Double Feature

June 2006 - This month, we feature two films from directors who later won Academy Award for their work.

Steven Soderbergh, honored in 2001 for Traffic, made his mark in 1989 with the Oscar-nominated sex, lies, and videotape. This low-budget film stars Andie MacDowell, James Spader and Peter Gallagher.

MacDowell plays Ann Bishop, a Southern housewife married to John (Gallagher), a lawyer who's just been made a junior partner. While Ann talks to her shrink about trash, John sleeps with bartender Cynthia, who is also Ann's sister. Everything changes when Graham (Spader) comes to town.

Graham has been living out of his car and convincing women all over the country to tell them their sexual histories so he can record them and watch them at his, uh, leisure. Ann is alternately fascinated and repulsed by Graham. But, when she finally figures out that her husband is sleeping with her sister, it's Graham who she goes to.

Overall review: Liked it. Intriguing all the way around, from the way it's structured to the overall lack of a soundtrack. The only thing that bothered me is that it is never explained how Graham gets his money. He has video equipment, a car, a limited wardrobe and enough money to rent an apartment. Yet, we never see him working. At one point, Ann actually asks him where he gets his money. Graham's answer: Underneath the mattress.

sex, lies, and videotape is rated R. You can find it on videotape or DVD.

Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) showed off his talent in 1994's Heavenly Creatures. He got an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay. The movie tells the true story of two teenage girls in 1950's New Zealand. The girls become more than friends and commit murder so they can be together.

Kate Winslet makes her big-screen debut as Juliet Hulme (who now writes mystery novels under the name Anne Perry). Melanie Lynskey also makes her acting debut as Pauline Parker, whose mother gets bashed in the head at the end of a picnic.

Juliet is the new girl at school. She and Pauline are paired up in art class and, after that, only Juliet's bout with tuberculosis can keep them apart. The close relationship troubles both sets of parents. Juliet's parents plan to leave and take her with them. But, they agree to let the girls spend a final couple of days together. It's during this time that they kill Pauline's mother.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. Interesting, but I kind of got lost in the storytelling as it went back and forth between reality and fantasy. Some of the fantasy sequences are depicted through computer-generated characters that foreshadow Jackson's work on the LOTR trilogy. I also would have liked more information about what happened after the murder. The few sentences that appeared on the screen were very unsatisfying.

Heavenly Creatures is rated R. You can find it on video or DVD.