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20th Century Fox

Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney, Lili Taylor
Screenplay: Cameron Crowe

Tagline: To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to know Lloyd Dobler.
MPAA: Rated PG-13

Presentation: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 & Dolby Surround 2.0, French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed-captioned

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 3/5/2002

• Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Cameron Crowe and Actors John Cusack and Ione Skye
• 10 Deleted Scenes
• 13 Extended Scenes
• 5 Alternate Scenes
• Featurette
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Cameron Crowe’s Personal Photo Gallery

Music soundtrack

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Say Anything (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Teen movies consistently seem to split into two camps. There are the nice, girlie ones with handsome boys who court quirky girls, ala 10 Things I Hate About You. Then there are the male-oriented flicks that tend to revolve around sex, sex, and more sex. Pictures like Road Trip tend to fall into that category. A few movies straddle both realms, though they definitely edge closer to one or the other. For example, American Pie was much warmer than one might expect, but it still focused more heavily on the coarse side of the street. (Its sequel departed even more strongly from the romantic mode.)

It’ll probably always be this way, and the situation was identical back in the Eighties. In that era, we found smarmy and scummy flicks like Porky’s and about a million other skin-oriented party comedies for the boys, while John Hughes created a whole genre unto himself with his patented light comedies. Actually, Hughes nicely crossed the male/female divide with flicks like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club, but I still think his films - especially those like Sixteen Candles and Pretty In Pink - appealed more to the estrogen-dominant viewers.

Into this setting stepped writer Cameron Crowe. Though only 32 in 1989, Crowe’d already had a long career; he worked as a journalist for Rolling Stone magazine in the Seventies and then branched into film work by the start of the Eighties. By 1989, he remained best known as the writer of Fast Times At Ridgemont High; he composed both the original book and the screenplay for the hit 1982 flick.

In between, his film work was restricted to a 1984 dud called The Wild Life. I vaguely remember the movie, mainly because it came across as such a derivative piece of work, at least as marketed. It marked the first lead role for Chris Penn, who just happened to be the brother of Fast Times’ Sean. The advertising people tried to capitalize on this fact, but it didn’t work; the movie stiffed.

Apparently Crowe wasn’t too happy with the result either. He felt it was too much of a party flick without the depth and realism he wanted. Of course, Fast Times became a hit due to its comedy as well, but it actually pushed the envelope for the period as it showed greater believability within its characters.

So Crowe set out to make a movie that broadened the horizons of the Eighties teen comedy. Eventually, he came up with 1989’s Say Anything, a picture that has little to do with the wild party flicks of the era. However, I can’t claim that it’s a total departure from the John Hughes mold, as it actually would fit well into that model.

Say Anything concentrates on the lives of two teens who just graduated from high school in the Seattle area. On the surface, they couldn’t be more different. On one hand, we have lovely Diane Court (Ione Skye), the class valedictorian. She barely knows her peers; an overachiever, she spent much of her time in classes at a local university. Everyone knows of the talented Miss Court, but other than her supportive and doting father (John Mahoney), virtually no one is aware of anything else about her.

And then there’s Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), the veritable definition of mediocrity. Actually, that’s not fair, as it quickly becomes clear that Lloyd is charming and very likable. But ambitious the young man is not. His Dad’s in the military, which means his parents are in Germany and he lives with his bitter single-mother sister Constance (the actor’s real-life sister Joan in an uncredited turn) and her son. Lloyd has no idea what he’ll do with his life, though as we learn during one hilarious speech, he knows what he doesn’t want to do.

Lloyd loves kickboxing - “the sport of the future” - and he’s fixated on Diane. He’s had one pretend date with her; they sat near each other at a mall eatery. Now he wants to take it to the next level, so he invites her to a post-graduation party. Although she has almost no idea who he is, Diane agrees nonetheless and eventually has a good time.

And a nascent romance begins. Diane turns out to be as wonderful as Lloyd fantasized, and in him, she discovers someone who loves her for herself, not for her big brain or accomplishments. Unfortunately, a snag exists on the horizon. Diane won a prestigious fellowship that will send her to England at summer’s end. Her affection for Lloyd starts to cloud her desire to do this, so her Dad pressures her to dump the less-than-ambitious dude. Mr. Court also has some problems with the IRS that make things even more difficult for Diane. Will love eventually carry the day?

As I mentioned earlier, I think Say Anything… fits the John Hughes mold neatly. We find main characters who feel vaguely like misfits but are still attractive and appealing to a general audience combined with various forms of melodrama and a happening pop/rock soundtrack; if you didn’t know better, you’d think Anything came straight from the Hughes factory.

I prefer Anything to the usual sappy Hughes flick, though I don’t know if it quite deserves the stellar reputations it’s built for itself. Anything inspires a great deal of positive sentiment among its fans, and while I like the film, I’m not especially wild about it. With the possible exception of Mr. Court, I thought its supporting characters suffered from rather weak development, as they really remained excessively supporting. Granted, the movie was meant to concentrate on Lloyd and Diane, but the others kind of came and went without much rhyme or reason, and the story never fleshed any of them out to a particularly satisfying degree.

Considering Crowe’s desire for realism, I also felt that too much of Anything came across as overly melodramatic. The whole subplot that involves Mr. Court and the IRS seemed unnecessary to me. It felt like it existed mainly to provide additional drama, but that wasn’t needed. We had enough tension due to Diane’s conflict; the choice she had to make between Lloyd and London seemed more than sufficient to sustain the story. I won’t say that events such as those that affected Mr. Court don’t happen, but in this instance, I thought they appeared a bit phony.

Otherwise, Anything worked quite well, largely due to the charms of its lead actors. At times, I thought Skye seemed somewhat stiff as Diane, but usually that tendency made sense for the character; I can’t say I’m convinced Skye behaved that way on purpose, but as long as the end result was positive, I won’t kvetch. Cusack appeared perfectly cast as Lloyd. Quirky but not obnoxious, handsome but not too pretty, and intelligent but not smug or condescending, he lent the part a bright and vivid charm that helped carry the movie. Without Cusack in the lead, Anything likely wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.

Crowe’s knack for finding the honesty in small moments also aided Anything. Hughes always tended to go for the sentimental or the superficial, but Crowe brought a nice depth and general believability to the flick. As I already noted, I thought some aspects of the film stretched this notion, but overall, Anything hit home. I’ve been out of high school for almost 17 years, but one viewing of this movie brought back a lot of the feelings from those screwy years. Not much about my life resembled any of the leads, but Crowe got the tone right, which made it all seem like yesterday.

Or maybe last week. Whatever the case, Say Anything… will bring back those high school days for many of us - for better or for worse. Actually, I don’t know if that’ll be as true for folks who didn’t graduate in the Eighties; the film feels like a part of that era, which made it easier for me to identify with it. Still, I think the flick connects strongly enough with universal sentiments that it should work for many different audiences. While not a great movie, Say Anything... has enough going for it to merit a look.

Today’s bizarre coincidence: I thought the actor who played the US attorney looked familiar, but I couldn’t place his face. It’s Jerry Ziesmer, also the film’s assistant director. He’s best known for his brief stint as the “terminate with extreme prejudice” guy from Apocalypse Now, but he also appeared in The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, a flick I just watched last week. I also vaguely recognized him then. The dude’s only acted in seven movies; what are the odds I’ll see two of them in the span of a few days? Strange but true!

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio B+ / Bonus B

Say Anything… appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture seemed a little spotty at times, but it presented a reasonably positive experience for a film from its era.

Sharpness generally appeared good, though not on a totally consistent basis. At times, wide shots and even a few closer images looked a little soft and fuzzy. Not surprisingly, these occurred mainly during interior scenes. Otherwise, the picture remained fairly crisp and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects showed no concerns, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws offered occasional problems, but these remained pretty minor across the board. I saw some light grain at times, and I also witnessed a few specks and some grit. However, as a whole, the movie looked fairly clean, especially given its age.

Colors tended to be good but unexceptional. The film used a restrained but natural palette, and across the board, the tones seemed clear and reasonably accurate but not particularly vivid. I had no real complaints about the hues, but I also felt they did little to distinguish themselves. Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, however, and shadow detail was clear and appropriately opaque without any excessive murkiness or heaviness. Ultimately, Say Anything presented a pretty solid picture, but not one that seemed especially terrific in any way.

Surprisingly positive was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Say Anything… As long as you don’t expect the mix to provide a slam-bang presentation on the order of a modern action flick, I think you’ll be very pleased with it. Music and dialogue drove Anything. Speech stayed in the front center, but the score and songs spread very nicely to the other channels. The music mainly showed a forward bias, but the rears added a solid layer of reinforcement to the tunes. I found the music to come across as quite involving and engaging throughout the movie; the soundtrack replicated this aspect of the film well.

Effects appeared throughout the film in a general and ambient manner, and the audio replicated them fairly well. Those elements remained pretty firmly anchored in the front channels, where I consistently heard good environmental audio but little else. During the party scene, the surrounds opened up a bit, but even then, the speaker usage resulted mainly from the music; effects stayed firmly in the background through most of Anything.

Audio quality appeared strong. Speech consistently sounded natural and warm, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Given the prominence of dialogue in Anything, that was especially important. Modest though they were, effects seemed clean and accurate, with reasonable dynamics and no issues related to distortion. Music remained the strongest aspect of the track. Those elements came across as nicely bright and clear, with positive highs and solid bass response. No, the mix didn’t give my subwoofer a workout, but the songs seemed well reproduced and appropriately musical. In the end, Say Anything won’t dazzle you with its sonics, but I felt it was a very fine track for its age and the material.

Although they easily could have gotten away with a basic release of Say Anything…, Fox have wrapped the film up in a very rich package through this special edition DVD. It includes a surfeit of extras, starting with an audio commentary from director Cameron Crowe and actors John Cusack and Ione Skye. All three were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track.

In what may well be a first, the commentary starts 20 minutes prior to the opening of the film! We get a fore-chat from the three as they warm up for the full track. Crowe tells us how he started the project, and the actors relate the ways in which they became involved. It’s a great way to begin the piece, and they keep things going well during the commentary proper. Crowe dominates the experience, and Skye seems to get a little buried by the men at times, but all three still contribute some very good information. It’s a very informative and rich commentary that covers a large mix of subjects; from interpretation of parts of the film to Eric Stoltz’s stint as production assistant, you’ll learn a lot about the flick, and it all comes out in an entertaining and casual manner.

Next we find scads of unused footage, all of which is presented anamorphically enhanced in the film’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This appears via three different domains. First we discover five alternate scenes. Actually, that number’s a little misleading, as some of them include multiple takes of the same sequence. Anyway, the different segments last between one minute, 44 seconds and three minutes, 35 seconds for a total of 11 minutes of footage. Some of the material’s interesting, especially as the various shots of Cusack and the boombox feature songs other than “In Your Eyes”; alternately, we hear a Fishbone tune and Elvis Costello’s “Tokyo Storm Warning”. I’m pretty sure neither was ever intended as the final track for the scene; that portion of the film demanded something at least vaguely romantic, and the grinding and cacophonic “Warning” falls far from that requirement. Overall, these snippets will be useful mainly for the flick’s biggest fans; otherwise they aren’t terribly fascinating.

One note: the DVD case states that the alternate scenes are available with commentary from Crowe. That’s not correct. Unless it’s buried in some super-secret menu, I found no evidence of commentary alongside any of the unused material.

More compelling are the 10 deleted scenes. These run between 16 seconds and three minutes, 41 seconds for a total of 13 minutes and 12 seconds of material. These are vaguely interesting but there’s nothing tremendously valuable that hit the cutting room floor. Most of the scenes show more of John Mahoney, and we also see some extra shots of Cusack and old folks.

The excised material comes to a close in the longest section, one that provides 13 extended scenes. These go for between 48 seconds and four minutes, 16 seconds for a total of 24 minutes and 32 seconds of shots. As with the prior two areas, none of this footage seems revelatory, but there’s still some interesting stuff here. Actually, I think some of these clips are the most fun of the bunch. Helpfully, the shots from the final film appear in black and white, while the added bits are in color. This isn’t a perfect rule - a few snippets from the finished film aren’t B&W - but it’s still a nice way to let us distinguish the added parts.

After this wealth of unused footage we find some more mundane extras. We get a featurette from 1988 that lasts six minutes and 58 seconds. It’s essentially a glorified trailer. We hear from Crowe plus actors Cusack, Skye and Mahoney as they tell us about the story and little more. Unfortunately, they relate far too much information about the plot; quite a few potential spoilers - like the ending - appear. Even without that flaw, it’s still a boring piece that offers no useful facts.

From there we get two theatrical trailers - both of which are 16X9-enhanced 1.85:1 - as well as eight TV spots. There’s also Cameron Crowe’s Personal Photo Gallery. I’d hate to see his impersonal photo gallery, as this one’s a dud. All we find are seven fairly bland snaps, most of which feature Mahoney. Crowe couldn’t dig up more than seven pictures?

Despite that bland feature, Say Anything… still offers a nice package. I think the movie itself is somewhat overrated, but it provides a fairly charming and moderately realistic tale that helps distinguish itself from other teen-oriented flicks of the period. The DVD includes consistently good picture and sound plus a positive compilation of fine extras. A rare teen film that works beyond its audience and era, Say Anything… isn’t without flaws, but it still provides an entertaining and compelling experience at a bargain price.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2173 Stars Number of Votes: 46
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