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Tole Models

Handy helpers leaf through the best videos for stoners

Baked Potatoes
By John Hulme and Michael Wexler
Bantam Books; 203 pages; $12

Reviewed by Karen Reardanz

Who hasn't wandered aimlessly, feeling slightly like a hesitant kid on the first day of school, scanning rows and rows of films in a video store, completely baffled as to what the perfect--or at least moderately acceptable--movie choice would be? Add a stoner haze to the scenario, and you've got the perfect recipe for an all-night disaster.

Enter Baked Potatoes: A Pot Smoker's Guide to Film & Video. A collection of film reviews as unlike those you'd find in your daily paper, the book was written by two struggling slackers who, by some wild twist of fate, were allowed the opportunity to make a buck or two showing off the two things they know best--movies and pot-smoking. John Hulme and Michael Wexler--also editors of Voices of the Xiled, a compilation of short fiction by young writers--have cranked out a near literary masterpiece of cinematic veritae, complete with over 150 reviews, admittedly self-indulgent babble and wacky little interjections of letters to possible publishers and reviewers, including a wonderful example of hostile brevity from Roger Ebert. Fortunately, it also includes must-see scenes of movie-making magic for occasions when you just do not have time for an entire film and a trouble shooter's guide for the times when your movie pick goes bad--way bad.

Baked Potatoes is not simply the inane ramblings of two young men with too much time on their hands and more than enough smoke in their lungs. What it does is bring together pieces of cinematic shining glory, movies that do have their moments, though not many, and those films that travel into a territory known as "The Bad Seed," (i.e. Naked Lunch, Meet the Feebles and the sort).

Though it reaches deep into toker culture, complete with stoner speak, etiquette tips, even culinary recommendations to go along with specific choices, it by no means alienates those who don't even partake in an occasional puff. Hulme and Wexler know where it's at when it comes to films, with reviews that are smart, quick and wry, even as they wander off the beaten path into obscurity, leaving no filmatic stone unturned.

The authors run the gamut from surreal and scary to standard all-time classics like Let's Get Lost, Alien, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, each given a categorical rating. No stars here, folks, just teeny pot leaves and bombs. There's no hokey feel-good balderdash, no placating production companies or sponsors--the duo shoots straight and rarely misses the target.

Our guides enlist the assistance of a few guest reviewers--Ben & Jerry, High Times Editor-in-Chief Steve Hagar, Wavy Gravy--but its purely a name game. Who needs famous folk when Hulme and Wexler are at one's disposal, turning on the charm and leaving the reading public with a guide that not only gives good suggestion, but reads better than a fair amount of fiction.

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From the August 29-September 4, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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