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The Dream Machine --- The Imagination of the World Wide Web
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Rightfully considered one of the best films of 1996, this biopic follows the rise, fall and rise again of millionaire Hustler publisher and self-proclaimed "scumbag" Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson). We follow Flynt from his days as the owner of a strip joint in the early 1970's, to his landmark case before the Supreme court over censorship in 1987. The film delves into his relationships with his stripper wife Althea (rock star, Courteney Love), who died of AIDS in 1987 and his lawyer Alec (Edward Norton from Primal Fear). We also watch as he survived all opposition, inconveniences and disabilities to become the leading figure against censorship of any kind. He promotes his beliefs in his typical far-out way, whether throwing oranges at judges or satirizing Jerry Falwell in explicit Hustler fashion.
Without the film's cast, screenwriters and Milos Forman's sure-footed direction, this film would have been as bad as Showgirls and Striptease. Instead, it becomes a wry satiric look at America's view of "Family Values" and the fight against censorship. This film couldn't have come out at a better time, what with all the hoopla over internet "porn" and people crying out for protection of their children from "indecent" entertainment. Flynt was the type of guy whose basic message was, "If a scumbag like me doesn't get any rights under the first amendment, next thing you know you'll all have your rights taken away". The acting is superb, with a dynamite performance by Harrelson (who pulls off the difficult task of making you despise Flynt, but at the same time root for him all the way) and excellent support from a cast lead by Love, giving her all as Althea Flynt.
Love-who gives a firebrand performance that Madonna only dreams about having as an actress-seems perfectly natural in her role. Norton, the subtlest of any of the actors in the picture, pulls off a whammy as Flynt's brutally honest and patient best friend (the only true friend that Flynt has it seems). The film made me come out seeing Flynt in a new light. Personally, I had nothing against him except for the fact that he was a jerk. But I sort of like him now, mainly for the fact that nobody is as outspoken about the rights of the first amendment as he is. And the amazing part is that, even after being shot and paralyzed, even after opponents like Charles Keating and Jerry Falwell almost had him thrown in jail for life, even after the tragic death of his wife, he still kept coming back ten times more powerful than the last time. He's basically a human version of the Energizer bunny.