Archive for September, 2003

2003

September 24, 2003

Camera One

USA

English / Japanese

102 minutes

Everyone Wants To Be Found — LOST IN TRANSLATION.

Spectacular in style and subtlety. Bill Murray is perfect. Like we’re watching a documentary about him perfect. He’s funny and sad and happy and horny and lonely, often all at once. The style is flashy and loud and quiet and slow. Japan is shown both as introspective traditional and loudly flashing. Scarlett Johansson is also special as the 20-something woman who becomes his partner in crime. The opening shot is of her rear end in pink see-through panties. We linger for a bit longer than we’re comfortable. Keeping in mind that the director is a woman, that simple shot sets up and provides meaning for the entire story to come.

I am a complete sucker for films about chance encounters. People come in and out of our lives at a breathtaking pace, often for just moments at a time. What if I would have talked to that man on the street? What if I had been courageous enough to ask the woman directions? There are opportunities for quick interactions at every turn, but most of us just let them pass. One of this movie’s scenes, shown in the trailer, is Murray and an old Japanese man waiting in a hospital. They don’t even share a language, but they share a moment.

Murray and Johansson play two people out of sorts with the country they find themselves visiting. They are also a bit out of sorts in their marriages, in their lives, in their fears. They are two people out of sorts even when they’re in their own homes surrounded by their own families.

I had one of those rare moments while watching this film. One of those times when I smile at the sheer originality of the choice a director makes. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but in the world of movies it is. We don’t get to hear everything that’s said, even between the two main characters. We see them whisper. We don’t hear the words. Perfect.

There are many ways the story could have gone, but the way Coppola went seems the most honest, the most realistic, even if it is the least filmish. The relationship between the two is believable. Go see it.

**** Ebert

**** Berardinelli

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2003

September 20, 2003

HBO

USA

English

75 minutes

Documentary about starting up a new Las Vegas review. Sort of A CHORUS LINE with boobs. One dancer even begins singing “I really need this job…”

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1989

September 20, 2003

Criterion DVD

USA

English

120 minutes

It’s The Hottest Day Of The Summer. You Can Do Nothing, You Can Do Something, Or You Can…– DO THE RIGHT THING.

A bit dated in its style and current events, but still enjoyable. Surprising to me was the lack of smoothness that we often see in a young director. This was only Spike’s third feature. He was still trying to figure out how movie making was done.

**** Ebert

**** Berardinelli

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2003

September 19, 2003

HBO

USA

English

60 Minutes.

The Immaculate Reception…The Holy Roller…The Ghost To The Post…The Phantom Tuck…The Mad Bomber…The Assassin…The Snake…

If you know what any of those phrases mean, you know who my Boston Red Sox are. This HBO documentary looks at the Red Sox and how they affect the entirety of the New England area. In many eyes, things have never been the same since Babe Ruth was traded in 1920 to the Yankees. Funny with a good selection of talking heads. The moment-by-moment recap of the 1986 World Series is fantastic.

Isn’t it just sports?

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2003

September 17, 2003

Camera 3

USA / UK

English

100 minutes

It’s Happening So Fast — THIRTEEN.

The other night, I couldn’t sleep, so I went downstairs to see what was on the satellite. I came across a documentary on a channel I’ve never watched, HBO Family. I bring it up because the documentary I watched was far more shocking than anything THIRTEEN showed me. It was called Middle School Confessions. I saw a girl identified as Amy or Kelly or some other wholesome name who was 12 years old. She was sitting on her bed in her affluent bedroom with a pal, speaking off-camera to an interviewer. She said “I was kissing him and he started to put his hand down my pants and then he fingered me. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to but it felt really good.” I stared in amazement. She was an apple-pie-faced 12 year old. Then someone else identified as 13 said that she and her friends don’t mind “giving head” because that way the boys will probably like them better and they won’t have to have their rapidly changing body touched just when they’re feeling most vulnerable about boob growth and weight gain. She added, “but then my boyfriend broke up with me anyway.”

I bring up all this because this stuff really happens. I don’t have a sister or a daughter. I’m no more afraid to have one after watching THIRTEEN. The difference between the documentary I saw and THIRTEEN is that the two leads in THIRTEEN seem to know exactly what they’re doing and for what purpose. They are wise beyond their years.

As a movie, it is pretty good. There are camera tricks when drugs are ingested. There is good music and somehow the sheer happiness of youth is projected on the screen when the girls shop or set up dates with popular boys. Evan Rachel Wood, for those of you who somehow missed her as part of the greatest child acting ensemble on TV in ONCE & AGAIN, is amazing. She turned 16 last week. She is scared and timid and sexy and powerful and fearless and we can see what’s going on inside her just by looking at her eyes. The story was co-written by the girl who plays her partner in crime, Nikki Reed who was not as strong an actress, except when she created false stories seemingly out of the blue. Holly Hunter is Wood’s mother and she again shows why she is on the shortlist of brave actresses who aren’t 22 years old.

Hunter is a free-spirited recovering alcoholic having trouble figuring out exactly what ratio of mother to friend she should use when dealing with her daughter. Hunter turned around one day and when she turned back her little girl had become a young woman. This will swell the chorus of people who claim that stricter parents are the answer. Hunter can’t say no until it’s too late, though she tries admirably.

Here are the problems I see that are nagging at me and keeping me from loving this movie.

1) There are too many scenes of our pale, white heroine, in the arms of older, dark black boys, as if them messing around with a bad-influence white guy wouldn’t have been shocking enough. To be sure, a middle school like the one shown has a varied cross-section of ethnic make-up, but I can’t remember a single instance where the two girls even talk to a white or asian guy. Every boy, besides one, that is kissed or flirted with or hugged is black and they are dressed in appropriately scary-for-suburbanites clothing of headbands and sports jerseys. They even freestyle rap on Melrose Avenue and knock blatantly on the window of girls’ bedrooms. I found this color-consciousness to be for shock value alone.

2) There was a let’s-practice-how-to-kiss scene between the girls that was a bit too Cinemaxy.

3) Hunter and her boyfriend are both recovering addicts who are somehow blind to any chemical imbalances inside a 13-year-old girl. She is seen around them in various degrees of loopiness but is never questioned.

4) I won’t spoil the ending, but we see it coming a mile away and we wonder why the truth isn’t seen.

There is plenty of good. The giggles that the girls have when cute boys stop to talk. The secret language that the two girls speak around the house. The class differences between the hotties and the normal cute girls in class. The dynamic between older brother and younger sister. And Evan Rachel Wood.

***^ Ebert

***^ Berardinelli

7.1 Critical Consensus

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2003

September 12, 2003

DVD

USA

English

108 minutes

Love Is A Puzzle. These Are The Pieces — ALL THE REAL GIRLS.

Zooey Deschanel is something special in a Maggie Gyllenhaal way. Say that three times fast. They are both unconventionally attractive with big expressive eyes and good smiles. Zooey is enchanting to watch as she navigates her first real relationship. The story is slow and ordinary and awkward, just like falling in love. The object of her affection is played by Paul Schneider (was that the name of the boyfriend who killed Dorothy Stratten?), who was unknown to me even though I saw GEORGE WASHINGTON. He captures the way a young man is equal parts unstoppable bravado and inconsolable dork. He is a womanizer of sorts who is trying to prove to himself and the rest of the town that this time he cares about his target. This film is all mood and anyone who has ever been in love or had their heart broken (any hands not raised?) will see something familiar here. The way that new lovers share the absolute dummest possible facts during early conversations. The way that a constant touching is as important as food and water.

If you get the DVD do yourself a favor and don’t watch the behind the scenes feature. It’s one thing to believe a film is special in its mood and feeling–it’s vibe–it’s another to have the director tell you over and over what his goals were.

Lovers do things to each other that make no sense–just like real life.

**** Ebert

*** Berardinelli

6.9 Critical Consensus

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1996

September 4, 2003

DVD

USA

English

138 minutes

Everybody Loved Him…Everybody Disappeared — JERRY MAGUIRE.

~~Best Picture of 1996 — Oscar Nomination, Broadcast Film Critics Association Nomination.

~~Best Director of 1996 for Cameron Crowe — Directors Guild of America Nomination.

~~Best Original Screenplay of 1996 for Cameron Crowe — Oscar Nomination, Writers Guild of America Nomination.

~~Best Actor of 1996 for Tom Cruise — Oscar Nomination, National Board of Review Winner, Screen Actors Guild Nomination.

~~Best Actress of 1996 for Renee Zellweger — Screen Actors Guild Nomination, Broadcast Film Critics Association Winner, National Board of Review Winner.

~~Best Supporting Actor of 1996 for Cuba Gooding, Jr. — Oscar Winner, Screen Actors Guild Winner, Chicago Film Critics Winner, Broadcast Film Critics Association Winner.

~~Best Editing of 1996 for Joe Hutshing — Oscar Nomination.

*** Ebert

***^ Berardinelli

7.8 Critical Consensus

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2002

September 3, 2003

DVD

USA

English

127 minutes

It’s Never Too Late To Believe In Your Dreams — THE ROOKIE.

** Ebert

*** Berardinelli

7.0 Critical Consensus

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Written by Michael W. Cummins