Playing Catch-Up: Crisscross, The Dust Factory, Gambit, In The Arms of a Killer, Overboard, Shy People


So, this year I am making a sincere effort to review every film that I see.  I know I say that every year but this time, I really mean it.

So, in an effort to catch up, here are four quick reviews of some of the movies that I watched over the past few weeks!

  • Crisscross
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by Chris Menges
  • Starring David Arnott, Goldie Hawn, Arliss Howard, Keith Carradine, James Gammon, Steve Buscemi

An annoying kid named Chris Cross (David Arnott) tells us the story of his life.

In the year 1969, Chris and his mother, Tracy (Goldie Hawn), are living in Key West.  While the rest of the country is excitedly watching the first moon landing, Chris and Tracy are just trying to figure out how to survive day-to-day.  Tracy tries to keep her son from learning that she’s working as a stripper but, not surprisingly, he eventually finds out.  Chris comes across some drugs that are being smuggled into Florida and, wanting to help his mother, he decides to steal them and sell them himself.  Complicating matters is the fact that the members of the drug ring (one of whom is played by Steve Buscemi) don’t want the competition.  As well, Tracy is now dating Joe (Arliss Howard), who just happens to be an undercover cop.  And, finally, making things even more difficult is the fact that Chris just isn’t that smart.

There are actually a lot of good things to be said about Crisscross.  The film was directed by the renowned cinematographer, Chris Menges, so it looks great.  Both Arliss Howard and Goldie Hawn give sympathetic performances and Keith Carradine has a great cameo as Chris’s spaced out dad.  (Traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam, Chris’s Dad left his family and joined a commune.)  But, as a character, Chris is almost too stupid to be believed and his overwrought narration doesn’t do the story any good.  Directed and written with perhaps a less heavy hand, Crisscross could have been a really good movie but, as it is, it’s merely an interesting misfire.

  • The Dust Factory 
  • Released: 2004
  • Directed by Eric Small
  • Starring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Kelly, Kim Myers, George de la Pena, Michael Angarano, Peter Horton

Ryan (Ryan Kelly) is a teen who stopped speaking after his father died.  One day, Ryan falls off a bridge and promptly drowns.  However, he’s not quite dead yet!  Instead, he’s in The Dust Factory, which is apparently where you go when you’re on the verge of death.  It’s a very nice place to hang out while deciding whether you want to leap into the world of the dead or return to the land of the living.  Giving Ryan a tour of the Dust Factory is his grandfather (Armin Mueller-Stahl).  Suggesting that maybe Ryan should just stay in the Dust Factory forever is a girl named Melanie (Hayden Panettiere).  Showing up randomly and acting like a jerk is a character known as The Ringmaster (George De La Pena).  Will Ryan choose death or will he return with a new zest for living life?  And, even more importantly, will the fact that Ryan’s an unlikely hockey fan somehow play into the film’s climax?

The Dust Factory is the type of unabashedly sentimental and theologically confused film that just drives me crazy.  This is one of those films that so indulges every possible cliché that I was shocked to discover that it wasn’t based on some obscure YA tome.  I’m sure there’s some people who cry while watching this film but ultimately, it’s about as deep as Facebook meme.

  • Gambit
  • Released: 2012
  • Directed by Michael Hoffman
  • Starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci, Cloris Leachman, Togo Igawa

Harry Deane (Colin Firth) is beleaguered art collector who, for the sake of petty revenge (which, as we all know, is the best type of revenge), tries to trick the snobbish Lord Shabandar (Alan Rickman) into spending a lot of money on a fake Monet.  To do this, he will have to team up with both an eccentric art forger (Tom Courtenay) and a Texas rodeo star named PJ Puznowksi (Cameron Diaz).  The plan is to claim that PJ inherited the fake Monet from her grandfather who received the painting from Hermann Goering at the end of the World War II and…

Well, listen, let’s stop talking about the plot.  This is one of those elaborate heist films where everyone has a silly name and an elaborate back story.  It’s also one of those films where everything is overly complicated but not particularly clever.  The script was written by the Coen Brothers and, if they had directed it, they would have at least brought some visual flair to the proceedings.  Instead, the film was directed by Michael Hoffman and, for the most part, it falls flat.  The film is watchable because of the cast but ultimately, it’s not surprising that Gambit never received a theatrical release in the States.

On a personal note, I saw Gambit while Jeff & I were in London last month.  So, I’ll always have good memories of watching the movie.  So I guess the best way to watch Gambit is when you’re on vacation.

  • In The Arms of a Killer
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by Robert L. Collins
  • Starring Jaclyn Smith, John Spencer, Nina Foch, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Sandahl Bergman, Linda Dona, Kristoffer Tabori, Michael Nouri

This is the story of two homicide detectives.  Detective Vincent Cusack (John Spencer) is tough and cynical and world-weary.  Detective Maria Quinn (Jaclyn Smith) is dedicated and still naive about how messy a murder investigation can be when it involves a bunch of Manhattan socialites.  A reputed drug dealer is found dead during a party.  Apparently, someone intentionally gave him an overdose of heroin.  Detective Cusack thinks that the culprit was Dr. Brian Venible (Michael Nouri).  Detective Quinn thinks that there has to be some other solution.  Complicating things is that Quinn and Venible are … you guessed it … lovers!  Is Quinn truly allowing herself to be held in the arms of a killer or is the murderer someone else?

This sound like it should have been a fun movie but instead, it’s all a bit dull.  Nouri and Smith have next to no chemistry so you never really care whether the doctor is the killer or not.  John Spencer was one of those actors who was pretty much born to play world-weary detectives but, other than his performance, this is pretty forgettable movie.

  • Overboard
  • Released: 1987
  • Directed by Garry Marshall
  • Starring Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Herrmann, Katherine Helmond, Roddy McDowall, Michael G. Hagerty, Brian Price, Jared Rushton, Hector Elizondo

When a spoiled heiress named Joanne Slayton (Goldie Hawn) falls off of her luxury yacht, no one seems to care.  Even when her husband, Grant (Edward Herrmann), discovers that Joanne was rescued by a garbage boat and that she now has amnesia, he denies knowing who she is.  Instead, he takes off with the boat and proceeds to have a good time.  The servants (led by Roddy McDowall) who Joanne spent years terrorizing are happy to be away from her.  In fact, the only person who does care about Joanne is Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell).  When Dean sees a news report about a woman suffering from amnesia, he heads over to the hospital and declares that Joanne is his wife, Annie.

Convinced that she is Annie, Joanne returns with Dean to his messy house and his four, unruly sons.  At first, Dean says that his plan is merely to have Joanne work off some money that she owes him.  (Before getting amnesia, Joanne refused to pay Dean for some work he did on her boat.)  But soon, Joanne bonds with Dean’s children and she and Dean start to fall in love.  However, as both Grant and Dean are about to learn, neither parties nor deception can go on forever…

This is one of those films that’s pretty much saved by movie star charisma.  The plot itself is extremely problematic and just about everything that Kurt Russell does in this movie would land him in prison in real life.  However, Russell and Goldie Hawn are such a likable couple that the film come close to overcoming its rather creepy premise.  Both Russell and Hawn radiate so much charm in this movie that they can make even the stalest of jokes tolerable and it’s always enjoyable to watch Roddy McDowall get snarky.  File this one under “Kurt Russell Can Get Away With Almost Anything.”

A remake of Overboard, with the genders swapped, is set to be released in early May.

  • Shy People
  • Released: 1987
  • Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky
  • Starring Jill Clayburgh, Barbara Hershey, Martha Plimpton, Merritt Butrick, John Philbin, Don Swayze, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Mare Winningham

Diana Sullivan (Jill Clayburgh) is a writer for Cosmopolitan and she’s got a problem!  It turns out that her teenager daughter, Grace (Martha Plimpton), is skipping school and snorting cocaine!  OH MY GOD!  (And, to think, I thought I was a rebel just because I used to skip Algebra so I could go down to Target and shoplift eyeliner!)  Diana knows that she has to do something but what!?

Diana’s solution is to get Grace out of New York.  It turns out that Diana has got some distant relatives living in Louisiana bayou.  After Cosmo commissions her to write a story about them, Diana grabs Grace and the head down south!

(Because if there’s anything that the readers of Cosmo are going to be interested in, it’s white trash bayou dwellers…)

The only problem is that Ruth (Barbara Hershey) doesn’t want to be interviewed and she’s not particularly happy when Diana and Grace show up.  Ruth and her four sons live in the bayous.  Three of the sons do whatever Ruth tells them to do.  The fourth son is often disobedient so he’s been locked up in a barn.  Diana, of course, cannot understand why her relatives aren’t impressed whenever she mentions that she writes for Cosmo.  Meanwhile, Grace introduces her cousins to cocaine, which causes them to go crazy.  “She’s got some strange white powder!” one of them declares.

So, this is a weird film.  On the one hand, you have an immensely talented actress like Jill Clayburgh giving one of the worst performances in cinematic history.  (In Clayburgh’s defense, Diana is such a poorly written character that I doubt any actress could have made her in any way believable.)  On the other hand, you have Barbara Hershey giving one of the best.  As played by Hershey, Ruth is a character who viewers will both fear and admire.  Ruth has both the inner strength to survive in the bayou and the type of unsentimental personality that lets you know that you don’t want to cross her.  I think we’re supposed to feel that both Diana and Ruth have much to learn from each other but Diana is such an annoying character that you spend most of the movie wishing she would just go away and leave Ruth alone.  In the thankless role of Grace, Martha Plimpton brings more depth to the role than was probably present in the script and Don Swayze has a few memorable moments as one of Ruth’s sons.  Shy People is full of flaws and never really works as a drama but I’d still recommend watching it for Hershey and Plimpton.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Terminal Man (dir by Mike Hodges)


Check out the poster for 1974’s The Terminal Man.

Look at it carefully.  Examine it.  Try to ignore the fact that it’s weird that George Segal was once a film star.  Yes, on the poster, Segal has been drawn to have a somewhat strange look on his face.  Ignore that.  Instead, concentrate on the words in the top left corner of the poster.

“ADULT ENTERTAINMENT!” it reads.

That’s actually quite an accurate description.  The Terminal Man is definitely a film for adults.  No, it’s not pornographic or anything like that.  Instead, it’s a movie about “grown up” concerns.  It’s a mature film.  In some ways, that’s a good thing.  In some ways, that’s a bad thing.

Taking place in the near future (and based on a novel by Michael Crichton), The Terminal Man tells the story of Harry Benson (played, of course, by George Segal).  Harry is an extremely intelligent computer programmer and he’s losing his mind.  It might be because he was in a serious car accident.  It may have even started before that.  Harry has black outs and when he wakes up, he discovers that he’s done violent things.  Even when he’s not blacked out, Harry worries that computers are going to rise up against humans and take over the world.

However, a group of scientists think that they have a way to “fix” Harry.  It’ll require a lot of brain surgery, of course.  (And, this being a film from 1973, the film goes into excruciating details as it explains what’s going to be done to Harry.)  The plan is to implant an electrode in Harry’s brain.  Whenever Harry starts to have a seizure, the electrode will shock him out of it.  The theory is that, much like Alex in A Clockwork Orange 0r Gerard Malanga in Vinyl, Harry will be rendered incapable of violence.

Of course, some people are more enthusiastic about this plan than others.  Harry’s psychiatrist (Joan Hackett) fears that implanting an electrode in Harry’s brain will just make him even more paranoid about the rise of the computers.  Other scientists worry about the ethics of using technology to modify someone’s behavior.  Whatever happens, will it be worth the price of Harry’s free will?

But, regardless of the risks, Harry goes through with the operation.

Does it work?  Well, if it worked, it would be a pretty boring movie so, of course, it doesn’t work.  (Allowing Harry’s operation to work would have been like allowing King Kong to enjoy his trip to New York.)  Harry’s brain becomes addicted to the electrical shocks and, as he starts to have more and more seizures, Harry becomes even more dangerous than he was before…

The Terminal Man is a thought-provoking but rather somber film.  On the one hand, it’s a rather slow movie.  The movie does eventually get exciting after Harry comes out of surgery but it literally takes forever to get there.  The movie seems to be really determined to convince the audience that the story it’s telling is scientifically plausible.  On the other hand, The Terminal Man does deal with very real and very important issues.  Considering how threatened society is by people who cannot be controlled, issues of behavior modification and free thought will always be relevant.

Though the film may be slow, I actually really liked The Terminal Man.  Judging from some of the other reviews that I’ve read, I may be alone in that.  It appears to be a seriously underrated film.  As directed by Mike Hodges, the film is visually stunning, emphasizing the sterility of the white-walled hospital, the gray blandness of the doctors, and the colorful vibrancy of life outside of science.  Though he initially seems miscast, George Segal gives a good and menacing performance as Harry.

The Terminal Man requires some patience but it’s worth it.

Film Review: The Thief Who Came To Dinner (1973, directed by Bud Yorkin)


0033bee5_mediumIn The Thief Who Came To Dinner, Ryan O’Neal plays Webster McGee, a Houston-based computer programmer.  After deciding that living in a capitalist society means that everyone steals from everyone else, Webster quits his boring job and decides to become a real thief.  Figuring that they can afford to lose a little wealth, Webster only targets the rich and powerful.  After he steals some incriminating documents from a crooked businessman (Charles Cioffi), Webster uses those documents to blackmail his way into high society.  Soon, Webster owns a mansion of his own and is living with a gorgeous heiress (Jacqueline Bisset, who played a lot of gorgeous heiresses back in the day).  Webster also has an insurance investigator after him.  Dave Reilly (Warren Oates) knows that Webster is a thief but he also can not prove it.  As Dave obsessively stalks him, Webster plots one final heist.

Until I saw it on TCM on Monday, I had never heard of The Thief Who Came To Dinner.  Directed in a breezy style by Bud Yorkin, The Thief Who Came To Dinner was an early script from Walter Hill.  Though the film is much more comedic than his best known work, it’s still easily recognizable as coming from Hill’s imagination.  The obsessive Dave and the coolly professional Webster are both prototypical Hill characters and their adversarial yet friendly rivalry would be duplicated in several subsequent Hill films.

The Thief Who Came To Dinner is an engaging movie that doesn’t add up to much.  The normally stiff Ryan O’Neal gives one of his better performances, though he struggles to hold his own whenever he has to act opposite the far more energetic Warren Oates.  Ned Beatty, Gregory Sierra, John Hillerman, Michael Murphy, and Austin Pendleton all appear in minor roles, making the film’s cast a veritable who’s who of 70s character actors.  And, of course, the film features Jacqueline Bisset at her loveliest.

The Thief Who Came To Dinner may not be well-known but it is an enjoyable and satisfying piece of 70s entertainment.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #58: An Unmarried Woman (dir by Paul Mazursky)


Unmarried_womanI have mixed feelings about the 1978 best picture nominee An Unmarried Woman and I really wish I didn’t because this is one of those films that I really want to love.

Erica (Jill Clayburgh, who did not win the Oscar that she deserved for this film) appears to have the perfect life.  She works at an art gallery in New York.  She has smart, sophisticated friends.  She has an accomplished teenager daughter (Lisa Lucas).  She has a beautiful apartment.  Early on in the film, she wakes up and literally dances from her bedroom to the living room and back again.

And, of course, she has a husband.  His name is Martin and he’s a successful stock broker.  Of course, there are hints that everything might not be perfect.  She and Martin are a cute couple but they’re not exactly passionate.  One need only watch Erica carefully wash dogshit off of Martin’s expensive running shoes to tell who is getting the most out of the marriage.  Add to that, Martin is played by Michael Murphy and, as anyone familiar with 70s cinema knows, Murphy specialized in playing well-dressed, outwardly friendly heels.  And, of course, the film is called An Unmarried Woman and the title can’t be true as long as Erica’s married.

So, you’re not exactly surprised when Martin suddenly breaks down in tears and tells Erica that he’s fallen in love with a younger woman and that he’s leaving her.

The rest of the film deals with Erica’s attempts to adjust to suddenly being an unmarried woman and a single mom.  We follow as she struggles to get back her confidence.  The scenes of Erica dealing with her suddenly rebellious daughter really struck home to me, largely because I’m a rebellious daughter of divorce myself.  There’s a few great scenes of Erica turning to her girlfriends for support.  (Importantly, one of Erica’s friends is happily married, as if the film wants to make sure that we understand that not all marriages are as bad as Erica and Martin’s.)  We watch as Erica starts dating again, having a memorable one-night stand with the obnoxious but oddly likable Charlie (Cliff Gorman).  Finally, she ends up dating a rugged, bearded artist (Alan Bates) and she has to decide whether she wants to remain independent or not.

And it’s all amazingly well-acted and fun to watch but I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed the first time that I saw An Unmarried Woman.  For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to like it as much as I wanted.  The more I thought about it, the more clear my issue with it became.

As a character, Eric was simply too wealthy.

As I watched Erica struggle with being an unmarried woman, it was hard for me not to compare her struggles with the struggles that my own mom had to deal with after her divorce.  The film, and specifically Clayburgh’s lead performance, got so much right.  But there’s a difference — a huge difference — between an unmarried woman who has an apartment in Manhattan and a dream job at an art gallery and a woman like my mom who worked multiple jobs, spent hours worrying about how to pay the bills, and who had to do all of this while dealing with four stubborn daughters.  And so, whenever I saw Erica talking to her therapist about how upset she was over suddenly being single, there was a part of me that wanted to say, “Try doing it while living in South Dallas and having to deal with a brat like me.”

The second time that I watched An Unmarried Woman, I was able to better appreciate the film.  Now that I knew that Erica’s experiences were not going to be universal, I could focus on Jill Clayburgh’s great performance in the lead role.  I could marvel at how marvelously wimpy Michael Murphy was in the role of Martin.  I could laugh at Cliff Gorman’s comedic performance.  As for Alan Bates as that bearded artist — well, sorry, that still didn’t work for me.  Eventually, I could accept Erica’s perfect apartment and her perfect job but suddenly introducing a perfect boyfriend who also happened to be a passionate and financially successful painter; it all felt like a bit too much.

But, in the end, An Unmarried Woman is a good film and a valuable historical document of its time.  If for no other reason, see it for Jill Clayburgh’s lead performance.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #50: Hustling (dir by Joseph Sargent)


hustling21I have to admit that I had ulterior motives for reviewing the film Hustle as a part of Embracing the Melodrama.  I was already planning on reviewing another 1975 film about prostitutes, one that I had recently watched on Netflix.  That name of that film was Hustling and, for whatever reason, it amused me to imagine being alive in 1975 and going to see Hustle at a movie theater and then coming home, turning on TV, and finding myself watching a film called Hustling.

So really, if I was going to review one of those films, I had to review the other, right?  It made perfect sense at the time!

Anyway, as for Hustling, it’s a film about prostitutes in New York and the wealthy magazine writer who decides to interview them for an article.  Watching the film, what I immediately noticed was that, even though the film had a properly gritty feel to it, none of the characters ever cursed and, for a film about sex workers, there was no nudity.  Though the characters continually talked about getting beaten up by their pimps, all of the violence occurred off-screen.  Even more importantly, whenever something dramatic happened, the scene would fade to black.  It was almost as if the movie was pausing for an unseen commercial.

Which, of course, it was.  Hustling was made for television and, as I watched it, it was easy for me to imagine that I was actually watching the latest Lifetime original film.  It certainly followed a pattern that should be familiar to anyone who has ever watched a movie on Lifetime.  Wanda (Jill Clayburgh, giving an excellent performance) is a veteran prostitute who, after being arrested for the hundredth time, is told that the charges against her will be dropped if she allows herself to be interviewed by magazine writer, Fran Morrison (Lee Remick).  At first Wanda refuses but, after her pimp refuses to pay her fine and suggests that she should just accept spending a few months in jail, Wanda reconsiders and accepts Fran’s offer.

The rest of the film charts Fran and Wanda’s unlikely friendship.  Wanda tells Fran what it’s like to be prostitute.  Fran encourages Wanda and the other prostitutes to stand up for their legal rights.  Wanda deals with a society that looks down on her.  Fran deals with a boyfriend (Monte Markham) who can’t understand why she’s so concerned about a bunch of prostitutes.  Wanda considers going back to her pimp.  Fran considers exposing all of the “respectable” men who use prostitutes.

So, Hustling is pretty predictable and, not surprisingly, rather dated but it’s also a fairly effective portrait of life on the margins of society.  Lee Remick is stuck playing a one-note character but Jill Clayburgh is great in the role of Wanda. If nothing else, Hustling was filmed on location in some of the sleaziest parts of 1970s New York City and therefore, the film serves as a bit of a historical document.

For those wishing to check it out, the film’s currently available on Netflix.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: Bridesmaids (dir. by Paul Feig)


Last night, I watched, via Uverse OnDemand,  one of my favorite movies of 2011 — Bridesmaids.

Why Was I Watching It?

Why!?  Because it’s just like one of my favorite movies of all time!  Seriously, I love Bridesmaids.

What’s It About?

To put it simply, this is a movie about a bunch of bridesmaids but really, it’s so much more.  Annie (Kristen Wiig) is struggling to get over the loss of her bakery and trying to find some sort of happiness in a purely sexual relationship with married Ted (Jon Hamm, at his sleaziest) when her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces that she’s getting married.  She asks Annie to be her maid-of-honor but Annie quickly finds herself locked in competition with Lillian’s other friend, the rich and snobby Helen (Rose Byrne) as well as in a tentative romance with Nathan (Chris O’Dowd, who is so cute and adorable here), who is a traffic cop but he’s also Irish so he can be forgiven.

What Worked?

Okay, so when Bridesmaids came out this summer it was advertised as being a “gross out comedy” for girls but it’s so much more.  I mean, I’m not a huge fan of gross out comedy, like not at all.  But I love this movie.  The film is full of great (but honest) dialogue and features some of the best ensembles of the year.  Along with Byrne and Wiig, the bridesmaids include Wendy McClendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, and Melissa McCarthy and they all get a chance to shine.  Especially McCarthy, who plays the sister of the groom and who gets to deliver all of the crude, laugh-out-loud lines along with getting a great, semi-dramatic scene towards the end.

This is a very funny movie but, ultimately, it’s funny because its true.  As Annie, Kristen Wiig is very funny and likable but ultimately, she’s a single woman struggling to maintain both her independence and her own sense of self-worth in a world that seems to exist just to judge, a struggle that leads her to live a little too vicariously through her best friend and try to justify being the lesser half in a degrading relationship.  And you know what?  We’ve all been there.  I know I have.  And, when you find yourself in that type of prison, sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from going crazy.

There are so many laugh-out-loud moments in this film that I don’t even know where to begin in picking out my favorites.  However, a few obvious highlights: the ill-fated trip to try on bridesmaid dresses and the equally ill-fated flight to Vegas.  I also have to give major kudos to the film’s opening, which is one of the few sex scenes ever to be found in a comedy that’s actually filmed from the woman’s point of view.

Finally, the film features Jill Clayburgh’s final film performance and she is hilarious.  Thank you, Bridemaids, for coming out after Love and Other Drugs.

What Doesn’t Work?

Any time you have a comedy like this, there will occasionally be a one-liner that falls flat or a joke that doesn’t quite work and Bridesmaids has one or two of these.  But the entire film is so likable that the jokes that don’t work are quickly forgotten.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments:

Oh my God, so many!  And it would probably be TMI for me to go into every single one of them but I will say that I’ve been a bridesmaid like five times and I was my sister Megan’s maid of honor though that was mostly because I cried until she agreed to give me the job.  And I actually really enjoyed it every time, mostly because it meant I got to be up at the front of the church instead of stuck sitting all anonymous-like in the back and I could stand up there and be all like, “See, I even make this dress look good.”

The second time I was a bridesmaid, I kinda got everyone mad at me because I made this gagging motion when they were lighting the unity candle but seriously, I just think unity candles are all silly and Vermont-like.  Plus, the marriage eventually ended in divorce like a year later so let’s hear it for me for being honest.

Lessons Learned:

Laughter is the best medicine.  Always.

6 of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Cinematic Dances


As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always loved to dance.  Before I embraced the movies, my life was about dancing.  I was going to be Prima Ballerina and my mom paid for several years of ballet class to help me reach that goal.  I obsessed on it the way that I obsess, today, on Lucio Fulci and Jean Rollin.  However, my brilliant career was cut short by two things — 1) I’m about as graceful as a Clydesdale and 2) I ended up tumbling down a flight of stairs when I was 17 and essentially shattering my ankle.  Actually, I guess those two things might be connected.  Anyway, I can’t complain because giving up my affected love of ballet allowed me to discover my very true love of film.  I was never really a great dancer (though I was, and am, very enthusiastic) but I’m very good at watching movies.

However, I still love to dance and I still love movies — even mainstream movies — that feature dancing.  That’s why I’m so looking forward to seeing Black Swan next month.  Until then, here’s 6 of my favorite dance scenes from the movies.

1) Giovanni Lombardo Radice and Lorraine De Selle in The House On The Edge of the Park

Let’s start off with one of my favorite “dance” scenes of all time, my man Giovanni Lombardo Radice and Lorraine De Selle breaking it down in Ruggero Deodato’s The House On The Edge of the Park.  The man in yellow is David Hess.

2) Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer

If anyone’s ever wondered why I was crushing on Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception (as opposed to Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, or Leonardo DiCaprio), it was largely because of this scene from (500) Days Of Summer.

3) The Cast of Murder Rock

Murder Rock is kinda sorta like my own personal Holy Grail — it’s a grindhouse dance movie directed by Lucio Fulci!  Plus, it costars Christian Borremeo, who co-starred in The House on the Edge Of The Park and Dario Argento’s Tenebrae.

4) The Metropolis Dance Sequence

From Fritz Lang’s silent, expressionistic classic, here’s the infamous dance.

5) Kate Hudson in Nine

Okay, so I think Nine was definitely the worst the movie of 2009.  Yes, even worse than Avatar.  However, I love this scene and I love the song featured in it, Cinema Italiano.  Yes, technically, it’s a really terrible song that displays an astounding ignorance of Italian cinema.  If anything, the lyrics appear to be describing the French New Wave.  True, the song do make reference to “neo-realism” but you get the feeling no one involved with Nine ever saw Open City or The Bicycle Thief.  But the thing is do damn catchy that I still find myself singing it in the shower.  Like me, Kate Hudson is obviously not much of a singer or a dancer but she’s very enthusiastic.

6) Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman

An Unmarried Woman was apparently very groundbreaking in 1978.  Seen now, it seems like a better title for it would be An Unmarried Woman Who Can Still Afford A Penthouse Apartment In New York City.  Still, the late, great Jill Clayburgh’s performance holds up well and I like the film if just because it’s still one of the few movies out there that’s willing to acknowledge that an unmarried woman can still be a sensual, happy woman.  The scene below captures perfectly the exhilarating joy of just surrendering to the music and dancing.  Plus, for me, this is one of those “Hey, I do that too!” scenes.  In fact, my ankle is still hurting as a result of rewatching this film last Friday.