American Psycho [2000]

The Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho, a dark, violent satire of the "me" culture of Ronald Reagan's 1980s, is certainly one of the most controversial books of the '90s, and that notoriety fueled its bestseller status. This smart, savvy adaptation by Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) may be able to ride the crest of the notoriety; prior to the film's release, Harron fought a ratings battle (ironically, for depictions of sex rather than violence), but at the time the director stated, "We're rescuing [the book] from its own bad reputation." Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner (Go Fish) overcome many of the objections of Ellis's novel by keeping the most extreme violence offscreen (sometimes just barely), suggesting the reign of terror of yuppie killer Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) with splashes of blood and personal souvenirs. Bale is razor sharp as the blank corporate drone, a preening tiger in designer suits whose speaking voice is part salesman, part self-help guru, and completely artificial. Carrying himself with the poised confidence of a male model, he spends his days in a numbing world of status-symbol one-upmanship and soul-sapping small talk, but breaks out at night with smirking explosions of homicide, accomplished with the fastidious care of a hopeless obsessive. The film's approach to this mayhem is simultaneously shocking and discreet; even Bateman's outrageous naked charge with a chainsaw is most notable for the impossibly polished and gleaming instrument of death. Harron's film is a hilarious, cheerfully insidious hall of mirrors all pointed inward, slowly cracking as the portrait becomes increasingly grotesque and insane. --Sean Axmaker

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Patrick Bateman:
Do you like Phil Collins? I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. Christy, take off your robe. Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. Sabrina, remove your dress. In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. Sabrina, why don't you, uh, dance a little. Take the lyrics to Land of Confusion. In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. In Too Deep is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything I've heard in rock. Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your asshole. Phil Collins' solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like In the Air Tonight and Against All Odds. Sabrina, don't just stare at it, eat it. But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is Sussudio, a great, great song, a personal favorite.

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