four films

I spend a good amount of time watching movies. Blame netflix, but I'd rather post up in my bed than go out at night lately. Here are three films I've seen recently (plus one favorite) that you should check out;

1. Hail Mary (1985)

Hail Mary was written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Godard of course was one of the influential directors of the 'french new-wave' of film making. But Hail Mary wasn't made in the 1959-1967 era like his most recognized work, it was made in the mid 1980's, a time not really popular for a whole lot of great art. I guess the best way to describe this film is to compare it to the band The Fall. My friend Nick loves The Fall and when i asked him if even the late 1980's and early to late 1990's Fall records were any good (compared to their groundbreaking late 1970's and early 1980's albums) he said "they all have at least a few good songs on them." Sometimes the last record is the best record.

Anyway, Hail Mary is a re-telling of the life of the virgin Mary and Joseph but in this film Mary is a teenage girl on her high school's basketball team who lives in France and works at her father's gas station, while her boyfriend Joseph is a cab driver. Apparently this film caused a lot of outrage with the Catholic Church when it came out, obviously, but while watching it nothing remotely bad entered my mind. The film is beautifully shot, the colors are very vibrant, and although the story is adapted, Godard did what he does (make really good art) and it drew me in until the end.

2. Monkey Damage (2000, I think)

Monkey Damage is a 20 minute film made by musician and artist Brian Degraw, who you probably know best as the keyboard/percussionist player in Gang Gang Dance, and before that, The Crainium. I was at a friend's house who had a copy of this and I had heard of it, but didn't really know what to expect until i watched it.

Basically it's a short film edited on two vcr's of random footage Brian shot while living in Washington, DC. There is a lot of band footage representative of the time, from Crom Tech, The Monorchid, and both versions of The Crainium, plus a whole lot of other random footy like a guy doing a GG Allin impersonation in his bedroom and Harmony Korine hanging out. I don't know if this will ever come out, but word on the street is Brian is hard at work on Monkey Damage II, but this time he'll be editing on a laptop with final cut pro. If you can, please go buy the new Gang Gang Dance DVD "Retina Riddim" as Brian also made this and it's a really beautiful film and a progressive step up from Monkey Damage.

3. Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)

A John Cassavetes movie starring Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel, yes that could be any number of movies, but it's Minnie and Moskowitz I recently saw. In it, Seymour Cassel stars as Seymour Moskowitz, a parking attendant who is drifting in his life until he meets Minnie Moore, a museum curator played by Gena Rowlands. Seymour falls hard for Minnie and spends the rest of the movie convincing her to like him. I've heard you can't convince someone to like you, and believed it, until I saw this movie.

My favorite thing about this film, much like many films of the 1970's, is that it was shot in Los Angeles, and it's really cool to see the city at the time. They even go to Pink's hot dogs on La Brea!

And what John Cassavetes film wouldn't be complete without a role played by, you guessed it, John Cassavetes. I read this article recently where he said something about wanting his actors to not know everything that was going on in the film and to use their real emotions and feelings, but if you put yourself in the film you wrote and are directing, it's kind of tough. This is all to say I really love John Cassavetes' work but sometimes good natured ribbing is in order.

4. Beaver Trilogy (2001)

Maybe you have heard of this film, maybe you raised an eyebrow when you read the title, maybe you're totally in the dark. Beaver Trilogy is one of my all time favorite movies and I'll do my best to break it down for you.

Trent Harris was testing out some camera equipment in Beaver, Utah in 1979 when he stumbled upon Gary, a local guy who on the spot started to do impressions of John Wayne and Olivia Newton-John for the camera. Fast forward to weeks later Gary invites Trent to a local talent show where Gary will perform as "Olivia Newton-Don" and of course Trent accepts the invite and brings a camera man with him to witness the magic. What you are watching is a man bearing his soul, a little uncomfortable yes, but wholeheartedly beautiful. That clip ends and then the 2nd part of the movie starts up. A black & white dramatic re-telling of the first story with a young Sean Penn as Gary. Same plot, different ending. And then finally a 3rd piece starts up starring Crispin Glover (!) as Gary, this time the film is shot to look like a movie version of the first story and yet another ending. I should note Penn and Glover made their versions in 1981 and 1985 respectively and that I have heard rumors that Penn got the idea for Spiccoli from playing Gary. Track it down if you can, as it's well worth watching and even better to show to friends to see the bewildered looks on their faces at the end only to hear them say "where can i pick up this thing?"

posted by NATE at 5:55 PM

Blogger jrs said...

wait, you SAW the Beaver Trilogy? i thought it was outlawed, or extinct, or a myth. I'd add to that list Holy Mountain by Jodorowsky. oh yes...

8:05 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the blind date scene in Minni & Moscowitz? It's the most uncomfortable encounter ever commited to film: "Look at your eyes! They're so moist!"

4:33 PM  

Blogger DougH said...

You can probably still get The Beaver Trilogy and Trent Harris' other movies (Plan 10 from Outer Space!) direct from the director at

12:37 PM  

Blogger Benedicte said...

Hey! I saw your blog because of a google search for pictures from "The Beaver Trilogy". What an amazing movie! Truly a "one of a kind"-film.

Have you seen "Robin & Ed"? Also a great movie from Trent Harris, starring Crispin Glover.

10:47 AM  

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