(Second viewing, On DVD, August 2017) I’ve grown soft on some of the movies I loved to dislike back in the nineties (see: Independence Day), but as it turns out, Waterworld is just as dumb now than it was back then. From the first moments, the idiocies accumulate quickly, and it’s hard to remain immersed in a Science Fiction movie when you keep muttering “no, no, that’s just stupid” every thirty seconds or so. Soaked dystopia Waterworld desperately tries to make audiences believe in a world entirely covered with water, in factions repeatedly meeting on a featureless ocean, in scarce resources being expended wildly, in … oh, forget it. But there’s more to the annoyance than nitpicking the film to death: it really doesn’t help that Waterworld’s action sequences are so repetitive, either taking place on water or in rusted-out low-imagination post-apocalyptic environments. The film is dull and blurs in trying to recall specific moments. Costner himself is almost a caricature of his own stoic persona, and there’s added irony in contemplating that the film largely takes place on a sea over the American west … that’s right: Westworld is another Costner western. If the film does show most of its then-record breaking budget on the screen, it’s not particularly exciting nor engaging. Sure, Jeanne Tripplehorn is always interesting and sure, it’s OK to see Dennis Hopper ham it up as a villain made to scare kids but … really? Now that I’ve watched Waterworld again, I’m ready to go another twenty years (or more) not thinking about it.
(Second viewing, On TV, March 2017) I definitely remember seeing Basic Instinct a long time ago (in French, given that I remember the crude final lines as the ridiculous “… comme des castors”) but I’d forgotten enough of it to be mesmerized by a second viewing. Even today, it remains a pedal-to-the-metal borderline-insane thriller, rich in violence and a degree of eroticism seldom matched since then. I ended up watching the unrated version (on a basic-cable movie TV channel … go figure) and it features three of the most graphic sex scenes I can recall from a Hollywood film—the Jeanne Tripplehorn scene alone is worth the watch. Not that the rest of the movie is dull—under the combined daring of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and director Paul Verhoeven, the film cranks up nearly every single exploitative dial to eleven. It throws in a car chase on twisty backroads because, well, why not? It throws another car chase through downtown San Francisco because, again, why not? When bisexuality and murder are the most ordinary elements of the story, that’s not even getting into the twisted psychos-sexual games played between the two characters. Michael Douglas is in peak form as a risk-addicted policeman, and while Sharon Stone is still remembered for the ice-cold danger she projects, I had forgotten how her character is balanced by some cute impishness. The interrogation sequence has been parodied endlessly, but remains no less effective today in seeing a lone woman defy half a dozen alpha males by sheer (or not-so-sheer) chutzpah. Basic Instinct is pure wilful exploitation, and that’s why it’s so remarkable. The murder mystery is almost besides the point—something that the double-ending practically dies laughing about. I still think it’s far too bloody … but that’s part of the film’s twisted fun. Morally reprehensible yet slickly executed, Basic Instinct almost looks even better twenty-five years later.