|DAN'S 2004 MOVIE THOUGHTS|
by Dan R.
My Least Favorite Film of the Year
The Passion of the Christ
Mel Gibson is a hack. Wow, this was a piece of shit. I thought I was watching Beastmaster or something along those lines. The epic music, the super slo-mo, the fogÖ everything was awful. The whole thing screamed out "epic" and obviously this is the epic to end all epics, but let the source material speak for itself without hitting the viewer over the head.
I wanted to learn about the Bible, I wanted to love this movie for shock value alone, I wanted to be enlightened. Instead, I was bored out of my mind. The whole torture scene reminded me of the torture scene in Lethal Weapon when Mel is beaten while hanging by his hands from the ceiling.
Every thing uttered by Jesus in this movie I already knew. It would be like going to see a movie about MLK and then all you heard him say was "I Have a Dream" over and over. Where was the context? Why did Judas sell Jesus out? These are the things I suppose I was supposed to know coming into it but I wanted some back-story!
And this film might not have been Anti-Semitic after all, right? I mean it is true that Jews never do their own dirty work and always get others to do it for them so this film just was pointing out reality, right? Again, why no bigger context here describing the forces at play that led to the crucifixion?
And is the devil really an androgynous Ziggy Stardust fan? Is David Bowie the antichrist?
And the more I have read about Pontius Pilate, he wasnít just a poor schmo forced by the bloodthirsty Jews to kill Jesus, he was actually quite a jerk himself.
One of the worst movies Iíve ever seen.
What? Have the Coens lost it? What was this steaming pile of crap? The whole thing seemed to be made merely to create another top selling soundtrack.
Anyone who recommends this movie is out of his or her mind. This is a piece of doodoo wrapped up in a few good songs on the soundtrack. I could give two shits about any of these characters. Awful movie. So overreaching to be quirky in a Harold and Maude kind of way, and it fails miserably to attain that movieís brilliance.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
If the world of tomorrow is as boring as this film, I weep for the future.
It is a bad sign for a comedy when the actor with the best comedic timing in the entire movie is Peter Gammons.
Bertolucci seems so desperate to make a movie as memorable as the ones he shows clips from in the movie that it is kind of sad. I liked the blurring of film/ life aspects but the sexual and political stuff was poorly written.
This is Oscar baiting drivel. Oh so mannered and charming. I did like Kelly McDonald as Peter Pan though.
I find this quote quite interesting. Mark Urman, the head of distribution at ThinkFilm, an independent distributor recently discussed these "Oscar" worthy films released by major studios specialty divisions. He said, "I think it's wonderful and I think it's awful," Mr. Urman said of the current ascendance of the specialty divisions. "My concern," he continued, "is that moviegoers, if they feel they have satisfied their quotient for alternatives with something that is readily available and omnipresent and advertised - they don't have to pick up a magazine, don't have to work, don't have to read much. The film has big stars. They see it and say, I'm smart; they congratulate themselves, and that keeps them from seeing the really challenging film"
I couldnít have said it better myself.
I donít know what was more ridiculous, the fact that Liam Neeson was playing a twenty something at the beginning of the film or the ending when an owl winks at him. There is a good subject for a movie lurking in this film somewhere, but this film was not it. Bill Condon was in such a hurry to connect the dots of Kinseyís life to actually answer any questions that arose. I would have been interested to learn more about the office politics/ sexual shenanigans at the Kinsey Institute or to delve deeper into his relationship with his father or to find out more about how Kinsey dealt with the pedophile that he interviewed. Overall, this film was a mess.
People Say Iím Crazy
A schizophrenic makes a documentary about himself. Not as entertaining as it sounds.
The Story of the Weeping Camel
The story of the (almost) sleeping Daniel is more like it.
So very French. A distraught woman mistakenly walks into an accountantís office rather than into the therapistís office that she meant to enter. The accountant is too smitten to tell her, drama ensues.
I would rather have just seen a three-hour Simpsons episode about Mr. Burns. Did anyone else think, at times, that Leonardo sounded suspiciously like Ross Perot?
City Mouse and Country Mouse, Istanbul.
The music was great, Jamie Foxx was great, but the usual biopic aspects were not so good. Still, Iím excited if this helps Brother Rayís genius become more relevant for modern times. Plus, if you get a chance to see it at Court St. and hear people behind you calling out, "I think heís going blind" during the film, by all meansÖ do.
A big payday for all involved, Iím sure.
An Italian film that somehow ties in World War II, a bad marriage, pastries, an almost consummated affair, and voyeurism into a tidy 106 minutes.
Maria, Full Of Grace
The fact that this movie is out there is a good thing, but as a film, it kind of plays like the should-have-been After School Special from 1987 about drug mules.
I wanted to like this film more than I did. This one has a lot of flaws so it isn't that close to being great in the way that "Minority Report" and "A.I." almost are. Both of those were ruined by bad endings. This is kind of blah the whole way through. There are way too many completely implausible and head scratching moments in this film. I just don't understand why Spielberg can't make a great movie from beginning to end. He clearly is allowed to do whatever the hell he wants in his films but still feels the need to pander to the masses. But, I can't see this film setting any sort of box office records so why bother pandering. Matt Zoller Seitz described this film as Kafka directing a Capra film- good description except Spielberg waters down both: not enough bite to get all his points across and not sincere enough to moisten the eyes.
Low budget film consisting of four short stories set in the not too distant future about robots. Science fiction without all the special effects. Science fiction full of ideas rather than explosions. Unfortunately, it was also science fiction full of a lot of slow moments. I wanted this to be a lot more thought provoking than it was.
Worth a DVD Rental
Born Into Brothels
Like Maria, Full of Grace, this film calls attention to a terrible problem in the world. However, unlike the fiction of Maria, this film is a documentary. It was good and made me think, but there was something about it felt tedious to me. I donít quite know what it is other than perhaps documentary fatigue on my part. The concept of giving poverty stricken children (in this case India) cameras to document their lives is an interesting one but I felt like I had learned more from a photo exhibit with a similar theme that I saw last year at a Manhattan gallery than I did from this film.
Bukowski: Born Into This
Interesting subject, straightforward documentary.
Samantha Morton is easily my favorite actress these days. Fragile and strong at the same time, she is amazing. This film by Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, 24 Hour Party People, In This World) is an interesting sci-fi flick. It doesnít bother explaining how the world got to be the way it is, but it doesnít need to. The story centers on a love story between Tim Robbins and Morton and the details about the future flow naturally from the characterís actions. Talk of being inside or outside, virus pills, etc. make perfect sense. The film looks amazing, but there is something missing from this film for it to be better. Winterbottom does a good job genre hunting but has yet to really make a great film.
This film was supposedly made for 218 dollars. Some of it is damn eerie, some is kind of boring. Basically, it is one manís diary on film and a document about how a crazy mom can be a heavy burden for any son to carry.
Team America: World Police
Like South Park- brilliant at times, completely stupid and not funny at others.
I Heart Huckabees
I wanted to like this film so badly. I really really did. Iíve liked all of David O. Russellís films but I feel like this was a misstep. Goofy and absurd merely for the sake of being goofy and absurd. I could tell what Russell was after in this film but it just doesnít coalesce well in the end. The only scene where Russell effectively called right-wingers on their hypocrisy was the dinner scene where Mark Wahlberg goes ballistic. That scene is a classic; the rest of the film isnít quite as good.
There were some funny subtle moments in this film that had Chris L and me in stitches while the rest of the crowd just seemed to enjoy the endless dodgeball to crotch shots.
Super Size Me
This documentary made some good points, but come on, who the fuck is going to eat McDonaldís 90 meals in a row and go out of his way to stop exercising? I would have found the effects of his diet more horrifying if he had eaten McDonaldís every night for dinner for a year and continued some moderate exercise. Also, was it bad that I wanted to head to the Golden Arches right after the movie?
The Motorcycle Diaries
This film had the effect on me for South America that Y Tu Mama Tambien did for Mexico- to go there to travel. I really didnít know much about the young (or old for that matter besides college kids like wearing his face on T-shirts) Che Guvera before this film and this makes me want to learn more.
Million Dollar Baby
I liked it a lot when it was uplifting, but then it became a downer and I lost interest. Still, it is worlds better than Mystic River.
House of Flying Daggers
I loved the first 75 minutes of this movie but the last 45 lost me. It looked stunning and I was completely into the story until they reached the Flying Daggers troupe. And what was with it that super fast season change out of the blue?
Starsky and Hutch
I could have done without the cameo at the end of the original Starsky and Hutch, but this film was fun. Just the right amount of silliness. And the "Do it" scene and the table knives as weapons scenes were quite amusing. I canít believe Iíve never actually seen an episode of Starsky and Hutch.
It looked good, the soundtrack was lively, and the action was entertaining. But I was a little perturbed by some of the messages that the movie seemed to be espousing. Maybe it is just me because Sujan didn't feel quite the same way that I did.
But this is what I saw:
-The three definite Jewish characters were either lawyers or a bumbling teacher. The money grubbing insurance boss might or might not be Jewish so I'll give the movie a pass on that one.
-The dad Incredible has been emasculated and is rudderless. The damn society has cut off his balls and now he is miserable and doesn't know what to do with his life. His wife is all too happy to send him off to his soul crushing office job everyday in a quest to keep him in line. He wants to do something that matters; she wants him to be part of the system that makes him miserable.
-All wives are doubting nags. Mrs. Incredible nags her husband the entire movie and picks on his life goals. Sam Jackson's wife is too busy nagging him about a ruined dinner to notice that their city is being attacked and he needs to help.
-Even when Mrs. Incredible is running around and beating up bad guys in the second half of the movie, she momentarily stops to look at how big her ass has gotten in a mirror. What is that all about?
-At the end, when the kids are finally allowed to excel amongst their peers and not hide their special abilities anymore, the boy becomes a track star. The girl? For all of her newfound confidence, what do the writers reward her with? A boyfriend! Hooray!
-And, of course, screw those damn mediocre kids who are ruining it for the smart, athletic kids.
-The whole thing felt like a conservative's wet dream. Woe is the privileged white male. What victims they are. Boo hoo.
For more, read the comments from my original blog entry.
However, Iíve got to say, the film was entertaining, even if the plot was a rip-off of Spy Kids 2. And am I the only one who thought Mr. Incredible reminded me of Sam U. Very sweet, wanting to make positive change, full of energy, super strong, and bursting at the seams to get outside and bust some bad guyís heads! Anyone with me?
The first film made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Sort of a Yentl for the Muslim set. I really liked a lot of this, but I found 2001ís Kandahar to be much better in dealing with a lot of the same issues.
The best part of this movie is that it made so much money in regions of the country you wouldnít have thought it would. However, it had a rushed feeling to it and was way too ambitious. I guess Moore felt like he needed to get as much bile and venom out there as he could. Moore did a good job of keeping the story about Bush and not about himself. It was informative and entertaining, but not nearly as good as Roger and Me or segments of TV Nation. I hope that the success of this film leads Moore to put a film out every year. How timely would it have been to have a 90-minute doc out in 2001 about the tainted 2000 elections?
This film is a dark parable about two miners who have devised an ingenious scheme. Help a worker find employment in the mines, tell the bosses that the worker is a relative, kill the worker deep in the mines, and pretend it was a mine accident. The boss is so afraid of trouble that he immediately buys the pairís silence. Social commentary mixed with entertainment can definitely work (City of God) but this film doesnít fully pull it together to be brilliant. Still, it was good enough and it included a great line when one of the bosses told the pair to take a job on his terms or to leave, "China has shortages in everything except people."
French flick about a marriage on the rocks that survives after an encounter with an escaped killer. More plausible in practice than in description.
Brian Jonestown Massacre = Good and crazy
Dandy Warhols = Bad and calculated
Even though the script of this film was not so good, I still loved the pace of this film and how it looked. This is definitely David Gordon Greenís first misstep but it isnít a terrible one. As his budget increased, he decided to make a change of pace film. Only time will tell if this is the mark of a slow decline or just growing pains.
A time machine is built in a garage. Time is fucked with. One slipup and it creates a never-ending conundrum of slipups. Anyone who thinks that they can explain this film to me, please e-mail me.
In Good Company
There was something about this movie that reminded me of the late 80ís Michael Keaton vehicle Gung Ho. However, instead of demonizing the Japanese, this film demonizes pasty British corporate heads. If The Corporation is the documentary to tackle the modern conglomerate corporate problem and The Manchurian Candidate is the conspiracy movie to take it on, then this film is the one trying to show how it takes its toll on individuals.
Cowards Bend the Knee
Guy Maddin might be the strangest filmmaker this side of Miike.
This film plays like The Bad News Bears if it were made by Takashi Miike under the guidelines of making a family film.
The Manchurian Candidate
This film has two strikes against it from the beginning. Why remake a classic and why Denzel? The first question is answered quite nicely for me but the second one isn't and it is a detriment to the film. Mr. Washington just isn't very good. This remake updates the original's story for 2004. Among other targets in that film were politicians and their quest for power at all costs. In this film, the real enemies are corporations and how they pretty much have politicians in their back pockets. Jonathan Demme creates a paranoid atmosphere where every scene seems to include bad international news on the radio and TV. The underlying message seems to me how we are willing to let our civil liberties be taken away from us in order to protect ourselves from terrorists. The American public's gullibility connects both the 1962 and 2004 versions. Not a perfect film, but a film well worth seeing.
Way too ambitious for one documentary but very interesting nonetheless. It felt like a two and a half hour version of 60 Minutes. There were some interesting moments, but those were usually because of the people that the filmmakers were lucky enough to interview. Iíd love to see Chris Smith (American Movie, Home Movie) make a film about the people of Celebration, Florida.
Jonathan Demme directed this interesting documentary about Jean Dominique, a leader in Haiti who was killed a couple years ago, gunned down in front of his beloved radio station. I learned a lot about the current political climate in Haiti from watching this entertaining film. Nice job, Jonathan- you donít need Anthony Hopkins to entertain us!
Lost Boys of Sudan
A documentary about two Sudanese refugees, not a documentary about Sujan and my future sons lost in the supermarket. It is fascinating to see each new generation of immigrants being told that the United States is the land of opportunity rather than the land of back breaking work that no else wants to do for minimal pay.
I didnít like this nearly as much as the other film Iíve seen by Ross Mcelwee. I loved Shermanís March but that is a tough act to compete with. Still, this makes me want to see many more of his films. I like the way his movies seem to start one way and then change completely as he continues on. I wonder how much of this is intentional and how much of it is planned this way.
Trilogy 1: On the Run
I planned on seeing all three of these, but for some reason I ended up not making it. Each movie is its own self-contained story with characters from the other films making brief appearances a la White, Red, and Blue. This one was a thriller and it was very entertaining, but it didnít really stick with me the way that I expected it to. Maybe I should have gone and seen all three films to have a fully formed opinion.
The Brown Bunny
Buffalo 66 is one of my all-time favorite movies. I know people think Iím crazy but there is something about that film that speaks to my soul. This film is undeserving of so much vitriol and hype. It is a slow, elegiac road movie. It is the kind of film that sticks with you for days afterwards. It is the kind of film that has a twist that actually enhances the rest of the movie when you think about it later. There is a lot going for this movie, but Iíve got to admit the Chloe Sevigny hotel scene is painful to watch at times and Iím not just referring to Galloís immense cock.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
I don't care what any of the haters out there say, but "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" is a funny movie. If Vince Vaughn were in it, I'm sure it would be considered a must see, but instead we get a bunch of no-names and Neal Patrick Harris (his cameo alone is worth the price of admission). For a dumb stoner movie, the characters are well developed and endearing. It is the kind of classic "nerds get revenge" type movie, but with one important twist- these guys aren't really nerds- just not white and that is their handicap as they continue on in their adventures. Anti- minority bigots are the butt of most of the jokes in the film.
As far as the homophobic charges against the film, I disagree. Yes, there are gay jokes, but I don't feel like they are mean-spirited. Some of them are utterly ridiculous, some put the jokes squarely on homophobes, and some are merely indicative of the average 22-year-old male who makes jokes about having sex or blowing their male friends. Shit, if I had a dime (bag) for every gay joke I was part of ten years ago, I'd be a rich man.
Coffee and Cigarettes
This just whets my appetite for the next proper Jarmusch film. Some of these vignettes are absolutely perfect. Some are painful to watch in their crappiness. A couple segments are bland. Overall, if one would like to reminisce the brilliant segments (Bill Murray, GZA and RZA, the two old guys at the end, Steve Coogen and Alfred Molina, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits) and forget about the crap (the Lee siblings, the White Stripes, Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright) then you would have yourself a minor classic.
End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
Great footage and very informative documentary. Overall, it made me very sad though. Theyíre almost all gone now.
The Bourne Supremacy
These movies make me feel like Iím twelve years old. I love the way they shift from one European city to the next. The story is interesting to me and Matt Damon has really grown on me in the last few years. But the action scenes are jarring and disorienting. It takes a really good director to make a good action film and Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) clearly wasnít up for the task. It suffers from Gladiator disease- way too many cuts and way too many close ups. Really bad. And Alex Johnson is right- the hand held camera effect is atrocious as well. This movie would be much higher on the list if it hadnít been for those factors because the story is so much fun.
An interesting and realistic look at bullying where the same kid can be the victim and the bully at different times.
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
After having loved four of Tsai Ming-Liangís previous films (What Time Is It There?, The River, Rebels of a Neon God, The Hole) I had extremely high expectations for this film. But it is the kind of film that scares the Marc Balgavys of the world back to their WB habits. This was tedious throughout, but nonetheless quite haunting. Youíve got to be in the right mood for long long long shots to enjoy this movie. However, at yearís end, I still think quite a bit about this film. Maybe I need to see it again. Damn expectations ruining it for me!
Getting Even Warmer
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
Wes Anderson has officially crossed over into caring more about his set and costume designs than he does about the scripts of his films. This looked great, sounded great, and felt great, but overall wasnít great. With his 4th film, Anderson seems to be rehashing his usual themes while also trying to answer his critics within the film. I couldnít help but feel that when Bill Murray was talking about how he might be washed up with nothing left to say that Anderson was anticipating criticism of his film. Still, there is something about all of Andersonís films that are amazing to watch. And I still canít get Bill Murray out of my mind when heís dancing in his wet suit while listening to headphones.
Tae Guk Gi
The highest grossing film in Korean history! It recently surpassed Titanic. The main character switches sides from South to North because he holds the South accountable for the death of his wife in an anti-communist execution. North, South, it doesnít matter to him. His family is more important. It is easy to see why this film would be so popular. In the recent thawing relations between North and South Korea, this film really strikes a nerve that war is hell and that both sides committed atrocities. North? South? How about just Korean? This filmís underlying message seems to be reunification needs to happen. Oh yeah, the fight scenes were unbelievable. Two hours of non-stop onslaught, exploding heads, severed limbs, etc. It was like watching the first scene of Saving Private Ryan for a whole movie. It is too bad that the score in certain parts of the film was atrocious.
This movie did an impressive job of distilling a complicated scenario into a two-hour tidy package. It was painful to listen to an actual radio report during the film of American leaders debating whether or not to call what was going on genocide or not. While we all sit snugly in our comfortable seats lamenting how the awful Western countries did nothing to stop the bloodshed, thousands continue to be in danger in Sudan. I suppose that is the point of this film, yes?
The basic plot structure of this reminded me a lot of Night of the Lving Dead with a sprinkle of The Road Warrior for extra flavoring.
The Saddest Music in the World
I loved Guy Maddinís film from a couple of years ago (Dracula: Pages From a Virginís Diary) and his six-minute brilliance The Heart of the World, but this film isnít quite as good. Still, it is damn memorable. Under the context of a contest to find the saddest music in the world, musicians from around the world compete in Winnipeg in the early 1930ís. Isabella Rossellini stars as the vengeful heroine. As a younger woman, she lost her legs in a horrible car accident caused by her ex- beau played by Mark McKinney. The style of the film is unbelievable and completely inventive. It was shot in sub freezing temperatures so Maddin could get the look he wanted. This, of course, creates steam from the characterís mouths as they speak. The black and white sepia saturated film stock works well to make the viewer feel like he/she is watching a 70-year-old film that took place in 2004 but really took place in the 30ís and has been transported to Mars and back for some retouching. Sadly, the plot might have been better served for a six-minute film than a full length one.
Each Miike film I see is more bizarre than the one before it. This one features some sexual ladling, a manís search for his brother thwarted when he discovers his brother has been completely flattened and his skin is now a suit hung in a warehouse of similar suits. It also includes the deceased brother reappearing as an attractive young woman. They fall in love and when they finally have sex, the woman/ brother gives birth to a full-sized adult version of himself in original form. They all live happily ever after. What?
Imelda Staunton is amazing in this film. It is heartbreaking to watch parts of this film. The film presents the abortion issue in a clear manner and how the question really is whether or not only rich women are allowed to have safe abortions.
Fear and Trembling
Slyvie Testud plays a Belgian woman born in Japan. However, her family left when she was five years old and she had always wanted to go back. As an adult, she gets a job as a translator for a Japanese company. But she has a lot to learn about Japanese cultural norms and the workplace. This would be a good double feature with Lost in Translation. Ed Koch fell asleep next to me in the theater.
To borrow Marcís review of last yearís Matchstick Men, if I had taken my teenage kids to see this film on a Saturday night, Iíd be pleased as punch. Entertaining throughout. Of course, it is predictable but I was with it the whole way. Much better than Mannís much over hyped The Insider.
A Very Long Engagement
Not one of Jeunetís (Amelie and Delicatessen) best films, but I still was very entertained by it. Audrey Tautou is a woman searching desperately for her lost fiancé right after World War I. The story is told with a lot of flashbacks to the battlefield. It is an epic love story with war as the backdrop. If that kind of thing appeals to you, you will enjoy this movie.
The first one had some major flaws that this one corrects. This one has got Sam Raimi written all over it. Bruce Campbell is great and Kirsten Dunst might be the cutest actress ever. The action scenes are stupendous, the score is fantastic, and the opening credits are possibly the best Iíve ever seen. Doc Ock kicks ass too! So why isnít this in my top ten? Tobey Macguire is annoyingly anguished and even with the willing suspension of disbelief, there are some really implausible moments. And James Franco is terrible.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Jim Carrey didnít ruin this movie! Huzzah! Other than that, this film did what it needed to do to be another solid Charlie Kaufman flick. Mark Ruffalo was stupendous, Elijah Wood was creepy, Kirsten Dunst looked good in her underwear. I liked this film but the more Kaufman films I see, it seems that Being John Malkovich will probably be his masterpiece.
An enjoyable film from beginning to end. Julie Delpy is even more incredible now than she was ten years ago! What happened to her? Why did she disappear? Ethan Hawke looks awful and is often quite annoying, but it works for his character. I find the way that both of them carry themselves was quite believable. The film ended just when it needed to and not a moment before. I respect a film that is 80 minutes of people talking and walking around a beautiful city.
I was fascinated by this documentary about Al Jazeera. The U.S. Army liaison with the media is amazing- a good man trapped in an impossible situation. He reminded me of the French Army official in The Battle of Algiers.
While not nearly as good as Talk to Her and All About My Mother, this is still a fine film. Of course, it is gorgeous to look at and it is also a fun play on the classic film noir set up.
Melvin van Peebles wrote and directed this film about the making of Sweet Sweetbackís Badadassss Song, a 1971 film directed by his father. The little touches in this film are fantastic. Mario van Peebles is just a man with a desire to tell the truth in the most entertaining manner possible.
How appropriate that I saw this film with Mr. Stray himself, Jim ? This film has grown on me as time has passed. It is one of those films that was hard for me to get into at first. The film centers on a French family (Mom, teenage son, and young daughter) of refugees escaping from the Nazi invasion. They find a strange 17-year-old boy along the way who helps them find their way to an abandoned beautiful house in the woods. Nothing is as it seems! Wow, I canít believe Miramax didnít put this film out.
Time of the Wolf
This film reminded me a lot of another film from this year (Strayed) in its initial structure of a family (mother, son, daughter) missing its father (murdered in the first scene) who come across a strange teenage boy in the woods. However, where that film was set with the backdrop of the Nazi invasion of France, this film centers on a middle class French family as they are plunged into chaos caused by an unexplained disaster. Michael Hanekeís films are always fascinating to me. His career (in a very superficial way) reminds me of Francois Ozonís career. Even though Ozon has directed a lot more films, there are some similarities. Both have early films (Hanekeís Funny Games, Ozonís See the Sea) that are sadistic exercises in the thriller genre. Both have made films about women suffering from some sort of psychological problem (Hanekeís The Piano Teacher, Ozonís Under the Sand). However, it seems that Haneke is more interested in social criticism in his films (Time of the Wolf, Code Unknown) than Ozon (Criminal Lovers, Swimming Pool, 8 Women) who seems content jumping from genre to genre.
Will Ferrell never gets old to me. What seem people see as disjointed and lacking in plot, I see as absurd brilliance. From Ferrellís macho sweetness to Jack Black kicking a dog off of a bridge ("Thatís how I roll!") to Baxterís conversation with the bear to the satire of vapid local newscasts, this movie is so damn good.
So, so enjoyable. As I was watching this film, I was wondering how teenage girls would react to it. It seems like it is geared to people who have already made it through high school, but what the hell do I know? Well paced, well intentioned, and bitingly funny. Heathers for the WB generation.
Dawn of the Dead
I cannot get enough of zombie movies. And I love the fact that just like last yearís 28 Days Later, these zombies haul ass. Zombies have always been scary as hell, but now that they can run super fast, it is even scarier. The opening credits set to the Johnny Cash song were amazing. I loved the first ten minutes, as Sarah Polley has to escape from suburbia as it collapses around her. Ving Rhames was great, the special effects were fine, and the movie was a hoot from beginning to end.
Shaun of the Dead
A romantic comedy with zombies is how this movie was advertised and for once, film companies have not tried to deceive the paying audience! This film is hilarious and charming. Even the Stone Grooves of the world who are too afraid to see new horror films will enjoy this film.
Touching the Void
I could never be a mountain climber. This documentary tells the story of two climbers harrowing experience. One of them faced obstacle after obstacle and somehow survived. Truly mind-boggling stuff. I donít really want to get to into what happened because it is too lengthy to really get into it. But, letís just say- broken leg, accidentally dropped into a crevice, found a way out of that, and then somehow traversed miles down the mountain back to base camp. The movie jumps between interviews with the real climbers that this crazy stuff happened to and the recreation of it. It sort of reminded me of the IMAX version of Shackelton that I saw a few years back, but much better.
Canít Get Much Warmer
Last Life in the Universe
I hesitate to describe a movie as lyrical because Iím not even sure what the hell that means when describing a film. But that is the word that keeps popping in my head about this film. A former Yakuza moves to Bangkok to get away from it all. He ends up meeting up with a woman determined to immigrate to Japan. It doesnít sound like much, but the film is stellar. Paced in a Wong Kar-Wai kind of way, this film put me in an In the Mood For Love or Morvern Callar type of glorious stupor.
Never Die Alone
Based on a book written in the 70ís by Donald Goines, a drug dealer trying to clean up his act, who was murdered before he got the chance. It is a shame that a movie so full of energy, creativity, plot twists, and great lines was ignored this year.
DMX was such a badass in this movie. Ernest Dickerson shot this film to look grimy and very 70ís, but it takes place now. Michael Elay (formerly Michael Brown, Springbrook High School, Class of í91) was great. Marc can have his John Maine (Fredericksburg resident, Orioles prospect), but Iíve got me a former classmate who has become a sex symbol. Up yours, Balgavy! Even David Arquette wasnít bad. This film makes me curious to go check out some of Donald Goinesí books. This film is destined for a long shelf life.
Hailed as an Iranian Taxi Driver, but I donít really see that too much. Travis Bickle was out of his mind and New York City pushed him over the edge. The character in this film is never really pushed over the edge but his desperation and frustration with his lot in life forces his hand to make a rash decision. This is the first Iranian film that I could see easily being adapted to being remade as an American film. In fact, Iíd love to see an American film that tackles the issue of class in our country as incisively as this film does. There are brilliant moments of sheer absurdity in this gem of a movie. Some of it even reminded me of another Scorsese favorite After Hours as one man tries to remain sane as the rest of the world goes nuts around him.
The Year of Lars von Trier? How does he make everything he touches so damn unique? I feel like whether you like or him or not, von Trier is the closet thing our generation has to a true visionary, carrying the torch of the Fellinis, Bergmans, and Godards. He is a man who re-invents cinema as he goes. This film is a documentary about a von Trier challenging his mentor Jorgen Leth to remake his 1968 film the Perfect Human five different times, each time with more and more crazy rules set up by von Trier himself, seemingly on a whim. The interaction between the two is fascinating, the films Teth comes up with are great, and the process is what the film is about. This is a wonderful film about the creative process and how sometimes it takes artificial constraints to free yourself as an artist. I canít say enough about this film.
I enjoyed this Alexander Payne film much more than I did his last one- About Schmidt. In all of Payneís films, he tries to straddle the line between drama and absurd comedy. That last film didnít quite straddle the two that well. Sideways, on the other hand, is a true pleasure. Full of interesting characters, fascinating scenarios, and memorable dialogue, this film will age well: no pun intended (seriously).
Movies like this Hong Kong flick and television shows like The Wire are proof that the police drama will never become obsolete. This movie is already a couple of years old, but it finally got American distribution this year. Parts II and III are already out and Iíve got to see them. This movie keeps you guessing the entire time and is so DAMN FUN!
Since Otar Left
This movie has got Marilyn Raphael written all over it. It is a tearjerker without being melodramatic. It is crowd pleasing in its warmth but not pandering. It is heartbreaking to me that movies this well made and touching are not made by the major studios. This film is about a poor family in a floundering Russian town. The male in the family, Otar, has been in Paris for a couple of years to make money. When he dies in a construction accident, his sister and niece decide to keep it a secret from his mother. Put this one on your "really should rent sometime" list. I donít think youíll be disappointed.
This is a moving film well worth seeking out. It takes place in Japan during the 1800ís (as the samurai are losing their prestige) and is about a low ranking samurai who is more concerned with his family than his social standing. The film centers on his relationship with the females in his life (his sick mother, his two young daughters, and the recently single woman he has held a lifelong crush on) and how he balances his duty to honor with his duty to his family. This is the kind of well-made "art" film that companies like Miramax have bastardized with such dreck as Chocolat.
Kill Bill, Vol. 2
I rank this higher than I did Vol. 1 even though I really liked Volume I as well. It is frustrating to me that one piece of work was divided into two. It was really hard to fully get a take on the first part without having seen the second part. The second part makes the first part look even better in retrospect by crystallizing it. A gigantic mash up of a movie, a giant love letter to Tarantinoís favorite films, and a brilliant study of film genre these films are. People love Tarantino again. Hopefully, he wonít take another six years to follow this film up.
The dialogue was more fun than the first one, but there were no Crazy 88ís! The soundtrack wasnít as good, but the plot developments more satisfying than the ones in Vol. 1. I love how the final confrontation between Carradine and Thurman is a verbal battle (except for the brief battle of death) rather than a bang up sword fight on the beach like Carradine had suggested. It is also interesting that in Vol. 2, (as compared to the scores she butchered in Vol. 1) Uma didnít even kill anyone until she kills Bill.
A Cut Above the Rest
Our Town goes to hell. Lars Von Trier is so damn interesting. I think heís going to be regarded as an equal of Godard and Bergman by the time his career is finished. Von Trier is a unique European visionary with his own visual style and an amazing blend of the political and personal- just like the aforementioned directors. Dogville is no exception. It is a welcome addition to his oeuvre. It treads similar terrain to Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, but this time the female victim isnít quite so innocent herself.
Iím not sure why so many people read this film as Anti-American. I see it as a dark parable on human nature- if Americans are taking it as Anti-American, there must be a helluva lot of Americans with a guilty conscience.
The set of this film (a soundstage, no doors on houses, merely the frames of houses so you can see everything that is going on the entire town), is unbelievably inventive and adds to the filmís claustrophobia even though youíd think the openness would have the opposite effect. Instead, the openness of the town coupled with the complete black outside the town leads the viewer to feel Nicole Kidmanís plight of being trapped. Wow.
This film is one of those rare fiction films that I feel helps me understand more about a particular culture and place. This incredible film from Burkina Faso makes me question why there arenít more African films distributed in the U.S. Everything about this film was great- the acting, the story, the cinematography, everything. It tells the story of a woman in a small village who tries to protect four village girls from genital mutilation. Of course, this leads to the powers-that-be in the village to come down hard on her. The film reflects the clash of the changing values of modern African culture vs. tradition as well as showing the everyday life of an average village. There are very few films that make me want to get up and cheer, but this does- with remarkable restraint and little melodrama.
Russian film about two brothers (roughly 15 and 12) who live with their mom in a run down Russian rural town. Their father reappears after years with absolutely no explanation. The next day, the boys and their father head off on a fishing expedition that turns into days. The younger boy is very suspicious and angry with his father, but the older brother is willing to trust. The dad is not open about his whereabouts over the last ten years or so. Was he in prison? Is he a gangster? Subtle clues are given, but no answers.
All three characters are well developed throughout the film. Maybe the father isnít so heartless, maybe the younger boy isnít such a wimp, and maybe the older brother isnít so damn naïve. The filmmaking is flawless and suspenseful. I was always on edge during the film without any real sense of what was about to happen. Everything seemed so damn tense in a realistic way. The cinematography was perfect, the sadness of the situation exquisitely reflected in the foggy grayness of the Russian landscape. A fascinating film.
My Favorite Film of the Year
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring Again
The best word I can use to describe this film is transcendent. Andrew Sarris described it as being the most persuasive piece of art to become a Buddhist. I sat in wonder during the entire movie.
The film takes place over the life of one person. Each scene is set during one of the aforementioned seasons over the course of a lifetime. The setting is a small monastery in the middle of a lake in Korea. The first season, the main character is a young boy and a student of a wise monk. The second season, he is a horny teenager. In the third, he is a bitter fugitive. In the fourth, he returns to the monastery. In the last segment, he himself is an old wise monk teaching a young pupil.
There is very little dialogue in the film, but the story does not suffer because of it. The film is utterly captivating throughout and the pacing is perfect, never boring. Like What Time Is It There?, I felt a little confused by some of the film and the meaning of certain aspects of the story. I guess I should really read more about Buddhism so I can understand two of my favorite films of the past three years even more.