Archive for January, 2003

2002

January 16, 2003

Century 22

USA

English / French

141 minutes

The True Story Of A Real Fake — CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.

Enjoyable from start to finish. DiCaprio is perfectly cast as a high school student who impersonates a teacher, pilot, lawyer, and doctor. Spielberg uses every trick in the book for us to root for the guy. The film seems to think that he did all of the things he did to impress his father, who is contantly being hounded by the IRS. Long, but good. Hanks is solid as always, but he is set up to be a bit too much of a bumbler while DiCaprio is always slipping away in the nick of time.

There were actually touching scenes between both Leo and Walken, as his father, and between Leo and a girl he is engaged to. You believe that he had feelings for these two people. This is a film referred to as an enjoyable romp. You don’t leave the theater smarter or changed, you just have fun while you’re there.

~~Leonardo DiCaprio–Best Actor of 2003–Golden Globe Nomination

~~Jeff Nathanson–Best Adapted Screenplay of 2003–Online Film Critics Society Nomination

~~Christopher Walken–Best Supporting Actor of 2003–National Society of Film Critics

7.0 Critical Consensus

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2002

January 15, 2003

Camera 7

USA

English

120 minutes

Inspired By A True Story — Antwone Fisher.

Maybe it’s because I’m adopted, but I fell for this thing hook, line, and sinker. It was like a cry-fest. Fisher came from a terrible childhood and entered the Navy because they were the only ones who would have him. He is quick-tempered, punching someone for saying “What’s on your face?”

Denzel directed it well. I couldn’t see any real faults. But Derek Luke, as Fisher, was spectacular. He was strong and scared and he portrayed perfectly the ‘just-barely-holding-back-tears’ that young men often try to do. His relationship with a cute girl who works in the bookstore was very natural and awkward and sweet. Less successful was Denzel’s relationship with is wife. I can’t get over how great Luke was.

Plot-wise, there was too much information on Denzel’s character, a psychiatrist. The ending felt tacked on. We didn’t need to know what we learn in the last four minutes. But when Fisher confronts those who hurt him as a child, and he tries to find a sense of belonging–for god’s sake, bring kleenex.

Sappy, but believable. A chickflick for boys.

~~Viola Davis–Best Supporting Actress of 2003–Independent Spirit Awards Nomination

~~Derek Luke–Best Actor of 2003–Independent Spirit Awards Nomination, Online Film Critics Society Breakthrough Performance, National Board of Review Breakthrough Performance

7.4 Critical Consensus

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2002

January 12, 2003

Camera Cinema Club

Canada / Germany / Hungary / UK

English / Hebrew

106 minutes

Art + Politics = Power — MAX.

Puts a human face on Adolf Hitler. It’s the fictional story of a relationship between a Jewish art dealer (John Cusack) and the future leader of Germany (Noah Taylor). We watch as Hitler develops some of his theories on race mixing and ‘pure bloodlines’. If he could only have put his aggression and the horror he saw in World War I on the canvass, maybe he wouldn’t have felt the urge to take over the world.

Let’s talk about John Cusack. I have never met anyone who didn’t like him. He is almost Tom Hanks-like in his ability to seem like a nice guy, even though we don’t really know anything about him. I’ve just looked up his credits and realize I’ve seen 33 films with him in them. He is my age. He is a smart, music-savvy person. I like to see him in films and I actually respect him more for what he’s done offscreen. He wrote an essay a few years back about the hypocrisy in a media that reports every problem with a Public Enemy concert while never mentioning that it was the white kids who were Soul Asylum fans who had done the damage. He is a keen social critic. But here’s the thing: I don’t think he’s the world’s greatest actor. He always seems to be John Cusack and not his character. I still wonder what everyone saw in his GRIFTERS performance. In my opinion, he didn’t become a good actor until BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. In MAX, I sat there mesmerized by his acting. He wasn’t the charming, sarcastic guy we’ve seen in just about all of his roles, he was a German Jew. And thankfully he never attempted an accent. He is missing an arm, which can be an acting trick, but he pulled it off without being showy. I was most impressed with him in this role. Taylor captured the speech patterns and volatility in Hitler without making him too pathetic. It was a good film, but not great.

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2002

January 8, 2003

Towne Theater

Australian

English

94 minutes

1500 Miles Is A Long Way Home–Rabbit-Proof Fence.

I’m strangely disappointed in this film. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it didn’t seem to be there. Maybe I thought I’d be more moved. I’ve had the soundtrack for quite awhile and liked the dreamy Peter Gabriel score. The story is sad, to be true, but there are stories exactly like it in every country in which the white majority oppressed a native people.

Basically, the government in Australia wanted to keep the races separate. You could be Aboriginal or White, but not half and half. To make this happen, half-and-half children were taken forcibly from their homes and put in orphanages where, if they were light-skinned enough, they were allowed to marry white people and thereby ‘dilute’ their aboriginal blood, until the traces were no longer there. They had to change religions and weren’t allowed to speak their native language. The US did the exact same thing with Indians. The Navajo language is just about extinct because of its outlaw.

Three related girls are taken away and, like many other girls, try to run away from their orphanage. We are shown that the oldest girl is something of a smarty, a good hunter and tracker. Using the cover of a rainstorm they set out on the 1500 mile journey back home. Lacking navigational tools, they follow the sea to shining sea rabbit-proof fence that was to keep rabbits on one side and farms on the other. The fence itself is never really explained. What if two rabbits happen to be on the wrong side when they build the thing. They must be eating up a storm. Anyway, they have to trust people and hide from people. The whole bit. It’s obvious to the authorities where they’re headed and they can simply lay in wait.

I think they made a couple storytelling errors. Since we hear the voiceover of an old woman who speaks no English, we can assume that one of them, at least, survived and is alive today. So as they’re dragging themselves all over the outback, we know they’ll make it home. We know that they won’t be killed when they get there. We also know they’ll be captured when found. There are really no questions going on here. We don’t know how many times they try to escape or why the racial purity idea was belatedly put to rest in the 1970s.

The photography was great as you would expect in a film using the vast expanse of interior Australia. The music was perfect and the three girls were natural and compelling. But it is the story of three girls who took a long walk to get back to their mother. That’s pretty much it.

8.0 Critical Consensus

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2002

January 4, 2003

DVD

USA

English / Hawaiian

85 minutes

Meet Stitch. This Summer, He’s Coming To Our Planet–Lilo & Stitch.

It’s no MONSTERS INC. or TOY STORY, but it’s enjoyable. It gets points for Kauai locations and a realistic portrayal of two orphans living together. The older sister is drawn with a realistic Hawaiian body. I was a bit taken aback when Lilo just started wailing on one of her classmates. And Stitch is just a dickhead. He isn’t pleasant at all. I don’t care if he is an alien.

7.0 Critical Consensus

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2002

December 21, 2002

AMC Saratoga

USA

English

114 minutes

One Story…Four Lives…A Million Ways It Can End–Adaptation.

This film is getting justifiable praise for its screenplay. It may be a bit showoffy, but it is absolutely unlike anything we’ve seen before. It may not exactly be the best screenplay of the last ten years, but it is great. The basic plot is the adaptation of a book on orchids into a film. The screenplay will be written by Charlie Kaufman, the real-life guy who wrote BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, here played by Nic Cage. That is the entire plot, except it has nothing to do with the plot, really.

Cage meets with a literary agent who wants him to adapt the book into a screenplay. He gives a speech about not turning it into a whole Hollywood thing with shootouts and whatnot. Everything he says at that instant ends up happening in the film. When he talks into a tape recorder during a moment of brainstorming, we realize that when he describes the opening scene, we have already witnessed it. He is writing himself into the screenplay that we see him writing. I realize I’m not making any sense here, but as he changes his mind and redrafts and looks outside for inspiration, those changes and inspirations end up right there on the screen.

I have been firmly in the Nic Cage camp since BIRDY and I thought LEAVING LAS VEGAS was probably the best film of its year. But lately, Cage has been choosing his roles unwisely. Sean Penn was right when he called him a movie star who was no longer an actor. In this he is back to being an actor. He plays both Charlie Kaufman, and his twin brother. They are often in scenes together and although he is not hiding under makeup or anything, there is never a doubt about who is who. Charlie is slouchy and broken down by life, while his happy go lucky brother is all confidence and dimwitted happiness. It is a great performance. Actually, every single person onscreen is fantastic.

I’m sure I need to see it again to catch everything I missed, but it’s the good movie season and it’s all I can do to see things once.

~~Best Picture of 2002–Toronto Critics, Golden Globe Nomination

~~Nicolas Cage–Best Actor of 2002–Toronto Critics, Golden Globe Nomination

~~Chris Cooper–Best Supporting Actor of 2002–Los Angeles Critics, Toronto Critics, San Francisco Critics, Seattle Critics, Golden Globe Nomination, National Board of Review

~~Spike Jonze–Best Director of 2002–Golden Globe Nomination

~~Charlie Kaufman–Best Screenplay of 2002–New York Critics, Boston Critics, Toronto Critics, Golden Globe Nomination, National Board of Review

~~Meryl Streep–Best Supporting Actress of 2002–Golden Globe Nomination

8.9 Critical Consensus

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Written by Michael W. Cummins