Tuesday, January 04, 2005

My Year in Movies-Part One

I am not a film critic nor do I play one on TV, radio, print or even online. I'm just a guy who loves the movies
in any way, shape or form. Because I am a total geek about the cinema, I am also pretty obsessive compulsive regarding this love of mine. Therefore, in 2004, I set out to make a list of every new movie I watched this year. By new, I mean new to me as in the expression that is used for old jokes. "If you haven't heard it, it's new to you." Besides, as each year clocks off the remaining days of my life, I'm trying not to adhere to any set time for certain things. Film is after all an art form and art is supposedly timeless. I really have no use for the ephemeral world even though our entire society is based on the temporary and disposable. I'll live in the now, but give me the past and the future too please. Otherwise just wad me up like a discarded tissue and dump me in the nearest receptacle marked "Here today, gone tomorrow". I also didn't see every film released in 2004, while catching things from 2003 like THE RETURN OF THE KING. So, does that mean if I came up with a Top Ten list, I couldn't include THE LORD OF THE RINGS grand finale because it was released the previous month? Bullshit, I say and bullshit, I mean. I have no desire to see movies as soon as they come out like I used to. I can wait. If their any good at all, they'll last until I get to them. If not, they may not have been worth my time anyway. Film doesn't expire and should not be dated for immediate sale. Now I am fortunate to live in an area that has an abundance of second run theaters should I be unable to catch them in the first few weeks if I have a real need to see them on the screen and not at home.This also cuts out a lot of potential audience disturbances which, knock wood, I have not encountered in many a moon. I avoided pictures that were flooded with hype, namely FAHRENHEIT 9/11 and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. I'll see them in due time, but I really wanted to separate myself from either group during their runs and chose to deal with them on their own terms when I feel like it. I have a feeling Michael Moore's opus may be dated by now, but I'll still give it a chance. If its shelf life has been cut short, well, that's the way the documentary crumbles. I watched BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE in April and that movie held up after a year and a half. As for Jesus, I repeat, I'll get around to it and make my own decision. It's not as if my immortal soul is hanging in the balance.

So the grand total of movies I saw in the year 2004 added up to 118. Now, to be fair, I eliminated certain things that I fast forwarded through (CHARLIE'S ANGELS FULL THROTTLE and DAREDEVIL), fell asleep during (THE ENDURANCE) or watched again, a practice I tried to avoid as much as possible since that wasn't the purpose of this grand experiment. I'm finding that frequently repeated viewings are beginning to diminish the strength of many of my favorites, so I'm going to put a moratorium on some of these films just to give myself some distance from them. This way, I won't burn out on them.

This was also a year that I could catch up with many a movie that has eluded me in the past, some that have slipped through the cracks of time that have popped up in the video store or even TV. Some of these are part of a director's filmogrpahy I've missed, such as Hitchcock's TO CATCH A THIEF. Others are some things I feel I need to see to broaden my horizons a bit. There is a worn piece of paper in my wallet that I had scribbled is a list of several films I have thought were required viewing. It was called "52 for 2002"-fifty two films, one a week to further my schooling. I've gotten half-way through it in two years. I should be wearing a dunce cap. Most everything that I had seen from that list I haven't regretted watching. Admittedly, some have been disappointments, but there's a better chance of seeing something worthwhile than the latest offering from Ashton Kutcher.

Also I have not been out to the theaters as much as I used to, since 99% of what I've seen has been on my 19" Goldstar TV. For matter of economics, convenience and time restraints, this is the choice I've made for myself. Would I prefer to go the movies more often? You betcha. Would I want my own personal screening room? Naturally. Would I even want a better TV? Sure. Do I? No. Let's move on.

For better or worse, My Year in Movies-2004.

BETTER THAN I EXPECTED

IDENTITY and Cusack. The latter being a John Grisham tale which I usually hate other than THE RAINMAKER. This one...well, didn't suck. The former is a decent little thriller from James Mangold, much better than the mess that was COPLAND.
RUNAWAY JURY...a double shot of Cusack
UNDERWORLD...Vampires, werewolves and THE MATRIX in a fair to middling computer game disguised as a film. Another fine performance from Bill Nighy.
SIMONE...An overlooked Al Pacino performance.
WINDTALKERS...John Woo, whither did ye wander? Other than many a corny moment, I was more impressed than not.
MOONLIGHT MILE...Brad Silberling's purging of the death of his fiancee makes for a very nice effort. Too bad he wants to be Chris Columbus or even Spielberg because this really showed what he could do as a writer and director.
BARBERSHOP...This is not a backhanded insult, but this reminded me of CAR WASH, which I love by the way. I have to hand it to Ice Cube.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

28 DAYS LATER...I wanted great. all I got was a retread of DAY OF THE DEAD.
SPELLBOUND (the spelling bell doc, not yhe Hitchcock joint)...I didn't care for the kids very much so I found myself not nearly as enchanted as many were.
BUBBA HO-TEP...Great premise, mediocre execution. Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis saved this from being a total botch job.
SWIMMING POOL...Not as interesting as it believes it should be, even with the nudity. Still. Nudity.
LOST IN TRANSLATION...Much to recommend and Sofia Coppola is emerging as a major talent, this was way over-hyped. I admit that it did stay with me longer than I expected it to. I may have to watch it again.
MAN WITHOUT A PAST...A Finnish comedy. Yeah. I'm laughing all the way to the fjord.
Speaking of fins...OPEN WATER...Really unfortunate this didn't have enough to sustain a whole feature. This one-note premise with nothing else to support it let me down, not creeping me out as I expected it to. I have to hand it to the the filmmakers and particularly the actors for working with real honest to goodness sharks, but there should have been more to this. Well, other than lead actress Blanchard Ryan's nakedness...Those lucky, lucky sharks...
HEAVEN...Tom Tykwer, one of my favorite directors of recent years (the brilliant RUN, LOLA, RUN) couldn't pull this one off. He's still three for four, which is a better average than most.
SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW...Through all the care that was put into the visuals of the remarkable looking movie, not a script could be found in sight. Not so much a film as it a demo reel.
The biggest letdowns of the year had to be INTOLERABLE CRUELTY and THE LADYKILLERS. The Coen Brothers are on cruise control and the film world is worse off for it. Come on,guys! Get it together! Who do you think you are... The Wachowskis?

TO BE CONTINUED
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