"Amigo" is playing in selected theaters, including the Siskel Film Center in Chicago.
by Odie Henderson
There is something to be said for the economy in John Sayles' movie titles. He gets his point across in five words or less. The theatrical films he has written and directed bear the names of locations ("Matewan," "Sunshine State," "Silver City," "Limbo") or are deceptively simple descriptive statements ("The Secret of Roan Inish," "The Brother From Another Planet," "Return of the Secaucus Seven," "Amigo"). All 17 titles average out to just under 3 words per movie moniker (actually, 2.5), which means Sayles' 18th movie must star the king of the three word movie title, Steven Seagal. Laugh if you must, but IMDb will tell you Sayles once wrote a film for Dolph Lundgren. Seagal is only a "Marked for Death" sequel away, should Mr. Sayles take my advice.
In the meantime, his 17th film opens September 16th On Demand. "Amigo" follows the path running through much of Sayles' work: It is politically aware, occasionally melodramatic and maintains a certain intimacy despite sprawling across multiple characters and stories. Bitter irony and blatant humanism peacefully co-exist as Sayles' heroes, heroines and villains struggle to maintain the dignity he inherently believes they have. The director's masterpiece, "Lone Star," is the quintessential example of Sayles expressing his themes and ideas in epic format. Anchored by Chris Cooper, "Lone Star" spins a tale of power, race and class across generations, juggling numerous characters with whom the story invests such weight and interest that I could follow any of them out of the film and into their own adventures.
"Amigo" is not as tightly crafted as "Lone Star." It's a messier work whose dialogue is at times a tad too purple, its political allusions a little too obvious, and it has a one-note character that is uncharacteristic of its creator. Much of its plot is predictable in an old-fashioned, yet comforting studio-system way. Reminiscent of a sloppier E. L. Doctorow novel, "Amigo" merges real-life characters with fictional ones while plumbing a bygone era for parallels of today. Like Doctorow, Sayles provides numerous details of the period he depicts, culled from the research he did for his book "A Moment in the Sun." Its U.S. occupation plotline could represent Iraq or Vietnam or Afghanistan, and its soldier characters are good ol' boys found in many an old war movie (and many an actual platoon, as well). What makes "Amigo" engrossing despite its predictability is the object of its gaze: This is an occupation story, but for a change, "the Other" is us. The occupied people are observing the outsiders who have interrupted their life narrative by invading their country. In "Amigo," we are entrenched in the Philippine-American War (1899-1902).
Edited by Marie Haws, Club SecretaryFrom Roger Ebert: Club members receive the complete weekly Newsletter. These are abridged and made public on the site three weeks later. To receive the new editions when they're published, annual dues are $5. Join here.From The Grand Poobah: Reader Steinbolt1 writes in: "Mark Mayerson has been putting together mosaics of all the scenes from specific Disney animated films, and is currently working through Dumbo. Each scene has the specific animator(s) who worked on the film listed above it. This is my favorite post on Dumbo, so far: Mayerson on Animation: Dumbo Part 5 "The only humans we've seen previously are in sequence 3. They are all white and wearing uniforms that clearly mark them as circus employees. When we get to this sequence, the only humans we see are black. As they are disembarking from a railroad car, we know that they are also employees, but they don't get uniforms. The roustabouts are the ones who do the heavy lifting, regardless of the weather. Why aren't the rest of the employees helping? I guess the work is beneath them. Let's not forget that the circus wintered in Florida, at the time a Jim Crow state." - Mark Mayerson; animator, writer, producer, director, Canadian.
From The Grand Poobah: Reader Steinbolt1 writes in: "Mark Mayerson has been putting together mosaics of all the scenes from specific Disney animated films, and is currently working through Dumbo. Each scene has the specific animator(s) who worked on the film listed above it. This is my favorite post on Dumbo, so far:
Mayserson on Animation: Dumbo Part 5"The only humans we've seen previously are in sequence 3. They are all white and wearing uniforms that clearly mark them as circus employees. When we get to this sequence, the only humans we see are black. As they are disembarking from a railroad car, we know that they are also employees, but they don't get uniforms. The roustabouts are the ones who do the heavy lifting, regardless of the weather. Why aren't the rest of the employees helping? I guess the work is beneath them. Let's not forget that the circus wintered in Florida, at the time a Jim Crow state." - Mark Mayerson; an animator, writer, producer, director and Canadian. :-)
It's a question to ponder -- especially when they're Andy Warhol movies (whether or not Andy Warhol actually had anything to do with them besides putting his name on them). Consider this story from Reid Rosefelt at My Life as a Blog:
... I was a huge fan of Warhol's films, despite the fact that I had never seen a single one. Most, if not all of the films had been withdrawn from circulation, or very rarely shown, certainly not in Madison. That didn't stop me. I read everything I could about them, and I was totally fascinated.
Spotting Warhol standing at an appetizer table, plastic cup in one hand and plate in the other, during a late-1970s party in New York, RR worked up the nerve to approach the artist. It went something like this:
Q. Have they started serving alcohol at press screenings in your neck of the woods? I ask because I'm a reviewer in Canada, and perhaps we could ask for the same courtesy here; it would help with movies like "Flightplan." This is one of the most ridiculous movies I've seen this year. It doesn't even make sense before the drop into Steven Seagal territory in the last act. No one has seen the daughter, or anyone leading her away? As "Mad TV's" Marvin Tikvah would say: Come on! More importantly, how could anyone be sure she would be on that plane at that time? Nicolas Lacroix, Quebec City
Q. Did you really need to pick on Rob Schneider in your review of "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo"? RottenTomatoes.com shows that he scores a 10 out of 100 on the TomatoMeter, which is even lower than Steven Seagal. Why not just say that the movie sucked, as opposed to saying HIS movie sucked?
Q. You mentioned the time-slippage in "Cop Land," where the characters are betting against the five-time champion Bulls even though it was not yet the season after their fifth championship. Are all movies going "back to the future?" In "Conspiracy Theory," at the end we see a death certificate which says "10-2-97." Were the producers planning a release later in the year? (Casey Anderson, Schaumberg)
Q. You have stated that "Braveheart" is the most violent film to ever win the Oscar as best picture. That ignores cinema history: See "Silence of the Lambs," "Unforgiven," "Godfather 1 and 2," and "Platoon." Mel Gibson reacted with stunned aplomb to your question on TV, and rightly so. (James Buchanan, Antioch, Calif.)
Q. The other night I watched "48 Hours," and one of the subjects they covered was Sean Young. Apparently people who work with her consider her to be trouble. After watching the interview, I tend to agree with those who work with her. My question is this: Why is it that most talented artists appear to be "head cases?" --James R. Tappe