MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.
Being John Malkovich (1999, 112 minutes)
A trippy, modern-day tumble down Alice’s rabbit hole from director Spike Jonze. Instead of soldiers made from playing cards and a bellowing Queen of hearts, the lucky participant experiences a 15-minute voyage in which he actually becomes renowned actor John Malkovich.
Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is awakened by his wife’s annoying alarm clock just seconds before his beloved Lotte (Catherine Keener) starts in on her daily grind, gently aimed at his pursuit of a real job. “Nobody’s looking for a puppeteer in today’s wintry economic climate,” replies Craig, well rehearsed in his part. “I thought maybe something else, just until this puppet thing turns around,” she replies good naturedly. “I’ve gotta get to the shop. Shipment of kitty litter coming in today. Oh, and could you look at Elijah for me? He’s not looking very good.” Wearily, he asks, “Which one’s Elijah?” “The chimp,” she says, shutting the front door.
Later that day, Craig assumes his usual busking spot on a bustling city corner, using two puppets to portray a scene where the male and female, dressed in medieval garb, are grasping at one another in evocative positions, separated by thick jail walls. Catching his little daughter watching this disgusting display, her father screams, “Motherfucker!” at Craig before breaking his nose. “Oh no, not again!” cries Lotte as Craig stumbles into the pet shop. “Why do you do this to yourself?” “I’m a puppeteer,” he mutters.
Now desperate for any kind of work, Craig comes upon a curious listing in a “Help Wanted” section that might bear fruit. “Looking For A Man With Fast Hands. Short-statured file clerk with dexterous fingers. Apply at Lester Corp, 7 1/2 Floor, Merton-Flimmer Bldg.” “Seven and a half, right?” suggests the elevator operator to Craig who nods his assent. The lady operator grasps an industrial-sized crowbar as she punches the “stop” button halfway between the seventh and eighth floors, then pries the door open. A half-sized exit is revealed that leads to a perfectly normal looking office floor, except that everything is half-sized.
Craig must bend over like a jack-knife to avoid hitting the ceiling. He finds the Lester Corp office and tells the receptionist he has an appointment with Dr. Lester. “Please have a seat, Mr. Juarez.” “Schwartz,” corrects Craig to no avail. “My name is Schwartz.” “Sorry, I have no idea what you’re saying right now,” replies the receptionist. “Yes,” says Craig heading toward an empty chair. “Chet?” says the receptionist, confused. “I said ‘yes,’” says Craig. “You suggest what?” says the receptionist. “Sorry, I have no time for mumbling job applicants. Besides, Dr. Lester will see you now.” A quick interview with Dr. Lester, convinced by his secretary that he’s the one with the hearing problem, and Lester extends his hand. “You’ve got the job,” he beams.