Sunday, December 31, 2006

[1981] ENTER THE NINJA: What?? Directed by Golan and produced by Globus? Of course that's a must-see! And it's plodding and artless and terrible, one of those things that doesn't function as trash or as art or as trash-art. Well--there are comically exaggerated death scenes, but that's the only thing this movie does well. I don't know how this thing launched the ninja craze and Sho Kosugi's career, but it did and I'm mystified. Reviews I have read have seen something menacing in his performance that I did not see at all. What kind of ninja cackles maniacally while doing a job? Maybe just the very idea of a ninja was enough in 1981? Ninjas and blood and cockfighting and Franco Nero saying "I'll be back." I will say that the variety of death dealt by Nero in the final fight was entertaining, if badly executed due to his lack of martial arts talent. And the Golanian love of nutshots was in full display in this film. But some decent death is not enough to make this even close to good trash.
[1980] FROM THE LIFE OF THE MARIONETTES: Decent enough and entertaining Bergman film about nice, unhappy Peter Egermann (Robert Atzorn) who has a sudden moment of violence and kills a prostitute to the shock of everyone who knew him. Marionettes starts with the murder and spends the rest of the movie jumping around between the police investigation and sessions with Peter's psychiatrist (back when Freud was still taken seriously) and scenes from Peter and Katarina's marriage (Katarina played by Christine Buchegger--and the Egermanns themselves are supposed to be characters from Scenes From a Marriage.) Everything scene is presented--I don't know--formally with title cards indicating where they took place in relation to the murder, like Bergman was stringing together pieces of evidence and leaving it up to you at home to determine why Peter kills. And there's blame for everybody--Peter, Katarina, his mother, the psychiatrist, Katarina's business partner who introduced him to the prostitute. Their marriage was a big culprit too, one of those hate each other/can't get enough of each other kind of deals. There's almost too much evidence; in the end, all that matters is that Peter has been trapped by life, wiling away his days in a locked room in a sanitarium playing chess against a computer. I liked this more than I thought I would, given Bergman reputation for being depressing--not that this wasn't depressing, but it was pretty vital too. It's a very watchable little character study--not must-see by any means, but if you run across it give it a try.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

[1981] MARTIAL CLUB: Another great little movie from Lau Kar Leung--not like My Young Auntie was great, this is simpler and probably more successful for it (though also less ambitious.) The whole of the conflicts of the movie are provided via different kung fu schools defending their honor--nearly every fight stems from Gordon Liu's school (he's playing Wong Fei-hung in this) or Kara Lui's school or the somewhat villainous school where Johnny Wang is employed. Except for once he isn't the villain--he's a visiting Northern master out to broaden his horizons by travelling among the Cantonese. He actually ends up tempering the more dishonest ambitions of the master of the school he's visiting, since he really believes in obeying the rules of kung fu. So the fights are exhibitions for the most part, nobody's out to kill each other and there's no blood coming from people's mouth and I'm pretty sure nobody got killed in this, but this made the martial action sort of more purely enjoyable for me. The final bit of sparring between Liu and Wang was incredible, and it ended in a stalemate, because kung fu isn't about winning anyway (I think that was the lesson.) And the opening had lion dancing on top of a platform carried by four or five guys, who were on top of a platform carried by eight or ten guys, who were on top of a platform carried by twenty guys--just an exciting, well-composed bit of cinema. Oh, and Kara Hui gets multiple chances to kick ass, including a couple of fights with Gordon. And it's all pure kung fu done for the sake of kung fu, so it doesn't always have the emotional impact of other kung fu movies, but Liu and Hui and Johnny Wang just on their own are a pleasure to watch.
[1980] LOULOU: This was strong stuff and not exactly enjoyable stuff, and as a tale of sexual obsession it's no Bad Timing. Pialat's Loulou is a lazy, womanizing ne'er-do-well (Gerard Depardieu, apparently the only actor in France capable of the young leading man role in the year 1980) who unaccountable becomes the object of the very middle class Nelly's (Isabelle Huppert right before she shipped off for Heaven's Gate) affections. Nelly, in turn, is loved by Andre (Guy Marchand), but the picture leaves him behind fairly quickly--it's Huppert and Depardieu's film. And they each are throwing each other into the emotional minefields, and you can't always tell who's being manipulative, or hateful--Pialat is careful to not give either one of them anything like a moral upper hand. It's practically a documentary in terms of the way Pialat never takes either Nelly or Loulou's sides for very long. It's also documentary-like in the sense that it's an observation of how a process unfolds (in this case, the process of two people inexplicably bonding together) than a dramatic narrative. We stick with these two characters until the point that they can't do anything else to each other, and then the film ends. I can't say it was the most pleasant thing in the world to watch, but it really did do a good job in making Nelly and Loulou (not so much Andre) into real, living people. It's a small, deeply realized character study of two not possibly mismatched people and you may appreciate it without loving it, as I did.
[1981] ADIEU, GALAXY EXPRESS: I'm guessing this is not the movie to watch in isolation, but I was never going to delve into the works of Leiji Matsumoto anyways, so I'm just going to be stuck with my lack of nuanced appreciation of this film. And watching this has not gotten me interested in seeking out other adventures of Captain Harlock or Emeraldas or even the original Galaxy Express. At it's best this was something like an anime Baum--well, a militarized, apocalyptic Baum where the characters pass through a variety of fantastic settings where the threat of death is always present. But the insistence of mixing constant death with whimsical fantasy does not sit well with me. When our heroes get to their destination (the heart of the empire of the machine people--and I didn't enjoy this enough to want to get into any plot specifics, it's just a kid on a space train touring the universe for mysterious purposes) it turns out the machines survive by stealing the life forces of people, and people are ran through a factory and turned into corpses so that the machine people can survive. Then, like five minutes later, a passing "machine life stealing comet" (no, it makes no sense) passes by and eats all the screaming, flailing machine people. So you have two genocides for the price of one! There's some attempt at a moral about eternal life has to come at the cost of someone else's life, and an additional one about the hero-child turning into a man because his machine princess-companion-girlfriend keeps ditching him, but it was really slight and borderline stupid. This is the kind of well-animated (really well-done in some places) but incoherent and close to spiritually empty anime that is not going to sell you on anime if you're already biased against it.
[1981] ZOOT SUIT: This was very much on the mediocre side of things, not awful but too flat to be good. Somehow Luis Valdez ended up directing the movie version of his play Zoot Suit about the Sleepy Lagoon trial (which was botched and biased and resulted in the imprisonment of several Mexican-American youths, who were freed within a year and a half.) And it's like he couldn't figure out how to make it a movie, so he threw his hands up and said "fuck it--I'm just going to film the play." And he pretty much literally did that, right down to including an audience which he goes to for reaction shots on occasion, and at one points lets the action of the play spill into it. It seemed like purposeless fourth wall-breaking to me. Maybe it happened in the actual play as well and Valdez felt like he had to leave it in? But up on the screen it just served as another reminder that what we're watching is a filmed play. The play itself isn't too bad--it focuses on Henry Reyna (Daniel Valdez), who's one of the defendants and has Edward James Olmos' idealized pachuco character living in his head and egging him on to bad decisions and an embrace of cynicism. Olmos' character is all the things Reyna thinks he wants to be, and the substance of the play is Reyna wrestling with how much he wants to become like the glowering, mean, zoot-suit-cool Olmos. So it's basically a smallish character study set during a period of actual social injustice (the trial in 1940s Los Angeles) and the social justice stuff frequently smothers the character stuff, muting the impact of both. Yeah--the play is passable enough, but as a movie it's got no reason to exist.

Friday, December 29, 2006

[1980] PHOENIX 2772: It's an adaptation of the future portion of Tezuka's Phoenix series, produced by Tezuka himself, and it's really quite good. Obviously in 1980 it predates the whole "overpowering visuals" style of anime (for lack of a better term, and I'm sure there is one, unknown by me) and gets by more on character design (and everything looks like Tezuka sketched it out before hand, it's a very true representation of his style, down to the always-jarring "graphic death visited upon cute little cartoon characters") and lush orchestration (nearly the entire film has the orchestra booming away in the background.) Storywise it's in the mystic science fiction tradition: The Earth is dying, there's this mysterious "space firebird" that can provide the energy to bring the planet back to life, or something, so space pilot Godoh takes it upon himself to get out there and bring back the bird. He's accompanied by robot-girl Olga (who raised him and is in unrequited love with him) and assorted comic relief characters both alien and human. It's a very busy movie, and that would be my biggest complaint--it tosses you from the Godoh-Olga story, to the sidekicks being goofy, to the power of the phoenix (or the corrupt dystopian government back on Earth) and back to Godoh and Olga again, without giving you a chance to take anything in. But though it moves around a lot the constant orchestration helps to give everything a consistent tone (and maybe a consistent tone was what director Taku Sugiyama was going for, as opposed to a fully coherent narrative.) The opening sequence was wonderful, though, a lengthy dialogue free sequence showing Godoh being raised by machines, including Olga. And the ending was a bit of a riff on 2001 and Pinocchio as Olga is transformed into a real woman and Godoh is reduced to infancy (a bargain he made with the phoenix to save the Earth) and they are left to reprise their roles from the start of the film. This movie isn't going to blow you away, but you're going to enjoy it because it's so solid and well-done. A movie doesn't have to blow you away in order to be really worthwhile.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

[1981] WOLFEN: The other movie by Michael Wadleigh! It's not exactly a werewolf picture--the wolves here are these ancient godlike creatures that only the Native Americans remember and respect. Like Edward James Olmos' character, who's the only person who can clue cop-with-a-past Albert Finney onto what's been killing people in a very bombed out and desolate version of New York City. There's this amazing scene where we first meet EJO's Eddie Holt and Finney has to climb up to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge to meet him and they're both really up there on the top of the bridge. And Finney looks terrified and Olmos is calmly walking about without a harness and I really hope it didn't take them too many takes to get that shot because it looked like it was excruciating to film. Wadleigh sort of overuses the steadicam point-of-view shots--we almost always know where the monsters are, so there's not much reason to be afraid unless you scare easy (like me.) But I think that was intentional--Wadleigh wants us on the monster's side, to understand why they're killing both old Dutch New York aristocrats and homeless people, and he does do that pretty well. Some of the other murders--the wolves' rationale was less convincing, like when they killed a zoologist who seemed like one of the few people in the film who was on their side. Other negatives: way too many fake scares, too much of the "Native Americans equal nature undespoiled" hokum. But overall it's a quite fine account of the conflict between civilization and the eroding natural world that still wants to survive. It just takes up the natural world's side as much as it does civilization's, and is a more interesting picture for giving us the point of view of the "monsters." So: not hugely terrifying, and way too intelligent to be exploitation (despite the occasional gore.) A very different horror picture.
[1980] UP THE ACADEMY: Yeah, so Midnight Madness was worthwhile trash and this pretty much is useless trash. This was supposed to be Mad Magazine's foray into movies (to keep up with National Lampoon) and Gaines and the rest of The Usual Gang of Idiots ended up disowning the final product. I can sort of see why they did--this isn't the most awful thing ever committed to celluloid, it's just pretty blah, and pretty much unacceptable for a magazine that was still trying to be on the cutting edge of a certain type of humor. (Adolescent male humor.) And I guess Ron Leibman must've been a real Mad fan to have wanted himself removed from the credits of a film that he starred in and where he gave the most entertaining performance by leaps and bounds. And the only competent performance, as the deviant, lonely, sociopathic academy instructor Major Liceman. He was one of the few good things in this movie, along with a somewhat dignified Barbara Bach cameo (doing a terrible Southern accent, though) and Rick Baker's Alfred E. Newman mask. Oh, and the soundtrack is this amazing grab bag of 80sness. Blondie! The Stooges! Nick Cave! Lou Reed! Pat Benatar! Cheap Trick! But the movie isn't worth watching for the soundtrack (it's the only thing that keeps it interesting sometimes) or for Ron Leibman's efforts or anything else. It's just a pretty indistinct piece of cinema.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

[1980] MIDNIGHT MADNESS: This was mindbendingly, transcendentally stupid--a whole new dimension of stupid--but it works so hard at being stupid that it really grew on me as it went along. I mean, the plot isn't much of anything--a Los Angeles-wide scavenger hunt between five college-age teams--and the performances aren't on their own much of anything but somehow collectively they're charming. I think, for me, I'm willing to forgive a lot of the idiocy of this thing because director/writers Nankin and Wechter are ultimately very kind to their characters. There's nerds and fat girls and the movie isn't especially mean to them like it could be; even Eddie Deezen has some kind of dignity within the Midnight Madness game. The closest any of the characters get to being irredeemable villains is the spoiled rich kid Harold (Stephen Furst) who's more irrational than anything else and is saddled with a nagging father and a nagging girlfried, and the mean old landlady Mrs Grimhaus (Irene Tedrow) who calls the cops on the game. Which doesn't work since the game is so much fun the cops want to watch too! Yeah--it makes no sense. But scenes like the nerd team extending their moped antennas in unison or a fratboy hearing a choir of angels outside the Pabst brewery (and is this the origin of Pabst hipsterism?) and the much-ballyhooed "FAGABEEFE" (don't ask) lend it all a breezy charm. I don't want to overpraise it--it's no Caddyshack, though it shares that film's flaw of dull protagonists (in Midnight Madness, it's David Naughton's forced conflict with his brother, Michael J. Fox before he figured out how to act.) As a Disney production it obviously could not be Caddyshack. But I think the Disney restraint forced it to be goofy when it should have been vulgar, and made a it a lot more memorable than it should have been. Put this with Watcher In The Woods as the interesting 80s Disney experiments--Watcher the bloodless thriller, and Midnight Madness the sexless teen comedy.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

[1981] LION VS LION: Kung Fu Cinema praised the heck out of this thing but I found it to be very much a mixed bag. I think it may be a good title for the kung fu purists, in that the fights are really excellent but the plot is quite hard to follow--it's something to do with a secret list of rebels against the Manchus that winds up in the hands of conman Ah Cun (Wong Yu) and his dumb-but-noble partner Ah Yue (Lo Meng.) Johnny Wang gets to play a hero for about three-quarters of the picture, but turns into his usual Shaw villain near the end. Directors Chin Yuet-sang and Hsu Hsia really knew how to do an action scene--and Kung Fu Cinema says they were both longtime action directors before this movie, so that explains that--but building a movie out of the action they're less good at. I mean, the lion vs lion fight of the title (a lion dancing fight, to be specific) was incredible but they also stuck it in more-or-less randomly, like they had an idea for a lion fighting scene and just pasted it in there where they could. But it's a great fight, you could see this movie for that sequence alone and it'd be completely worthwhile. There just wasn't enough holding the fights together, and I'm not enough of a kung fu fan to love a movie on the basis of the fighting alone.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

[1980] THE NINTH CONFIGURATION: This was quite good, like a more intelligent One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest without those pieties about the crazy really being the sane or whatever. No, sane or insane, we're all in the same boat in The Ninth Configuration's universe, utterly alone in a cruel, capricious universe. Directed by novelist and screenwriter William Peter Blatty, it's definitely the work of somebody who's got literary sensibilities first and cinematic sensibilities second; for a large part of the opening of the film the dialogue dominates everything, in the form of witty monologues and back-and-forth between the guards and staff of a military hospital for the insane. I had the feeling of one of those very heavy, idea-drenched and fast-paced science fiction novels, like Bester or Harness, where people say things normal humans wouldn't necessarily say but you don't care because it's intelligent and clever and tossed off quickly, one after the other, so you don't have time to think about it either. But there's also moments of incongruity where you get the sense Blatty was trying too hard, like when astronaut Cutshaw (Scott Wilson) dreams about seeing Christ on the moon, or when a couple of the inmates decide to put on a version of Hamlet with an all-dog cast, or weird blackface solo with an actual black guy nodding approvingly. Yeah--it's definitely in that late 70s tradition of works of overweening ambition, and stands with The Stunt Man as the great lost auteurist classic of 1980. (Like Rush, Blatty went on to direct one more movie--The Exorcist III. Kids, a compare-and-contrast essay between The Color of Night and Exorcist III would make a great topic for your Films of the 90s seminar, let me tell you.) It's hard to talk much about Ninth Configuration without giving away the more important twists; suffice it to say that Stacy Keach's Vincent Kane, army psychiatrist, has a big bad secret. And the big secret isn't that great, and there's some explanatory psychobabble thrown in and the circumstances are pretty implausible, but I can forgive it, it gave Blatty the right framework to put Kane through the metaphysical ringer. Keach was fantastic as Kane, too; it's a really great portrayal of a guy torturing himself with past sins to the brink of insanity. I dunno--I think this approaches must-watch status for the year 1980. It's not entirely successful, but it's a failure of too much ambition and I can't fault Blatty for trying to stick in as many of his Deep Thoughts as he could.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

[1981] SHAOLIN AND WU TANG: Yeah--easing my way back into the 80s project with a little kung fu. This was on my list because it's Gordon Liu's directorial debut (though Kung Fu Cinema says this is Lau Kar-leung joint. And IMDB has him directing another movie eight years before this. Who knows? The kung fu filmography is jacked beyond measure.) Gordon is Shaolin and Adam Cheng is Wu Tang and Johnny Wang is the DIRTY CHING! who forces them to fight. Johnny needs the Wu Tang and Shaolin secrets to ensure the continued rule of the Manchus, lest the two schools combine and become dangerous. Of course, Adam and Gordon remain friends despite the interschool conflict, and end up teaching each other the opposite school's secrets during their final fight (which is actually pretty good.) Once they've swapped styles they're both good enough to teach Johnny a lesson and win the day and give the audience a nice little take home message about kung fu being for everyone, whatever school or style they happen to enjoy. But before their last fight it's a fairly cretinous movie, though it's consistent tonally (i.e., no Shaw-style sudden bits of comedy.) And there's this bizarre scene where Adam is locked away in prison with a bunch of crazy women until he reveals the Wu Tang sword style (or something,) and the women are shrieking in bad dubbing and Johnny's planted his sister there to collect Adam's secrets, and Gordon ends up infilitrating the prison and teaching her the Wu Tang fist--it's hard to describe but it was a nutty scene, in an annoying way. The DVD didn't help--it looks liked somebody took it off a VHS tape and when it's a night scene you can't see anything. English dub only, too, so it at least has the curiosity value of being the source of quite a few of the Wu Tang Clan's samples. Aside from that--it's not anything you need to seek out if you're not a kung fu head, even with the unconventional final fight (in terms of there not being a winner or loser--kung fu itself wins!)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

CINEMA INTERRUPTUS: Yeah--I've hit a period where I can't keep up my at least once a day movie pace. It's the end of the semester, for one, and for another I discovered the Asian Games, which have to be the greatest non-Olympics international competition, smoking the Commonwealth and Pan-American Games as far as I am concerned. I mean--with 10000+ athletes they're about the same size as the Olympics, and with 39 sports to the Summer Olympics' 28 they're actually a more--varied event, shall we say? And that's 39 sports without any track and field! It's regional stuff like sepaktakraw and kabaddi and non-athletic stuff like chess and billiards and the usual Olympic cult stuff like table tennis and badminton. As an Olympic-style sports fan I'm in heaven right now.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

[1980] STIR CRAZY: Much like I dismissed Caddyshack as the stupid gopher movie, I always dismissed this as the stupid Wilder and Pryor in chicken suit movie--and of course they're only in those costumes for about twenty seconds, proving that I should never ever believe a studio's advertising campaign, or something. Anyway--Pryor is good in this, but it's Wilder's movie more or less. It's not that he gets all the good lines, but he gets to be the hero (sort of) and get the girl in the end. It also seemed like he was on camera more, and his charming and neurotic character is what impressed me most about this movie--it's a very aggressive New York sort of charm and sensitivity though. Sidney Poitier (who directed) for the most part just lets them do their thing, and keeps the machinations of the plot to a minimum, cutting away just when he's communicated the bare medium of whatever was needed to keep things moving. So his timing was great. Even during a mostly humor-negative stretch near the end he kept things moving well (an actually reasonably clever prison break--the boys are in prison for this one, you see; hence the title.) It's a genuinely funny movie with and because of a great performance from Wilder and I think I will leave it at that.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

[1980] AMERICAN GIGOLO: I LOLed quite a bit during this and I don't think I was supposed to--some of the dialogue between Richard Gere's cynical yet vulnerable hooker and Lauren Hutton's depressed society wife was stuff human beings would not say--even human beings in a revisionist noir, and Hutton frequently looks just confused as to what she's supposed to be doing, or feeling. Once their romance gets going both of them become more grounded and likable, though; theirs is the only fairly normal, healthy relationship in the movie. And they even get a semi-happy ending. But there's so many ridiculous scenes in this thing, like Gere suddenly becoming a tough guy and writing his number on some poor schlub's forehead (in front of a poster of The Warriors with a big X through it--I didn't get that at all,) or him holding Bill Duke by his feet out a window and there being an audible pop when he slips out of his boots and falls to his death, or when Gere inexplicably recreates Gene Hackman's apartment-destroying scene from The Conversation in search of some stolen swag. It's an odd, unsuccessful thing, this movie; I get the idea that Schrader wanted to do an experiment where he'd have the noir hero also be the hooker and the femme fatale character have all the stoic, heroic virtues, plus the sexual obsessions, and I'm glad he did the experiment but the results are a mess.
[1980] FRIDAY THE 13TH: Okay--this is the Argento with training wheels (Watcher In The Woods is the Argento big wheel.) It's effective at what it does--nice scares (in particular Kevin Bacon's death and the final dream/flashback) in between long stretches of nothingness--nothing conversations, nothing lives, nothing situations, with a dash of a sense that something's out there, like when the town crazy shows up, or they kill the snake and the kid with the knife looks like a psycho, or the constant shots of the moon Cunningham keeps feeding us. Mike Bracken called it "almost a minimalist film," and there definitely isn't any evidence that it's minimalist on purpose--meaning the low-keyness has more to do with Cunningham's pretty much bland directing style and not with anybody's aspirations at doing an intentionally streamlined slasher picture. Maybe "bland" is too harsh, but he never really succeeds at creating an atmosphere of menace; he plays at it with the Mrs. Voorhees point-of-view shots but the rest of the time I felt pretty safe that a body was not going to fall into the frame. And then the final Alice-Voorhees feels longer than it should because we already know who the villain is and we're just waiting for everything to conclude already, so all the shots of Alice being scared are somewhat exasperating. Oh--and in a film filled with one-note performances (and I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, like with the minimalism question above; were they bad actors? Or just badly directed?) Betsy Palmer was the only one who did something memorable with her part. Cunningham knew what he was doing with her, at least, with those closeups on her bared teeth as she switched from Jason to Mama Voorhees. A really good bit in a fair-to-good movie.
[1980] HONEYSUCKLE ROSE: So I picked this up because Pauline Kael gave it five pages in her book for 1980 through 1982, and it's definitely on the very okay side of things. It's weird to see Willie Nelson before he became permanently stoned actually try to act, and do reasonably well with it. But he has a really good supporting cast (Slim Pickens, Dyan Cannon, Amy Irving) and his character is a version of himself--he's Buck Bonham, travelling country singer. And he's always on the road which is wearing on his wife (Cannon;) meanwhile his best friend (Pickens) is retiring and is going to be replaced on the tour by his (Pickens' character's) daughter (Irving.) And Willie starts falling for Amy Irving, who has idolized him since she was a child, and there you have the PLOT! I would say for the first 45 minutes or so this film is really good--there's lots of performances, including a Cannon-Nelson duet, an elaborate family reunion concert, and an Emmylou Harris run-in. But once the PLOT! gets going and Willie's character has to do stuff the movie kind of flounders; there isn't enough of a reason (that I saw) for him to fall for Irving, or try and get back with Cannon, or for Cannon to take him back, except for that's what would give the movie a conventional happy ending. Yeah, there's too much half-assed drama in here for me, spoiling Willie being Willie and a bucketload of Southern vignettes and "on the road" vignettes. I mean, the climatic fight is Willie versus a drunk Slim Pickens--did anyone really want to see that? I don't think even the filmmakers did, which is why they blew it off and had Slim and Willie go get drunk right afterwards. A bit more performance and a bit less conflict-for-the-sake-of-conflict would have done it a world of good.

Friday, December 01, 2006

[1980] COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER: I don't generally care about stuff like who won what Oscar, or for biopics, but Sissy Spacek really owned the you know what out of this movie. Her performance as Loretta Lynn is up there with Theresa Russell in Bad Timing for films of the year 1980 for me; where Russell was unabashed and open, Spacek is a bit of everything. She's more on the Oscarbait capital-A acting wavelength, doing Lynn's transformation from backwoods 14 year old child bride to pill-popping superstar. And Oscar loves that kind of thing--see De Niro's Oscar this same year--but Spacek is really good at being a petulant child, or a young woman giddy with being on the threshold of success, or the mature Lynn who keeps on performing and performing and being popular without ever completely excising her self-doubt. I loved the scene near the end where she breaks down on stage, the burdens of her husband (a mostly just-along-for-the-ride Tommy Lee Jones) and her fans and everything else finally wearing her down. Now dramatically, the movie is sort of iffy, as it portrays Loretta Lynn as almost entirely a creation of her husband, which may be true, but it doesn't make for a super-compelling story. But it's okay--Spacek's performance is enough of a story all on its own.