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LA Weekly from Los Angeles, California • 72

LA Weeklyi
Los Angeles, California
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4 m- 63 Eads have brought anything new to the innocents-corrupfc ed-by-Vegas genre, and in terms of plot, they haven't reah ly; but they have written some terrific parts for wome Grace Zabriskie, whose willingness to do a cameo must be a seal of approval for a young director, gives the film its first real lift, as Melba May's fretful mother. As Dottie Delgatd, former head Victorville cheerleader turned bitter baton-twirling stripper, Veronica Cartwright is simply great, an a tress reborn. Overall works a little magic of her own, mart aging to make the most underwritten character full-bodie and real. Sparkler doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it prove that a literate script and gifted actors can push pat the narrow confines of even the most oft-told tale. (Sunset 5 (Chuck Wilson) 1 rj 4.

imnm mw tfjlatinii Starll sively ugly performance as a nightmarish object of desire. His performance, as does the film as a whole, offers continued evidence that while Americans tend to make movies about the way we wish life were, the French make movies about the way life is, in all its pain, banality and occasional glory. (Royal, Town Center 5, Playhouse 7 Manohla Dargis AMERICAN DREAMS In this two-part documentary, three urban Asian-American teenagers, along with director Spencer Nakasako, use a camcorder to document a year in their lives. Sokly, whose family escaped Cambodia when he was 4, tells us at the film's beginning that he will use the project as a way "to live my life and think about it at the same time." He does just that, as do Laotian honor student Kelly and her ex-con Laotian boyfriend Tony. Strictly low-fi DIY, the film is visually and narratively raw, but the teens present their lives to us with unstinting honesty and a combination of thoughtfulness and incomprehension that's bluntly devastating.

Kelly, not yet an adult but facing her second pregnancy, sits on her bed and admits her despair regret it so much, so much regret Sokly, alone in the back seat of a car, points the camera at the windshield and cries over his disintegrating family. Each instance is a moment of per-. sonal truth that speaks to larger human realities about the need for love and self-worth. While such truths are often overlooked, even in documentaries, as filmmakers strive for grander ideas, these teenagers remind us that, ultimately, there's not much more important in life than how you view yourself. (Grande 4-Plex; April 2-81 (Hazel-Dawn Dumpert) COOKIE'S FORTUNE Even the most misbegotten of Robert Altman's films and, Lord knows, this is one of them have an easy, lived-in grace that makes you feel you've dropped in on some lives you'd care to know more about.

Not even Altman's loose-limbed shooting style, however, can redeem Cookie's Fortune, a bafflingly pointless farce that belongs more properly in the vaudeville halls than on the director's sporadically lustrous resumd. Still, it's fun to see Patricia Neal enjoy herself overdoing Cookie Orcutt, a pipe-smoking Mississippi matriarch who expires in the first act, triggering a tedious murder investigation that centers on her black housemate, Willis (a fine, relaxed Charles S. Dutton), a connoisseur of Wild Turkey and catfish enchiladas. Across town an amateur production of Wilde's Salome is in full clownish rehearsal, for no discernible reason other than to introduce Cookies virago of a niece (a truly terrible Glenn Close) and her put-upon dimwit sister (Julianne Moore, uncharacteristically embarrassing herself). Thickening the labored plot in a vague sort of way are a charming though underused Liv Tyler as Cookie's great-niece Emma, and Chris O'Donnell, ever his handsome, shambling self, as the sheriff's deputy whos in love with Emma.

Absent a guiding idea, the movie noodles aimlessly along, encumbered by too many simpletons, too many jokes and absolutely nothing to propose. (Selected theaters) (Ella Taylor) SPARKLER Melba May (Park Overall), a Victorville housewife who's just found her husband rockin' the trailer with her best friend, latches on to tfiree LA studs passing through on the dusty road to Las Vegas. The guys need to get to Vegas to gamble up rent money, and Melba May, desperate to be anywhere but Victorville, keeps finding ways to tag along. At first it doesn't seem as though writer-director Darren Stein Jawbreakei and co-writer Catherine THE HMIBH THE BBflf.iUFE OF ARGOS One of the minor sensations of last year's Cannes Film Festival, this gracefully modulated story about two 20-year-old friends has a heartbreaking quality rarely felt in contemporary film tenderness. Isa (Elodie Bouchez) and Marie (Natacha Regnier), both poor, and beautiful in the way of real women, meet while doing piecework in a factory, become friends and together face their lives head-on, one with a reckless, stubborn passion, the other with soul-crushing desperation.

What happens to the women, and how they endure their anonymous work, their men, their hurts, their loneliness as well as their love for each other, is what makes The Dreamlife of Angels true. What makes it art is the way first-time director Erick Zonca, who wrote the script with Roger Bohbot, lets us discover the women as they discover themselves, with intimacy rather than the voyeur's reserve. Both leads are wonderful, though Bouchez has garnered more attention, and Gregoire Colin turns in a hot, persua 03 ci kti 0 I i I 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU These are great days for that most despised of genres, tl high' school sex-comedy. First came Amy Heckerlins Clueless, which revamped Jane Austen's Emma to the nil degree of detail and nuance. More recently there was Cm! Intentions, which was like a Mexican soap-opera version If Laclos' Liaisons Dangereuses dubbed into study-hall ai -head English.

Now here's The Taming of the Shrew, custor -detailed to unfold in a Seattle high school against a bac -drop of house-trashing parties, wood-shop Lotharios, creej rich boys and beer-can pyramids and it goes straight the top of the class. 0 can there be such a thing as too kee i a guilty pleasure, particularly when the whole genre knowingly pitched to audiences as a trashophile's deligh No, there cannot 10 Things I Hate About You gives us sisters, Bianca, unhappy, cute, and Cat, unhappy, sma whose dad won't let them date. The machinations set up net Bianca manage to sandblast the frosty exterior froi Cat as well. Filled with toothsome dialogue exchange, some bracingly vulgar so great about this chick? Beer-flavored others surprisingly tender, 10 Things should launder from your brain any lingering memory of the superficially similar Can't Hardly Wait, which, lacking Shakespeare, was forsooth the veriest excrement. (John Patterson) Also released this week: The Out of Towners Keanu Reeves, whittled down to Little Buddha ethereality, plays a computer cowboy who dodges black helicopters, masters airborne kung fu and rains down bullets under the tutelage of Laurence Fishburne, an Obiwan Kenobi by way of John Shaft Never mind the plot part William Gibson, part James Cameron but don't read anything that discloses even a hint of the film's baroque framework, either.

Suffice it to say that the story involves good guys and bad, loads of tech-talk, and enough churning paranoia to finally do Gibson and his cyberpunk brethren proud. In his fiction, Gibson dubbed the matrix a 'consensual and at its best, that's exactly what this film feels like a shared trip, a blast into the darkly speculative future. It's the most convincing SF vision since Blade Runner. The impresarios of this wigged-out diversion are Andy and Larry Wachowski, who share the directing and writing credits; they first made their mark with Bound pushing surplus style over negligible substance. There's more form than content in The Matrix, too It's FX heavy, existentialism lite but Bill Pope's swooping, noir-inflected cinematography Is wonderfully complemented by Owen Paterson's inventive production design, a great soundtrack and the best fight choreography (courtesy of the legendary Yuen Wo Ping) this side of Hong Kong.

And even if this isn't Blade Runner, it is very cool shit (Citywide) M.O. mm i tl mwraf EM perficially framed as a murder mystery, Schrader cunningly structures the action to hold up a series of mirrors to its true theme family history and the murder in Wades heart. Sh it in a wintry blue light by Paul Sarossy with the same moumfi I lyricism he brought to The Sweet Hereaftei Affliction is a work of realist art rich in quo tidian detail, a Grimm fairy tale about a community under siege, and a lament for a goofl man gone bad for nothing (Selected theaters) FI) Reviews by Greg Burk, Nicole Campos, Manohla Dargis, Hazel-Dawn Dumpert, F.X. Feeney, Ernest Hardy, Paul Malcolm, Steven Mikulan, John Patterson, Dave Shulman, Ron Stringer, Ella Taylor and Chuck Wilson. AFFLICTION Nick Nolte, who has done suffering every which way, magnificently invents it anew as a man going nowhere loudly in Paul Schraders deceptively quiet adaptation of Russell Banks' novel Affliction Nolte plays Wade Whitehouse, a blustery New Hampshire cop so afflicted by his mean drunk of a father (a wonderfully on-the-boil James Coburn) that he fritters away his life throwing punches at himself and those he loves, including his truculent little girl (Bngid Tierney) and his supportive waitress girlfriend (Sissy Spacek).

Though the movie is su We also recommend: Affliction, American Dreams, The Celebration, Central Station, Children of Heaven, Dancemaker, Dry Cleaning, EDtv, Elizabeth, The Farm: Angola U.SA., Flesh Suitcase, Gods and Monsters, The Harmonists, Hilary and Jackie, Meeting People Is Easy, The Mirror, The Monster, October Sky, Relax It's Just Sax, The Rugrats Movie, Rushmore, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, A Simple Plan, Sparkler, Tango, The Thin Red Line, True Crime. AMONG GIANTS More cheery British proletarians from the pen of Simon Beaufoy The Full Monty Novice director Sam Miller squanders at least two giant talents (Pete Postlethwaite and Rachel Griffiths) on this bald-faced attempt to clone the The Full Montys box office. Presided over by Ray (Postlethwaite), a lonely, middle-aged foreman, the laborers who paint high-wire electrical towers in thq wilds of the Yorkshire mountains actually 1 I 72 LA WEEKLY APRIL 2 8. 1999 afftee. a..

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