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The Bottom Shelf #123

08.30.2007

Americana. There's nothing more American than spending time with your friends, going on roadtrips and drinking too much. Or growing and harvesting a fortune's worth of marijuana. Those are the very things that the American lifestyle is (or should be) built on.

FANDANGO (1985)
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Starring: Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson

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One of the first crushes that I ever got on a film character (aside from Han Solo, because I was 3 and it wasn't that kind of a crush) was on Judd Nelson's character of John Bender from THE BREAKFAST CLUB. I made a point to watch the rest of his movie career, no matter the depths he plummeted to, based solely on the fact that I was hypnotized by his flaring nostrils in the film that was released in theaters only a couple of weeks after this one. Let's just say that I'm glad that this movie didn't do as well as John Hughes' film did.

That's not to say that FANDANGO is a bad film. With some brief moments where it slows down a little too much for my personal tastes, something that I attribute to the Texan lifestyle as depicted in the movie, this is a solid story of a group of buddies who decide to head out on one last adventure before having to return to the real world. Nelson is the uptight ROTC student, Costner is the fun loving party boy and Sam Robards (son of Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall and absolutely adorable at that) is the weary buddy running away from getting married to his sweetheart. The year is 1971 (although it rarely sticks to that time frame in its appearance, the most notable sequence being when Suzi Amis has crimped hair for her wedding) and the men are either heading to war voluntarily or through draft selection.

Not much really goes on in this movie, but that's kind of the point that Costner's character attempts to get across. It is the luxury of youth to not be required to be anywhere, to not have a point or purpose to your destination but to simply live life. There is a charm to the film which is hard to describe and has to be watched to fully appreciate. I've read a few reviews of the movie online and found most of them to be overwhelming glowing or underwhelmingly... um... underwhelming. I suppose it all lies in which character you fancy yourself after. For those who are a little too much like Nelson's character here, the movie might seem like a waste of young talent. For someone like me, more like Costner's character than I would like to admit because I normally can't stand the guy, this movie is a great afternoon diversion from adult life.

Favorite Scene:

The bit where the parachute instructor is giving rapid fire instructions on how to jump out of a plane, diagraming it on a chalk board as he goes.

Favorite Line:

"Where's your car?"
"You're drinking it!

Trivia Tidbit:

This was originally a student film by Kevin Reynolds and wasn't turned into a full length feature film until Steven Spielberg saw it and decided to executive produce the longer feature. Once the movie was complete, Spielberg was supposedly so disappointed in the final result that he removed his name from the credits.

See if you liked:

A PERFECT WORLD, FIELD OF DREAMS, BULL DURHAM

HOMEGROWN (1998)
Directed by: Stephen Gyllenhaal
Starring: Billy Bob Thorton, Kelly Lynch

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-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

There are never any realistic movies about the pot growing industry. Most of the movies made in reverence to loco weed are supposed to be funny or frightening. We either learn that people lose their limbs when trying to harvest the drug or that they feel like they've lost them after smoking it. Rarely do we get to infuse these two sides and end up with a movie that is as confusing and occasionally funny as HOMEGROWN is. I'm still trying to figure out what the angle was supposed to be on this flick.

When a Northern Californian Marijuana Mogul is gunned down on the land where 3 of his employees are growing and preparing to harvest a 150 pound crop, all fit hits the shan. The men band together and make off with just enough of the plants to pay the salaries that they were supposed to have made, along the way striking deals with local distributors and covering up what they've witnessed. When they go back to the plantation to find out that no raid took place, they make the decision to harvest and sell the remaining plants, all the while becoming more paranoid of one another and the various personalities that they encounter along the way.

While there's an ensemble cast to die for, there's a good reason why I hadn't heard of this flick. Made after Thorton got noticed in SLING BLADE and yet before his more noticeable marriage to Angelina, he wasn't a strong enough star to carry the film. That, and the fact that it's all over the place. Alternately funny and ridiculous, I have to admit that I watched the film mainly for Lynch and Hank Azaria. Long ignored for being the strong performers that they are and relegated to second banana roles, these two are the shining pot leaves in the crop here. Plus, as a durka enthusiast myself, I kept wondering just how much of the set was real and if it was, what they had to go through to get clearance to film it. Because if it really did all just get burnt up in the end, that makes this a very tragic film indeed.

Favorite Scene:

Ted Danson trying to pull of the menacing mob boss role, deliriously bad hair piece in place, running around after a fluffy looking poodle.

Favorite Line:

"It's complicated. Sometimes complications are interesting. "

Trivia Tidbit:

Both Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the children of director, are in this movie. Can you spot 'em?

See if you liked:

CLAY PIGEONS, A SIMPLE PLAN, PUSHING TIN

Oh, how I wish I could have been next to that burning crop. I can practically smell it now. No, wait... it's... um... excuse me.

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