Bonnie and Clyde and Zack and Miri and Bruce

Saw three movies last week. I recommend them all.

Last Sunday, we saw "My Name is Bruce" with star and director Bruce Campbell in attendance. We were lucky to get tickets; the show sold out in five minutes. The movie was silly and fun, with homages to everything from "Evil Dead" to the Three Stooges.

Friday evening we saw "Zack and Miri Make a Porno". I'm not a big Kevin Smith fan, and definitely not a "Clerks" fan, but "Clerks 2" is one of my all-time favorite movies. "Zack and Miri" was in the same vein: a profane love story. It was fun, and the acting was far better than "Clerks 2" (how could it not be?), but I didn't think the story was as tight and crisp. I laughed a lot at "Zack and Miri", but it didn't stay with me like "Clerks 2" did. (My wife and I call the new hamburger store down the street "Mooby's" and threaten to go in sometime and order a "Cow Tipper" burger.) Still, if you are in the mood for light (but seriously offensive) comedy, you may enjoy it. Just be sure you stay through the closing credits.

Today we went to the Alamo Ritz to watch a restored print of "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), and that's the movie I want to rave about. Author Mark Harris, who wrote a book "Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood" was supposed to be in attendance, but had to cancel due to a family emergency. I've heard good things about Mark's book, but really I just wanted to see this movie on the big screen.

If you have an opportunity to see "Bonnie and Clyde" in a theater, especially this restored version, I strongly urge you to take advantage of it. The restored print is gorgeous in parts, albeit flawed in others (such as the picnic with Bonnie's mother).

As the Wikipedia entry says:

Bonnie and Clyde is considered a landmark film, and is regarded as one of the first films of the New Hollywood era, in that it broke many taboos and was popular with the younger generation. Its success motivated other filmmakers to be more forward about presenting sex and violence in their films.

The movie, as you probably know, is about a gang of bank robbers who became folk heroes during the depression. The movie is a rare pleasure, where you get characters so complex and interesting. On top of that, the story has a special resonance in these troubled times. With their big bailouts and even bigger executive bonuses, there isn't much love lost for banks these days either. When the movie shows people forced out of their homes, it stings a little more than it might have back when the movie was released.

(My wife pointed out that a movie about the depression like this one done in the '69 wouldn't be done now, because people don't want to see their troubled times reflected on the screen. In fact when Bonnie and Clyde go to the movies, they see a Busby Berkley "We're in the Money" number.)

So, the choices are: silly fun, offensive fun, or cinematic magnificence. All recommended.

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Depression-era films

I'll be interested to see what kinds of movies are made and are popular in the next few years if the economy continues to suck. For the past two weeks, it's been "High School Musical 3," which I suppose is the modern-day equivalent of lesser Busby Berkeley musicals from the 1930s. But the best Depression-era movies managed to ground their romance or comedy in a certain amount of reality -- poor folks on the bus in "It Happened One Night," Jean Arthur scrounging for food at the Automat in "Easy Living" -- without painting the vivid and often grim pictures of the era that we were talking about in 1960s and 70s movies like "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Paper Moon" and "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

There's a way longer essay here, but I'll stop.