2001 Film List

Um, you know the drill. (Notations same as that mentioned on my Films Seen in 2000 list, except that I will now use the symbol $ in front on any film seen via that newfangled digital laser projection technology. I hope you need not see it often on this page...

362. (31 Dec) Dark Blue World (2001, Jan Sverak) [C]
Has gotten a reputation as the "arthouse PEARL HARBOR". Just remember that arthouse here simply describes the venue where you might see DBW. It does not imply that Sverak's opus is any less hoky, any more subtle, or any better edited.
361. (31 Dec) Little Otik (2001, Jan Svankmajer) [B-]
Often brilliant -- there's one sequence here that outdoes any horror film of the last year not named AUDITION -- but Svankmajer's tendency in his feature films toward repetitiveness is at its worst here. And it doesn't have the saving grace of CONSPIRATORS OF PLEASURE, where the repetitiveness of its masturbatory rituals was the point.
360. (31 Dec) Gosford Park (2001, Robert Altman) [B]
Superb cast, all expertly directed by Altman, do their best with an mistifyingly overpraised script that reads like Murder Mystery 101.
359. (29 Dec) *Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994, Alan Rudolph) [B]
358. (28 Dec) Kate and Leopold (2001, James Mangold) [C]
Why, why, *why* do Hollywood types have this insane idea that romantic comedies should avoid all actual attempts at, you know, *comedy* in the last hour in favor of bulimia-inspiring odes to true love? Wastes pretty good performances by Jackman and Breckin Meyer doing an uncanny impression of Steve Zahn.
357. (27 Dec) A Beautiful Mind (2001, Ron Howard) [B+] Slick and largely satisfying romantic melodrama that manages some interesting detours through unexpected genre territory. Crowe and Connelly terrific; Bettany showcases the same cocky swagger that made his work in KNIGHT'S TALE a delight; shame about the sap running in the last 20 minutes.
356. (26 Dec) *Monsieur Hire (1989, Patrice Leconte) [A-]
355. (25 Dec) Ali (2001, Michael Mann) [B]
A flawed film of great moments -- the opening sequence painting an impression of Ali's early years; his walk through Zaire's poor neighborhoods; his triumphant knock-out of Foreman -- and a great performance by Will Smith, but one whose lack of connective tissue -- this non-fan of boxing was more than once lost -- results in several subplots (Ali's relationship with his women) being left high and dry.
354. (25 Dec) *Open Your Eyes (1997, Alejandro Amenabar) [B-]
353. (24 Dec) /*A Christmas Story/ (1983, Bob Clark) [B+]
352. (24 Dec) /*The Last Seduction/ (1994, John Dahl) [B+]
351. (24 Dec) *The Invisible Circus (2001, Adam Brooks) [C]
350. (22 Dec) The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, Peter Jackson) [B+]
Major problem -- herky-jerky narrative rhythm that makes its three-hour length feel like three hours -- an inherent issue with any faithful adaptation of Tolkien; that aside, only big-budget blockbuster of the year that comes close to delivering true spectacle.
349. (22 Dec) *Deeply (2000, Sheri Elwood) [C-]
348. (16 Dec) /*Say Anything.../ (1989, Cameron Crowe) [A-]
347. (15 Dec) /2001: A Space Odyssey/ (1968, Stanley Kubrick) [A]
346. (15 Dec) Iris (2001, Richard Eyre) [C]
Tries to add depth to its depiction of Iris Murdoch's Alzheimer's by having flashbacks to her youth; end result, however, plays as two fragmentary half-movies whose main connection is the uncanny resemblance between Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent.
345. (14 Dec) Vanilla Sky (2001, Cameron Crowe) [C]
Only gets to the moderately interesting point when it starts going into entertaingly convoluted (if ultimately shallow) mindgames. Until then it's Jerry Maguire II without Zellwegger, warmth, B. Hunt, or any of the stuff that made JM good. Is Jason Lee doomed to be the best thing in mediocre movies?
344. (14 Dec) The Royal Tennenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson) [A-]
Far messier than the machine-tooled Rushmore, with one glaring error in casting (Ben Stiller just does not work in Wesworld) and an overlarge ensemble of characters that never entirely coheres. But it has the same heart of melancholy and eccentric humor that defined Rushmore, several terrific performances (Hackman and the Wilson bros being the standouts), and further proof that Anderson has the best ear for pop music since Scorsese.
343. (14 Dec) Anita Takes a Chance (2001, Ventura Pons) [C]
Or, 50-year-old Spanish women can have sex lives, too.
342. (12 Dec) *The French Connection (1971, William Friedkin) [B]
341. (09 Dec) /*Dirty Rotten Scoundrels/ (1988, Frank Oz) [B]
340. (08 Dec) *How to Marry a Millionaire (1953, Jean Neguledesco) [C-]
339. (07 Dec) Ocean's Eleven (2001, Steven Soderbergh) [B-]
Stylish and sleek surface, but 11 is *all* surface.
338. (07 Dec) No Shame (2001, Joaquin Ostrell) [B-]
337. (07 Dec) Welcome, Mister Marshall! (1953, Luis Garcia Berlanga) [A-]
A thoroughly entertaining piece of social satire that combines the gentle provincial humor of Jour de Fete with an Amelie-esque narration by Fernado Rey. Irony Dept: in a film whose comedy derives from the way cultures mangle each other through their own biases, the subtitles translate the Three Kings as Santa Claus.
336. (06 Dec) *Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, Howard Hawks) [A-]
335. (05 Dec) *Pearl Harbor (2001, Michael Bay) [C]
In the "didn't suck quite as hard as expected" dept. comes Bay's bloated, derivative, and cornball take on 12/7/1941. Surprisingly watchable, though, as Bay tones down his quick-cuts-and-swooping-camera style to the point of tolerability, and the film does look handsome, albeit in a 40's ads/ Norman Rockewell way.
334. (03 Dec) *An Unmarried Woman (1978, Paul Mazursky) [B+]
333. (02 Dec) *The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956, Alfred Hitchcock) [B-]
Rather wan but entertaining Hitchcock thriller that would normally merit a B, but Doris Day mangling the Spanish language is just *torture*...
332. (01 Dec) Shallow Hal (2001, Peter & Bobby Farrelly) [B+]
Easy winner of the Most Misleading Trailer award, Hal's teaser made it look like a never-ending series of fat jokes -- except that the bulk of the material is from one (very misguided) romantic-comedy montage in the middle. Like Shrek, it's a "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" message movie, but the film's formal conceit of having long stretches play from Hal's subjective viewpoint make clear that the true beholder the Farrellys are addressing has one glass eye. Paltrow, believe it or not, gives her best performance to date and a great bit of casting-against-type of Joe Viterelli as a Scottish investment banker. Kept from greater heights by the Farrellys' barely adequate filmmaking competence and, yes, the few moments that ended up in the trailer.
331. (01 Dec) Easy Living (1937, Mitchell Leisen) [B+]
330. (30 Nov) *A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982, Woody Allen) [C]
It's extraordinarily lovely to look at, but the glorious cinematography is in the service of one of Allen's worst screenplays, a forgettable trifle that's neither funny, sexual, nor wise.
329. (29 Nov) *Osmosis Jones (2001, Peter & Bobby Farrelly) [B-]
A very clever idea -- the City as metaphor for the human body -- but, alas, not a particularly funny one. Animation sequences handsome to look at; live action pretty much a waste of celluloid.
328. (28 Nov) *Enemy at the Gates (2001, Jean-Jacques Annaud) [C+]
Great when no one opens their mouth, with an impressive (if derivative of Ryan) opening, several taut cat-and-mouse sequences between Law's Ural shepherd (slight miscasting there) and Harris's icy Nazi, and one incrougously terrific sex scene. But anything outside of that is pretty awful; Fiennes's character a transparent ploy by Annaud to have his mythological cake and eat it, too; romantic subplot enervated save sex scene mentioned above; Hoskins' cameo as Nikita Kruschev(!) bad idea all the way through...
327. (27 Nov) *Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974, John Hough) [B]
326. (26 Nov) /*Working Girl/ (1988, Mike Nichols) [B]
325. (25 Nov) City Girl (1928, F.W. Murnau) [B]
324. (25 Nov) Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau) [A]
Let's just say my internal debate of whether The General or Joan of Arc is my favorite silent has become a moot point.
323. (25 Nov) *Next of Kin (1984, Atom Egoyan) [A-]
322. (24 Nov) Happenstance (2000, Pierre Latonde) [C+]
I believe the French title Le battement d'ailes du papillon translates as Winstons on Parade. On some level, I have to admire a film this brazenly Goldbergian in its plotting, but the characters are little more than cogs in the film's infernal machine.
321. (24 Nov) Kaos (1984, Paulo and Vittorio Taviani) [A-]
Extremely engaging anthology of four Pirandello stories and an epilogue with only the fourth story being a bit flat. The standout is the The Jar (the third story), a crackpot fable that builds to a sequence of primal intensity.
320. (24 Nov) *Entre Nous (1983, Diane Kurys) [B]
319. (23 Nov) Sidewalks of New York (2001, Edward Burns) [C+]
318. (23 Nov) King of the Jungle (2001, Seth Zvi Rosenfeld) [C]
317. (23 Nov) Spy Game (2001, Tony Scott) [D]
Phooey. Why this headache-inducing, and thoroughly vacuous piece of Bruckheimerized crap is getting good reviews I can only attribute to a KGB conspiracy...
316. (22 Nov) *Home for the Holidays (1995, Jodie Foster) [B]
315. (22 Nov) *A Woman is a Woman (1961, Jean-Luc Godard) [B+]
314. (21 Nov) /*Star Trek: The Motion Picture/ (1979, Robert Wise) [B-]
313. (19 Nov) *Father Frost (1964, Alexander Row) [B-]
Goofy as all hell (and the basis of a particularly funny Season 8 MST3K episode), but even sans wiseass commentary, there's something endearing about this film's unapologetically stylized approach to kiddie matinee fare.
312. (18 Nov) The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982, Paulo and Vittorio Taviani) [A]
311. (18 Nov) Blackmail (1929, Alfred Hitchcock) [B+]
310. (18 Nov) /$Monsters, Inc./ (2001, Pete Docter) [B+]
I suppose it's because Pixar's films are digital to begin with, but I found digital projection much less annoying here than I had on my earlier (and unexpected, which probably didn't help my mood) encounter. And second viewing confirms that Monsters simply isn't as well paced as previous Pixar films.
s39. (18 Nov) /For the Birds/ (2000, Ralph Eggleston) [B]
309. (17 Nov) Lola (1961, Jacques Demy) [B]
More a dry run for the glories of Cherbourg and Rochefort than a great film in its own right.
308. (17 Nov) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001, Chris Columbus) [B-]
Scrupulously faithful in terms of plot and characterization, but my favorite things about the books -- the goofy throwaway humor and the cockeyed detail (like seventeen Knuts to a Sickle) -- has been, well, thrown away. Also horridly directed; Columbus obviously botches at least two scenes and far too many of the effects are badly done.
307. (15 Nov) /*Apollo 13/ (1995, Ron Howard) [A-]
306. (14 Nov) *Hannah and Her Sisters (1986, Woody Allen) [A-]
305. (11 Nov) *Shadows and Fog (1992, Woody Allen) [C+]
304. (11 Nov) *An Awfully Big Adventure (1995, Mike Newell) [C+]
303. (10 Nov) Everything Put Together (2000, Marc Forster) [B+]
Takes a premise (a woman loses her baby to SIDS) that sounds like an old-fashioned disease-of-the-week TV movie and infuses it with the unnerving dread of slow mental breakdown and cutting social satire. Not entirely sure there's actually much here, but I found it riveting viewing. Makes particularly aggresive use of DV.
302. (10 Nov) Heist (2001, David Mamet) [C]
Pretty much invites comparison to The Score, and surprisingly Frank Oz beats David Mamet on virtually all angles. Instead of The Score's perfectly played set of double crosses near the end, Heist offers a constant stream of narrative switcheroos that end up draining all suspense -- since there's always a double cross, there's little chance of the narrative surprising us.
301. (08 Nov) *Choose Me (1984, Alan Rudolph) [B-]
300. (07 Nov) *The Crimson Rivers (2000, Mathieu Kassovitz) [D+]
A plot so ludicrous that if Hitler's severed living head had popped up, I don't think I'd have blinked.
299. (05 Nov) /*The Purple Rose of Cairo/ (1985, Woody Allen) [A]
On second viewing, it's become my favorite Allen -- a deceptively light high-concept comedy with a superb Jeff Daniels and Mia Farrow and a heartrending, ambigious ending.
298. (03 Nov) My First Mister (2001, Christine Lahti) [C]
297. (03 Nov) Joy Ride (2001, John Dahl) [B+]
There's some serious plausibility problems -- this is a film, that after all, requires its anonymous trucker villain to possess levels of cunning Hannibal Lecter could only dream of -- but John Dahl makes a welcome return to form as this is easily the most effective white-knuckle suspenser in quite some time.
296. (03 Nov) Riding in Cars with Boys (2001, Penny Marshall) [D+]
Anyone else notice that a third of the film is missing?
295. (03 Nov) Shampoo (1975, Hal Ashby) [B+]
294. (03 Nov) /Amelie/ (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet) [A]
293. (02 Nov) Tape (2001, Richard Linklater) [B-]
292. (02 Nov) Monsters, Inc. (2001, Pete Docter) [B+]
Slightly inferior to the Lasseter-directed pix due to some maudlin sentimentality near film's end, but still jam-packed with sly gags -- "Take-an-Obscure-Relative-to-Work Day" still makes me giggle --, a jaw dropping chase that one-ups Toy Story 2's climax in the airport baggage area by going into a fourth dimension, and a endlessly inventive mise-en-scene.
s38. (02 Nov) For the Birds (2000, Ralph Eggleston) [B]
291. (02 Nov) The Man Who Wasn't There (2001, Joel Coen) [A]
290. (31 Oct) *Phenomena (1985, Dario Argento) [C+]
Stylish, but this doesn't seem to know what type of horror film it's supposed to be -- is it a variant of Carrie, this time with a girl who can communicate with insects, or a Friday the 13th slasher? Ultimately, it opts for the latter, making most of the (more intriguing) former irrelevant.
289. (30 Oct) *Manon of the Spring (1986, Claude Berri) [A-]
288. (29 Oct) *Jean de Florette (1986, Claude Berri) [B+]
287. (28 Oct) From Hell (2001, Allen & Albert Hughes) [C-]
286. (28 Oct) Donnie Darko (2001, Richard Kelly) [B-]
Largely a mess, with several loose subplots and a tendency to satirize eighties suburbia that ultimately amounts to little more than cheap shots. It's also possessed with a startling imagination that results in several moments of near-Lynch beauty.
285. (27 Oct) Bandits (2001, Barry Levinson) [B-]
284. (27 Oct) The Night of the Hunter (1955, Charles Laughton) [A]
283. (27 Oct) Better Than Sex (2000, Jonathan Teplinsky) [C]
David Wenham and Susie Porter both make fine, sympathetic leads, but they're let down by a lazy screenplay that goes to the well of lazy standup comedy routines about guys leaving the toilet seat up and gals taking forever to get ready once too often.
282. (26 Oct) *Sabrina (1954, Billy Wilder) [A-]
281. (25 Oct) *Little Man Tate (1991, Jodie Foster) [C]
280. (25 Oct) /*Toy Story/ (1995, John Lasseter) [A]
279. (23 Oct) *A Far Off Place (1993, Mikael Salomon) [B]
Gripping -- and, for better and worse, basically old-fashioned -- adventure yarn with a surprisingly harsh streak for a PG-rated Disney kids pics and some terrific lensing.
278. (22 Oct) *That Uncertain Feeling (1941, Ernst Lubitsch) [B+]
277. (21 Oct) Rita, Sue, and Bob Too (1986, Alan Clarke) [B+]
276. (21 Oct) The Band Wagon (1953, Vincente Minnelli) [A]
275. (20 Oct) The Golden Coach (1952, Jean Renoir) [B-]
274. (20 Oct) Voyage to Italy (1953, Roberto Rossellini) [A-]
273. (20 Oct) Fat Girl (2001, Catherine Breillat) [B]
272. (20 Oct) /Mulholland Dr./ (2001, David Lynch) [A]
271. (18 Oct) *The Forsaken (2001, J.S. Cardone) [C]
Starts off well, with a couple of moments that are effectively creepy and some neat extensions on the vampirism-as-AIDS metaphor but ends up going into the same old explosions-and-action-mayhem routine. At least it has an R rating, and it's not afraid to use it...
270. (16 Oct) *Beautiful Creatures (2001, Bill Eagles) [C-]
This movie does not make the sense, in my opinion.
269. (15 Oct) *Beau pere (1981, Bertrand Blier) [B]
268. (13 Oct) Intimacy (2001, Patrice Chereau) [C-]
s37. (13 Oct) Contemporary Case Studies (2001, Janet Merewether) [D+]
267. (13 Oct) The Son's Room (2001, Nanni Moretti) [B-]
s36. (13 Oct) Just Little Birds (2001, Fred Louf) [B]
266. (13 Oct) All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001, Shunji Iwai) [B-]
Things I learned from Japanese cinema this year: Being a teenager in Japan sucks. Being a teenager in Japan really sucks. Being a teenager in Japan really, really sucks. Need I go on?
265. (13 Oct) *Bell Book and Candle (1958, Richard Quine) [C-]
I consider the late 50's and early 60's to be the greatest era in filmmaking, but between this and Pillow Talk I think I can safely say the era *sucked* for romantic comedies. Stewart's miscast, Lemmon's wasted, and Novak's character an undiagnosed case of multiple personalities.
264. (11 Oct) *A Simple Twist of Fate (1994, Gillies MacKinnon) [B-]
263. (10 Oct) *Sullivan's Travels (1942, Preston Sturges) [A]
262. (07 Oct) Va Savoir (2001, Jacques Rivette) [B]
261. (07 Oct) Training Day (2001, Antoine Fuqua) [B]
260. (06 Oct) Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001, Alfonso Cuaron) [B+]
s35. (06 Oct) Beautiful... (2001, Adam Stevens) [C-]
259. (06 Oct) Silence... We're Rolling (2001, Youssef Chahine) [C+]
s34. (06 Oct) Tuesday (2000, Geoff Dunbar) [B]
258. (06 Oct) Serendipity (2001, Peter Chelsom) [B-]
257. (01 Oct) *Housekeeping (1987, Bill Forsyth) [B+]
256. (29 Sep) I'm Going Home (2001, Manoel de Oliviera) [B]
s33. (29 Sep) Could Have Been Utah (2001, Frazer Bradshaw) [B]
255. (29 Sep) Dinner Rush (2001, Joe Giraldi) [C]
254. (29 Sep) Zoolander (2001, Ben Stiller) [B]
253. (27 Sep) *The Well (1997, Samantha Lang) [B]
252. (25 Sep) *The Guilty (1999, Anthony Waller) [B-]
251. (23 Sep) *The Man in the Moon (1991, Richard iulligan) [C+]
250. (23 Sep) *Times Square (1980, Alan Moyle) [B+]
249. (21 Sep) *Someone to Watch Over Me (1987, Ridley Scott) [C]
248. (15 Sep) The Bunker (2001, Rob Green) [D+]
247. (15 Sep) Lantana (2001, Roy Lawrence) [C]
246. (15 Sep) Lovely and Amazing (2001, Nicole Holofcener) [C+]
245. (15 Sep) Sex and Lucia (2001, Julio Medem) [B-]
244. (15 Sep) Kandahar (2001, Mohsen Makhmalbaf) [B]
243. (15 Sep) Enigma (2001, Michael Apted) [C-]
242. (14 Sep) Harmful Insect (2001, Akihiko Shiota) [B-]
241. (14 Sep) The Hired Hand (1971, Peter Fonda) [A]
240. (14 Sep) Mirror Image (2001, Hsiao Ya-Chuen) [C+]
239. (14 Sep) The Piano Teacher (2001, Michael Haneke) [C]
238. (14 Sep) Manic (2001, Jordan Melamed) [B]
237. (13 Sep) Waking Life (2001, Richard Linklater) [B+]
236. (13 Sep) Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner (2001, Zacharias Kunuk) [B]
235. (13 Sep) The Triumph of Love (2001, Clare Peploe) [B]
234. (12 Sep) My Wife is an Actress (2001, Yvan Attal) [B-]
Starts off well with a sprightly comic energy that gets mileage out of the absurdities of the acting life (with a terrific comic turn from Terence Stamp as a self-absorbed actor) but makes the mistake of actually taking itself seriously halfway through. Fun while it lasted.
233. (12 Sep) C'est la vie (2001, Jean-Pierre Ameris) [B]
232. (12 Sep) Amelie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet) [A]
231. (12 Sep) Kissing Jessica Stein (2001, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld) [B+]
A bit sitcommy (with the title character being a near clone of Friends' Rachel), but highly entertaining flick bolstered by the remarkable chemistry between the two female leads and an ending that goes for something more complex than the typical fairy-tale romantic comedy ending. Only downer was an accident of timing; there are some bound-to-be-snipped shots of the World Trade Center that were uncomfortable to look at after the previous day's events.
230. (12 Sep) Beijing Bicycle (2001, Wang Xiaoshui) [C+]
2001's most inaccurate program book statement: "Beijing Bicycle is a warmhearted film with a refreshingly upbeat message." I want whatever Noah Cowan's smoking. A friend has called Mr. X. Wang the Brian DePalma of Asian films, which seems pretty accurate given the obvious lifts from classic films (The Bicycle Thief) and a rather cold approach to his characters; I get the feeling he cares more about the bike than any of the humans in the film.
229. (11 Sep) As White As In Snow (2001, Jan Troell) [C]
228. (10 Sep) Read My Lips (2001, Jacques Audiard) [C-]
Starts off with a great premise -- put-upon but ambitious secretary (who just happens to be totally deaf without her high-powered hearing aids) hires an ex-con as her assistant -- and then dawdles with several directions it could take (including a promising office satire) before deciding on the dullest of them all. Really dumb treatment of deafness and a horridly-underdeveloped subplot involving a parole officer not helping matters.
227. (10 Sep) The Milk of Human Kindness (2001, Dominique Cabrera) [B]
226. (10 Sep) Mulholland Dr. (2001, David Lynch) [A-]
225. (10 Sep) Pulse (2001, Kiyoshi Kurosawa) [C]
Mr. Notakira Kurosawa may be very good at creating creepy atmosphere, but is it too much to ask that the creepiness and his existential concerns be attached to a plot that at least makes enough sense to have plot holes?
224. (10 Sep) In the Bedroom (2001, Todd Field) [C+]
m02. (09 Sep) I Shout Love (2001, Sarah Polley) [B]
s32. (09 Sep) Soowitch (2001, Jean-Francois Rivard) [B-]
s31. (09 Sep) The Green (2001, Paul Corriere) [C]
s30. (09 Sep) Strange Invaders (2001, Cordell Baker) [C]
s29. (09 Sep) +Jean Laliberte: A Man and His Idea (2001, Phillipe Falardeu) [C+]
223. (09 Sep) Eden (2001, Amos Gitai) [D]
222. (09 Sep) No Man's Land (2001, Danis Tanovic) [B+]
221. (09 Sep) Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001, Jill Sprecher) [B]
220. (08 Sep) The Way I Killed My Father (2001, Anne Fontaine) [B-]
219. (08 Sep) Warm Water Under a Red Bridge (2001, Shohei Imamura) [C]
218. (08 Sep) The Profession of Arms (2001, Ernanno Olmi) [C+]
217. (08 Sep) The Business of Strangers (2001, Patrick Stettner) [B]
216. (07 Sep) Waterboys (2001, Shinobi Yaguchi) [A-]
215. (07 Sep) Quitting (2001, Zhang Yang) [D]
214. (07 Sep) Loin (2001, Andre Techine) [B]
213. (07 Sep) Models (1998, Ulrich Seidl) [B-]
212. (06 Sep) The Orphan of Anyang (2001, Wang Chao) [C+]
211. (06 Sep) Brainstorm (2001, Lais Bodanzky) [C-]
210. (05 Sep) Himalaya (1999, Eric Valli) [C+]
209. (05 Sep) Summer Catch (2001, Mike Tollin) [C]
In the "not good, but more tolerable than I expected" division comes the latest Prinze (Jr.) opus. A high-profile summer amateur league is at least a fresh milleu, and there's some entertaining work from a strong supporting cast that includes Matthew Lillard and Brittany Murphy. Sadly, though, it ends up stranded on an ocean of self-help psychobabble and Prinze's mannequin ability.
208. (04 Sep) O (2001, Tim Blake Nelson) [D]
207. (02 Sep) Funny Girl (1968, William Wyler) [B+]
206. (01 Sep) *Whatever (1998, Susan Skoog) [B-]
205. (01 Sep) Happy Accidents (1999, Brad Anderson) [A-]
204. (01 Sep) /*This is Spinal Tap/ (1984, Rob Reiner) [B]
Modestly amusing, but I still don't see what's so great about it -- like Waiting for Guffman, Guest and company are taking potshots at an extraordinarily easy target. And while it isn't the film's fault, the mockumentary format has become an overly-used favorite of lazy comic filmmakers.
203. (30 Aug) /*Charade/ (1963, Stanley Donen) [A-]
202. (29 Aug) *Blow Dry (2001, Paddy Breathnach) [C]
The best thing I can say about this thoroughly generic Monty clone is that it's fairly painless to watch; this is more that can be said for the truly painful half-hour or so I saw of The Big Tease.
201. (28 Aug) *Desperately Seeking Susan (1985, Susan Seidelman) [A-]
200. (26 Aug) Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001, Kevin Smith) [B]
No, that's not a typo -- I actually find myself *liking* a Kevin Smith movie. God help us all. While there's no question the whole concept of the film is hideously self-indulgent, that self-indulgence allows for some pretty funny stuff that has Ben Affleck playing both his character from Chasing Amy dissing Ben Affleck and Ben Affleck (in a rather funny parody of Good Will Hunting).
199. (26 Aug) Band of Outsiders (1964, Jean-Luc Godard) [B+]
198. (25 Aug) Memento Mori (1999, Kim Tae-Yong & Min Kyu-Dong) [B-] Some highly effective moments of surreal horror -- imagine LOST AND DELIRIOUS as directed by David Lynch and you get a rough idea of the atmosphere Kim & Min are going for -- but I've seen Brian DePalma films more coherently put together.
197. (25 Aug) Together (2000, Lukas Moodyson) [B]
196. (25 Aug) Joint Security Area (2000, Park Chan-Wook) [B-]
195. (25 Aug) The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001, Woody Allen) [B]
194. (24 Aug) An Affair (1998, Lee Jae-Yong) [A-]
193. (24 Aug) An American Rhapsody (2001, Eva Gardos) [B]
192. (24 Aug) Ghosts of Mars (2001, John Carpenter) [C]
Apart from a fairly complex and nifty flashback structure and some fun edits, this is another recent mediocrity from Carpenter, who seems to be happy nowadays recycling his great films of the past with minimum alterations. (His last good film was THEY LIVE, and even that had some major problems...)
191. (19 Aug) The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974, Joseph Sargent) [A-]
A cartoonishly vibrant entertainment brimming with "New Yawk" attitude; fast-paced, no-nonsense thrills laced with cynical wisecracks ("What do they expect for their 35 cents? To live forever?") and a terrific opening theme.
190. (19 Aug) Audition (1999, Takeshi Miike) [A-]
189. (18 Aug) Christmas in August (1998, Hur Jin-Ho) [C]
188. (18 Aug) Aberdeen (2001, Hans Petter Moland) [C]
187. (12 Aug) Laura (1944, Otto Preminger) [A-]
186. (12 Aug) Detective Story (1951, William Wyler) [B+]
185. (11 Aug) Rat Race (2001, Jerry Zucker) [B]
184. (11 Aug) American Pie 2 (2001, J.B. Rogers) [C+]
183. (11 Aug) The Deep End (2001, Scott McGehee & David Siegel) [B-]
182. (11 Aug) The Others (2001, Alejandro Amenabar) [C+]
181. (08 Aug) The Princess Diaries (2001, Gary Marshall) [C-]
180. (07 Aug) *Valentine (2001, Jamie Blanks) [C]
Standard slasher, albeit with more emphasis on the thrills than the gore.
179. (06 Aug) *My Man Godfrey (1936, Gregory La Cava) [B+]
178. (04 Aug) /Apocalypse Now/ (1979, Francis Ford Coppola) [A]
Can't say this "Redux" (god, what a fucking-stupid name) version improves the film -- the big addition, the French plantation sequence, is far too literal-minded and talky and unfortunately scored with an extension of the original's (now badly dated) ominous synths that sounds like a refugee from a cheesy video game.
177. (04 Aug) Rush Hour 2 (2001, Brett Rattner) [B]
176. (01 Aug) */Big Trouble in Little China/ (1986, John Carpenter) [B]
175. (29 Jul) The Addiction (1995, Abel Ferrara) [D]
174. (29 Jul) Ms. .45 (1980, Abel Ferrara) [A]
173. (29 Jul) 101 Reykjavik (2001, Baltasar Kormakur) [B]
172. (28 Jul) Wet Hot American Summer (2001, David Wain) [B-]
Amiable throwback to Meatballs and its ilk that makes up for the rather high number of gas that miss with a loving eye for late-70's/early 80's period detail and a laid-back demeanor.
171. (28 Jul) Planet of the Apes (2001, Tim Burton) [C+]
A crushing disappointment to any hardcore Burton fan; there's minimal traces of his sensibility to be found and the end result is little more than a moderately enjoyable popcorn flick. Admittedly, this does put it ahead of the other big summer films this year...
170. (25 Jul) *The Caveman's Valentine (2001, Kasi Lemmons) [C+]
169. (22 Jul) America's Sweethearts (2001, Joe Roth) [B-]
Given the drubbing it's received, surprisingly enjoyable despite a badly miscast Cusack and a rather wan Roberts. There are some great one-liners and Zeta-Jones -- to my vast astonishment -- turns in an amazingly assured comic performance. Hank Azaria, on the other hand, deserves to be thoroughly smacked for his mystifying attempt at a Spanish accent; even a comic variation needs to bear some resemblance to the real thing...
168. (22 Jul) The Blue Angel (1931, Josef van Sternberg) [A-]
167. (22 Jul) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, John Cameron Mitchell) [B-]
About as best that could be done considering two massive handicaps: one, despite Mitchell's best efforts, it's blindingly obvious -- even to someone like me who didn't catch the off-Broadway show -- that HEDWIG is fundamentally theatrical in a way that doesn't translate onto the screen, and two, the score is quite forgettable.
166. (21 Jul) Brother (2001, Takeshi Kitano) [B-]
A sprawling six-hour epic about the rise and fall of a multiethnic gang headed by a psychotic yakuza -- except everything got edited out but the goofy humor and violent mayhem that's Kitano's trademark. Fascinating to some extent, but the sheer carnage drowns out the lyricism.
165. (21 Jul) Jurassic Park III (2001, Joe Johnston) [C]
Pointless: after the banality of Dinosaur killed off my sense of awe about dinos and Lost World exhausted the variations of people getting chomped, there's little left here to get excited about. Except for William H. Macy, who graces the film with his inimitable Macyness.
164. (21 Jul) Ghost World (2001, Terry Zwigoff) [A]
163. (19 Jul) *Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000, Rodrigo Garcia) [B]
162. (15 Jul) Legally Blonde (2001, Robert Luketic) [B]
161. (14 Jul) The Score (2001, Frank Oz) [B]
160. (14 Jul) That Obscure Object of Desire (1977, Luis Bunuel) [A]
159. (14 Jul) Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001, Hironobu Sakaguchi) [C+]
158. (12 Jul) *Black Sunday (1961, Mario Bava) [C+]
Highly atmospheric direction, but the film's midsection is a tedious slog.
157. (10 Jul) /*Tootsie/ (1982, Sidney Pollack) [B+]
156. (07 Jul) Lost and Delirious (2001, Lea Pool) [B-]
Overly florid dialogue and a godawful musical score come close to sinking what is a fairly irresistible premise, but strong acting -- especially Piper Perabo's volatile work -- keep it intriguing. At least until the very silly ending.
155. (07 Jul) Kiss of the Dragon (2001, Chris Nahon) [D+]
About the only thing that makes this better than the Steven Seagal ouvrue is that unlike Seagal's anti-charisma, Li actually has a good deal of personal charm. But it's mired in an ugly, repellent film, one that revels in its own empty-minded brutality.
154. (05 Jul) *Save the Last Dance (2001, Thomas Carter) [B-]
Kinda blah, really; a film that touches upon all the expected plot cornerstones of the various genres it's worked in but all the conventionality goes down easy thanks to strong, appealing performances. Terry Kinney, in particular, is effortlessly terrific as Sara's jazz musician father in an underutilized role.
153. (05 Jul) *Dracula 2000 (2000, Patrick Lussier) [D+]
A nakedly commercial, by-the-numbers horror flick -- one where even the no-discernible-talent Jonny Lee Miller could claim with a straight face he's slumming -- but within its forgettable boundaries it does have an interesting backstory for the old bloodsucker.
152. (04 Jul) Songcatcher (2001, Maggie Greenwald) [C+]
An enjoyable anthropo/musicological lesson whose obvious charms (some fine folk music; Emily Rossum, who plays a teenaged orphan, has a particularly lovely and reverbant twang to her voice) are hampered by a slew of poorly developed, one-dimensional PC subplots.
151. (04 Jul) Cats & Dogs (2001, Lawrence Guterman) [B-]
Pretty much guaranteed to piss off anyone who prefers the haughty independence of cats to the slobbering stupidity of dogs, but there's some good gags that crossbreed spy-movie cliches with pet physiology and Mr. Tinkles -- a white Persian not unlike Blofeld's kitty -- joins the ranks of the great comic megalomaniacs such as Dr. Evil and the Brain. Any scene with a human, though, is an astounding waste of celluloid.
150. (30 Jun) The River (1997, Tsai Ming-Liang) [C]
149. (30 Jun) Crazy/Beautiful (2001, John Stockwell) [B]
Rather conventional melodrama at heart, but worth watching for nuanced direction and performances and some gutsiness within the constraints of the PG-13 rating -- this is a rare Hollywood teen flick that neither ignores sex nor treats it as fodder for gross-out gags.
148. (30 Jun) A.I. (2001, Steven Spielberg) [C]
Fascinating, and thanks to Spielberg's technical prowess and Osment's performance, never less than absorbing; but falls apart due to the inherent strain of being both obviously a Spielberg and Kubrick movie. There's also plenty of dodgy characterization and plotting; note how Jude Law's otherwise comic buffoon Gigolo Joe becomes the revolutionary Voice of Wisdom when the plot needs him to be and am I the only one seriously bothered by the fact that the emotional impact of the film's coda is largely predicated on an arbitrary and thematically meaningless bit of metaphysical hooey?
147. (28 Jun) *A Good Baby (2000, Katherine Dieckmann) [C]
146. (24 Jun) /*State and Main/ (2000, David Mamet) [B]
145. (23 Jun) The Fast and the Furious (2001, Rob Cohen) [B]
Cliched tale of undercover cop becoming too close to the suspects carried mainly by the gravitas of Diesel, the film's axle-grease fascination with auto parts, and the most satisfying car action sequences since RONIN. Certainly not close to greatness, but in this era of action movies directed by Bruckheimerized tyros so utterly incompetent at the grammar of cinema that even a wheezing hack like Cohen can show them up as the charlatans they are, rather welcome.
144. (23 Jun) Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001, Steve Carr) [D]
There was a real gullywasher occuring outside at the time, the next screening of FAST AND FURIOUS wasn't for another hour, and the reviews made it sound at least tolerable. If this inane, cheap-looking, and dire collection of tired pop-culture riffs and infantile toilet humor is "tolerable", I shudder to think how bad SEE SPOT RUN is...
143. (23 Jun) The Princess and the Warrior (2001, Tom Twyker) [C-]
Confirms that Twyker is one of the most technically accomplished directors in the world; also confirms that he's a third-rate intellect, as his Kieslowskian noodlings end up causing the most spectacular cinematic derailing in recent memory.
142. (20 Jun) *Something Wild (1986, Jonathan Demme) [B]
141. (16 Jun) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001, Simon West) [D+]
Still waiting for the first good movie based on a video game; West manages to turn a surefire popcorn movie hook (female Indy) with a perfectly-cast actress into a crushingly dull spectacle full of inane expository mumbo-jumbo. Aside: when did Noah Taylor become drinking buddies with Keith Richards?
140. (16 Jun) Sexy Beast (2001, Jonathan Glazer) [B]
Ends up being far less than the sum of its parts; despite the powerhouse intensity of Kingsley's Don Logan, bravura direction (especially when Glazer cross-cuts between the events setting up the film's heist and two recollections of it), and some truly odd dream sequences, film goes fatally astray with a third act that's essentially a half-hour tack-on to a terrific hour-long pic. (Sometimes more is indeed less.)
139. (10 Jun) Safe in Hell (1931, William Wellman) [C]
The most scuzzy Third World atmosphere this side of Casablanca; too bad it's in the service of a tale of romantic martyrdom so ludicrously contrived even Lars von Trier would be shaking his head in dismay.
138. (10 Jun) Havana Widows (1933, Ray Enright) [C+]
137. (10 Jun) Three on a Match (1932, Mervyn LeRoy) [B]
136. (10 Jun) The Anniversary Party (2001, Alan Cumming & Jennifer Jason Leigh) [B-]
135. (09 Jun) $Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001, Gary Troutdale & Kirk Wise) [B for movie, C- for DLP]
The first film I've seen entirely via digital projection. (By accident, I might add. I didn't realize it was digital 'til the trailers started beaming...) Color me deeply unimpressed; text appears like the output of a dot matrix printer, the strong lines in the characters were often badly aliased, and occasionally there seemed to be a discreteness to the imagery that made my head ache. The movie itself: Well-thought-out Vernesian adventure story, but really needed to be at least 2 hours -- at 90 minutes, seems rushed and overly frenetic.
134. (09 Jun) Fly Away Home (1996, Carroll Ballard) [A-]
A soaring paean to flight; the moment when Paquin, Daniels, and their flock of geese find themselves flying down the streets of downtown Baltimore made me absolutely giddy with delight. Marred only by a subplot involving an officious animal control agent, that has him all but twirling a mustache.
133. (09 Jun) Evolution (2001, Ivan Reitman) [C]
A waste of a terrific premise; is it too much to ask that my sci-fi action comedies be funny, or at least make an actual effort at hilarity? (Fart jokes do not count.) And Julianne, we love ya but don't do comedy. Ever.
132. (05 Jun) /*That Thing You Do/ (1996, Tom Hanks) [B+]
131. (03 Jun) /*The Professional/ (1994, Luc Besson) [B]
130. (02 Jun) The Animal (2001, Luke Greenfield) [B-]
Better-than-average ex-member-of-SNL comedy that despite not being as funny as the concept could allow, is consistently likable. Hysterically funny cameo by another former SNL vet (no, not Sandler) and some terrific bits of absurdist background business add to the fun. And Cute Colleen Haskell doesn't embarass herself.
129. (31 May) *Duets (2000, Bruce Paltrow) [B]
Very problematic script -- with way off-kilter ending -- but acted with such conviction by a first-rate cast (Giamatti is amazing, Lewis atoning for past musical sins, G. Paltrow for once being better than her part) and directed with such genorosity toward its characters, both small and large, that it's impossible for me to dislike.
128. (28 May) The Bedford Incident (1965, James Harris) [A-]
127. (28 May) Madigan (1968, Don Siegel) [B]
126. (28 May) Town & Country (2001, Peter Chelsom) [D]
Urk. One of those rare box-office duds that actually is the disaster it's been rumored to be; a wannabe farce directed by someone who displays zero sense of comic rhythm -- scenes that should escalate in frenetic mayhem suddenly end in a whimper.
125. (28 May) Driven (2001, Renny Harlin) [B-]
More enjoyed as an abstract collage of primal Hawksian elements (Men being men; competition and camraderie), the media and ad-saturated environment of modern-day auto racing, the sounds of cars pushing their tachyometers to the max, and twisted metal than as a conventional narrative; film stops cold when anyone opens their mouth to deliver Stallone's creaking platitudes.
124. (27 May) A Knight's Tale (2001, Brian Helgeland) [B-]
Lightweight, but entertaining, crowdpleaser. Anachronistic jokes more glancing blow than satirical thrust, but fun; Paul Bettany's wildly hyperbolic intros of our hero "knight" reason enough to see the film. No reason on earth why this genial diversion should be 132 minutes.
123. (27 May) *Get Carter (2000, Stephen Kay) [C]
Good supporting cast (including fine work from Rachael Leigh Cook and Mickey Rourke), but Stallone as Jack Carter is in the full-on anticharismatic badass mode of his mid-80s dreck like Cobra and Kay slaughters coherence in the film's third act for the sake of "style".
122. (26 May) The Man Who Cried (2001, Sally Potter) [B]
121. (26 May) Our Song (2001, Jim McKay) [B]
120. (26 May) The Luzhin Defence (2001, Marleen Gorris) [C-]
119. (21 May) *Antitrust (2001, Peter Howitt) [C+]
Thoroughly ridiculous paranoid thriller, but since the paranoid thriller is one genre where ridiculousness is an asset, this results in a cheesily enjoyable B-movie (Great moments in guilty pleasure movies: In a room that features a giant chessboard, a character actually asks (of the film's villain, the Gatesish Robbins), "You don't think he's toying with us?") Though there's nothing in the film quite as deliciously silly as the mere act of watching this paean to open-source code on a DVD player...
118. (20 May) Pickup on South Street (1953, Samuel Fuller) [A]
117. (20 May) Strange Fits of Passion (2001, Elise McCredle) [C+]
116. (20 May) Shrek (2001, Dreamworks SKG) [C+]
Not without its small pleasures (thanks largely to Murphy's near-constant ad-libbing as Donkey), but huh? Why is this mostly witless mediocrity getting rave reviews from otherwise sensible critics?
115. (19 May) Angel Eyes (2001, Luis Mandoki) [C]
An attempt at making a traditional tearjerking romance infused with the textures of gritty Chicago never quite gels, despite fine work from both leads. Perhaps it has something to do with those two eye-glazing monologues near film's end, constructed from 100% pure corn syrup. Or the strange incoherence of the plotting, where a subplot involving Lopez's family life disappears for the better part of an hour before supplying what passes for the film's climax. Or maybe that the gritty Chicago is played (quite obviously) by the great city of Toronto.
114. (19 May) Kiss of Death (1947, Henry Hathaway) [B-]
Starring Victor Mature as a large geologic object, otherwise stolid and pokey noir is mainly notable for Richard Widmark's nitrous-oxide-laced performance as Tommy Udo.
113. (19 May) Moulin Rouge (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [B-]
Pretty much a grand folly -- for every idea that pays off in cinephiliac orgasms (a wonderful back-and-forth number that seems to take lines from every love song to man), there's another that just results in a blinding headache (a parody of a pitch meeting that serves as an excuse for some of the most egregiously manic mugging to ever disgrace the silver screen). Kudos to Ewan McGregor, whose passionate and camp-free performance provides a much-needed emotional anchor. Now if just someone call tell Mr. Luhrmann not to edit his films when he's having a grand mal seizure...
112. (14 May) *I Know Where I'm Going! (1945, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger) [A]
111. (12 May) About Adam (2001, Gerard Stumbridge) [C-]
110. (12 May) Performance (1970, Nicolas Roeg & Donald Cammell) [A-]
109. (09 May) *Innocent Blood (1993, John Landis) [C+]
Terrific premise -- vampire who only feeds on criminals accidentally creates a pack of mobster vamps -- undone by Landis's usual sloppy execution and a cast that appears to be acting in entirely different movies : Parillaud in an arthouse Goth drama, Loggia and Rickles in a campy Mafioso comedy.
108. (06 May) The Young Girl and the Monsoon (2001, James Ryan) [C+]
More than a few critics observed that James Gandolfini's amazing performance in The Mexican actually weakened the rest of the film; anytime he wasn't onscreen became a wait for his next appearance. Look no further than Monsoon for another datum on this phenomenon: Ellen Muth does such a tempestuous and electrifying job as a moody 13-year-old adolescent that any scene without her in it makes this otherwise blah New York comedy-drama seem more tired and routine than it already is.
107. (05 May) Under the Sand (2001, Francois Ozon) [B-]
106. (05 May) The Center of the World (2001, Wayne Wang) [C+]
105. (05 May) The Mummy Returns (2001, Stephen Sommers) [C]
Whereas The Mummy was an exuberantly silly joyride, Returns is just another stupid (pygmy mummies!?!) summer blockbuster. Only Brendan Fraser's performance keeps the tongue-in-cheek quality that made the original enjoyable.
104. (28 Apr) /Josie & The Pussycats/ (2001, Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont) [A-]
103. (28 Apr) Mauvais Sang (1986, Leos Carax) [C]
Some terrific imagery, courtesy of Jean-Yves Escoffier, in the service of silly adolescent posturing that wouldn't be out of place in a Besson film.
102. (28 Apr) Freddy Got Fingered (2001, Tom Green) [B]
Destined for cult status, FREDDY is less a comedy than a truly disturbing (and freak-show fascinating) pipeline into one man's deranged id; like Gallo in BUFFALO '66, Green is working out some *very* personal issues through his own idiosyncratic means of expression. If I actually found it funny and if Green had one-third the command of the cinema that Gallo has, we might be talking about a masterpiece.
101. (28 Apr) One Night at McCool's (2001, Harald Zwart) [C+]
I suspect this is the kind of film critics truly hate to review: shallow, studiously "hip", but fitfully amusing, the only possible discussion about McCOOL is a shrug, a muttered "so-so", and a quick change to some other, more interesting subject like the temperature of spit in Wichita.
100. (26 Apr) *Poltergeist (1982, Tobe Hooper) [C+]
Thrilling set pieces, some eye-popping effects, and the occasional acid gag (loved it when Mom sees Heather O'Rourke looking at a dead channel, says "That's not good for you", and changes it to a channel showing a particularly violent war movie) almost excuses the incoherent narrative and the long stretches of pseudo-religious malarkey.
099. (24 Apr) /*Can't Hardly Wait/ (1998, Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont) [B-]
Attempts to be the DAZED & CONFUSED for the Nineties; just ends up CONFUSED. Some great moments -- Charlie Korsmo's drunkenly enthusiastic rendition of "Paradise City", especially -- and fine work from Lauren Ambrose and Seth Green as estranged childhood friends reconnecting can't quite overcome the main romantic plot involving the dull Ethan Embry's unrequited love for Jennifer Love Hewitt, who I find little more than a soulless starlet with only the barest wisps of acting ability.
098. (21 Apr) The Claim (2001, Michael Winterbottom) [A-]
A brilliant transplantation of THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE to the Sierra Nevada, mining the rich vein of the wild frontier v. civilized modernity running through the Western. I've never cared for any of Winterbottom's films before, but here he evokes a fading world with an almost tactile sense of authenticity, and in Peter Mullan he gets a tragic performance of towering force. Also, I'd like to add to those who complain Wes Bentley is too modern in the movie -- he's playing the surveyor for the Central Pacific Railroad wooing Mullan's daughter Hope, people; he's a big honking symbol of Modernity!
097. (21 Apr) *Maze (2000, Rob Morrow) [B]
Yes, Laura Linney does appear in the altogether. Weird thing about that scene, though; the most sensual moments aren't what'd you expect. Prurient interest aside, this is a nuanced and finely acted melodrama; main glitches come from some jarring Austin Powers-esque transitions and overuse of a gimmicky first-person shakycam viewpoint.
096. (19 Apr) *Broadcast News (1988, James L. Brooks) [A-]
095. (14 Apr) The Day I Became a Woman (2001, Marziyeh Meshkini) [B]
First section: overly familiar allegory with Iranian tykes. Third section: forgettable trifle about old woman buying the material goods she's never had. Second section: stark and minimal allegory about a woman in a bike race being chased by the men on her life (on horseback), completely shot as a series of majestic tracking shots.
094. (14 Apr) Chopper (2001, Andrew Dominik) [B+]
093. (14 Apr) */New Waterford Girl/ (2000, Allan Moyle) [B]
092. (13 Apr) The Tailor of Panama (2001, John Boorman) [C]
The last half hour is as exciting and breathlessly entertaining as the first 90 minutes are a stodgy, snooze-inducing bore.
091. (13 Apr) Josie and the Pussycats (2001, Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont) [B+]
090. (13 Apr) Very Annie-Mary (2000, Sara Sugarman) [D+]
Judging by this, Wales is apparently located in Australia; how else to explain the remarkable resemblance to fare like THE CASTLE? Only diehard Rachel Griffiths fans need bother.
089. (13 Apr) Bridget Jones's Diary (2001, Sharon Maguire) [B-]
Renee Zellwegger a terrific Bridget, far more charming and sympathetically insecure than the unlikable mope of the novel, Hugh Grant proving he plays charming asshole even better than charming naif, and Colin Firth's underacting amusing. But film herky-jerky in rhythm and plot consists of little more than Bridget being put through a series of humiliations.
088. (10 Apr) *Children of a Lesser God (1986, Randa Haines) [B+]
087. (08 Apr) *Cherry Falls (2000, Geoffrey Wright) [C]
Not sure why some have described this routine (if competent) slasher flick as a minor classic; sure, it inverts a well-known subtext of teen horror pics, but the maniac's killing of virgins ends up being merely the film's "hook" for an otherwise conventional genre exercise.
086. (08 Apr) */The Truth About Cats & Dogs/ (1996, Michael Lehmann) [A-]
085. (07 Apr) Durian Durian (2000, Fruit Chan) [B]
084. (07 Apr) Clouds of May (2000, Nuri Bilge Ceylan) [C+]
083. (07 Apr) L.I.E. (2001, Michael Cuesta) [C]
082. (05 Apr) */Dead Again/ (1991, Kenneth Branagh) [C+]
081. (31 Mar) Someone Like You (2001, Tony Goldwyn) [D+]
080. (31 Mar) Amores Perros (2001, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) [B]
079. (31 Mar) Spy Kids (2001, Robert Rodriguez) [B-]
Far more admirable in the dementedness of its conception and design -- a blend of Bond, Tex-Mex, and Pee-Wee's Playhouse set to frappe -- than in its sloppy execution and surprisingly bland characterization. Only Alan Cumming's Floop has the same gonzo energy as the film's background.
078. (30 Mar) Confusion of Genders (2001, Ilan Duran Cohen) [C+]
s28. (30 Mar) Patriotic (2000, Judy Dennis) [D+]
077. (27 Mar) *Swingers (1996, Doug Liman) [C]
Number of minutes before the use of "money" as an adjective became *extremely* annoying: 15. And just because you flat out admit to cribbing Reservoir Dogs and Goodfellas doesn't make the homages any more interesting.
076. (25 Mar) The Foul King (2000, Kim Jeewoon) [A-]
Yes, there's a couple of unnecessary, neglected subplots. But who cares? This is a racuous, hysterical comedy directed -- unlike too many Hollywood comedies -- by someone with a keen visual eye, and featuring a gut-bustingly deadpan performance by Song Kangho as a put-upon bank flunky who finds inner peace by turning into the villain in a wrestling ring.
s27. (25 Mar) Cock Fight (2000, Sigalit Liphshitz) [B-]
075. (24 Mar) The Gleaners and I (2001, Agnes Varda) [B]
Even at a brief 85 minutes, Varda's charmingly offhand cinessay is a good half-hour too long; there's only so much variation on scavenging anecdotes before a dulling sameness arises. Before then, it's a witty and humane delight; the world needs more films where lawyers stand in cabbage fields to discuss fine points of law.
s26. (24 Mar) L'Opera Mouffe (1958, Agnes Varda) [B-]
074. (24 Mar) Bartleby (2001, Jonathan Parker) [C]
Everything in it that's cool (besides the bizarro vibe of Crispin Glover) is from Melville; everything else is a refugee from some long-and-justly-forgotten Eighties hipster comedy.
s25. (24 Mar) Upheaval (2000, Itamar Kubovy) [C+]
073. (24 Mar) The Cashier Wants to Go to the Seaside (2000, Dalibor Matanic) [C-]
Drearily slow and unfunny deadpan comedy; not helped that I immediately thought of a funnier and blacker ending than the film actually has.
s24. (24 Mar) Salty (2000, Marion Lee) [C]
072. (23 Mar) Series 7: The Contenders (2001, Daniel Minahan) [B-]
Nowhere near the atrocity I instinctually presumed this w be, Series 7 is a dead-on parody of reality TV that, with the exception of the unfortunately cartoonish parents of one of the Contenders, avoids the cheap gags that I feared. But its rigid formal mastery is also its limitation; Minahan captures all too well the fact that most reality TV is tedious in the extreme (note that Survivor reruns had lackadaisacal ratings) and his conceit precludes any examination of the sociopolitical context of "The Contenders" universe or emotional involvement in the characters.
071. (23 Mar) Heartbreakers (2001, David Mirkin) [C+]
Generally: in any comedy whose cast is full of grotesques save one, the character I find invariably funniest is the "normal" one. Specifically: I got more kick out of Jason Lee's laconic bartender than the strained hysterics of Hewitt, Weaver, Liotta, et al.
070. (19 Mar) *A Single Girl (1996, Benoit Jacquot) [B+]
Shot in real-time (save for an inexplicable and lengthy coda set X months later; talk about your unexpected transitions), Jacquot's film is more riveting and unbearably tense than the vast majority of thrillers ... and all it's doing is following Virginie Ledoyen on her first day working room service at a luxury hotel whilst in the process of breaking up with her boyfriend after telling him she's pregnant.
069. (18 Mar) Hair Under the Roses (2000, Agnes Obadia & Jean-Julien Chervier) [B]
068. (18 Mar) La Captive (2000, Chantal Akerman) [C]
067. (17 Mar) Night Shift (2000, Phillipe Le Guay) [B]
066. (17 Mar) /Memento/ (2001, Christopher Nolan) [A]
065. (14 Mar) Girls Can't Swim (2001, Anne-Sophie Birot) [B-]
Or 1+1=0. Isold LeBesco and Karen Alyx both give fine performances in the first two segments which portray's each adolescent's home life seperately. But film falls apart when the two meet up in film's final third and it's clear that the duo are unbelievable as bosom buddies.
064. (14 Mar) Tomorrow's Another Day (2000, Jeanne Labrune) [C]
A program note described this as a French episode of Seinfeld; apt given its inconsequential farcical plot about a group of urban neurotics. It also explains my mild dislike; I think Seinfeld is the most overrated TV show of the Nineties. Jean-Pierre Daroussin does have a priceless moment with a wind-up toy frog that's almost worth a ticket all by its lonesome..
063. (11 Mar) Esther Kahn (2000, Arnaud Desplechin) [B-]
That B- is a mere placeholder; if ever a film merited a truly mixed reaction, it's Desplechin's headscratcher of a period film. As Esther, Summer Phoenix does give an absolutely unforgettable performance; whether it's good or bad, on the other hand, is something I'll never figure out.
062. (11 Mar) A Crime in Paradise (2001, Jean Becker) [C]
Two fine farcical sequences; dire otherwise.
061. (11 Mar) Samia (2000, Phillipe Faucon) [B-]
Cookie-cutter coming-of-age French naturalist film; only novelty is the teen in question is an Arab in Marseilles.
060. (11 Mar) Get Over It (2001, Tommy O'Haver) [C]
To those of you who were thinking about this thanks to the surprise goodness of Kirsten Dunst's previous film, Bring It On, I merely need repeat the film's title. Cute opening sequence, Dunst charming, thoroughly forgettable otherwise.
059. (10 Mar) Selon Matthieu (2000, Xavier Beauvois) [C]
Selon Odell, Matthieu's (both character and movie) a sullen bore; only the dependable Nathalie Baye gives it any spark of life.
058. (09 Mar) Murderous Maids (2000, Jean-Pierre Denis) [B+]
Based on a notorious murder case that's inspired a boatload of work in France (Genet's The Maids and, in a roundabout way, La Ceremonie), Maids eschews the delirious fantasies of the similarly-themed Heavenly Creatures for a more intimate realism. All the better to showcase an amazing performance by Sylvie Testud, a definitive and explosively physical depiction of a ticking time bomb.
m01. (08 Mar) */Forgotten Silver/ (1997, Peter Jackson & Costa Boles) [A-]
057. (07 Mar) */Being John Malkovich/ (1999, Spike Jonze) [A]
056. (04 Mar) *Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993, Steve Zaillan) [B]
055. (03 Mar) /Cast Away/ (2000, Robert Zemeckis) [A]
054. (03 Mar) Boyfriends & Girlfriends (1987, Eric Rohmer) [B]
Slight but enjoyable Rohmer; the characters seem less fully-formed, the setup a bit too farcical.
053. (02 Mar) The Mexican (2001, Gore Verbinski) [B+]
Massive structural flaws aside, this is the first must-see studio release of the year, a witty, consistently entertaining fusion of screwball comedy and Tarantinoir. Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts both turn in superb comic performances (Roberts is far better here than in Brockovich), but it's James Gandolfini who steals this film outright with an astounding work as an oddly sensitive hitman. If there's a better supporting actor performance in 2001, it will be a very, very good year. Man, I really need to catch up with The Sopranos now....
052. (25 Feb) *Sixteen Candles (1984, John Hughes) [C-]
051. (25 Feb) *True Stories (1986, David Byrne) [B+]
049. (24 Feb) Last Resort (2001, Pawel Pawlikoski) [B+]
s23. (24 Feb) /The Heart of the World/ (2000, Guy Maddin) [A]
048. (24 Feb) /Claire's Knee/ (1971, Eric Rohmer) [A-]
047. (24 Feb) Monkeybone (2001, Henry Selick) [C]
046. (22 Feb) *Narrow Margin (1990, Peter Hyams) [C+]
045. (19 Feb) *Henry & June (1990, Philip Kaufman) [C+]
044. (18 Feb) /*Bring It On/ (2000, Peyton Reed) [B+]
043. (17 Feb) The Marquise of O (1976, Eric Rohmer) [B+]
042. (17 Feb) Bad Company (2001, Jean-Pierre Ameris) [B]
041. (15 Feb) *Anna and the King (1999, Andy Tennant) [C]
s22. (11 Feb) /Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century/ (1953, Chuck Jones) [A]
s21. (11 Feb) Dripalong Daffy (1951, Chuck Jones) [B+]
s20. (11 Feb) Hasty Hare (1952, Chuck Jones) [B+]
s19. (11 Feb) Jumping Jupiter (1955, Chuck Jones) [B]
s18. (11 Feb) Deduce, You Say (1956, Chuck Jones) [B]
s17. (11 Feb) /Bully for Bugs/ (1953, Chuck Jones) [A-]
s16. (11 Feb) Little Beau Pepe (1952, Chuck Jones) [B-]
s15. (11 Feb) The Ducksters (1950, Chuck Jones) [B+]
s14. (11 Feb) Scaredy Cat (1948, Chuck Jones) [B]
s13. (11 Feb) The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones) [B+]
s12. (11 Feb) Rabbit Hood (1949, Chuck Jones) [B-]
s11. (11 Feb) /What's Opera, Doc?/ (1957, Chuck Jones) [A]
s10. (11 Feb) The Cat Above, The Mouse Below (1965, Chuck Jones) [C-]
s09. (11 Feb) High Note (1960, Chuck Jones) [B+]
s08. (11 Feb) Nelly's Folly (1961, Chuck Jones) [B-]
s07. (11 Feb) Baton Bunny (1959, Chuck Jones) [C]
s06. (11 Feb) Past Perfumance (1955, Chuck Jones) [B]
s05. (11 Feb) /Rabbit of Seville/ (1950, Chuck Jones) [A-]
s04. (11 Feb) Bear Feat (1949, Chuck Jones) [B-]
s03. (11 Feb) Mississippi Hare (1949, Chuck Jones) [A-]
s02. (11 Feb) A Hound for Trouble (1951, Chuck Jones) [C+]
s01. (11 Feb) Long-Haired Hare (1949, Chuck Jones) [B]
040. (11 Feb) Topless Women Talk About Their Lives (1997, Harry Sinclair) [B-]
039. (11 Feb) Hannibal (2001, Ridley Scott) [C]
038. (08 Feb) *Tampopo (1986, Juzo Itami) [B+]
037. (04 Feb) Come and See (1985, Elem Klimov) [A]
036. (04 Feb) In the Mood for Love (2001, Wong Kar-Wai) [A-]
035. (03 Feb) Sugar & Spice (2001, Francine McDougall) [C+]
034. (03 Feb) Fever (2001, Alex Winter) [C]
Exceptionally well-shot, but it's essentially all brooding atmosphere and since it's obvious where the film is headed plotwise, not particularly interesting.
033. (03 Feb) Nico and Dani (2001, Cesc Gay) [B]
032. (03 Feb) Head Over Heels (2001, Mark Waters) [B-]
Those wackos at the MPAA: Apparently a shot of Monica Potter being sexually assaulted by a Great Dane (during the film's meet-cute scene, no less!) is OK in a PG-13 film, but say fuck twice and you're R. Um, allrighty then... Highly questionable crudity aside, fairly typical Hollywood piffle with some fine comic performances from the gaggle of models forming its supporting cast.
031. (01 Feb) *The Secret of Roan Inish (1995, John Sayles) [A-]
030. (30 Jan) */Honeymoon in Vegas/ (1992, Andrew Bergman) [B+]
Let us now pause for a moment to remember the career of Andrew Bergman, who started out with two great off-kilter comedies and then promptly disappeared into the career-killing trifecta of Capraesque corn, Demi Moore, and biopics. Let us also remember how an Oscar and box office success robbed us of a great comic actor in Nicolas Cage. (Sniff...).
029. (29 Jan) */Arsenic and Old Lace/ (1944, Frank Capra) [B-]
Geez, either my aesthetic judgment is improving from my college days when I saw (and enjoyed) this mildly amusing but dusty farce or my memory is going, but how on Earth did I overlook how *awful* Cary Grant is in this? As far as I'm concerned, Peter Lorre easily steals the film.
028. (29 Jan) *Oxygen (1999, Richard Shepard) [C+]
Great Moments in Film #134:
Dylan Baker as an FBI agent delivers a long bizarre monologue about George Pataki and the death penalty. At the end of this well-delivered but ludicrous speech, Adrien Brody replies with a one liner everyone in the audience should be thinking.
Great scene, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in this well-acted, but otherwise formulaic psycho-killer cop thriller.
027. (28 Jan) *Coming Soon (2000, Colette Burson) [B-]
Appealing leads, and being set in Manhattan strenously avoids the usual high school clique cliches. (Admittedly, so it can go straight to the Woody Allen rich Upper East Sider cliches, but still...)
026. (27 Jan) The Wedding Planner (2001, Adam Shankman) [D+]
Starts off well but slowly loses its cynicism and in the end gets sunk in a mire of sentimental cliches. Also makes huge mistake of treating comic relief characters seriously.
025. (26 Jan) *Married to the Mob (1988, Jonathan Demme) [B]
Grade would be at least a notch higher if I didn't find Matt Modine's goofy FBI agent the annoying kind of eccentric instead of the charming kind. Otherwise, like Grosse Pointe Blank manages to have a surprisingly high amount of violent mayhem while keeping the tone light and snappy; Pfeiffer oozes charm and Dean Stockwell may be the most inexplicably likable Mafioso in screen history.
024. (21 Jan) The Pledge (2001, Sean Penn) [C]
Terrific Jack Nicholson performance as a man who will keep a promise no matter what, but Penn's latest treds the same line of self-indulgent tortured machismo as Affliction.
023. (21 Jan) The Gift (2001, Sam Raimi) [C+]
Basically a murder mystery fleshed out with Southern gothic; Raimi's horror background serves him well as the visions seen by Cate Blanchett (excellent, as usual) are genuinely creepy. But someone better tell Raimi that having every possible suspect flash before Blanchett's eyes right before the killer is unmasked is a very, very bad idea. Apart from Giovanni Ribisi revisiting Other Sister territory and Hillary Swank in a bad wig, performances strong with Keanu's best work since the Bill and Ted movies.
022. (20 Jan) Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman) [A-]
021. (20 Jan) Panic (2001, Henry Bromell) [B+]
020. (20 Jan) Snatch (2001, Guy Ritchie) [C]
019. (20 Jan) *Love, Etc. (1996, Marion Vernoux) [B]
018. (19 Jan) *Pat and Mike (1952, George Cukor) [B-]
017. (18 Jan) *Groove (2000, Greg Harrison) [C]
016. (17 Jan) *Intern (2000, Michael Lange) [C]
015. (15 Jan) *Romeo Must Die (2000, Andrezj Bartkowiak) [C]
Jet Li has plenty of charisma to burn, but he needs better material than tired gang-war cliches whose central "romance" never goes beyond junior-high flirting. If the leads were meant to be teenagers, it might be innocently charming, but for a thirtysomething ex-cop and a woman fresh out of college it just seems really weird. Fight scenes fairly disappointing, thanks to overly frenetic editing and generally too short.
014. (13 Jan) if.... (1968, Lindsay Anderson) [B+]
013. (13 Jan) The Personals (2001, Chen Kuo-Fu) [C+]
Chronologically confusing (read: bizarrely edited) tale about a woman who places a personal ad in the paper and endures a series of very bad blind dates. Gets interesting as it slowly unfolds the reasons why.
012. (13 Jan) /O Brother, Where Art Thou?/ (2000, Joel Coen) [A]
011. (13 Jan) *The Road to El Dorado (2000, Bibo Bergeron & Don Paul) [C]
What The Emperor's New Groove would have been had they kept the presumably awful Sting (here, Elton John) songs, laid on the usual Disney moralism, and cast a very annoying Kenneth Branagh as one of the lead voices.
010. (10 Jan) *Good News (1947, Charles Walters) [B-]
A musical where the flashes of wit in the Comden/Green screenplay are much more interesting than the tired songs from the original Twenties-era Broadway show.
009. (09 Jan) *The Color of Paradise (2000, Majid Majidi) [B-]
One half finely wrought drama about a man wracked by shame, guilt, and self-pity; one half typical Iranian quasidocumentary kiddie drama,. Guess which half I preferred.
008. (08 Jan) */The Rocketeer/ (1991, Joe Johnston) [B]
Corny, but appealingly so.
007. (06 Jan) /Miller's Crossing/ (1990, Joel Coen) [C+]
006. (06 Jan) Traffic (2000, Steven Soderbergh) [A-]
005. (06 Jan) Shadow of the Vampire (2000, E. Elias Merhige) [C-]
A thorough botch job of one of the year's coolest concepts: "What if Max Schrek really was a vampire?". Alternates wildly between broad comedy, old-fashioned horror, and serious drama and handles the transitions and contrasts between them so clumsily that it fails at every single one of them.
004. (05 Jan) *Carnival of Souls (1962, Herk Harvey) [A-]
003. (01 Jan) Thirteen Days (2000, Roger Donaldson) [B]
Entertaining and suspenseful take on the Cuban missile crisis (I think it helps this is something where everyone knows the general outcome, but only history diehards are clear on the details). Bruce Greenwood is an eerie replica of JFK, and the rest of the cast delivers juicy performances -- all save Kevin Costner, who should know by now that he has no skill for accents.
002. (01 Jan) Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988, Terrence Davies) [B+]
001. (01 Jan) O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000, Joel Coen) [A]
The most thematically complex American film of this year is an embarassment of riches from the beatiful roots music soundtrack to the assured comic performance of Clooney and Tim Blake Nelson to the astonishing array of allusions and references have incorporated into their vision of the Matter of the Depression-Era South. Leave it to the Coens to create one of the few recent films to have the reach and breadth of great literature and have it dismissed as "clever".