“Mississippi Burning” 1988 Dir. Alan Parker

With Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Stephen Tobolowsky, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Kevin Dunn and Michael Rooker

“You know, [baseball] it’s the only time when a black man can wave a stick at a white man and not start a riot”

    “Mississippi Burning” is an agenda movie. Plain and simple. The film is made by Alan Parker, who also directed the liberal guilt ridden film, “The Life of David Gale” which made an extremely strong case against the death penalty. Here, Parker unapologetically shines a light on America’s worst trait – racism.

    Taking place in Mississippi in the 1960’s, the most fertile landscape for birth of America’s decline as a Great Society, Parker fictionalizes the true story of three civil rights activists, two white and one black, who are killed by the KKK. Two FBI men are sent in, Willem Dafoe as the by the book bleeding heart liberal, and the realist played by Gene Hackman.

    The two men turn the small southern town upside-down, trying to find the three “missing” men. They both use different tactics. Dafoe, being the “outsider” calls in a slew of FBI and naval reserves to comb the rural landscape for any clues to the men’s disappearance. All the while Hackman uses a much different and more successful tactic, brute intimidation.

    The band of Klansmen are made up of a plethora of great character actors, stemming from Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Stephen Tobolowsky, Pruitt Taylor Vince to the scariest of all of them, Michael Rooker. Each actor paints a cliché yet realistic portrait of the American bigot.

    Gene Hackman turns in a career highlight of a performance as a former Mississippi sheriff turned G-man who has a complete understanding of the racial issues that plague the American south. His performance is a more heroic turn of Popeye Doyle from “The French Connection”, the performance that earned him his first Oscar, and also set the typecast and tone for the rest of his career.

    “Mississippi Burning” is an agenda film, but that doesn’t take anything away from the powerful and moving story about the American Experience fused with the good cop/bad cop genre movie. Alan Parker is an incredibly talented filmmaker who is able to construct multiple bodies of work, consisting of the “liberal guilt” films, music films (“Pink Floyd’s The Wall”, “The Commitments”, “Evita” ) and the very dark portraits of humanity (“Angel Heart” and “Midnight Express”). “Mississippi Burning” is a film that still holds up true to this day.

“Mississippi Burning” is available to watch on Netflix Instant.

Rating: 8.5/10


My Guilty Pleasures

Those of you who read this blog know me. You know that I have snobbish movies tastes, and I judge people on their movie tastes. Someone once called me pompous when I spoke about my disgust for a TV show they happened to like. I am pompous. I don’t watch “Dewey Cox” or any of those movies, or “Transformers”. I feel that there are so many films that I need to see before I die. So, here are some of my guilty pleasures that I will defend to my death. I just thought it would be fun to divulge this secret to you. Not that all of these movies are bad or trashy, but you may find it a smidge odd.

“The American President”
– 1995. Dir. Rob Reiner. With Michael Douglas, Annette Benning, Michael J. Fox, Richard Dreyfus, David Paymer and Martin Sheen.

Bottom line this film is a sappy and corny love story. I love it! This was written by Aaron Sorkin who championed “The West Wing” television show which I love and think is the best show to have ever been on TV. The film centers around Michael Douglas as President Andy Shepherd; who is a widower who meets a lobbyist played by Annette Benning. He is quickly smitten – but wait – she’s lobbying for bill that he doesn’t agree with. Oh no! Enter Richard Dreyfus (in an uncredited role) as Bob Rumson, an evil GOP baddie who is running against the President for his reelection. Dreyfus’ character is obviously modeled off of Dick Cheney (who he later played to a T in “W”). Martin Sheen plays the President’s Chief of Staff, loyal companion and best friend. This movie is light hearted and corny, but I can’t help but watch it once a month. I am in love with it. Back in high school when my friend Phil and I would spend hours upon hours in his basement playing computer games, we would have the movie on VHS on a constant loop. I would always bitch to him about how there isn’t a Vice President in the film, and how Michael Douglas is “too Jewish” to be President. Oh those were the days…

Review: 9/10

“Cliffhanger” – 1993. Dir. Renny Harlin. With Sylvester Stallone, Michael Rooker and John Lithgow.

When I was in college I would smoke a lot of pot. I would make a night of it. I would then sit on my floor in front of my 300 plus DVD collection and I would look for a film that would blow my mind, something to tell me the meaning of life. I would look at “Apocalypse Now”, or “American Beauty” or “The Last Temptation of Christ” or some other hardcore art house films. I would sit there for over an hour looking for that one perfect movie. I always settled on “Cliffhanger”. I would watch it with director’s commentary on, and just be absolutely amazed at how they filmed a majority of the special effects with miniatures. I would love watching Stallone with his muscle shirt and cargo shorts scaling the side of mountain to try and get a suitcase full of money for the baddie, John Lithgow. This isn’t a great movie, but for those of you who have seen it – it is a solid movie.

Review: 8/10

“Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” – 1985. Dir. Guy Hamilton. With Fred Ward, Kate Mulgrew, Joel Grey and Wilford Brimley.

This is nothing more than a fun 80’s movie. It was supposed to start a franchise starring Fred Ward as the super secret agent Remo Williams. Williams learns all of his Godlike skills from Chiun (Joel Grey) who is a master of martial arts and other gravity defying feats. He teaches Remo how to dodge bullets, to poke a man in his shoulder and have the man drop to the ground, and how to run on wet cement. There is one scene in the film that doesn’t scream “I’m an 80’s movie!”: it’s where Remo is practicing balance techniques on the Statue of Liberty that is under construction. Remo walks across beams and rails, practicing how to focus on concentrate on the task at hand. Remo is then attacked by the construction workers who are working on the statue. What makes this scene great is the fact that it’s shot on location at the Statue of Liberty while it was actually under rehab at the time. This movie is a goodie!

Review: 8/10

“Rocky IV” – 1985. Dir. Sylvester Stallone. With Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers, Talia Shire, Burt Young, and Dolph Lundgren.

Ivan Drago vs Apollo Creed = Creed’s death. Rocky vs Drago = Rocky ends the Cold War. ‘Nough said!

Review: 8/10

“Mr. Baseball” – 1992. Dir. Fred Schepsi. With Tom Selleck, Dennis Haysbert and Ken Takakura.

Tom Selleck plays Jack Elliot, a former Yankee whose career has slipped the past couple of seasons and is about to be replaced by a rookie (who’s played by Frank Thomas) and is about to be traded. When he’s told of this trade, he asks if he has to be traded, he won’t go to Cleveland. The only offer Jack gets is a team from Japan. Selleck delivers corny humor as he adjusts to his new life in Japan. He befriends a fellow American player (Dennis Haysbert) who shows Jack the ropes in Japan. Jack’s celebrity doesn’t hold the weight in Japan that it did in the States. The manager of the team (Ken Takakura) is no nonsense, and doesn’t put up with Selleck’s bullshit. He benches him if he wants to teach him a lesson. The plot thickens when Selleck falls in love with Takakura’s daughter. The tagline of the film just makes me laugh…”He’s the biggest thing to hit Japan since Godzilla!”

Review: 8/10

“The Muse” – 1999. Dir. Albert Brooks. With Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie McDowell, with Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, and Jeff Bridges.

“The Muse” is a pretty damn funny movie about an Oscar nominated writer (and everyone either mispronounces the title or hasn’t seen it) Steven Phillips (Albert Brooks) whose contract gets terminated by the studio he works for. He tries peddling his latest action script, but no one wants it. He tries to get a meeting with Steven Spielberg because he’s “old friends” with him. He thinks Spielberg will make the movie. He schedules a meeting and shows up to find Spielberg’s cousin Stan (played by the brilliant Steven Wright). Stan Spielberg is the ultimate loser who sits in a tiny office all day and plays with a slinky and other little knick knacks. Brooks then goes to his friend Jack’s house who is this successful and bumbling actor played by Jeff Bridges. He seeks advice from Bridges, and Bridges gives him the number of Sarah (Sharon Stone) who is a real life muse. Brooks calls her, puts her up at the Four Seasons hotel and buys her anything she wants so she will inspire him to write a great script. The film is a marvelous showboat of Brooks’ talent for writing and comedy. He is truly one of the funniest men in show business and you just laugh scene after scene. Brooks’ real life friends have cameos as themselves in the film. Once Sarah moves to Brooks’ guest house, he’ll arrive home from the store, or wherever and find James Cameron standing by his pool with Sarah, he’s whispering to her and giving her a beautiful piece of jewelry. Cameron asks her if he should make a sequel to “Titanic” and she tells him to “stay away from the water”. Another time Brooks comes home to Martin Scorsese pacing in his back yard. Scorsese scurries to Brooks and demands to know where Sarah is. Scorsese wants to remake “Raging Bull”, but this time “with a real thin guy…what do you think? Huh? Huh? Huh?” This is a movie much like “The American President” that my friend Phil and I would have on a constant loop on VHS. We had all the lines of dialogue memorized, along with the trailers of “Plunkett & MacClain”, “Rosetta” and the ad for the soundtrack before the feature actually started. This is just a very fun and extremely enjoyable film. Seriously, of all my guilty pleasures, check this one out! I can recite this film verbatim, try me.

Review: 9/10

Now tell me, what are your guilty pleasures?