Seen in 2005 Part I

  1. THX 1138 (1971, George Lucas, USA) ** Like most low-budget sci-fi, THX 1138 is brimming with interesting ideas about technology and society, but doesn't tell a great story or achieve technological constistency and believability.
  2. Destiny (1921, Fritz Lang, Germany) *** Frequently portends Lang's future greatness, and its artistic execution matches the technical wizardry. Too many titles.
  3. The Dreamlife of Angels (1998, Erick Zonca, France) ** Throughout the movie, I was trying to decide if this was a quiet triumph of human commonness or a shallow social commentary. The infuriating final minutes revealed it as the latter.
  4. Gotti (1996, Robert Harmon, USA) [TV] * Insultingly derivative in every scene and line of dialogue.
  5. In the Name of the Father (1993, Jim Sheridan, Ireland) *** Not quite Bloody Sunday or The Shawshank Redemption, but damn good nonetheless.
  6. Thesis (1996, Alejandro Amenábar, Spain) * I'm a brutalist, so I should like this acclaimed director's debut about snuff videos, right? Not when it's this sloppily directed, written, and scored.
  7. Star Wars (1977, George Lucas, USA) [rewatch] ** Hold your pitchforks. Star Wars and King Kong have got to be the two most over-rated movies ever. Neither are well-written or well-directed, feature good dialogue or good acting. Both are significant for their editing and special effects. Pixar's role in making kids' movies watchable isn't that overrated; Star Wars is on-the-nose, relentlessly impractical and inconsistent (within the rules of its own universe), and morally simplistic. It probably seems unfair that I so quickly dismiss the common merits of an entire genre, but I think pornos and chop-socky flicks typically suck, too. At least Star Wars is fast-paced and often fun to watch (when Ford or Jones are speaking, usually). The legacy of Star Wars (besides its importance for the movie industry) is the unmatched, epic scope of its fully-realized universe and, like King Kong, its revelation of the possibilities of cinema to show new creatures and worlds. Okay, I've had my say: bring on the pitchforks.
  8. Birth (2004, Jonathan Glazer, USA) *** From the opening I shot, you know you've got a great director, a good score, and a high-potential concept. To see the spectacular idea paid off with an unspectacular script is beautiful. In case you missed it,
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    the kid is a reincarnation of Sean, who decides to tell Anna he isn't Sean because he doesn't want her to know about him and Clara, and maybe he realizes it just won't work.
  9. Spanglish (2004, James L. Brooks, USA) [rewatch] *** Yeah, I know it's aggressively cute and blatantly manipulating, but I had so much fun watching this, I can't help myself.
  10. Drumline (2002, Charles Stone III, USA) * Barely better than You Got Served.
  11. D.O.A. (1950, Rudolph Maté, USA) * Maybe it was formative for film noir, maybe not. I understand the style of the times, but D.O.A. still feels like an amateur, cliche narrative with horrid dialogue.
  12. Nobody Needs to Know (2003, Azazel Jacobs, USA) *** The sound mix is sometimes lacking, but I don't care: Nobody Needs to Know is told in an original, reflexive style, with plenty of (quietly or loudly) desperate humanity and effective shot manipulation on display. Feels like a student film in a good way, for once. Download it from the Internet Archive.
  13. Videohaut (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Stupid.
  14. Superbitmapping (2000, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * A strange and definitely worthless computer experiment.
  15. Silver Screen (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Flesich's worst.
  16. Más Fuerte (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Just as annoying in live-action.
  17. Kosmos (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Frenetic but irritating. I'm beginning to think Fleisch makes films just to piss people off.
  18. K.I.L.L. (2004, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Pointless.
  19. Hautnah (2002, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Like Blutrausch, but with skin.
  20. Gestalt (2003, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] ** In the same vein as _grau, but more mathematical and less interesting.
  21. Friendly Fire (2003, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] ** Don't ask me.
  22. Blutrausch (1999, Thorsten Fleisch, Germany) [short] * Flesich smeared his own blood on a roll of film and lets it fly by, fast, furious and messy.
  23. The Boat (1921, Buster Keaton, USA) [short, rewatch] ** I don't want to rate all the silent slapstick shorts, the Disney and Warner Brothers shorts, etc. There's million of them, and they are all roughly the same. There's nothing wrong with The Boat, but it doesn't stand out.
  24. Since Otar Left (2003, Julie Bertucelli, France) *** I've just been waiting for one of these quiet, foreign-film-fest-favorite dramas to be a bad film, I just haven't seen it yet.
  25. First Daughter (2004, Forest Whitaker, USA) * Puts Katie Holmes on a level of abhorability I didn't know existed. This is a sub-Paul-Walker level of distaste, folks. It was like eating poop.
  26. The Machinist (2004, Brad Anderson, Spain) ** Brad Anderson is a name to watch. His direction and Bale's frighteningly frail figure are highly effective mood manipulators, and the movie is propelled by very strong need-to-know-what-happens-next hooks. But: whose first guess at the hangman game after we get "ER" isn't
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    ? And there are a few plot holes, like
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    after evading the police, Trevor can go back to get his truck from the front of the police station because they didn't check for his other set of plates and look outside? And how did Trevor not check on his bleeding freezer the first time he saw it?
    Also, the last 30 minutes felt like a waste because by then we're
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    sure it's all in his head, and we're probably sure he's feeling guilty about killing that kid somehow in real life, which caused his insomnia (especially if we've read the movie's tagline).
  27. Mystery Men (1999, Kinka Usher, USA) ** An imaginative, underrated movie with a great concept and jokes and characters that are actually funny. It pains me that it still fails with the other half of the jokes that suck. 50/50 is a pretty rare ratio for successful jokes in a movie, but alas, that doesn't mean Mystery Men is a good movie, just that most comedies really suck.
  28. The Clearing (2004, Pieter Jan Brugge, USA) ** You know, I actually liked this movie for a while for all the wrong reasons. It's cliche, unspectacular, and non-thrilling, with no memorable characters or dialogue. Strangely, enough, that's what I liked about it for a while. It was a simple drama played out semi-often in our country told without contrived action, twists, or intensity. Every character involved is the obvious character who would be involved in the story - as even the characters themselves know. But I guess the filmmakers decided they needed to throw in some predictable Hollywood twists and "intense" scenes for the climax. And in the end, it is possible to make an unassuming, realistic drama not so cliche, and I wish they had.
  29. Memento (2001, Christopher Nolan, USA) [rewatch] ***** Memento uses a highly innovative and effective reverse-forward-reverse-forward chronology. That Memento succeeds so brilliantly on every other level, too, makes it one of the best films of all time. The opening shot is of a grisly murder-scene Polaroid fading away as it fades in Leonard's memory - but of course the shot is rolling backwards because a Polaroid would fade into focus. We then see shots of the murder play backwards as an introduction to the reverse chronology of the film. From then on, the shots play forward but the scenes play backward, except for those in black and white, which play forward. Memento also works as another step forward for Neo-noir: its characters, especialy Leonard, are not only alienated from their surroundings, but from the story and even from themselves. As a thriller, Memento is fairly standard but effective... considered chronologically. The film, of course, literally turns that on its head and still thrills playing in reverse - how many thrillers could do that? As a narrative, Memento is impeccable - perfect pacing, planting and harvesting of mystery, and character development. The oft-cited problem of
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    "How could he remember his condition?"
    must be forgiven because everything else about the film is genius. The ending is one of those rare triumphant finales that is utterly surprising and convincing. It even
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    turns our sympathetic hero into a twisted, vengeful serial killer who not only keeps killing to find purpose in his life, but one-ups killers without guilt because he can't remember anything to be guilty about.
  30. The Woodsman (2004, Nicole Kassell, USA) *** I have a real weakness for movies about broken, wounded, messy people because I'm diarrhetic over the portrayl of humanity nearly ubiquitous in all visual media: happy, rich, beautiful people who rollerblade to the corporate "cush" job and must choose to date one of 6 happy, rich, beautiful people at a ski resort. Even (especially) in "reality" television, nobody's keepin' it real. Our one redeeming character may be the sitcom fat father. I find solace in movies like The Woodsman about hurting, hurtful people who console each other (and sometimes not), and most certainly don't just "get better." Naturally, a movie like this strikes deeper when you know many people who have absued and been abused. The Woodsman is a very well-handled, powerful human drama, unlike The Man Without a Face or, say, The United States of Leland. At least four scenes nearly made me cry. Not as daring or good as I Stand Alone.
  31. The Golem (1920, Carl Boese, Germany) ** I feel much better about my "masterpiece" rating for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari after having seen this failure of German expressionism from the same year. Where Caligari was claustrophobic, psychological, and artistic, The Golem is half overblown Griffith epic and half clownish vaudeville.
  32. My Left Foot (1989, Jim Sheridan, Ireland) *** The touching, quirky, amazing story of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy but learned to write and paint with his only controllable limb: his left foot. An utterly fantastic performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.
  33. Driving Miss Daisy (1989, Bruce Beresford, USA) *** A very simple story is used as a framework to comment on the people and culture of the period. Quite interesting. Oh, and since it's the first thing you'll ask: Is it slow? No.
  34. East of Eden (1955, Elia Kazan, USA) *** Seems to have lost something from Steinbeck's novel and gained nothing from the medium of film (including James Dean's overrated performance). Still a good story.
  35. Returner (2002, Takashi Yamazaki, Japan) * Actually much worse than Murder by Numbers.
  36. Murder by Numbers (2002, Barbet Schroeder, USA) * Every moment is unbearably awful.
  37. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963, Stanley Kramer, USA) * So banal and idiotic, I think Rat Race was actually an improvement.
  38. Patton (1970, Franklin J. Schaffner, USA) [rewatch] **** Not much of a war movie, but a profile of a fascinating character. If ever a mainstream film succeeded over its faults through panache, it was Patton. I shudder to imagine that Rod Steiger, Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum, and Burt Lancaster each could have said "yes" to the fantastic lead role and robbed us of George C. Scott's immortal performance.
  39. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Robert Wiene, Germany) [rewatch] **** It's sooo difficult for me to judge primitive film. There's no denying the innovation and importance of something like Dr. Caligari, but even its best moments appear naive and silly by today's sophisticated, cynical standards. The earliest movie I can think of that I could digest with complete seriousness is Murnau's The Last Laugh (1924), and Dr. Caligari came nearly 5 years earlier (in the 20s, film was developing so quickly that 5 years made an enormous difference - compare Nosferatu to Sunrise, for example). Though certainly not perfect, if you compare Dr. Caligari to anything before it, you'll be startled by the stylistic, structural, and atmospheric innovations it made. This is one of the earliest significant feature-length films to so thoroughly attempt film "art" beyond technical wizardry.
  40. Goodfellas (1990, Martin Scorsese, USA) [rewatch] **** Once you accept that it's a voiceover narrative, Goodfellas is told with so much energy and insight, it's irresistible.
  41. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick, UK) [rewatch] ***** Gets better every time I see it. So much has been written and said about A Space Odyssey that I'll try to leave the obvious points alone. 2001 is probably the best film a modern moviegoer is likely to see in his or her lifetime. Kubrick structures his epic painting of man's evolution as a four-act opera, complete with an opening overture and half-point entr'acte (of noisy dark-ambient space music, very cutting edge at the time), a killer opening theme (Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra), and four distinct acts. 2001 is the most important film to recover what was lost in filmic, visual storytelling since the arrival of the talkie. It represents perfection of all the best elements of film: beauty, originality, mystery, visual storytelling, epic scope, profound human commentary, technical innovation, music and sound excellence, and more. 2001's most significant failing is that of every science fiction film ever made: inability to correctly predict the future on all counts. But it does succeed where nearly all other outer-space movies fail: space travel is terribly boring, outer space is silent, etc. Anyway, it's disappointing to watch even another masterpiece directly after experiencing 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  42. Lost Highway (1997, David Lynch, France) ** Lynch's meaningless escapade melds neo-noir, horror, Persona, That Obscure Object of Desire, Hitchcock, and steamy erotic thriller. At times, it's high art. Other times, it's cheap C-grade filmmaking. At all times, it's confusing and holds no reward for those who try to figure it out. That worked for Un Chien Andalou. Here, it just means all our frustration is for nothing.
  43. Ulysses' Gaze (1995, Theo Angelopoulos, Greece) N/A Either very bad or totally over my head. I'm really not sure which, so I won't assign a rating.
  44. Amores Perros (2000, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexico) *** A decent Mexican Pulp Fiction without the style or inventiveness of its progenitor.
  45. Eternity and a Day (1998, Theo Angelopoulos, Greece) *** Touching. An old writer is told by his doctor he will die in a couple days. He runs into an Albrnian refugee boy and decides to take him on a trip as he explores the meaning of life, etc. I think the wedding dance scene is pointless.
  46. Fantasia/2000 (1999, James Algar and others, USA) *** Obviously less groundbreaking than the original, and sometimes the combination of CGI and hand-drawn animation doesn't work. And it's too bad they chose one of the lesser segments from the original (Sorcerer's Apprentice) to repeat here. Still, Fantasia/2000 is beautiful, imaginative and energetic.
  47. _grau (2004, Robert Seidel, Germany) [short, rewatch] **** Fantasia for a modern avant-garde composition with computer-assisted, transformative animation. Spellbinding. Powerful. To say more, I'll need to quote Matt Hanson: "[_grau] does not deliberately ape the abstract pioneers of abstract cinema, and it is worlds away from the motion graphic masturbation of many of those enamoured by digital animation. Seidel's work is impressionistic, melding biological and emotional currents." Download it now.
  48. Fantasia (1940, James Algar and others, USA) [rewatch] **** Disney's animation again leaps forward - into a mixed bag whose incredible strengths smother its weak parts. The first two acts (Bach's Toccata and Fugue and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite) are brilliant and bursting with creativity. Taken alone, the first two acts would make one of the greatest films of all time. The first is a big-budget, mainstream realization of abstract cinema, and the second could be called the precursor to all worthwhile music videos of today. The third act (Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice) is somewhat dopey. The fourth act (Stavinsky's Right of Spring) is mostly mesmerizing. The thankfully brief fifth act is like a media player visualization. The sixth act (Beethoven's 6th Symphony) is boring. The seventh act (Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours is the worst of the film. The finale (Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and Schubert's Ave Maria) is extremely effective.
  49. The Replacement Killers (1998, Antoine Fuqua, USA) * Ugh.
  50. Million Dollar Baby (2004, Clint Eastwood, USA) ** Eastwood is a fine director, especially of his actors, but Haggis' lazy, cliche, ironic script rubbed me the wrong way over every inch. The unnecessary narration, the on-the-nose dialogue, the obvious characters and plot developments... ugh. At least there's no romance forced into the story and no tacked-on happy ending; I'll give it that much. As for the ending being too manipulative: yeah, it's frustrating we never saw an imperfection in Maggie's character, but shitty things happen to perfectly wonderful people all the time. Still a far more interesting movie than 95% of the crap out there.
  51. Nostalghia (1983, Andrei Tarkovsky, Italy) **** Nostalghia doesn't throw every character trait and plot development in your face like a Hollywood movie (for dummies!). It dwells on the lives of people - the quiet moments, the insipid dialogue, the long walks across a landscape. And the photography is, of course, gorgeous. Its oneiric composition has a quieter Fellini feel. The movie lulls you to sleep, and in this rare case that's not a complaint.
  52. Team America: World Police (2004, Trey Parker, USA) [rewatch] ** I'm really surprised this didn't play better abroad. It's a grisly criticism of American poop culture and blind patriotism from the people most qualified to launch such an attack: Americans! Trey Parker and Matt Stone offer another gem of hilarious, raunchy, timely social satire with Team America, and escape a bevy of potential one-joke breakdowns you'd expect from television writers. Still, Team America presents the best and worst of Trey & Matt. Their critiques are unflinching and accurate, but they'd rather fling lewd rants at everything they hate than support a better way. They (and I) have great fun mocking Bruckheimer, actors who think they are politicians and philosophers, narrow-minded American zealots, and Michael Moore. But it's lazy to make a movie that's "purposely" bad instead of crafting a good one.
  53. Distant (2002, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey) *** Feels like late Bresson. Distant is cold, sterile, slow, and, of course, distant. It concerns two men who live together but always find a great distance between themselves. It's intimate and downright... undramatic. It's also very natural - the sets feel lived-in, the acting feels natural and un-movielike, the scenes play out simply; unpoetic and uncompressed. The final shot (okay, 3rd- or 4th-to-last shot) is stunning, but you have to watch the movie and see it in motion to get the full effect.
  54. Zoolander (2001, Ben Stiller, USA) [rewatch] * Not funny.
  55. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004, Wes Anderson, USA) *** Funny.
  56. The Truman Show (1998, Peter Weir, USA) [rewatch] *** A bit predictable, but loads of fun.
  57. Requiem for a Dream (2000, Darren Aronofsky, USA) [rewatch] **** None of the filmmaking methods here are original, but never before have they been so focused, unflinching, collaborative, and effective. The parable of Requiem for a Dream speaks of a director pushing an old story and old techniques to near perfection through sheer force of will and vision. The only thing keeping this from being one of the greatest films of all time is the ending, which is the weakest part of the movie when it should be the strongest. The treatment of the drug addicts at the hands of medical staff is unbelievable and probably a relic from the 1970's original novel. And, during the finale, which cuts between the four main characters and their suffering, three are in awful circumstances and one (Tyrone) in the comfortable inconvenience of incarceration. The film tries unsuccessfully to put all their suffering on the same level. These problems are easily fixable, and it's a shame Aronofsky didn't rectify them.
  58. Charade (1963, Stanley Donen, USA) [rewatch] *** My favorite film for several years, Charade is a Hitchockian thriller and Grant/Hepburn charmer that provides nothing new to the genre but succeeds on all counts. If there's a short list of 10 films that I'd be dumfounded to find someone didn't enjoy, this is on it.
  59. Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino, USA) [rewatch] ***** A delirious fusion of 20's pulp magazines, film noir, New Wave, spagetti western, black comedy, Cassavetes, and Kubrick's The Kiling, Pulp Fiction is simply better than most of its ancestors (and all of its descendents).
  60. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino, USA) ** Different but just as bad and good as Vol. 1, Vol. 2 once again shows Tarantino pushing style over substance and forgetting how he achieved both in his earliest films. This is Quentin amusing himself, not making a good movie.
  61. Hotel Rwanda (2004, Terry George, UK) *** "We must shame them into sending help." Well, they can try. Maybe this movie is so overrated on IMDB because viewers want to assuage their guilt for ignoring all the atrocities in the world going on right now by rating the movie highly and recommending it to everyone they know (who do nothing but the same). I'll just live with my own guilt. When I finished the film, I said, "My God, that's awful" and put in Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
  62. Primer (2004, Shane Carruth, USA) [rewatch] ***
  63. Primer (2004, Shane Carruth, USA) *** This film makes a point about visual narrative that few films since the silent era have made: dialogue rarely matters. Half the time I had no idea what was being said, but I always knew something was happening, and I could read the emotions of the moment in the character's face and body language. I was hooked from beginning to end of this very technical, confusing movie. It's more difficult because the character don't speak like movie characters - one at a time, slow, and carefully enunciated. They speak quickly, taking shortcuts they know their close friends will be able to follow, overlapping each other, using abstruse dialogue. Primer is also the only movie I can think of that's actually about time travel (rather than about so-and-so in a on a quest in a different era). Unfortunately, there are some amateur problems (focus, dubbing) which are occasionally the fault of the miniscule budget, or occasionally of the first-time director. I hope bigger budgets and more experience doesn't diminish Carruth's vision.
  64. Un Chien Andalou (1929, Luis Buñuel, France) [short, rewatch] ***** "[It] shattered my skull, realigned my synapses, made me nervous, made me laugh... It wasn't just the fusion I'd been waiting for: it was a whole new universe, a completely realized and previously unimaginable landscape..." - Lester Bangs. "If there has been anything in the history of [this medium] which could be described as a work of art in a way that people who are involved in other areas of art would understand, then [this] is probably that work." - John Peel. Lester Bangs and John Peel were talking about Trout Mask Replica, Captain Beefheart's rock album, but their statements work equally well in describing Un Chien Andalou.
  65. Vanilla Sky (2001, Cameron Crowe, USA) [rewatch] ** This movie holds a special place in my heart for several reasons. First, the soundtrack features "Everything in Its Right Place", "Svefn-G-Englar" and "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space". More importantly, the movie (a remake of Amenábar's Open Your Eyes (1997), which I haven't seen) is very similar to a screenplay I was developing when I first saw it, including the
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    millionaire main character's "recovery" from a serious injury via virtual reality, his confusion at people being different than he remembered, his eventual realization of the fantasy world, and the escape from that fantasy by jumping off a tall building in the climax.
    But I stole all these elements from my favorite Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Perchance to Dream" (1992). Go Batman! But while Crowe and probably Amenábar made better movies with the ideas than I could have, Vanilla Sky is too pretentious.
  66. The Life of David Gale (2003, Alan Parker, USA) * I don't have to write up all the movies I don't like, do I?
  67. Carlito's Way (1993, Brian De Palma, USA) ** De Palma has vision but no consistent style. This movie is a thoughtful crime drama, a hokey romance, a melodrama, and a corny action flick (really, Carlito, you take ou drug dealers with a stupid pool shot rather than just grabbing the gun from from one of their belts?), and they don't all work together.
  68. Confidence (2003, James Foley, USA) *** Nothing new, but the plot twists and characters were good enough to make me happy.
  69. War of the Worlds (2005, Steven Spielberg, USA) * Nobody blows up shit like Speilberg, but you can drive a tank through Worlds' holes in logic.
  70. eXistenZ (1999, David Cronenberg, Canada) * As with all Cronenberg, eXistenZ is enjoyably weird. Unfortunately, it's also half-assed in every department: writing, directing, acting, editing, and concepts. I guess I just can't surrender to the silly fantasy.
  71. The United States of Leland (2003, Matthew Ryan Hoge, USA) ** Ultimately says nothing by saying way too much in voiceover, and by treating an unsafe scenario safely and cutely. Zach Braff plays Ryan Gosling's role better in Garden State.
  72. 21 Grams (2003, Alejandro González Iñárritu, USA) [rewatch] ***** Is it better to be stone or clay? Dirty Harry always kicks ass, but I think he just hides his emotional problems instead of confronting and (re)solving them. You all know by now I'm Clayface himself, having now radically changed my film ratings scale twice, my attitudes toward evolution and abortion, my view of rock music, and my social comfort zone - each in the blink of an eye, and in the last few months. Change makes things really messy, especially when I'm trying to maintain a database of every film I've seen, but I think all these recent changes are making me better (or at least more arrogant). Anyway, it's time to be honest about my film reviewing: I have a hard time relating to and fully comprehending most foreign films. I'm not exposed enough to the relevant context to gork their beauty. Also, I'm dishonest with some reviews. Pickpocket was boring as hell, and I gave it an 8. Besides, isn't it the same thing Bresson had already done with Diary of a Country Priest and A Man Escaped? Also, I hereby admit I love really fucked-up films about fucked-up people. I will never respond to The Wizard of Oz the way I do to Requiem for a Dream. And that's okay. I really believe Requiem is the better film in any case. Oh, right... about 21 Grams. Nearly all movies' scenes are ordered according to time, whether it be Casablanca, Memento, or even Pulp Fiction. And though 21 Grams would be a perfect film played chronologically, Iñárritu juxtaposes the scenes in a way that maximizes the emotional intensity and scope of the picture with complete disregard for other concerns, except one: the careful and steady revelation of all the shocking pieces of the story, even though the movie isn't ordered chronologically. It's really stunning, if you think about it. Furthermore, this is one of the best acted movies I have ever seen - which isn't quite as impressive as it sounds because all of the best-acted movies of all time have arrived in the past decade (acting, at least, always gets better with each passing era). Still, I was floored by the talent that blossoms here. It's possible that each major actor gave their best career performance in this single film. The only weakness is the pointless (and thankfully brief) epilogue. But with a film this perfect and effective, I cannot complain. This film gave me an epiphany about the way I think and feel about film; it's that good. The second-best film of the decade so far (behind you-know-what).
  73. Hostage (2005, Florent Emilio Siri, USA) * Preposterous.
  74. The Village (2004, M. Night Shyamalan, USA) ** Fails not because it isn't scary or because we're all expecting the twist(s), but because it's simply not that good. Like Frailty, The Village is a great idea that just wasn't executed that well. It's sad that Shyamalan's directing has taken precedence over what he was first known for - his screenwriting. Shyamalan has to cheat a great deal
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    (do you really think Noah could make such growling sounds in the suit?)
    to achieve his wasted attempts at suspense, and the mood of the film is achieved solely with shot placement/duration and the score, not the content of the story. Still, it's fun to see Shyamalan wrap it all up so nicely at the end like he always does
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    (for example, against all logic, it does make sense that Walker sent a blind girl through the forest)
    , even if he can't escape a few massive leaps of logic. The Village isn't a good movie, but I'll keep watching Shyamalan flicks.
  75. Cries and Whispers (1972, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden) **** Aptly titled, Cries and Whispers hovers beside the slow agony of several women. What is it with Scandinavian directors and pain, suffering, and despair? Maybe it's the weather. They're obsessed with the stuff, and damn good at it.
  76. Batman Begins (2005, Christopher Nolan, USA) ** Batman improves on Spidey's soap operas, X-Men's adolescence, and the other live-action superhero movies' fecundity. You've likely heard oodles about Goyer's fleshed-out origin story, Nolan's grounded, plausible take on Batman, Gotham's splendor, Bale's performance, and more, and that shouldn't diminish the impressiveness and rarity of those feats. But there were several problems. Katie Holmes can't act, and her character doesn't justify her existence in the film. The billionaire Wayne family exited the opera into... a slum alley? The filmmakers tried to cram too much into too short of time, and the breathless pace steals any impact the scenes could have. And I wanted to see the Batman beating the shit out of people, but the camera was shaky and cut too quickly. I had this sitting with three stars for a while because it is better than the X-Men and Spider-Man movies, but no: too many problems. The sequels can be better if (1) the studio doesn't look at the weak box office and wrestle more control away from the filmmakers, (2) they dump Katie Holmes, and (3) the editing slows down.
  77. Hitch (2005, Andy Tennant, USA) ** Color me shocked. (That's white, right? Or is it neon orange?) This is the first competant mainstream/formula romantic comedy I've seen this decade. I was actually beginning to think I would never see another decent Ephronesque movie. And it stars Will Smith, for crying out loud. Shocking. And really, there's nothing that special about Hitch, except that everything else in the genre has been so awful for so long. Still, props to the writer for working the formula and making me laugh and care.
  78. Kingdom (1994, Lars von Trier, Denmark) [miniseries] ** Pretty damn good... for TV. I'd rather sleep in Michael Jackson's bed than watch 5 hours of E.R., but Kingdom went by briskly. I've heard some say that the medical political drama and especially the supernatural horror are satire, but if they are then you'd think they'd be more exaggerated (or maybe that's just American satire and I've been watching too much South Park). I just took it for what it was and found it engaging but nothing special. I'm pretty dumfounded by the people who call it a "masterpiece". And the device of using the two dishwashers to say spooky things every 30 minutes was pretty annoying pretty quick.
  79. Alexandria... Why? (1978, Youssef Chahine, Egypt) ** As I've come to expect from "popular" movies of the "2nd" and "3rd" world, every aspect of this film was just a bit lacking: acting, directing, writing, and especially the sound. Quite enjoyable, though.
  80. Kinsey (2004, Bill Condon, USA) *** Show of hands: for those who read my reviews, who thought I wouldn't love Kinsey? Thought so. Kinsey is a well-crafted biopic that is nevertheless messy, dangerous, surprising, and anti-Hollywood - just the way I like 'em. Just as in something like American Beauty, it's the themes that really appeal to me: especially that Kinsey himself had serious problems (dude, you punctured your what?). The movie even had Kinsey admitting research errors. I do have two small complaints: Laura Linney's performance disappointed me at times, and the conversation scene after Kinsey and Clyde were digging in the garden was awful. The rest of the script was excellent, but that one scene felt like it had been left in its first-draft state. Weird. Loved this movie, though.
  81. Weekend (1967, Jean-Luc Godard, Italy) ** Godard's self-parody is "laughably" indulgent but not that funny (for the most part). Still pretty exciting and unpredictable, though, and it's Godard, so of course there's some fun for film buffs.
  82. Amarcord (1973, Federico Fellini, Italy) **** My, what fun! These vignettes of Fellini's childhood are priceless. Touching, hilarious, unpredictable, gorgeous, and oh so... human.
  83. Himalaya (1999, Eric Valli, France) ** Yet another film I watch mostly for a glimpse at far-foreign culture and am disappointed by how Westernized either it or its filmic portrayl is. As a film or narrative, Himalaya is competant but has little to offer.
  84. Satyricon (1969, Federico Fellini, Italy) ** Fellini is a virtuoso director, but his decision to so literally adapt the ancient, peurile source material so literally was a poor one. He even cuts off scenes in mid-sentence where part of the source is lost. An interesting experiment, but not a good one.
  85. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004, Joe Berlinger, USA) ** Thoroughly honest but thoroughly average.
  86. Hannibal (2001, Ridley Scott, USA) [rewatch] * Julianne Moore does a mean Jodie Foster, and the film has a few admirable qualities, but this is all a bunch of silliness.
  87. Maria Full of Grace (2004, Joshua Marston, USA) * Shallow.
  88. The Harder They Come (1972, Perry Henzell, Jamaica) ** A 100% Jamaican production, The Harder They Come is naive but not intolerably amateurish.
  89. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, Sergio Leone, Italy) **** Magical. It's pretty funny that this ultimate portrait of the mythical American Wild West, with its rough mountains & rougher men, long stares and short talk, was made in Italy. And God, what a great score but Morricone. It's hard to say what makes this one of the greatest westerns ever. Everything just adds up perfectly; the actors, the script, the sets, the editing, the direction, the score.
  90. The Amityville Horror (1979, Stuart Rosenberg, USA) * Basically, lots of creepy stuff happens in a house. There's not much plot or even character development, the house really is the main subject of the movie. Though many parts are effectively creepy, the overwrought ending was one of the least-scary scenes in the movie.
  91. The Aviator (2004, Martin Scorsese, USA) *** Scorsese used to be a great filmmaker. But that was a long time ago, and somehow I still haven't reconciled with the fact that he's now merely a very good mainstream craftsman in the vein of Peter Jackson and (occasionally) Steven Speilberg. This is definitely a film about Howard Hughes, as every other character is a well-dressed cardboard cutout. Scorcese's shiny direction elevates the formula script, but I couldn't help but be disappointed. One scene in particular just didn't work for me: the XF-11 crash. I saw Scorcese trying to make it look messy and violent, but the whole thing was extremely clean. He shot the thing in too many shots, way too close - just like a fist fight, it'd be more violent if shot from a distance so you can actually see what's going on. Even Hughes' escape from the cockpit when he's bloody and screaming seemed half-assed. I dunno, something really bothered me about that scene. Anyone else?
  92. The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003, Byambasuren Davaa, Germany) *** Is Hollywood completely incapable of making quiet movies? Or, more fairly, are American audiences incapable of enjoying quiet movies? Even something like Finding Neverland is fast-paced, complex, and loud compared to the simple beauty of Weeping Camel. And after seeing one of the loudest movies ever made, Revenge of the Sith, I was certainly ready for the tranquil pleasures of Weeping Camel. The movie spends nearly as much time on the camels as the humans. There are very few fictional films about animals (unless they are very personified, as in Disney cartoons or Milo & Otis). The best example I can think of is The Bear, and Weeping Camel approaches that kind of intimacy and attention for its titular character. The human story is just as unassuming. The IMDB plot outline is sufficient: "When a Mongolian nomadic family's newest camel colt is rejected by its mother, a musician is needed for a ritual to change her mind." And that's it. And it's beautiful.
  93. Revenge of the Sith (2005, George Lucas, USA) * Why did I rush out to see a movie I knew would suck? Despite its R-rated content, Revenge of the Sith is a children's movie in all the worst ways. Lucas discards all logic and subtelty in favor of what looks cool and plots & dialogue a monkey could follow. Lucas is his own worst fanboy, emotionally retarded by success. Droids inexplicably elicit the kinds of light emotional irony I hoped would be reserved for a 1980s Ewoks cartoon. Wookies swing into battle with a Tarzan roar. Actors struggle with dialogue so insipid it intensifies the pain they're trying to express for the scene. This movie didn't just have bad moments; every scene was unforgivably flawed in almost every way. Even the score was mailed in. The only people trying futilly to make an omlet of this rotten egg were the special effects people, who bumped it up a notch from Attack of the Clones, and Ewan McGregor, who occasionally triumphed over his ridiculous dialogue to make a few pieces of certain scenes actually work. Thankfully, one of those moments he made work was the climax of his battle with Vader: "You were the chosen one!" And that is why I rushed out to see a movie I knew would suck: the mythic story, the legendary characters, the untoppable stakes, the epic action. In addition, Revenge of the Sith is a rare breed of movie; not only is it an epic space opera with the most fully realized universe ever, but it's the only blockbuster I can think of whose ending is truly tragic. Not bittersweet like Titanic or Gone with the Wind, but tragic. Naturally, Lucas is dumb enough to undermine even the height of tragedy when Vader pulls a Frankenstein lurch and cries, "NOOOOOOO!" I burst out laughing. And now that this Evil Empire under Darth Lucas has supposedly come to an end, I can look back and laugh at all the pain. Now please, show me a Peter Jackson epic.
  94. Attack of the Clones (2002, George Lucas, USA) [rewatch] * Oh my God. So much worse than I even remembered. This is amateur filmmaking from a billionaire veteran of movies. The scripts for the original trilogy were at least decent, as was the acting, the comedy was funny, and the sci-fi action and environments were jaw-dropping and exciting. Everything in this film is a snooze, and the CGI environments and characters don't stand up well next to the special effects work in Spider-Man and Two Towers of the same year. And man is the dialogue and acting ever horrible. I'd love to see a reel of the takes that didn't make the cut. Lucas' money has made him a child, a madman. More importantly, he's still a mind-control wizard; I'll probably shell out to see Revenge of the Sith in theaters this week.
  95. Mother and Son (1997, Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia) **** Okay, ranting time: I think film has the loftiest potential of any art form because it can incorporate each of the other forms: music, sculpture, painting, narrative, poetry, acting, and set design, along with its own unique art of moving images. Because of this, I truly believe something like Citizen Kane is every bit the worthy companion of Beethoven's Eroica or Dali's The Persistence of Memory, and that film has the potential to surpass even the greatest works of fine art. It hasn't done so yet (and might never) because film relies on all these art forms and on so many craftsmen (often thousands instead of one), and because it is the most popular art and therefore is burdened most heavily by commercial concerns. I have mixed emotions, then, when a film aspires for an art form that is more capable of purity but has less overall artistic potential (because less artistic elements are involved). For example, I'm disappointed by the filmed stageplays of the 1930s (even the good ones) and Andy Warhol's ridiculous Empire. Mother and Son is about a man who takes care of his dying mother. It's full of very long, static, silent shots. I first thought it would make more sense as a novel than a film. It's a very quiet, intimate, internal film, and I imagine a novel with page after page filled with reflections on life, the world, the characters, and perhaps God. But then I realized that I've read all those words before; they are unnecessary, and anyway, not up to the task. So what we have is a film that tells the 'story' in the best possible way: with wind in the grass, dying embers, trees in bloom, broken sunlight, and most importantly: the human face. I've found many films like this to be boring beyond belief, but somehow I couldn't stop looking at the brilliant photography. With its unadulterated focus, you might expect Mother and Son to 'go deeper' than other films that deal with slow mortality, but the film is not especially profound. And here's a funny bit about film criticism: if I like the movie, I can say "... and that's what's so great about Mother and Son; it aspires to be exactly what it is - a quiet, simple portrait of mortality." And if I don't like the movie, I can say, "...and that's why Mother and Son is a complete waste of time." But I like the movie. And here's where I work the obligatory sex reference into my review. It's been said that if a nude shot is in focus, it's porn, and if it's out of focus, it's art. Because of the heavy lens distortion (which probably speaks to the distorted view of reality impending death causes) applied to Fyodorov's gorgeous photography, it's obvious Sokurov is more interested with the art of his film than with making really pretty pictures for us all to ooh and ahh at.

  96. Older, inaccurate reviews for 2005 are here
Author Comments: 

Most recently seen at the top. Rewatches preceded by an asterix. Ratings breakdown:

***** one of the best films of all time.
**** masterpiece.
*** quite good.
** poor.
* burning needles up my urethra.

Cloned From: 

I don't know if I'd go quite that far (seeing a sculpture or painting in a movie isn't even close to experiencing it first-hand, for example), but it's a very interesting thought that I'd never considered.

I think, for example, of all the fine art that was crafted for The Lord of the Rings.

I'd venture that most of that work wouldn't stand up outside the movie itself. It was built to make an impression within the context of the film, viewed on that particular medium. I wouldn't think most (if any) of the pieces are museum-quality.

How do you feel about something like Russian Ark, then?

Haven't seen it, but I can't imagine the impact of viewing the works of art it contains is anything like seeing them in person.

The versatility of film also makes it the most difficult art form to critique seriously and thoroughly, as it requires extensive knowledge of all other art forms and elements relating to art, including culture (Ulysses' Gaze), history (Russian Ark), music (Book of Days), psychology (Persona), narrative (Chinatown), photography (Koyaanisqatsi), painting (La Belle Noiseuse), sculpture (Andrei Rublev), performance art (Meditation on Violence), and others, in addition to those specific to film. Usually, you need a high degree of competancy in many of these areas to accurately judge a single film. And I know very little about nearly all of those. Sometimes I don't know why I bother with reviews, or with seeking an objective judgement of a film. I'm passionate about film without having any knowledge or talent: a recipe for disaster! But looking at it this way gives me a new appreciation for film critics; the real ones, anyway.

Great comments about Garden state! ha. even though i probably liked it more than you did, i was let down by this film. it was very good at doing certain stuff, but alot of it seemed "forced". i hate OC also, with a passion.

Yes, 'forced', that's a great word for it!

I strongly disagree with your views about Episode III. Yet I still can see your points.

At the moment I'm reading The Name of the Rose and have the movie on tape (which I'll watch after having finished the book). But sth. interests me: How popular is this movie in the United States? In Europe it is already one of the best-known cult movies ever. While critics don't really like it and Eco hates it, apparently everybody here (in Europe) has seen it. Well, except myself.

It seems Sith is a highly divisive movie. We might at least agree it's the best of the prequels, right? I think many of its themes are great, just executed very, very poorly.

I'm not sure The Name of the Rose is very popular in the States now; I've never heard anyone talk about it.

Yeah, Episode III is definetly the best of the prequels.

For The Name of the Rose: in Europe, you can catch it every month at least once. For example, in April, it was five times on TV, three times in French and twice in German.
I'm now half the way through the book. While it was talkative and boring at the beginning, it now begins (eventually after 250 pages) to become very interesting. I was told that the book concentrates much more on philosophical ideas than the adaptation (where the plot itself seems more important).

Ouch that smarts! your comments about Eulogy..well..i had to fight back the tears! lol. i can't believe you quit on it, it's in my top20. mate, i wouldn't of recommended it, if it was bad, i guess just difference in opinon, eh? didn't you even enjoy the story? the relationship between the characters? i guess you could say maybe at times their a bit of "1 note" characters but i do feel that it all came from love and that the acting was top notch! Zooey and Ray were just great. well i have to say i have mixed feelings here, i feel bad i recommended it but now after reading your review, i feel bad i even like it! well i'm going to stand by it, top20 stuff! Aslo i thought it resembled Office space in alot of ways, so i recommendede it on the basis of your liking of that movie, sorry.

Better than Employee of the month though??

I hope you don't really feel bad for recommending it! Part of my issue with the film is that I've seen so many movies like that before, done better. It's a cookie-cutter type of film, and the scraps used for this one just weren't as tasty to me as in others. But some like chocolate chip, others like macadamia nut, I happen to like peanut butter. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Far better than Employee of the Month, yes.

I'm so glad you liked Once Upon a Time in the West. A terrific film. (BTW, it was made in 1968, but that is not so important.)

Thanks for the correction.

The acting in the trailer for that "Star Wars" fan film is positively frightening. The special effects look pretty good, though.

OK, I have to defend Scorsese now. The Aviator is not his best work, well. Scorsese is not a "very good mainstream craftsman", perhaps. It is fair that Eastwood got both Oscars (Picture, Direction) for Million Dollar Baby over The Aviator, of course. I accept all of these statements I have read in the last days and weeks. But don't tell me that Scorsese used to be a great filmmaker. He still is. Just give him some time, and he'll show us all. I have a particularly good feeling about The Departed.

About Weekend: I have to calm down now. After having read a rough plot summary, I expected sth. completely different, sth. more traditional. The film itself is interesting and in some scenes awesome, but it is so ... weird (and this is not even meant in a negative way).

About Amarcord: Ah, good to see the high rating. Gonna watch it at the end of the month, so I have sth. to look forward to.

The Departed? You mean that remake of Infernal Affairs with Leonardo DiCaprio in his third straight Scorsese film, and joined by Matt Damon and Marky Mark? Scorsese can still definitely direct in my opinion, so he doesn't have to prove anything to me, but he needs to choose his projects better. Still, at least the film is a crime drama instead of a biopic or a historical epic. But if it's almost three hours long again, I don't know if I'll be able to sit through another new Scorsese film.

BTW, I think you may have misread Luke's comment; he said that Scorsese is a very good mainstream craftsman. But that's just not as good as being a master filmmaker.

I tend to write my movie "reviews" here as if readers know what each movie is about or even assuming they've already seen it - even when writing about obscure films. This is mostly for brevity, but would my few readers prefer that I orient them with an expository sentence or two at the top of each review?

Nope, not necessary (for me, at least).

Thanks for the feedback, Jim.

Yeah, that was a pretty convenient way for Daddy Wayne to get killed, wasn't it? In a better screenplay, there would have at least been a car waiting for the family.

I couldn't even believe an opera house like that had an exit to a street like that, especially in Gotham.

"...grows more and more preposterous as the throughout the second and third acts."

How about the first act, in which those unruly kids just walk right into Kevin Pollack's multi-million dollar home?

Yes, quite silly...

Reviewing War of the Worlds before you've seen it is a very nice strategy (tactic?) It makes me wish that more reviewers would write pre-reviews and couple them with their actual (post-)reviews.
<SPOILER - highlight to read>
If you're willing, I'd love to know how accurate you think these predictions (misgivings?) are. The Dread Spielberg's great use of light and special effects, the score by (I'm assuming) John Williams, people of colour in the same danger as that very cute little blonde girl, horror techniques, product placement for Hitachi, Ford Mustang, everything in Tom Cruise's fridge...
Tell me what you think.

I'd say those are pretty safe bets. Perhaps these, too: I'm going to be shocked by how awesome the special effects are despite the ridiculously short post-production time. Critics will rave for the performances from Cruise and Fanning. Some sequences will be as intense, but less bloody than Saving Private Ryan's beach scene. As with all modern blockbusters, this movie is going to be loud, with an overabundance of sound effects and precise sound editing. Obviously, look for masterful emotional manipulation, especialy with Speilberg's careful withholding and revealing of the alien presence - especially of the tripods.

Colour me impressed with your anticipatory review of War of the Worlds.

Just got back from seeing it; most everything I (and 0dysseus) predicted was true, but that wasn't what I wanted to talk about in my post-viewing review. Alas, some directors are too predictable. I had a good time at Worlds, though.

I couldn't resist and read the spoiler, for what i see it ends just like the novel.

Which I also predicted... score! Anyway: then I have the same big complaint for the novel. It'd be better if the aliens' planet had just given out and they were desperate to find another host world and didn't have time to check everything out. Not so believable that they'd plan this for millenia and not notice bacteria.

Have you seen Alejandro González Iñárritu's Amores Perros? I consider 21 Grams to be a lesser, Americanized version of Amores Perros. The plots are different but the basic style and intent is the same. Both are quite good though.

I have not seen Amores Perros, but now I'm dying to. I've got it coming in via interlibrary loan. Because I'm clay, I can change my review and rating of 21 Grams if it turns out to be so derivative of Amores Perros as you say it is, but I've read that the latter is really more related to Pulp Fiction and Go. And I have a hard time believing that the acting can be as good as in 21 Grams. I'll also admit to being swayed by the Christian content of 21 Grams.

I consider "21 Grams" to be pretentious garbage, watchable only for those who like to watch famous actors over-emote.

You've never seen real people express that kind of anguish, hatred, rage, hopelessness, etc.?

Of course, but not in "21 Grams." Sorry.

Hey, I like your new rating system. Also thanks for sharing your thoughts about The War of the Worlds.

Also, I hereby admit I love really fucked-up films about fucked-up people. I will never respond to The Wizard of Oz the way I do to Requiem for a Dream.

You don't think not having a brain or a heart is fucked up? Damn, you have high standards...

all of the best-acted movies of all time have arrived in the past decade (acting, at least, always gets better with each passing era)

I think acting has just gotten less stylized and more realistic. It's only gotten better if you are only judging the acting on its realism. This is like living during the Enlightenment and thinking every Renaissance painting sucks.

I disagree about the acting. Many movies today feature stylized acting (Down with Love and Sin City are two excellent examples), but no pre-1960 (and very few pre-1990) film performances display the realism and range of today's best-acted movies. Even when Marlon Brando and other greats tried really hard to be utterly real, they didn't achieve it to the degree that today's greatest actors can.

That's because they weren't trying to go for total realism. I think the perception of what good acting is has just gotten gradually more realistic as the years went on. Take, I dunno, Humphrey Bogart in the Maltese Falcon. Very stylized and theatrical, but for what Bogart was trying to do (i.e., be a larger-than-life private eye), it achieves every goal. I don't think Brando was ever trying for total realism - he was just trying to be more realistic than 30s and 40s actors. Today we are in an age that believes in really realistic, subtle performances, but I think if you lived in the 1940s you would think the performances in 21 Grams sucked.

It's probably impossible to know what 40s audiences would think of 21 Grams or what degree of realism Brando was shooting for, so we'll have to agree to disagree. Shouldn't be a stretch... we've certainly done that before!

Every time I change my rating scale, I feel compelled to hunt for films that might garner my highest rating according to my new criteria. Here's a short list of films I've already seen that I suspect might make the cut. Notice all the exclusions (including my favorite silent film, Sunrise, and my favorite Hitchcock, Rear Window). Of course, there will always be surprise re-watches (like 21 Grams) and 5-star films I haven't seen yet (Satantango, perhaps?).

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
Greed (1924)
The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
The Man with the Movie Camera (1929)
The Rules of the Game (1939)
Fantasia (1940)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Rashomon (1950)
Seven Samurai (1954)
The Seventh Seal (1958)
Touch of Evil (1958)
Vertigo (1958)
Breathless (1960)
L'Avventura (1960)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Last Year in Marienbad (1961)
La Jetee (1962)
8½ (1963)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Persona (1966)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Andrei Rublev (1969)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Chinatown (1974)
The Conversation (1974)
The Godfather Part II (1974)
Nashville (1975)
The Mirror (1976)
Eraserhead (1977)
Koyaanisqatsi (1983)
Memento (2000)
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Mulholland Drive (2001)

I have to say i don't take kindly to "Truman show" not liking..ness, redemmed yourself by saying "life Aqautic" was "funny." Oh and i agree that Zoolander is below average and not up to stiller's best. Is it Jim Carrey that let truman show down for you? was it the acting, directing? and did you like it originally?

I liked the film years ago when I saw it. I still like Glass' score. But the film struck me as very obvious. I think that once you've got the concept, the film takes the most obvious permutations of plot and played them out in an extremely obvious and predictable way, and didn't do anything the least bit "dangerous" with the idea. I still enjoyed the movie, but I don't ever want to watch it a third time.

Um... what is "Stiller's best"? Zero Effect? The Royal Tenenbaums? There's Something About Mary? Mystery Men?

Ah, but it's all in the wonderful details. I agree that the plot doesn't go for the most unpredictable turns, but it's all done so wonderfully that I think it's hard not to like the movie. Besides, I think some of the questions the movie asks actually are pretty bold. The ending is in a similar vein as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's ending, and I think both are equally moving and fascinating.

As for Stiller's best, you've pretty much got my top three there (excluding Mystery Men). He was very funny in Dodgeball too, IMHO. But I think Rushmore is a fan of Reality Bites, which I've never seen.

Yes, Truman Show is definitely a movie that works on the scene-by-scene basis. There are probably a thousand jokes crammed into that movie, and many of them are very funny.

I'd really love to see a Truman Show sequel that takes a different path than the sweet and puffy Jim Carrey flick and explores some areas of the concept unexplored in the PG-13 romp. I give this project to Charlie Kaufman or, for something very different, Andrew Kevin Walker.

Just changed my Truman Show rating. In retrospect, maybe I was just feeling overly stuffy that day.

Interesting Question. I think on performance i have 3:
Heavyweights : He plays a "White Goodman" (From Dodgeball) type character but funnier, it's a simple movie but he makes it good. In my view this is one of his best comedy performances, for the fact he made what would be a bad film into a good one.

Reality Bites: he was so much better than co-star Ethan Hawk and his character was very good, and he directed the movie

Zero Effect: I'm not sure what made me write this but i think its that he does a great serious / But kinda goofy performance. Daryl (?) Zero is meant to be the oddball one but really there not to far apart.

He was brilliant in Reality bites a great movie, he directed!

But then theres the classics such as Meet The Parents or Mystery Men. I never really liked "Theres Something about mary", but he was good.

So yeah heavyweights or zero i liked. But he is good in most of his.

Seems to me, you're always quite on spot with the ratings you give, and I like your comments, but I have an objection to make. What exactly is pretentious, and moreover "Non-filmic". Ok, I'll admit it's my favorite film of all time, so I may be a bit prejudiced, but *-star rating, combined with your comments. Seems to me like an obvious case of totally not getting a film. Hey that also happens to me sometimes, and It's no shame to admit it.
And as for Lost Highway, at first I also found it very confusing, but in fact it's pretty straight, and a simple story if you have some psychoanalitical background (or read some essays on it, as I have done ;-)), and it's my favorite Lynch film.
Hope you'll give them another chance in the next years.

Aaaaaaah were's the editing button!!
The film I meant is Ulysse's Gaze of course

The edit button is the star next to a post after you've made it - you can edit your posts up to 30 minutes after you first post it.

By "non-filmic" I meant that the substance of the material is little-related to the medium of film (the juxtaposition and framing of images, etc.) or even "filmic narrative" (read: "compressed narrative"). Theo Angelopoulos is a poet and his films are poetry as much as they are films. I don't mean the simple, romantic poetry of Sansho the Bailiff, but a more modern, cynical type of poetry. The scenes in Ulysses' Gaze often have little filmic or narrative value, and instead play out Angelopoulos' subtle, often marginally related, vignettes of poetry. It's hard for me to explain exactly what this means because written poetry is so dependent on specific words and syllables and line breaks, whereas the kind of human (but unromantic) poetry in Angelopoulos' work occurs in the small interactions between man and man, man and environment, man and himself.

I liked Eternity and a Day as a traditional narrative film, a very touching one. And there are many films that are mostly poetic that I love (though they tend to be more "filmic", such as those by Tarkovsky or Cocteau), but I felt the poetry of Ulysses' Gaze was empty and just not very interesting. That's where pretentiousness comes into play. Angelopoulos is quite enthralled with his own artistry, and indeed threw a fit when his film lost an award to Underground. As very long and deliberately paced, Ulysses' Gaze "demand[s] a position of distinction" that is in my opinion "unjustified" (the definition of pretentiousness).

The psychoanalitical interpretations of Mulholland Drive were probably my favorite elements of the film, and I was able to make a few psychological insights stick to pieces of Lost Highway, but much of the time I was simply lost. I'd sure appreciate you taking the time to point out which bits of psychoanalysis you most enjoy pinning on Lost Highway. But my biggest complaint about the film is its inconsistency. Like I said in my review, "At times, it's high art. Other times, it's cheap C-grade filmmaking."

Thanks for posting! I always love to discuss films.

I am totally with you, when you say that Angelopoulos is a poet, and that his films are poetry, but that doesn't put them in opposition to film. Imo ULysse's Gaze is more or less the essence of what film means to me. The exploration of time and space. And the way he does it is simply breathtaking. Montage in a frame, as opposed to cutting bits and pieces tigether, the fluent change of past present and future, without having to use flashbacks, or a narrative device, and the talent to portray life at the same time realistically as it is, and to put it on a higher "transcendent level" at the same time. The ability to express in single gestures and looks, what whole monologues/dialogues couldn't, and to let the countryside speak more than the people (who are naturally only part of it), to show human suffering in its most devastating form, and at the same time be able to keep up a deep-rooted humanism and hope. The ability to show that beauty and ugliness, hope and despair, love and destruction all are dependent upon each other, and exist at the same time. I could go on and on. If somebody can make such a film, he can't be pretentious enough, because it's the same as to say Da Vinci or Picasso are pretentious. The fit of Angelopoulos in Cannes was imo justified, only in part because the Jury gave it the grand prix (normally films the jury knows are great, but doesn't quite understand), but understandable. As much as I love Underground ( It's one of my favorite films) and Kusturica, it is in no way a match to Angelopoulos' portrait of the Balkan-region. I come from there myself (I know that doesn't automatically make my opinion any better), and while Underground says very much about the Balkan and the mentality, ULysse's Gaze is a monument, standing not only for this region, but speaking for all mankind. If I would have been in the jury the grand prix would have went to "Dead Man", one of the 100 best films of all time, btw.
As for Lost Highway, if you enjoyed Mullholland drive for its psychoanalitical take, there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy Lost Highway in the same way. Both can be to 90% (plot-like, character like) explained in this way, and there's little "mystery" that remains, but Lynch's films are imo all more or less the same. I don't mean this in a negative way as he's one of my Top Ten directors, just as the way I see it. The last time I saw Lost Highway, is already some time ago, so I can't detail much, only that the guy is a paranoid who after killing his (unfaithful) wife, and so as not to deal with this fact "changes" personality's, (splits personalities), where nevertheless reality slowly starts to intrude, and at the end, he's at the "Beginning" of the film again, faced with the truth, unable to escape it. It's more or less the pov of a schizophrenic who doesn't know it. Here's an interesting website:

I still maintain that much of Lost Highway is C-grade filmmaking, whatever psychoanalytic munchies are to be had. But it's definitely possible that Ulysses' Gaze simply went over my head. Could you tell me what you mean by "montage in a frame"? Do you remember a sequence in Ulysses' Gaze that illustrates your point about "the fluent change of past present and future without having to use flashbacks or as a narrative device"?

The c-grade filmmaking comes I think because of the perspective from Pullman's mind we have, but maybe I will notice some flaws in a rewatch (which I definitely need).
With "montage in a frame" I mean one of my favorite devices (which I saw again today put to good use in "Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind"), wherein (I hope my english is good enough for this) the editing of different spaces (or/and times) is done without cutting from one camerashot to the other, but within one shot (be it static, or moving).
The most prominent example of this is where Harvey Keitel's character "remembers" his family in the foyer of their old mansion,the entrance door in the back (shot with deep focus) and we first see (if I remember clearly) the family before world war two being together, than how one (or more) male members walk out of the door to go to war, then in the same frame their (or some of theirs) return, and finally their deportation by the new regime (dictatorship?) which intrudes into the foyer and takes them out by force. In this shot we see the change of time and atmosphere through several years, and the change of attitude towards the people's country (or government), and how the family was affected by it.
This is a main device of Angelopoulos, he uses in most of his films (at least the ones I've seen) to imo great advantage.

[ reply to 0dysseus ]
Keep up the good work!
The name of Sue Ellen Mischke's fiancé should be evidence enough.
I think that episode was a loving tribute to the playwright... done in backwards time.
I disagree when people say that show was unrelentingly cynical and unsentimental.
Almost twenty years later Seinfeld used the same device for the episode "The Betrayal."
Harold Pinter was the screenwriter and adaptated his 1978 play of the same name.
That 1983 movie had its scenes arranged in reverse chronological order.
Betrayal with Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley leaps to mind.
I don't want to take anything away from Memento but...
Re: Your movie at #1.

  • On 08/01/05 at 5:23 PM, 0dysseus wrote:
  • But Memento isn't completely reverse chronological. Some scenes go forward and some scenes go backward, until backwards and forwards collide in the brilliant ending of the film. To my knowledge, Memento is the first film to do that.

    I'm sorry. I didn't mean to deconstruct Memento. I was just trying to say that it wasn't "the first film in fully reverse chronology." I'm fairly sure that Betrayal wasn't the first either but my knowledge of high culture comes entirely from re-runs of Seinfeld. If there was a film with a shuffled/shifting narrative chronology before Citizen Kane I can't remember Kramer saying anything about it. Whether bookended by Rosebud or the second button on a shirt there are other movies/shows which also resolve their final inner mysteries only after a non-linear progression. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Oh, there are thousands of movies that resolve their mysteries after a non-linear progression. That's what this list is for. And AJ's right, I was incorrect to call Memento's structure as "fully reverse chronology." I'll have to update my review to reflect that and the titles you suggested above.

    Dang, you deleted this post and I didn't get to read it! Will you bring it back? Don't worry about my feelings; I have none. Unless you insult my dog. Then you die.

    Edit: Or, are you just playing around with Listology post text and formatting again to make it look like you've made a blank post?

    If you're talking to me then let me say in my own defence, whuh? I didn't delete a post... I don't think. I did have to edit and repost (what's above.) That was so I could get a realistic acting (not just looking) *[ reply to 0dysseus ]* link to complete the backwards effect.

    I like taking the feelings of others into account. It makes for better conversation and gosh! it's just so darn nice. Besides, it's the best way to persuade others ie win an argument. When I think I might hurt someone's feelings I'll usually try to remember to post at a time such that what I've written falls off the recent updates page before people wake up on the east coast in the States... or I'll try to be abstruse, obfuscatory, recondite and generally full of confusingatoryness. I'll even make up words.

    That's not what I was trying to do here. I was trying to show off. I wanted to write a paragraph (well, ten lines is all that I could come up with) that worked in backwards succession. Each next line reveals something about the previous rather than having to read it in reverse to make any sense of it. It also allowed me to begin with the compliment. I didn't take issue with Memento's specific chronology because... that would have been hard. I like showing off but I like easiness better... and I still didn't pull it off all that well. Some or all of this might apply.

    I'm sure your dog is very nice.

    "twenty years later" than what, now?

    Than Betrayal's stage debut. Rats! If I could do it all over again I'd probably write something like *flip*
    Harold Pinter was the screenwriter [of the movie Betrayal], adaptating his own 1978 play.
    Almost twenty years after that stage production Seinfeld used the same device for the episode "The Betrayal."
    Hopefully that is impressive enough... even in the absence of Polaroids and Kramer's expanding lollipop.

    Hey, what's going on with this post? Deliberately funky?

    Since we were talking about the reverse chronology of Memento, 0dysseus cleverly wrote her post backwards. Don't worry, I'm not sure Luke got it either. :-)

    Oh. Right. Duh. Return to your lives, citizens. Nothing to see here.

    Lookie there, it makes more sense backwards! Now, I would've been really impressed if it made sense either way, like Memento. :-)

    Since we were talking about the reverse chronology of Memento, 0dysseus cleverly wrote her post backwards. Don't worry, I'm not sure Luke got it either. :-)

    Her ? Is it my poor history or Odysseyus happens to be a male name?

    0dysseus treasures her mystery and has never admitted her sex, but most who follow her posts are convinced she is female. Clues are here.

    Actually, I am almost positive 0dysseus said she was female at one point in the past, but God only knows where that post is. I thought 0dysseus was male at first due to the sex of the Greek hero too, but there was a point where I became sure she was female, and not just due to "clues" I gleaned from "following her posts."

    Really? I did a pretty thorough search of her posts and couldn't find anything explicit.

    0dysseus must be enjoying this...

    It could be on a list that was eventually deleted - I do remember it being a long time ago. Or do the weblog posts have a shelf life?

    I was going to look up when she joined Listology, but oddly enough, 0dysseus is not in the Member Directory. At least, she's not under #, O, or D (I didn't check all the letters).

    And yes, I hope she is enjoying this. Ah, why does 0dysseus's gender matter anyway, can't we all just get along?

    0dysseus isn't in the member directory because she has no lists.

    Damn right (s)he's enjoying this. Good work guys. Are you still figuring it out ? (If ya, I have some posts that might help)

    I was going to prove you wrong, but then I realized my proof had a list in the archive. I guess you're right. You don't even need any content on your list to get in there.

    Oh yeah, I seem to remember that being on one of lbangs' lists, or in response to one of lbangs' comments.

    Damn, couldn't it be on a list by somebody with less than 10,000 of them? :-)

    If it helps, I recall having a lengthy discussion about Sin City with her, where it was my very distinct impression that she was, indeed, female. At least, she was very concerned about the portrayal of women in comic books and the expectations that can put on real women. I believe she lumped herself in with the women on that one.

    I think it's here, but I didn't see any explicit admission of sex from 0dysseus.

    I don't think anyone really explicitly admits their sex at all unless asked point blank - especially if that person seems to delight in the mystique their online persona can create. Personally, I have faced this same confusion about my gender on these very boards, and there seemed to be arguments both for and against my being male.

    Anyway, all that aside, I think the following quote from the link you provided points towards female. I've rarely known men to take such detailed notice of the social pressures women have to look a certain way:

    "But normal women, women who won't drive you into an eating disorder, women who don't make you feel like you need cosmetic "procedures" to add and subtract material from different regions of your body, women who exist for something more than to serve the interests of men, women who don't always wear make up, for gosh sakes!.. Normal women are not just invisible in comics, they are not just absent... they don't exist at all. It's like professional wrestling (and serves the same audience) where only a certain type of "women" exist. No matter how much people claim that these women are modern, independent and that they are not exploited it is obvious that they are nothing more than birds in gilded cages. And in reality, someone who truly loves birds would never stand for that."

    All said and done, IMHO I think we should go on with our lives without getting too much ickled about anyone's personal details, esp. if (s)he's not very forthcoming. My truly humble opnion...

    0dysseyus is one of the best Listologists around...and I think it's best if we just enjoy her (or his) posts...

    (my opinion...nothing against anybody)

    I've not seen Birth so disregard this comment if you wish, but Birth sounds an awful lot like the Korean film Bungee Jumping of their Own, minus the homoeroticism. A male school teacher believes that one of his male students is the reincarnation of his dead female lover.

    I don't know if they came up with the idea independently or if they're trying to pass off a remake as original (Jonathan Glazer's next film is a remake of Hideo Nakata's Chaos), but I figured I'd call attention to the Korean film (I love my Korean movies). Personally, I didn't like Bungee Jumping of their Own though.

    Thanks for the heads-up. I'll continue to state things too strongly so people like you and 0dysseus can jump in and correct me with some data that's new to me. :-)

    Nice to see you've rated Birth highly. I rated it ***1/2 / ****, and I think there's even more to it than you've written in the "spoiler-warning", as the viewer (and the couple at the beach ;-)) is let out of the film without a truth to cling to.
    A main thing the film does exellent imo, is to show us that we believe, in what we want to, or are made to believe. Which can be almost anything. Our search for truth only reflects back upon ourselves, and what we consider true is based on our pov and our knowledge about the world, which can never be "complete", because there is no completeness from the view of a fragmentated individual, which every human being is. Kind of pessimistic...

    King Kong overrated? Nah.

    Discussion is getting too fat on this page, so I split my movie review list again. The older, "obsolete" reviews are still here. This page is now "Part I" of the 2005 reviews under my current review system, and Part II (newest reviews) is here.

    Spanglish is on my too se list. how is Sandler? is he a little more toned down? is it more Happy gilmore or Punch Drunk Love?

    More like Punch Drunk Love. He's no Bill Murray, but he is trying to branch out. Spanglish is utterly enjoyable.

    I told you all Birth was great, but I didn't say it this well.