2004 log (2)

(1 Feb) thirteen (2003, Catherine Hardwicke) 59
[ Grown men shouldn’t be troubled by teenie girlies, but when they’re all bare-midriff, make-up, piercings and visible thong, what’s one to do? Is Evan Rachel Wood riveting because she’s such a gorgeous tease or because she’s got the goods as an actress? Is “thirteen” a great snapshot of today’s young Americans, oversexed, casually interracial shopaholics? Or is it MTVed bullshit that’s both a melodramatic cautionary tale and near-sexploitation? Who knows, but one way or another this flick definitely won’t leave you indifferent. ]

(2 Feb) Janis et John (2003, Samuel Benchetrit) 27
[ A down on his luck insurance agent (Sergi Lopez) tries to hustle half a million francs from his burnt-out hippie cousin (Christophe Lambert) with the help of an actor posing as John Lennon (François Cluzet) and his own suburban housewife (the late Marie Trintignant) as Janis Joplin. Cluzet and Trintignant do a decent job of impersonating these rock icons and the movie’s soundtrack is awesome, naturally, but this remains little more than a silly babyboomer fantasy with barely enough amusing bits to fill a 5 minute skit. ]

(3 Feb) Monster (2003, Patty Jenkins) [ review ] 78

(4 Feb) Secret World Live (1994, François Girard) 80
[ While not on the level of his work with Genesis in the 1970s, Peter Gabriel’s latest solo tours have been wonderfully theatrical and visually inventive, thanks to creative input from Quebec’s own director and playwright Robert Lepage. Highlights abount: the red phone booth of Come Talk to Me, the oddball views of Gabriel from his “camera-helmet” in Digging in the Dirt, the revolving giant screen of Secret World and the band-into-suitcase illusion, the great duet with then-backup singer Paula Cole on Don’t Give Up and, of course, In Your Eyes, which never fails to move me. ]

(5 Feb) Madame Brouette (2004, Moussa Sene Absa) 64
[ This Quebec-Senegal-France co-production tells the story of Mati, a strong and honest woman trying to earn a living and raise her daughter in a corrupt world full of no-good men. The screenplay lacks subtlety and cohesion, but the film is touching nonetheless. It’s full of vibrant colors, flawed but lively people and great music, with wolof singers acting as a Greek chorus and a dreamy score by former Harmonium leader Serge Fiori and Majoly. ]

(6 Feb) Last Tango in Paris (1973, Bernardo Bertolucci) zzz
[ Marlon Brando is a great actor, but not so much in French. Maria Schneider can speak French, but no so much act in any language. Both can pretend-fuck well enough, but I didn’t see any signs of what Pauline Kael called “the most powerfully erotic movie ever made”. All I got was endlessly dull and pretentious blabbering, with a few forgettable sex scenes thrown in. ]

(6 Feb) Punch-Drunk Love (2002, P.T. Anderson) [ review ] 94

(9 Feb) Touching the Void (2004, Kevin Macdonald) [ review ] 90

(10 Feb) Bride of Frankenstein (1935, James Whale) 86
[ One of the great classic monster movies, with atmospheric B&W cinematography, a rousing score, wonderfully over the top performances and of course Karloff, ever so badass, funny and even moving. The misunderstood monster now demands a “woman… friend…” from Dr. Frankenstein but, while you can create life out of corpses and lightning (sort of), love is a tougher nut to crack! ]

(10 Feb) Dracula (1931, Tod Browning) 83
[ Damn, Bela Lugosi truly has an outstanding presence and, with the gothic art direction and a great new score by Philip Glass, this makes for a truly spellbinding horror classic. ]

(11 Feb) Daytona (2004, amérika orkestra) [ review ] 77

(12 Feb) The Dreamers (2004, Bernardo Bertolucci) [ review ] 60

(13 Feb) 50 First Dates (2004, Peter Segal) [ review ] 65

(14 Feb) Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003, Sam Weisman) 11
[ I usually love Happy Madison flicks and David Spade was hilarious in “Joe Dirt”, but this is just worthless. It’s not even moronic fun, it actually tries to be all sentimental and stuff, with Spade playing a former child star who hires a family to help him relive the childhood he never had. Ugh. I mean, zero laughs, not a single one! ]

(16 Feb) Effroyables Jardins (2003, Jean Becker) 16
[ This must be the tenth film made in the last few years that is set in occupied France. This time we follow Jacques Villeret, André Dussolier, Thierry Lhermitte and Benoît Magimel as they’re thrown into a hole by the Germans after a train crossover station is blown up. It’s a tough experience, but their ordeal is softened by a Nazi guard’s clowning, “Patch Adams”-style. And like in that Robin Williams movie, feeble humor and mawkish sentimentality bury whatever good intentions the filmmakers had. ]

(18 Feb) Duel (1971, Steven Spielberg) 57
(18 Feb) The Sugarland Express (1974, Steven Spielberg) 21
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(18 Feb) Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis) [ review ] 94

(19 Feb) Empire of the Sun (1987, Steven Spielberg) 51
(20 Feb) 1941 (1979, Steven Spielberg) 23
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(23 Feb) Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004, Guy Ferland) [ review ] 36

(24 Feb) Miaou! (2003, Vincent Bal) 40
[ A reporter in need of fresh scoops gets them through a mysterious young woman with the ability to talk with cats, who see and hear everything in town. The plot thickens when the journalist and his feline sources attempt to expose a respected industrialist as an animal abuser. “Miaou!” is an adaptation of the Annie M.G. Schmidt book “Minoes”, a big hit with children in the Netherlands. The gimmick of trying to make real cats’ mouths move along with dialogue is unconvincing, but in an amusingly goofy way. This is hardly a classic, but it’s a pleasant family movie. ]

(24 Feb) Always (1989, Steven Spielberg) 47
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(25 Feb) The Passion of the Christ (2004, Mel Gibson) [ review ] 90

(25 Feb) Amistad (1997, Steven Spielberg) 66
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(29 Feb) Scarlet Diva (2000, Asia Argento) 48
[ This is a semi-autobiographical flick (under)written and (surprisingly well) directed by the Goth sex kitten daughter of Italian filmmaker Dario Argento. Asia plays a self-loathing actress who does drugs and has lots of sex across Europe and… Well, that pretty much sums it up, there’s barely a story here and not much that is particularly memorable. Then again, as far as mood pieces and exercise in style go this is not uninteresting, and Asia is not too unpleasant to look at. ]

January / March