Drugstore Cowboy – Great film. Gus gave us Heather Graham (hubba hubba), a grown up Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch (what happened to her? Oh yeah – Roadhouse. Sorry Kelly). Gus also cast famous teetotaler William S. Burroughs as an aged drug addict priest. That musta been a stretch, Bill.
My Own Private Idaho – Ok, this one has some problems but I still liked it. A worthy follow up to Drugstore Cowboy, with great cinematography from John J. Campbell and Eric Alan Edwards.
To Die For – Nicole Kidman’s first opportunity to really act outside of Australia. Check her out in her native OZ movies before meeting Tom Cruise (he went to Saint X in Louisville). Too bad Hollywood got to her, and now she’s Botoxed herself into a caricature with no credibility. Also see how annoying child actor, Leaf Phoenix, transformed into pretty good actor, Joachin Phoenix.
Good Will Hunting – Is this technically Van Sant’s first studio gig? It doesn’t have any of his indie flourishes. Exec produced by everyone’s favorite fanboy, Kevin Smith (yeah, I’m sure he was on set telling Gus what to do). Robin Williams was great. There’s only one brief moment where he loses control and almost seems like his manic self. Some folks hate Damon & Affleck, but I don’t have a problem with them. If they’re in good movie, I’ll see it. Minnie Driver was good too.
Elephant – 6 years after Good Will Hunting (I’ll ignore the stuff in between), and he wins best director and the Palm D’or at Cannes with this one. Inspired by Columbine, it’s got an interesting structure. It sort of has a Larry Clark vibe to it (but without the explicit underage sex).
Paranoid Park – Very similar in style and tone to Elephant. When you see a film like this, and then a movie like Milk, you really see where his heart is. My problem with Milk is it is not a Gus Van Sant film. It felt like a generic studio biopic. Sean Penn was perfectly fine, and so was Josh Brolin. In fact, Brolin’s screen time should’ve been increased and Diego Luna’s character excised. And Emile Hirsch looked like a straight man, acting like a stereotype from a 70’s movie. He was embarrassingly bad (and Gus is supposed to know how a gay man acts). Of course since I’m not gay, maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Go see the award winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk instead. It’s much more engaging.