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Film Picks by Richard von Busack

American Beauty
Now playing

This toothless black comedy is destined to be the most overpraised film of the year, just as the very similar dysfunctional-family "comedy" Happiness was last year. It tells the story of a suburban worm (Kevin Spacey) who turns. He quits his job to work out, listen to rock and smoke pot; he tells off his castrating wife (Annette Bening) and cherishes shy hopes for the slutty pal of his daughter, whom he dreams about in flowery rose-petal fantasies. The story is bold: old guy seducing underaged young girl. But the boldness is diluted both by much, much apology and by the decent, pure romance of Spacey's daughter (Thora Birch) with the boy next door. The film's hazy critique of suburban life is as embarrassing as the most self-pitying moments at a poetry slam.


Nightmare Alley (1947)
Plays Oct. 8-13 at the Roxie Theater

Ever wonder where the word "geek" comes from? Tyrone Power explains it all for you in this sordid film noir classic about a smooth grifter (Power) who, as could be said, bites off more than he can chew. Joan Blondell, one of the screen's greatest wisecracking dames, plays Power's part-time girlfriend: a carnival mind reader who aids Power in his doomed schemes to be a society clairvoyant. The film features first-rate cinematography by Lee Garmes (who worked on many of Josef von Sternberg's films). Nightmare Alley has been out of circulation for years and just recently had the legal rights cleared for theatrical exhibition.


Tiki Film Festival
Plays Oct. 7 at the Roxie Theater

Otto von Stroheim, publisher of Tiki News, hosts this evening of exotica. He and fellow "urban archeologist" Sven Tiki display their slides of L.A. and San Francisco tiki bars--some remaining, some only a memory. These manifestations of the pagan suburban spirit once ensured that every big-sized American town boasted its own concrete lanais and idols, its tall drinks with pineapples, its wailing steel guitar and souvenir leis. These visions of faux Polynesiana have gone out of fashion. Far too many met the fatal kiss of the bulldozer, but some (including the Fairmont Hotel's magnificent Tonga Room) still survive. A highlight: Von Stroheim and Sven will show Webley Edward's film Hawaii Calls, featuring eight songs by Martin Denny, whose tune "Quiet Village" is the "Stairway to Heaven" of Tiki.


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From the September 27, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.




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