USA, 1997, 88 min, Dir. Robert Iscove
Chase and I have talked about how it's harder to write about films we love than films we hate—Cinderella is no different. My love for it is constant and eternal. I grew up watching it religiously; the musical's images and sounds are hardwired into my soul. Seeing a Black Cinderella (with MICROBRAIDS!) falling in love with a hot Brown prince (Paolo Montalban), who is the son of queen Whoopi Goldberg and king Victor Garber, floored me. And her Fairy Godmother is Whitney Houston!!!?!??!?!??
Plus, Bernadette Peters runs around with her two wonderfully wretched daughters (RIP Natalie Desselle-Reid), and Jason Alexander prances about with a goatee. The '90s multiracial dream was alive and well with this movie, and I ate it up as a kid. I still do. If you haven't seen this movie yet, what are you waiting for? JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 2002, 110 min, Dir. Nicolas Cage
Where do I begin. It's Nicolas Cage's first and only directing project. It stars James Franco. Tommy Wiseau, of The Room, says it's his fav Franco film. ("It has everything in it," Wiseau has said. "Betrayal, love, sexuality, this and that. Same with The Room.") The plot follows Sonny (Franco), who returns home from the army to his brothel-running mother in New Orleans and begins hooking. Cage makes a cameo as "Acid Yellow," a probably gay pimp.
Five things. First, this is proper Camp. Second, Cage directs a lot like how he acts. Some actors believe their feelings are greater than their script's words, that a real actor just kinda mumbles their lines like a late-career Brando. That's what happens here. Third, Sonny lives on Bourbon Street—which you know is ridiculous if you know New Orleans. Fourth, this film is impossibly white, like Elvis's King Creole. New Orleans is a Black city, but you wouldn't know it from watching Cage's NOLA. Fifth and finally, Franco once said he's "gay in [his] art and straight in [his] life," but not here. His character is blatantly homophobic. What could edge as subversion quickly becomes textbook homophobia.
That said, I get why Wiseau was so enamored. CHASE BURNS
France, 1998, 113 min, Dir. Erick Zonca
The Dreamlife of Angels fits squarely among those films, a portrait of Isa (Élodie Bouchez) and Marie (Natacha Régnier), two women who meet at a dead-end factory job in Lille, France. Despite their temperament difference, the pair become inseparable. They live, cook, laugh, smoke, and shop together like a married couple. But, of course, a man in the form of Chriss (Thee Grégoire Colin) enters the picture, sending Marie off in a tailspin while Isa watches their friendship deteriorate.
What I love most about this film is the setting and clothing. Many French films seem accidentally beautiful or fashionable, set in Paris or some foggy town by the sea. The streets of Lille, however, are grimy and gray, emanating none of the Haussmann beauty of Paris. Both Isa and Marie have bad haircuts, dressed in well-worn clothing that probably just barely keeps them warm. There's beauty in those touches of reality, too. JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 1990, 88 min, Dir. Penelope Spheeris
I'm back on my Penelope Spheeris kick. My favorite installment in her Decline of Western Civilization documentary trilogy is her second, the one about hair metal, because all the pomp and misogyny is remarkable. Spheeris loves a glitzy douchebag, and she takes that love to another level with this wrestling show. Thunder and Mud is a TV wrestling event that promoted FEMALE! MUDWRESTLING! STARS! clad in big pink boas and leopard print. It's not exactly feminist, but it's a welcome addition to the wrestling genre. If you're unfamiliar, I guess the reductive comparison would say this is kinda like GLOW.
Just discovered THUNDER & MUD in our wrestling section and it's Penelope Spheeris' birthday today so we are definitely going to rock this later! #onlyonvhs pic.twitter.com/Bn65jS52Xm
— ScarecrowVideo (@ScarecrowVideo) December 3, 2019
It's a bit, uh, hodgepodge, with live wrestling (in mud!), acting interludes, concerts, and a blend of fiction and sport. The women fight for the MUFF belt (MUFF = Magnificent Union of Female Fighters), and there's plenty of cock rock in the show, with music performances by Grave Danger, Nuclear Assault, She-Rock, and Young Gun, among others. This tape is hard to get your hands on—you'll have to check out a VHS from Scarecrow (please be gentle), but it's worth it if you're a Spheeris fan. As they scream at the end of this thing: “REMEMBER, when you've got the THUNDER, and you've got the MUD, YOU’VE GOT IT ALL!" Go off!! CHASE BURNS
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.