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Jeffrey Ellis "bored recluse" (Richardson, Texas United States)
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Recall!: California's Political Earthquake
Recall!: California's Political Earthquake
by Larry N. Gerston
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from CDN$ 10.41

3.0 out of 5 stars An okay analysis; look elsewhere for gossip, July 18 2004
For both myself and a lot of other bored political junkies, 2003's California recall election was literally a dream come true. Not only did it feature perfectly cast villians (either Gov. Gray Davis or Rep. Darrell Issa, depending on your own personal political leanings) but it gave us a truly mindblowing roster of cynics, dreamers, weirdos, crusaders, columnists, socialists, businessmen, and film stars -- all reaching for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to become the leader of the biggest state in the union. If you didn't smile at least once while reviewing the latest details flooding in from California, then you have problems that go far beyond politics. And, ultimately, this strange little story had an ending that was either perfectly inspiring or perfectly insane (depending, again, on your own leanings): the election of the least likely governor since Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
Considering just how entertaining the whole thing was, it's hard not to be a little dissapointed with Recall: California's Political Earthquake. The book provides an accurate, if rather dry, analysis of how and why Arnold Schwarzenegger won the election and it provides a nicely evenhanded account of the "groping" accusations that dominated the final week of the campaign. As well, it also provides a very strong (and useful) analysis of why the voters decided to dump Gray Davis; an analysis that makes it clear that Davis's defeat had less to do with any partisan feelings or any psychological need to send a message to either President Bush or Congressional Democrats but instead had more to do with the fact that Davis was -- for lack of a better term -- kind of a jerk. Though Davis and Schwarzenegger dominate the book's reporting, the authors also take the time to detail how the recall movement went from being an exercise in fringe politics to a genuine grassroots movement.
Still, regardless of how accurate the analysis often is, this book fails to show why the California recall election became such a juicy soap opera. It captures the reasons behind the election but absolutely none of the excitement. While the book does devote a few brief paragraphs to the other major candidates -- Cruz Bustamante, Arianna Huffington, Tom McClintock, Peter Camejo, and Peter Ueberroth -- one still feels that their stories have been slighted in favor of the Davis/Schwarzenegger battle. While this is understandable, it is still hard not to regret that the authors couldn't find the time to go into more detail about how Huffington became the candidate of Malibu or how Bustamante managed to go from being one of California's top politicians to an almost stereotypical party hack in just a matter of days after announcing he would be a candidate. A short shrift is especially given to both McClintock and Camejo, the only two major candidates running as champions of political ideology and whose presence as potential spoilers should inspire hope amonst jaded political observers that candidates actually can still get some sort of attention based on their platforms as opposed to their personalities. And lastly, Ueberroth's campaign was a truly tagic one for anyone with the memory necessary to recall the days when this man was reguarly toted as a future President. His absolute failure to make any impact in the race is something that truly deserves to be studied and unfortunately, this book doesn't do that.
And what about the other hundred and whatever candidates who ran in that election? They get a brief mention and a few are listed by name (along with a description of what made them stand out) but -- considering that their valiant if bizarre campaigns pretty much made California the perfect microcosm of everything that is great and bad about democracy -- it's impossible to feel that the authors really did miss out on just what exactly made this election worthy of a book in the first place. Yes, Arnie may have been elected and Davis's fall might have represented the end of a certain type of politician but beyond all that, how can you talk about this election without making more than a brief mention of paralyzed pornographer Larry Flynt's campaign? How could you ignore the undeniably cute, if radically left-wing, computer programmer Georgy Russell and how she build up a considerable following by selling "Georgy-For-Governor" underwear on her web site? Where's erstwhile Diff'rent Strokes survivor Gary Coleman and his legalize marijuana platform or -- my personal choice if I'd been a California citizen in 2003 -- Republican bar owner and self-described "former party girl" Reva Rennee Renz? Nearly 200 people ran against Davis and Schwarzenegger and they made this election. Regardless of how successful the final results are analyzed, by totally ignoring Arnie and Davis's energetic co-stars, this book misses what made the recall such a wonderful thing.
In the end, if you just want (or need) the basic facts about the recall, this book is a good place to get them. However, if you're looking for a book that truly captures the excitement, the humor, the tragedy, and the ultimate meaning of the election -- well, I fear that book hasn't been written yet.

Capricorn One (Widescreen) [Import]
Capricorn One (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Elliott Gould
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 5.70
28 used & new from CDN$ 3.87

3.0 out of 5 stars An uneven film, still worth the effort, June 24 2004
In many ways, Capricorn One is a quissential example of a '70s action film. The film tells the story of the first manned spaceflight to Mars and the three dedicated pioneers (played by James Brolin, Sam Waterston, and O.J. Simpson -- and yes, it is impossible to watch the film without thinking about Simpson's most recent role) who bring hope to a cynical country by conquering the Red Planet. The only problem, of course, is that the whole thing is a fake. The three men are actually in a hastily constructed studio in the middle of a barren desert and their spacecraft is empty as it journeys through space and time. As implausible as this plot may sound, the film actually goes to the trouble to make the reasoning behind this plot believable and it even goes to the trouble to provide some humanity to the plot's mastermind, a NASA official played by Hal Holbrook. Because the film actually takes the time to set up the situation, it remains compelling even when that empty spacecraft happens to burn up on reentry, meaning that -- in order for the three spacemen to remain martyrs and for NASA to continue to get funding -- they have to die in reality as well. As the three men try to escape across the barren desert (pursued by three very ominous helicopters -- never has a sinister government conspiracy ever looked so realistically sinister), a reporter played by Elliott Gould slowly starts to uncover the conspiracy and soon his life is in danger as well.
While the basic plot itself is similar to quite a few recent action films, what distinguished Capricorn One is that the film -- made while the nation, still feeling the pain of Watergate and Viet Nam, was still getting used to not being able to trust the government -- plays this story totally straight. Neither of the film's leads (Brolin and Gould) manage to get off a single smirky one-liner in the style of our modern action heroes and the film makes it painstakingly clear that neither one of them is invulnerable. Brolin's trek through the desert is almost painful to watch (at one point, nearly dead of dehydration, Brolin very graphically kills and eats a rattlesnake -- a scene that would verge on disgusting if it wasn't obvious that Brolin's life depends on his actions). As for Gould, he has a wonderful scene in which he discovers that his car's breaks have been tamepered with and the entire sequence of his car racing out of control down the streets of Houston before eventually plunging off a bridge is almost totally shot from his point of view -- it's a scary sequence that is well-directed and if it's conclusion seems a little far fetched, the build-up is almost equal to the famous car chase in The French Connection.
That said, this is not a perfect film. Director/Writer Peter Hyams allows quite a few scenes to go on a bit too long. (The film is full of quirky characters but occasionally, the spend so long being quirky that it becomes obvious that they're there for no other purpose other than to show off that quirk.) This is a two hour film that would have been better if it had been thirty minutes shorter. The film has a clever script but far too many scenes (especially of Gould's character trying to figure out the conspiracy) seem to repeat each other for no basic reason other than the lack of a good editor. The performances are a mixed bag. Gould does a good job for the most part except for a few scenes when he was seems to be chanelling Dustin Hoffman from All The President's Men. As for the three astronaughts, their characters aren't strong developed beyond a few identifying quirks -- Brolin is the heroic one, Waterston is the funny one, and Simpson -- well, he doesn't really get any identifying quirks beyond being O.J. Simpson. Of the three, only Waterston gives a memorable performance and this is largely because he gets the funny lines. Brolin is -- well, he's Brolin, vaguely likeable but mostly dull. Simpson's performance is a typical O.J. Simpson performance -- he seems to be trying really hard to excel at something that he has no talent at. You'd almost feel sorry for him if he wasn't O.J.
As far as the supporting roles are concerned, there's a lot of familiar faces and it's a mixed bag. Both Karen Black and Telly Savalas put in what the credits assure us are "special appearances." Black is occasionally amusing even if her character serves no real purpose while Savalas manages to bring the film to a dead stop by wildly overplaying a role that one hopes was meant to be comic relief but, which in the end, just serves as a very annoying distraction. On the plus side, Brenda Vaccaro is sympathetic and compelling as Brolin's wife and the undderrated Denise Nichols has one good scene as Simpson's wife -- one almost regrets that the crew of Capricorn One had to be male as Vacarro and Nichols give the type of performances that should have come from Brolin and Simpson. However, the film's greatest performance is given by the great Hal Holbrook who, instead of playing an outright, melodramatic villian, instead plays a human being who, for good reasons, does some truly evil things. Indeed, the film's main strength is Holbrook's villian who serves as a great testament to what can happen when idealism gives way to self-righteousness. By the film's end, you may hate Holbrook but you never cease to understand him and even mourn the person he used to be.
Capricorn One is a flawed film and it's a dated film but it is still a film that is worth seeing for both it's nostalgia value (Yes, Virginia, there actually was a time when journalists were considered heroes) and for an example of a believable and compelling action film.

Shadow Hours [Import]
Shadow Hours [Import]
DVD ~ Balthazar Getty
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 66.32
6 used & new from CDN$ 22.93

3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing's shocking, Dec 3 2003
This review is from: Shadow Hours [Import] (DVD)
Shadow Hours tells that story of Michael (Balthazar Getty), a recovering alcoholic who has a pregnant girlfriend at home (Rebecca Gayheart and an uncredited pillow under her shirt) and a dreary night job working in a gas station in L.A. In the opening scenes, the film actually does do quite a good job of capturing both the monotony and the underlying menace of working nights though eventually the continual montages of crazy homeless guys and rising gas costs grows almost as monotonous as Michael's life -- it's as if the director stumbled across something that worked once and then couldn't stop himself from repeating it over and over again.
Anyway, the film picks up once Peter Weller drives his porche into Michael's life. Weller plays a guy named Stuart who claims to be a writer and who, in one of those scenes that seems to take place exclusively in movies like this, quickly befriends Michael and takes Michael on a journey into the seedy underside of L.A. -- a world of perversion and temptation and nothing you haven't seen before in films ranging from Blue Velvet to Fight Club to the Matrix Trilogy to whatever happens to playing on Cinemax right now. Indeed, the main weakness of Shadow Hours is that in today's world, nothing's shocking and simply using a whole lot of neat little film school tricks isn't going to make the mundane any more interesting.
Natrually, Getty's character must chose between a life of stable, boring stability with Gayheart or the life of self-destruction offered by Weller. However, since the film makes both choices look positively dull, who really cares? Since the film never really bothers to give any build-up to Getty's plunge into decadence, it's pretty much impossible to judge just exactly what it is he's rebelling against beyond working in a gas station and living with a Noxzema spokesmodel with a pillow under her blouse. It doesn't help that Getty sleepwalks through his role.
However, I would recommend seeing this film for one reason and one reason only and that is the brilliantly bemused performance that Peter Weller gives as the film's perverse version of Virgil. Smirking like an aneroxic Jack Nicholson and never giving into the temptation to take any of his overbaked dialogue too seriously, Weller manages to breathe new life into a familiar character and he even manages to bring a few moments of genuine menace into an otherwise dreadfully silly film. Eventually, the film lets Weller and his character down but Weller never lets the audience down. It's rare that one actor alone can redeem an entire film but that is what Weller manages to do in Shadow Hours.
Shadow Hours is a film that was obviously designed to be a "cult classic" but ultimately it only serves to highlight the difference between a well-made, unconventional film that might take a while to find its audience and a flashy, derivative con job that tries to hide its lack of depth behind a whole lot of flashy camera moves and sub-Intro. to Philosophy-style monologues. However, if the film doesn't deserve a cult, Peter Weller's performance definitely does. Nothing's shocking except that such a silly film could contain such a rare piece of genius.

Miracle Mile
Miracle Mile
DVD ~ Anthony Edwards
Offered by DVD Monkey
Price: CDN$ 59.99
9 used & new from CDN$ 27.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Night Before the Day After, Sept. 9 2003
This review is from: Miracle Mile (DVD)
Miracle Mile is one of those unique and savagely brilliant films that has never quite gotten its due despite seeming to leave an undeniable impression on just about everyone who has somehow lucked into seeing it. The low-budget film tells the story of an L.A. jazz musician (Anthony Edwards), a nice, mild guy who is lucky enough to not only meet the woman of his dreams (Mare Winningham) but to convince her to go out on a date with him later in the night. He is also unlucky enough to end up oversleeping and missing their date. Still, he drives out to the diner where they were supposed to meet on the slim hope that maybe she's stuck around for a few extra hours waiting for him. And while she hasn't, Edwards does arrive just in time to answer a pay phone and discover that, in just a few more hours, Los Angeles is going to be destroyed in the first nuclear strike of World War III. The rest of the film follows Edwards comically hapless yet touchingly sincere efforts to both reunite with Winningham and to get out of L.A. in the small amount of time he has before the bombs start falling. What starts as a hilarious comedy of errors becomes an all-to-realistic portrait of absurd tragedy as the film reaches it's unavoidable conclusion. The film's power comes from just how seamlessly the film handles the transition from comedy to tragedy (often times shifting between the two a couple of hundred times in the course of just one scene) -- a tonal combination that may, at first, seem like a contradiction but one that accurately reflects the feelings that many of us felt, during the Cold War, growing up with the constant possibility of sudden nuclear holocaust in the back of our minds. Director Steve DeJarnett handles the film with just the right touch, never going overboard on either the comedy or the pathos. Though she doesn't have much to do beyond being sweetly perfect, Mare Winningham proves herself to be the perfect actress for the job. In Anthony Edwards, DeJarnett was lucky to find the perfect leading man for his story. Long before ER made him famous, Edwards here embodies the elusive concept of the everyman. Neither a super hero or a total schlub, Edwards is totally winning and believable as a guy who is both unlucky in love and fate. Watching him, you know that he's not the type of action hero who can prevent a nuclear war but you also know that he's not the type of guy who's willing to allow the world to end without first finding true love. In short, he's just like you and that's what makes Miracle Mile such a powerful and affecting little film.

Slackers (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import]
Slackers (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import]
DVD ~ Devon Sawa
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 40.71
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars There are worse ways to lose 90 minutes of your life, March 22 2003
Seeing as it deals with youthful eccentrics searching for love, costars Jason Schwartzman, and presents the idea of stalking from a humorous perspective (a perspective, one might venture a wild guess, not neccesarily shared by people who have actually been stalked), it is tempting (and thoroughly incorrect) to describe Slackers as a raunchier, darker version of Rushmore. In fact, to use such a description would be a strong disservice to both films. For whereas Rushmore is one of the best films of the last decade (and this film most assuredly is not), Slackers is an uneven film that -- while not being all that good -- is still entertaining when taken on it's own terms and certainly is a step above most of the teen-age/college stoner comedies to have come out in the wake of American Pie.
The story is almost painfully familiar. Jason Schwartzman is a disturbed college student with a massive crush on the sweetly attractive James King. In order to trick her into not only noticing him but eventually going out with him, Schwartzman blackmails three cocky cheaters into helping him con her into giving him her affections. Unfortunately, the head cheater is played by Devon Sawa who, while not being half the actor that Schwartzman is, is much better looking and as such, King immediately falls for him and he falls for her and the rest of the movie deals with how to deal with Schwartzman. As said, none of the movie's particular plot points are extremely clever and a lot of the humor falls flat. Particularly annoying is the director's need to pad out the film with the same boring fantasy sequences that seem to pop up in all stoner youth comedies nowadays. Scored to kitschy pop standards from the early '70s (the type of stuff these slackers wouldn't be caught dead listening to in real life), these fantasy sequences are filled with unoriginal takeoffs on better films and tend to stop the action dead -- not good for a film that feels overlong to begin with.
Still, for every dead spot, there's a bizarrely inspired joke or a skillful performance that'll pop up unexpectedly and these good moments are so inspired and provide such a strong pay-off that the viewer is almost left feeling as if he's being rewarded for managing to make it through the bad moments. It's as if the director is saying, "Sorry about making that 20th joke about flatulence, here's a little Jason Schwartzman to help ease the pain." Certainly, Schwartzman is the film's main strength. Playing yet another eccentric, overly intelligent stalker-type, Schwartzman creates a character that is 180 degrees the opposite of his starring turn in Rushmore. He brings a manic intensity to his creepy role that is fascinating to watch -- both because of the skill of his performance and because of the fact that this is a rare actor who is willing to push against all self-imposed limits while on screen. The audience finds themselves tolerating a lot of uninspired bits just for the chance to find out what Schwartzman's going to do next. Schwartzman pulls off a minor miracle, giving a perfect comedic performance as a character who, when you actually get to the heart of the matter, isn't all that funny. However, Schwartzman is not the sole redemption to be found in this film's cast as James King, while stuck playing a symbol (the "good girl"), still manages to be very sweet and adorable (in the best sense of the term) as the unwitting object of Schwartzman's affections. For this film to work, you have to be willing to buy that so many people would be willing to make idiots out of themselves to win the heart of one, individual woman and luckily, King manages to embody that woman, much in the same way that Cameron Diaz helped to lend some credibility to the far superior There's Something About Mary. As for the star of the film, Devon Sawa doesn't get to display the flair of wild comedy that distinguished his work in Idle Hands (truly the only role to give him a chance to definitely distinguish himself from the current crop of 20-something pretty boys wondering around Hollywood) but he's still a likeable enough protaganist. If he doesn't get a chance to be as interesting as Schwartzman, he also doesn't allow this film to turn into Freddie Prinze, Jr. vehicule either. And while most of the direction is rather uninspired, there are still a few moments of inspired lunacy that'll either annoy you or leave you in hysterics depending on your taste in humor. (A bit with a singing gym sock is probably the best example of this.) These bits of inspired lunacy are too few and too far between to make up for the fact that this is -- overall -- a rather uneven mess of a film but, for what their worth, they're there and they certainly make the film a bit more interesting than most of the shlock being churned out nowadays.
Slackers isn't a great film. It's probably not even a good film. But it is a film with some great strengths to go along with its far too numerous flaws. If you're in the mood for this type of film, there are definitely worse ways to lose 90 minutes of your life.

Duel
Duel
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Don't get on the interstate..., March 5 2003
This review is from: Duel (VHS Tape)
Just as many people find themselves viewing the shower with trepidation after viewing Psycho, I've found myself wary to get on interstate highways after viewing Duel. A 1971 tv-movie (that was, yes, the first film to be directed by Steven Spielberg), Duel is an effectively, simple little film that sticks with you long after the end credits have run. Dennis Weaver plays a businessman travelling alone across a desolate strip of America. For reasons that neither he nor the viewer can quite understand (and, for once, this makes the film's terror all the more effective), a truck driver targets Weaver and for the next hour and a half, we watch as Weaver struggles to survive against a faceless, seemingly more powerful opponent. It's a simple premise but it is also a premise that taps into our deepest fears of the unknown. Weaver's struggle is made all the more terrifying because it seems to just happen at random. Weaver is targeted for no specific reason and, as unfair as that might seem to both him and the viewer, he now has no choice but to try to survive.
Duel works because of the talents of a young Steven Spielberg and the likeable everyman performance of Dennis Weaver. Indeed, Weaver's contribution has often been overshadowed by the hype surrounding Spielberg's involvement and that's a shame because he gives a truly perfect performance, a worthy model for actors (especially those currently sleepwalking through today's crop of horror films) everywhere. Weaver is one of those talented actors who, because he was never a showy performer and for the most part limited himself to television work, has never really gotten his due. In Duel, he is totally believable as an ordinay man caught up in an extradorinary situation. From the minute he first appears on screen, viewers can easily accept him as their surrogate and it is this indentifiability that makes what happens to him so enthralling and disturbing. As for Spielberg, this film proves that, had he not gotten into his head to be a great filmmaker, Speilberg could have had a very lucrative and rewarding career as a modern day Roger Corman. Using the techniques he would later hone to perfection in Jaws, Spielberg crafts an unpretentious, massively entertaining horror film that never loses sight of reality. Working with essentially one actor and one set, Spielberg manages to capture the viewer from the first minute and keeps the narrative flying for the next 90 minutes, never allowing things to slack off and never giving viewers a reason to look away from the screen. Especially compared with some of Spielberg's later, more "respectable" entertainments, Duel represents the ideal Spielberg -- all of his skill without the later need to prove he was capable of more than just being a "mere" entertainer. Duel, despite being this young director's first film, is a perfect example of everything that Steven Spielberg does right and when compared with his later films, it becomes just as perfect an example of everything Spielberg's done wrong since then.
But don't watch the film because it was directed by Steven Spielberg or because Dennis Weaver was always underrated as an actor. Watch it because it does everything you could possibly want a thriller to do.

Secrets of the Painter
Secrets of the Painter
by Matthew Hovious
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.38
15 used & new from CDN$ 15.37

4.0 out of 5 stars A book for the uncommon reader, Feb. 26 2003
This review is from: Secrets of the Painter (Paperback)
Matthew Hovious's first novel, Secrets of the Painter, is -- like most thought-provoking works of art -- a hybrid of many different genres. In this case, historial fiction, political satire, and metaphysical debate come together to tell the life story of Luis Malasana, a Spanish painter who strives to perfect his craft while surviving the increasingly (but all too plausible) surreal world of mid-19th century Spain. Luis Malasana is hardly a likeable protaganist and indeed, a great deal of the book's power comes from the fact that Hovious never makes the mistake of trying to make his fictional protaganist any more redeemable than his real-life models. History has shown that creative genius and human compassion rarely go hand-in-hand and those who would dismiss this book because Malasana neither loves little puppy dogs nor acquires an adorable sidekick during the course of his life would be guilty of missing the point entirely. If Malasana seems, at times, to be incapable of feeling any sort of love for the rest of humanity, it is only because it is obvious that he has devoted all of his love to his art and Hovious is to be commended for so perfectly capturing the type of all-consuming passion that is necessary to feed the spirit of the true artist.
The book's central conceit is that Malasana practices his craft under a curse that everyone he paints will die shortly afterward. To a certain extent, it's an unnecessary plot element -- Hovious' descriptions of the often farcial political turmoil swirling around Malasana and his grasp of the often conflicting motivations that inspire Malasana's genius are more than enough to create a compelling tale and hold the reader's interest without the introduction of the supernatural. At the same time, it works brilliantly as a metaphor for the type of self-centered, narcisstic life that artists like Malasana were often forced to live in order to keep their art pure. Some of the book's strongest scenes are the ones that simply feature Malasana and another character debating the metaphysical implications of the pursuit of art and the higher truth that it represents. Sadly, these are not the type of esoteric themes that one expects to find in modern literature and their discovery here serve to make this book all the more valuable to the truly enlightened reader.
Lastly, Hovious is to be commended for bringing to life a fascinating cast of characters. While Malasana is one of the most fully rounded protaganists that I've ever had the pleasure to come across, Hovious fills his book with intriguing supporting characters, many of them actual figures from history. Especially touching is his portrait of the doomed Carlos de Montemolin, one of the many pretenders to the Spanish throne who finds his life as defined and cursed as much by his royal parentage as Malasana's life is defined and cursed by his artistic talent.
Secrets of the Painter is not a book that will be mistaken for a work of mainstream fiction but that should hardly be taken as a criticism. It is not a book for the common reader but, as Luis Malasana would undoubtly agree, who wants to live out their days being common?

Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cover-up
Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cover-up
by Leo Damore
Edition: Hardcover
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.60

3.0 out of 5 stars An important overview of the case, Nov. 7 2002
As far as the murky facts surrounding Ted Kennedy's 1969 accident at Chappaquidick are concerned, Leo Damore's book Senatorial Priviledge is probably the best collection of what few things can definitely be said to be true. While the book will disappoint those looking for a definite, unimpeachable case against Ted Kennedy, it does do a good job of laying out the bare facts of the case and, for all but the most partisan of readers, it will be hard to avoid the conclusion that Ted Kennedy managed to cheat justice. While the portrait of Kennedy that emerges will not satisfy those looking for a cold-blooded murderer in the Senatorial cloakroom, it's still a disturbing portrait of an irresponsible, immature man who -- for whatever reason -- has been allowed to grow into an adult without learning how to take responsibility for his actions, no matter what the consequences. If the book does have any truly serious flaw, it is that once again Chappaquidick's true victim, Mary Jo Kopechne, is reduced to a cipher, almost an after thought. Beyond the fact that she died in Kennedy's car, very little is revealed about who Kopechne was or who she might have been had she lived. Despite the book's honorable intentions (most of which it achieves), Mary Jo Kopechne's tragedy is once again allowed to be overshadowed by the Kennedys' crimes.

The Day of the Jackal (Widescreen)
The Day of the Jackal (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Edward Fox
Price: CDN$ 9.99
29 used & new from CDN$ 4.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Still one of the best, Nov. 5 2002
The Day of the Jackal is a prime example of an increasingly rare breed -- a subtle, low-key action film that is actually willing to respect the intelligence of its audience. (For evidence of how times have changed for the worse, just compare this film to its recent, star-driven remake.) Edward Fox plays the Jackal, a coolly efficient English assassin who is hired by Algerian terrorists to assassinate French President Charles DeGaulle. Using an almost documetary style, the film follows the Jackal as he prepares to kill DeGaulle while a French detective (Michael Lonsdale) fights against time to discover just who the Jackal actually is and stop him. It is a sign of the story's effectiveness that, even though the majority of the audience will (hopefully) be aware that DeGaulle ended his service as France's President without being killed, the film still manages to hold the viewer's attention in a mixture of heart-pounding suspense and fascination with watching such a realistic presentation of how a political assassination might very well had been pulled off. This isn't a short film but, clocking in at 2 and a half hours, it is never less than enthralling.
Director Fred Zinnemann wisely chose to eschew the trendy flashiness that was almost required of films made in the early '70s (and which has recently come back to marr so many contemporary action films) and instead emphasizes realism in both his action and his characters. As a result, the Jackal and his pursuer never engage in the type of unbelievable acts that have become the trademarks of other action stars. They are never more or less than recognizable human beings and that makes the film's story all the more enthralling. Instead of filling the film with audience-pleasing pyrotechnics, Zinnemann instead uses violence so carefully and so rarely that when the action does explode on screen, it has an immediate impact.
Zinnemann was always known as a brilliant director of actors and the performances in The Day of the Jackal (from a collection of reliable English and French character actors) are flawless. Though his character is usually overshadowed by the more charismatic Jackal, Lonsdale does a good job as the film's nominal "hero," making this anonymous detective into a sort of everyman. However, the film belongs to its title character and the actor who plays him, Edward Fox. Fox has been typecast as stuffy, aristocratic types so it is a bit of a revelation to see his performance here. He manages to perfectly convey the coldness of a man without a soul while, at the same time, providing glimpes of a neurotic intensity that would come from living a life that is centered totally and completely on death. Fox creates a sympathetic screen villian without ever allowing the Jackal to become Lecterized -- the viewer never forget that this is a killer and not a warm and cuddly guy with a few eccentricities.
The Day of the Jackal is a film that seems to be perenially underrated. Certainly, it runs counter to every instinct currently being displayed by the actions films coming out of Hollywood. Which is unfortunate because the current crop of Michael Bays and Simon Wests could stand to learn quite a few lessons from Fred Zinnemann and the Day of the Jackal.

If the Other Guy Isn't Jack Nicholson, I've Got the Part: Hollywood Tales of Big Breaks, Bad Luck, and Box-Office Magic
If the Other Guy Isn't Jack Nicholson, I've Got the Part: Hollywood Tales of Big Breaks, Bad Luck, and Box-Office Magic
by Ron Base
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.58

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4.0 out of 5 stars One of the neglected gems of movie trivia, Oct. 15 2002
One of my favorite games of movie trivia is trying to imagine what certain classic, beloved films would be like if they had been made with an entirely different cast. Often times, the results range between the horrifying and the ludicrous (for example, Lana Turner as Scarlett O'Hara and Jeffrey Lynn as Rhett Butler, teaming up to make Gone with the Wind the dullest Civil War epic ever) and occasionally, you're forced to admit that a film like the Fugitive probably would have pretty much been the same rather the lead was played by Harrison Ford or Alec Baldwin. And sometimes, if you're lucky, you imagine a film that may be different from the classic the world knows and loves but, at least to the mind's eye, is just as fascinating -- The Graduate starring Charles Grodin, Doris Day, Sally Field, and Ronald Reagan or Terms of Endearment featuring a comeback supporting performance from none other than Burt Reynolds.
These fun, intriguing, and often infuriating speculations are what lie at the heart of Ron Base's unjustly neglected film book, If the Other Guy Isn't Jack Nicholson, I've Got the Part. (The title is an actual quote from Reynolds who either lost or gave up roles in films ranging from Terms of Endearment to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to our Mr. Nicholson. After reading this book, one wonders what Boogie Nights might had been like if Reynolds had passed on that...) Starting from Hollywood's golden age and the days of the star systems and ending with the modern-day, often interchangeable blockbusters of today, Base writes a lively, humorous, and always fascinating account of the struggles and the intrigue that went into casting some of the best pictures to come out of Hollywood's studios. He covers the famous search to find the perfect Scarlett, the comical saga of finding the perfect actors to bring the Graduate's story to life (and yes -- Day, Field, Grodin, and even Ron Reagan were all serious possibilities at one point of time), the birth of the Corleone Family, and even explains how a little-known Sharon Stone ended up with the "honor" of exposing herself to the world in Basic Instinct.
Along the way, the book manages to provide a treasure trove of little known trivia and anecdote. As well, by showing us how the faces of Hollywood's ideal leading stars changed (basically going from suave Clark Gable to awkward Dustin Hoffman and eventually ending up with the hulking likes of Arnie and Stallone), Base provides an interesting and entertaining look at the way American society views itself has been changed and transformed over the course of the 20th century. This is a wonderful, fun book that will be enjoyed by anyone who ever watched Jack Nicholson on screen and thought to himself, "Gee, I wish they'd gotten Burt Reynolds for that role." Luckily, the book can enjoyed by the rest of us, too.

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