Mike’s movie recs

My friend Mike emailed me this morning about a couple of movies he thought I might be interested in. He’s a whiz at finding really interesting stuff that I would never come across otherwise. So I thought I’d share:

A couple of movies to recommend–one is “Sweet Smell of Success,” a 1957 movie with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. It’s definitely in my top 10, and I like to rewatch it every year or so. I think you’d especially like the dialogue–tight and snappy as hell. It’s kind of a noir film about the press, probably the best movie in that subgenre (if there is one) ever made, and still relevant today. The way the characters are so morally bankrupt is still a shock–there’s a scene where Tony Curtis pimps out a female friend, in exchange for a press mention, that’s heartbreaking. Burt Lancaster gives one of the greatest performances ever–for some reason, I always think of it together with Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” I mean, this guy is one scumbag. Get your hands on a copy if you can–I think you’ll really enjoy it.

The other one is a movie that I’d heard about for years but was never able to get my hands on–Todd Haynes’s first film, “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.” It became legendary on the independent circuit in the ’80s, especially after it was pulled from circulation when Richard Carpenter filed a lawsuit–almost the entire soundtrack is Carpenters songs, which Haynes never got permission to use. (The film is pretty critical, too, so I’m sure that played a part in it.) The gimmick, if that’s what it is, is that the whole movie is “acted” with Barbie dolls–and yet it isn’t jokey or campy. It’s actually very touching. It was made for nothing and looks it in a lot of parts, but somehow the graininess and “dirty” look adds to the sordid atmosphere. (On the other hand, it also makes use of very detailed and carefully scaled sets, which is kind of fascinating in itself.)

You can’t get it on DVD or VHS, except for bootlegs, and I’d forgotten about it until a few days ago. Since one of the neighbors’ high-speed wireless connections was up and working, I decided to search for it online. Sure enough, you can find the whole thing on Google video. It’s about 45 minutes long. The next time you have a free hour, you might want to give it a look. At the very least, it’s like no other movie you’ve ever seen.

Thanks, Mike!

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