Tag Archives: Henry Jaglom

Sitting Ducks (1980)

sitting ducks 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Running from the mob.

Simon (Michael Emil) and Sidney (Zach Norman) are two average guys with vastly different temperaments who decide to rip-off the mob by stealing their entire day’s collections. They then hide the money in the tires of their car while driving off with it to Florida where they hope to catch a chartered flight that will take them to Costa Rica. Along the way they meet up with two ditzy ladies (Irene Cagen, Patrice Townsend) as well as a chauffeur (Richard Romanus) who dreams of being a singer.

Michael Emil, who is the brother of the director Henry Jaglom, is a very poor actor and comes off as a third-rate Woody Allen. He talks incessantly about all his neurotic problems in a monotone style that has no voice inflections or facial gestures and ends up becoming more boring than funny and he is easily outperformed by his co-star Norman. Townsend, the director’s then wife, is not much better. She shows no ability at creating a character and seems to just mouth all her lines while having this big smile plastered on her face. The overall production has an amateurish look and the story itself seems like two movies rolled into one. The first part starts out like an intriguing crime caper and then the second part becomes this free spirited road movie. It would have worked better had they taken just one of the story lines to its satisfying conclusion instead of having two unsatisfying half stories. The set-up is great, but then doesn’t go anywhere with it and the ‘big’ twist that occurs near the film’s final fifteen minutes doesn’t work and has a bunch of loopholes in it that are a mile wide.

I did like the film’s free-form style that is lacking in many of today’s Hollywood produced movies that have too much of a rapid fire pace. The characters all have a wide assortment of fun quirks and their offbeat conversations are amusing. Richard Romanus, as the group’s chauffeur and struggling musician, comes off best and his songs aren’t bad either and the scene where Simon and Sidney try to have an ‘important’ discussion while walking through a field of cackling chickens is a gem.

This forerunner to the independent film movement has a few good quirky moments and characters, but it never comes together enough to be completely satisfying. Although overall it is still enough to find enjoyable.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 4, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Rated R

Director: Henry Jaglom

Studio: International Rainbow

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? (1983)

can she bake a cherry pie 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fighting keeps them together.

An emotional and neurotic Zee (Karen Black) has just broken up with her husband. Eli (Michael Emil) is an older man who enjoys calculating odds and averages. The two meet at a restaurant and become involved in an offbeat and tumultuous relationship.

The film at times tries a bit too hard to be offbeat. Zee seems almost like a walking cliché. She sobs so much she can’t even order her food at the restaurant without breaking into tears. She chain smokes and has a plethora of hang-ups and paranoia that seems to possess every eccentric movie character and makes the whole thing fall flat before it has even begun.

Fortunately once you make past the rather clumsy beginning it actually starts to click. Writer/director Henry Jaglom instills a wonderfully free-form style to the proceedings that allows one to become engaged without even knowing it. The cinema-vertite approach turns its low budget into an asset. It’s the little things that start to grab you especially the Michael Margotta character and his trained pigeon named Eddie or the brash  way he tries to pick-up women at cafes while their boyfriends are sitting right there at the table with them.

Eli and Zee’s quirky conversations are quite amusing especially Zee contemplating on getting pregnant. These is even a segment showing old home movies done by Jaglom’s parents where you get to see Jaglom and Emil, who are brothers in real-life, whey they were little kids.

Jaglom has seemed to have gotten to the very heart of why we watch movies, which is because we are all secretly voyeurs. We like that little window that opens up and allows us to observe other people and see how they respond and react to things without being told what to look for or what to think. The European style of filmmaking is a refreshing change of pace. The actors are allowed to freely improvise and when it is all over you feel like you’ve watched real people, which makes it seem more relevant and funny.

This is very similar to John Cassavete’s Minnie and Mokowitz, but this fairs better as it is not as strained or aimless. The characters also have a bit more appeal and didn’t ingrate on my nerves as much.

Black gives another intriguing performance. She even sings, which she does quite well and does it while wearing the same wig that she wore while singing in the classic film Nashville.

The only real negative that I had with it was the soundtrack, which was performed by street musicians and sounds awful. It eventually gets so overplayed that it becomes irritating.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 10, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: Henry Jaglom

Studio: Pan-Canadian Film Distributors

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video