Today Mixed Signals let its electronic hair down and sauntered over to Bob Mondello's desk to pose the movie question everyone is asking: Just how much of Sharon Stone do we get to see in Basic Instinct 2? Classy guy that he is, he didn't even go to the preview. Instead he checked out some indie films:
The Devil and Daniel Johnston: A docu-bio of a widely admired artist and singer-songwriter whose vocal style takes some getting used to and whose attraction as a lyricist escapes me. Johnston was a packrat and a self-documenter from an early age, so the filmmaker had lots of visual and aural material to work with. He was a precociously adorable kid. By the time he headed off to college, Johnston was depressed, and for far too long he remained unmedicated. That clearly fuelled his creativity, making his parents and acquaintances miserable. The film becomes an intriguing study of depression and has occasional moments of eerie beauty (the 40-something Johnston dressed as Casper the Friendly Ghost, cavorting for the camera over the final credits, for instance).
Brick: "High school noir," more or less a new genre, though Bugsy Malone qualifies as grade school noir, I guess. Joseph Gordon Leavitt (the kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun) is a late-teens Bogie in wire-rim glasses, prowling suburbia for clues about who killed his ex. The chatter is pure Dashiell Hammett. The characters — drama queen, rich girl vamp, thug, brain, and "The Pin" (Lucas Haas all grown up since Witness) — are cool, but those who are dealing drugs out of his mom's basement are either implicated, or helping the hero. Look for Big Sleep and Maltese Falcon references.
Adam and Steve: If this is representative of post-Brokeback gay filmmaking, we're in deep trouble. A gross-out comedy about two guys who meet again (but don't recognize each other) many years after their first hookup was short-circuited by a mortifying cocaine-cut-with-baby-laxative accident (let your imagination run wild and you'll get there, but you really shouldn't). The story's sappy when it's being romantic. The direction's mostly lame, and otherwise puerile.