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Ishtar

Ishtar!

Just the name of this fictional nation inspires suspicious glances from moviegoers. It is arguably one of the more famous cinematic disasters, known for its bloated budget and now epic failure at the box-office. Luckily, I found a ragged copy of Ishtar (the box of which opens from the side for some bizarre reason), and have just finished Mr. Dustin Hoffman and Mr. Warren Beaty’s magnum dopus.

This is most definitely a conundrum of a movie. At 107 minutes long it seems to take quite a while to get where it is going, i.e. Ishtar itself. A large chunk at the beginning is spent on our characters’ life in America. Hoffman and Beaty play two horrible lounge singers/songwriters who pair up to try and get a record deal. When their agent sends them off to the Middle East for a gig, they wind up entangled in an Indiana Jones-like affair involving an ancient map, prophecies, and blind camels.

Like I said, the movie takes forever to actually land its main characters in Ishtar, which baffles my mind. There is so much they could have cut from the first act, as almost all of it just hammers home the joke that these two guys can’t sing or write songs. By the fifteenth scene of the pair hamming it up in a club while the audience looked on in horror, I was ready to turn the movie off and try again when my mind was more attentive.

Then the Ishtar plot shows up completely out of left field, with its dead serious talk of rebel factions going up against a cruel leader. So much political chatter clogs these scenes that little room is left for comedy, and so I was puzzled as to why the movie was designated in such a genre.

The characters who populate Ishtar get very little development, but I liked them a heck of a lot more than anyone who was in the American act. That’s why I wish more of the movie had been spent in its title nation instead of dragging itself down with ponderous jokes about Hoffman and Beaty.

Then, just as quickly as Ishtar is introduced, the movie ends! I couldn’t believe how quickly everything was wrapped up, and suspect someone forced the filmmakers to hastily create a finale. By that point, however, I was starting to get interested in the cast, and thus I was left feeling deflated. Whatever chances this movie had with me were dashed by its overly abrubt conclusion.

Ishtar is not horrible, but it takes too long to find its way. And when it does, the curtains are already being drawn and the orchestra is taking their bows. I have to wonder how things could have turned out had the film been given better guidance, but maybe I should stop wondering, as this film is almost 20 years old. I only wanted to see Ishtar because it was on a list of 100 terrible films (of which I mean to complete by the end of my lifetime), and so at least I can say I got something out of the experience.

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One comment

  1. re: “ISHTAR”.
    Here we have two—count ’em,two—of the Crown Princes of CHEESE: Dustin Hoffman AND Warren Beatty. Beatty was D.O.A. from the giddyup—see SHAMPOO and REDS for starters; so was Hoffman (excepting STRAIGHT TIME, the exception that proves the rule: Once a Cheese etc. etc.)

    Placed under the direction of the unspeakable Elaine May, this Cheese triumverate could ONLY be expected to produce the stinkiest of odiferous Limberger-style cheese.

    NOTE: Not for nothing was May hitched to Mike Nichols, one of the Grandmasters of Cheese: WORKING GIRL on the Big Screen is surely short-listed for the Cheese Hall of Fame, THE GRADUATE too—Seen it lately?
    A Cheese connoiseur’s delight: The scene where Hoffman rejects the advances of Anne Bancroft is so fraudulent: Just what makes a Cheese-Lover’s heart throb with delight—picture it now, a young college guy in a room ALONE with Anne Bancroft stripped to her skivvies looking too hot for this lifetime AND HE REJECTS HER BECAUSE HE’S GOT “PRINCIPLES”. AND “INTEGRITY”. Uh, right.
    In favor of…Katherine Ross???

    This flick, more than any other, heralded the arrival of the GIRLY MAN as a cultural icon, a role model to be emulated: The needy, sanctimonious brat who is a boneless deflated motor-mouth who’s going to huff and puff and–what? Write an “impassioned” and “articulate” Letter To The Editor of some Commie rag. And get a loser job working for the government—The GIRLY MAN is too too good for the brutal realities of the world of competition and achievement.
    Kind of like now: The 70s saw an efflorescence of Girly Men, who were going to Save The World. Well, they’re back now, beating the same old drum as before and the result will be the same: People will figure them out, get sick of them and clear the decks and move on, leaving the Girly Man in the dust, fuming in the shadows with his Theories and Philosophies and outraged passive aggressive self-righteousness.
    ANYWAY…
    Trolling for Cheese in the Low-Budget Indie stuff is to miss the point completely. If you want to fully dwell in the HOUSE OF CHEESE go for the best, the “serious” big-budget/big-name Cheesemeisters, like the aforementioned. Click on the names in the credits of the foregoing in IMDb for a storehouse of delights sure to quicken the heart of any CHEESE-LOVER’S heart.

    I’d continue, but the Learning Channel (which used to have cogent scientific and engineering shows) has become a Cheese Lover’s paradise:

    “Obese And Pregnant”

    “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” (multiple episodes)

    and what looks to be pregnant midgets, Now that may work for neophyte Cheesehounds, but to a Terminal Cheese guy (like me) I need not just pregnant midgets—I want ’em blind and in a wheelchair too. The REAL CHEESE ADDICT needs ever-increasing doses of CHEESE, true enough.

    But hope springs eternal: The antics of the oh-so-serious under-40 bunch, so moist and fluffy, on cable and the web have opened new vistas of Cheese.

    Hosanna In The Highest—A New Era of Cheese has dawned!!!

    Yours in Cheese,

    Matthew H. Davidson
    mhantholz@yahoo.com



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