FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Norman Jewison |||
Norman Jewison

Yes, he directed “Moonstruck” and two unforgettable musicals, but Jewison is also responsible for a trilogy of films focusing on racial-injustice, a whacky Cold War comedy and a signature film of Steve McQueen’s showing that he is one of the most versatile directors since Robert Wise.

This blueprint for good investigation dramas tells the story of a black Philadelphia detective investigating a murder in Mississippi who matches wits with a redneck sheriff. Groundbreaking for it’s time, this Oscar winning film is still relevant today and offers a gripping mystery with terrific dramatic performances by a complete cast of fully realized characters.

This is an amazingly funny and entertaining irreverent "Cold War" comedy about a Russian submarine stranded outside an isolated New England town, which throws the locals into a panic. Jewison does a delightful job of utilizing his all-star cast to their fullest, deftly mixing Capra-esq characters with Mel Brooks’s type situations (and vise-versa).

A bored millionaire (Steve McQueen in his prime) masterminds a flawless bank job as Faye Dunaway (an insurance investigator out to get him) identifies him as the mastermind and falls in love along the way. This is the original and the best, with all the arch stylized movie techniques of the ‘60s (including split-screen and fuzzy shallow focus) and the most erotic chess game ever captured on screen.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Tripper, The

By BrianOrndorf

April 27th, 2007

I wouldn't even know where to start looking for the inspiration that propelled David Arquette to make "The Tripper." Calling it insane is an insult to truly encouraged lunacy, and writing it off as a dumb slasher spin overlooks the film's smattering of ingenuity.

Tripper, The

On the way to a “music and love” festival in the Northern Californian woods, a group of drug-happy “hippies” (Jason Mewes, Jamie King, Marsha Thomason, and Lukas Haas) are under constant attack from the locals, who want none of “their kind” traipsing around the peaceful neighborhood. With the visitors lost in a hallucinogenic haze, the threat is multiplied when a ferocious killer, dressed as Ronald Reagan, starts to pick off the festival attendees one by one.

Written (with Joe Harris, “Darkness Falls”) and directed by Arquette, “The Tripper” is a freaked-out ride through a horror dystopia that is actually more concerned with politics than throat-slittings. It’s Arquette’s wild west homage to conservative retaliation, witnessed through the eyes of the new flower power; the misinformed drug culture of the mid-2000s, where bummers can’t seem to be tempered by uppers anymore.

“Tripper” is almost impossible to squint down to a single descriptive line. The film is all over the field toying with pop culture, red state vs. blue state bad blood, and gruesome genre conventions. It’s a vanity project that forgot the vanity; Arquette calling in all the favors he could possibly stand to lacquer on enough polish to make this scrappy piece of crazy at least something bearable to sit through.

I’ll admit, the film is shot with some sense of authority. A low-budget feature actually captured on film (a dying art), cinematographer Bobby Bukowski glides around the feature looking for the ideal grainy angle or psychedelic swirl. The shooter gets the most mileage out of Arquette’s muddled vision, embracing the threadbare roots of the production to inject a little retro horror flavor into the proceedings.

Arquette can also be counted on to at least adhere to one of the standards of the genre: gore. “Tripper” is a violent picture, packaged tight with chopped limbs and enough blood flow to please even the most rabid fan of horror. “Tripper” certainly works hard trying to come up with ways for Ronnie to slaughter his victims, and while the satire is lost in the tomfoolery, the singular visual of Ronald Reagan running around with an axe is good enough to save “Tripper” from certain yawns. It’s Arquette’s most fertile cinematic idea, but he loses the fine point of the jab when it comes time to actually confront what the film is about.

Calling “Tripper” an assault on conservatism and Republicans is missing the obvious fumbled execution of the feature. It seems the filmmaker hates his liberals as well, portraying the hippies as obnoxiously and unpleasantly as any backwoods character in the film. Truthfully, “Tripper” is a fiesta of unlikable people with dastardly motives acting stupidly for the delight of the audience. However, I’m not blind. Arquette opens the film using Reagan’s atrocious conservation quotations as a kick off point for the carnage and climaxes the film with a pig named “George W.” It’s a sharp knife he wields, but his aim could use some practice.

An acid-drenched political slasher film is certainly a splendidly provocative idea, but “The Tripper” is only halfway realized to brilliance. Much like David Arquette’s acting career, the film is often unbearable and rarely shows competence, but still remains an antagonistic curiosity that can’t be easily denied.

My rating: C