2003 log (7)

(1 Jul) Être et avoir (2002, Nicolas Philibert)
[ I have very little patience for documentaries that just stick a camera someplace and record life at its most banal. With this “film”, which expects us to care about watching a French grade school teacher and his little students, I barely lasted 15 minutes. Zzzzzzzz… ]

(2 Jul) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003, Jonathan Mostow) [ review ] 90

(3 Jul) Gladiator (2000, Ridley Scott) [ review ] 85

(4 Jul) All the Real Girls (2003, David Gordon Green) [ review ] 93

(5 Jul) Say Anything (1989, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 97

(6 Jul) Miller’s Crossing (1990, the Coen brothers) 43
[ Thick plot, thick dialogue, thick characters… There’s hardly any room left to breathe! Oh, the Coens mix in some deadpan humor, stylish shoot-outs and colorful supporting players (Polito, Turturro and Buscemi are great), but overall the film feels to me like a well designed toy that’s not actually all that fun. You want to enjoy it, but it’s like it won’t let you. ]

(7 Jul) Tokyo Drifter (1966, Seijun Suzuki) 61
[ I had a hard time following this “incomprehensible” (says the Criterion notes!) story of double-crossings and triple-crossings, but I dug the energy of the actors, the go-go dancing at the Manhole Music Tea Room, the trippy use of color and the titular reformed Yakuza’s melancholy theme song. ]

(7 Jul) The African Queen (1951, John Huston) 90
[ Movie star heaven, with Humphrey Bogart doing his gruff man’s man boat captain against Katherine Hepburn’s sophisticated English lady. Laughs, thrills and sensuality ensue as the two come across white water rapids, wild animals and German soldiers. “I never dreamed a mere physical experience could be so stimulating!” ]

(7 Jul) Barbarella (1968, Roger Vadim) 69
[ This campy sci-fi flick stars Jane Fonda as a supremely arousing “astral navigatrix” who encounters blue bunnies, killer dolls, a blind angel, orchid-eating slaves, leather-men, an evil nympho Queen and more wacky stuff in her quest to rescue the elusive Duran Duran. This is like “Star Wars” on acid- and Viagra! ]

(8 Jul) Mon Idole (2002, Guillaume Canet) 46
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(8 Jul) Blood Simple. (1984, the Coen brothers) 87
[ More “straightforward” than most of the Coen’s subsequent films, there’s still a sardonic streak to their debut. Then there’s the virtuoso cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld, juicy dialogue and solid performances by Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, John Getz and M. Emmet Walsh. “Blood Simple.” is a shrewd, powerful noir thriller. Great use of The Four Tops’ It’s the same old song, too. ]

(9 Jul) Mortadelo y Filemon (2003, Javier Fessen) 51
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(9 Jul) Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003, Gore Verbinski) [ review ] 40

(10 Jul) Separações (2002, Domingos de Olivieira) 68
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(10 Jul) Switchblade Sisters (1975, Jack Hill) 85
[ Here’s a B-movie that’s outrageously over the top and campy, but the catfights and gunfights are genuinely exciting, the dialogue is snappy and all the crazy sexy cool chicks rock. As Quentin Tarantino (he rereleased the film through his Rolling Thunder company) points out in the commentary, Jack Hill is like the Howard Hawks of exploitation flicks and while “Switchblade Sisters” works as a terrific popcorn romp, this girl-gang take on “Othello” (seriously!) is also kind of moving as a tragedy. ]

(10 Jul) La Grande Séduction (2003, Jean-François Pouliot) 73
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(11 Jul) Popeye (1980, Robert Altman) 18
[ Unfunny slapstick, badly staged fights and stunts, Robin Williams mugging and mumbling, everyone else being even more obnoxious… Maybe they’re just being faithful to the cartoon, which was never that good anyway, or maybe the Film Snobs are right to say that Altman, Williams and producer Robert Evans were so coked-up that it’s no wonder that the movie is so unwatchable. I rented it only to hear Shelley Duval singing He Needs Me in its original context, but I’ll stick to “Punch-Drunk Love” etc. ]

(11 Jul) Rub and Tug (2002, Soo Lyu) 52
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(11 Jul) Cinemania (2003, Angela Christlieb and Stephen Kijak) 66
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(11 Jul) Swimming Pool (2003, François Ozon) [ review ] 79

(12 Jul) Des gars, des filles et un salaud (2003, Diana Lewis) [ review ] 33

(14 Jul) Modern Times (1936, Charlie Chaplin) 70
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(15 Jul) Bad Boys (1995, Michael Bay) 55
[ Right from the pre-titles opening minutes of his debut, Michael Bay established his style: golden skies, quick cuts, loud sound effects, fetishized violence… Tony Scott flirted with those before, but Bay’s taken it to the balls-to-the-wall extreme. For most critics, this makes him the Antichrist. Myself, I have a soft spot for this flashy noisy nonsense. Even the ever obnoxious Martin Lawrence can’t take away from the visceral impact of “Bad Boys”. Fast cars, hot women, shit blowing up, Will Smith running with his shirt open and his gun out… Sure, half an hour later you’ve already forgotten most of it but when it’s on, it’s ON! ]

(16 Jul) Steal it if you can (2002, Lim Kyung-su) 18
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(16 Jul) Tales from the Crapper (2003, Lloyd Kaufman) 54
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(17 Jul) Spellbound (2002, Jeffrey Blitz) [ review ] 47

(17 Jul) Manitou’s Shoe (2001, Michael Herbig) 21
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(17 Jul) The Kiss of Debt (2002, Derek Diorio) 32
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(17 Jul) I’ll be there (2003, Craig Ferguson) 26
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(18 Jul) Bad Boys II (2003, Michael Bay)[ review ] 75

(18 Jul) Stupidity (2003, Albert Nerenberg) 37
[ reviewed in my Comedia coverage ]

(21 Jul) Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003, Robert Rodriguez) [ review ] 34

(21 Jul) May (2003, Lucky McKee) 87
[ Creepy, gory, fucked up? Oh yeah, but more than anything this is sad sad sad. From the first time you see her, your heart aches for little May. Sheltered by her cold mother, ostracised by other kids because she’s “weird”, friendless but for a porcelain doll… What’s saddest of all is that she’s still full of love and hope, especially after she meets Adam. Suddenly everything is sweet and funny and sexy… But you just know this can’t end well, yet you can’t look away. Between the confident visual style, greatish music cues and Angela Bettis’s amazing performance, and Anna Faris hot as hell as May’s lesbian coworker (“Do you like pussy… cats?”), it’s all the more disconcerting that this movie barely saw a release. Now that it’s out on DVD, hopefully it can become the cult film it should be, like “Carrie” or “Audition”. ]

(22 Jul) Terror Firmer (1999, Lloyd Kaufman) 52
[ Piss, shit, vomit, torn apart limbs, chopped heads, exploding bodies, forced abortion, dick and fart jokes, gay and blind jokes, naked boobies, a girl masturbating with a pickle, ugly naked men, “life-affirming rape scenes”… Disgusting and juvenile, or funny and subversive? How about all of the above, Troma-style! ]

(23 Jul) Barton Fink (1991, the Coen brothers) 86
[ While concocting the Byzantine plot of “Miller’s Crossing”, Joel and Ethan Coen hit a bad case of writer’s block, out of which came out “Barton Fink”. John Turturro stars in the title role of a New York playwright who dreams of “a new living theater OF and ABOUT and FOR the common man”, but ends up selling out to go work in Hollywood. Writer’s block engulfs him as his hotel room becomes his own personal hell, with John Goodman’s brutish salesman as the damned-next-door. Alternately a hilarious satire of the 1940s movie biz and a surreal character study, “Barton Fink” is one of the Coen’s most expertly crafted and engaging films. ]

(23 Jul) In the Heat of the Night (1967, Norman Jewison) 85
[ Forced to investigate a murder case with the Mississippi cops who initially brought him in as a suspect, a Philadelphia “Negro” homicide detective clashes with the town Sheriff as they try to find the killer. Propelled by lively direction, a soulful score by Quincy Jones and powerful performances from Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, this Oscar winner for Best Picture is both a provocative drama about race relations and an entertaining mystery thriller, and maybe even the first blaxploitation flick. When you slap this Nigger, he slaps back! ]

(23 Jul) Fargo (1996, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 95

(24 Jul) Raising Victor Vargas (2003, Peter Sollett) [ review ] 91

(24 Jul) Bubba Ho-tep (2003, Don Coscarelli) [ review ] 67

(25 Jul) Seabiscuit (2003, Gary Ross) [ review ] 35

(25 Jul) Forrest Gump (1994, Robert Zemeckis) [ review ] 100

(26 Jul) Raising Arizona (1987, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 62

(27 Jul) The Hudsucker Proxy (1994, the Coen brothers) 87
[ Part of my new Directors Series ]

(28 Jul) Histoire d’O (1975, Just Jaeckin) 42
[ This softcore “classic” is nowhere near as effective as Jaeckin’s “Emmanuelle”, maybe because bondage leaves me indifferent, it doesn’t have exotic locations, and one can take only so much soft-focus and syrupy music before losing interest. Corinne Clery is easy on the eyes, though, and it’s fun to see Udo Kier looking so young. ]

(29 Jul) The Big Lebowski (1998, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 93

(29 Jul) O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 39

(29 Jul) The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 71

(30 Jul) Let Me Die a Woman (1978, Doris Wishman) [ review ] 46

(30 Jul) American Pie (1999, Chris & Paul Weitz) [ review ] 65

(31 Jul) American Pie 2 (2001, J.B. Rogers) [ review ] 65

June / August