THE REEL BINGE with Lee Ostler: LONG WEEKEND DOUBLE BILL

A Scott Rosenberg big, bad, long weekend double bill. The fact that one writer is responsible for two completely different movies that shaped my love for film has to be acknowledged. I saw them both when they were first released on VHS when I was 14-15 ish. The stuff you loved at that age almost always stays near and dear. You’ve probably never heard of the man but he wrote“Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” (1995) and “Beautiful Girls” (1996). These are the movies we’re gonna dive into. He also wrote “Con Air” (1997),  co-wrote “High Fidelity” (1998) and “Gone in 60 Seconds” (2000). What a string of seriously varied and awesome movies. He has kinda done nothing but weak shit since. Bummer. With and extra day to veg out this weekend, here’s two of my favorites. There are far too many good and great actors to mention in the descriptions so pay particular attention to the ample associated recommendations section. There are some really great movies in there and, as always, I don’t recommend anything I haven’t seen.
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Beautiful Girls (1996) (Dir. Ted Demme)

 
“Will. A beautiful girl can make you dizzy, like you’ve been drinking Jack and Coke all morning. She can make you feel high full of the single greatest commodity known to man – promise. Promise of a better day. Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a new tomorrow. This particular aura can be found in the gait of a beautiful girl. In her smile, in her soul, the way she makes every rotten little thing about life seem like it’s going to be okay. The supermodels, Willy? That’s all they are. Bottled promise. Scenes from a brand new day. Hope “
Admittedly, Beautiful Girls (1996) has been one of my all time favorite movies since it first came out. I watch it at least once year, so that’s a bunch of times. It is one of those ” I’m having a mid-life crisis-and-I’m-going-back-home-to-figure-this whole-fucking-life-thing-out” deals. The catalyst for these is usually a wedding, funeral, or in this case, a high school reunion. I’m a sucker for these 1996-beautiful-girls-poster1but this one is way better than most. The protagonist Is the always charming, Timothy Hutton as Willie Conway. This flick avoids the traditional, tacked-on love story like the plague. Conway (Hutton) engages in two meaningful, insightful and completely platonic relationships. One, with the drop dead beautiful stranger, Andera (Uma Thurman) and the 13-year-old, next door neighbor Marty (Natalie Portman). The scenes between Willie and Marty are the best thing about a movie with a bunch of great scenes. “Alas, poor Romeo, we can’t do diddly. You’ll go to the penitentiary and I’ll be the laughing-stock of The Brownies. Wait 5 years and we’ll walk this world together”. Seriously, this is not as sleazy or gross as it may sound.
Portman runs off with this movie like she’s not even trying. At 15, she essentially established herself in my mind as the smartest, most beautiful girl in the world. Just like my love for 90’s skatepunk, it will never be shaken.  Scott Rosenberg’s writing is so on-fucking-point that even Rosie O’Donnell delivers her one-and-only killer performance. Everyone in this great ensemble cast is given a chance to just fucking nail it and they do. That might be the reason why this strikes such a perfect chord. This is a story of a group of men who have finally hit the crossroads. Grow the fuck up, or else. Some of the women are unfortunately portrayed as simply waiting for their man to get their shit together. Every time I watch this it hits a little closer to home. Especially because these guys are hitting 30 but they still seem older than me. I don’t know if it’s just me, but every actor in the ’90’s who was supposed to be in their late 20’s have always seemed to be 10 years older. Anyway, 40 is the new 30, right? Good lord, I hope so! I love this movie and I hope you do too. – LEE

Beautiful Girls – Trailer

Associated Recommendations:
Natalie Portman: If the Oscars actually meant anything she should have gotten at least a nomination for this and won for “Leon: The Professional”(1995).
Timothy Hutton: As Brian Moreland in “Taps” (1981). As  Christopher Boyce in “ The Falcon and the Snowman” (1985).
Matt Dillon: As Bob Hughes in the brilliant “Drugstore Cowboy” (1989). As Richie in the super-subversive “Over the Edge” (1979). As the tragically cool Dallas Winston in “The Outsiders” (1983) and the hopelessly insecure Rusty James in “Rumble Fish” (1983). Seriously how can you compete when your older brother is The Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke).
Michael Rapaport: As Dick Ritchie in “True Romance” (1993). As Murray “Super boy” Babitch in “Cop Land” (1997).
Uma Thurman: As Cécile de Volanges, who has a pretty rough go of it in the fantastic “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988). As Irene Cassini in “Gattaca” (1997). As Glory in the typecast-flipping “Mad Dog and Glory” (1993) and the obvious Tarantino greats.
Noah Emmerich: As Larry Hedges in the shockingly overlooked, “Little Children “(2006). As Gordo Herschin in the unfairly derided “Frequency” (2000).
Lauren Holly: As Mary Swanson in “Dumb and Dumber” (1994) and an unaccredited 12 second part in “Crank: High Voltage” (2004). For real. That’s all. Yet somehow she’s famous.
Rosie O’Donnell: As Doris Murphy in “A League of their Own” (Only because Johnny O has such a boner for her in this role).
Max Perlich: As Yabbo in “Gleaming the Cube” (1989). The dude’s bedroom is and old bomb shelter in his parent’s backyard. The most bad-ass teenage bedroom in all of film history. As Dulli in “Blow” (2001).
Pruitt Taylor Vince: He’s always good and has the craziest, spazz eyes ever. Check him and his bonkers eyes out as Max Tooney in the truly forgotten great “The Legend of 1900” (1998). Also, as Rub Squeers in the great, quirky, small town, Paul Newman charmer “Nobody’s Fool” (1994).
Mira Sorvino: As Dionna in “Summer of Sam” (1999).
Martha Plimpton: As Julie Buckman in “Parenthood” (1989).
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Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead (1995) (Dir.  Gary Fleder)

 
“The fact of the matter is by the year 2000 every city will be black. Thanks to the fax, the modem, conference call, federal-fucking express, the beast will be able to conduct his business from his home in the white suburb leaving the city a great wide war zone full of nuclear brothers.”
 

” I am Godzilla! You are Japan!”

Now, Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead (1995). Another once a year watch since it came out. Initially, and possibly still, overlooked in the wave of Tarantino knock-off’s at the time. This endlessly (and I mean endlessly) Things-To-Do-In-Denver_1quotable gem is truly special. This flick is clearly taking a page from the most coherent and violent work of Abel Ferrera and the easy to digest, endlessly enjoyable, too-cool-for-fucking-school , dialogue driven pulp novels/films of Elmore Leonard. Let’s just check out the best character names and tell me you’re not interested.
“Jimmy “The Saint” Tosni”
“Pieces”
“Franchise” 
 “Critical” Bill”
“Easy Wind” 
“Mr. Shhh”
“The Man With The Plan” AKA “The Head”
 “Baby Sinister” 
A quadriplegic Mob boss, “The Man With The Plan” (Christopher Walken) AKA “The Head”, wants some dirt done and he runs shit in this crazy version of
Denver. I’ve never been there but this flick makes it seem pretty interesting.
“Not an action, just a piece of work”. He employs Jimmy “The Saint” (Andy Garcia) and his crew of washed up, small time criminals/ex-cons  who just can’t stand the straight lives they’ve been living, to get it done. Of course, shit goes sideways. Buckwheats for everyone! Buckwheats are really bad and typically administered by Mr Shhh (Steve Buscemi). If Jimmy “The Saint” is gonna protect his crew and himself he’s gonna have to make some moves fucking fast. BOAT DRINKS! Oh, Rosenberg decides to tackle the nature of right and wrong and mortality VS immortality along the way. If Tarantino-ish, over the top gangsters and great dialogue are your jam then you really have to check this out. On top of it all, a classic Tom Waits song backs the opening credits. – LEE

Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead – trailer

Associated Recommendations:
“Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead” (1996):
Andy Garcia: As Det. Charlie Vincent in “Black Rain” (1989) and  George Stone/Giuseppe Petri in “The Untouchables” (1987).
Christopher Lloyd: I would argue that his two best roles were as the heavy. As Kruge in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) and Judge Doom in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988).
William Forsythe: As Ice in the Brian Bosworth staring, biker, cheese-fest “Stone Cold” (1991). As Evelle Snoats in “Raising Arizona” (1987) and JD in “American Me” (1992).
Bill Nunn : Obviously, as Radio Raheem in “Do The Right Thing” (1989) and as the Duh Duh Duh Man in “New Jack City” (1991). He’s had some great character names.
Treat Williams : As James Conway O’Donnell in the truly great, forgotten gangster epic “Once Upon a Time in America” (1984) and as the real-life super-agent of the 90’s, Mike Ovitz in the original late night war biopic “The Late Shift” (1996).
Steve Buscemi: Everything. He’s even good in bad stuff.
Christopher Walken : You know the deal. You could just watch “the Sicilian scene” in “True Romance” (1992) with him and Dennis Hopper over and over again.
Don Cheadle: Check him out in pre-fame roles like Rocket in “Colors” (1988) and Pvt. Washburn in “Hamburger Hill” (1987).
Fairuza Balk:  As Stacey in “American History X” (1999) and Sapphire in “Almost Famous” (2000).
Jack Warden: As Juror no. 7 in “12 Angry Men ” (1957) and Pops in the so-stupid-it’s-brilliant Norm MacDonald vehicle “Dirty Work” (1998). Seriously though, he’s in a tonne of great flicks.