Archive for December, 2006


Trois Couleurs: Bleu 1993
Trzy Kolory: Bialy 1994
Trois Couleurs: Rouge 1994

May 21, 2000
December 28, 2006
DVD
France / Poland / Switzerland / UK
French / Romanian / Polish
290 Minutes

Blue:

A secretive woman, whose husband, a composer, and child are killed in a car crash, destroys his final work, sells all their possessions and sets out to remake her life.

White:

A Polish hairdresser suffers a series of humiliations in Paris–he becomes impotent, his French wife divorces him and he is reduced to poverty–and returns to Warsaw with the aim of becoming rich and winning back his wife.

Red:

A model confides her fears about her life to a lonely and inquisitive retired judge, who secretly arranges a meeting between her and a young lawyer.

~~~

The Kieslowski classic. If you have five hours and no interruptions, try and watch them together, like I did.

Blue is Binoche whose life shatters when her family is killed in a car crash. It’s supposed to be about liberty or freedom. She frees herself from her former life, never cracking a smile. It’s hard to watch and hard to look away. And music plays a big part. Binoche closes her eyes occassionally and we hear the unfinished score her husband (and perhaps she herself) was working on at the time of his death. Some shots are unforgettable: the sugar cube absorbing coffee, the blue mobile in the child’s “blue room”, the group of little girl swimmers in matching outfits, a foil candy wrapper.

White is Delpy who is angry at her impotent Polish husband and takes his business and gets him kicked out of France. It’s about equality, how in one country things might go your way if you know how to act and in another country everything changes. Not exactly a laugh riot, but the funniest of the three by far.

Red is Irene Jacob, a goddess and it’s about fraternity and interconnectedness. This one is the best. There is red imagery everywhere you look, there are coincidences, chance meetings, deception, spying. All kinds of great stuff. The story is set in motion on the chance meeting between a car and a dog. Everything else spirals from there.

Each of these films is so professionally polished. Shot so beautifully. Even a frozen Warsaw lake is made to look like a joyous playground. Blue has a swimming pool, White has the snow of Poland, and Red has a theater, blood, apples, and fashion.

This is now a MichaelVox annual DVD event.

~~~

Blue:
***^ Ebert
***^ Berardinelli
*** Halliwell’s–The first part of a trilogy, based on the colours of the French tricolour and dealing with the theme of liberty, as experienced from the viewpoint of its enigmatic central character, for whom liberty often means a refusal to engage with the world, in order to avoid pain.
**^ Maltin–Slow-moving drama is borderline interesting but remains more a showcase for its leading lady than anything else.
Time Out–An arresting study of notions of individual freedom in the modern world. There’s no facile moralizing, simply a lucid examination of a woman’s state of mind. Binoche responds with her best work to date: quiet, strong, stubborn, and deeply aware that the heart holds mysteries neither we nor those close to us will ever understand.

White:
***^ Ebert
***^ Maltin–Full of irony and subtle wit; the best of the trilogy.
*** Halliwell’s–Elegant and acid comedy of a Chaplinesque little man at large in an entrepreneurial Poland–”home at last”, says our hero, regaining consciousness on a Warsaw trash dump after a nightmare trip from France.
*** Berardinelli
Time Out–A droll black comedy that takes a scalpel to the impoverished ethics of the new money-obsessed Poland, and to the selfish impulses tied up with our desires for a balanced sexual relationship, it is at times reminiscent of the satire of the last episode of the Dekalog. It’s often cruel, of course, and cool as an icepick, but it’s still endowed with enough unsentimental humanity to end with a touching, lyrical admission of the power of love. Essential viewing.

Red:
Academy Award Nomination–Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography.
**** Ebert–This is the kind of film that makes you feel intensely alive and sends you out into the streets afterwards eager to talk deeply and urgently to the person you are with.
**** Berardinelli
*** Halliwell’s–A delicate and intricate study of coincidence and destiny, of the fragile means that link one person to the next; it is a stylish and intriguing end to an impressive trilogy.
*** Maltin–This is a tale of several intertwining lives: a look at communication–and lack of same–in modern society. Acclaimed, but not for all tastes.
Time Out–It’s a film about destiny and chance, solitude and communication, cynicism and faith, doubt and desire; about lives affected by forces beyond rationalization. The assured direction avoids woolly mysticism by using material resources–actors, colour, movement, composition, sound–to illuminate abstract concepts. Stunningly beautiful, powerfully scored and immaculately performed, the film is virtually flawless, and one of the very greatest cinematic achievements of the last few decades. A masterpiece.

~~

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2005

December 28, 2005
January 18, 2006
December 28, 2006
HBO
USA
English
134 Minutes

The best film released in 2005. Still haunting. Even though HBO had the pan and scan version, it lost none of the majestic power of the mountains. The performances even get better. Jack is the reckless one. Reckless in his job, his words, and his sexuality. Ennis is so repressed that he can hardly speak and fills up to the boiling point where he will either vomit or beat up a guy.

The scenes with Ennis and Jack’s mom are the ones that get to me now. The shirt doesn’t as much.

I have the soundtrack and it’s hard to imagine this film working nearly as well without it.

Time Out Film Guide 15–The themes of forbidden love, lost opportunity, marital deception and romantic honesty are accessible and mainstream even.

Academy Award Winner–Best Director for Ang Lee, Best Music, Best Adapted Screenplay.
Academy Award Nominations–Cinematography, Picture, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams
The Best Picture of 2005: BAFTA, Boston, BFCA, DFWFCA, FFCC, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Las Vegas, London, LA, NY, SF, SEFCA, VFCC.

**** Ebert
*** Maltin–Bold subject matter (for mainstream audiences) is given sensitive if traditional treatment by Director Lee; slow, stately, and often moving, but also a bit distant. Ledger is excellent in a complex, brooding role, and the whole cast matches him.
8.7 Metacritic

~~

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1939

December 27, 2006
TCM
USA
English
96 Minutes

Various Western characters board a stagecoach in danger from an Indian war party.

John Wayne shows compassion as the Ringo Kid, a guy who is headed for jail, but not before he helps keep the big bad indians at bay from the roof of the stagecoach. Exciting and remarkable to think that it’s nearly 70 years old. The high-speed chase is amazing, the horse stunts are terrific, and there’s a camera angle when the stage must cross a river that’s very forward thinking.

Some of the acting is melodramatic, Director John Ford keeps the camera on people’s reactions a bit too long. We aren’t really sure what people’s motivations are while they ride. We get to know them little by little.

The entire story revolves around people needing to get from one place to another all the while worried about Geronimo. Funny driver, by-the-book sheriff, hooker, drunk doctor, high-class woman with a secret, uppity banker, whiskey salesman, gambler, and John Wayne who uses his height and frame to seem tougher and at the same time more of a softie.

John Ford is already in love with shadows and light coming from doorways, which he used to such great effect in THE SEARCHERS. He also uses low ceilings and low camera angles to make characters seem more menacing and off-kilter.

At the end of the film, before the shootout, a poker playing guy lays down two black Aces and two black 8′s which has come to be known as “dead man’s hand” as Wild Bill Hickock was said to be holding it while he was shot in the back in Deadwood.

And speaking of DEADWOOD, the HBO show (and second-best thing on TV), it has sort of ruined other Westerns for me. While we’re meeting the characters in STAGECOACH before the journey begins, I’m looking around the dusty town and waiting for the swearing to start. We see hookers and gamblers and drinkers, but none of the menace that DEADWOOD shows us, and which must have existed.

Another problem with a Western from this era is that they used to attach wires to the horses’ legs and then gallop them and when they reached the end of the wire, they’d violently trip, flipping and driving their heads into the ground while the rider pretended to get shot. The horses didn’t know this was coming and many had to be killed because they had broken bones. Horses used to have no juice in Hollywood. I think one of them was riden off a cliff in BUTCH CASSIDY and drown when it hit the water. Now, horses are trained to fall over. It’s a bit hard to watch this one. Maybe a dozen horses are tripped during the high speed chase.

And boy was it high speed. The stage itself is simply flying over a dry lake bed at full gallop. Very impressive. And Wayne lays atop it while firing his rifle. The sheriff literally “rides shotgun” for this journey. There is a stunt where an indian jumps off his horse at full speed onto the stagecoach horses and works his way up to the front two. These things are running incredibly fast. He tries to grab the reins but is shot by Wayne and hangs off the middle wooden piece. Wayne shoots him again and he falls under all the horses and the stage itself and then rolls over to prove he’s real and not a dummy. Amazing.

During this chase, the southern gentleman gambler saves one bullet for reasons I couldn’t understand, mostly because I wasn’t alive way back when. He needs it for a mercy killing. It seems that to a southern gentleman there are worse things than death for a proper lady.

Academy Award–Best Supporting Actor for Thomas Mitchell.
Academy Award Nomination–Best Picture, Best Director for John Ford, Best Cinematography, Best Editing.
**** Halliwell’s–What looked like a minor Western with a plot borrowed from Boule de suif, became a classic by virtue of the firm characterization, restrained writing, exciting climax and the scenery of Monument Valley. Whatever the reason, it damn well works.
**** Maltin–One of the great American films, and a landmark in the maturing of the Western, balancing character study and peerless action.

~~

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1993

December 27, 2006
DVD — Criterion
USA
English
187 Minutes

In Los Angeles, the lives of nine dysfunctional, suburban couples intertwine.

Here’s the thing. I want to love this. I’m a moderate fan of Altman. I’ve seen Cookie’s Fortune, Kansas City, The Player, Vincent & Theo, Aria, 3 Women, McCabe And Mrs. Miller, and MASH. It’s not like I’m avoiding him. But this is the third time I’ve seen SHORT CUTS and it is simply too long. It is full of fantastic acting. It’s a truly remarkable cast. I used to live in So Cal, I remember the medfly stuff, I dressed like they do. But I just can’t get into this film until the final hour (of more than three).

There are memorable parts to be sure. Jennifer Jason Leigh taking a dirty phonecall while changing dirty diapers was genius. Tim Robbins is hilarious, but a parody in his aviator sunglasses. Like he’s play acting and everyone else is just acting.

But I simply can’t stand the music. I don’t know why Annie Ross was given the task of holding the whole film together musically. She can’t sing. I don’t care how much “soul” and “heartache” she has, I don’t want to hear her sing anymore. And I say that knowing the Bono and Edge wrote one of the songs.

The Player was fantastic and MASH is a classic and I still want to see Nashville, but I’m done with this one. I have four hours of bonus material on the other disc that I probably won’t get to now.

Best Director Oscar Nomination for Robert Altman.
7.9 Metacritic
*** Halliwell’s
**** Ebert

~~

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2006

December 26, 2006
DVD
USA
English
96 Minutes

No one makes it alone.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is something special. And your enjoyment of this bleak drama depends on how much you like seeing her go through terrible experiences over and over again. She plays Sherry, who is out of prison after three years and under the supervision of a strict parole officer. She heads back to her New Jersey hometown and attempts to reconnect with her young daughter, who has been living with her brother and sister-in-law. She is saddened to find that life went on pretty well without her and her daughter can’t decide whether to call her “Sherry” or “Mommy”. This breaks Sherry’s heart, but she shows it by hitting something or swearing loudly. Personal interaction is not Sherry’s strong suit.

Sherry also favors low-cut blouses that set about proving her lack of a bra collection. She realizes that her sexuality is her most potent weapon, using it to land jobs, have someone to talk to, and get some definition of caring from her own family. The sex is frank and shocking and Gyllenhaal should be commended for taking on the role. She even seems to get some sort of pleasure out of it. She seems to realize that sex comes in many shades: power, business, companionship.

At the beginning of the film, I was afraid that she’d never have an interaction with a male that didn’t end up with sex. Some men see her as an easy target, some see her longing “save me” face.

Sherry is also a drug addict and is in a 12-step program that struggles to keep her from shooting up in her run-down motel. This stuff we’ve seen before–the fixing, the fall from grace, the sadness at being weak. What’s new about this is the fact that there isn’t a question about Sherry’s love for her daughter. When we meet Sherry’s slimy father, we see how important it must be for Sherry to break the cycle. There arises an honest competition between the child’s biological mother and the person who filled that role while Sherry was locked up. The two women are actually old friends, but when issues of the child are raised, they both become instinctually ferocious towards each other.

Gyllenhaal is in every scene and I couldn’t get enough of her. She’s trashy and crude and sexy and naive. She works at a daycare center where her idea of a harmless playground activity, “see how hard you can punch my hand,” is quickly shot down by the rest of the staff. It also shows the parolee system working the way you wish it would–no excuses are believed and no sympathy is given.

All addicts are selfish and I found myself wondering if it wouldn’t have been better for the child if Sherry had simply disappeared from her life after getting paroled. But then again, I’m not a mother. Sherry can barely take care of herself, how’s she going to take care of her pride-and-joy, Alexis? Can someone like Sherry give up her need for attention long enough to care for another person?

Danny Trejo plays an ex-addict and he knows exactly what to do after one of Sherry’s inevitable relapses. He offers what the other men can’t seem to.

Really outstanding work in a hard-to-watch film.

6.6 Metacritic
A OG Entertainment Weekly
A- PR Christian Science Monitor
B NM Onion

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1940

December 26, 2006
TCM
USA
English
92 Minutes

An editor tries to stop his former wife, who is the paper’s star reporter, from marrying again.

Incredibly quick banter makes it a joy to watch. Cary Grant is the greatest movie star in history. And his easy-going demeanor in this film hides the fact that his character is more than a little bit of an asshole. He lies to everyone, sets up felonies, and tries to win back the woman he didn’t have time for previously. But put that aside because this film has death penalty issues, freedom of the press, corrupt politicians, suicide, and fond memories of particularly hot sex.

Very modern even today.

#94 Halliwell’s All Time List
#248 IMDB All Time List
**** Halliwell’s
**** Maltin
**** Videohound

~~

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1952

December 26, 2006
TCM
USA
English
103 Minutes

When talkies are invented, the reputation of one female star shrivels while another grows.

I must admit, it took me several sittings before I got through it all. It’s good–not too dated, but it just didn’t capture me. The songs are barely connected to each other by the plot about a silent film star whose nasally voice means she’s in for a surprise as movies add sound. Debbie Reynolds is a cute-as-a-button chorus girl who really can sing and dance and who captures Gene Kelly’s heart. Donald O’Connor is the funny guy without the fame. Kelly sort of bothered me. He did the whole 1950s style of grinning continuously and leaning his head back to denote sophistication. Reynolds was terrific and couldn’t be more fresh-faced.

One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the incredibly sexy dance number Kelly has with Cyd Charisse. I mean, seriously. How hot is she? I had no idea. The dance itself isn’t really necessary and some critics have singled it out as being the low point of the movie, but I could watch Charisse dance all day. I may need to go find her other stuff.

This film’s reputation as a classic is probably earned. The songs are fun and some of the dancing, especially when all three leads are dancing together is simply magical.

#12 Halliwell’s All Time List
#65 IMDB All Time List
**** Halliwell’s
**** Ebert
**** Maltin
**** Videohound

~~

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2005

December 26, 2006
DVD
USA
English
91 Minutes

Show Some Restraint.

The story of a god-fearing Nashville girl who stumbles her way into becoming the top light S & M model of all time. Seen in Playboy later, and “specialty” magazines earlier, Bettie Page had the rare mixture of playfulness and sultriness. She is played by Gretchen Mol, who some years ago was heralded as the next big thing, but all but disappeared until this role. She plays Page as nothing more than a complete sweetheart. There is family sexual abuse, then a pretty shocking event as a young divorcee, but after she falls in with the “photography enthusiast” crowd, her life seems fine. She poses in underwear at private parties where a strict “no touching” rule is enforced. At one of these suburban homes, different races and an incredibly butch lesbian are part of the “all inclusive” nature of the fetish. She works most regularly for a brother/sister team of nervous photoshop owners who don’t want any trouble. Bettie starts wearing higher heels, then more leather,then handcuffs, all the while giggling between shots. Her dreams of being an legitimate actress slowly fade away in exactly the same way Jenna Jameson’s do in the modern porn-mad world.

Gretchen Mol proves she has the body for soft core, and the smile of a southern farm girl. The powers that be in government are shown as killjoys, but if you look around the internet nowadays you can’t help but think they were probably right. Part of the fun of this movie is the sheer tameness of the then-shocking images. A topless girl posing on the sand can almost be seen on basic cable today.

One weakness is that we never get a sense of Page’s feelings about her own sexuality. We don’t see her in love or kissing or doing any non-photographed flirting. How did her youthful abuse shape her later sexuality? We have no idea from this film. We know she leaves the business to preach, but not much more.

6.4 Metacritic
***^ Ebert
*** Rosenbaum
B+ OG EW
B KP Onion

~~

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2005

December 23, 2006
Showtime
USA / UK
English
91 Minutes

A video artist begins a reluctant courtship with a shoe salesman whose wife is leaving him.

Stars John Hawkes, the only circumcised person in HBO’s Deadwood as a shoe salesman who is adjusting (badly) to life alone. He’s alone during those weeks when he two sons are staying with their mother. The kids are a revelation, especially the little kid, who is seven. In fact, there are a half-dozen children in this film who all appear to be living their roles rather than acting in them. The film is about loneliness and isolation, even while surrounded by people.

The woman is played by the director, Miranda July, who is so wacky as to be just this side of psychotic. She films a date between her left and right foot, marked “me” and “him”. She also sees everything a little differently than most people.

There are countless bits of dialogue that make no sense, but then they make all the sense in the world because real people don’t always make sense. There is a chatroom discussion between the seven-year-old and an unseen troller. There are neighborhood high school girls unsure of how the whole sexual seduction thing works. There is a ten-year-old girl who collects kitchen and bath items for her future wedding day.

It was really something. Funny and thoughtful. On paper, it probably seems like it was taken word-for-word out of the “Independent Artsy Film Playbook”, but somehow it rises above it all. I completely fell for it.

7.6 Metacritic
**** Ebert
*** Maltin

~~

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2006

December 20, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
117 Minutes

After you’ve seen THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes. But until then, here is a non-spoiler review.

Story of a smart man, lacking in post-high school education, who is trying to support a family in San Francisco in 1981. We know that he’s smart, no joke, because he can complete a Rubik’s Cube. Will Smith is believable as a guy so charming that you forget that he’s trying to sell you something or that he’s appeared at a job interview in a wife-beater and white paint streaks in his hair. His son is played by his real son and try as I might, I couldn’t find a single thing wrong with the kid’s performance. As Howard Stern sidekick, Artie Lange said, “how is that kid gonna pretend he’s poor?” But he somehow does.

Thandie Newton, who is one of the most beautiful women on the planet, appears here both ugly and bitchy, a rare double-feat for her. She has the thankless role of the wife who is unsatisfied with her husband’s job prospects. We never get a chance to see them happy together.

But the story is about father and son. Mishap after accident after misunderstanding happens to Smith as he tries to find a way to become a stockbroker. Some of these mishaps, especially one involving parking tickets are so ridiculous that they brought me out of the movie. I know that it’s based on a true story, but I’d love to hear how much of what happened to Chris Gardner as played by Mr. Smith really happened to Chris Gardner as lived by Mr. Gardner.

Gardner politely gets himself invited to a luxury box at a Niners game, talks his way into the Pacific Bell headquarters, uses his imagination to make sleeping in a BART restroom seem like a game and not a new family low.

One thing I will say is that I looked hard for San Francisco anachronisms and couldn’t find any, save the jumbotron at Candlestick. They even had a taxicab ad for PSA Airlines.

The entity that comes off looking the best, besides Mr. Gardner, is Glide Memorial Church, and Rev. Cecil, a Bay Area treasure even has his own style of acting chops. It’s a Hollywood story about not giving up. Will Smith is a Hollywood star who never seems to give up, ergo, relatively touching, but way too manipulative.

There is one scene in a boardroom that almost had me in tears. Almost.

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Actor for Will Smith

6.4 Metacritic

~~

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2006

December 13, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
Afrikaans / English
138 Minutes

After you’ve seen BLOOD DIAMOND, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

DiCaprio is a stud. Connelly is beautiful. Hounsou is angry and stupid.

Edward Zwick gets a free pass for life from me because he directed GLORY, one of my top five lifetime. He’s also been involved in several of my favorite TV shows. There were a lot of problems with this film, but it’s beautiful to look at and it brings an important topic to light.

Non-spoiler bullet points that are discussed in the podcast:

* not enough brutality
* love story cliches
* the chaos is incredibly filmed
* great child soldier indoctrination scenes
* terrific accent and pidgin by Leo
* subtle hip hop video

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Editing for Steven Rosenblum
~~Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio
~~Best Supporting Actor for Djimon Hounsou

6.4 Metacritic

~~

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2006

December 6, 2006
San Jose CA — Camera 12
USA
Spanish / English
120 Minutes

After you’ve seen BOBBY, listen to the MichaelVox and Tassoula K. “Cinebanter” podcast, which is available here or at iTunes.

Story of the last best hope for peace in the 60s. That’s not really true. It’s about the hotel where Bobby Kennedy drew his last breath. There are simply too many characters that we have no interest in. There’s a marriage breaking up, another one starting, a drug-addled hippie so ridiculous that it seemed like a joke. The cast is huge and fine, they just don’t have good roles to play. The exception is Freddy Rodriguez who plays the guy who ultimately cradles Mr. Kennedy’s head after the shooting. Lawrence Fishburne plays Obi Wan, Christian Slater plays David Duke, etc. Why is Helen Hunt even in this thing? Watch a documentary on Mr. Kennedy. The actual footage of him was far more compelling than anything in the fictionalized hotel scenes.

5.4 Metacritic

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2006

December 5, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
Australia
English
108 Minutes

More is never enough.

I am a charter passenger on the Abbie Cornish bandwagon. I recently saw SOMERSAULT and loved it. She is a sight to see. Not just because she’s gorgeous, but also because she’s a great actress. You can’t stop looking at her mixture of Nicole Kidman and the cutest hippy girl you ever saw. This story had shades of Sid and Nancy, in that there’s no doubt that this couple of addicts love each other completely. But the stuff they put each other and themselves through for their fix is as heartbreaking as you might expect. They start as normal middle class 20somethings who spiral into hookers and thieves.

Heath Ledger is the male counterpart. Much like Trainspotting, CANDY tries to show us early just how great heroin must feel.

5.7 Metacritic

~~

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2006

December 5, 2006
Campbell CA — Camera 7
UK / France / Italy
English / German / French
97 Minutes

Tradition prepared her. Change will define her.

Dust off the shelf, Ms. Mirren, the Oscar is yours. I was not excited about this film at all. I’m not a royalist and I have no love of London or England. But she got me. The story of a woman who has lived her whole life a certain way, and is supposed to change at an advanced age to a more touchy-feely modern way of life. It’s about the Queen of England immediately after the death of Princess Diana. All the footage of Diana is real. None of the footage of the Queen is.

They hide out immediately following the death on their huge estate in the country. They could scarcely be more out of touch, both literally and figuratively.

But the true-life story is only as good as the person playing the Queen. And Helen Mirren, whose been great in everything for years, is perfect. I can’t think of anyone who got close.

This is the best-reviewed film of the year.

2006 Oscar Nominations:
~~Best Picture
~~Best Director for Stephen Frears
~~Best Original Screenplay for Peter Morgan
~~Best Actress for Helen Mirren

9.1 Metacritic

~~

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(Fat Girl)
2001

December 2, 2006
Criterion DVD
France / Italy
French / Italian / English
86 Minutes

An overweight 12-year-old girl observes her pretty, 15-year-old sister’s sexual initiation on a summer holiday.

Controversial, sexually explicit story of two sisters on a vacation. One is beautiful and is ready to lose her virginity. The other is overweight and mocked by her older sister. The scenes of the college-aged boy telling the cutie everything she wants to hear to get into her pants is part-funny, part-sleazy. We see erections and violence and the last ten minutes caught me completely off-guard. Not exactly a great film, but I’m still thinking about it three weeks later.

The literal translation is “For My Sister” which makes it seem sweeter somehow.

7.7 Metacritic
* Halliwells
~~

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2006

December 2, 2006
PBS — P.O.V.
USA
Japanese
53 Minutes

As many as 4,000 teams enter, but only 49 remain to compete in Japan’s national high-school baseball tournament each year.

Much better than I thought. Has all the “honor above glory” of a great Japanese fiction. Kids work their whole lives to make it to the tournament. Even the cheering sections are graded on their performance and are seen fainting and sweating just as much as the players. There are tears galore as many a high school athlete’s dream comes to an end.

~~

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2005

December 2, 2006
PBS — P.O.V.
Sri Lanka / Canada
Tamil / English
78 Minutes

Human rights activist Dr. Rajani Thiranagawa was assassinated at the age of 35.

Important to watch if you only know Sri Lanka from 1980s Duran Duran videos. The Doctor was a great woman, but this story is so specific that it left me cold and not a little bit bored.

~~

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2006

December 2, 2006
Sundance
USA
English
58 Minutes

Three behavioral studies from the 1960s and 70s.

I was a Psychology major in college and I remember each of the studies and famous cases mentioned in this film. We have footage of the Milgram’s famous shock experiment, we have footage of the Stanford prison experiment and we have footage of the Kitty Genovese case whereby a woman was stabbed repeatedly over more than an hour in front of dozens of open windows and no one came to help. When I was in “Intro to Psych” and heard about these things, that’s when I knew I wanted to study more. People act differently when they are around others. This film does a great job of equating experiments from the past with real life Abu Ghraib atrocities. Fantastic. Should be shown to schoolkids.

~~

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1979

November 25, 2006
HBO
France / USA
French / English
108 Minutes

A French teenager elopes with an American girl, encouraged by a garrulous old pickpocket.

Diane Lane was already hot at the age of 14. It’s amazing really. Probably the only child actress who went from cute kid to beautiful adult. Had I seen this in the theaters at such an impressionable age, Ms. Lane would have been my first crush, no questions asked. Christy MacNichol who? Tatum O’Neill who? But alas, I didn’t see this when it first came out. Lane is the genius kid of a diplomat. She starts liking a French boy who is her mental equal, but nowhere near cute enough for her. The low point of the film is Laurence Olivier’s performance which is hammy and hyper and has absolutely no subtlety.

*** Maltin

~~

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2006

November 24, 2006
Modesto CA
USA / Germany / UK / Czech Republic
Serbo-Croatian / German / English
144 Minutes

I’m not the biggest Bond fan, but this one was cool. A great opening “street run stunt” with Bond chasing a bad guy through a construction site. A girl that Bond leaves behind to chase a different bad guy. Bond in love. Bond almost dead. Bond killing people in a messy way. Bond not caring what kind of cocktail he wants. Bond without the help of dozens of gadgets. I thought it was great. A bit long, with too many endings and a way-too-lengthy poker scene.

8.0 Metacritic

~~

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2006

November 23, 2006
DVD
Germany / USA
English
103 Minutes

“It’s not called gymnicestics”. Terrible film about rebel girl who is sent to gymnastics camp because going to juvey was too sketchy. We know she’s a rebel because she wears any number of 70s punk band t-shirts. She also has no respect for the authority of Jeff Bridges as an American Bela Karoly. Bridges must have lost a bet–there is no other reason for him to be in this film. The story is the redemption of the rebel and then midway through it becomes an indictment of the scoring system of gymnastics meets. Because the very brave topic of judging inflation hasn’t yet been adequately covered elsewhere.

Not even good for oogling teenage girls. Yuck.

5.3 Metacritic

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2004

November 23, 2006
DVD
China / Hong Kong
Cantonese / Mandarin
95 Minutes

Not as good as Shaolin Soccer, but has some laughs. Especially the scary landlady who merely yells to render her enemies helpless.

7.8 Metacritic

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2006

November 22, 2006
HBO
UK
English
82 Minutes

Computers that count votes in public elections can be vulnerable.

Midwestern housewife v. Diebold. See http://www.blackboxvoting.org/ for more information.

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2005

November 19, 2006
HBO
USA
Spanish / English
120 Minutes

A husband and wife are unaware that each is an international assassin who has just been assigned to kill the other.

Incredibly hot actors who can kill people using common household implements and are flirting as they shoot at each other. Mindless, but pretty.

5.5 Metacritic

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1996

November 18, 2006
IFC
Australia / Italy / France
English
92 Minutes

A child reacts to her parents’ impending divorce by retreating into her room and refusing to speak.

Absolutely fabulous performance by a seven-year-old Chloe Ferguson who NEVER speaks on camera. She acts wordlessly, with only voiceovers to help her. The inner-voice of a seven-year-old watching her family fracture is stunning. Her thoughts go from “Barbie is pretty” to “My father doesn’t have time for me anymore” to “now there’s too much room in their big bed”. A unique viewing experience.

9.1 A Consensus

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Written by Michael W. Cummins