Dear Committee Members (book review)

Another book review from The Movie Snob.

Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher (2014).  I had a heck of a time getting a copy of this comic novel after reading a good review of it long, long ago.  First I prowled the used bookstores for months and never found it.  Eventually I gave up and ordered it on Amazon.  Doh!  The package never arrived.  More months passed.  I discovered the Amazon locker service and ordered it again.  Finally, I had it!  Amazingly enough, it was worth the wait.  The entire book consists of letters, emails, and the like written by a fellow named Jason Fitger over the course of a year.  He’s an English professor at a second-tier liberal-arts college, and after publishing one very successful novel many years ago he pretty much fizzled out as an author.  He vents his frustration (both professional and personal) in his letters, many of which are letters of recommendation for students.  I laughed out loud more than once at his splenetic utterances.  And I gave it to my sister and then my best friend from college, who are both college professors, and they both liked it.  Highly recommended.

Easy Rider

The Movie Snob takes in another classic(?)

Easy Rider  (D).  I saw this one courtesy of Fathom Events’ classic film series.  I went in knowing virtually nothing about it except that (1) it stars Dennis Hopper (Giant) and Peter Fonda (Ulee’s Gold) and (2) it’s some kind of “hippie movie.”  Boy, is it!  In a quick opening, we see Billy (Hopper) and Captain America (Fonda) make a killing in a cocaine deal in what is apparently Los Angeles.  After that, they saddle up their motorcycles and hit the open road for New Orleans, where they hope to be in time for Mardi Gras.  On their quest, Billy is twitchy and paranoid, while Captain America is laid back and philosophical.  They visit a commune that seems destined for starvation.  They smoke a lot of marijuana.  Most memorably, they are joined for part of their journey by a small-town alcoholic attorney played by Jack Nicholson (The Shining), in what was apparently his break-out role.  The movie gets progressively darker as it goes along, but I won’t spoil the ending despite its being 50 years old this year.  Although it’s a pretty efficient piece of moviemaking–it’s only 95 minutes long–and it got nominated for two Oscars© and several other awards, I couldn’t appreciate it.  I just kept thinking things like Do these guys ever shower?  Or brush their teeth?  What do they smell like after all these days riding motorcycles through and sleeping in the desert?  I was pleased to read critic David Thomson wrap up his review in the book “Have You Seen . . . ?” this way:  “And it is unwatchable–unless you are benefiting from the illegal substances it advocates.”

Funny Girl

Another movie review from The Movie Snob.

Funny Girl  (B).  I was back at the Magnolia Theater this past Tuesday night for The Big Movie — the 1968 musical that was Barbra Streisand’s first movie role.  In fact, I think this is only the second Streisand movie I have ever seen, the first being What’s Up, Doc?, which I saw on network TV a couple of times when I was a kid.  Anyhoo, Funny Girl is a biopic about real life entertainer Fanny Brice, who performed in Ziegfeld’s Follies in the early 20th century.  Streisand turns in a rip-roaring performance as Brice and tied with Katharine Hepburn for the best-actress Oscar™.  Omar Sharif (Dr. Zhivago) co-stars as the suave gambler who sweeps her off her feet.  It was an entertaining movie, but not quite top tier in my book.  It’s two and a half hours long, which is kind of long but not long enough to justify the 15-minute intermission we were forced to sit through!  Anyway, I say it’s worth seeing if you like musicals.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The Movie Snob finally returns to the movies.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  (B).  Well, I’m trying to get back into the swing of regular moviegoing, so I decided to see if the Magnolia Theater is still running its classic-movie series on Tuesday nights.  Lo, it is, and I caught this 1969 Western this past Tuesday.  I had never seen it before and still don’t quite know what to make of it.  It stars Paul Newman (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as the outlaws of the film’s title, and as best I can tell from extensive Wikipedia research the movie is actually fairly true to history.  It’s the late 1890s, and Butch, the Kid, and their Hole in the Wall gang are making a living robbing banks and trains—until they irritate some big plutocrat and he hires a very dangerous posse to bring them to justice.  So, in the interest of self-preservation, they make some unusual career choices after that.  Although IMDB.com categorizes the film as “Biography, Crime, Drama,” it has a strong comedic element, with Newman providing lots of amusing dialogue, Redford being amusingly laconic, and an oddly jaunty soundtrack playing in the background.  (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” won an Oscar.)  And yet, there is quite a bit of shooting and killing, albeit with very little blood visible.  Katharine Ross of The Graduate fame drops in for a while as the Kid’s love interest, but Butch shows more interest in her than the Kid ever does, and really this movie is a bromance between Butch and the Kid from start to finish.

Anyway, the film held my interest, but I still think it’s kind of an odd bird.  It’s #73 on the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of the 100 greatest American movies, so I guess it’s a classic.