Eraserhead (R)

2 Star

Eraserhead’s been on my Netflix instant queue for six years.

It looks scary and it’s by the writer/director of Mulholland Drive (a film I enjoy; check out my review) and Blue Velvet (a film I’m still ‘back and forth’ on.)

It was playing at midnight at the TCM Film Festival in Los Angeles, so I was pretty excited to watch it on the big screen.

The man introducing the film was Patton Oswalt, so amongst a number of funny things, he also shared the following.

Mel Brooks used the resources of his own production company, Brooksfilms, to give David Lynch his first chance at a mainstream directing job with The Elephant Man. Patton reiterates that Stuart Cornfeld convinced him to do so by dragging Brooks to a midnight screening of Eraserhead.

Since I was young, I’ve had the utmost admiration for Mel Brooks.

And let me tell you something sister, E-Head’s unsettling.

I hate this movie.

Slimy slithering intestines don’t flutter my fancy.

Did that sentence make you feel gross? It should; hopefully it scares you away completely.

Because that’s all this movie does; it seeks to disturb the viewer.

So in that department: Mission Accomplished, Mr. Lynch.

This is by far his worst.

It’s smart; don’t get me wrong. But originality only goes so far with me. When the ride gets painful, stars begin falling off. It’s not fun, enjoyable nor educational.

Some consider it thought provoking. I don’t.

To be more specific, Eraserhead is about the fears of fatherhood. Despite the cover, it doesn’t disturb in a manner akin to horror flicks.

It’s about depravity and inhabits it’s own dark shred of sadness that doesn’t require a specific genre. Let’s call it what it is: A student film.

There’s a lot I don’t like.

In particular, I really hate the fetus-stomping blonde (or Lady in Radiator, played by Laurel Near) with the fatty cheeks. It’s never fun when she shows up; out of tune and singing the saddest song ever.

Any scene involving the deformed baby, its grotesque skin disease or the anxiety-inducing wail of sorrow; I’d happily discharge from my brain.

It’s the single cringe-worthiest hundred minutes of my life. And I’ve seen a couple movies that’ll convert an entire nunnery.

Jack Nance as Henry Spencer is very good.

The Girl Across the Hall (played by Judith Anna Roberts) is also solid. She dons a low cut dress and walks with a sinewy strut that’ll entrance.

But all the acting is good, I suppose. Allen Joseph as Mr. X is an oddball who offers the only chuckle.

Lynch apparently likes featuring scenes of a spotlight on an empty stage. The same idea shows up in Mulholland Drive. I don’t know what the hell to do with it.

More often I wonder whether it’s worth the ponder.

Towards the beginning, Henry traverses squat mounds of ashy dust while a train whistle blares in the background. Considering the subject material, I wonder if it’s in reference to Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants. That short story’s about debating abortion and a couple torn up by unexpected pregnancy.

And it’s Hemingway; it’s wildly unpleasant. But much more enjoyable than Eraserhead.

Okay, I’ll slow down with the pessimism for a moment.

To be honest with you I could hate on this movie a lot more than I’m going to. It has redeeming qualities but they bring the rating up to a whopping one star. I’m not mad about it; it’s just not what I go to a movie for.

These moments of redemption are few and far between. There’s a lot of intricate camera angles involving shadows and how they fall on the characters.

Even the majority of the smart stuff leaves a bad taste in my mouth! Like the leafless twig thrust into a pile of soil upon the nightstand. Dirt granules certainly spill onto his mattress on occasion.

There are two particularly noteworthy scenes. They’re both gross and unsettling, but somehow they shine amidst the pit of yuck.

When Henry’s in bed with a woman, they’re wrapped up in the sheets like a spider, and her teeth are chattering like she’s freezing. The spindly way she’s twisting, contorting and toiling amidst the covers is creepy and discomforting.

The other scene involves Henry making love to a woman, and their infidelity descending into milky white tub water situated in the center of the bed. It’s a beautiful shot and really a thought-provoking scene with a fascinating dynamic.

But even then, it’s still pretty unsettling.

Ugh! There’s so much filth in Henry’s room. The sound effects and score are constantly ghoulish, grotesque, creaky, whistley, shadowy, lurid, crackly, scratchy and overall irksome.

It’s an Odyssey through disgust, silt and darkness. And it’s the rockiest ride amidst a meteor shower.

Do yourself a favor and skip Eraserhead, and check out Mulholland Drive or Blue Velvet instead. Only the biggest of Lynch’s fans will like this. It’s ‘un-good.’

By the way, I don’t know what he saw in it, but I still highly admire Mel Brooks.

Looks like it’s time to catch The Elephant Man.

Nebraska (R)

7 Stars

Shot in black and white and given its title, sounds like this one’s going to be a slog.

It’s surprisingly upbeat, at times. And despite the heavy material there are some heartwarming moments.

The humor’s light, subtle and grey, but there’s a handful of laugh-out-loud scenes. The two heavyset thickheaded cousins, played by Kevin Kunkel and Devin Ratray, are hilarious.

There’s a lot of sad dreariness you’ve got to wade through, but hey, it’s about a delusional old man who’s foolishly pursuing a fake million-dollar prize. It’s one of those films, but it’s pretty good!

If you don’t see a lot of movies, this isn’t a high priority on your list. It’s not a boring story; it’s dull subject matter woven into a compelling narrative.

Will Forte, Bruce Dern, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk and Stacy Keach are all great in this movie. The acting’s seamless through and through.

The plot is occasionally frustrating, because everything that seems to go right is diminished by the events that follow.

I like Nebraska, there’s some funny stuff in here.

I buy into the story, and am content enough to be watching it, but feel like I’m grasping for reasons I enjoy it.

I really like the score for the first half of the movie and grow quite tired of it by the end.

This material doesn’t get me going though. I don’t really enjoy watching the sad inevitabilities of existence.

“But Steve! It’s real life man. It accurately depicts the way things are in reality.”

Yeah. It’s profound stuff.

Seriously though. Along with Amour from last year, August Osage County and this, the sad realities of elderly life are really getting pushed hard at the Oscars.

I’m not sure why Nebraska’s up for Best Picture. It’s not nearly such an egregious error as August Osage or Gravity though.

This is a good enough movie with strong performances from a talented cast, and decent laughs.

Don’t rush out and see it.

But if you like to see all the worthwhile Oscar nominees, Nebraska should be on your list.