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Rating History

Arizona Dream
Arizona Dream (1993)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[I wrote this on Kuehnepips Emir Kusturica thread not long ago. At the moment I'm just taking all my reviews that I've already written on RT and sticking them in my journal]

Arizona Dream 10/10 :fresh:
[color=lightblue][b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b] is in no way the greatest film Kusturica has made. It's patchy, incredibly uneven and at times downright bizarre without any given reason or explanation; But this, in a way, is a part of my love for it.

The film starts with with an unnamed Eskimo in presumably Alaska, hunting for fish along with his Huski dogs. After one falls through some thin ice, his Huski's drag him out and guides him on a sled back to the safety of his igloo.

Fish and Alaska play a key part in this film along with many near contradictory oddities and misplaced mishaps all played to the constantly drowning sound of the Acordion.

The central story in [b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b] takes focus on Axel Blackmar, a young fish counter living in New York city who left his hometown of Arizona after his parents were killed in a car accident 6 years ealier. When his close friend Paul (Vincent Gallo) shows up and persuades/forces him into coming back to Arizona for his Uncle Leo's wedding, the innocent dreamer is forced to come to terms with the prospect of experiencing the reality he's shied away from for years. Uncle Leo is a car salesman, on the way to marrying a beautiful young woman and is living, what society would deem the American Dream. Axel, on the otherhand, has other dreams. He dreams with the fishes, yearns to live in Alaska and has no intention of taking over the car dealer business as his uncle so desires. On the roads to living either of these dreams, he detours into left field when he meets Elaine (Faye Dunoway) and her suicidal stepdaughter Grace (Lili Taylor). Axel is instantly captivated by Elaine and they inevitably fall into a tumultuous affair much to the displeasure of Uncle Leo, Grace and to a lesser degree Paul.

If I said anything more about the story I'd be giving key plot elements away.

Never have I seen a film that starts as what almost anyone would call a not-so-mainstream comedy and [i]then[/i] so drastically turn, half way through the film, into a heavy hard hitting drama. While in any other film, this bizarre lack of focus would be denounced: It works in [b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b].

The film is almost entirely from Axel's perspective and what we see is un-reality of ludicrous failed suicide attempts, Russian roullette, ambulence's flying to the moon, floating chairs, mexican acordian players, North By Northwest bizarrely replayed, love triangles galore and blindfolded pinata in the rain.

[b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b] accurately represents it's title, though more focus is lent to the latter part rather than to the actual [i]Arizona[/i] itself. It's essentially about dreams: Axel's dreams intercolide with what we dream ourselves, what we see as the American dream, what Uncle Leo see's as the [b]Arizona[/b] [b]dream[/b] and what the forray of supporting characters dream of life itself.

The main critism you can brand on [b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b] is it's lack of focus, but in a film about dreams a little incoherrancy should be expected. Kusturica seems to be experimenting with true spontaneity here and it shows. Things pop up out of nowhere and while you feel like you should be blinking and taken back by some of the out of place oddities, Kusturica has created this world of dreams so vividly from nothing, that it's hard not to take this alter reality as perfectly normal.

[b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b] is what I see as a European film set in the USA and starring American actors.

I tend to watch European cinema expecting anything and generally accept what the filmmaker allows me to see, as a given. Whether this is because the quality of European films that make it to the coast of Aussie land are above that of most of their contempory American counterparts [i]or[/i] whether it be because the standard of American cinema is now in such a contrived formulated state that the idea that we should expect anything more as almost a dream in itself, is arguable. We watch American films and in even the not so mainstream ones we will blink at anything that defies the given formula. Whereas in European cinema, the risks that are so present in American films regarding censorship, box office and crowd pleasing never even comes close to entering the surface of my subconcious while watching something European. In this sense, even if you ignore the story and convoluted imagery of [b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b], it's interesting watching these two contradictory styles and businesses of filmmaking intertwine.

Ebert said in his review that films like this don't get produced in America and he's right. This film defies every idea we have of what to expect from an American film. It's fascinating to watch because we're dragged into a world that that not only shouldn't exist onscreen but into a film that shouldn't exist in our reality. It brings to mind the gratifying possibilities that could arise from a Hollywood that was more about the love of art than the big bucks. Sadly, as [b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b] is out of print in both the USA and Australia (I bought my copy on Ebay on crappy VHS) it doesn't seem like the film has registered any signal on the public or Hollywoods radar. Ironically, the only reason a lot of people have seen the film now is because Depp had a Hollywood hit with a theme park movie.

All of that aside, while [b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b] technically pales in comparrison to Kusturica's Black Cat, White Cat and Time of The Gypsies (God bless ebay :D I ordered Underground a couple of weeks ago and it should arrive any day now. Can't wait to see it) it certainly ranks up there with my favorite films of all time.

The performances in [b]Arizona[/b] [b]Dream[/b] are for the most part, superb: Johnny Depp's performance is probably my all time favorite of his. He brilliantly conveys the innocence of a young guy who wants nothing more than his dreams to enter reality. Lili Tomlin is outstanding as the suicidal Grace and Faye Dunaway gave her last great performance as the slightly insane Elaine. Vincent Gallo is also incredibly awesome as Paul, the North by Northwest-De Niro obsessed family friend. The weak link unsurprisingly is Jerry Lewis who just doesn't quite gel with his surroundings - luckily he doesn't have a great deal of screentime.

I'd be interested to see the cut version of this as I only managed to get the 148 minute uncut version. I know there's an 161 minute copy floating around but I'd be more interested in seeing the more succinct version which runs at approx 121 minutes (So I've heard).

All in all: A truly bizarre dream of a film which I unashamedly love to pieces and while technically it doesn't compare to some of Kusturica's other work, it will always be up with my favorite films of all time.[/color]


Troy (2003)
12 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

[Taken From David Noodles "What Have you Seen Lately?" thread."]
[b]The 25th Hour 7/10[/b] [b]:fresh:[/b]
Hmmmm, well, Spike Lee: people tend to either love or hate his films. I myself am undecided as I really havn't seen enough of his work to form an opinion. The 25th Hour is very very good film that loses quite a few points by some extremely forced dialogue, particularly in the scene between Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper disgussing the effects of September 11th, whilst Ground Zero is staring them right in the face.
It felt kind of unnessessary. I understand Lee wanted to paint the picture of post 9/11 New York and I also understand how he'd feel that if he didn't touch upon the subject, that he would be dishonouring his homestate and the victims who died in the attacks.

The key word there though is 'touched'. His momentary focus on it, rather than getting down on the topic and actually deriving some form of substance or relevance from it seems a bit contrived to me. Of course though, the fact of the matter is: The 25th Hour is NOT about 9/11.

It's about a man who has 24 hours to ammend his wrongs before he's sent to prison. Therefore, there really is only a matter of depth to the subject for Lee to utilise. His way of handling this though, is to incorporate it into passing conversations therefore attempting to give a realistic depiction of post 9/11 life.

It's true. 9/11 [i]would[/i] come up in ordinary conversations with your mates. In principle, it works. On screen, it just... doesn't. It seems forced and distracts you from the actual main storyline of the film. I personally think Edward Norton's characters reference to Osama Bin Laden in his Fu[i]c[/i]k You monologue would have been enough to put the film into a reality zone. Even a simple passing conversation would maybe possibly have been fine (Albeit if the writing was a little less contrived) but to have Ground Zero staring you in the face for a whole scene is just downright disconcerting. I understand that the comfort of the viewers is not something Lee has too much concern about, and his objective a considerable ammount of the time is to directly confront his audience, but when it demeans and shifts focus from the main storyline, then surely you'd think he may want to reconsider his ways of representing his ideas of realism. Apart from anything else, that whole scene is just plain badly done and incredibly awkward, when in context, it should have been played a lot more naturally considering Lee's objective in depicting the new natural post 9/11 ordinary bleak world they live in. Great performances by all the cast nevertheless and Ed Norton's monologue is phenominal.

[b]Troy 5/10 :rotten:[/b]
Entertaining in parts yet overall an unbearably mediocre film. Pitt is atrocious in it, one of the worst casting mistakes ever. Bloom is nowhere near as bad as people make him out to be and does his job quite adequately. The cinematography is excellent, though the battle scene's lack the oomph that is needed to sustain the audiences interest. Peter O'Toole and Eric Bana rock though, it's worth seeing if not soley for them.

[b][color=paleturquoise]Wilbur[/color] Wants To Kill Himself 9/10 :[/b]fresh:
A beautiful Danish/Scottish production set in present day Scottland about a man named [color=paleturquoise]Wilbur[/color] who indeed wants to kill himself. Saying anything more about the plot could posssibly give away some of the key elements to the film but overall, it's an absoulute criminally underseen gem.