The Exorcist – Children’s week

Please accept my humble apologies for the long delay in blogging. My baby daughter gave birth to her own baby daughter earlier this week. We were blessed to have a week to go down and see friends and family (although we’ll have to tighten our belts this month as it was a week without pay).

In celebration of the birth of our littlest angel, I thought I’d feature movies about angelic tykes. What’s that you say? There aren’t any? Hrrrrm. I guess we’ll feature the opposite then.

The Exorcist

WATCH: The Exorcist (1973) – Rated R

“If this horror classic doesn’t terrify you, maybe you need a shrink. Movie actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) realizes an evil spirit may possess her daughter (Linda Blair). Against formidable odds, two priests (Max von Sydow and Jason Miller) try to exorcise the demon. A superb meditation about the nature of evil, The Exorcist was created with adults in mind and isn’t appropriate for youngsters.”

“You’re going to die up there.”

William Peter Blatty wrote the screenplay from his own novel as well as producing. He won an Oscar for the screenplay as well as a nomination for Best Picture. The slow burn in the script and fairly logical progression while establishing the characters really works.

William Friedkin’s direction is superb. There is a wonderful tracking shot as Father Karras and Lt. Kinderman have their first discussion. A shot of the Pazuzu statue and Father Merrin is gorgeously framed. The first death is never even shown (something unheard of today) but is merely mentioned and slowly developed through dialogue.

Performances are all great here. Linda Blair’s breakthrough role as Regan is a tour de force. She goes from a sweet young child to a quite profane demon without missing a beat. Max von Sydow is marvelous as the wise Father Merrin as is Jason Miller as the tortured Father Karras. Ellen Burstyn (as the suffering mother), Jason Miller, and Linda Blair were all nominated for Academy Awards for their performances.

The Exorcist develops fairly slowly but is well worth the time investment. Much of what was shocking at the time has become trite now although it does still break some serious taboos. It’s the feeling that the characters are real people and the gradual ratcheting up of tension that make this an absolute classic.

People Watch: Author William Peter Blatty has a cameo as a producer.

Cruising – Al Pacino week

This is Al Pacino week. Cruising is currently available on Netflix instant play.

Cruising

AVOID: Cruising (1980) – Rated R

“After a serial killer brutally murders several gay men in New York’s S&M and leather districts, cop Steve Burns (Al Pacino) goes undercover on the streets, where he must learn the complex rules of the underground gay subculture if he’s to catch the psycho. Karen Allen co-stars as Burns’s girlfriend in this gritty 1980 thriller, which sparked protests from gay rights groups at the time of its release but has since developed a minor cult status.”

“Hips or lips?”

Wow! The minor cult status mentioned at the end of the Netflix description must be the sort that is accorded Showgirls. The film begins with a caveat that it is not representative of homosexuality in general (Duh!). The notice detracts somewhat from the campy vibe this movie gives out.

It is hard to believe that William Friedkin wrote and directed this film. He won a Best Director Oscar for The French Connection in 1972 and was nominated again for The Exorcist in 1974. He specializes in and has an affinity for gritty material. That would seem to make this right up his alley.

It appears as though he wanted to direct an exploitation movie. Sadly it doesn’t revel in the exploitative portions of this topic – at least that could have been entertaining. Either William Friedkin showed a lot of restraint or the film was heavily trimmed to get its ‘R’ rating. The police portions of the movie are given short shrift as well. This has to be the most boring undercover movie ever.

There is no life in any of the performances. All the actors including Al Pacino appear to be on Ritalin. Even the victims as they are being killed seem somewhat bored. For a film that should have been about lust and passion, there sure isn’t any shown on the screen. Al Pacino’s undercover cop starts having problems at home and both parties react with ‘meh’.

Unfortunately I can’t recommend this even on a campy level. Once I realized that it was going to be awful, my hope was that it would be so awful that it was fun to watch. Sadly this was not the case.

Pacino’s movies are strangely polarizing. So far they seem to be either classics or total garbage. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s movie is one of the former.

People Watch: Look for Powers Boothe as, not kidding, ‘Hankie Salesman’. His very brief role is probably the highlight of the movie.