Video Picks Archive

May 3, 2000
This Week's Video Picks
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Reviews by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>

This week my picks are Being John Malkovich (1999 - ) and Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941 - ).

The first film this week was one of the very best films of last year -- taking the second spot on my Top Ten List for 1999. John Cusack stars as a puppeteer who takes a job as a file clerk. In his office, he finds a little door that opens to reveal a tunnel. Going into the tunnel takes the traveller into the mind of John Malkovich (who plays himself). He and co-worker Catherine Keener start a business charging people $200 for the experience. Rarely has a film this "high-concept" been so enjoyable. Veteran music video director Spike Jonze makes his feature debut in stunning fashion. Charlie Kaufman makes his debut as a screenwriter, delivering the funniest screenplay committed to film in a long time. Cameron Diaz and Orson Bean also star in this incredible cast, which was completely looked over by the major awards.
Full review from November 7, 1999

For the classic example of this concept, you need to turn to the second film. Robert Montgomery stars a boxer who dies before his time. He is sent back to Earth by Mr. Jordan (an angel played by Claude Rains) to take over the body of a millionaire who was just killed by his wife. This brilliant comedy, directed by Alexander Hall, is one of the funniest films ever made. Montgomery and Rains give incredible performances, creating unforgettable characters. It won two Academy Awards, both for Original Story (to Harry Segall, for his play Heaven Can Wait) and Screenplay (to Sidney Buchman and Seton I. Miller). Of course, those would be consolidated today, but if any film deserves two Oscars for its writing, it might as well be this one. It did not, however, win Best Picture, losing to How Green Was My Valley. What else lost? Only a few minor pictures like The Maltese Falcon, Suspicion, and something called Citizen Kane (which managed to win the other writing award, going to some guys named Mankiewicz and Welles). In 1978, Warren Beatty remade this film, using the original play's title. It is being remade again, this time with Chris Rock, for release this summer (tentatively titled I Was Made to Love Her).

Update 7/19/2000: The Chris Rock version is going to be called Down To Earth, with its release moved to October. There was another film made in 1947 with the same title, which was a semi-sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan, using some of the same characters. That film was the basis for the 1980 mega-bomb Xanadu.

Update 2/22/2001: You can now read my review of Down to Earth, which finally came out on February 16, 2001 after many delays.


For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Being John Malkovich (1999) -- VHS
Being John Malkovich (1999) -- DVD
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) -- VHS
Heaven Can Wait, a play by Harry Segall -- Paperback


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