And now, two movies prominently featuring vomit.

The Secret Lives of Dentists
Craig Lucas, Jane Smiley, and Alan Rudolph, 2002

#7, 2003 Skandies

This one had the potential to be quite good. It's the story of a dentist with a bad mustache who discovers that his wife is cheating on him; he doesn't want to do anything about it because he figures a confrontation would lead to the breakup of his family, yet is conflicted because the family life he's trying to preserve often seems like it consists entirely of awkward exchanges with his wife and small children yelling "Daaaad!" It's very well acted (I was especially impressed by the three kids — I often completely forgot I wasn't watching a real family) and very well observed (I loved the way Lizzie carefully holds a huge, uncommented-upon cookie with M&M's in it as she walks to the kitchen), and the theme of why people do things like put themselves through dental school in order to be able to afford the responsibility of tending to a coterie of fragile, demanding mini-humans is obviously a pretty fundamental one. But there are two problems that torpedo the movie.

The first problem its the central gimmick. Dr. Mustache has imaginary friends. That is, the movie uses the shopworn device of turning a character's interior life into a conversation between that character and a person who's onscreen but not really there. I pretty much never want to see this again.

The second problem is that the main imaginary friend is played by Denis Leary. He plays a cynical, sarcastic, ranting, smoking hipster, i.e., Denis Leary. So one minute you're watching a domestic drama and then all of a sudden you're in a 1992 MTV spot. At any given moment the character seems on the verge of launching into 45 seconds of material about Cindy Crawford. Kills the movie. Mr. T would have been less distracting.

Spirited Away
Hayao Miyazaki, 2001

#3, 2002 Skandies

Spirited Away is the story of a shrill-voiced girl with no nose and a tiny mouth that opens up into a two-car garage who gets stuck in a magical bathhouse full of grotesque creatures such as an arachnoid man with a walrus mustache, an udder-faced sumo wrestler, and the Duchess from Alice in Wonderland. Also Michel Foucault is probably wandering around in there somewhere. Mike D'Angelo's review says, "Wish I could love this like everybody else, but it's just too damn cluttered and unfocused, emphasizing outré imagery at the expense of (just shoot me now, highbrow types) narrative coherence. Or, to put it another way, it plays more like 20 animated shorts arbitrarily strung together than like an animated feature. Still dazzling, of course." That seems right on the money to me.

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