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The Bottom Shelf #144

01.24.2008

New Yorkers have their own way of doing things. Here are two of the better examples of how to get a movie done the New Yorker way.

HIT AND RUNWAY (2001)
Directed by: Christopher Livingston
Starring: Michael Parducci, Peter Jacobsen

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Boy oh boy, do I like surprises. It doesn't just apply to movies but I always seem to feel more satisfied with a movie that starts off on the wrong foot with me and somehow, some way manages to sneak a little giggle or concentrated moment in and then worms an hour and 40 minutes more into my heart. HIT AND RUNWAY started off like just another low budget New Yorker story, the kind that a girl born and raised in California just doesn't relate to. Didn't matter that the lead character was Italian, a trait I share, it just seemed too... too. Yannow? I didn't think that I was going to make it, or worse... that I would spend the time checking to see how much longer it had remaining that I needed to suffer through.

But the minute that Peter Jacobsen gets introduced, things started to turn around. Well, the minute that Jacobsen's character and Parducci's character really got introduced. The movie starts out at the funeral for Parducci's father, with a wake at a traditional, stereotypical New Yorker Italian family's restaurant. The older siblings are harping on the irresponsible younger brother and his desire to be a screenwriter. Hung up on writing the next big script for a blonde Segal wanna-be, Parducci spouts off boring lines and looks more wooden than that other famous Italian film character. Jacobsen isn't a whole step better, playing the stereotypical slightly built New Yorker Jew, aside from being cast as a gay man in love with one of the waiters at the restaurant. It's when the two characters come together that the film begins to mesh, creating something worth watching, even if the premise is about the tired premise of the trials of love and the stereotyping wanders on.

The thing is, stereotyping wouldn't really exist if there weren't people acting thusly to base it on. Parducci softens as you get to know him and turns in some solid moments and Jacobson is the perfect foil. The two are subtly natural together, getting you to look past some of the clunkier moments, if not forgive the filmmaker for the scenes when they're not together. Kerr Smith (also known as the gay character from "Dawson's Creek" - is he really gay or just typecast? Reminder to self to look that up... as if it really matters...) is brave enough to play the pretty boy with the affinity for Jew boys who forges past the stereotypes and goes in for the kisses. I like that for every step that is well worn in the storyline, there are a couple thrown in that fly past which are new and fresh. This was a typical atypical love story that didn't make me feel dirty and even got me to face some of the misconceptions that I have about my level of comfort with gay love. It's nice to have a movie to turn to that makes you realize that we've made it safe to laugh about two guys falling in love, but we're still on the fence as to keep from cringing at the show of true emotion. Chickens of the sea, yes we is. And happily surprised ones at that.

Favorite Scene:

At the gay Jewish temple when all of the attendees are giving Kerr Smith the stare-down.

Favorite Line:

"I'm not the type of man who inspires lust. I bought a dildo once... it lost its erection."

Trivia Tidbit:

Director Christopher Livingston is the nephew of musician Jay Livingston, who has over 100 soundtrack listings on his imdb.com resume.

See if you liked:

TRICK, TORCH SONG TRILOGY, A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD

SUDDEN MANHATTAN (1997)
Directed by: Adrienne Shelly
Starring: Adrienne Shelly, Tim Guinee

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There's something about this film that feels very familiar. People have likened it many a time to something that Woody Allen would have done if he were a female. I hate observations like that. Suppositions where you assume that Woody Allen would have had the same upbringing and early adulthood that he did as a male are crap. The options that he had available to him, helping to form the filmmaker that he would later become weren't something that were afforded to young women at the time that he was coming up in the industry. So no, I don't think that this is the movie that he would have made if he were female. I think this is the tentative movie of an actress who grew up in Queens and was repeatedly told that there was something just a tad crazy about being female. This is a woman who both took that information to heart and then later grew up to spit in its face while cradling it to her bosom.

The movie follows a woman who has no purpose in life. There is no pointed reference to where she originally hailed from, aside from the fact that it wasn't New York. She lives rent-free in an apartment building owned by the pretentious literary scholar who also happens to be in love with her. She's lost her job as an assistant at an art museum and is struggling to figure out what reason she has to continue to get up in the morning. She's not suicidal, she's just feeling her purpose. When she witnesses a murder on one of the streets that she likes to walk down, she starts to question her sanity when everyone else leads her to believe that she was just making it up. Along the way she meets a man who has the hots for her, sans erectile capabilities, her wacky friend and a fortune teller who's more of a doomsday advocate.

The movie is what most people would lovingly refer to as "off-beat." As a debut movie, it's a good venture, although it most likely will get too much credit or conversely be judged more harshly because Shelly is female. I thought it had its moments of amusement and was particularly taken with Shelly's inflection in certain scenes, completely relating to her narrative where she's internally taunting herself with the fortune teller's prediction. ("I'm stuck in a vortex. I'mmm stuck in a vorrrtexxx.") Other than that, it gets a little too left of center for me at times, leaving me where I just didn't care about what was going on. The side players are incredibly strong, which helps the film overall, something which is normally very hard to achieve in a low budget debut flick. In a nutshell, this was the movie that Shelly needed to get out of the way before turning in the stunning WAITRESS. Foundations are needed for everything.

Favorite Scene:

The back and forth between Alex and Ian when they're sitting on Donna's couch.

Favorite Line:

"Are you normally psychopathically delusional?"
"No, I'm just going through a bad stage."

Trivia Tidbit:

This wasn't the first thing that Shelly directed and wrote, but it IS the first full-length item. Interesting, since she couldn't find an appropriate actress for the role of Donna and thusly decided to play the role herself. Rough on a first time director when you're in every scene.

See if you liked:

NORTHFOLK, LIVING IN OBLIVION, THE CHUMSCRUBBER

I'm about as New York as salsa. Heh... those commercials always used to crack me up.

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