L.A. Confidential
James Ellroy, Brian Helgeland, and Curtis Hanson, 1997
#3, 1997 Skandies

The first half of this movie is a cracklin' tale of crime and corruption in 1950s Los Angeles, blurring the boundaries between cops and crooks, starlets and hookers, the United States and Mexico, the Golden Age and the modern era, and all that other stuff that cultural studies teachers like. But there comes a point when the movie suddenly gets in a big hurry and starts rushing through plot points. Ed Exley and Lynn Bracken go from introductions to sex in 118 seconds. The "Rollo Tomasi" gimmick goes from setup to callback in a grand total of 13 minutes. It sort of feels like someone in the editing room accidentally sat on the fast-forward button at the 1:20 mark.

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
Errol Morris, 1997
#4, 1997 Skandies

This is a documentary about four guys whose work touches on questions of how living organisms operate and the extent to which those operations can be controlled. You've got a robotics professor who designs machines that mimic the motions and, seemingly, the thought process of insects; an expert on naked mole rats who's trying to learn all the details of how their insectoid society functions; a lion tamer who thinks he has a pretty good handle on how his animals think and takes advantage of this knowledge to get them to do tricks; and, in a somewhat redundant thread, a topiary gardener who knows how shrubs grow and takes advantage of this knowledge to twist and clip them into the forms of animals. There's some interesting food for thought and a number of cool overlaps... maybe 45 minutes of really solid material here. Unfortunately, the movie is 79 minutes long. That means lots of random circus clips and scenes from old movies that, for me, added absolutely nothing. This semester I've been listening to the webcasts of a European history class at Cal. I'm glad the professor doesn't stop every two sentences to show a ten-second video of Otto von Bismarck eating dinner or something for atmosphere.

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