2006 log (2)

(1 Feb) Corpse Bride (2005, Tim Burton) 46
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(2 Feb) Gilmore Girls 1.8 (2000) [ review ]


(4 Feb) Curious George (2006, Matthew O’Callaghan) 40
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(4 Feb) La Saison des amours (2006, Jean-François Caissy) 48
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(6 Feb) Que Dieu bénisse l’Amérique (2006, Robert Morin) 42
[ What a letdown. I usually love Morin’s work and there are some enjoyably grotesque touches here, but overall this feels like a bad episode of Vice Caché, with a muddled whodunit and a half-assed 9/11 metaphor thrown in. ]

(6 Feb) Gilmore Girls 1.9-1.13 (2000) [ review ]

(9 Feb) Escape to Canada (2006, Albert Nerenberg) 57
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(9 Feb) Gilmore Girls 1.14 (2001) [ review ]

(11 Feb) Gilmore Girls 1.15 (2001) [ review ]

(13 Feb) Pollux – Le manège enchanté (2006, Jean Duval) 63
[ Reviewed for Voir ]


“A BOY AND HIS ERECTION”
(13 Feb) l’avion (2005, Cédric Kahn) 29 [ first viewing: w/o ]
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(13 Feb) Gilmore Girls 1.16-1.18 (2001) [ review ]

(14 Feb) Spymate (2006, Robert Vince) [ review ] 44

(14 Feb) Gilmore Girls 1.19 (2001) [ review ]

(15 Feb) Gilmore Girls 1.20 (2001) [ review ]

(16 Feb) Gilmore Girls 1.21 (2001) [ review ]

(17 Feb) West Side Story (1961, Robert Wise) [ review ] 95

(20 Feb) Gilmore Girls 2.1-2.4 (2001) [ review ]


(21 Feb) Sin City (2005, Robert Rodriguez) [ review ] 92

(23 Feb) Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages (2005, Michel Ocelot) 65
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(23 Feb) Gilmore Girls 2.5-2.6 (2001) [ review ]


(24 Feb) Tsotsi (2006, Gavin Hood) 84
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(25 Feb) Madea’s Family Reunion (2006, Tyler Perry) 27
[ You know, this wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t good, mind, but it wasn’t quite the abomination I expected. The Madea character (played by writer-director Perry in drag) is spectacularly unfunny and there’s a lot of boring soap opera melodrama, sappy rom-com and pseudo-Christian “family values” preaching. So what wasn’t so bad already? Well, I liked the soul soundtrack and the two resourceful lead actresses (Rochelle Aytes and Lisa Arrindell Anderson), who do what they can with the random tonal shifts. It’s certainly better than “Bringing Down the House”, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, etc. ]


(27 Feb) These Girls (2006, John Hazlett) 31
(Caroline Dhavernas, as always: 100)
[ Read my interview with Caroline in Voir! ]

(28 Feb) Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2006, Michel Gondry) 82
[ Part of the Directors Series ] and
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

January / March

2005 log (12)

(1 Dec) South Park 9.13 (2005, Trey Parker) 61
[ “Save the whales, motherfucker.” ]

(2 Dec) Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005, Alex Gibney) 74
[ Very well done documentary about the greedy bastards who screwed their company, the stock market and the energy industry out of billions of dollars. This is a comprehensive and dynamic film, with clever music cues and cutting title cards (“Useful idiots”, “Ask why, asshole”). Essential viewing to see how wrong capitalism can be. ]

(2 Dec) Batman Begins (2005, Christopher Nolan) [ review ] 90


(4 Dec) Melinda and Melinda (2005, Woody Allen) [ review ] 93

(5 Dec) Pride & Prejudice (2005, Joe Wright) [ review ] 51

(6 Dec) Brokeback Mountain (2005, Ang Lee) [ review ] 47

(7 Dec) Kirikou et la sorcière (1998, Michel Ocelot) 88
[ God bless the French. Who else would make a kids movies with a badass talking baby, a man-easting sorceress and more breasts on display than in a Russ Meyer flick? With colourful traditional animation and catchy songs by Youssou N’Dour, this is great fun for the young and old alike. “Kirikou n’est pas grand, mais il est vaillant!” ]

(8 Dec) Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages (2005, Michel Ocelot) 65
[ Less a sequel than a bunch of deleted scenes from the original story, this new film doesn’t have the power-of-myth of the first episode, but it’s still pretty fun. ]

(8 Dec) South Park 9.14 (2005, Trey Parker) 63
[ “A chick bleeding out her vagina is no miracle. Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time.” -Pope Benedict XVI ]

(9 Dec) Da Ali G Show – Da Compleet Second Seazon (2004) 90
[ Oh. My. God. I watched Season One a while back and thought it was funny enough, but this is hi-la-ri-ous. This is satire of the highest order, sending up American society through some of the most gloriously ridiculous (fake) TV personalities ever imagined: outrageously ignorant hip hop doofus Ali G, outrageously shameless Kazakh bigot Borat and outrageously gay Eurotrash queen Brüno. I don’t know what’s the most amazing, that Sacha Baron Cohen (who plays all three characters) manages to never crack up while saying and doing the most over the top and politically incorrect stuff, or that people are so clueless that they he’s screwing with them? In any case, this is pure comic genius. ]

(9 Dec) Syriana (2005, Stephen Gaghan) [ review ] 66

(12 Dec) The Family Stone (2005, Thomas Bezucha) [ review ] 68

(12 Dec) Cheaper by the Dozen (2003, Shawn Levy) 42
[ I got appointed to review “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” later this week so, professional that I am (in addition to being ignorant, incoherent and just like George W. Bush), I reluctantly set out to watch this first instalment, which I’d successfully avoided until now. Surprise, surprise, it’s not half bad! Between this and “Big Fat Liar”, I’m finding Shawn Levy to be just about the best working director of middlebrow family movies, Steve Martin is funny enough here (certainly more than in “Shopgirl”), Hilary Duff and Piper Perabo are pretty adorable, Ashton Kutcher’s his doofus self… Okay, we still have to suffer through a lot of slapstick, obnoxious child actors and mawkish sentimentality, but next to, say, the unwatchable “Yours, Mine & Ours” remake, this is a freakin’ masterpiece. ]

(13 Dec) Capote (2005, Bennett Miller) [ review ] 91

(14 Dec) King Kong (2005, Peter Jackson) 67
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(15 Dec) Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005, Adam Shankman) 5
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(16 Dec) The Constant Gardener (2005, Fernando Meirelles)
[ review ] 81

(19 Dec) Good Night, And Good Luck. (2005, George Clooney) [ review ] 70

(20 Dec) Mrs Henderson Presents (2005, Stephen Frears) 63
[ A widow gets to have hobbies, like embroidery, charities or, say, produce a nude musical revue. “Oh, the pussy!” This movie is an odd duck. It’s very theatrical, which makes sense considering the subject, then again director Stephen Frears isn’t fully committed in doing an all-out stage spectacle. I loved the old-fashioned numbers sung by Will Young (making a great impression in his first film performance), but too often we only see 30 seconds bit of them, we cut away to something else, they’re jammed into a montage, etc. In the press kit, Frears insists that “this isn’t Singin’ in the Rain“. Why the hell not? Okay, so you’d rather develop the characters and the historical background? Well, the film is rather loosely plotted and the dramatic weight of World War II isn’t really felt through, even when England is being bombed by the Germans. At least we get to see a lot of breasts, right? “Isn’t that delicious?” Indeed, and it’s amusing how, to persuade London’s official censor (Christopher Guest, nicely cast against type) that the nudity is “artistic”, the girls have to stand perfectly still, like living tableaux. There’s also enjoyment to be taken from the back and forth between cheeky Judi Dench and grumpy Bob Hoskins. So this is a fun film, no doubt, even if it doesn’t perfectly balance spectacular spectacular entertainment and historical drama. ]

(20 Dec) The Abyss (1989, James Cameron) 68
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(20 Dec) The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005, Ken Kwapis) [ review ] 84

(23 Dec) Munich (2005, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 90

(25 Dec) 9 songs (2005, Michael Winterbottom) zzz
[ 69 minutes of badly shot live performances of indie rock bands (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Franz Ferdinand, etc.) intercut with two not particularly attractive Brits fucking, licking and tying up each other, with a little bit of dull dialogue and duller narration for good measure. If this was a student film, you’d yawn and forget about it. Coming from respected filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, it’s a little more puzzling. So you’re puzzled, then you yawn and you forget about it. Heh. ]

(26 Dec) Crash (2005, Paul Haggis) [ review ] 72

(27 Dec) From Justin to Kelly (2003, Robert Iscove) [ review ] 65

(29 Dec) Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967, Stanley Kramer) 91
[ Part of the AFI list (#99) ]


(29 Dec) a lot like love (2005, Nigel Cole) 63
[ Hey, if my top critic (Lavoie’s more of an essayist) calls it the best film of the year, of course I’ll check it out, alright? Right away, I liked Ashton Kutcher cast against type as a timid geeky guy – this isn’t quite Jim Carrey in “Eternal Sunshine”, but same ballpark. Likewise, there’s only one Kate Winslet, but Amanda Peet does lovable wild gal pretty damn well. Then there’s the 1990s nostalgia thing (with nods to 90210, the Internet boom, Bon Jovi, etc.), which is ridiculously premature (ooh, remember the 1990s?), but not unenjoyable. Also, the filmmakers are clearly riffing on “When Harry Met Sally…”, which works nicely enough. All in all, good little movie. ]

(31 Dec) Giant (1956, George Stevens) 79
[ Part of the AFI list (#82) ]

November / January

2005 log (11)

(1 Nov) Strangers on a train (1951, Alfred Hitchcock) 91
[ “Wanna hear one of my ideas for a perfect murder?” Naughty boy Bruno wants to get rid of his father, tennis player Guy needs his wife out of the picture but she won’t give him a divorce. Killing them would help, but they’d be caught right away – they have the motive. But what if they swap murders? Adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel, this noirish Hitchcock thriller is subversively clever and darkly humorous. Particularly engrossing is how Bruno, smarmily played by Robert Walker, keeps revealing new layers of batshit insanity. The merry-go-round climax is pretty insane, too. ]

(2 Nov) South Park 9.10 (2005, Trey Parker) 79
[ MRS. GARRISON – “You can’t get married, you’re FAGGOTS!”
MR. SLAVE – “Aw, Jesus Christ!” ]

(5 Nov) L’annulaire (2005, Diane Bertrand) 53
[ Part of Voir’s Cinemania coverage ]

(7 Nov) pur♥ (2005, Jim Donovan) 70
[ Reviewed for Voir ]


(7 Nov) L’équipier (2005, Philippe Lioret) 46 (Émilie Dequenne: 100)
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(8 Nov) Lifeboat (1944, Alfred Hitchcock) 88
[ Hitch shows you he means business right from the opening shot, a long pan over the sea littered with debris and floating corpses. A ship going from New York to London has been torpedoed by a German U-boat, which was then sunk itself. Few have survived, but we eventually get to a lady sitting pretty in a big lifeboat, with her luggage (!), smoking a cigarette and pointing her camera at the surrounding dismay. She is soon joined by various other folks who swim up to or are picked up, including crew members, a nurse, a black steward, a millionaire, a woman and her baby… and the Nazi captain from the U-boat that shot them down.

“Throw the Nazi buzzard overboard!”
“That’s out of the question, it’s against the law.”
“Whose law? We’re on our own here, we can make our own law.”

The brilliant plotting, deft characterizations and sharp dialogue of “Lifeboat” come from renowned American author John Steinbeck, who crafts a survival story crossed with a morality play that can be darkly humorous or sometimes just dark, with everything from suicide, amputation, the elements, thirst, hunger and madness weighing down on the people in the boat. Add to that striking B&W cinematography and strong performances (especially from Tallulah Bankhead as the pretentious and bitchy photojournalist and John Hodiak as proletarian badass Kovac) and you’ve got another truly great picture from Hitchcock. ]

(9 Nov) South Park 9.11 (2005, Trey Parker) 71
[ Fancypants can scoff at me all they want for loving “South Park”, but Trey Parker is and remains a genius. Every goddamn episode I’m amazed at his capacity to use line delivery, music cues and the such so perfectly in service of satire or plain silliness. This fall in particular, every new episode seems to rely really heavily on warping film clichés, but with goofy twists. This episode, for instance, is like a horror movie story, except with red-haired kids – “gingers”!

CARTMAN – “Guys, don’t forget, Kyle is a daywalker. Daywalkers are half-ginger themselves. Make no mistake, ginger kids are evil. Remember who was ginger? Judas. And what did Judas do? He got Jesus killed, that’s all.” ]

(11 Nov) Paradise Now (2005, Hany Abu-Assad) 78
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(11 Nov) kiss kIss bAng banG (2005, Shane Black) [ review ] 59

(11 Nov) The Big Lebowski (1998, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 93

(14 Nov) Walk the Line (2005, James Mangold) [ review ] 67

(15 Nov) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005, Mike Newell)
[ review ] 71

(15 Nov) Casino (1995, Martin Scorsese) [ review ] 92

(16 Nov) South Park 9.12 (2005, Trey Parker) 65
[ “Dad! Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet!” ]

(17 Nov) Grizzly Man (2005, Werner Herzog) [ review ] 90

(19 Nov) The Beautiful Country (2005, Hans Petter Moland) 34
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(20 Nov) Les fautes d’orthographe (2005, Jean-Jacques Zilbermann)
[ Fat kid gets picked on in boarding school, does les 400 coups, etc. I didn’t hate the film, didn’t love it. I saw it, I won’t remember it in a week. Can’t even find the will to grade it. Moving on. ]

(21 Nov) Match Point (2005, Woody Allen) [ review ] 78

(21 Nov) Yours, Mine & Ours (2005, Raja Gosnell) 13
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(22 Nov) No Direction Home (2005, Martin Scorsese) 85
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(24 Nov) Cake (2005, Nisha Ganatra) 61
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(28 Nov) RENT (2005, Chris Columbus) [ review ] 83

(29 Nov) Désobéir (2005, Patricio Henriquez) 62
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(29 Nov) Madagascar (2005, Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath) Madagascar 26
[ This is smug and shrill and little more than a showcase for bad celebrity voice-overs: Ben Stiller’s witless lion, Chris Rock’s unfunny zebra, David Schwimmer’s annoying giraffe, Jada Pinkett Smith’s boring hippo… The animation’s pretty good, but so what? This should have lasted 10 minutes, with the lion eating all his friends as soon as they hit the wild. That woulda been cool. ]

October / December

2005 log (10)

(3 Oct) The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005, Nick Park) [ review ] 75


(4 Oct) A Conversation with Lars von Trier (2005, Eva Ziemsen)
[ To meet the director of “Dogville”, Eva Ziemsen was ready to fly to Denmark even though her interview demands had been refused. When she’s turned down again at Zentropa studios, she offers to conduct the interview naked! Ziemsen’s resilience is admirable, but von Trier ultimately doesn’t have anything new to say. ]

(4 Oct) Un homme sans histoire (2005, Pierre Maillard) 28
[ Part of Voir’s Nouveau Cinéma coverage ]

(4 Oct) Petit Pow! Pow! Noël (2005, Robert Morin) 90
[ Robert Morin is a video virtuoso, we already knew that, but with this incendiary new falsely (?) autobiographic yarn à la “Yes Sir! Madame”, he punches us in the gut once more. With nothing more than a voyeuristic camera and an accusatory voice pacing around an elderly man in a hospital room, Morin delivers an ultra dense, dynamic, sometimes funny but mostly disturbing film. Morin is an incredible storyteller and a fiercely clever filmmaker and it’s endlessly impressive how he manages to keep us hanging to his every word. All that time, the objective is pointed at objects, photographs, objects, body parts, the TV or out the window, punctuating the discourse with seemingly banal images that become evocative. “Petit Pow! Pow! Noël” is the story of a man who visits his dad on Christmas with the intent of making him suffer and eventually die for his crimes against his family. The catch is that whatever torture (psychological or otherwise) he inflicts on the old bastard, it pales in comparison with the daily pain and humiliation of having to be fed, washed and get your diapers changed. Even though the protagonist is motivated by hatred, the evident loss of human dignity on display makes a striking pro-euthanasia case. Morin’s movie takes a situation often seen in Québécois cinema, the neglected son who confronts his father on his deathbed (see also: “Les invasions barbares”, “La vie avec mon père”), but here it’s devoid of superfluous flourishes, romanticism or pretension. “Petit Pow! Pow! Noël” is a thought-provoking, unforgettable real-life horror tale. ]


(5 Oct) Musicals Great Musicals (1996, David Thompson) 72
[ This documentary retraces the history of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM, back when musicals were the biggest thing in Hollywood. With plenty of numbers from “Meet Me in St. Louis”, “Singin’ in the Rain”, “On the Town”, “An American in Paris”, “The Wizard of Oz” and other classics, featuring such wonderful stars as Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney and Fred Astaire… What a glorious feeling! ]

(9 Oct) Alias 5.2 (2005) [ review ] 61

(9 Oct) Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen) [ review ] 100


(10 Oct) November (2005, Greg Harrison) 55
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(11 Oct) Domino (2005, Tony Scott) [ review ] 33


(11 Oct) Danny the Dog AKA Unleashed (2005, Louis Leterrier) 46
[ Bob Hoskins is a bastard loan shark who uses Jet Li, whom he’s raised as a raging dog, to beat some sense in folks who won’t pay what they owe. The early scenes are pretty brutal and intense, if maybe a bit too darkly lit and frenetically cut. Then the movie switches to sentimentality, as a blind pianist and his stepdaughter take Li into his home and teach him to be human again. Corny, but with Morgan Freeman in the kindly mentor role and the very cute Kerry Condon as the girl, it goes down easy enough. You’ll guess that the good times won’t last and Li will have to put foot to ass again, etc. So nothing much to see here, just another Luc Bresson-written action flick, but a little better than you’d expect. Worth a rent. ]

(14 Oct) Elizabethtown (2005, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 90


(15 Oct) Demetan (1973) whaaaa?
[ Man, the Japanese are weird- even their kiddie shows are screwy! Maybe it’s my outlook that’s skewed, but I only watched two episodes and it just didn’t agree with me. You got all those victimized frogs struggling against these total seafood assholes, and it’s harsh, violent even! Freakin’ genius theme song, though. ]


(17 Oct) Zimandco (2005, Pierre Jolivet) 67
[ Part of Voir’s Nouveau Cinéma coverage ]

(17 Oct) Main Hoon Na (2004, Farah Khan) 84
[ Part of Michael Dequina’s Bollywood Starter-Kit ]


(18 Oct) Avanim (2005,Raphael Nadjari) 11
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(18 Oct) Manderlay (2005, Lars von Trier) [ review ] 92

(19 Oct) South Park 9.8 (2005, Trey Parker) 78
[ “If you’re so caring, Kyle, why don’t you share your Jew-gold with the people caught in the flood?”
They say comedy is tragedy plus time, but the South Park motto seems to be, why wait? New Orleans isn’t nearly dry yet and they’re already spoofing Katrina. It’s so wrong… but funny! ]

(21 Oct) Thumbsucker (2005, Mike Mills) [ review ] 70


(21 Oct) Wag the Dog (1997, Barry Levinson) 86
[ Hadn’t seen this since it was released in theatres, and it’s still as clever, funny and prescient as ever. David Mamet’s screenplay perfectly satirizes both politics and show business, with Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro at the top of their form as the go-to guys when it comes to “producing” a war to divert the public attention. Anne Heche, Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson and Kirsten Dunst are also amusing in smaller parts. ]

(24 Oct) Elizabethtown (2005, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 90


(24 Oct) Saw (2004, James Wan) 37
[ This horror flick starts out with a wickedly brilliant set-up: two strangers in a filthy bathroom, chained to the walls for reasons unknown, are put through a series of potentially lethal puzzles. But instead of going for a Hitchcockian claustrophobic thriller all the way, the movie keeps cutting to cops investigating some of the Jigsaw Killer’s other set-ups, CSI-style, or like a cross between David Fincher’s “Se7en” and “The Game”, but with diminishing returns. Still worth checking out if you’re into the bleak stuff and don’t mind bad acting and plot holes too much. ]


(25 Oct) Saw II (2005, Darren Lynn Bausman) 53
[ Comme c’est souvent le cas avec les films d’horreur, les producteurs de Saw pensaient faire une suite avant même que le premier volet sorte en salles. Ce qui est inhabituel, c’est que Saw II se révèle supérieur à son prédécesseur, malgré l’effet de surprise qui n’y est plus. On retrouve les mêmes emprunts à David Fincher, du tueur en série moralisateur de Se7en aux épreuves mortelles de The Game, mais l’intrigue est mieux ficelée et les exécutions, plus sanglantes que jamais. Après un prologue offrant une variation de la trappe à ours inversée du film précédent jumelée à un hommage à Un Chien andalou, nous faisons connaissance avec le détective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg, ex-New Kids on the Block recyclé en acteur de série B). Ayant réussi sans grande difficulté à arrêter Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), il réalise rapidement que sa capture fait partie du plan du meurtrier psychopathe. Ce dernier a en effet déjà enfermé huit autres personnes dans l’une de ses chambres de torture, y compris le fils de Matthews. Avec ses personnages stéréotypés (la blonde qui braille, le latino qui gueule, etc.) qui ne représentent que diverses façons de gérer la peur et la souffrance, Saw II propose des transitions plus fluides entre la lutte pour leur survie des prisonniers et l’enquête de la police. Qui plus est, la tension demeure constante. Somme toute, l’ensemble se révèle plus linéaire et plus conventionnel que son prédécesseur, mais aussi plus efficace. ]

(26 Oct) Douches froides (2005, Antony Cordier) 55
[ Part of Voir’s Cinemania coverage ]


(26 Oct) Shopgirl (2005, Anand Tucker) 31
[ Reviewed for Voir ]


(27 Oct) La première fois que j’ai eu 20 ans (2005, Lorraine Lévy) 17
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(27 Oct) South Park 9.9 (2005, Trey Parker) 64
[ BUTTER’S MOM – “Nooo! Noooooooooo! My son is dead!!!”
CARTMAN – “Nice.” ]

(28 Oct) Touch the Sound (2005, Thomas Riedelsheimer) 66
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(31 Oct) je préfère qu’on reste amis… (2005, Éric Toledano & Olivier Nakache) 32
[ Part of Voir’s Cinemania coverage ]

September / November

2005 log (9)

(2 Sept) La rue zone interdite (2005, Gilbert Duclos) 63
[ Review / Interview for Voir ]

(3 Sept) Filles Perdues Cheveux Gras (2002, Claude Duty) 76
[ A cheapie but lively contemporary musical about three depressed young women looking for themselves. The electro-pop songs are beyond campy (but catchy as hell) and the blend of melodrama and silliness doesn’t always work, but the actresses are amusing, especially the adorable Marina Foïs as an alcoholic hairdresser mourning her cat. This is clearly not for all tastes but I loved the stupid thing. ]

(5 Sept) Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962, Agnès Varda) 70
[ Stunning B&W cinematography, a dense soundtrack and sparse existential dialogue and narration make up this Nouvelle Vague slice of life about a woman coming to terms with her seemingly imminent mortality. Unfolding in (almost) real time, this is a tale about nothing and everything: hanging out in cafés, riding in cars, meeting with men, singing songs, walking through Paris on the first day of summer… ]

(6 Sept) Sans toit ni loi (1985, Agnès Varda) 67
[ Sandrine Bonnaire plays a drifter whose body is found frozen in a ditch one morning. No one really knows who she was or where she was from, but we get glimpses of what she’d been up to in the winter months leading to her lonely death through the recollections of the various people she briefly encountered on her journey to nowhere. Whereas “Cleo de 5 à 7” was a slice of life, this is a whole sliced bread. Instead of sticking with a woman for two hours, she’s seen through a multiplication of points of view, little moments out of context, like in life. Incidentally, this brisk catching up to Varda’s oeuvre makes me wonder why, in all the recent Gus Van Sant articles I’ve read, there wasn’t any mention of the First Lady of French cinema as an influence. “Sans toit ni loi” in particular is very similar in style and tone to Van Sant’s “Last Days”. ]

(6 Sept) Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (2000, Agnès Varda) 82
[ Less a documentary than an essay on film (video, actually), this has Varda exploring the world of gleaners, i.e. those who pick up vegetables or other things that have been left behind or thrown away, by gleaning around herself. As if on a spontaneous scavenger hunt, she goes from one place to another and meets various people, following fascinating strands of thought. Her theme is clear (waste vs. recycling), but she’s not prisoner of it – much of the film’s pleasure comes from how it often goes off course and becomes more about poetry than information. ]

(7 Sept) Le Mouton enragé (1974, Michel Deville) 75
[ A seemingly mild-mannered banker (suave Jean-Louis Trintignant) date-rapes a young woman (an amusing Jane Birkin), who falls in love with him anyway, then he seduces the wife (the extraordinary Romy Schneider) of a college professor and various other women. Much sex ensues, and even more talk about it. Trintignant’s character is coached through this -and issues of money and society- by a mentor (played by Jean-Pierre Cassel), in a dynamic somewhat reminiscent of the ones in “Swingers”, “Fight Club”, “Roger Dodger”, etc. Make no mistake, this is a French film, so it comes down to a lot of sex and even more talk about it, but the energetic camerawork and often nervous editing keep things goings at an exciting pace. ]

(8 Sept) MARRON la piste créole en Amérique (2005, André Gladu) 64
[ Review / Interview for Voir ]

(8 Sept) Nuit d’été en ville (1990, Michel Deville) 47
[ More sex, more talk, more Saint-Saëns music, Marie Trintignant instead of daddy Jean-Louis – Deville is quite consistent, it seems… Except that this later film is much less dynamic, taking place entirely in an apartment, where Trintignant spends the night sexing and talking with one night stand Jean-Hughes Anglade. This sounds staged, claustrophobic and potentially boring, and it kind of is, but I liked the way the camera kept exploring the lovers’ naked flesh and how they gradually covered themselves and put clothes back on as they got to know each other more. ]

(12 Sept) Barmaids (2005, Simon Boisvert) 51
[ Right from the opening minutes, one can see a huge improvement from the poor production values of Boisvert’s previous films. Maybe it’s the fact that Diana Lewis isn’t directing (she spends half the film in the swimming pool instead), but “Barmaids” has surprisingly decent cinematography, with actual exteriors, more appealing sets, a few flashy editing tricks… This feels like a real movie, not an episode of Virginie! Boisvert once again plays a jerk who casually cheats on his girlfriend, with barmaids this time. The screenplay offers some good insights into relationships and the way men and women respectively behave, generally not knowing what they want and being rather hypocritical about it. The acting is still a bit rough around the edges, but the actresses are hot and often undressed and the flick kept me involved throughout. ]

(14 Sept) The Cross and Bones (2005, Paul Carrière) 65
[ In the Alberta Badlands, three camps neighbour each other in the rocky Drumheller valley: paleontogists digging for dinosaur bones, an amateur theatre troop rehearsing the Passion of the Christ and 3000 bikers holding their annual rally of drunken debauchery. Through this improbable juxtaposition, director Paul Carrière pieces together a rather original documentary that dives right into the Evolution Schmevolution debate between creationists and scientists. On top of that, the film presents a series of colourful characters that would feel at home in a Christopher Guest movie. The Remax realtor whose business card shows him in full crucified Jesus regalia in particular is as ridiculous as anyone in Waiting for Guffman. ]

(15 Sept) Quand la vie est un rêve (2005, Charles Gervais) 62
[ De l’époque de l’esclavage à la misère actuelle, en passant par dictatures et catastrophes, Haïti ne l’a jamais eue facile. Narré par Frédéric Pierre, ce documentaire retrace les circonstances historiques ayant mené aux problèmes accablant toujours les Haïtiens. Le film donne la parole à des intervenants de toutes les classes sociales, du jeune de la rue au chef d’entreprise, et capte (souvent par caméra cachée) certaines des pratiques par lesquelles les plus désespérés tentent d’échapper au chaos ambiant, que ce soit l’exil, la prostitution, les milices révolutionnaires ou les rituels vaudou. Le film n’offre aucune solution valable pour Haïti, mais beaucoup d’autres se sont aussi butés à ce problème depuis 200 ans. ]

(16 Sept) Niagara Motel (2005, Gary Yates) 48 (Caroline Dhavernas: 100)
[ Après avoir interprété avec brio une jeune femme confuse travaillant dans une boutique de souvenirs de Niagara Falls dans la télé-série injustement avortée Wonderfalls, la jolie Caroline Dhavernas demeure en terrain connu en tenant le rôle d’une jeune femme tout aussi confuse qui est serveuse dans un resto de Niagara Falls. Un maquereau sans envergure (Kevin Pollack), un concierge alcoolo (Craig Ferguson) et une mère de famille (Wendy Crewson) songeant à devenir prostituée sont quelques-uns des autres personnages dont les destinées s’entrecroisent dans cette comédie de mœurs de Gary Yates, qui aspire clairement aux sommets atteints par les films de Robert Altman (Nashville) et Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia). Malheureusement, une surabondance de longueurs et de ruptures de ton freine les ambitions du réalisateur canadien ]

(16 Sept) Just Like Heaven (2005, Mark Waters) [ review ] 64

(17 Sept) L’ennui (1998, Cédric Kahn) 69
[ A philosophy professor tries to rationalise why he’s so obsessed with a big-titted teenage girl (the incredibly sexy Sophie Guillemin) even though she’s deeply boring and dim-witted. The film cleverly and entertainingly gets to the bottom of that eternal mystery of how man often desires something even though he knows it’s wrong for him. ]

(18 Sept) Roberto Succo (2001, Cédric Kahn) 67
[ Another pretty teenager (Isild Le Besco) unwisely gets involved with an obsessive, potentially dangerous man. No philosophy here, but lots of crime and violence. I’m not sure what I think of the film on its own, but taken with Kahn’s previous (“L’ennui”) and next (“Feux Rouges”) movies, it makes for a rather remarkably cohesive thematic trilogy with enough unhealthy relationships and feelings to make Hitchcock queasy. ]

(19 Sept) an unfinished life (2005, Lasse Hallström) [ review ] 54

(19 Sept) Scrap Heaven (2005, Lee Sang Il) 46
[ Un secrétaire suicidaire prend en otages les passagers d’un autobus de nuit: Shingo, un policier poltron, Tetsu, un concierge anarchiste, et Saki, une pharmacienne borgne. Ces trois inconnus se recroisent par la suite dans diverses circonstances tournant autour d’étranges tentatives de déclencher une révolution à partir d’un cabinet de toilette. Fort d’un scénario aux nombreux rebondissements et d’une mise en scène tape-à-l’œil, Scrap Heaven se veut un genre de Fight Club japonais, avec ses bastons déchaînées et ses actes de terrorisme plus ou moins acceptables. L’extrême violence est tempérée par l’humour absurde qui se glisse entre les moments plus dramatiques, mais le film s’essouffle en fin de parcours et son propos sociopolitique n’est pas très clair. ]

(19 Sept) Hormigas en la boca (2005, Mariano Barroso) 39
[ À sa sortie de prison, Martín, un voleur de banques espagnol, se rend à La Havane pour retrouver son ancienne complice et petite amie qui s’est enfuie avec leur butin dix ans auparavant. L’oncle de cette dernière lui annonce qu’elle est morte, mais Martín est toujours déterminé à récupérer son argent. Il se retrouve alors impliqué malgré lui dans un violent conflit entre une veuve assoiffée de vengeance et un sénateur corrompu. Ce film noir moderne est plutôt bien ficelé et bénéficie de l’atmosphère décadente du Cuba d’avant la révolution. Par contre, le récit non linéaire n’arrive pas à conserver notre intérêt et les motivations des personnages ne sont pas toujours convaincantes. Et si Eduardo Fernandez interprète Martín avec intensité, Ariadna Gil n’impressionne pas dans le rôle de la femme fatale. ]

(19 Sept) A History of Violence (2005, David Cronenberg) [ review ] 93

(21 Sept) Inside Deep Throat (2005, Fenton Baily & Randy Barbato) 64
[ An equally insightful and entertaining documentary in the vein of “The Legend of Ron Jeremy”, this film borrows much of the soundtrack and visual style of “Boogie Nights” to recall the infamous history of “Deep Throat”, allegedly the most influential porno of all time – or at least the one that got the most mainstream attention. With interventions from the likes of Larry Flynt, Hugh Hefner, John Waters and Dr. Ruth, “Inside Deep Throat” exposes the hypocrisy of the American people, who consume billions of dollars of porn every year but support politicians and courts that strike down on obscenity. The money shot (Linda Lovelace performing the titular sex act) comes a little too early, but the movie remains interesting enough throughout. ]


“A BOY AND HIS ERECTION”
(23 Sept) l’avion (2005, Cédric Kahn) w/o
[ From sex (“L’ennui”), violence (“Roberto Succo”) and alcohol (“Feux Rouges”) to a kiddie flick? Interesting. Or not, as the case may be. For a couple of reels, I figured there might be entertainment value in the Freudian subtext of a young boy discovering the magical pleasures of playing with a phallic-shaped toy plane, but the brat child actor is so obnoxious and the film is so touchy-feely that I had to d’angelo out of the almost empty FIFM representation. ]

(23 Sept) Saints-Martyrs-des-damnés (2005, Robin Aubert) 57
[ You have to appreciate a film that can both quote Rimbaud (“Je me crois en enfer, donc j’y suis.”) and milk a three-breasted girl joke for all its worth. For his first feature, Robin Aubert set out to make a film that reflects how he sees himself, hard to connect with but open to it. The result is a film capable of greatness, but often self-indulgent. The story of a Weekly World News-like tabloid reporter (François Chenier) and his best buddy photograph (Patrice Robitaille) who are sent to a small town where mysterious disappearances have been occurring for decades, “Saints-Martyrs-des-damnés” is a supernatural thriller sometimes verging on self-parody, yet sometimes seeming to be taking its cheap trick scares too seriously. Typically great cinematography by Steve Asselin and music by Yves Desrosiers go a long way in keeping this from feeling like a B-movie, but the constant sudden appearances of Creepy Ghost Bride with accompanying loud orchestral thumps get tiresome. Still, there are some memorably grotesque touches (the serveuse sexée and her trisomic teddy bear-carrying son, the masked mechanic, etc.), and the achingly beautiful Isabelle Blais is worth the admission price by herself, even though she does little more than play slide guitar to cows. Diehard fans of Lynchesque nonsense, doppelgangers and giant mutant brain thingies will probably like the flick more than I did, but one way or another, this is a promising debut. ]

(24 Sept) In Her Shoes (2005, Curtis Hanson) [ review ] 82

(26 Sept) AMNÉSIE! l’énigme James Brighton (2005, Denis Langlois) 6
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(26 Sept) Brødre (2005, Susanne Bier) 70
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(27 Sept) Separate Lies (2005, Julian Fellowes) 58
[ Reviewed for Voir ]

(28 Sept) Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (2005, Pete Michels) meh
[ “Family Guy” has always been hit and miss, but usually they throw so many gags at you that some of them are bound to be funny. For this straight-to-DVD feature, though, they slowed down the pace, stretching jokes way too much and repeating themselves quite a lot. There are maybe a dozen good laughs, which would be great if this was a regular 22 minute episode, but it’s not a very impressive ratio when spread over 90 minutes. For diehard fans only. ]

(29 Sept) Alias 5.1 (2005) [ review ] 65

(30 Sept) Pretty Persuasion (2005, Marcos Siega) 69
[ “Election” meets “Mean Girls” meets “Wild Things” meets “In the Company of Men” meets… Okay, this is not exactly an original film, but who cares? Irreverently multiplying racist, sexist, homophobic and downright inhuman “jokes”, this merciless satire is actually not that much worse than what’s really going on through America these days. Ultimately less funny than tragic, “Pretty Persuasion” is most notable for how it gives Evan Rachel Wood another chance (after “Thirteen”) to show how seductive, disturbing and moving she can be as an actress. “I don’t know how to be sexy! I mean, I’m only fifteen!” ]

August / October

2005 log (8)

(1 Aug) Haute Tension (2005, Alexandre Aja) [ review ] 44

(2 Aug) La Dernière Incarnation (2005, Demian Fuica) 36
[ While bird-watching in the woods, dorky accountant Marc-André (Gilbert Turp) witnesses the arrival of a naked woman (Catherine Florent) in a burst of electricity, placenta and puke. He takes her home and soon realises that he didn’t find her, she found him. She is Mirah, an extraterrestrial being who keeps reincarnating herself across the universe. She hasn’t been on Earth since 5000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, where she made a mistake that involved Marc-André in a previous life. Now she’s back to fix things, digging out the dumbfounded Banque Nationale employee’s third eye and guiding him in the use of supernatural powers he didn’t know he possessed. This sounds really bizarre and complicated, but I have barely touched upon the surface of the incomprehensible but intriguing inter-dimensional mythology against which the action is set. “La Dernière Incarnation” is a thoroughly independent local production that doesn’t always works but that is admirable for its originality and ambition. It could be more tightly plotted and the way it randomly swings between taking itself seriously and going for camp is puzzling, but the special effects are surprisingly decent and most of the performances are entertaining. Leonardo Fuica is imposing as the Lovecraftesque villain, Emmanuel Auger and Dominic Darceuil play well off each other as mysterious men in black sent to investigate the goings-on and Catherine Florent is a lot of fun as Mirah, who spends the whole film getting use to her (gorgeous) new body, kind of like Jeff Bridges in Starman. As for Gilbert Turp, I’m not sure if he’s a bad actor or if it’s the characters he plays that are supposed to be this offbeat, but that fits with the overall strangeness of the movie. Your enjoyment of “La Dernière Incarnation” will vary depending on your tolerance for long “mind battles” in which actors make mean faces and hold out their hands like mimes while being blown at by wind-machines. ]


(2 Aug) Doctor Zhivago (1965, David Lean) 70
[ Part of the AFI list (#39) ]


(4 Aug) San-Antonio (2005, Frédéric Auburtin) 8
[ Starring Gérard Lanvin as the titular character, who might get more tail than James Bond but whose detective work makes Inspector Clouseau look like Sam Spade, and Gérard Depardieu at his most loafish as his partner, “San-Antonio” is a dumbfounding succession of moronic gags, feeble action scenes and random oral sex and ass-grabbing. I haven’t read a single title in the San-Antonio series, but if the best they could squeeze out of 175 books worth of material is this irrevocably awful picture, I can’t imagine how painful it must be to go through thousands of pages of this crap.

The contempt the flick inspired in the French press is pretty funny, though:

Studio Magazine
Adaptation ratée de Frédéric Dard (…) En confondant truculence et vulgarité, le film passe à côté de sa cible.
Ciné Live
Frédéric Dard n’aurait pas aimé la sale blague, dans cette adaptation où les mots d’auteur s’écrasent comme des étrons.
TéléCinéObs
Une bonne interprétation, mais une intrigue en toc qui ressemble à une parodie fauchée de James Bond. Ca lasse.
MCinéma
Un package commercial où il est difficile de s’amuser à moins d’avoir forcé sur le rosé.
Le Figaro
Un film creux : les répliques sont grassement vulgaires, l’action part dans tous les sens, les situations sont ridicules.
Les Inrockuptibles
Face à un Lanvin minaudant, Depardieu compose un Bérurier éructant et pelotant à tout va dans cette grosse production franchouillarde.
Télérama
Rien ne va dans ce film : scènes d’action ruineuses pour les jeunes, tirades supposées salaces pour les vieux… Le film ne cesse de se zapper lui-même.
Film de culte
La femme selon “San Antonio” n’est destinée qu’à deux choses: lécher ou se faire lécher. Et si elle prend une baffe, ce n’est pas grave du moment qu’on l’aime… ]


(4 Aug) Heaven (1998, Scott Reynolds) 63
[ Produced then shelved by Miramax, “Heaven” ended up going straight to video, but not before playing at the 1999 Fantasia Festival, winning the Best International Film Award and catching the eye of a Comic Book Guy who, years later, heartily recommended this unknown little flick to me. Following a gambler who must deals with his ex-wife trying to get sole custody of their son, a psychic stripper chick with a dick and a bunch of double-crossing assholes, it’s less interesting for the story than for the way it’s told. Non-linear chronology is nothing new (Kubrick was at it already in 1956’s “The Killing”), but it’s particularly cleverly used here, certainly better than in the other “post-modern” crime flicks that followed in the wake of Tarantino’s re-actualisation of this storytelling style. “Heaven” is still pretty derivative and the uneven acting doesn’t help, but I can see what got the Fantasia crowd and Comic Book Guy excited. ]

(5 Aug) Last Days (2005, Gus Van Sant) [ review ] 77


(7 Aug) Bonnie and Clyde (1967, Arthur Penn) 69
[ Part of the AFI list (#27) ]


(7 Aug) The Asphalt Jungle (1950, John Huston) 65
[ Herr Doctor’s got a plan for a caper, but he needs a financier, a box man, a getaway driver and a hooligan. And when you’re doing a heist, the most people get involved, the most double-crosses and finking are likely to happen. Like “The Maltese Falcon”, Huston’s earlier film noir, “The Asphalt Jungle” has stark B&W cinematography, snappy dialogue, tough guys and knockout dames (including a young Marilyn Monroe), but it sorely lacks a Bogart-strong leading man. Nonetheless, this twisted and morally ambiguous yarn about the greed and treachery of men kept me engrossed. ]

(8 Aug) Villa Paranoia (2005, Erik Clausen) 52
[ A depressive failed actress is hired by a depressive chicken producer to take care of his depressive elderly father. This is a grey, overcast, very Scandinavian melodrama, but it’s occasionally quite humorous. Sonja Richter’s character is kinda kooky, like a Danish “Amelie”, pretending to be a pyromaniac or a bank robber for fun. Director Erik Clausen is slow getting to his point, but it does pay off sentimentally. More instantly rewarding is Manuel A. Codina’s “Emilio”, a cool short film being shown before “Villa Paranoia”, starring Mario Saint-Amand as a giant cat. ]

(9 Aug) Boudu (2005, Gérard Jugnot) 21
[ Between “Oui, mais”, “Monsieur Batignole” and “Les Choristes”, Gérard Jugnot might just be the most sympathetic working French actor. What’s the idea of building a whole film around the constant abuse and humiliation of his character and expecting it to be hilarious? Maybe I’m too sensitive, but watching poor old Jugnot made to feel like the biggest loser in the world for 90 minutes was an extremely depressing experience. Boudu has Jugnot playing Christian Lespinglet, an art dealer who saves a man trying to commit suicide and kindly takes him home, then realizes that getting rid of the guy is impossible. This is almost exactly the same premise as “Après Vous”, released earlier this year, except that the lost soul is a fat smelly wino (a typecast Gérard Depardieu). Lespinglet understandably wants to get rid of the big slob, who soon proves to be not only ungrateful but clearly psychotic, but his bored childless wife (Catherine Frot) insists that they should keep taking care of him. The ensuing scenes follow the beats of a rollicking farce, with the characters constantly exchanging quips and slaps and every other scene ending with someone slamming the door. But as mentioned, these proceedings feel more cruel than funny. Christian is just a nice guy trying to get along, and all he gets for it is having his home and his wife taken away from him by a disgusting stranger. Worse, the crazy homeless jerk is glorified by the film, which expects us to learn valuable lessons from this supposedly free and charming wild child who’s never worked a day in his life. How much liberal guilt do you need to come up with such hogwash? What’s wrong with being educated, earning a living and having good manners? ]

(9 Aug) Ice Princess (2005, Tim Fywell) 80
[ Science geek Casey (Michelle Trachtenberg) is brilliant but unpopular, her feminist mother (the GREAT Joan Cusack) wants her to pursue this great academic career, but what she really wants to do is figure skate.
“You can’t do this, Casey. You’re giving up your dream.”
“No, mom. I’m giving up your dream. I’m going after mine.”
It ain’t easy being a teenage girl… But why am I identifying so much with this? I shouldn’t be moved to tears by corny Disney tween flicks, but here I am, desperately rooting for Casey to follow her dream, give the bitches their comeuppance, win her mom’s approval and get it on with the Zamboni driver! Whatever critical objectivity I have left can see that this is just a string of sports movie clichés and girly pop montages, but I’m loving it so much! There’s actually some good satirical stuff about high school athletes and the pressure their parents put on them, and Trachtenberg pours so much pathos mixed with good spirit into Casey that we can’t help but be with her every step of the way. YMMV, etc. ]

(12 Aug) Broken Flowers (2005, Jim Jarmusch) [ review ] 38

(14 Aug) Sealab 2021 – Season One (2000) 63
[ A sly spoof of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, “Sealab 2021” is filled with non sequiturs, absurdity and political incorrectness. The voice actors are particularly funny, the cruddy animation is oddly charming and the theme song is as catchy as it gets. “It’s like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain!” ]

(15-19 Aug) Six Feet Under – Season Four (2004) [ review ]

(19 Aug) The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005, Judd Apatow) [ review ] 74

(19 Aug) The Hamster Cage (2005, Larry Kent) 66
[ The latest from the unheralded godfather of independent Canadian cinema is all about hatred, murder and incest. And it’s a comedy! Needless to say, this is an odd duck. At first I thought it was hilarious, then when it got really heavy and amoral, it made me feel uneasy and I didn’t know what to think anymore… I slept on it, then the next morning, it was still on my mind and the more I reflect on it, the more fascinating it seems… Interviewing Larry Kent (for VOIR) added even more layers to the experience. “I blew a Nobel Prize winner. Freaky!” ]

(22 Aug) The Constant Gardener (2005, Fernando Meirelles)
[ review ] 81

(24 Aug) Wahrheit oder Pflicht (2005, Jan Martin Scharf & Arne Nolting) 49
[ A high school twist on “L’emploi du temps”, it revolves around a German 18 year old who, afraid to let her parents know she’s been kicked out of school because of her bad grades, pretends she’s still going to classes when all she actually does is hang out in an abandoned bus and get caught in a screwed up love triangle. Credibility is not one of this film’s strong points, and neither are cohesiveness or character depth. Still, it’s got a nice Dogme-like looseness to it and Katharina Schüttler is touching enough in the lead. ]

(24-25 Aug) Curb Your Enthusiasm – Season Four (2004) [ review ] 82


(25 Aug) Sweet Memory (2005, Kyriakos Katzourakis) 4
(27 Aug) La pharmacie de l’espoir (2005, François Gourd) 68
(28 Aug) Looking for Angelina (2005, Sergio Navarretta) 22
(28 Aug) Devaki (2005, Bappaditya Bandopadhyay) 70
[ Part of Voir’s FFM coverage ]


(30-31 Aug) Sealab 2021 – Season Two (2002) 65
[ What a stupid show… yet I can’t stop watching! Bizarro. You’ll wish you had less fun. Uh oh. ]

July / September

2005 log (7)

(1 Jul) Dil Chahta Hai (2001, Farhan Akhtar) 65
(3 Jul) Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003, Nikhil Advani) 85 [ first viewing: 75 ]
[ Part of Michael Dequina’s Bollywood Starter-Kit ]

(3 Jul) Innocence (2005, Lucile Hadzihalilovic)
[ In a mysterious school in the middle of a dark forest, little girls with ribbons in their hair live and learn practically by themselves, seemingly out of thought and time. This is an intriguing premise and some tension rises from not knowing how or why these kids got there, but nothing particularly dramatic or interesting actually happens and the child actors aren’t very convincing. The raincoat crowd might respond to endless scenes of little girls doing ballet, frolicking in nature and punishing each other, but it bored me to tears. ]

(3 Jul) Léolo (1992, Jean-Claude Lauzon) [ review ] 95

(4 Jul) Aurore (2005, Luc Dionne) [ review ] 0

(6 Jul) Moulin Rouge! (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 98
Eleventh viewing. I’m seriously considering upgrading the film to the almighty ‘100’, only some of the most slapsticky throwaway moments still bug me a little bit. That other 98% is pure genius though, from the absinthe-trip first act to the love-lifts-us-up- where-we-belong second act to the Spectacular Spectacular last act. When is Baz gonna make another movie already?

(7 Jul) Metallic Blues (2005, Danny Verete) 65
[ When an Arab comes by their dealership desperate to sell his 1985 Lincoln Continental metallic blue limo, Israeli car salesmen Shmuel and Siso figure this is a once-in-a-lifetime profit opportunity. They buy it for five grands then take it to Germany, where they’re sure they can sell it for up to 50,000 euros. Unfortunately, things turn out to be more complicated. Their Middle-Eastern complexion attracts the attention of the customs agents, and they soon realize that with the high cost of living in Europe, this business trip might end up making them poorer rather than richer. Being in Germany also awakes ghosts of the Holocaust, as the two men recall the horror stories their parents told them about their experiences during World War II. Sounds grim, but this Israel-Canada co-production is actually a rather lighthearted tragicomedy. Much of it deals with the ridiculous effect money has on people, how people spend away to feel like big shots one minute, then go nuts trying to save pennies the next. Seeing how confident and greedy the characters are at the beginning of the film, we can only smile and wait for them to fall on their face as unexpected expenses pile up and the car’s condition deteriorates. Avi Kushnir and Moshe Ivgy effortlessly trade banter like the seasoned pros they are and they make this a pleasant ride. ]

(8 Jul) Undead (2005, Michael and Peter Spierig) 53
[ When thinking of movie zombies, one pictures the lumbering antagonists of George A. Romero’s Living Dead series or maybe the fast raging ones seen in “28 days later” and the “Dawn of the Dead” remake. For filmmakers down under though, zombies seem to mostly be comedy props. Indeed, the Spierig brothers’ debut feature is a farcical horror flick in the spirit of Peter Jackson’s early New Zealand “splatstick” films (“Bad Taste”, “Braindead”). Set in the Australian countryside, “Undead” follows a beauty queen, a mysterious fisherman, two cops, a bush pilot and his very pregnant girlfriend as they’re forced to deal with meteor showers, acid rain, alien abductions and, yes, zombies. I couldn’t make much sense of the plot, but that’s a detail in a movie like this. What truly matters is getting the gore going and we definitely get served on that level. The make-up and special effects are perfectly gruesome, especially considering the filmmakers had less than $1M to work with. The performances are mostly rotten, but Mungo McKay cuts a striking figure as the badass fisherman Marion, who mows down zombies with double-fisted handguns like the hero of a John Woo movie. Felicity Mason is pretty cool too, especially when she starts chopping heads and limbs with a circular saw stuck on a broomstick! High art this is not, but it’s a fun B-movie. ]


(8 Jul) Dark Water (2005, Walter Salles) 46
[ Following the successful Americanisation of “The Ring” and “The Grudge”, here’s another Hollywood remake of a Japanese horror film, Hideo Nakata’s 2002 picture of the same name. Starring Jennifer Connelly as a divorced mother who moves in a creepy apartment building where dark and damp things await her, “Dark Water” is less a ghost story than the psychological portrait of an unravelling woman. The film is sluggishly paced and its depiction of the consequences of bad plumbing failed to scare me, but Connelly is heartbreakingly good and I loved the supporting performances by John C. Reilly, Tim Roth and Pete Postlethwaite. ]

(9 Jul) Uptown Girls (2003, Boaz Yakin) 62
[ I know, I know, why the hell am I watching this shit when I could be watching a classic, foreign or cult film. Gimme a break, I’ve had a long day and between “I Am Sam”, “Man on Fire”, “Hide and Seek” and “War of the Worlds”, Dakota Fanning has proven to have a better track record than many actresses with decades more experience than her – say, Brittany Murphy. And even Brit’s fun here as a dumb, superficial, skanky socialite *cough* parishilton *cough*. Except that unlike a certain real-life heiress, Murphy’s character has a pet pig instead of a Chihuahua and she gets her comeuppance, running out of money and having to get a job as a nanny to Fanning’s neurotic, hypochondriac 8 year old. Wait, did I say fun? The pratfalls, upbeat pop songs and zingers do give that impression but, at its core, this is a really sad film. Murphy’s playing such a pathetic young woman in arrested development, desperate for attention she doesn’t deserve, trying to fuck the pain away but waking up “making love to a wall” (to quote my favourite Alaskan poet). This isn’t Shakespeare, but I found her to be a tragic figure nonetheless, reflective of our society of empty appearances and deadening pleasures. Then you’ve got the little girl popping pills, clutching unto “fundamentals” but never having fun like a kid should and… Oh, this is a Hollywood flick so things brighten up by the end, but it doesn’t feel cheap, it feels like the characters are sincerely growing up. Made me cry like a baby, too. Your mileage may vary, etc. ]

(10 Jul) Rebound (2005, Steve Carr) 27
[ I hate Martin Lawrence, I simply can’t stand the dumb, rude, loud moron he plays in every movie. On the other hand, I’m a sucker for sports movies in which a team of misfits somehow manage to go from a desperate losing streak to winning the state championship. Think “Mighty Ducks” but even more predictable, with unfunny slapstick, one-dimensional stereotypes passing as characters, abrasive performances and contrived sentimentality. “You know, these kids, they taught me a lot. They made me a better coach, better than I ever was.” This should be unbearable, but it’s actually not bad. It’s not good, mind, but it’s… not bad. ]

(10 Jul) Bewitched (2005, Nora Ephron) 34
[ Again, a mediocre film I can’t help softballing a little. This one’s like a bad sitcom, and not just in the scenes where the characters are shooting episodes of a revamp of the old Bewitched TV series; the “behind the scenes” stuff feels as phony, formulaic and cheesy as the this-show-is-filmed-in-front-of-a-live-audience sequences. The Ephron sisters (who co-wrote the movie, with Nora directing) are on autopilot, recycling romantic clichés and cutesy moments while Will Ferrell is left stranded, trying to get laughs out of vapid material. He still gets to be “idiotic but charming”, and his overacting made me chuckle once in a while. Then there’s Nicole Kidman, all blue-eyed wiggling-nose loveliness, and she gets to goof off too. A bad sitcom this undeniably is, but I’m kinda fond of bad sitcoms. The countless half-hours I’ve wasted watching According to Jim or 8 Simple Rules certainly attest to that. ]

(11 Jul) Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005, Miranda July) [ review ] 91

(12 Jul) Wedding Crashers (2005, David Dobkin) [ review ] 69

(14 Jul) Whisky (2005, Juan Pablo Rebella & Pablo Stoll) 42
[ Jacobo Köller runs a stocking factory in Uruguay, with the help of his assistant Marta. Both are reserved persons whose lives revolve only around the numbing routine of manufacturer work. Even after hours, excitement is not part of the equation; they go back to their sad little apartments, her riding the bus, he driving his piece of crap car that always stalls. One weekend, Jacobo finally organizes his mother’s matzeiva, almost a year after her death. His brother Herman, who’s been living in Brazil for years, comes back for the occasion. Modern, cheerful and happily married with children, Herman couldn’t be more different than grumpy lonely old Jacobo. The plot kicks in when Marta is asked by her boss to pretend to be the wife he never had. Being an old maid with nothing better to do, she not only accepts but gets her hair done and volunteers to clean up his place. Could living a lie actually cheer them up, if only for a little while? “Whisky” is a grim, thoroughly morose picture. The title refers not to booze but to the word people say before being photographed (like our ‘say Cheese!’) to force a smile. This is apt, because Jacobo and Marta are truly miserable folks who have to make an effort to appear to be enjoying themselves. The camera always remains static and dialogue is kept to a minimum, but actors Andrés Pazos and Mirella Pascual manage to convey a lot through their body language and when Jorge Bolani (who plays Herman) shows up, things slightly liven up. Co-directors Pablo Stoll and Juan Pablo Rebella do a great job of depicting the ennui that defines the characters’ lives, so great that their film grows a little boring itself. ]

(15 Jul) Watermarks (2005, Yaron Zilberman) 67
[ I walked into this reluctantly, expecting a dull documentary about old Jewish women swimmers. How wrong I was! What I didn’t know is that these ladies were champion breaststrokers and divers in their youth, dominating national competitions in their native Austria. Making their story even more dramatic is the era in which it took place, the 1930s. The film’s subjects were all part of Hakoah (“The Strength” in Hebrew), the famous Vienna sports club that was founded because of the Aryan clause, which barred Jews from joining Austrian teams. While it allows the now aged and frail former athletes to recall their glory days, much of the storytelling in “Watermarks” is done visually, through striking old black & white photographs and archival footage. We hear about –and see- the Hakoah swimmers achieving great success and eventually being asked to represent Austria at the 1936 Olympics… in Nazi Berlin. They refused to go to Hitler’s Olympics, were banned by the Austrian Sports Federation and, after the annexation of the country by Germany, Hakoah was shut down by the Nazis. Before things got worse, the club’s president organized for his athletes to escape to other countries. Then some 65 years later, director Yaron Zilberman organized for 6 surviving swimmers to go back to Vienna and swim together again. An unexpected happy ending to a tragic tale, capping off a film full of emotion and humanity. ]

(15 Jul) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005, Tim Burton) [ review ] 60

(17 Jul) Eyes Wide Shut (1999, Stanley Kubrick) [ review ] 90

(21 Jul) Young Frankenstein (1974, Mel Brooks) 63
[ This pastiche of the classic James Whale “Frankenstein” movies nicely recreates the look and feel of 1930s B&W gothic horror, but it’s not as hilarious as other Brooks/Wilder collaborations like “The Producers” or “Blazing Saddles”. I still love Gene Wilder’s Dr. Fron-kon-steen, Marty Feldman’s wisecracking Igor and Peter Boyle’s idiotic creature. Plus the Puttin’ on the Ritz number alone makes “Young Frankenstein” worth the detour. ]

(22 Jul) The Island (2005, Michael Bay) [ review ] 66

(23 Jul) The Maltese Falcon (1941, John Huston) 95
[ Part of the AFI list (#23) ]

(25 Jul) Pinocchio 3000 (2005, Daniel Robichaud) 3
[ “Pinocchio 3000” is the first Canadian 3D animation movie. It was made in half the time and for a tenth of the money devoted to its Hollywood counterparts and, while it’s not as technically impressive as a Pixar production, it is well designed enough. Unfortunately, everything else about it is abysmally bad. The film is a futuristic update of the Pinocchio story, with Gepetto building a robot instead a wooden puppet, a cyborg penguin playing the role of Jiminy Cricket and a villain intent not on turning children into donkeys but on covering them and the whole metropolis in metal. Did we really need another rehash of the Carlo Collodi tale? Even the sci-fi twist has been before in Spielberg’s “A.I.”. For a movie that wets itself over the power of imagination, it doesn’t show much itself. It’s 80 endless minutes of unfunny pratfalls, pointless chases and awful, awful songs. Worse, the film indulges in racial stereotypes right out of minstrel shows, from the Blue Fairy becoming a big-bootied mama to a long-limbed, thick-lipped robot slave who grimaces, does little dances and talks in a high-pitched pseudo-Negro accent. I haven’t seen the English version (which features the voices of Malcolm McDowell, Howie Mandel and Whoopi Goldberg), but the French dub is particularly obnoxious, as is the whole picture. Little kids might be entertained, but they also like eating crayons so… ]

(26 Jul) To Have and Have Not (1944, Howard Hawks) 72
[ On the heels of “Casablanca”, here’s another movie in which Bogart plays an American (named Captain Morgan, like the rum) who doesn’t give a crap about helping the French resistance but winds up doing so anyway for the love of a woman. And what a woman! Lauren Bacall is overwhelmingly sexy, with her bedroom eyes and her sultry voice. “It’s even better when you help.” I also got into the male bonding stuff between Bogart and a drunkard friend, not unlike the character Dean Martin would later play in Hawks’ “Rio Bravo”. The plot itself is not very interesting, aping “Casablanca” too closely for its own good, but Bacall and Bogart are the stuff dreams are made of. ]

(29 Jul) Hustle & Flow (2005, Craig Brewer) [ review ] 79

(30 Jul) Horloge Biologique (2005, Ricardo Trogi) [ review ] 61

(31 Jul) Sabrina (1954, Billy Wilder) 77
[ “Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some thirty miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate…” How can you not love a movie that starts with storybook narration? “Sabrina” must have felt old-fashioned even back in the day, but that’s part of its charm. The adorable Audrey Hepburn plays a chauffeur’s daughter who’s always lived in the shadows of luxury, invisible to the eyes of rich playboy William Holden. After spending 2 years in Paris, though, she returns transformed into an elegant and sophisticated woman and not only Holden but also his world-weary brother Humphrey Bogart are all over her. Who will win her heart? This is typical romantic fantasy stuff, but with grace and glamour absent from most of today’s movies. This is what Woody Allen calls a “champagne comedy”, where everything looks spectacular and everyone is well dressed and seemingly always drinking champagne. Silly stuff, but endlessly enjoyable. It’s about “throwing open a window and letting in la vie en rose…” ]

2005 log (6)

(2 Jun) The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005, Ken Kwapis) [ review ] 84


(28 May – 4 Jun) South Park 9.1-9.7 (2005, Trey Parker) 85
[ Yet another example of the genius of Mr. Trey Parker: the way he seems to be able to use and abuse clichés at will. To make a disaster movie parody with hippies instead of a new ice age or whatever is easy enough, but what makes that episode so clever and funny is how it subverts all the little details of the genre, with Cartman as the guy who predicts the catastrophe ahead but who isn’t taking seriously… Until It’s Too Late! Same thing with the sports movie spoof, which takes the clichés into the stands with the trash-talking drunken dads fighting it out while the Little League teams are actually trying to lose! Then you got episodes that gloriously keep pushing the line of good taste, like the one where they redo the Terry Schiavo case with a PSP, an army of demons and a “Keanu Reeves”. In other news, Mr. Garrison becoming a woman? “I’d rather be a woman who can’t have a period than a fag. Who wants to pound my vag’? GIRL POWER!” Too funny. ]

(5 Jun) Alias 4.22 (2005) [ review ] 81

(5 Jun) Cinderella Man (2005, Ron Howard) [ review ] 56


(6, 9 Jun) Chappelle’s Show Season One (2003) 75
[ Aww, snap! I love me some Dave Chappelle. I can’t even remember the number of times I’ve watched “Half-Baked” and I also loved him in the hilarious “Screwed” and in some of the other movies he’s appeared in. Still, you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen his comedy in all its undiluted wildness like on Chappelle’s Show. The sex stuff (“I’m just a nigger that loves titties.”), the race stuff (“Crack, here I come.”), the foul language(“Haters wanna hate, lovers wanna love / I don’t even want none of the above / I want to piss on you”): it’s all good! ]

(10 Jun) Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005, Doug Liman) [ review ] 67

(13 Jun) Following (1998, Christopher Nolan) 85
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(14 Jun) Rebel Without a Cause (1955, Nicholas Ray) 74
[ Part of the AFI list (#59) ]


(16 Jun) la vie comme elle va (2005, Jean-Henri Meunier)
[ In 1995, filmmaker Jean-Henri Meunier left Paris to go live in the French countryside, more precisely in the small town of Najac. Then one day, for no particular reason, he started to carry a camera along with him when he rode his scooter around and captured some of the faces that populate this uneventful but pleasant village. There’s Hubert, the saxophone-playing mayor, Henri, a widower who only ever stops doing harsh physical work to play with his collection of dolls (!), Céline, a grumpy 105 year old, and many more. Not to mention the various dogs, chicken, cows and sheep that coexist with the citizens of Najac. This is a simple, maybe a little self-indulgent film, but all Meunier wants is to share his love for his neighbours and at that he certainly succeeds. ]

(16 Jun) Batman Begins (2005, Christopher Nolan) [ review ] 90

(17-18 Jun) The Office – Season 1 (2001, Ricky Gervais) [ review ] 90


(20 Jun) dogora (2005, Patrice Leconte)
[ In his voice-over intro, French filmmaker Patrice Leconte tells us about how he always wanted to make a movie with no actors and no dialogue, a purely musical, impressionist experience. In other words, a knockoff of “Koyaanisqatsi” and “Powwaqatsi”, Godfrey Reggio’s influential experimental documentaries. Leconte’s picture is mostly a depressing travelogue of Cambodia, showing us endless images of poor kids in the streets, in sweatshops, in dumps, etc. It’s a sad reality worth being reminded of, but the repetitive nature of the film undermines its impact. And, try as he might, composer Etienne Perruchon is no Philip Glass. ]

(21-23 Jun) The Office – Season 2 (2002, Ricky Gervais) [ review ] 93


(23 Jun) Les temps qui changent (2005, André Téchiné) 34
[ Good old Gérard Depardieu stars as a French construction contractor who asks to be transferred to Tanger so he can stalk and maybe win back his long lost flame, a radio host played by Catherine Deneuve. Various subplots involve her doctor husband, their bisexual son, his depressed girlfriend and her estranged twin sister, but most of the story revolves around “whether a first love can become a last love”. The performances are decent and I like that the film assumes its naïve corniness, but the softcore ‘70s porno music and cinematography are a bit too much for me. ]

(23 Jun) Layer Cake (2005, Matthew Vaughn) [ review ] 66


(26 Jun) Brice de Nice (2005, James Huth) 38
[ Following the playbook from all those Saturday Night Live spin-offs, Jean Dujardin stretches a cult TV skit into a big screen feature, to mixed success. He’s pretty funny as Brice, a wonderfully clueless poser who models himself on Bodhi, the surfer character Patrick Swayze plays in “Point Break”. Unfortunately, Dujardin and his co-writers didn’t come up with much more for Brice to do then to repeat his catchphrases (“Ça farte?”, “J’t’ai cassé!”) over and over. There are a few amusing bits, like Clovis Cornillac as a doofus with a terrible secret in his shoes, but the film remains uneven at best. ]

(27 Jun) Campfire (2005, Joseph Cedar) [ review ] 74

(28 Jun) The Office Special (2003, Ricky Gervais) [ review ] 93

(30 Jun) War of the Worlds (2005, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 87

May / July

2005 log (5)

(1 May) Machuca (2005, Andrés Wood) 71
[ Santiago de Chile, 1973. Growing class divide has pushed the country to the brink of civil war. To young Gonzalo, this becomes a reality when a group of poor neighbouring children are allowed into his prep school. This creates conflict in the schoolyard, but Gonzalo befriends Machuca, one of the slums kids. What follows is a classic coming of age story, with the boys discovering girls and such, but the hectic socio-political backdrop makes things more dramatic. Driven by nervous camerawork and ‘70s rock, this is an intensely personal look at the context that led to Pinochet’s military coup. ]

(1 May) Alias 4.16 (2005) [ review ] 69

(1 May) Histoire d’être humain (2005, Denys Desjardins) 64
[ While Céline Baril was shooting “538 fois la vie”, Denys Desjardins also spent a year documenting life in a school from a poor neighbourhood. The films are similar in content, but “Histoire d’être humain” is more stylish and free-formed, following the students and teachers in the outside world and incorporating more universal ideas about language, culture and identity. École Saint-Henri is like a miniature version of Montreal and the world as a whole, increasingly heterogeneous and in need of learning to live in harmony. ]

(2 May) Le rôle de sa vie (2005, François Favrat) 20
[ Claire (Karin Viard) is a mousy girl who finds escape only in cinema, not unlike Mia Farrow in “The Purple Rose of Cairo”. No one steps in or out of the screen here, but Claire does wind up entering the entourage of movie star Elisabeth Becker (Agnès Jaoui). It’s not much of a dream though, because the actress reveals to be a self-centred bitch who treats everyone like servants. Neither comedy nor drama, it’s not clear what we should get out of “Le rôle de sa vie”. It’s an elegantly dull production that neatly follows the “All About Eve”/ “Showgirls”/ “Mean Girls” pattern, except that we never care about the characters, not even enough to hate them. ]

(3 May) Kingdom of Heaven (2005, Ridley Scott) [ review ] 58

(28 Apr – 4 May) South Park – Season 6 (2002, Trey Parker) 83
[ “God, I wish Kenny was still alive, he’d put balls on his chin. He was such an awesome friend.”
“It’s been 22.3 years so… AIDS is finally funny!”
“Butters, I hate you with every inch of my body.”
“Thank God for stupid people.” “Amen.”
“I’ve got it! We can kill Butters, then float the cows on a river of blood!”
“Oh! I thought you children took turns raping then murdered the teacher!”
“Towelie is a tough choice because, even though I can see how always having a towel around can come in handy, he’s just always so high.”
“What do you see as positive about toddler murder?”
“Part of being a woman is having a friend one day and calling her a slut the next.”
“Maybe Mongolians aren’t such crappy smelly people after all.”
“I said, shut up Cartman, you blood-belching vagina!”
“What you need to do is let the parents know what kind of demented faggot you are.”
“All Hail the Gerbil King!”
“I know a little Christmas miracle… Lock and load, we’re going in!”

Who would have thought “South Park” could keep it up so long? At first, I honestly thought that the giggly thrill of hearing grade schoolers curse wouldn’t last more than a few episodes, but that was before I realized that the great thing about the show is how it allows Trey Parker to mock whatever bugs him at the moment. Getting a movie made can take years, but Parker can put together 22 minutes of half-assed animation in only a couple of days! So you get brilliant send-ups of sensationalist talk shows, fraudulous advertisement, ‘80s teen ski movies, Russell Crowe’s tendency to get into fights, random Verhoeven references, The Simpsons, reality TV, pedophile priests, aging filmmakers who “update” their classic films, how boobs turn men into apes, media-fueled paranoia, jingoistic post-9/11 attitudes, extreme gay stereotypes, fake psychic douches and more! ]

(5 May) Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005, George Lucas) [ review ] 80

(6 May) Crash (2005, Paul Haggis) [ review ] 72

(8 May) Alias 4.17 (2005) [ review ] 61

(9 May) C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005, Jean-Marc Vallée) [ review ] 85

(10 May) Soupirs d’âme (2005, Helen Doyle)
[ I just realised what’s missing from most experimental docu-fiction: modern dance! Filmmaker Helen Doyle fills that void with her latest project, which combines fuzzy, bleached out video, old photographs, cloying voice-over and, yes, modern dance. Ostensibly about a woman working out issues from her childhood as an adopted kid while visiting orphans in Sarajevo, this artistic mash-up is interesting conceptually but doesn’t quite succeed in the execution. I loved the Martha Wainwright songs, but that’s a given. ]

(12 May) La Marche de l’empereur (2005, Luc Jacquet) [ review ] 68

(13 May) Bonzaïon (2005, Danny Gilmore & Clermont Jolicoeur) 16
[ Making dumb little movies between friends is fun, but you can’t expect others to enjoy watching them – even if you and your friends are popular actors (Emmanuel Bilodeau, Jacynthe René…) and musicians (Jean Leloup, the Diouf brothers). Made with only $10 000 and a digital Betacam, “Bonzaïon” is a thoroughly amateurish crime comedy that’s only sporadically amusing, generally when Leloup is on screen. The story revolves around a large stash of marijuana that keeps getting stolen, sold, stolen back, sold again, etc. Clermont Jolicoeur and Danny Gilmore are likable on screen, but they show precious little skill as writers and directors. ]

(6-14 May) South Park – Season 7 (2003, Trey Parker) 84
[ “If you don’t like America, geeeet out!”
“Ohhh no no nonono! Nobody is putting their finger in my ass again! Unless it’s Kyle.”
“Your foetus-sucking days are over, Christopher Reeves.”
“We have no choice. We have to kill Kyle.”
“Mooooom! Ben Affleck is naked in my bed!”
“Who was in charge of the feminist movement in the early ‘60s?” “A bunch of fat old skanks on their period?”
“Waitaminute, I’ve got it, you guys. We can get Kyle infected with AIDS, and then start a charity organization that we steal money from!”
“When all the world is metrosexual, the crab people shall finally reign supreme!”
“(singing) I want to get down on my knees and start pleasing Jesus, I want to feel his salvation all over my face…”
“FUCK YOU, I DON’T EVEN WANNA GO TO YOUR FAGGOT BIRTHDAY PARTY! (…) I’m sorry Kyle, I do wanna go to your birthday party. I mean you said some things, I said some things, but it’s all in the past now.”
“Handle it? For two billion dollars i could handle my Grandpa’s balls, dude.”
“Hey Wendy, Stan says you’re a cunt… cunt… continuing source of inspiration to him.”
“YOU FUCKING JEWS RUINED CHRISTMAS AGAIN! It wasn’t enough for you people to kill Jesus, now you have to kill Christmas too, hunh?”

Ok, past 100 episodes, you’ve covered a lot of ground, but “South Park” has got a knack for introducing new characters and milking them for endless laughs. I can’t get enough of Jimmy the handicapped stand-up comic and Mr. Slave, for instance. In the don’t fix it if it ain’t broken department, Cartman remains the most hilariously screwed up rotten little bastard there is. They could just have him bust Kyle’s balls through every episode and I’d be happy! ]

(15 May) Alias 4.18 (2005) [ review ] 67

(16 May) The Woodsman (2004, Nicole Kassell) 60
[ You know what this film is like? The creepy scene between Steve Buscemi and the little girl in “Con Air”, but stretched to feature length and garmented with faux-Soderbergh visual flourishes. That it tries to humanize a pedophile is a difficult, daring choice, even though it cheats by never explaining in details what crimes the main character committed and providing another sexual predator on whom he and the audience can pound all their disgust. Still, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick are great as always and Mos Def and Ben Bratt provide solid support in smaller parts. This is an odd little movie, interesting but kinda inconsequential. ]

(16-19 May) Six Feet Under 3.1-3.13 (2003) [ review ]

(18 May) Le Fantôme de l’opératrice (2005, Caroline Martel) 65
[ This is a very original picture, cross-editing bits and pieces from hundreds of corporate films produced by the telecommunication industry through the 20th century. It mostly focuses on how the phone companies exploited female operators (“the voice with a smile”) until they were found to be obsolete. Director Caroline Martel witnessed the last days of these invisible workers in her 2001 documentary “Dernier Appel” before Bell replaced them with those dreadful automated voice systems. For this new project, she’s gone back as far as 1903, researching the history of these women through the short movies their employers produced over the years. Martel cleverly subverts this archival footage originally intended as training or promotional material. A lot of it is ridiculously sexist and dated, making it seem like spending hours in front of a switchboard connecting lines for miserable wages is oh so glamorous. We also learn that the reason they hired women was because they figured they would leave after a few years to get married and make babies, thus not having the time to unionize. “Le Fantôme de l’opératrice” has an almost sci-fi feel, the operators appearing like disembodied voices imprisoned in an increasingly complex network of machines. Adding to the surreal mood is the score played on the ondes Martenot, an early electronic musical instrument, and the phantom-like narration by local actress Pascale Montpetit. ]

(19 May) Grave Danger – Volumes 1 and 2
(2005, Quentin Tarantino)
63
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(22 May) Alias 4.19 (2005) [ review ] 86

(22 May) Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002, George Lucas) [ review ] 61

(26 May) Crustacés et coquillages (2005, Olivier Ducaster & Jacques Martineau) 49
[ This is the perfect example of what some people hate about French movies: 90 minutes of nothing but folks lying on the beach, having lunch, cruising, drinking Ricard, screwing and, naturally, talking each others’ ears raw. Nightmarish memories of “Le rayon vert” threaten to return, but this is thankfully less akin to Rohmer than Ozon. Like a sunnier “Gouttes d’eau sur pierres brûlantes”, this film puts a bunch of men and women in the same house and tries to find how many different sexual connections can be made. There’s a married couple and their teenage children, plus the mother’s lover and the father’s ex-boyfriend (!) waiting in the wings. In true vaudeville fashion, misunderstandings and door-slamming abound, and there are even a few musical numbers that would be embarrassing if not for the contagious enthusiasm of the performers. The cast’s charm also helps making the vacuous dialogue and postcard-thin character development less insufferable, and this ends up being an enjoyable summer romp. It’s as uninspired and inconsequential as a bad Hollywood blockbuster but, instead of explosions, it coasts on nakedness. I’ll leave it to someone else to rate the penises and asses of the male actors (Gilbert Melki, Jean-Marc Barr, etc.), but I can attest that Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s curves are more awesome than all the special effects in the world! ]

(27 May) Idole instantanée (2005, Yves Desgagnés) 31
[ Between this and last year’s “Camping sauvage”, it’s tempting to wish for a law that forbids TV personalities with zero filmmaking experience from directing big-budget movies. Yves Desgagnés’ “Idole Instantanée” is nowhere near as awful as Guy A. Lepage’s inexplicable blockbuster, but it’s got the same kind of uninspired sitcomish humor and flashy but misguided style. The only bright spot is Claudine Mercier, who plays the four lead characters, like Michel Côté did in “Cruising Bar”, and manages to make them all feel distinctive. The women she plays are the finalists of the titular talent contest, whom we follow during the last 24 hours before one winner is picked. There’s Manon, a vapid big-titted blonde who’s been tailored her whole life into a perfectly insipid little proto-pop star; Cat, a hard-edged single mother of three who sings in rock bars; Daphnée, a chubby girl whose unbridled enthusiasm hides her profound loneliness; and Mimi, “la ptite colonne laide” who gets all the pity-vote *cough* Marie-Élaine Thibert *cough*. The film is a satire of reality shows like Star Académie, an easy target if there’s ever been one. Alas, the 4 screenwriters couldn’t come up with any incisive criticism of the phenomenon. The jabs at media synergy, overzealous fans and people who’ll do anything to get their 15 minutes in the spotlight are nothing that hasn’t been dissected over and over in editorials. Worse, the material just isn’t that funny and the switch to sentimentality doesn’t fare better. But hey, what do I know, it’ll probably be a big hit, etc. ]

(21-27 May) South Park – Season 8 (2004, Trey Parker) 85
[ “Hey Kenny, there’s something even you can afford: a ninja shuriken for $1.99.”
“How should I know, I’m retarded. Duuuuuuh!”
“Well, Eric is still supposed to be grounded for trying to exterminate the Jews two weeks ago.”
“If you mess this up, so help me GOD, I will rip your balls off with my bare hands! WITH MY BARE HANDS GOD DAMN YOU!!”
“I think voting is great, but if I have to choose between a douche and a turd, I just don’t see the point.”
“Yeah.It’s called Close-up Animals With a Wide Angle Lense,Wearing Hats!”
“Fuck you Millie! Fuck you Annie! Fuck you Bebe! Fuck you, whatever your name is! And fuck you, bitch!”

What’s cool about the continuing adventures of Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny is that however extreme, the stories are always based on things most guys will remember doing or at least thinking about as little boys. Heck, maybe they still dig that stuff. I mean, pretending to be a ninja? That’s so me! Seriously, the ninja episode is just about the funniest thing EVER. When they go for the half Japanese, half broken English ‘80s style theme song, I just about died of laughter! “Hey hey let’s go kenkasuru. Taisestunamono protect my balls. Bokugawarui so let’s fighting. Let’s fighting Love!” Pretending to be a robot, pretending to be handicapped (now that’s just wrong!), pretending to be firemen, pretending to be news reporters, pretending to be stupid spoiled whores, pretending to be a psychic detective… Isn’t that what being a kid is all about? ]

(29 May) Alias 4.20-4.21 (2005) [ review ] 79

(30 May) Après vous… (2005, Pierre Salvadori) 12
[ Daniel Auteuil plays a maitre d’ who’s apparently so generous that, when he sees some poor slob (José Garcia) about to hang himself in a park, he not only saves his life but also takes him into his home, gets him a job at his restaurant and tries to reunite the suicidal stranger with his ex-wife (Sandrine Kiberlain). This preposterous premise develops in ever more contrived ways and, while all that’s supposed to be humorous, it left me cold. Auteuil’s character is a doormat, Garcia’s is insufferable and Kiberlain’s should know better than to get involved with such losers. ]

(30 May) Team America: World Police (2004, Trey Parker) [ review ] 92

2005 log (4)

(1 Apr) Fever Pitch (2005, Peter & Bobby Farrelly) [ review ] 51

(25 Mar – 2 Apr) 24 (2001) [ review ] 92

(2 Apr) Batman: New Times (2005, William Vaughan & Jeff Scheetz) 75
[ On New Year’s Eve, Batman (the voice of Adam West!!!) has to stop the Joker (Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill!!) and Catwoman (According to Jim’s Courtney Thorne-Smith!) from commiting the biggest stick-up in history! How could this be any cooler? How about the whole thing being made of computer-generated Legos? If “Batman: Begins” is as fun as this, I’ll be as happy as a little boy. Watch it now! ]

(3 Apr) Alias 4.12 (2005) [ review ] 63

(3 Apr) Hollywood Ending (2002, Woody Allen) 37
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(6 Apr) Melinda and Melinda (2005, Woody Allen) [ review ] 93

(6 Apr) Frank Miller’s Sin City (2005, Robert Rodriguez) [ review ] 92

(7 Apr) Podium (2005, Yann Moix) 49
[ Not unlike our own “Elvis Gratton” (minus the politics), “Podium” follows an ignorant macho pig who likes to wear glittery jumpsuits and pretend he’s a dead rock icon. But instead of Elvis, the impersonated star here is Claude François. Benoît Poelvoorde doesn’t even look like Cloclo, but his singing and dancing are not bad at all. With Jean-Paul Rouve as a Michel Polnareff look-alike (!) and Julie Depardieu as his long-suffering wife, Poelvoorde holds together this amusing if a little too broad comedy. As irreverent as it can be, though, this is an ultimately sincere homage to the late singer. ]

(8 Apr) millions (2005, Danny Boyle) [ review ] 64

(9 Apr) Spider-Man 2 (2004, Sam Raimi) [ review ] 88

(10 Apr) Alias 4.13 (2005) [ review ] 83

(10 Apr) Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003, Nikhil Advani) 75
[ Part of Michael Dequina’s Bollywood Starter-Kit ]

(11 Apr) Le Survenant (2005, Érik Canuel) 22
[ What is with the re-imagined folk tales set in the French Canadian countryside these days? Between 2002’s “Séraphin” and the upcoming “Aurore”, here’s another remake of a story popularised more than fifty years ago. After being adapted for radio then on TV in the 1950s, Germaine Guèvremont’s novel is now getting the fancy big screen treatment. “Le Survenant” is about how a mysterious red-haired stranger (Jean-Nicolas Verreault) disturbs the routine life of a small rural community. Old man Didace Beauchemin (Gilles Renaud, all bushy mustache and sideburns) offers him food and shelter in return for help around the farm, which strongly displeases his son Amable (François Chénier) and his dorky wife Alphonsine (Catherine Trudeau). Most of the neighbours are also suspicious of this traveller known only as “le Survenant”, but for one Angélina Desmarais. Men either mock her infirmity (she walks with a limp, whenever actress Anick Lemay remembers to) or only hanker after her father’s land, but Survenant sincerely cares for her. It’s an impossible romance, though, because his true love remains the open road… This is a thin story, but somehow it’s stretched into 133 minutes of wood-chopping, canoe rides and macho posturing. I thought Verreault was great as the big dumb loaf in “La loi du cochon” (Érik Canuel’s infinitely more distinctive first film), but it turns out that’s all he can play. Here he’s supposed to be a charismatic, lyrical soul, but he still comes off as a boorish idiot. His lack of charm and Lemay’s underwritten character make the sentimental scenes particularly dull. During the confrontations with the habitants at least, the hampered dialogue and scenery-chewing performances are entertainingly laughable. Who knows, this might be intentional, like those commercials spoofing terroir clichés – hey, Bell actually co-produced the film. ]

(13 Apr) Orgazmo (1998, Trey Parker) [ review ] 76

(14 Apr) First Blood (1982, Ted Kotcheff) [ review ] 70

(16 Apr) Rambo: First Blood part II (1985, George P. Cosmatos) [ review ] 73

(17 Apr) Alias 4.14 (2005) [ review ] 71

(17 Apr) Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder) 94
[ Part of the AFI list (#38) ]

(18 Apr) Exils (2005, Tony Gatlif) 9
[ “Qu’est-ce que tu veux aller foutre en Algérie?” (“What the fuck do you wanna go to Algeria for?”) one character asks another early into “Exils”. After sitting through it, I’d like to ask filmmaker Tony Gatlif the same question. I can respect his desire to return to the country of his childhood after 43 years in exile, but did he have to transpose this into an endlessly dull and pretentious road movie? Romain Duris and Lubna Azabal are instantly unappealing as lovers who spontaneously go on a journey from Paris to Alger, mostly by foot or illegally riding on trains and boats. There’s no story to speak of, but plenty of self-serving aren’t-I-clever mise en scène, uninspired Godardisms, artsy nudity, random bursts of pseudo-profound dialogue and loud but generally awful music, culminating in a ten-minute epileptic dance number*. Seriously amigo, you took us all the way to Algeria for this? ]

* Yes, I know it’s supposed to be “a Sufi rite where they dance themselves into a trance”. I still don’t care.

(21 Apr) 10e CHAMBRE instants d’audiences (2005, Raymond Depardon) 70
[ Ten years after “Délits flagrants”, photojournalist turned documentary filmmaker Raymond Depardon once again turns his camera towards the French judicial system. From May to July 2003, Depardon was exceptionally allowed to film sessions in the 10th Correctional Chamber of Paris. Having watched my share of “Judge Judy” on American TV, this didn’t strike me as anything particularly special at first. It’s interesting to watch how a courtroom really works and it’s initially amusing to see people try to weasel out of accusations and have the judge snap right back at them. Some defendants don’t seem to understand the law and incriminate themselves, others tell sob stories or make up weak excuses, then there are those who appear to be honest and forward but still can’t get a break. This is where the film becomes more than the sum of its parts. Depardon has carefully edited his film to build tension and make a consistent reflection out of unrelated affairs. After going through a few relatively minor drunk-driving cases, we move on to more serious infractions, the pace quickens and the accused become more pathetic than amusing. It’s impossible not to notice that race plays a role here. Not that everyone portrayed here is innocent, but their background, where they live and the way the police perceives them can play against them. Even if you’re guilty, you should be treated with respect by cops and attorneys. Sentences can seem random and unfair, at least when you hear them out of context and juxtaposed to one another (should a small-time pot dealer be punished more harshly than a coward who harasses and threatens his ex?). Justice is an ugly but telling mirror of society, and “10e CHAMBRE instants d’audiences” conveys this effectively. ]

(21 Apr) Rambo III (1988, Richard MacDonald) [ review ] 66

(22 Apr) The Interpreter (2005, Sydney Pollack) [ review ] 52

(23 Apr) MASSAÏ – Les guerriers de la pluie (2005, Pascal Plisson)
[ In our corner of the world, rain is a nuisance. It’s quite different when you’re facing drought and you have to send young warriors away to find and bring back a mythical lion’s mane and, according to legend, rain along with it. Pascal Plisson’ film, which opened the last Journées du cinema africain et créole, is most notable for its engaging visuals, all in the yellow and reddish tones of the sun-baked Kenyan plains. The use of non-actors and real locations gives it an immediate, documentary-like feel, but it suffers somewhat from heavy-handed narration that leaves little place to the imagination. ]

(23 Apr) Unforgiven (1992, Clint Eastwood) [ review ] 93

(24 Apr) Alias 4.15 (2005) [ review ] 70

(24 Apr) Memoria del saqueo (2005, Fernando Solanas) 84
[ This documentary attempts to explain why the once prosperous country of Argentina basically went bankrupt a few years ago, inspiring people to take to the streets and overthrow the government. It’s infuriating to see corrupted officials and private businesses get richer at the expense of their countrymen, who are forced into poverty. Fernando Solanas has been a successful filmmaker for decades and, from 1993 to 1997, he held a seat in the parliament and strongly criticized the state of things. This film is a continuation of his political work, breathlessly exposing everything that went wrong in Argentina and the individuals responsible for it. Incendiary stuff. ]

(25 Apr) Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants (2005, Yvan Attal) 41
[ Yvan Attal’s second film as a writer-director has him once more starring opposite Charlotte Gainsbourg, his real-life wife. Let’s hope these movies are not too autobiographical, because Attal’s husband characters can be real bastards. In this case, the guy’s got a lovely wife and a cute kid, but he still has to have a mistress. His wife knows, but she doesn’t do anything about it because she loooooves him. Wow, is this supposed to be a sophisticated apology of adultery? The movie’s got a good cast (including Alain Chabat and Emmanuelle Seigner, amusing as another married couple) and a few enjoyably whimsical scenes (notably the cameo by a certain Hollywood star who lives in France), but overall it’s rather slight. I mean, enough with the musical breaks – we get it, Yvan, you like Radiohead! ]

(26 Apr) Jiminy Glick in Lalawood (2005, Vadim Jean) [ review ] 36

(26 Apr) Primer (2004, Shane Carruth) 85
[ Either I’m dumb or all the technical jargon in this film is thick as a brick. One way or another, I still responded to the garage-made science-fiction and pretzel storytelling. Shane Carruth’s film is damn well crafted, especially knowing that it cost only $7000 – I guess it always help to go the Rodriguez route and multitask as writer, director, production designer, score composer, editor, etc. I can tell you “Primer” is some kind of genius, but don’t ask me to explain it to you! ]

(28 Apr) 538 x la vie (2005, Céline Baril) 62
[ These kids would have tons of reasons to ditch school: raising kids of their own, coping with a parent’s suicide, having prostitutes working on your street corner and a crackhouse upstairs from from your family’s apartment… Still, day after day most of these teenagers show up at Pierre-Dupuy, a public school in one of Montreal’s poorest neighbourhoods. They’re not always disciplined, articulate or motivated, but they can be surprisingly lucid and sensitive. Céline Baril spent a whole year watching and interviewing these disadvantaged students and their overworked teachers, and the result is a critical yet not defeatist portrait of our education system. ]

(29 Apr) The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005, Garth Jennings) [ review ] 37

March / May