Friday, January 07, 2005

My Year in Movies-Part Two

Yeah, Part Two...because this is just too damn important for only one. Isn't that right, Quentin? You know
where I'm coming from, man...

Okay continuing on with this 2004 wrap-up that could be subtitled "Who Gives a Rat's Ass What I Think?"

CATCHING UP

Here are some of films that have slipped through my fingers over time that I finally got to see this year.

Michael Powell's THE RED SHOES...The great ballet movie that I actually had taped years ago and finally got around to viewing. It's BALLET, therefore like exercise or medicine, I avoided it even though it's supposed to be good for me. As for the verdict? I see why it's a classic but I prefer Powell's BLACK NARCISSUS. However, procrastination may have dampened my overall impression. It certainly deserves a better shot than I gave it.
TO CATCH A THIEF...Minor Hitchcock but still Hitchcock.
SQUIRM...A drive-in "classic" about killer earthworms.
KNIFE IN THE WATER...Polanski's first feature, a more subtle precursor to DEAD CALM.
VANISHING POINT...70's car chase saga, a bit of a letdown after all this time.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE...A great little comedy from the Thirties. I've finally seen an Ernst Lubitch film other than TO BE OR NOT TO BE.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES...Early Wes Craven. Eh.
CLEOPATRA JONES...1970s blaxploitation starring the great Tamara Dobson. Whatever happened to her?
BLOODY MAMA...One of Roger Corman's last efforts at AIP. Shelley Winters, Robert DeNiro (as a glue sniffer!), Don Stroud and Bruce Dern in the saga of Ma Barker and her boys, riding in on the coattails of BONNIE AND CLYDE. Wow.
DIRTY LITTLE BILLY...Michael J. Pollard not only stars...he gets a love scene! Ewwww!
BURN!-From the director BATTLE OF ALGIERS, a lost Marlon Brando film that packed quite a wallop.
COWBOY...A fine Delmer Daves western from the Fifties with Glenn Ford and Jack Lemmon
JOHNNY O'CLOCK...Film noir with ultra-hard boiled dialogue that just tickled me to death. Yes, that really was the character's name...Johnny O'Clock. Doesn't exactly roll over the tongue very well, does it?
CLASH BY NIGHT...Kitchen sink melodrama with a sensational, sexy, unaffected performance by Marilyn Monroe.
and...
Rouben Mamoullian's DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE...A film I thought was lost forever finally turns up on a double disc on DVD, pairing with the inferior 1941 version which, as it turns out, was the reason the former was "lost". Even though Frederic March won an Oscar for his superb performance, MGM ditched the 1932 edition on purpose when they remade it in order to attempt to erase any reference to the earlier version. Idiots.

CRAP...CRAP...AND NOTHING BUT THE CRAP

DREAMCATCHER...Adapted from a Stephen King novel, adapted by William Goldman and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, this is just pitiful garbage. It isn't even worth cult status, even though the aliens that enetr human bodies exit out the ass. How do you screw that up?
THE HOURS...Just an awful bore. If this is really the reason why Virginia Woolf killed herself, I would have helped her find bigger rocks. Talk about your angry lesbians...
DEAD OR ALIVE...Disgusting Japanese actioner with the most vile scene even put on screen that I refuse to even make any allusions at al here or anywhere.
ANYTHING ELSE...No, Woody. Nothing else. You can stop making movies now. It's over.
OUR LADY OF THE ASSASSINS...Pedophiles and child hustlers do not make for fine motion picture entertainment.
THE STEPFORD WIVES...Did no one who signed on for the piece of dung not read the goddamn script first? Maybe Frank Oz should hook up with Miss Piggy again. Hey, Nicole Kidman made another appearance on this list. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't see COLD MOUNTAIN.
FAR FROM HOME...Then again, here's Julianne Moore again as well...and I tend to like her work for the most part. This is is the most well made of all the shitty movies on this list. The cinematography is superb, the Elmer Bernstein is fabulous (yes, I said fabulous. Eat me.) but this remake of Douglas Sirk material is pretty much why this genre of film has been relegated to the Lifetime Network. Overrated to the Nth degree.
BUT...
the worst of the worst had to be...
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN...This movie is so putrid, I cannot even bring myself to say anything all other than I may have to punch Steve Martin in the kidneys if he doesn't stop making shit like this. I tend to hold him to a higher standard and maybe it's time I didn't. He and the director of this cinematic hemorrhoid are remaking THE PINK PANTHER. Happy happy joy joy. CHEAPER is everything that is wrong with American movies all wrapped up in one package...and it made a small fortune.

NOW...and not a moment too soon...

ON TO THE BEST

TOY STORY 2 and FINDING NEMO...Pixar rules the waves. They will thrive on their own without Disney. Eisner may have to kill them if they decide they leave.
WINGED MIGRATION...Fantastic documentary that gave me a whole new appreciation of geese. No, really. This is extraordinary. Watch the DVD, but catch the extras as well which are just as fascinating as the film.
LORD OF THE RINGS:THE RETURN OF THE KING...Every year for the past three, I've caught each segment on my birthday. What the hell am I going to watch this year?
SEABISCUIT...Not just a great movie, but a great AMERICAN movie. This is what Hollywood is capable of accomplishing. CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is unfortunately what they choose to do as well.
AMERICAN SPLENDOR...This is the kind of quirky comedy that plays right into my sensibilities.
MY VOYAGE TO ITALY...Professor Martin Scorsese's ongoing film tutorial continues with this fascinating overview of Italian cinema
SPIDERMAN 2...I go along with the majority on this one. Well done, Sam Raimi. You redeemed yourself from the first.
TALK TO HER...Pedro Almodovar is a freakin' genius.
KILL BILL-Indeed, a blast from both barrels, parts one and two and Uma Thurman gave the best female performance I saw this year. But honestly, if we're all done worshipping at the Altar of Tarantino, did this REALLY need to be a two part movie?
HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT...A really sleeper from France. If Audrey Tatou annoys you with her coquettish takes, her big brown doll eyes and silly little grin, watch this movie. She plays the same character...only in a psychoticly. She'll give you the creeps. A nice little thriller.
CITY OF GOD... The last film I saw in 2004 was this incredible Brazilian gang film. Similar to MEAN STREETS but with a voice all of its own, this was superb.
SIDEWAYS...Alexander Payne, you've won my heart. This spoke to me as no other movie has in a long, long time. When Paul Giamatti's character was told his book wasn't being published, my heart sank along with his. Maybe it just hit so close to home. And the best writing this year had to be Virginia Madsen's speech about the nature of wine. Fan-fucking-tastic.

and THE NUMBER ONE MOVIE I SAW IN 2004

HERO...This is brilliant filmmaking on every level. Yimou Zhang just leaps into Heavens with this absolute masterpiece. I really wanted to see this in the theater, but it kept eluding me for one reason or another. Finally, on the same week it was released on DVD, I opted to catch it at a second run theater here in Portland called the Laurelhurst. I'm so glad I chose wisely for a change. Now, maybe the auditoriums in this theater are nothing more than screening room size, but I was so glad I saw it in this setting, no more than three rows back from the screen. Because I am a dork of the highest order, I stopped at Trader Joe's and picked a little packet of sushi and a beverage to enjoy while watching the movie. (The Laurelhurst serves pizza and beer as well, but I wanted sushi, damn it. They also have little tables to place your food. Nice.) Anyway, I sat back and let this picture overwhelm me. It took me to another time, another place, another state of being and swept me away as movies are supposed to do. The artists in front and behind the cameras worked their magic on me and reminded me, once again, why the hell film so much to me in my life.

As for 2005, I'd like to say I'm going to see nothing but great movies but I know that's not going to happen. Sometimes a little crap make the cream rise to the top...Uh, maybe I should re-phrase that... Perhaps what's best is improve my film diet. Try not to consume as much junk. A little fast food is okay now and then, but not everyday certainly. Just to prove my heart is in the right place, I started out the year on the right note. On New Year's Day, I saw a revival of Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL at Portland's Cinema 21.

But then again...as I type these words, THE POSTMAN with Kevin Costner is taping on my VCR.

Happy New Year.
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