Hey, Jan Hřebejk — steal from the Stooges and ...

Ed Zwick’s Trial by Fire: Burning bathos

Just because life offers up cliches doesn’t mean a director has to play them as such

Several anti-death penalty features were fated to follow in the wake of Dead Man Standing (most notably The Green Mile), but in most instances, stories of wrongfully-accused lifers punching the clock on death row are ...

South Bay physical media pull with Kurt Russell, Scorsese’s Rolling Stones, and a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western

Mined from We Lend More Inc., Roberto’s Jewelry and Pawn, and Express Pawn

Things your ever-diligent physical media hound sleuthed out while making the rounds of the South Bay region. Dark Blue (2002) We Lend More Inc. had a copy with my name on it. In the days ...

Taylor Schilling’s dark Juggalo portrayal in Laura Steinel’s freaky Family

“A fun county fair where you could also potentially be stabbed.”

What’s more shocking than a senior level VP at a New Jersey hedge fund finding herself smack dab in the middle of a weeklong celebration of the distinctively raunchy hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse? ...

The Mae West test

She was five feet high and built like a gyrating, well-upholstered wingback

According to Mae West, she was the first liberated woman. “No guy was going to get the best of me,” she purred. “That’s what I wrote all my scripts about.” And what other actress can ...

Best of Enemies: Taraji P. Henson opposite Sam Rockwell, but not the best pairing

Did Green Book’s best picture win provide its sister-picture with a bigger rollout?

A female, powerfully outspoken African-American civil rights activist convinced the winner of the 1971 Ku Klux Klan award for Exalted Cyclops of the Year (aka the Oscars of hate) to vote in favor of desegregation. ...

X-rated documentaries from Russ Meyer, Allen Funt, and a mocumentary from Jeanne and Alan Abel

This definitely qualifies as your grandparent’s kind of porn

A trio of X-rated documentaries that definitely qualify as your grandparent’s kind of porn. You’re going to have to work to find copies, but they’re worth it. Mondo Topless (1966) “Situated on precipitous peaks above ...

Ash is Purest White: Zhangke Jia has a blast rattling genre conventions

How does one go through life with a gun secured inside the belt and neatly tucked under the back pleat of a sport coat?

Bin (Fan Liao) cradled Qiao’s (Tao Zhao) left palm in his, certain it was the same hand she used to squeeze off the shot that saved his life. Some romantic is he. The poor dumb ...

Will Gluck’s story of suburban teen life, Yael Hersonski’s spellbinding Nazi documentary, and Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s debut feature on the horrors of social media

2010: a film odyssey

Here are three from 2010. It was a very good year. Stream them all on Amazon. Easy A (2010) There is no such thing as an authority figure in a John Hughes film, only buffoons ...

Mel Gibson cast as intolerant cop role in S. Craig Zahler’s Dragged Across Concrete

If Harvey Weinstein is the father of the #MeToo movement, then surely Mel deserves credit for kickstarting the #MeJew movement.

Hollywood is run by Jews, or so the age old anti-semitic trope would lead one to believe. If that’s the case, would someone please explain how it is that Mel Gibson continues to find work ...

The Wedding Guest: Michael Winterbottom’s suspense-packed film noir

Spoiler alert: crime does pay.

Standing on tiptoes, the devil on my shoulder took to jabbing a pitchfork in my ear. “Wanna have a little fun?” he chortled. “Try selling your readers — both of them — on The Wedding ...

Tod Browning’s rehearsal for Freaks, music mockumentary geeks, and the Chipmunks’ squeaks

Chaney has both arms amputated in the name of love. Alas, the joke’s on him.

This week, we’ve got something old, something new, and something that squeaks in the dark. The Unknown (1927) A crook on the lam (Lon Chaney) finds refuge as a circus novelty act, binding his limbs ...

Oscar grouching

Imitation is the sincerest form of failure

It was Hollywood’s biggest night, and the wonky pan-and-zoom-in on the Dolby Theatre that opened the show looked like something out of a network cop drama from the ‘70s. Inside, the joint was rocking out ...

San Diego Reader 2019 Arts issue

Dance, classical music, galleries, street art, movies, theater

Birds sing, elephants dance, and monkeys paint, but only humans turn those activities into art. And only humans evince a bottomless hunger for it: hence the endless parade of pictures on Instagram, stories on Netflix, ...

Border and torture from a Lucky Charms Cheesecake and two John Alton noirs

As tasty as a gulp of watered-down wheat paste

While on the lookout for three films that dealt with the importance of borders (or lack thereof), I was sidetracked by other forms of torture. Dodge City (1939) The indolent Mookie tossed a trash can ...

Casting: Fassbinder, flipped

A stinging moment of comeuppance

When festival coordinator Tobias Queck lamented the high cost of renting an auditorium for the German Currents Film Festival, I suggested that he look into the more reasonably priced venue. What was once a yearly ...

Jazz on film: bops, blues, and Bernstein

All jazzed up

This week’s three-course buffet comes with a cartoon, a short, and a feature guaranteed to get the viewer all jazzed up. — Scott Marks Three Little Bops (1957) Composer and trumpeter Shorty Rogers provides the ...