by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Upon its original release, Paul Simon’s film debut One Trick Pony was universally reviled, almost as much as Neil Diamond’s The Jazz Singer, which was released around the same time. Today they both kind of come off as vanity projects, but they are vanity projects that reflect the life and times of these musicians, who, in 1980, were lost in a world of punk and disco (and were soon to be met by MTV). One Trick Pony is the more reflective of this ideal of the two, and also the bleakest. Simon is former-’60s folk-troubadour Jonah Levine, a man out of time, making his way from shitty gig to shitty gig, all the while bedding waitresses and trying to connect with his kid. As his record sales plummet, Jonah’s record label brings in a cold producer (Lou Reed!) to produce his latest album, but of course Jonah revolts when it’s gets all pop-ified. Ending with a total punk-rock (as punk-rock as Paul can get) act of artistic defiance, there is so much more to One Trick Pony than the label “vanity project." It’s an actual artistic statement that was, like Jonah himself, out of step with the ’80s.
Co-written, produced and starring the Band’s Robbie Robertson, Carny is the most accurate look behind the carnival midway since Tod Browning’s Freaks. But sadly, it’s a movie that has skirted so far under the radar that it hasn’t even achieved cult status. Robertson and Gary Busey are carnies, bonded bros under the big top. Together, they work the dunk tank, collect money from marks, and make sure that the city’s officials are paid off. The duo’s domestic bliss is destroyed, however, by the arrival of teenage runaway Jodie Foster, who immediately becomes Gary’s bunk-buddy. As she becomes more entrenched in the carnival life, she also starts to see the dirty side of the business, and totally falling in love with it. The movie takes a bizarre tonal shift in the last 30 minutes as everyone teams up to scare the bejesus out of a crooked cadre of cops and officials who want the carnival out of their city. Carny is the closest thing to blacking out underneath the Tilt-A-Whirl as a movie can get.
In the year 2009, apparently we learned how to not only contain souls, but hijack people from the past to our souls into them, therefore allowing the people of 2009 to live forever. At least that was what the 1992 science-fiction flick Freejack believed we'd be doing, and, as we can plainly see, that reality is far from the truth. Emilio Estevez is hot-shot racecar driver Alex Furlong, who is temporally transported from the past to the future at the exact moment of impact, only to find himself in an impoverished, dystopic New York that makes a rather nice companion piece to the movie Elysium, without all that social justice and whatnot. Chased around by an ostensibly embarrassed Mick Jagger as “Bonejacker” Vacendak, it’s his job to deliver this runner or, as these folks are colloquially known, “freejack” to his client, Sir Anthony Hopkins, in total check-cashing mode. It’s supremely silly early ’90s cheap sci-fi fun that, for all its missteps and mess-ups, delivers the goods on time. Do yourself a favor and just ‘jack it.