USA, 1999, 101 min, Dir. Risa Bramon Garcia
Before there was Love, Actually, there was 200 Cigarettes. There are easy parallels here: Both cast a cornucopia of celebrities, both are controversially cloying, and both rank high on people's "guilty pleasure" lists. The obvious differences between the two are their settings (Love, Actually is a Christmas movie, 200 Cigs is a New Year's Eve movie), their box office totals (Love, Actually's box office is close to $250 million, 200 Cigs barely beat its budget), and their streaming statuses. 200 Cigs, an early movie from MTV Films, is totally, woefully unstreamable.
Like many unstreamable artifacts, 200 Cigarettes' unstreamability is probably due to its bloated soundtrack. The movie contains 49 songs, featuring everyone from Blondie to Elvis Costello to—checks notes—Harvey Danger singing a cover of English Beat's "Save It for Later." The song's music video includes some of the most famous women from the '90s—Courtney Love!!!—hitting on Harvey Danger frontman/Stranger alum Sean Nelson. (Watch it here. Sorry for digging this up, Sean, but it's cute.)
I can't say I disagree with the film's original reviews. It is, as Variety wrote, "dismally unfunny." But I'd like to argue that its costumes, designed by Susan Lyall with a heavy Betsey Johnson vibe, are enough to save the movie. The coats that Christina Ricci and Gaby Hoffmann wear should be in a museum. Martha Plimpton is so perfectly bad and distressed and her gowns match her mood. We frequently look past a subpar movie's terrible script or acting as long as it contains good special effects or cinematography, but we rarely extend the same courtesy to good costuming. How boring. CHASE BURNS
USA | Mexico, 1974, 112 min, Dir. Sam Peckinpah
I love a good story of bad people trying to find a way to “get out” of their current situation through violence. As if killing for cash will bring them anything other than more misfortune or death. According to Sam Peckinpah, this was the only film of his that was released the way he intended. It was made on a tiny budget and bombed at the box office, but has since enjoyed a "comeback" as a cult classic. I think part of it must have to do with the surprising moments of tenderness between Benny and Elita. In her role, Vega is both playful and sad, her eyes oozing emotion. (There are obviously a lot of intense scenes of violence, just FYI.) JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 2006, 120 min, Dir. Drew Thomas
I rented this documentary for the crowds. I wanted to see and laugh at what people wore to Coachella in the mid-2000s. Released in 2006 but filmed throughout the 2000s, Coachella came out to generally favorable reviews. This is probably because the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was still viewed as "the nation's most respected rock festival" (L.A. Times). The massive music fest phenomenon was rising in the mid-2000s, and this doc contains interviews with Coachella's overly sincere headliners waxing poetic about how fests were the future. There's Björk, Arcade Fire, Wayne Coyne, The Chemical Brothers... all wearing clothes that signal the coming rise of deep v-necks and American Apparel.
I figured the crowds at 2000s-era Coachella fests would feature a juvenile version of what we see at the fest today—"boho chic" body glitter, flower crowns, silver "statement" necklaces, fake tribal tattoos, Native American headdresses on white people—but no! I was forgetting the twee earnestness that bubbled out of the end of the Bush-era that allowed the rise of the Obama presidency. Today's irony is nowhere to be found. Skinny rockers preach about the power of parties. You get a sense that people really believe Coachella can heal society. We feel so far away from that dumb optimism now. CHASE BURNS
Mexico, 1955, 89 min, Dir. Luis Buñuel
The fantasy murder sequences are disconcertingly surreal. Keep your eye out for a mash-up of a melting wax mannequin with an actual woman's face. This is Buñuel after all. Another bright spot in the film is Mexican actress Miroslava, who plays Archibaldo's most interesting locus of desire, Lavinia. Tragically, shortly after she finished shooting the film, Miroslava committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. There's a dispute over whether she died with a picture of Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín or Mexican comedian and actor Cantinflas in her hand. This fact makes the film's proceedings even creepier. JASMYNE KEIMIG