Films I Watched - August, 2002
Submitted by lbangs on Tue, 08/06/2002 - 12:02
- 8/31 - About Adam (2000) - Alright, scanning most critics' reactions to About Adam, this may prove to be another Chocolat (AAA, get ready), but I really liked this quirky BBC film. Its working title was All About Adam, so that should give you some idea of where this wicked little comedy is heading. The acting was superb by both Adam and each of the lovely sisters, and several scenes brought me to audible laughter. Oh, did I add that this one has a structure as wonderfully twisted as nearly any film of the last few years? To my surprise, About Adam proved to be an overlooked gem, and a very worthy rental.
- 8/26 - Nights of Cabiria (1957) - I love Fellini, but this one was a new one for me. I think it is certainly one of his better films, but I can't quite match it to the magic of his best. Woman/child Cabiria is a prostitute in Rome with horrible luck. She is rough, immature, and obviously miserable with her life. Her one redeeming quality is the very quality that leads to many of her awful situations - she will do anything to escape her life. She will believe blatant lies if there is a chance they may lead her away from her world. In other words, if Soren K. was correct in saying that purity of heart is to will one thing, Cabiria is utterly pure of heart. A touching film revealing both the dregs of life while affirming the worth of this wild carnival all at once as few but Fellini can do. "We're heading home, but I don't think we'll get there..."
- 8/21 - Flirting with Disaster (1996) - David O. Russell is evolving into a pretty dependable yet creative director. His Three Kings is quite good, and this, his stab at satirical comedy, is one of the funnier 90s films I have seen. The directing is sure and, in the tradition of classic screwball comedies, mostly invisible, the script is terrific, but it is the odd, perfect casting and inspired acting that really carry this one over. I don't want to give too much away, but many old pros shine tweaking their images in hilarious ways. Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette (not always my favorite actress) are fine, and Tea Leoni (who I have loved ever since Flying Blind) is great. If the humor spread a bit broad at times and the pace locks the tone into one gear, these faults are easily forgiven given just how funny this film actually is. Not too many comedies from the last decade really impressed me; this is one that did.
- 8/18 - Minority Report (2002) - Reviews have varied on this one, but for my money, this is the best Spielberg film in nearly a decade. The effects are stellar, the story twisty and pointed, and the tone edgy in a way Steven seldom ever has been since the early 70s. Heck, the boy even indulges in some delicious, eye-popping black humor! I admit, I was very shocked at just how great this film is. It is very rare that Spielberg can meld his higher, social aspirations with his amazing (if recently under-used) ability to wow and entertain, but in Minority Report, he may just have pulled this trick off better than he ever has. Cruise is admirably toned-down and believable, and the beautiful, talented Samantha Morton is perfect in a quite un-glamorous role. There really is not much wrong with this film; nearly every note is pitch perfect. I'm not really sure why it bombed at the box office, unless after 9/11, people really don't want to be warned about the possible unsavory effects of trading in freedom for safety. Required viewing for sci-fi fans and anybody with the last name of Ashcroft. Easily the best of 2002 so far.
- 8/17 - Ever After (1998) - Ah, gee. I'm setting myself up big time with this one, but I actually enjoyed this film. It knew what it wanted to be, and its aim was true. The re-writing of the Cinderella fairy tale sans fairy was inspired and clever, and the direction was steady and sure. Additionally, this Cinderella is a strong role model who certainly does not need any prince to rescue her - she can do the job just fine herself, thank you. I found this to be a very good children's film, one adults might just enjoy as well.
- 8/10 - The Insider (1999) - This may not be my first viewing of this film, but rewatching it has affirmed its status as highly under-rated. Heck, this could have beat American Beauty at the Oscars, and you wouldn't have seen me crying about it. Pacino and Crowe are both great as insiders, both men who blow the whistle on their own companies. In fact, if any justice really ruled, Crowe would have taken home an Oscar for his stellar work here instead of his grimmacing-and-revenge-swearing stud in leather and sand role in Gladiator. Between this and Insomnia, I'm almost starting to suspect Pacino of finding his second wind, exploring acting nuances beyond the tiring "yelling-means-acting" roles of the last decade. We can hope.
- 8/10 - Signs (2002) - I really, really did not like this film at all. At 106 minutes, it felt longer than most three hour films. Of course, all that waste of film stock eventually tumbles into another patented M. Night Shyamalan ending, and this one stinks. Real bad. It doesn't particulary surprise, it is extremely contrived, it is cheesy beyond belief, and it doesn't even make much logical sense. In other words, it sucks. Really bad. It is one of the worst endings I have seen in a long, long, long time. Sadly, there really isn't much more in the film going well. Shyamalan has proven that he is a good old-fashioned spooky film director, scaring through sound effects and the unseen. Unfortunately, Shyamalan refuses to make an old-fashioned spooky film. Instead, his films try to twist where they really shouldn't, and they try to make profound religous statements where M. Night really hasn't a damn profound bone in his body. So far, this has to be the worst 2002 film I've seen yet. Really. Want to see this film? Take a nap instead. You'll get the same effects, plus you'll get your rest too.
- 8/3 - Monsters, Inc. (2001) - Well, Monsters, Inc. is my least favorite Pixar film yet, and still, it is quite a bit of fun. John Goodman's voice work shines, and the animation dazzles (especially the detailed blue hair on Sully), but the sense of wonder and awe is largely lacking. When the big Pixar chase arrives, you're more likely to be impressed by the multi-plane animation than swept away by the action or suspense. The jokes are also not nearly as funny as previous efforts, but will probably evoke smiles if not laughter. A good but minor entry in the on-going Pixar saga.
- 8/3 - Insomnia (2002) - Insomnia is quite good. Not great, but quite good. The film doesn't quite seem to trust its own ability to create atmosphere, and perhaps over-loads on this front a bit, but over all, this is a very well done cop film, with a dull snowblinded whiteness sitting in for the usual noir. The acting is stellar, and the recreations of the effects of insomnia are vivid and dead-on. A few set-oriented scenes work incredibly well, especially one involving logs washing down river, and Pacino and Williams avoid some of their own cliches that have plauged them lately. It is, of course, always nice to see Hartley regular Martin Donovan making a bit of dough in a mainstream film. As my wife stated as we left the dollar film, this film is somewhat similar to Homocide: Life on the Street, and frankly, doesn't soar nearly as high as that classic series, but on its own, Insomnia has barely pulled ahead of About a Boy as my favorite film of 2002. So far.