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)
[ 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

2005 log (3)

(1 Mar) Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese) 92
[ Part of the Directors Series ]
[ Part of the AFI list (#24) ]
[ Part of Les Chefs-d’oeuvre ]

(2 Mar) p.s. (2004, Dylan Kidd) 61
[ Kind of a less creepy “Birth”, this is also the story of a woman who meets someone who might be a reincarnation of a dead lover… Except that he’s not a little kid, he’s a twentysomething art student, so the sexual tension makes more sense. Especially since, while Laura Linney is a good deal older than Topher Grace, she looks as spectacular as any twenty year old. “p.s.” is a nice, slightly unusual romance – not on the level of Kidd’s “Roger Dodger”, mind, but it’s a well written, well directed little movie nonetheless. ]

(3 Mar) Brodeuses (2005, Éléonore Faucher) [ review ] 75

(3 Mar) Celebrity (1998, Woody Allen) 67
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(4 Mar) Be Cool (2005, F. Gary Gray) [ review ] 40

(4-6, 8 Mar) South Park – Season 5 (2001, Trey Parker) 84
[ “Geez, you’re a little irritable, Kyle. What’s the matter, you’ve got some sand in your vagina?”
“Cartman is the biggest asshole in the world! How is it that God gives him a million dollars?”
“That’s what it’s called when you’re milking a dog, beating it off!”
“You’re the worst character ever, Towelie.”
“You wanna get high?”
“Let me taste your tears, Scott.”
“What’s up, Bin Laden?”
“You may not have realised this, but Martha and I have buttocks where our faces should be.”
“What’s this, a toenail clipper? DIE, TERRORIST!”
“At least we got rid of all the nig-“
“I’m just like the foetuses, Chuck, I wasn’t born yesterday.”

Aaah, “South Park”, after all these years it’s still the edgiest, ballsiest show on TV. More importantly, it’s also one of the most consistently hilarious. The craziest thing might be that we’ve grown to care about these stupid little cut-out characters. The “On a Very Special South Park” episode where Kenny dies (seriously this time) almost made me cry! ]

(6 Mar) Alias 4.8 (2005) [ review ] 71

(6 Mar) The Contender (2000, Rod Lurie) [ review ] 90

(6 Mar) Walking Tall (2004, Kevin Bray) 28
[ I wasn’t gonna waste time with this, considering my throwaway action flicks days behind me, but after seeing “Be Cool” I was on this unlikely The Rock high and needed another fix. Here he plays a man who, after 8 years in the army, returns to find his hometown plagued by unemployment, gambling and drugs. Nothing a big piece of wood and some elbow grease can’t fix, right? Meh. I love The Rock, but he’s better at comedy than at generic vigilante shit. This is like a bad Steven Seagal movie, watchable but hardly memorable. ]

(7 Mar) Mooladé (2005, Sembène Ousmane) 32
[ When Collé offers protection to four little girls fleeing excision, it causes great turmoil through the village. The men and many of the women ignorantly hang on to primitive misogynistic traditions, so it’s an uphill battle for Collé and the others who refuse to see their daughters get cut. Based on subject matter alone, there’s an incentive to give the movie a pass. But while there are some powerful moments in “Mooladé”, much of it feels amateurish and the acting is uneven. There’s no dramatic progression, it’s not always clear why characters do the things they do and the resolution is unconvincing. Good intentions and good filmmaking are not the same thing. ]

(7 Mar) Oldboy (2005, Park Chan-wook) [ review ] 91

(8 Mar) La vie avec mon père (2005, Sébastien Rose) 43
[ François Agira (Raymond Bouchard) is a famous writer, even though his only novel was written 30 years ago and he has been living off its success ever since. He spent most of his life chasing women around the world, but now that he finds himself impotent, literally and figuratively, he returns home to the two sons who grew up without him. There’s Paul (Paul Ahmarani), a pseudo-intellectual slacker like his old man, and Patrick (David La Haye), a big shot in the pharmaceutical industry who’s all about pragmatism. In one of those only-in-the-movies set of circumstances, the three men wind up living together in a dilapidated house with five dogs and a cellar full of wine. Hilarity ensues? Yes, for the first half, which offers plenty of witty dialogue and inspired visuals gags. Unfortunately, about halfway through, writer-director Sébastien Rose decides that fun ain’t enough, he has to get Serious. Borrowing freely from “Les Invasions Barbares”, he sets up this situation where the yuppie son has to take care of his bon vivant father. David La Haye makes the best of a character that’s little more than an archetype but, try as he might, Raymond Bouchard is unable to balance erudition and hedonism like Rémy Girard does so well. The third act is particularly ponderous, with the earlier good-spirited tone disappearing under opera and tears. ]

(9 Mar) The Notebook (2004, Nick Cassavetes) 59
[ I was mucho reluctant to watch this, like I was mucho reluctant to watch “A Walk to Remember” (also based on a Nicholas Sparks weepie). But once again, endless people went ga-ga over it (including Marie-Chantal Perron!) so I caved in. First impressions: not sure about the old folks stuff, but I’m loving Rachel MacAdams and Ryan Gosling is pretty cool. The particulars of the story are kinda lame and déjà vu, the parents are stereotypes (Suckiest. Joan Allen. Performance. Ever.), etc. Still, the romance works, clichés and all. It’s totally Harlequin, with the “summer romance like a shooting star” and World War II passing by like an afterthought, the renovating of the house, Cyclops as the “proper” other man… Again, the old folks framing device is soooooo obvious and trite, but I still felt involved in the basic love story, as contrived schmaltzy and as it can be. Objectively, I’d say this is not a great film, but I cried like a little girl so… Whatever. ]

(11 Mar) South Park 6.8, 7.9 (2002-03, Trey Parker) 77
[ “I crapped outta my mouth!”
“Ready? First one to get a platinum album wins!”
Needed another South Park fix, remembered that I hadn’t watched the bonus religion-themed ‘sodes on the “Passion of the Jew” DVD… I love this show so, so much! The petty rivalry between Cartman and Kyle alone is totally priceless. ]

(13 Mar) Alias 4.9 (2005) [ review ] 80

(13 Mar) The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001, Woody Allen) 49
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(15 Mar) sleepover (2004, Joe Nussbaum) 61
[ I was embarrassed at first, you know, that old saw about how there are all these masterpieces I haven’t seen but I’m still going for the silly teen movies, etc. In my defense, 1) I thought Alexa Vega was cool in the “Spy Kids” movies, 2) I felt like watching a stupid little movie before bedtime and, 3) “sleepover” is actually not half bad. It has less bite and wit than “Mean Girls”, but it’s short and sweet, full of punk-pop songs and harmless gags, it’s got Steve “Brick” Carell and Jeff from “Curb your enthusiasm” in the grown-up parts and the girls, well, they’re pretty cute. I went along as the titular sleepover turned into a scavenger hunt and led to the inevitable high school gym dance. It’s all kinda corny and predictable, but it’s good-spirited and I got a sense that the filmmakers weren’t taking themselves seriously. For example, one of the girls is chubby and boys never talk to her, but that night one does. They talk a little, he mentions that he’s got a job moving speakers, then they’re separated. You can guess that at the end he’ll show up and sweep her off her feet, but what’s hilarious is how it’s through a song at the dance being dedicated to the chubby girl “from the speaker-moving guy”! Also, in the special features, director Joe Nussbaum mentions that as a teen, his sleepovers generally consisted of eating pizza and renting “Commando” every weekend. Gotta respect that! ]

(17 Mar) Genesis (2005, Claude Nuridsany & Marie Perennou) 73
[ From the creators of “Microsmos”, which took a close look at the lives of insects, comes this new film in which the scope is vaster but the treatment is still intimate. Not so much a documentary as an epic visual poem, “Genesis” explores the origins of life, from the first single cell through the evolutionary process, from the miracle of reproduction to the inescapability of death. The history of the universe is compared to the human experience and illustrated by the wonders of nature and animal behaviour. We get to witness amazing sights like the crystallization of Vitamin C, a volcanic eruption, a storm at sea, a fish learning to walk, mudskippers jumping on each other, a fight between Galapagos iguanas, a snake swallowing an egg whole, the seahorses’ dirty dancing… Having African griot Sotigui Kouyate discoursing on scientific findings as if they were old mythical stories is an inspired idea, even if it somewhat withdraws from the visceral thrill of the sequences where the images tell their own tale, accompanied by the imaginative music of Bruno Coulais. While it doesn’t quite have the majesty of the ‘Qatsi pictures, “Genesis” could be an invaluable teaching tool – or a trippy flick for stoners. ]

(17 Mar) Les Rivières pourpres (2000, Mathieu Kassovitz) 38
[ Here’s a post-“Se7en” French thriller that tries to do it fast and furious like the Americans but is undone by unnecessarily complicated plot. So you got this oddly secretive fac in the mountains, torture and mutilation, Jean Reno as the older lone wolf commissaire and Vincent Cassel as the younger hot-headed gendarme… Kassovitz assure behind the camera, putting together a few neat action bits (a video game-style baston, a couple of chases, the big climactic confrontation and its soap opera twist), but there’s not much sense to be made of the story. More entertaining than the movie itself is the DVD featurette in which Cassel and Kassovitz admit that “Les Rivières pourpres” is an incomprehensible mess! ]

(18 Mar) L’esquive (2005, Abdellatif Kechiche) [ review ] 77

(18 Mar) It Happened One Night (1934, Frank Capra) 62
[ Part of the AFI list (#35) ]

(20 Mar) Alias 4.10 (2005) [ review ] 66

(20 Mar) Rocky IV (1985, Sylvester Stallone) [ review ] 90

(22 Mar) Les Passeurs (2005, Hejer Charf)
[ Five young Montrealers walk along Saint-Laurent Boulevard, encountering various people of all origins and collecting their stories. Sounds fascinating? Well, it might be if this was a straight documentary, but for some reason writer-director-producer-caterer Hejer Charf drowns the mildly interesting non-fiction bits in an awfully obvious narrative performed by spectacularly inept actors. Early on, one of the “passers” pitches a project about filming random folks on the street. He’s told it’s not commercial, so his buddies and him get a camera from a pawnshop and do it on their own. These self-referencial digs at the establishment are hardly subtle, but Charf repeats them in voice-over just in case. The film’s docu-fiction format is inspired by the classic “Le chat dans le sac” and, again, to be sure we notice, we’re shown clips from it and it’s directly referenced. All this does is make Charf’s film look all the more embarrassingly amateurish in comparison – Gilles Groulx she is not. Likewise, quoting from Ti-Jack Kerouac and Rimbaud and putting Pasolini and Godard posters on the wall only comes off pretentious since “Les Passeurs” does nothing to earn the company of its influences. I pass by St-Laurent blvd almost every day, I can appreciate its diversity without a clumsy filmmaker holding me by the hand. ]

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

(24 Mar) Kelly Clarkson – behind hazel eyes (2005) [ review ] 60

(25 Mar) D.E.B.S (2005, Angela Robinson) 24
[ When will I wise up? I should know by now that hot girls don’t necessarily mean a hot movie. Still, how can you screw up a comedy about a sorority of gun-toting spy babes in little white blouses and plaid skirts? Uninspired writing and flat direction, that’s how. The spy genre’s already been spoofed to death anyway, and the girly stuff is routine as well. Having the female supervillain falling in love with one of the crime-fighting schoolgirls should make for some naughty fun, but the lesbian relationship is played surprisingly straight (no pun intended). The spy spoof is only dressing, it turns out, for a boring romantic comedy. This is supposed to be a cross between “Clueless” and “Charlie’s Angels”, but there are practically no actual gags, no crazy action scenes and not even much sexiness. Considering how doable Jill Ritchie, Devon Aoki, Meagan Good, Sara Foster and Jordana Brewster all are, that’s saying something. ]

(27 Mar) Alias 4.11 (2005) [ review ] 65

(29 Mar) Les États-Unis d’Albert (2005, André Forcier) [ review ] 66

(31 Mar) Le grand voyage (2005, Ismaël Ferroukhi) 54
[ Réda (Nicolas Cazale), a young Arab man who has lived in France his whole life, must put everything on hold to drive his elderly father (Mohamed Majd) to the Mecca. The two are drastically different and they argue about everything: when and where to st

2005 log (2)

(1 Feb) Les Guerriers (2005, Micheline Lanctôt) 70
[ Part of our RVCQ coverage ]

(2 Feb) Bullets Over Broadway (1994, Woody Allen) 88
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(3 Feb) Louis 19, le roi des ondes (1994, Michel Poulette) [ review ] 41

(4-5-6… Feb) Wonderfalls : The Complete Viewer Collection (2005) [ review ] 85

(6 Feb) Devdas (2002, Sanjay Leela Bhansali) 77
[ Part of Michael Dequina’s Bollywood Starter-Kit ]

(7 Feb) Maman Last Call (2005, François Bouvier) 56
[ Nathalie Petrowski has long been one of the most respected – and feared – social commentators in Quebec. Also a former movie critic, she’s now jumping the wall with this adaptation of her 1995 “autofiction” bestseller. The film was actually directed by François Bouvier (from Petrowski’s screenplay), but there’s no mistaking that it’s her voice that resonates through “Maman Last Call”. As the title suggests, this is the story of a 37-year-old journalist (Sophie Lorain) who must deal with an unexpected pregnancy. Even though her biological clock is ticking and she has a most understanding boyfriend (Patrick Huard), she’s worried that having a baby will compromise her career and her drinking time with her buddies (Stéphane Demers and hilarious scene-stealer Anne-Marie Cadieux). This is an interesting premise, especially as we don’t see that many movies where the guy wants to start a family and it’s the woman who’s afraid to commit. It’s a bit self-indulgent how Petrowski always gives her alter-ego the best zingers and the last word, thankfully the character’s potential smugness is softened by Lorain’s natural charm. The subplot about a girl who wants to get an abortion doesn’t play into the overall picture as effectively as intended and the last-minute sentimental turn doesn’t feel quite earned but that’s ok, you can only go so far with cynicism. ]

(8 Feb) Manners of Dying (2005, Jeremy Peter Allen) 53
[ Part of our RVCQ coverage ]

(10 Feb) Vipère au poing (2005, Philippe de Broca) 64
[ Jean Rezeau and his brother’s idyllic life in the French countryside is disturbed when their grandmother’s death brings their parents back from Indochina. Their mother, a heinous bitch right out of a Grimm tale, rules the household with an iron hand while their father is apparently too intimidated to intervene. Jean won’t have it, though, and a war begins between his mom and him, driven by mutual hatred and misused Catholicism. Based on Hervé Bazin’s memoir, Phillippe de Broca’s final film is excessively melodramatic but entertainingly so. Catherine Frot makes a memorable villainess and little Jules Sitruk holds his own surprisingly well. ]

(10 Feb) 2046 (2005, Wong Kar-Wai) [ review ] 68

(13 Feb) Mighty Aphrodite (1995, Woody Allen) 46
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(13 Feb) Alias 4.6 (2005) [ review ] 51

(14 Feb) Agents secrets (2005, Frederic Schoendoerffer) 33
[ French secret agents go to Casablanca to sabotage an arms trafficker’s operations. Everything goes well until they realize that their superiors’ motives might be questionable. This is generic spy stuff, from the bland characters to the unnecessarily complicated shots (yeah man, let’s zoom down from outer space to a dude on a boat!) and improbable action beats. Even the moral ambiguity is predictable. There’s some small enjoyment to be taken from Vincent Cassel’s graceful physicality and Monica Belluci’s breasts, always willing to be gratuitously exposed, but both these things are also in the much superior “Le Pacte des loups”. Better rent that than bothering with this blasé “Mission: Impossible” knockoff with no third act. ]

(15 Feb) Turtles Can Fly (2005, Bahman Ghobadi) [ review ] 90

(17 Feb) 5×2 (2005, François Ozon) 27
[ François Ozon’s eight feature offers five snapshots of a relationship between two characters, Marion (luminous Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Gilles (obnoxious Stéphane Freiss). Beginning with a counselor reading them the terms of their divorce agreement and ending with their first meeting on a sunny Italian beach, the movie supposedly aims to go back to what made these people get together initially, but what we really gather is that they were doomed from the get-go. The reverse-chronology gimmick has been used many times, most recently in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, but whereas the characters in that film grew more complex and moving as their love story backtracked, the protagonists of “5 X 2” are one-dimensional bores from start to finish (or finish to start). Gilles is an inconsiderate prick who falls asleep on his wedding night, deliberately misses the birth of his child and ends up raping his wife after driving her to leave him. Marion’s a peach, but it’s hard to care for a woman who naively puts up with such abuse. There’s an attempt to somewhat even the deck by having her commit an indiscretion of her own, but she clearly remains the victim. I didn’t know Ozon had such a routine and forgettable picture in him. He manages to plug in a few of his trademarks, notably kitschy pop music and people with flexible sexual boundaries, but these scenes from a marriage don’t add up to anything profound. Spouses cheat, lie, hurt and, eventually, break up. Stop the presses! ]

(20 Feb) Deconstructing Harry (1997, Woody Allen) 86
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(20 Feb) Alias 4.7 (2005) [ review ] 69

(21 Feb) Bride and Prejudice (2005, Gurinder Chadha) [ review ] 65

(23 Feb) l’arbre aux branches coupées (2005, Pascale Ferland)
[ For two old men who gave most of their life to the military in the Soviet regime, painting is the only thing that brightens their humble existence. Communism didn’t work, but the current system is hardly better. Russia is a rich country full of poor people, and the elderly feel particularly abandoned. Like “L’immortalité en fin de compte”, Pascale Ferland’s new documentary focuses on proletarian art, but that’s only a gateway to a wider social portrait. It’s an interesting subject, but it could certainly have been less dry and heavy. “l’arbre…” is being presented with “Après le déluge”, an oddly moving short showing painted rocks being rained over. ]

(24 Feb) À la petite semaine (2005, Sam Karmann) 63
[ Jacques just got out of jail and doesn’t intend to go back, but his old hoodlum buddies want to pull him back in. That’s exactly the same premise as “Carlito’s Way”, but don’t expect much flash and Pacino-style shouting here. Gérard Lanvin’s performance is intense but understated, like the whole picture. This is a low-key character study, the characters just happen to be criminals. Jacques Gamblin’s Francis would rather do theatre, even though it’s more unnerving than a robbery, and Clovis Cornillac’s Didier is a knucklehead just too lazy to work instead of stealing and gambling. I wish director Sam Karmann understood that you can do gritty without using twitchy handheld camera for every shot, but Désir Carré’s more or less autobiographic screenplay and the ensemble cast hit the right notes. ]

(24 Feb) Battle Royale (2000, Kinji Fukasaku) 90
[ You gotta love the Japanese. No one else could get away with such an incendiary film. 42 teenagers are kidnapped, taken to a deserted island, provided with weapons and told to kill each other until only one survives. Hilarity ensues. Oh, it doesn’t sound funny? Well it’s not… but it is. It’s in Takeshi Kitano’s hilariously droll performance as the kids’ mean mustard of a teacher, the inappropriately upbeat instructional video, the oddball ways some of the students take to the situation, etc. “Battle Royale” also works as a straight horror thriller or an action movie, but the violence is so extreme that sometimes you have to laugh or it would be too depressing. The kill-or-be-killed thinking that’s at the center of the film makes for a pretty damning metaphor for similarly selfish and cruel attitudes swarming in high schools, and through society in general. Scary. ]

(25 Feb) Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001, Karan Johar) 68
[ Part of Michael Dequina’s Bollywood Starter-Kit ]

(28 Feb) 7:35 in the morning (2004, Nacho Vigalondo) 80
[ An awesome short film, nominated at last year’s Oscars, about a dude who stages a musical stunt that’s equally romantic and insane. Brilliant idea, wonderfully executed, and the song is catchy as hell. Watch it 735am.com ]

January / March

2005 log (1)

(1 Jan) The Amazing Howard Hughes (1977, William A. Graham) 36
[ I was not as wowed by “The Aviator” as most, but I was intrigued enough by the Hughes story to want to check out this TV movie in which he’s personified by Tommy Lee Jones, himself a Texan. He looks and sounds more like the late billionaire than DiCaprio, but it’s kind of a boring performance and the film itself is not as spectacular and stylish as Scorsese’s, obviously. Still, it’s interesting to see the rest of Hughes’ life, after “The Aviator” ended. ]

(1 Jan) Anchorman (2004, Adam McKay) [ review ] 85

(4 Jan) Singles (1992, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 91

(5 Jan) Jerry Maguire (1996, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 84

(5 Jan) Almost Famous (2000, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 92

(6 Jan) Claude Sautet ou La magie invisible (2003, N.T. Binh) 77
[ This documentary about the late great French filmmaker features the usual talking-head segments with his wife, friends and various collaborators, but it’s driven by Sautet’s own recollections, heard in voice-over taken from audio interviews he gave in 2000 before his passing. It’s filled with fascinating insights about how his work related to his passion for music, sculpture and other arts, about recurring themes like unspoken desire and anger hiding sensibility, etc. Then there are the films themselves, which are amply sampled throughout, making you want to experience (or re-experience) them in full. ]

(6 Jan) Another Woman (1988, Woody Allen) 55
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(7 Jan) Million Dollar Baby (2004, Clint Eastwood) [ review ] 79

(9 Jan) Les choses de la vie (1970, Claude Sautet) 51
[ The stunningly shot car accident, the nostalgic music by Philippe Sarde, the timeless beauty of Romy Schneider, Michel Piccoli’s voice-over… Lotsa things to love here, but this story of past regrets and regrets in the making is pretty boring nonetheless. ]

(9 Jan) Alias 4.1 – 4.2 (2005) [ review ] 73

(9 Jan) Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989, Woody Allen) 80
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(10 Jan) Garden State (2004, Zach Braff) 87
[ Been hearing about this one since last year’s Sundance, positively or negatively, but somehow I never got around to seeing it. What finally convinced me is last night’s Nick at Night, in which Nick Digilio and the eFilmcritic.com kids were all like, whoa, defining movie of this generation, etc. So what’s so cool about the flick? Clever visual gags, great sense of flow and snappy edits, perfect music cues, pretty girls (One day, Amy Ferguson will be mine. One day) Braff-the-actor starts out passive, almost zombie-like, but that’s the idea. A generation of slackers, stoners, beautiful losers… Braff’s a wannabe-actor/waiter in L.A., Peter Sarsgaard is a gravedigger, Natalie Portman’s an office worker, but they’re really all, like, lost. This is a pretty astonishing directorial debut, probably the most quirky/adorable Portman’s ever been and… OK, I’m crying now… But they’re, like, happy tears, the kind that make you wanna make something of yourself. Like, write and direct that film, find that girl, you know, be happy! “Garden State” can be a little too precious, a tad melodramatic, but fuck it, if you’re 25 in 2005, you should definitely check it out. ]

(12 Jan) Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (2001) 75
[ This one-man show has Eric Bogosian ranting for 75 minutes about God’s capricious nature, American arrogance, shallow pop culture, sloppy biker sex and bullshit-slingers from all sides. Like Lenny Bruce before him, Bogosian isn’t all that funny-ha-ha, but he’s an endlessly inspired and incisive writer (see also his plays “Talk Radio” and “Suburbia” and their great film adaptations) and a riveting performer. Not much laugh-out-loud stand-up comedy here, but plenty of thought-provoking social commentary. ]

(14 Jan) Elektra (2005, Rob Bowman) [ review ] 18

(14 Jan) In Good Company (2004, Paul Weitz) [ review ] 64

(15 Jan) Alice (1990, Woody Allen) 69
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(15 Jan) The Iron Giant (1999, Brad Bird) [ review ] 92

(16 Jan) Wake up, Ron Burgundy (2004, Adam McKay) [ review ] 68

(16 Jan) Alias 4.3 (2005) [ review ] 63

(17 Jan) Le Goût des jeunes filles (2005, John L’Ecuyer) [ review ] 67

(17-18 Jan) Curb Your Enthusiasm – Season Three (2002, Robert B. Weide) 90
[ People are so stupid, I wish I was like Larry David and could just yell common sense at them! I also get his thing about being bored with social obligations, yet enjoying company – on your own terms. Most of all, the show is more hilarious than ever. Clearly the cast has grown comfortable with each other and their comic timing is just flawless. ]

(18 Jan) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004, Rawson Marshall Thurber) zzz
[ How dumb is this movie? I started watching the video out of curiosity, but I bailed after half an hour and only one weak chuckle (“All-Male Car Wash!”). I’m sooooo tired of Ben Stiller. ]

(20 Jan) Solitary Fracture (2005, Deniz Michael) [ review ] 61

(20 Jan) William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 89

(21 Jan) Bedazzled (2000, Harold Ramis) [ review ] 75

(22 Jan) Shadows and Fog (1991, Woody Allen) 77
(23 Jan) Husbands and Wives (1992, Woody Allen) 90
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(23 Jan) Alias 4.4 (2005) [ review ] 72

(27 Jan) Hide and Seek (2005, John Polson) [ review ] 39

(28 Jan) Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001, Ashutosh Gowariker) 74
[ Part of Michael Dequina’s Bollywood Starter-Kit ]

(29 Jan) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry) [ review ] 94
Third viewing, bawled throughout. What a perfect film.

(30 Jan) Alias 4.5 (2005) [ review ] 67

December / February

2004 log (12)

(1 Dec) Comme les cinq six doigts de la main (1978, André Melançon) 67
[ Everyone knows André Melançon’s “La guerre des tuques” and “Bach et Bottine”, but fewer remember this earlier family film, even though it’s every bit as delightful. It follows five Montréal children as they consider letting a new kid into their gang, but only if he goes through a series of tests: being rolled down a hill in a tire, stealing a trophy from Ti-Pit’s gang, spying on a Portuguese neighbour… What’s wonderful about Melançon’s movies is that he shows kids really being kids, not cutesy tiny adults. These boys and girls are unkempt, mischievous, grumpy… And funny, too! ]

”I’ll suck your cock for $1000.”
(1 Dec) The Big Lebowski (1998, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 93

(2 Dec) Sideways (2004, Alexander Payne) [ review ] 88 [ first viewing: 77 ]

(3 Dec) closer (2004, Mike Nichols) [ review ] 54

(6 Dec) Mariages ! (2004, Valérie Guignabodet) 31
[ “Love is blind, marriage gives it its sight back.” On Benjamin and Johanna’s wedding day, some of their guests re-evaluate their own marriages. The groom’s parents haven’t had sex in 15 years, the father of the bride shamelessly flaunts a young date, the best man wants to leave his wife, the bridesmaids are having affairs… It sounds cynical as hell, but this is actually a nice little movie, with nice little characters and nice little laughs. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and nothing you’ll remember ten minutes afterwards, but while it plays it’s nice enough. ]

(7 Dec) De-Lovely (2004, Irwin Winkler) 35
[ This is a pretty odd duck: part biopic, part musical, part “unconventional” love story… And framing the whole thing, the Archangel Gabriel (!) and an old Cole Porter ten seconds away from dying discussing his life and the movie itself. Pretty odd. Kevin Kline’s pleasant as the great songwriter and Ashley Judd’s ok as his wife (who’s surprisingly understanding about the fact that her hubby’s gay!), but the movie never truly comes alive. The song and dance numbers performed by Robbie Williams, Alanis Morissette, Elvis Costello, Lara Fabian (!) and others are enjoyable but, again, they don’t “pop” like the classic MGM musicals did. ]

(7 Dec) Radio Days (1987, Woody Allen) 63
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(7 Dec) Collateral (2004, Michael Mann) [ review ] 66

(8 Dec) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004, Wes Anderson) [ review ] 57

(10 Dec) C’est pas moi… C’est l’autre ! (2004, Alain Zaloum) 25
[ Vincent Papineau, a “petty thief trying to make an honest living” (!), finds himself in hot water after stealing than losing 230 grands from the Marseille mob. Then through a contrived case of mistaken identities, he finds himself posing as a Montreal policeman and he decides to use his new status to scam up some cash. Roy Dupuis, in a rare comedic performance, is amusing as the crook/cop, but the rest of the cast doesn’t fare as well. As Dupuis’ partner, Lucie Laurier is at a loss trying to make sense of her character’s constant mood changes, Luck Mervil is bamboozled into a homeboy role and the French actors playing the bad guys couldn’t be more annoying and less funny if they tried. ]

(10 Dec) Ocean’s Twelve (2004, Steven Soderbergh) [ review ] 43

(14 Dec) House of Flying Daggers (2004, Zhang Yimou) [ review ] 93

(15 Dec) Mar Adentro (2004, Alejandro Amenábar) [ review ] 90

(16 Dec) As Tears Go By (1988, Wong Kar-Wai) 67
(16 Dec) Days of Being Wild (1991, Wong Kar-Wai) 62
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(17 Dec) Spanglish (2004, James L. Brooks) [ review ] 56

(18 Dec) Chungking Express (1994, Wong Kar-Wai) [ review ] 93

(20 Dec) Tristan (2004, Philippe Harel) 39
[ Mathilde Seigner stars as a grumpy lady cop who’s distracted from following a Bulgarian connection when she stumbles upon the strange case of a serial killer whose preys take their own life after he’s made them fall desperately in love with him. This is sort of a French twist on those Ashley Judd vehicles, but less glossy and a little more grounded. Philippe Harel’s film is still not particularly incisive, but it does keep us guessing and the interaction between Seigner and the Udo Kier-type who plays “Tristan” is interestingly ambiguous. ]

(20 Dec) Ashes of Time (1994, Wong Kar-Wai) ???
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(21 Dec) September (1987, Woody Allen) 67
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(22 Dec) Shaun of the Dead (2004, Edgar Wright) [ review ] 90

(23 Dec) Strictly Ballroom (1992, Baz Luhrmann) 87
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(24 Dec) Hero (2003, Zhang Yimou) [ review ] 93

(25 Dec) The Aviator (2004, Martin Scorsese) [ review ] 50

(25-27-30 Dec) The Simple Life 2 (2004) 54
[ That’s hot. Do you love it? Oh, the show’s obviously staged, as fake as Paris and Nicole themselves, but it’s pretty funny. And hot. Do you love it? ]

(28 Dec) Wake up, Ron Burgundy (2004, Adam McKay) [ review ] 68

(29 Nov) Nez Rouge (2003, Érik Canuel) [ review ] 57

(29 Dec) Sessions for Robert J (2004, Stephen Schible) 83
[ Robert Johnson only lived to be 27, he grew up poor, black and lonely, had much, much trouble with women and, according to legend, met the Devil one night at the crossroads and traded his soul for the extraordinary guitar skills we know him for. Eric Clapton is pushing 60, he’s a rich British man who’s had considerable success and happiness through his life… He couldn’t be more different than Johnson, except that he’s also a guitar god. Yet through this DVD, which chronicles a series of sessions in which Clapton and some guest players recreate the songs of the late great bluesman, there are times where all the weathered soulfulness of Robert J seems to possess Eric C’s hands and voice. A must-see for all music lovers. ]

(31 Dec) Fearless (1993, Peter Weir) 70
[ I vaguely remember seeing this back when it came out on video, but not in any detailed way. What inspired me to revisit it is seeing that it topped Nick Digilio’s Best of the ‘90s list. Jeff Bridges stars as a man who, after walking away uninjured from a plane crash, starts thinking he’s unbreakable. His wife (gorgeous Isabella Rosselini) and therapist (John Turturro) don’t understand him, but he connects deeply with fellow survivor Rosie Perez, who also feels drawn apart from her spouse (Benicio Del Toro). There are some powerful ideas in “Fearless”, it’s well directed and Bridges is awesome as always, but it’s hardly the best film of the ’90s or anything. “You’re not dead.” ]

November / January

2004 log (11)

(1 Nov) Comment devenir un trou de cul et enfin plaire aux femmes (2004, Roger Boire) 11
[ Louis, a needy loser with the worst taste in clothes, has just been dumped again. His ex wants them to remain friends, but he’s had enough of being the “nice guy” and decides to become an asshole instead, since this is what women want. The whole movie revolves around such misogynistic ideas. They’re not necessarily wrong, but they’re definitely unhealthy. Embarrassing sex scenes and godawful musical numbers fill out this unpleasant picture, which is even more amateurish than a Simon Boisvert film. ]

(2 Nov) Feux Rouges (2004, Cédric Kahn) 53
[ This adaptation of a Georges Simenon novel depicts the tension that builds between a married couple as they drive to a summer camp to pick up their kids. The generous amounts of alcohol the husband consumes before and during their road trip certainly don’t help, but things go even worse when they cross paths with a dangerous escaped convict. “Feux Rouges” is sometimes frustratingly slow, but it can also be harrowingly intense and Jean-Pierre Darroussin makes us feel all the despair of his character. ]

(2 Nov) Interiors (1978, Woody Allen) 18
(4 Nov) Stardust Memories (1980, Woody Allen) 87
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(5 Nov) The Incredibles (2004, Brad Bird) [ review ] 60

(6 Nov) A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982, Woody Allen) 73
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(8 Nov) Finding Neverland (2004, Marc Forster) [ review ] 66

(8 Nov) Zelig (1983, Woody Allen) 75
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(9 Nov) Sideways (2004, Alexander Payne) [ review ] 77

(10 Nov) The Polar Express (2004, Robert Zemeckis) [ review ] 74

(11 Nov) Broadway Danny Rose (1984, Woody Allen) 60
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(12 Nov) Undertow (2004, David Gordon Green) [ review ] 64

(15 Nov) Nouvelle-France (2004, Jean Beaudin) [ review ] 8

(16 Nov) Mensonges et trahisons et plus si affinités… (2004, Laurent Tirard) 72
[ Raphaël (Edouard Baer), a ghost writer of celebrity autobiographies, compromises his relationship with tactless but inspiring architect girlfriend Muriel (our own Marie-Josée Croze, convincing as a Parisian) when he starts spending time with Claire (Alice Taglioni), an old infatuation who happens to be dating the star foot player (Clovis Cornillac) whose life story Raphaël is currently working on. This first film from Laurent Tirard is funny, clever and sincere, too. It doesn’t reinvent the romantic comedy genre, but the characters are well written and Tirard’s direction is dynamic and playful. ]

(16 Nov) Freeway (1996, Matthew Bright) 79
[ This is so tits! I’ve seen Reese as a cute kid, in pink, as a nerdy girl, in a British period piece, etc. But I had yet to see her all foul-mouthed, badass and slutty! The movie itself is outrageous and dirrty, “Little Red Riding Hood” by the way of “Monster”, with Kiefer Sutherland as the serial killing Big Bad Wolf. Tits, I tell you! ]

(17 Nov) Kinsey (2004, Bill Condon) [ review ] 70

(18 Nov) Chanel No. 5 (2004, Baz Luhrmann) 88
[ Sure, it’s only a commercial, but what a gorgeous one it is! Nicole Kidman looks magnificent, especially with Baz recreating some of the “Moulin Rouge!” magic around her. ]

(19 Nov) Licks Around the World – Live from the Olympia (2003) 69
[ I’m not into arena shows much, so it’s nice to see the Stones taking it down and playing a theatre set. I’ve heard “Start Me Up” enough for a lifetime, but it’s still an explosive opener, and I love how they go back to lesser known tunes like “No Expectations”, with Ron Wood on slide, or “Worried About You”, with Mick’s gloriously ridiculous falsetto. Also putting foot to ass is “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”, covers of The Miracles’ “Going to a Go-Go” and The O’Jays’ “Love Train” and, of course, Keith’s lead-vocals one-two punch of “The Nearness of You” and “Before They Make Me Run”. Mick’s French isn’t bad either! ]

(20 Nov) The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985, Woody Allen) 91
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(23 Nov) le petit Jésus (2004, André-Line Beauparlant) 70
[ In her follow-up to “Trois Princesses pour Roland”, art director turned documentary filmmaker André-Line Beauparlant once again turns her camera towards her relatives to try and make sense of some of their most difficult memories. In this case, she interviews her parents, siblings and friends of the family about how her handicapped little brother Sébastien (now deceased) affected their lives. This “story of a miracle that never happened” is filled with sadness, naturally, but there’s also anger at why this happened to them even though they were practicing Catholics who fervently prayed and went to church. Heartbreaking stuff. ]

(23 Nov) Some Kind of Monster (2004, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky) 47
[ Metallica, who has sold over ninety million albums since 1981 and was the top concert draw through most of the 1990s, have been floundering in the past few years. They still have diehard metalhead fans, but whatever crossover appeal they once had is gone. What we learn in this documentary is that the band almost broke up recently. Bass player Jason Newsted left, lead singer James Hetfield went into rehab, drummer Lars Ulrich pissed off a lot of folks by shutting down Napster… Tensions grew so much between the members of the band that they had to hire a group therapist! Too much ego and too much money turned angry young men into pretentious old farts. They’re rich, they’ve done it all; they don’t need this shit and it shows. I guess it’s courageous of them to bare it all in front of the cameras, but it’s mostly embarrassing. Metallica’s like a humourless Spinal Tap! Some kind of monster indeed. ]

(24 Nov) Ma vie en Cinémascope (2004, Denise Filiatrault) [ review ] 31

(25 Nov) Life is a Miracle (2004, Emir Kusturica) [ review ] 84

(25 Nov) Hotel Rwanda (2004, Terry George) [ review ] 68

(27 Nov) All About Eve (1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz) 93
[ Part of the AFI list (#16) ]

(27 Nov) The Girl Next Door (2004, Luke Greenfield) [ review ] 80

(28 Nov) The Silent Flute AKA Circle of Iron (1978, Richard Moore) 36
[ Conceived by Bruce Lee before his death, this story captured his vision of martial arts and the Zen philosophy he lived by. The actual movie made from it is not that much less silly or much more spiritual than your average ‘70s kung fu flick. In fact, it’s mostly just weird. You got your beefcake He-Man hero (Jeff Cooper), a mysterious blind man (David Carradine), a monkey man (David Carradine), a harem master (David Carradine), Death (David Carradine), a guy who’s been in a tub of oil for ten years hoping for his genitalia to melt off (!), the Keeper of the Book (Christopher Lee)… There’s some fun stuff here, but the fights are nowhere near as good as they would certainly have been had Bruce Lee lived to make the film. ]

(29 Nov) The Office Special (2003, Ricky Gervais) [ review ] 93

(30 Nov) One of Many (2004, Jo Béranger & Doris Buttignol) 35
[ “After the residential school opened and the beer parlour got built, people were lost.” As you might have guessed, this NFB documentary is about the Indian condition. We know about past injustices like how the First Nations’ land was taken from them, but what isn’t as well known is that there are still systematic attempts to assimilate them. Just forty years ago, governmental initiatives were implemented to take Indian kids away from their community and put them in white schools. “One of many” is about a woman’s journey back into into her personal history, which ties into a whole generation’s experience of being stripped away of its identity and culture. This makes for a depressing film, full of people feeling sorry about themselves, with reason, but in no constructive way. The resentment is clear, but the ideas aren’t. ]

October / December

2004 log (10)

(1 Oct) I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978, Robert Zemeckis) 32
(1 Oct) Used Cars (1980, Robert Zemeckis) 23
(2 Oct) Romancing the Stone (1984, Robert Zemeckis) 61
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(5 Oct) Ryan (2004, Chris Landreth) 84
(5 Oct) clean (2004, Olivier Assayas) 46
[ Part of our Festival du Nouveau Cinéma coverage ]

(5 Oct) A Life Less Ordinary (1997, Danny Boyle) 51
(5 Oct) vacuuming completely nude in paradise (2001, Danny Boyle) 79
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(7 Oct) Demi-Tarif (2004, Isild Le Besco) 37
(7 Oct) The Fuccons (2001, Ishibashi Yoshimasa) ???
[ Part of our Festival du Nouveau Cinéma coverage ]

(7 Oct) La mygale jaune (2003, Jean Leclerc) 68
[ For the better part of 15 years, Jean Leclerc was Jean Leloup, John the Wolf, Quebec’s most original and iconic rocker. Part poet, part guitar hero, Leloup galvanized a whole generation with his music and touched them with his words. Last year, though, he decided to call it quits, not for the first time but allegedly for the last. This film depicts the last days of his larger than life public persona. We see him on stage for a final performance, hear him talk about why he wants to leave this lifestyle (with his usual irreverence, natch) and witness the Viking funeral of his guitar, which he sends upon a burning raft on the Yamaska river. Technically, this isn’t much of a movie: shots are often shaky or out of focus and the editing is messy. Then again, Leclerc/Leloup is an always enjoyable presence, funny and oddly moving at times, and his songs are amazing. ]

(8 Oct) mémoires affectives (2004, Francis Leclerc) 63
(12 Oct) Childstar (2004, Don McKellar) 26
(14 Oct) Vera Drake (2004, Mike Leigh) 70
[ Part of our Festival du Nouveau Cinéma coverage ]

(14 Oct) Baadasssss! (2004, Mario Van Peebles) 22
[ When Melvin Van Peebles made “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song”, it revolutionized the way African-Americans are represented in movies. Sidney Poitier had already cracked the door open, but Van Peebles blew it out of is hinges! Getting there was a struggle, no doubt, and this is an interesting subject for a film, but “Baadasssss” doesn’t deliver. It’s marred by choppy storytelling, over-reliance on narration and (fake) talking-heads segments, unfunny attempts at humor and flat dramatics, caricatural depiction of ‘60s counterculture and simplistic views on race. Most damning is how boring the flick is. This is a great story, but we never feel it. In fact, the little “The Birth of Black Cinema” featurette on the DVD is more compelling than anything in the actual movie. ]

(15 Oct) Team America: World Police (2004, Trey Parker) [ review ] 92

(16 Oct) Swimming to Cambodia (1987, Jonathan Demme) 76
[ Spalding Gray is a truly amazing storyteller, able to make the littlest things like the most complex fascinating. This live stage performance has him talking about being cast in “The Killing Fields”, which leads to a passionate exposé about the secret American bombings of Cambodia and the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge, followed by Gray’s account of his adventures in Thailand in search of the “perfect moment”. These tales are sometimes funny, sometimes moving, always compelling. ]

(18 Oct) La Lune viendra d’elle-même (2004, Marie-Jan Seille) 15
[ Aimée (Isabelle Leblanc) is losing her struggle with AIDS and her boyfriend (the Artist formerly known as Jean Leloup) has abandoned her, but she still has her friend Francine (France Castel) accompanying her until the end. Here’s another film with a heavy subject it isn’t able to transcend. Writer-director Marie-Jan Seille spells things out too squarely and her attempts at symbolism fall flat. Castel breathes compassion, but Leblanc is insufferable in her long, slow, boring agony and the movie offers no greater insights than “Dying’s a bitch, eh.” Thanks for the heads-up, now can I have my 2 hours back? ]

(18 Oct) Young Adam (2004, David Mackenzie) 57
[ The sounds around the barge, the Dave Byrne score, the sharp cinematography, the Scottish accents… Me likey. Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton and Emily Mortimer, sexual tension and tense sex… Me likey a lot. The plot’s not great and the pacing’s on the slow side, but this is a pretty hot film overall. “You know what you can do with your custard?” ]

(19 Oct) Sign Ø’ the Times (1987, Prince)
[ The “dramatic” sequences intercut through this concert film are more silly than anything, but the live stage performance is awesome. Prince is an outrageous showman and a musical genius, his band is on fire and this is a spectacular production full of contagious enthusiasm. Why isn’t it on DVD? ]

(19 Oct) The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004, Asia Argento) 62
[ Part of our Festival du Nouveau Cinéma coverage) ]

(20 Oct) Stand by Me (1986, Rob Reiner) 77
[ This Stephen King adaptation is short on horror but full of character and period detail. In 1959 Castle Rock (oddly transposed from Maine to Oregon), four kids go on a trek to find the body of a missing teenager. Featuring early performances from Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman, John Cusack, Kiefer Sutherland and the late River Phoenix, this is a touching coming of age story full of exciting twists. ]

(20 Oct) Take the Money and Run (1969, Woody Allen) 71
(21 Oct) bananas (1971, Woody Allen) 64
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(21 Oct) Tarnation (2004, Jonathan Caouette) [ review ] 90

(23 Oct) Palindromes (2004, Todd Solondz) 48
[ Part of our Festival du Nouveau Cinéma coverage) ]

(24 Oct) Mean Girls (2004, Mark S. Waters) [ review ] 71

(25 Oct) Comme une image (2004, Agnès Jaoui) 36
[ Agnès Jaoui’s second directorial effort follows a bunch of miserable bourgeois French artists as they go to restaurants, parties and weekends in the country. Everyone’s always bitching about everything, especially Jean-Pierre Bacri’s novelist character, but at least he’s funny doing it, maybe because as co-writer of the film, he’s given himself all the good lines. The rest of the cast only take his casual condescension, then complain about it behind his back. Whiniest of all is his fat daughter, increasingly self-conscious because of her father’s inconsiderate ways. Why this won the Best Screenplay award at the last Cannes festival escapes me. ]

(26 Oct) Birth (2004, Jonathan Glazer) [ review ] 41

(26 Oct) Ripoux 3 (2004, Claude Zidi) 33
[ Twenty years after making the original “Les Ripoux”, Claude Zidi brings us the third film in the cult series. While former dirty cop François (Thierry Lhermitte) has apparently become clean, his former partner René (Philippe Noiret) is still a “flambeur” always looking for a good scam. Through a contrived plot involving mistaken identities, the two old buddies and police rookie Julien (Lorant Deutsch, once Jessica Barker’s sidekick in “Les Intrépides”!) will somehow be brought together for the climactic heist. “Ripoux 3” is a mixed bag. Noiret and Lhermitte still have chemistry, but the film could have done without the racist Chinese stereotypes, the cheesy score by Francis Lai (who also composed the music for “Emmanuelle”, unsurprisingly) and the odd sentimental streak that makes the comedy feel like an afterthought. ]

(27 Oct) Everything you always wanted to know about sex* But were afraid to ask (1972, Woody Allen) 40
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(28 Oct) 7 ans de Mariage… (2004, Didier Bourdon) 22
[ Didier Bourdon (who also wrote and directed the film) and Catherine Frot are a bored married couple experiencing the infamous seven year itch. On the advice of a sex therapist friend, Bourdon decides to shake things up by sharing his sexual fantasies with his wife and bringing her to swingers clubs, unaware that he’ll awaken a sexy beast he might not be able to handle. This sounds risqué, but the movie is actually boring and unadventurous. A little less conversation and a little more action might have helped, but Bourdon’s suburban idea of perversion is the real problem here. ]

(28 Oct) i ♥ huckabees (2004, David O. Russell) [ review ] 69

(29 Oct) Ray (2004, Taylor Hackford) [ review ] 78

(29 Oct) Sleeper (1973, Woody Allen) 65
(30 Oct) Love and Death (1975, Woody Allen) 89
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

September / November