By way of explanation:
I've seen two movies this week which made me "cry for happy": Galaxy Quest (which I thought was the funniest movie of the year), and Cradle Will Rock, which is about the spirit of "the show must go on" -- despite the fact that the show was considered subversive and un-American and for the first time in U.S. history, the Army (!!!) was called out to seal off a Broadway theatre to prevent anyone -- including the cast -- from entering the theatre on opening day. ANYBODY who is at all interested in theatre, or freedom of speech issues (VERY important for the Internet, of course), or who is interested in 1930's (or 1950's or 1990's) U.S. history should see the movie of Cradle Will Rock. It has one of the most rousing, uplifting endings of any movie made by Hollywood in years, and it will probably spark a huge interest in reviving the musical play of the same title. I think EVERYONE I saw it with was crying for happy at the end, because . . . well, as Tim Allen says to Alan Rickman in Galaxy Quest, "The show must go on!" It is only appropriate that I review them together.
(Warning: the links to That Thing You Do and 54 and the EuroSeek™ counter link all ultimately lead to dead-ends at Yahoo-controlled Geo-Cities. Please bookmark this review to return to it, or you will be forced to use your browser's "back" button constantly to avoid becoming lost in the Geo-Gulags.)
No, I'm not trying to be impious: those were direct quotes from different people leaving the public screening of Cradle Will Rock which I attended a few days ago. The audience members weren't shocked becaused they had just seen a disgusting splatter-punk movie, either: they were awe-struck by one of the best films of the decade, easily the most uplifting, rousing, fun movie of the Depression since the classic films of Preston Sturgess, and . . . maybe in some people's opinions (mine for instance) better than any of Sturgess's films, which rank among the all-time greats of American moviemaking.
Just how (this is beginning to sound like a cliché, but it is true) "uplifting, rousing and fun" is Cradle Will Rock? Some people were actually jumping up and down and carrying on the way that this reviewer has not seen an audience respond since That Thing You Do. Unfortunately, The Cradle Will Rock doesn't have a fun, catchy, upbeat title tune, or I'm sure people would have been whistling and singing it on the way out of the theater.
The story of Cradle Will Rock is so complex that it defies a brief summary. Suffice it to say that it is about a struggling writer (Hank Azaria) trying to get a musical (called "The Cradle Will Rock") put on during the height of the Depression, when the U.S. Works Projects Administration was paying for regional plays just to keep theatre workers and vaudevillians working (as opposed to, say, having recognizable stars standing in line at soup kitchens or standing at barricades shouting revolutionary slogans, as they were doing in Spain in the war against the Fascists); it is also about a struggling would-be singer (Emily Watson) who can find no work anywhere, a ventriloquist (Bill Murray) forced to work as a tutor to a pair of incompetent would-be vaudevillians; Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (Rubén Blades in an outstanding performance), Italian cultural representative Margherita Sarfatti (Susan Sarandon) on a secret mission from Mussolini, an anti-Fascist Italian immigrant who just wants to work and stay out of trouble (John Turturro, an actor whose work I usually dislike, but who turns in a first-rate performance here); there's also Nelson Rockefeller (John Cusack), William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies (John Carpenter and Gretchen Mol -- and, yes, that's the John Carpenter, the famous horror film director!), Orson Welles (Angus MacFadyen), producer-director John Houseman (Cary Elwes), an embattled W.P.A. project director (Cherry Jones) trying to spread theatre to the people and keep up government funding so that the performers and theatre workers will be able to keep their jobs, a disgruntled employee(Joan Cusack as Hazel Huffman), a Congressional committee trying to root out "Reds" from the government payroll, and (in various roles and no particular order) Vanessa Redgrave, Bob Balaban, Erin Hill, Barnard Hughes, Harris Yulin, and . . . a lot of other stars.
Suffice it to say that this is a BIG movie with so many stars that this reviewer is guessing that they all must have worked for minimum union pay (or close to it), or the film simply would have been too expensive to produce, with tens of millions of dollars going just to pay the actors and actresses.
Summarizing Cradle Will Rock any further is like saying, "Gone With the Wind was a Civil War movie that cost a lot of money." Rich and poor, Communists and anti-Communists, Facsists and anti-Fascists, artists and ignoramuses all find their lives intertwined around two pieces of art: Diego Rivera's mural for Rockefeller Center, and the W.P.A.'s production of "The Cradle Will Rock," to be directed by then-radio star Orson Welles, famous at the time principally as the voice of "The Shadow." What begins as an amusing topic of dinner conversation ("an all-Negro production of 'the Scottish play'") at a millionaire's dinner table gradually turns into an engrossing, deeply moving, sometimes sad, but often funny film
Robbins portrays his characters with all of the complexity of real human beings. Diego Rivera, for example, is an out-spoken Communist revolutionary, but an anti-Stalinist -- Stalinism would cramp his lifestyle as a wealthy playboy hobnobbing with the likes of Nelson Rockefeller and European aristocrats; Margherita Sarfatti is Jewish, but a special envoy for Mussolini himself, as well as one of Rivera's former lovers. The film doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the private lives of the characters, either: when two actors are accused of being Communists, they indignantly reply, "We're not Reds -- we're Pink!"
It is at this point that I must give credit where credit is due. Having damned, in print and on the Internet, The Walt Disney Company for destroying 54, The Cider House Rules, and other films in recent years, I must ackowledge that this film, so very, very anti-Disney-mentality in tone, is being released by Disney's subsidiaries Buena Vista and Touchstone Pictures. If Michael Eisner and the Disney Powers-That-Be would only take the lessons of Cradle Will Rock to heart, its main filmmaking arms would undoubtedly enjoy the huge success of its Miramax subsidiary. Will an Oscar® or three make the Disney execs take notice that "art for art's sake" can also be enormously prestigious and generate revenues? Who knows?
Will a Motion Picture Academy which only a few brief months ago gave a standing ovation to a great director who was also a cowardly wretch who, in real life, betrayed his friends and co-workers much as do some of the characters in Cradle Will Rock do a volte face and honor a movie which condemns censorship and black-listing? Who knows?
What this Reviewer does know is that Cradle Will Rock is destined to take its place among the great films of our time.
Everyone in the English-speaking world probably knows the plot of Galaxy Quest by now, so I'll keep it simple: "Galaxy Quest" is a cult TeeVee show (long since cancelled), which lives on in fan conventions which the former cast members are obliged to attend simply to make enough money to get by. Except for Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), who played the ship's captain, all of them, to one degree or another, loathe having to make these personal appearances for crazed fans, and petty jealousies and squabbles are constant among them.
At one convention, however, a wildly-dressed delegation of fans (one of many such groups), approach Nesmith and ask him to come with them to what he thinks is going to be a private fan gathering (for which he will collect all of the fees for himself). Instead, it turns out that the fans dressed as aliens, really are aliens, and -- completely unfamiliar with the concepts of lying, deceit . . . or acting -- they believe that the television transmissions which they have been receiving of "Galaxy Quest" are "historical documents" and believe that Nesmith and the others really are their characters, and they want Nesmith to negotiate with a singularly nasty, violent, and hideous alien warlord.
Still oblivious to the true nature of the situation, a badly hung-over Nesmith thinks that his hosts have merely invited him to participate in a particularly elaborate show, so in true "Galaxy Quest" style, during the negotiations he orders his "fans" to open up on the enemy with all weapons. Victorious, the aliens return Nesmith home -- by sending him (without a ship) through a black hole which takes him back to Earth.
Stunned to realize that he really has been into space, Nesmith tries to convince his fellow cast members of the reality adventure, which they regard as an alcoholic hallucination of their former co-star. Soon, however, the aliens return, seeking the services of the whole ship's crew because . . . well . . . agressive, hideous alien warlords tend to respond with extreme violence to being fired upon during peace negotiations, and the friendly aliens need the whole crew of "Galaxy Quest" to save their race from annihalation.
(A lot of snappy quotes, photos, credits for producers, designers, make-up masters, etc., hints on the best theates to go to to see Galaxy Quest, and so on will go here in a few days In the meantime. . . .)
In this Reviewer's opinion, anyone old enough to have ever seen an episode of "Star Trek" and who knows what a "Trekker" is will find that Galaxy Quest is one of the funniest films of the year.
With the rise in theater ticket prices and the growing international audience of our page, our old NW2: Not Worth $2 to W8: Worth $8 rating scale has become less useful than previously, so, in line with the scale used by the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) we have adopted a scale of 1 star to 10 stars, with "1 Star" being a VERY bad movie, and "10 Stars" being a movie classic. Our On-Line Reviewer, however, has gone where IMDb has never gone before: he has added a score of Zero for those movies which are so bad that they are not even good "camp" -- movies so bad that not even "Mystery Science Theater 3000" could could make them worth watching.
On this scale, anything rated "7 Stars" or above is worth the cost of a theater ticket, "8 Stars" is worth standing in line to buy a ticket, "9 Stars" is worth standing in line in a driving rain rainstorm or killer heatwave to buy a ticket, and "10 Stars" is a movie worth driving hundreds of miles to go see -- at least in Dr. Shea's own opinion. Accordingly,
We've mentioned previously that we have an international audience. Now EuroSeek™ has made it official. After only being listed with Euroseek™ since 10 April 1999, we have received more than 50,000 "hits," so that . . .