Archives Ratings Mrs. Filthy Gooden Worsted


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Hey Whore, how's the whoring? According to this week's Quote Whore:


Rules of Engagement is "tense, superbly directed, and top-drawer drama!"

Return to Me is "A guaranteed good time!"

Road to Eldorado is "the road to superb entertainment!"

Waking the Dead is "eerily romantic and mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful."

The Whole Nine Yards is "extremely funny!"

Out West - the nwespaper that roams by Chuck Woodbury

Sunset Boulevard

Velvet Underground - VU
Pavement - Westing by Musket and Sextant

Big Empire

Post-it Theater

Las Vegas

The Gift ElectroniquÈ

Big Empire Buddies


©2000 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights fucking reserved.

This week:

High Fidelity

Filthy says:
"It's not so Fucking Bad!"


"High Fidelity" is a pretty good movie, but it can't escape the foul odor of being too cool and trying too hard to co-opt a culture. It pissed me off how a lot of music I love was abused. Hollywood has no concept that the fans of this music are not cool, they're a bunch of miserable fucks with lousy jobs and little care about what Hollywood thinks of them. But I bet the soundtrack record will sell tons of copies to the same assholes who got into surf guitar for a week or so after "Pulp Fiction".

In this plot-thin comedy, John Cusack owns Championship Vinyl, an independent record store. His business struggles, so does his love life. See, he is an asshole, an exaggeration of what most men know in their hearts they are: self-involved and insecure pricks doomed to be kicked in the head by girls. Inexplicably, he has had a string of totally hot girlfriends like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Iben Hjejle, but he's too afraid of rejection to build a relationship.

All guys without goatees know about that shit. The guys with goatees are too fucking busy grooming themselves to worry about it.

What he really wants is to have Hjejle back without having to change because he's living in his juvenile world of making top five lists, going to see bands every night and organizing records. Distraught by his most recent breakup with Hjejle, Cusack stops to take a look at his romantic life. He contacts the five girls responsible for his most painful breakups of his life to see what the hell is wrong with him. But the whole process of trying to find out what's wrong with him, and the realization that everyone is changing but him, wears him down. He and Hjejle, of course, wind up together, because they are too tired not to be together.

What works in "High Fidelity" is the comedy and the basic story, at least for a while. It's also genuinely shot. The dialog is sharp, and it actually succeeds in being philosophical about how guys think without beating us over the head with how smart it is. Most movies about us men are either too glib or too pompous to really get to the point but it works here. Maybe it's because the movie readily acknowledges that Cusack's character is a dick.

The lack of a strong plot makes it tedious and meandering, though, and at two hours, "High Fidelity" is about a half-hour too long. Plus, it takes too many wrong turns toward the end. It's one of those movies that you think is over, but it keeps going.

The whole movie is talky. Cusack at one point says Zeta-Jones talks too much, but he's the guy yapping 80% of the time. Shut the fuck up and take off Hjejle's top already. Cusack often talks directly into the camera, but to the movie's credit, the monologues are tolerable. They aren't the cutesy bullshit that talking into the camera usually means.

The record store looks like the sloppy mess that most indie stores are, with stickers and posters from long ago shows stuck to every surface to prove that the people working there were into a band way before anyone else. I could almost smell that weird stench of old furniture and long-ago pot smoking that lingers in these places.

Joe Louisa is by far the character who most represents what the movie wants to portray. He's a meek, bald twerp into punk rock bands that sing silly songs about girls, like the Buzzcocks, Green Day and Stiff Little Fingers. I have seen a joker like him in just about every little record store I've ever been in. Paralyzed by their shyness, they always look like they're about to puke, and they only hang out in record stores because they don't know how else to meet kindred souls.

Jack Black is Louisa's opposite, a loud obnoxious elitist who belittles people's record choices and thinks every dumb kid who asks for advice is a blank canvas for him to paint with his preferences. I've never encountered this character in a record store and while his loud mouth antics may seem funny to the typical Blockbuster Music shopper, he sure as hell isn't authentic. Real record store elitists say nothing to your face; they wait until you leave.

It's hard getting around John Cusack's typically smug performance. He's not as annoyingly self-satisfied in "High Fidelity" as he was in "Being John Malkovich" or "Pushing Tin" but he still never stops being John Cusack, appreciating himself and his coolness. Never for a moment did I buy that he was some guy really into music so much as I got the sense that Cusack thought it would be cool to play some guy who was really into music.

Iben Hjejle barely masks her Scandihoovian accent to play a Chicago lawyer. She's all right and certainly pretty enough to jerk-off while thinking about. But this movie is about a bunch of Peter Pans and nobody thought to make her character anything more than an idealized grown up woman. She's got all her shit together and of course she is always right and reveals all sorts of truths to Cusack. It's a disservice to make her hide her accent because it would have made no difference to the story, and she wouldn't have sounded as forced.

Another over-idealized female is Lisa Bonet. The movie turns her into an all-knowing goddess because the writers, I'm guessing, are too afraid of broads to make them anything short of perfect. If she farted or had a peg leg, I guarantee you I would have seen her as far more human. Bonet's not the hottie she was long ago. Oh, man, I used to watch that awful, sappy "Cosby" crap just to get fuel for my Lisa Bonet masturbation fantasies.

The story overplays its coolness with Tim Robbins, too, making his new-age anger manager into a one-dimensional cartoon. He's set up to be knocked down without a fighting chance and without seeming genuine. Look, I'm no fan of fucking capitalist hippies in Audis, but this one's a cheap shot.

The setting is overly drab. Good fucking God, there are at least a half-dozen shots of a miserable Cusack stumbling around in the rain holding his head. After 100 years of moviemaking, isn't there a more original way to show a broken heart?

The movie's soundtrack is pretty fucking great, including a couple of Velvet Underground songs and Stereolab. But part of me thinks that if you don't already have this shit, you don't deserve to get into it through this movie. And that's my big beef. "High Fidelity" co-opts a culture of indie music purely as a back drop. After watching it, I have no better understanding of all these great songs they play for 30 seconds. And outside of Louisa, the movie gives the viewer no real understanding of who listens to it. It's a con job and I say, fuck you, Hollywood. If you're sick of your God damn Elton John records, go make another superstar. Leave the little people alone.

Three Fingers for "High Fidelity". It's a good idea for a love story, from a novel that is genuine, but tainted by the hand of Hollywood.

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