Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '97 - Three Oranges ""

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Underrated '97 - Three Oranges

Three Oranges is one of those internet people. Movies, music and books fill his time when he's not working for the man. In his mind, he's free.
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Directed by Peter Cohn
Drunks has an all-star cast that may be the quintessential gathering of ‘90s indie talent. Spalding Gray, Diane Weist, Parker Posey (of course) and more perform a series of monologues and dialogues set during one night at an Alcoholics Anonymous-style support group.
The film’s central story of a man who leaves the group is driven by a career-best performance from stand-up comedian and world-renowned neurotic Richard Lewis, whose headlong race into relapse unfolds with a tragic inevitability.
This is not a “Just Say No” after-school special, however. The characters are much more than representations of their disease, and the empathy of the film runs so deep that some performances may make addiction seem appealing. (Gray’s performance, especially, might send the viewer to the fridge.)
Even when the drunks find some truth and peace, Lewis’ character, outside the sanctum, is a harrowing reminder of how fragile and contingent that can be.
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Subway Stories
Directed by Bob Balaban, Patricia Benoit, Julie Dash, Jonathan Demme , Ted Demme, Abel Ferrara, Alison Maclean, Craig McKay, Lucas Platt and Seth Zvi Rosenfeld
Or maybe this one is the quintessential ‘90s ensemble. Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground is an HBO-produced series of vignettes set in and around the New York City subway, loosely connected by nothing more than the shared space the characters inhabit.
And, like the subway, it’s packed. Anne Heche, Mercedes Reuhl, Dennis Leary, Gregory Hines, Rosie Perez, Michael Rapaport, Lili Taylor, Steve Zahn and many more shove through the turnstiles and into drama, comedy or even horror, depending on the tone of their segment.
Some of the stories are about human relationships and their complexities, and some, despite the crowded setting, are about isolation. Bonnie Hunt as a non-native New Yorker who gets lost, in her own paranoia and in the wrong station, and Bill Irwin as a man on a not quite empty car stand out in the latter category, and their stories stand out amongst the noise.
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Directed by Jill Sprecher
It’s inevitable that any late ‘90s list will have more than one appearance from Parker Posey. Clockwatchers is another ensemble film, although a smaller one. Toni Collette, on her way up in Hollywood, Lisa Kudrow, trying to diversify from Phoebe, unremarkable Alanna Ubach and Posey comprise a group of temp workers sitting in cubicles doing corporatey things. Think of it like a female-focused Office Space with none of the cathartic tomfoolery.
There’s an office thief, frustrated corporate ambitions, petty romantic issues and malaise. Lots of malaise. But people aren’t corporations, so they can’t remain as static as their oppressive environs.
Pressure boils over and reshapes the characters, and none of them are equipped to take control. This is a character piece, but not a character study, and each of the four leading women has an arc. Shockingly for the time period, those arcs lead somewhere other than cynicism and irony.
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Full Metal Yakuza
Directed by Takashi Miike
The ‘90s were more than just a time of white people exploring their existential angst in dialogue-heavy, low-budget ruminations on the emptiness of modern life. Some people got over that a long time ago and moved on to the glorious freedom of nihilistic excess.
Enter Takashi Miike and Full Metal Yakuza, a frenetic exhibition of what happens if you take the physically humanity out of a person whose job already required him to sacrifice the humanity of his soul. Blood, sex and cybernetics abound, all presented in a vaguely portentous way that seems to suggest that all of this noise must be about something.
And perhaps it is … there sure is a lot of energy being expended, and it sure is building to a manic crescendo. It’s tough to say. Maybe it’s in between the body horror and the body … something else. Maybe it’s hidden behind the pixilation.
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