2004 log (9)

(1 Sept) Predstava Hamleta u Selu Mrdusi Donjoj (1974, Krsto Papic) 62
[ Part of our FFM coverage ]

(1 Sept) Schizopolis (1997, Steven Soderbergh) 85
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(2 Sept) The Passion of the Jew (2004, Trey Parker) 77
[ After seeing “The Passion of the Christ”, Kyle realizes that Cartman was right all these years when he badmouthed Jews, and after seeing the film 34 times, Cartman now wants to go further than that and begin “the cleansing”. Achtung! Meanwhile, Stan and Kenny think the movie sucks ass and try to get Mel Gibson himself to given them their money back, but the Hollywood star won’t cough up the cash unless they torture him. “Mel Gibson is fucking crazy, dude!” I actually thought “The Passion” was a great picture, but give it to South Park to spoof it and the ridiculous controversy that surrounded its release so shamelessly and hilariously! ]

(3 Sept) Purple Rain (1984, Albert Magnoli) 83
[ The quintessential ‘80s musical, jam-packed with synth-pop, guitar solos, puffy hair, ridiculous clothes and at the center of it all, that most flaming funkmaster rock star, Prince! The story is somewhat inconsequential and the acting isn’t great, but the song and dance numbers will make you want to jump out of your seat and go crazy. All the Revolution tracks (Let’s Go Crazy, The Beautiful Ones, Darling Nikki, I Would Die 4 U, When Doves Cry, the all-time great title song…) are killer, of course, but Morris Day and the Time also deliver tasty grooves and while I wouldn’t call Apollonia talented, she’s as slutty a performer as any Britney or Christina. And ultimately, as cheesy as it can be, “Purple Rain” ends up being oddly moving. ]

(3 Sept) Underneath (1995, Steven Soderbergh) 71
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(6 Sept) Les choristes (2004, Christophe Barratier) 56
[ Part of our FFM coverage ]

(6 Sept) Son frère (2003, Patrice Chéreau) 80
[ This naturalistic, quasi-Dogme drama deals with the difficult relationship between a homosexual man and his brother, who suffers from a severe blood disease. Most of the film is devoted to the back and forth between the two siblings, played with raw emotion and intensity by Bruno Todeschini and Eric Caravaca. Having a brother myself from whom I’ve grown distant, even though we were as close as it gets as kids, this story deeply moved me. Disease is also a sad and scary thing, all the more to make “Son frère” a wrenching experience. ]

(8 Sept) mon fils sera arménien (2004, Hagop Goudsouzian) 73
[ This powerful NFB documentary depicts filmmaker Hagop Goudsouzian’s journey back to Armenia, on the traces of the 1,5 million of his ancestors who were massacred or forced into exile by the Turkish between 1915 and 1923. This isn’t as well known as it should because many countries still won’t recognize this genocide. Goudsouzian takes with him a group of Montrealers of Armenian descent (including TV personality Patrick Masbourian) to the land of their forebears in search of the survivors of the genocide, whose number diminishes each year. They are all over 90 years old today, but they still feel the pain of fleeing Turkish assassins as kids and so do we listening to them. ]

(9 Sept) Kafka (1991, Steven Soderbergh) 68
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(9 Sept) Alias 3.1-3.2 (2003) [ review ] 77

(10 Sept) King of the Hill (1993, Steven Soderbergh) 75
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(10 Sept) Alias 3.3 (2003) [ review ] 72

(11 Sept) Alias 3.4-3.6 (2003) [ review ] 80

(12 Sept) Alias 3.7-3.8 (2003) [ review ] 84

(13 Sept) When Will I Be Loved (2004, James Toback) [ review ] 55

(14 Sept) Les Aimants (2004, Yves Pelletier) [ review ] 91

(14 Sept) Alias 3.9-3.11 (2003) [ review ] 85

(15 Sept) Alias 3.12 (2004) [ review ] 78

(16 Sept) A Dirty Shame (2004, John Waters) [ review ] 13

(16 Sept) Epidemic (1987, Lars von Trier) 67
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(16 Sept) Alias 3.13-3.15 (2004) [ review ] 75

(17 Sept) Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004, Kerry Conran) [ review ] 33

(17 Sept) Alias 3.16-3.18 (2004) [ review ] 71

(18 Sept) Alias 3.19-3.21 (2004) [ review ] 79

(19 Sept) Alias 3.22 (2004) [ review ] 85

(21 Sept) L’amour en pen / De mémoire de chats (2004, Manon Barbeau) 70
[ Manon Barbeau’s latest documentaries both display acute sensitivity, discovering truth and beauty in unlikely places. “L’amour en pen”, which has prisoners talking about the great love of their life, is surprisingly moving, maybe because it’s so rare to see men (convicts or not) open up and be vulnerable. “De mémoire de chats” explores Montreal’s countless back streets, taking in quiet beauty and sad decay, clothespins and heroin needles, gardens and dumpsters… Barbeau finds lyricism in the urban jungle, getting off the main roads and into the heart of the city. ]

(21 Sept) Tip of the Tongue (2003) 64
[ “It happened so quickly… One minute you can’t get laid, and the next minute there’s 3000 chicks throwing their panties at you!” Ah, the life of the rock star. Some actually manage to bitch about it, but not the Rolling Stones. They know they’re lucky, they know all these years of sex, drugs and r’n’r should have killed them. To still be going strong at 60 is extraordinary. You look at Mick and Keith and Charlie and Ron, they seem to genuinely like each other and enjoy playing together. Good for them. ]

(21 Sept) Magnolia (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson) [ review ] 100

(23 Sept) Coeur à bout (2004, Marcel Simard) 9
[ This Canal Vie-ready documentary takes a look at people who, after a heart attack, refuse to observe the doctor’s recommendations. What soon becomes apparent is that they don’t realize that this is a medical condition. Instead, they whine on and on about all their problems, convinced that their heart is in bad shape because of their sad experiences and not because they won’t stop smoking and eating junk-food. This makes for an obnoxious movie, mixing melodramatic navel-gazing with what feels like an educational infomercial. ]

(23 Sept) Licks Around the World – Live from Madison Square Garden (2003) 66
[ Sure, they’re old, arenas are impersonal, and rock and roll with a 12 piece band feels overblown. Mick isn’t very convincing anymore singing that he’s a “Street Fighting Man”, and he’s too busy doing silly “Monkey Man” dances to recapture the emotion of “Angie”. Then again, when the Stones are on, they’re ON! The 10 minute jams around “Midnight Rambler” and especially “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” blow the roof of the joint and Keith does manage to make the Garden feel intimate when he croons “Thru and Thru”. ]

(27 Sept) Les Aimants (2004, Yves Pelletier) [ review ] 91

(28 Sept) Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988, Robert Zemeckis) 77
(28 Sept) Death Becomes Her (1992, Robert Zemeckis) 24
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

August / October

2004 log (8)

(2 Aug) Premier Juillet, le film (2004, Philippe Gagnon) [ review ] 47

(2 Aug) Kill Bill Double Bill! (2004, Quentin Tarantino) 95
Vol. 1 [ review ]
Vol. 2 [ review ]
[ This was a great idea on Cinéma du Parc‘s part, too bad they didn’t chop off the closing credits of “Vol. 1” and the opening titles of “Vol. 2” to create a truly uninterrupted “Kill Bill” experience. ]

(3 Aug) Rushmore (1998, Wes Anderson) [ review ] 71

(4 Aug) RRRrrrr!!! (2004, Alain Chabat) 9
[ At the Dawn of Man, the Clean-haired and the Dirty-haired tribes are waging a war over the recipe for shampoo. Meanwhile, the Clean-haired must investigate the first ever crime spree. This is the debut feature of the Robin des Bois, who are kind of the French Monty Python, except that they’re painfully unfunny. “RRRrrrr!!!” is an endless 95 minutes of bad puns, flat slapstick and stupid nonsense, with not a single laugh in the lot. This is worse than a Flinstones rerun, worse than the Flinstones movie, even worse than the Flinstones movie sequel! ]

(6 Aug) The Village (2004, M. Night Shyamalan) [ review version 2.0 ] 85

(6 Aug) Collateral (2004, Michael Mann) [ review ] 66

(7 Aug) Election (1998, Alexander Payne) [ review ] 91
[ Trivia note: Payne uses the same Morricone track as sort of a Tracy Flick theme that Tarantino used for the Bride/Elle fight in “Kill Bill” Vol. 2. ]

(8 Aug) Predator (1987, John McTiernan) [ review ] 92

(11 Aug) The Set-Up (1949, Robert Wise) 65
[ “Don’t you see, you’ll always be one punch away.” Washed out boxer Stoker’s manager is paid off to have him take a dive but doesn’t tell him, figuring he’ll lose anyway like he always does. Or will he? The film takes place in real-time, counting down the minutes as Stoker watches the other palookas on the evening’s program waltz in and out of the locker room with their dreams and disillusions, then we go right into the ring with him for the fight. Crisp B&W cinematography and crisper dialogue make for a minor yet effective entry in the film noir genre. ]

(12 Aug) Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004, Sara Sugarman) 17
[ This won’t come as a surprise: I enjoy me some Lindsay Lohan. Still, I know suck when I see it. Lindsay’s nice to look at and she’s got a pretty good singing voice, but the shrill Disneyfied high school girliness, unfunny slapstick and lame visual gimmicks make this the most misguided teen comedy since “Get Over It”. Just watch Lohan’s That Girl music video on a loop and you’ll be fine. ]

(13 Aug) Alien Vs. Predator (2004, Paul W.S. Anderson) [ review ] 22

(14 Aug) 13 Going on 30 (2004, Gary Winnick) 64
[ A dorky 13 year old girl magically flash-forwards from 1987 to 2004, when’s she’s grown into a “thirty, flirty and thriving” 30 year old fashion magazine editor who looks like Jennifer Garner! This is an obvious “Big” knock-off, but Garner’s winning persona, her sweet romance with Mark Ruffalo and the ‘80s pop soundtrack make this a fun little movie anyway. ]

(15 Aug) Roxanne (1987, Fred Schepisi) 70
[ Whenever you’re tempted to dismiss Steve Martin as a hopeless sell-out, you have to go back to the movies he’s written himself like this charming modern retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. Martin plays a big-nosed fireman who falls in love with an astronomy student (Daryl Hannah) but winds up courting her through the dumb hunk she thinks she loves. “Roxanne” isn’t as funny as “Bowfinger” or as romantic as “L.A. Story”, but it’s still one of Martin’s best films. Fred Willard as the mayor is a nice touch, too. ]

(16 Aug) Alias 1.1-1.3 (2001) [ review ] 91

(17 Aug) Alias 1.4-1.11 (2001) [ review ] 85

(18 Aug) Elles étaient cinq (2004, Ghyslaine Côté) [ review ] 27

(18 Aug) Alias 1.12-1.13 (2002) [ review ] 90

(19 Aug) La Vida que te espera (2004, Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón) 42
[ Part of our FFM coverage ]

(19 Aug) Alias 1.14-1.16 (2002) [ review ] 73

(20 Aug) Alias 1.17-1.19 (2002) [ review ] 84

(21 Aug) Alias 1.20-1.22 (2002) [ review ] 86

(22 Aug) Alias 2.1-2.2 (2002) [ review ] 71

(23 Aug) Je t’aime… moi non plus (2004, Maria de Medeiros) 63
[ Part of our FFM coverage ]

(23 Aug) Alias 2.3-2.6 (2002) [ review ] 76

(23 Aug) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry) [ review ] 94

(24 Aug) Trilogia – To livadi pou dakrizi (2004, Theo Angelopoulos) 55
[ Part of our FFM coverage ]

(24 Aug) Alias 2.7-2.8 (2002) [ review ] 77

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

(27 Aug) Alias 2.9-2.14 (2003) [ review ] 79

(28 Aug) Alias 2.15-2.17 (2003) [ review ] 72

(29 Aug) Alias 2.18-2.21 (2003) [ review ] 85

(30 Aug) Vanity Fair (2004, Mira Nair) [ review ] 37

(30 Aug) Alias 2.22 (2003) [ review ] 91

(31 Aug) sex, lies, and videotape (1989, Steven Soderbergh) 64
(31 Aug) Gray’s Anatomy (1996, Steven Soderbergh) 80
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

July / September

2004 log (7)

(2 Jul) Legend of Eight Samurai (1983, Kinji Fukasaru) [ review ] 34

(3 Jul) South Park – Season 4 (2000, Trey Parker & Matt Stone) 83
[ The exquisite voice work, the wonderfully cruddy animation, the subversive satire… “South Park” is so sweeeet, I love these little bastards, and I love the whole 4th Grade thing with More Explosions, Mrs Choksondik and of course, TIMMY! ]

(4 Jul) Elvis Gratton XXX: La Vengeance d’Elvis Wong (2004, Pierre Falardeau) 6
[ Pierre Falardeau has never been known for his subtlety, but here he reaches a new low in moronic farce. Two decades after his creation, Elvis Gratton is more pathetic and less funny than ever. The boorish “p’tit gars de Brossard” is now the head of a giant media conglomerate, concerned only with profits and promoting Canadian unity. This allows Falardeau to hurl bile at politicians, journalists and intellectuals but, even if you agree with his opinions, they’re too crudely thrown into this cinematic cesspool to register as more than the whining of a frustrated old man. ]

(5 Jul) Camping Sauvage (2004, Sylvain Roy & Guy A. Lepage) [ review ] 18

(6 Jul) Le Bison* (et sa voisine Dorine) (2003, Isabelle Nanty) 14
[ When very pregnant Dorine’s no-good husband walks out on her and their four kids and a half, careless neighbour Louis Le Bison reluctantly finds himself involved in their troubles. Isabelle Nanty not only stars but is also making her directorial debut here. She’s got a light touch behind the camera, but the story is uninspiring and her writing is too mannered. Her shrill overacting quickly grows tiresome and so do the cloying child actors surrounding her. ]

(6 Jul) The Last Picture Show (1971, Peter Bogdanovich) 67
[ Is there a more beautiful sight than young Cybill Shepherd? You might be stuck in a flat and empty Texas town, wasting away in high school, but to be around young Cybill Shepherd, aaww… In black & white, too! Bogdanovich’ bittersweet 1950s slice of life also features a young Ellen Burstyn, a young Randy Quaid and a young Jeff “His Dudeness” Bridges but really, it’s all about the Cybill. ]

(7 Jul) The Door in the Floor (2004, Tod Williams) [ review ] 56

(7 Jul) Killer’s Kiss (1955, Stanley Kubrick) 73
(7 Jul) The Killing (1956, Stanley Kubrick) 85
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(9 Jul) Ginger Snaps Unleashed (2004, Brett Sullivan) [ review ] 68

(10 Jul) Before Sunset (2004, Richard Linklater) [ review ] 90

(10 Jul) Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004, Grant Harvey) 34
[ Part of our FANTASIA coverage ]

(11 Jul) Spartacus (1960, Stanley Kubrick) 87
(11 Jul) Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick) 65
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(11 Jul) Last Life in the Universe (2003, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang) 71
[ Part of our FANTASIA coverage ]

(12 Jul) Les 11 commandements (2004, les Réals de Madrid) 29
[ Part of our Comedia coverage ]

(12 Jul) Lolita (1962, Stanley Kubrick) 70
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(13 Jul) Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004, Danny Leiner) [ review ] 78

(13 Jul) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, Stanley Kubrick) [ review ] 97

(13 Jul) One Point O (2004, Jeff Renfroe & Marteinn Thorsson) 54
[ Part of our FANTASIA coverage ]

(14 Jul) Barry Lyndon (1975, Stanley Kubrick) 86
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(15 Jul) Going the Distance (2004, Mark Griffiths) 23
[ Part of our Comedia coverage ]

(15 Jul) Memories of Murder (2003, Bong Joon-ho) 57
[ Part of our FANTASIA coverage ]

(15 Jul) Breakfast with Hunter (2004, Wayne Ewing) [ review ] 24

(16 Jul) Anchorman (2004, Adam McKay) [ review ] 85

(16 Jul) Je Reste! (2004, Diane Kurys) 20
[ Vincent Perez is always off building bridges around the world while Sophie Marceau stays at home and takes care of their son. Marceau’s long-suffering character is necessarily more sympathetic than Perez’s one-note jerk, and we understand her when she leaves him for a screenwriter played by Charles Berling. But then the film becomes about the selfish husband’s attempts to win his wife back and we’re supposed to root for him? Bollocks. This is a handsome production and Marceau’s a peach, but I’m growing impatient of movies about improbably beautiful and rich married couples who still find ways to be unhappy. ]

(17 Jul) Blueberry (2004, Jan Kounen) 58
[ Part of our FANTASIA coverage ]

(17 Jul) Anchorman (2004, Adam McKay) [ review ] 85

(19 Jul) Le coût de la vie (2003, Philippe Le Guay) 62
[ A film about money and the way different characters relate to it sounds like it will be cold and distant, but Philippe Le Guay’s ensemble picture is actually warm, touching, even funny at times. It follows various mostly unrelated characters: a neurotic programmer (Fabrice Luchini) who pinches every penny, a restaurant owner (Vincent Lindon) who’s so generous he’s approaching bankruptcy, a young heiress (adorable Isild Le Besco) who wants to be liked for more than her fortune… Their financial situation is what ties the film together thematically, but it truly serves as a catalyst to reveal their feelings. ]

(20 Jul) Six Feet Under 2.1, 2.2 (2002) 80
[ Oh, I’m glad to be with these great actors/characters again and the writing/direction is still great, it just feels like the show is spinning its wheels. Hopefully the season will kick into gear soon. ]

(21 Jul) La Planque (2004, Alexandre Chartrand & Thierry Gendron) 60
[ After stealing millions of dollars of heroin from their boss, two thugs nervously wait in a disaffected factory for their contact to show up. This ballsy huis clos shows that you don’t need a big budget, elaborate technique or a shooting permit (!) to make an effective movie. Using a couple of DV cameras, natural lighting and only general scene outlines, co-directors Thierry Gendron and Alexandre Chartrand follow actors Martin Desgagné and Pierre-Antoine Lasnier in long uninterrupted takes, allowing much tension to build up. The film is understandably a little rough around the edges, but it really works. ]

(22 Jul) Six Feet Under 2.6- 2.8 (2002) 85
[ Wow, only season #2 and they’re already bringing in new characters? But hey, I’m not complaining, not when it’s the goddess Patricia Clarkson as a kooky hippie aunt! The tears are starting to flow, too. ]

(25 Jul) Six Feet Under 2.3-2.5 (2002) 82
[ I wish I didn’t have to watch these all out of order like this, but I can hardly ever get my hands on one of these DVDs at Boîte Noire so I get my fixes however I can. So now I’m catching to the great mid-season stretch I previously watched, which is odd but still effective. I find myself relating to practically every character in the show – only Federico somehow doesn’t fit in for me. But in a scene like the closer to this episode, when a broken down Claire deals with Nate, David and Keith, every one’s every reaction is interesting and touching and understandable… Good stuff. ]

(27 Jul) La Comunidad (2000, Alex de la Iglesia) 30
[ When a rich old man who lived holed up in a trashy apartment finally croaks, his neighbours go looking for his hidden fortune but it’s found first by a pesky real estate agent (Carmen Maura). This Spanish import flirts with black comedy, but the attempts at burlesque are not particularly funny and the Hitchcock-style thriller elements eventually overshadow everything else. The visuals are interesting, but the score is distractingly derivative of Danny Elfman, the movie is erratically paced and it’s needlessly violent. The voyeur in the Darth Vader suit is a nice touch, though. ]

(29 Jul) Six Feet Under 2.9-2.11 (2002) 71
[ Ooh, more Lili Taylor. I love her so much, why don’t we see more of her, not just on the show but in movies and stuff? All the way back to “Say Anything”, she’s been beautiful and heartbreaking, always wearing her emotions on her sleeve… Other than that, this stretch is a little off. Every episode can’t be a winner, I guess, what with the different writers and directors alternating… You still get a funny or touching or clever moment once in a while, which is more than you can say about most TV (or movies), but I’m starting to doubt the show will ever top the brilliance of Season One. ]

(30 Jul) The Village (2004, M. Night Shyamalan) [ review ] 85

(31 Jul) Six Feet Under 2.12-2.13 (2002) 89
[ Here we go. Two more hours and then that’s it, at least until sometimes in 2005 when HBO decides to release Season 3. I haven’t been as passionate about Year Two as I was with the first 13, but I do still love these characters. When this show works, it REALLY works, and these two episodes are just gravy. 2.12 is, like, the best Federico episode ever and Brenda’s “cunt from hell” routine finally climaxes with Nate. The “opening death” gimmick is getting old, but 2.13’s one of the most effective yet. Then you’ve got a hilarious “Flashdance” send-up, more Lili Taylor (always a good thing), great stuff with Ruth, one mofo of an intense Keith/David clash… Awesome stuff, really, but the cliffhanger is a b-i-aaatch – I can’t believe I gotta wait a whole year to find out what happens next! ]

June / August

2004 log (6)

(1 Jun) Before Sunrise (1995, Richard Linklater) 87
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(2 Jun) Tokyo Godfathers (2003, Satoshi Kon) 66
[ After “Perfect Blue” and “Millennium Actress”, Satoshi Kon seriously tones down the mind-fucking to tell a simple fable about a homeless man, a heartbroken transvestite and a runaway girl who find a baby in the trash on Christmas eve and attempt to find her parents. This is all quite melodramatic, but the characters are quirky and the animation is wonderful. ]

(2 Jun) The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, David Lean) 62
(2 Jun) Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski) 88
[ Part of the AFI list (#13 & #19) ]

(3 Jun) Slacker (1991, Richard Linklater) 76
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(4 Jun) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004, Alfonso Cuaron) [ review ] 67

(5 Jun) Tape (2001, Richard Linklater) 69
(6 Jun) The Newton Boys (1998, Richard Linklater) 28
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(7 Jun) Les égarés (2003, André Téchiné) 32
[ Emmanuelle Béart and her kids are amongst the many driving out of 1940 Paris when the road is bombed by German planes. A mysterious teenager takes them into the woods, then into an abandoned mansion where, out of thought and time, they wait. Clips of black & white wartime footage and ominous music hint that the war will find them no matter what, but it never adds up to much. The relationship between Béart and the young stranger feels contrived, and the less said about the gratuitous anal sex scene the better. ]

(8 Jun) Fantasia (1940, Walt Disney) 90
(9 Jun) The Searchers (1956, John Ford) 64
(9 Jun) Tootsie (1982, Sydney Pollack) 35
[ Part of the AFI list (#58, #96 & #62) ]

(9 Jun) O (2001, Tim Blake Nelson) [ review ] 83

(10 Jun) Viva Chiba! THE BODYGUARD (1974, Simon Nuchtern) [ review ] 29

(11-12 Jun) Curb Your Enthusiasm – Season Two (2001, Robert B. Weide) 88
[ Larry David says the darndest things:
“I got a job… I’m selling cars!”
“Don’t say I have an ass fetish!”
“I do hate myself, but it has nothing to do with being Jewish.”
“Maybe in retrospect I should have said pussy
“He knows about the whole thong thing!”
Larry David brings the best out of people:
“You murdered my uncle for 5000$!?!”
“Where’s the fucking head?!?”
“Next time you’re in a hurry, why don’t you write me a buncha shit for free.”
“See? That’s my name. If it were yours, it would say Fucking Douchebag.”
“Seems to me, there was an indication that you were gonna do what you wanted, when you wanted because you feel, because of your celebrity, somehow you can do things without consequences.”
Ah! As if! There are ALWAYS consequences for Larry David, even when he hasn’t done anything! ]

(13 Jun) The Station Agent (2003, Tom McCarthy) 85
[ Fin McBride is a dwarf, there are no two ways about it. Everywhere he goes, people stare and snicker, yet he maintains a strong, quiet dignity. Still, when he inherits an abandoned train station in a small New Jersey town, he’s happy to go isolate himself there, unaware that he’ll have to reluctantly befriend a talkative Cuban a saddened artist. This is pure Sundance (it won the Audience Award last year): deliberately paced, quirky, heartfelt… The visuals have a casual elegance, the score is appropriately bittersweet and Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale and Patricia Clarkson are all endearing. This is truly a wonderful little film (no pun intended). ]

(15 Jun) Nathalie… (2004, Anne Fontaine) [ review ] 70

(15 Jun) The Stepford Wives (2004, Frank Oz) [ review ] 17

(16 Jun) Shogun’s Ninja (1980, Norifumi Suzuki) [ review ] 55

(17 Jun) RoboCop 2 (1990, Irvin Kershner) [ review ] 83

(18 Jun) RoboCop 3 (1993, Fred Dekker) [ review ] 16

(19 Jun) Moulin Rouge! (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 98
Tenth viewing, still crying. The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return…

(21 Jun) cette femme-là (2004, Guillaume Nicloux) 44
[ Guillaume Nicloux’s latest is as stylish as “Une affaire privée”, but it’s brought down by an overuse of cheap tricks. Whereas his previous feature was a film noir homage, “cette femme-là” goes all the way into gloomy surrealism. Josiane Balasko plays a cop who’s experiencing insomnia and suicidal thoughts as the anniversary of her son’s death approaches. On top of that, she’s investigating a bizarre case that starts to get confused with her nightmares. It makes for an intriguing character study, but the way the movie keeps jerking us around with horrors that turn out to be just dreams gets tiresome. ]

(22 Jun) Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004, Michael Moore) [ review ] 80

(23 Jun) Lady Snowblood (1973, Fujita Toshiya) 92
[ “Yuki… You were born for vengeance.” And how! As deadly as she is beautiful, the woman in white will make all her enemies spray red. This classic Samurai tale of female revenge clearly inspired Tarantino’s “Kill Bill”, which uses its theme song The Flower of Carnage, is also divided into chapters out of chronological order, Lucy Liu looks just like Lady Snowblood at the end of “Vol. 1”, and then there’s all the blood pissing about! I adore old martial arts flicks, but I generally accept that clumsy craftsmanship and stupid nonsense go with the territory. Not the case here. This is so gorgeously shot, so thematically bleak… This is genre filmmaking as an art form. ]

(25 Jun) The Terminal (2004, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 63

(26 Jun) Spider-Man (2002, Sam Raimi) [ review ] 85

(28 Jun) Nackt (2002, Dorie Dörrie) 22
[ Three couples: one happy, one unhappy, one broken up. One stupid bet: would they be able to recognize their better half while blindfolded, using only their hands? This German import tries to say it all about relationships but, while the characters do argue up a storm, there are no great insights behind the verbosity. In bringing her play to the screen, writer-director Doris Dörrie tries to enliven it with hipster bourgeois music, gratuitous song numbers and forced bits of whimsy, to little avail. The actors are appealing enough, but the ponderous writing weighs them down. ]

(29 Jun) Go Further (2004, Ron Mann) [ review ] 61

(29 Jun) Spider-Man 2 (2004, Sam Raimi) [ review ] 88

May / July

2004 log (5)

(2 May) Jules et Jim (1962, François Truffaut) 33
[ I don’t get this, just as I didn’t get “Les 400 coups”. Whereas I can see the attraction in early Godard, this melodramatic Nouvelle Vague slice of life left me indifferent. Jules’ a bore, Jim’s a bore and Jeanne Moreau does little more for me. The B&W cinematography is nice to look at and the score is great, but I still didn’t care much for this ménage-à-trois story. ]

(2 May) Frankenstein (1931, James Whale) 65
[ Part of the AFI list (#87) ]

(3 May) Le bonheur c’est une chanson triste (2004, François Delisle) [ review ] 36

(5 May) Shrek (2001, Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson) [ review ] 77

(5 May) New York Minute (2004, Dennie Gordon) [ review ] 51

(7 May) Van Helsing (2004, Stephen Sommers) [ review ] 38

(8 May) Medea (1988, Lars von Trier) 90
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(10 May) The Simple Life (2003) 46
[ Hotel heiress (and sex video star) Paris Hilton and Commodore daughter Nicole Ritchie star in this reverse Beverly Hillbillies “reality” show, in which these spoiled party girls go spend a month on a farm in the middle of nowhere without any of their L.A. perks. Out of touch and out of control, Nicole and Paris clearly can’t work 9 to 5 jobs and fit in a small redneck town, but that’s the fun of the endeavour, I guess. And, oddly enough, these shallow little teases are sort of sweet, in a bitchy kinda way. ]

(11 May) The Element of Crime (1984, Lars von Trier) 68
(11 May) Europa (1991, Lars von Trier) 87
(11 May) The Idiots (1998, Lars von Trier) 53
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(12 May) A Walk to Remember (2001, Adam Shankman) 60
[ My ex-girlfriend looooved this, and so did most gay dudes I know, but I never got around to watching it until now. I’m a big softie fond of teen pop stars, after all, so I might looove this too, right? Well, more or less. Shane West plays a “bad boy” who’s redeemed by a preacher’s daughter played by Mandy Moore. She’s like a von Trier “Heart of Gold”, a perfect selfless saint who takes all the abuse thrown her way (by schoolmates and by God) and only comes out more caring and compassionate. It’s all predictable and trite and ridiculously naïve, and West and Moore’s acting is serviceable at best, but damn it if it didn’t yank a few tears out of me. ]

(15 May) Troy (2004, Wolfgang Petersen) [ review ] 85

(15 May) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001, Chris Colombus) [ review ] 62

(17 May) Nos enfants chéris (2003, Benoit Cohen) 54
[ A cellist, his wife and their baby go to the countryside for a quiet vacation but when his ex-girlfriend, her new beau and their own kids drop by, quiet goes out the window! This is a very, very French comedy in which the characters do nothing but eat, have sex and, of course, talk each other’s ears raw. It’s nothing we haven’t seen a million times and the film offers no great insights into relationships or parenthood, but the cast members make the most of broad characters and their interaction is lively and amusing. ]

(19 May) Shrek 2 (2004, Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury & Conrad Vernon) [ review ] 61

(19 May) One-Eyed Jacks (1961, Marlon Brando) [ review ] 79

(20 May) The Office – Season 1 (2001, Ricky Gervais) [ review ] 90

(21 May) Walt Disney – On the Front Lines (2004, Leonard Maltin) 88
[ Say what you will about Disney (they screwed Michael Moore, stupidly drove Pixar away, nearly ruined their legacy with sub par cartoons, etc.), but they played a huge part in the history of pop culture, as this wonderful “Treasures” DVD series proves over and over. Most of those are anthologies of Mickey, Goofy or Donald shorts, but this is something else. You see, in 1941, the Disney Studios were taken over by the US Army and spent the rest of WW2 producing propaganda and training films. One would understand Disney for downplaying this not-so-magical era, so more kudos to them for releasing these telling historical documents. “Donald Gets Drafted”, Pluto becomes “The Army Mascot”, Goofy learns “How to Be a Sailor” and destroy Japan’s navy fleet, the Three Little Pigs encourage audience members to buy war bonds to protect themselves from the Big Bad NAZI Wolf (!), a tomato is thrown in “Der Fuehrer’s Face”, a German boy gets an “Education for Death”… It’s all as fun and creative as you’d expect from golden age Disney animators, but there’s that whole military agenda running throughout that’s really fascinating. Also included in the 2-disc set is the feature-length “Victory Through Air Power”, a combination of stunning animation and lecture segments by Major Seversky that allegedly convinced President Roosevelt to invest in the long-range bomber planes that won the war. This collection is truly a must-see. ]

(21 May) 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle (1967, Jean-Luc Godard) 2 or 3
[ Obtuse socio-political discourse in whispered voice-over, loud industrial machinery, inexpressive actresses spouting pseudo-profundities directly at the camera, long scenes that go nowhere… I love Godard’s irreverent early films (“À bout de soufflé”, “Bande à part”), but before long he started believing that every of his brain-farts was genius, hence masturbatory pretentious hogwash like this that makes you want to fly to France and punch old Jean-Luc in the gut. ]

(22 May) Nighthawks (1981, Bruce Malmuth) 47
[ Sly Stallone (with a beard and a perm) and Billy Dee Williams (with a mustache and a mini-mullet) are badass New York cops who must stop a Eurotrash terrorist played by Rutger Hauer. It’s easy to mock the synth-heavy soundtrack, the ridiculously macho posturing, the cheesy ‘80s fashion or Stallone’s cross-dressing scenes (!), but the movie’s “There is no security” climate of terror feels more actual than ever. ]

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

(24 May) 100 Girls (2000, Michael Davis) 46
[ Yeah, I’m running behind on my chefs d’oeuvre and my AFI 100 and I haven’t done a Directors Series in a while but what the hell, let’s watch another stupid teen comedy. “100 Girls” is sort of a cross between “American Pie”, “Mallrats” and “Cinderella” – i.e. a gawky young guy who lost his virginity to a stranger during a black out trying to find her with a pair of panties she left behind as his only clue. So he has to go through the underwear drawers of every girl in the dorm, 100 of them (hence the title). Nipple-twisting combat, strip foosball, cross-dressing and endless raunchy dialogue ensue. Michael Davis’s screenplay is alternately insightful and uninspired, sensitive and misogynistic, and his direction is mostly generic, but “100 Girls” is still pretty damn watchable. ]

(26 May) The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003, Peter Jackson)
The Fellowship of the Ring [ review ] 93
The Two Towers [ review ] 94
The Return of the King [ review ] 95

(28 May) The Day After Tomorrow (2004, Roland Emmerich) [ review ] 60

(30 May) Curb Your Enthusiasm – Season One (2000, Robert B. Weide) 81
[ Larry David’s a genius. An angry, bitter, neurotic genius. This mostly improvised HBO series is another show “about nothing”, with Larry David more or less playing himself and a blend of real and fictional friends surrounding him. But unlike “Seinfeld” (which David co-created), this isn’t network TV so there are no limits to Larry’s sense of humor anymore. Joking about dead relatives, the disabled, race, incest survivors or Ted Danson shouldn’t be funny, but damn it if it isn’t! ]

April / June

2004 log (4)

(2 Apr) Hellboy (2004, Guillermo del Toro) [ review ] 64

(3 Apr) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003, Marcus Nispel) 49
[ I’m no slave to the original, which I found more amusingly grotesque than scary and, while its low-rent look gave the proceedings an interesting almost documentary-like feel, this remake is so slick and tight that it’s hard to hold this against it. So you got five young friends who, between a weed run in Mexico and a Skynyrd show (Freebird!), become prey to batshit crazy hicks. Don’t expect any kind of character development or storytelling beyond that, do expect a lot of vile and ugly things treated with utmost insensitivity and you’re in for one damn visceral ride, for better or worse. “Chainsaw ‘03” is pointless junk but it’s well crafted, as are Jessica Biel’s boobs, midriff and ass. I found it desperately unpleasant (the movie, not Biel’s body), but that’s the idea, I guess. ]

(4 Apr) The Work of Director Spike Jonze DVD (2004, Spike Jonze) 85
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(5 Apr) En Vacances (2000, Yves Hanchar) zzz
[ Frenchie cinema at its wimpiest (even Québécois actor extraordinaire Luc Picard talks in a French-from-France accent), but I got what I rented this for: love-of-my-life Jessica Paré opening her pj’s and revealing her spectacular breasts. ]

(6 Apr) The Vagina Monologues (2002, Eve Ensler) 71
[ I love vagina, but it turns out I knew very little about it. Enters Eve Ensler, who travelled across the continental US to ask all kinds of women about their vaginas then wrote this funny, moving and insightful show, here captured for an HBO special. ]

(6 Apr) Splash (1984, Ron Howard) 63
[ Last week, Tom Hanks made me laugh hard all through “The Ladykillers”. 10 years ago, he starred in one of my Top 5 all-time favorites, “Forrest Gump”. And 20 years ago, he made his first star turn in this romantic fantasy in which a melancholy fruit merchant finds love with a sexy mermaid played by Daryl Hannah. The movie, which was also the first big hit for director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer, is kinda predictable, sappy and full of broad comedy (Eugene Levy and the late John Candy play supporting parts), but I love all the ‘80s camp and Hannah and Hanks make a lovely couple. “What are you looking at? You never seen a guy who slept with a fish before???” ]

(7 Apr) The Party (1968, Blake Edwards) 32
[ It occurred to me that I’d never seen any of the movies of Blake Edwards, recipient of a lifetime achievement award at the last Oscars. This, supposedly one of his funniest comedies, was my first taste but, considering all this labored slapstick never actually made me laugh, I’m afraid I won’t be spending too much time delving into his filmography. Peter Sellers brings a certain wit and sophistication even though he’s acting under brown-face makeup as a clumsy Indian actor who causes all kinds of mayhem through a Hollywood party, to the dismay of the glamorous guests and the hilarity of those watching the movie… Except me. I’m not a Blake Edwards person, I guess. ]

(7 Apr) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, John Huston) 89
[ Part of Les Chefs-d’oeuvre ]

(8 Apr) Hope Springs (2003, Mark Herman) 14
[ An English artist (Colin Firth) who got dumped by his fiancée (Minnie Driver) flies to America and the town of Hope, hoping to find some. He actually does when he meets sunny young babe Heather Graham, in a (rotten) screenwriter’s dream of opposites, attracting: he’s a tight-ass dullard, she’s a “free spirit” who gets drunk in the morning and takes off all her clothes when she’s happy (don’t get your Hopes up, boys, the movie’s a wimpy PG-13). This makes for a superficial relationship, but this is a superficial movie. Predictable, too. And uninspired, sitcomish, trite… Hopelessly boring. ]

(8 Apr) Kill Bill vol. 1 (2003, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 93

(9 Apr) Meet me in St. Louis (1944, Vincente Minnelli) 65
[ This nostalgic ode to the “good old days” is as corny as it gets, but it’s full of (Techni)color, music and heart. And when Judy Garland croons Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, don’t be surprised if you shed a few tears. ]

(9 Apr) The Girl Next Door (2004, Luke Greenfield) [ review ] 80

(10 Apr) Star Wars (1977, George Lucas) [ review ] 90

(11 Apr) The Work of Director Chris Cunningham DVD (2004, Chris Cunningham) 47
[ Cunningham’s got a thing for machinery, image distortion, fast cuts and cold color tones, which fits pretty nicely with the electronic music of Autechre, Aphex Twin and others, though this gets tiresome after a while. The more contemplative but equally cold feel of his videos for Madonna and Portishead also tends to overstay its welcome. Only in Björk’s All if Full of Love is Cunningham’s visual polish matched by warmth of feeling… courtesy of a couple of lesbian robots! ]

(12 Apr) The Punisher (2004, Jonathan Hensleigh) [ review ] 12

(13 Apr) Vol. 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 95

(15 Apr) The Corporation (2003, Mark Achbar) [ review ] 83

(15 Apr) Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby cart at River Styx (1972, Misumi Kenji) 61
[ Late into “Vol. 2”, Bill asks his little girl what she wants to watch before sleepy time. “Shogun Assassin!” Well, “Shogun Assassin” is in fact Roger Corman’s English-dubbed re-editing of the first two “Lone Cub and Wolf” movies (“Sword of Vengeance” and this one) into one feature. Once you start watching this tale of a samurai assassin and his kid, the correlation with Bill and tyke is obvious. Ditto regarding the geysers of blood, slashed off limbs and badass ninja chicks – Tarantino didn’t pull all his “Kill Bill” action out of his ass! The storytelling in “Baby cart at River Styx” is disconnected and practically incoherent, but the stylish and colourful cinematography and the over the top swordplay make up for it. ]

(16 Apr) Vol. 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 95

(17 Apr) The Power of Myth (1988, Bill Moyers) 79
[ On last week’s “Gilmore Girls”, Rory went to Spring Break in Florida and, instead of getting drunk and making out with other girls (though she did that eventually!), she eats pizza and watches “The Power of Myth” in her motel room! I figured I oughta check it out myself after hearing so much about it. This is a series of conversations with Joseph Campbell about how mythologies and heroic tales are universal and essential to the human experience, about how these basic stories affect the way a culture develops and so on. Fascinating, really… but I wish Rory’d been sitting next to me watching it. 🙂 ]

(19 Apr) A Bullet for the General (1967, Damiano Damiani) 66
[ A gringo joins an outfit of Mexican banditos after helping them rob the train on which he was riding. What follows is pretty much just a series of shoot-outs, but those are well put together and there are also juicy performances by Gian Maria Volonté and Klaus Kinski, surprisingly radical political undertones and a superb score by Luis Bacalov (sampled to great effect by QT in “Vol. 2”.) ]

(19 Apr) Les Cowboys Fringants: Centre Bell 30 décembre 2003 (2004, Maxime Giroux) 75
[ Man, I love these guys (and I’m in love with Marie-Annick). Here they blow the roof off the Centre Bell in front of 20 000 fans and it is good, really good. Look for a great guest appearance from Jorane, and don’t forget to listen to the commentary track by the band, full of hilarious banter, inside jokes and mockery. ]

(20 Apr) Duck Soup (1933, Leo McCarey) 81
(20 Apr) High Noon (1952, Fred Zinnemann) 70
[ Part of the AFI 100 list (#85 & 33) ]

(21 Apr) Dead or Alive (1999, Takashi Miike) 54
[ Takashi Miike’s cinema is so extreme that calling him the “Japanese Tarantino” is as reductive as saying that manga is Japan’s answer to American comic books. Sure, there are echoes in style and tone, but there is a blend of silliness and perversion in Japanese pop culture that no one here could ever get away with. “Dead or Alive” is an orgy of blood, dope and deviant sex that’s messy and uneven but never dull. Wish it was easier to keep track (and care about) all the Yakuza, Chinese gangsters, cops and prostitutes clashing through the movie, but it’s worth seeing if only for the insane final showdown with the cars, guns and explosions. ]

(21 Apr) The Work of Director Michel Gondry DVD (2004, Michel Gondry) 75
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(23 Apr) Man on Fire (2004, Tony Scott) [ review ] 52

(24 Apr) An evening with Kevin Smith (2002) 80
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(26 Apr) Le mystère de la chambre jaune (2002, Bruno Podalydes) 32
[ The daughter of an eccentric scientist is attacked while sleeping in a locked yellow room from which the would-be assassin escaped as mysteriously as he entered. The following days have an eager young reporter and a reputed inspector battling wits to elucidate this puzzling affair. Set in a castle in the French countryside, this chatty and mannered murder mystery has the tone and look of a “Tintin” comic book. Unfortunately, what intrigue it possesses is spread too thin and the film’s deadpan sense of humor can’t make up for its lack of urgency. ]

(26 Apr) Monica la Mitraille (2004, Pierre Houle) [ review ] 69

(27 Apr) The Grapes of Wrath (1940, John Ford) 84
(27 Apr) Sunset Blvd. (1950, Billy Wilder) 95
[ Part of the AFI list (#21 & 12) ]

(28 Apr) Fudoh : The New Generation (1996, Takashi Miike) 63
[ Ten years after witnessing his brother’s murder at the sword of their own father, Riki Fudoh sets out to get bloody satisfaction from his dad and the other Yakuza bosses with the help of his schoolmates. You could say that the film is about the need for youth to kill their elders in order to take their place… But really, it’s about the perverse thrill of watching schoolboys and especially schoolgirls get crazy. Like, I don’t know, a schoolgirl moonlighting as a stripper whose novelty act consists of popping balloons by shooting darts at them from a blowpipe stuck in her pussy. Only in a Miike movie! ]

(28 Apr) Pink Flamingos (1972, John Waters) ???
[ How do you rate a movie that looks and sounds dirt-cheap, with the clumsiest direction and ghastliest acting? This barely qualifies as a movie at all, it’s pretty much just a bunch of grotesque characters with the foulest mouths who do a lot of disgusting and stupid shit in front of a camera, led by 350 pound drag queen Divine. This is like the worst thing you’ve ever seen, yet you can’t look away! ]

(30 Apr) Mean Girls (2004, Mark S. Waters) [ review ] 71

March / May

2004 log (3)

(2 Mar) One from the Heart (1982, Francis Ford Coppola) 57
[ Coppola’s follow-up to his masterpiece “Apocalypse Now” was a spectacular box-office and critical failure, and you can kinda see why. “One from the Heart” is uneven and oddly stylized, like some sort of highly theatrical live television drama, Frederic Forrest and Teri Garr aren’t very exciting in the leads and the characters they play are hard to follow and care about as they fall in and out of love over and over. On the other hand, the movie does have delightful supporting turns by Raul Julia and Nastassja Kinski, a great Tom Waits song score and brilliantly colourful and inventive cinematography. It’s a failure alright, but a darn interesting one. ]

(3 Mar) Infernal Affairs (2002, Andrew Lau & Alan Mak) 83
[ Word is that Marty Scorsese wants to remake this huge Hong Kong hit with Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt (can you hear the sound of panties moistening already?). Here the stars are Tony Leung as a cop infiltrated in the Triads and Andy Lau as a Triad member infiltrated in the police department, each frantically trying to unmask the other first. “Infernal Affairs” is a very intricate, superbly crafted cat-and-mouse game filled with suspenseful sequences but also strong character moments taking an intriguing, ambiguous look at people with double lives – good guys doing bad deeds, bad ones doing good… Like in any film there is room for improvement, but Scorsese’s certainly got his work cut out for him. ]

(4 Mar) Make Money. Salut, Bonsoir! (2004, Martin Frigon, Christian Fournier) 61
[ This touching documentary depicts the harsh reality of corporations who set up in small towns, rack up millions while working the people nearly to death, then pack up and leave without saying thanks. Co-directors Martin Frigon and Christian M. Fournier give a voice to the angry, bitter former workers of the Noranda mine as they watch their native Murdochville crumble apart while most of them suffer of pulmonary diseases. “Make Money…” is being presented with “Le Grand Dérangement”, in which Jean-Claude Labrecque returns to St-Paulin Dalibaire 30 years after shooting “Les Smattes” to witness that folks still lament the forced closing of their community. ]

(4 Mar) Six Feet Under – “Pilot” (2001, Alan Ball) 92
[ “How’s it going?”
“Great, great… My father’s dead, my mom’s a whore, my brother wants to kill me and my sister’s on crack…”
I waited a long time to jump on the “Six Feet Under” bandwagon, the whole TV-on-DVD thing in fact. Too much hype, I guess; could these HBO shows be that good? This is just good old disposable TV, right? Oh boy, how wrong I was. “Six Feet Under” is as good as I’ve heard, at least this hour-long pilot is bloody brilliant, miles above most of what’s playing in theatres. It’s got better writing, better direction, better acting… If this was a movie it’d be sure to make my year-end Top Ten; as is, I’m curious and excited to know that I’ve got 12 more hours to enjoy with these great characters, and that’s only Season One! ]

(5 Mar) Starsky & Hutch (2004, Todd Phillips) [ review ] 28

(5, 6, 7, 8 Mar) Six Feet Under – “1.2 – 1.10” (2001, various) 93
[ Oh my God, this just gets better and better! Wonderful dialogue, constant insights and surprises and the best ensemble cast you could hope for. I simply adore this family, how they’re always around death yet so full of life nonetheless… Special mention must also be made of David’s black cop boyfriend and Nathaniel’s quirky genius “fuck puppet”, they just might be the greatest thing in this great show. ]

(8 Mar) Le Dernier Tunnel (2004, Érik Canuel) 49
[ Here’s further proof that we can make brainless and violent flicks as well as Hollywood, and on the cheap, too. This by-the-numbers heist flick is populated by walking clichés: the career criminal who won’t quit, the decrepit old pro, the hard-ass moneylender, the eager new kid, the wild card, the long-suffering girlfriend, the ball-busting parole officer… This is a B-movie all the way, but the cast (led by Michel Côté and Jean Lapointe) is solid and director Érik Canuel’s got a way with pop-up visuals. If you’re gonna watch trash, might as well make it local. ]

(8, 9 Mar) Six Feet Under – “1.11 – 1.13” (2001, various) 91
[ Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Rachel Griffiths, Mathew St. Patrick, Freddy Rodriguez… I love youse guys. Can’t wait for Season 2 to come out on DVD. ]

(9 Mar) Mean Streets (1973, Martin Scorsese) 84
(10 Mar) The King of Comedy (1983, Martin Scorsese) 86
(10 Mar) Who’s that Knocking at my Door? (1968, Martin Scorsese) 60
(10 Mar) Boxcar Bertha (1972, Martin Scorsese) 37
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(11 Mar) The Company (2003, Robert Altman) [ review ] 53

(12 Mar) The Color of Money (1986, Martin Scorsese) 75
(13 Mar) Kundun (1997, Martin Scorsese) 87
(14 Mar) Alice doesn’t live here anymore (1974, Martin Scorsese) 52
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(15 Mar) Le Temps du loup (2003, Michael Haneke) 40
[ A well-off French woman (Isabelle Huppert) and her children find themselves drifting through unexplained desolation and end up in a refugee camp where food, water and hope are scarce. This is a punishing watch, even by Haneke standards. It’s skilfully crafted and effectively depressing, but it feels pointlessly abstract. Making a realistic, zombie-free end of the world tale is an interesting attempt, but films like “The Omega Man” and “28 days later” explore the same themes in a much more potent way. ]

(15 Mar) Kedma (2002, Amos Gitaï) 44
[ Seems slow and aimless for half of its running time, but the last stretch is riveting and thought-provoking. Set in 1948 as Jews leave a war in Europe only to get into another one in Palestine, the film gives the impression that Israel was a mess from the get-go. It’s disconcerting to watch the film’s characters go from victims in exile to armed aggressors who force Arabs into an exile of their own. The climactic dual monologues (one by an Israeli, one by a Palestinian) are brilliant, too bad it takes so long to get there. ]

(15 Mar) New York, New York (1977, Martin Scorsese) 71
(16 Mar) The Age of Innocence (1993, Martin Scorsese) 49
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(17 Mar) Taxi Driver (1976, Marin Scorsese) [ review ] 100

(18 Mar) The Fog of War (2003, Errol Morris) [ review ] 84

(19 Mar) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry) [ review ] 94

(20 Mar) Live Nude Girls Unite! (2000, Julia Query) 62
[ Candid, eye-opening documentary about peep show strippers struggling to unionize and negociate better work conditions for themselves. It’s pretty great how we get to see exotic dancers fully clothed yet emotionally naked – much of the “plot” hinges on director Query’s difficult coming out as a sex worker to her mother. “No contract, no pussy!” ]

(22 Mar) Jersey Girl (2004, Kevin Smith) [ review ] 55

(23 Mar) La Peau Blanche (2004, Daniel Roby) [ review ] 69

(24 Mar) The Return of the King (2003, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 95

(25 Mar) Masters of the Universe (1987, Gary Goddard) 33
[ Damn, this brings back a lot of memories. When I was a kid, I was into Masters of the Universe cartoons and action figures more than anything (except maybe G.I. Joe). Even then I thought the big screen adaptation was kinda cheesy, but still enjoyable for fanboys like myself. This is basically a cross between “Conan the Barbarian” and “Star Wars”, but with rotten writing, cheap-ass special effects and spectacularly bad acting from Dolph Lundgren in full beefcake super-hero regalia, Frank Lagella playing Skeletor under a ridiculous rubber mask and even Courteney Cox as an American teenager who stumbles into the epic battle for the control of the Castle of Greyskull. This shit makes the Power Rangers look like the Lord of the Rings, but it’s pure guilty pleasure. “I – HAAAVE – DA – POWAAAAA!” ]

(26 Mar) Human Nature (2002, Michel Gondry) 21
[ How can the same writer and the same director create an all-out masterpiece in one case and an utter misfire in another? Whereas Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry’s warped minds perfectly fused through “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” into a film that’s funny, moving and thought-provoking, their earlier “Human Nature” is all WACKY! ideas for the sake of WACKY! ideas. Patricia Arquette covered with fur, Tim Robbins teaching mice table manners, Rhys Ifans as a dude raised as an ape… Might sound amusing, but it’s not. ]

(27 Mar) Comedian (2002, Christian Charles) 76
[ It’s odd to see Jerry Seinfeld with his game off, not performing well-rehearsed stand-up or “acting” as a TV variation of himself. In this documentary, we see Jerry struggle with new bits, bomb on stage, doubt himself… Even though he’s f’n Seinfeld! The film also follows rising young comic Orny Adams, who’s alternately cocky as hell and miserable. “Comedian” is full of laughs, obviously, bit what comes through the most is the agony of needing to get those laughs to make a living. ]

(29 Mar) Führer Ex (2002, Winfried Bonengel) 32
[ Two angry young men in ‘80s East Berlin are arrested while trying to cross over into the West. Stuck in a prison full of sexual predators, they side with neo-nazis in what seems like the lesser of two evils, but eventually they realise that supposedly lesser evil is still, you know, evil. Such is the simplistic lesson of this painfully manipulative piece of skinheadxploitation. It takes complicated socio-political issues and reduces them into an inconsistent after-school special that’s brutally violent one minute, touchy-feely the next, always unpleasant. ]

(29 Mar) Alien³ (1992, David Fincher) 37
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(30 Mar) The Ladykillers (2004, the Coen brothers) [ review ] 68

(30 Mar) Se7en (1995, David Fincher) [ review ] 93

(31 Mar) The Game (1997, David Fincher) [ review ] 52

(31 Mar) Fight Club (1999, David Fincher) [ review ] 94

February / April

2004 log (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January / March

2004 log (1)

(5 Jan) Vendus (2004, Éric Tessier) 34
[ Less than 4 months after the release of his scarily effective “Sur le seuil”, Éric Tessier follows it up with an underwhelming crime comedy. Double-crosses, violence played for laughs and wacky twists abound in this sub-Coen movie about a prostitute trying to blackmail the loser husband of a rich real estate agent. Tessier’s direction is dynamic and Véronique Bannon is like sex on a stick, but DV blown up to 35mm still looks horrible and “Vendus” is too derivative to impress. ]

(5 Jan) Sunrise (1927, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau) 70
[ Murnau’s first American picture (after making “Nosferatu” and “The Last Laugh” in Germany) was the toast of the very first Academy Awards ceremony, winning Oscars for “Most Unique and Artistic Production”, Best Actress and a particularly deserved Best Cinematography. “Sunrise” may feel slow, dull and desperately corny to today’s audiences, but visually it remains as stunning as ever (the use of super-imposition alone is pure genius). Too bad the story and characters aren’t particularly interesting – the film could have used more of the coolest dog ever (watch him swim!) and of the city woman (who smokes cigarettes!!!) who threatens to come between the virtuous husband and wife. ]

(7 Jan) Mille mois (2003, Faouzi Bensaidi) 26
[ It’s Ramadan month in a small Morocco village coping with drought, unemployment and political unrest. Sounds like a lot of drama, but this is in fact one of those slow, contemplative pictures that linger for two hours without much happening. Some of the long static shots have an hypnotic quality and what we gather about these people’s lives and beliefs is mildly interesting, but something’s wrong when the theft of a chair is the most notable event in a film. ]

(7 Jan) Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller (1988, Michael Rubbo) 43
[ Whaaaa? Did I actually love this movie when I was a kid? This is the dorkiest dorkfest, full of dorks collecting stamps and travelling on them (don’t ask), all the way to China and Australia! The highlight is that staple of ‘80s comedies, the chase through the mall. Here’s it’s Montreal’s Complexe Desjardins, there’s a teenage Rufus Wainwright performing the film’s theme song and it culminates with producer Roch Demers being thrown into a water fountain, ho ho. ]

(7 Jan) Freaky Friday (2003, Mark Waters) 61
[ Like with such other live-action Disney pics as “The Parent Trap” or “Lizzie McGuire”, I didn’t expect much from this, but once again I’m surprised by how dynamic, funny and even touching these girlie flicks can be. The body-switching story is one of the oldest in the book, but Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis are both a hoot when acting like the other and director Mark Waters keeps everything bright and giddy. Good times! ]

(8 Jan) Aime ton père (2001, Jacob Berger) 19
[ A French writer (Gérard Depardieu) is riding his motorcycle to Stockholm to pick up the Nobel Prize when his troubled son (Guillaume Depardieu) crosses his path with the intention to confront him, by any means necessary. What ensues is an emotional chase, a father-son road movie full of increasingly silly twists. The most ridiculous thing is how seriously the film takes itself, with the whole cast indulging in unconvincing hysterics. Not even the baggage brought by the Depardieus’ own rocky relationship off-screen manages to make us feel anything but incredulous amusement at what a spectacularly misguided venture this is. ]

(9 Jan) Lost in Translation (2003, Sofia Coppola) [ review ] 49

(9 Jan) Pousse mais pousse égal (1974, Denis Héroux) 23
[ 92 minutes of the most lowbrow, broad and unfunny physical comedy, yet I can’t stop watching! Aww, Gilles Latulippe, you. ]

(10 Jan) Expiration (2003, Gavin Heffernan) [ review ] 67

(12 Jan) Les oubliés de Herat (2003, Majid Majidi) 55
[ Shot in 2001 and 2002 as the country was bombed daily by the Americans, this documentary truly shows Afghanistan as a war zone. Focusing mostly on Maslakh camp near Herat, Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi gives a voice to refugees who feel forgotten by God and the world. These people have known war and misery for decades, but there’s still a strong sense of resilience to most of them. This makes our little worries feel even more petty. ]

(14 Jan) Le chien, le général et les oiseaux (2003, Francis Nielsen) 62
[ A lonely old Russian general who once set white doves on fire (take that, John Woo!) to defeat Napoleon’s army is haunted by the birds of St-Petersburg until he reluctantly befriends a stray dog. The film was written by Tonino Guerra, who collaborated with many greats like Antonioni and Fellini. Here his words are put into images by Francis Nielsen and the result is a crudely animated but charming and poetic movie. ]

(14 Jan) L’initiation (1969, Denis Héroux) 24
[ Chantal Renaud is now the girlfriend of former PM Bernard Landry and Danielle Ouimet is a fat has been, but thirty years ago they starred in this nudie flick, Quebec’s answer to “Emmanuelle”. The girls are pretty cute, but the movie is an endless series of pointless musical montages, boring softcore sex scenes and inane dialogue. ]

(14 Jan) Valérie (1968, Denis Héroux) 30
[ Before “L’initiation” there was “Valérie”, which first undressed la Québécoise on film. Dannielle Ouimet is a big-boobed Catholic schoolgirl who runs away with a biker and ends up working as a topless dancer and a call girl. Shot in B&W and propelled by a flower power score, there is a certain nostalgic charm to the movie, even though the writing and acting are subpar. ]

(15 Jan) All That Heaven Allows (1955, Douglas Sirk) 78
[ “Do you want your Douglas Sirk steak bloody as hell or burnt to a crisp?” Sirk’s 1950s melodramas are hardly subtle, but you gotta love the Technicolor cinematography and lavish score and the impossible romance between Jane Wyman’s rich widow and Rock Hudson’s gardener is surprisingly involving. ]

(15 Jan) Deux femmes en or (1972, Claude Fournier) 26
[ Two bored housewives get it on with a series of delivery men. Sounds like a porno? This is actually a broad sex farce starring a who’s who of 1970s Quebec stars, led by Monique Mercure’s bare ass and Louise Turcot’s perky milkers. ]

(16 Jan) Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! (2004, Robert Luketic) [ review ] 25

(17 Jan) Underworld (2003, Len Wiseman) zzz
[ After 20 minutes of desperately gloomy “atmosphere”, lame-o sub-Matrix mayhem and dull-ass exposition of pop mythology, a blonde vampire chick walks up to cold and charmless werewolf-hunting Kate Beckinsale and tells her: “It’s a waste of time, you know.” Whoa, babe, you won’t have to tell me twice! * eject DVD * ]

(18 Jan) Anything Else (2003, Woody Allen) 54
[ Even the lesser Woody Allen films have a tendency to make me feel good. Oh, Jason Biggs is desperately miscast as a neurotic intellectual comic writer (that’s Jason SCHWARTZMAN you wanted here!), Christina Ricci tries for that crazy/adorable Diane Keaton thing but only comes up with crazy/unbearable and Jimmy Fallon is criminally wasted (only 5 minutes of screen time and not a single joke!)… Yet Woody’s writing remains endlessly clever and irreverent and he’s absolutely hilarious as Biggs’ “raving, psychotic lunatic” mentor. ]

(19 Jan) Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde (2003, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld) 60
[ After reading my review of “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!”, in which I wrote that his earlier “Legally Blonde” was fun only because of Reese Witherspoon’s spunk, Robert Luketic told me: “I guess Legally Blonde 2 was a work of art without me.” Having yet to see that sequel, this inspired me to do so tonight. Verdict: art it may not be, but it’s a perfectly watchable trifle, which is more than I can say about “Tad”. “Red, White and Blonde” is a rehash of the first flick, sure, but I’m still in love with Reese, Bruiser the chihuahua, Jennifer Coolidge and all the pink junk around them. Good times! ]

(20 Jan) Clerks. (1994,Kevin Smith) 62
(20 Jan) Mallrats (1995, Kevin Smith) 54
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(20 Jan) crazy/beautiful (2001, John Stockwell) 68
[ Early on you can feel this isn’t just another teen movie. There’s this sense that this is about real people, real feelings… Kirsten Dunst is a rich girl who’s always getting into trouble, Jay Hernandez is working hard to escape a wrong-side-of-the-track background. When love blooms between the two, it isn’t Hollywood hogwash but a complicated, confusing, “crazy/beautiful” thing. Bruce Davidson plays Dunst’s father and, like John Mahoney in “Say Anything”, it’s not a cliché bad guy adult character, we can understand how he feels. Good writing, good direction and, as gorgeous as Kirsten looks in midriff-baring tops, it’s her heartbreaking performance that makes the strongest impression. ]

(21 Jan) His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks) 81
[ Dense with rapid-fire dialogue and cigarette smoke, this screwball comedy is an epic battle of the wits between editor Cary Grant and his journalist (and ex-wife!) Rosalind Russell. The screenplay is spectacularly well written and the whole cast shines. ]

(21 Jan) Sweet and Lowdown (1999, Woody Allen) 63
[ Alternating talking head segments by jazz aficionados (including Woody Allen himself) with “re-enactments”, “Sweet and Lowdown” tells the story of Emmett Ray, the best guitarist in the world – after Django Reinhardt. A drunk, a cleptomaniac and a pimp who likes to shoot rats and to watch trains, this is a really fun character and Sean Penn is awesome in the role, as is Samamtha Morton as his mute and half-wit sweetheart. The storytelling is a bit jittery, with plotlines introduced then not quite followed up on (even Morton disappears for half an hour at some point), but this fake biopic remains one of Allen’s most enjoyable recent works. ]

(21 Jan) The Matrix Revolutions (2003, Andy & Larry Wachowski) [ review ] 81

(22 Jan) Les côtelettes (2003, Bertrand Blier) [ review ] 62

(22 Jan) Les Valseuses (1974, Bertrand Blier) 57
[ Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere are two lowlifes who walk, drive, bike and ride the train through France, committing petty crimes and harassing women (and each other!). Blier is adapting his novel, which I haven’t read, but it feels like we’re skipping every other page. There is barely a story here and the characters are one-note, but the cast (which also includes Miou-Miou, Jeanne Moreau and Isabelle Huppert) is amusing enough. It’s just that what was “groundbreaking and controversial” (dixit the back of the DVD) 30 years ago seems almost tame today. ]

(23 Jan) The Butterfly Effect (2004, Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber) [ review ] 55

(25 Jan) Sweet Home Alabama (2002, Andy Tennant) 8
[ Reese, babe, you know I love you, but what the hell is this? It’s like all your spunk and charm vanished while you were playing this Southern-tomboy-turned-hoity-toity-Yankee-bitch. This has got to be one of the most superficial, uninspired, deadly dull “romantic” “comedies” I’ve ever seen. Not a single moment slightly resembles human behavior! Jared Sapolin’s review goes into more detail, but he might be softballing the movie a little (!). ]

(27 Jan) Permanent Midnight (1998, David Veloz) 61
[ 5 years before boning “The Cooler”, Maria Bello was already getting eaten out by losers – here former heroin-addicted “Alf” writer (!) Jerry Stahl, played in a too rare dramatic turn by Ben Stiller. Where Stiller goes you know Owen Wilson and Janeane Garofalo can’t be far; even Andy Dick shows up for a 2 second camero. Junkie movies are a dime(-bag) a dozen, but this usually comedic cast (which also includes Fred Willard and Elizabeth Hurley) gives this one a different flavor. Worth a look. ]

(27 Jan) Monkey Business (1945, Howard Hawks) 44
[ Cary Grant plays an absent-minded chemist whose monkey-rejuvenating formula is inadvertently mixed into the lab’s water-cooler, turning him and his wife (Ginger Rogers) into crazy youths again. This is hardly one of Howard Hawks’ best, but I love Cary, I love Marilyn Monroe (playing a sexy secretary), and Lord knows I love monkeys! ]

(28 Jan) Truly Madly Deeply (1991, Anthony Minghella) 66
[ This BBC TV movie totally belongs to Juliet Stevenson, endlessly heartbreaking and adorable as a grieving woman whose life is put in even more turmoil when her dead husband (the great Alan Rickman) mysteriously returns. This is a simple little sentimental film, not unlike, say, “Ghost”, but Minghella and his cast infuse it with plenty of heart and wit. ]

(28 Jan) Spellbound (1945, Alfred Hitchcock) 70
[ Ingrid Bergman is a “frozen-puss” psychiatrist, an all-work-and-no-play woman of reason who finds herself overwhelmed with passion for new hospital director Gregory Peck, who happens to be in desperate need of a psychiatrist! This is one of Hitch’s most unusual films, part murder mystery, part romance, part psychological drama and part pure surrealism, courtesy of designs by Salvador Dali and an eerie theremin score. ]

(29 Jan) Jack Paradise, les nuits de Montréal (2004, Gilles Noël) 17
[ Roy Dupuis has got charisma to spare, but he can still not manage to involve us in the by-the-numbers story of Jack Paradise, a French Canadian pianist who enters the often Black and English Montreal underworld from the 1930s to the ‘60s. This is a particularly poorly written film, with idiotic dialogue, one-note characters and a plot that’s little more than a loose string of clichés. The jazz music is cool enough, but the filmmakers lack the budget or the resourcefulness to truly recreate the period setting – the nightclub scenes always feel half-empty and lifeless, much as the movie. ]

(30 Jan) Dans l’œil du chat (2004, Ruby Barichello) 13
[ After an exceptional year where Quebec filmmakers showed they could make pictures both smart and entertaining, here’s a throwback to the days of desperately pretentious films that appeal to nobody. Simon (Jean-Nicolas Verreault) lost his girlfriend Pauline (Julie Le Breton) to a trip around the world from which she never came back. Months later he is still obsessed with her, even though he’s now dating her friend Gégé (Isabel Richer), with whom he only connects through lame movie sex. The movie is about clearing up the mystery of Pauline’s disappearance somewhere abroad, but in pure student film fashion it all takes place in a single apartment through endless phone calls, e-mails and faxes. Verreault is brooding throughout, generally half-naked and drunk, as if he were (badly) channelling Martin Sheen in the opening of “Apocalypse Now”. Colorful characters (notably Pierre Lebeau as the landlord) pop in occasionally, otherwise it’s moping and more moping. Ominous shots of Pauline’s orphaned cat walking around the apartment make one hope that some “Cat People”-style nonsense will shake things up, but no luck. “Dans l’oeil du chat” is reasonably well crafted, but it strives for heavy meaningfulness with no concern of drawing the audience in. ]

(31 Jan) Rain Man (1988, Barry Levinson) 72
[ I’m not sure this qualifies as the “Best Picture” of any year, but I liked it quite a bit. Dustin Hoffman is great, of course, and Tom Cruise offers strong support in the less showy role. ]

2003 log (12)

(3 Dec) The Happiness of the Katakuris (2002, Takashi Miike) 70
[ The Katakuris are a family that put the ‘funk’ in dysfunctional. They run a desperately unsuccessful inn in the country where guests finally show up, only for each to turn up dead in the morning. This sounds like a creepy thriller, or maybe a black comedy, but this wacky genre-blender actually owes more to Rodgers and Hammerstein than to Hitchcock! The actors/singers are all hysterical and the visuals are trippy (there are even Claymation sequences), with Miike once again proving to be an uncannily skilful and versatile filmmaker. ]

(3 Dec) Can’t You Hear the Wind Howling? (1997, Peter Meyer) 54
[ A so-so documentary about the short but legendary life of Robert Johnson, who came to represent the essence of Mississippi Delta blues and to influence musicians like Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. The film’s subject and music are fascinating but they’re not always well served by the blah re-enactments and Danny Glover’s hyperventilating narration. ]

(3 Dec) Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003, Peter Webber) 21
[ There’s no match for the exquisite dullness of bourgeois cinema, intensely preoccupied with period detail, solemn artists and thoughtful pale girls. Nothing of consequence has to happen, nothing of interest has to be said, it’s all about the appearance of meaning and the pretension of sophistication. Colin Firth is long-haired Dutch painter Vermeer, Scarlett Johansson wears a maid’s cap and mumbles an accent, and all around, boredom reigns supreme. ]

(4 Dec) Shichinin no samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa) [ review ] 96

(5 Dec) Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003, Sylvain Chomet) [ review ] 73

(5 Dec) The Last Samurai (2003, Edward Zwick) [ review ] 37

(5,6,7,8… Dec) Tenacious D: The Complete Master Works (2003, the D) [ review ] 100

(9 Dec) Perfect (2002, Michael Ninn) 35
[ A private detective screwing and/or killing robot babes! Bullet-time cumshots! The Devil and Jesus DPing an angel! Porn actors still can’t act a lick and you can only watch so much sex before it becomes repetitive and boring, but you gotta admire Private Media’s ambition. ]

(9 Dec) Forgotten Silver (1995, Peter Jackson) 64
(10 Dec) Bad Taste (1987, Peter Jackson) 51
(10 Dec) Braindead (1992, Peter Jackson) 62
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(11 Dec) Annie Brocoli dans les fonds marins (2003, Claude Brie) [ review ] 45

(12 Dec) Stuck on You (2003, Peter & Bobby Farrelly) [ review ] 47

(12 Dec) Something’s Gotta Give (2003, Nancy Meyers) [ review ] 61

(15 Dec) Il Cuore Altrove (2003, Pupi Avati) 33
[ 35 year old virgin Nello falls desperately in love with blind femme fatale Angela but, when he hears about a miraculous way to restore her eyesight, he worries that he’ll lose her. This contrived premise promises romance and melodrama, but it doesn’t deliver despite lavish cinematography and music. It’s hard to be moved by Nello’s foolish infatuation, especially as it grows increasingly obvious that Angela is only using him. As for the ending, it might have been more affecting if it wasn’t such a blatant “City Lights” rip-off. ]

(17 Dec) The Return of the King (2003, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 95

(18 Dec) Big Fish (2003, Tim Burton) [ review ] 72

(19 Dec) In America (2003, Jim Sheridan) [ review ] 93

(20 Oct) La Strada (1954, Federico Fellini) 88
[ Part of Les Chefs-d’oeuvre ]

(21 Dec) Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (1998, Katsuhito Ishii) zzz
[ It tries to be a hipster yakuza flick, but it’s actually plodding, uninspired and resolutely unhip. ]

(22 Dec) Pieces of April (2003, Peter Hedges) 36
[ This movie is so Sundance it’s not even funny – literally. You got your shaky DV camerawork, you got your dysfunctional yet oh so colorful family, and a lot of “independent” spirit that’s really only rugged coating for a conventional, melodramatic comedy. There are some good actors here, notably Patricia Clarkson and Oliver Platt, but Katie Holmes is a bit shaky as “troubled girl” April. The characters are unappealling (only Derek Luke is endearing enough), the screenplay is too affected and the film’s “acerbic wit” falls flat. ]

(22 Dec) Stevie (2003, Steve James) 80
[ You watch movie-movies and see hopelessly white trash people caught in circles of abuse and that’s sad enough. But when you see the same pathetic patterns repeating through the lives of real people in a documentary like this one, it’s even sadder. We should hate Stevie: he’s an ignorant, racist, angry, drunken child molester. Yet as we spend time with him and learn about his horrible childhood, we start feeling sympathy towards him. It’s very confusing emotionally, and one of the most interesting things is how Steve James puts his own mixed feelings about Stevie right into his film. ]

(23 Dec) Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992, Chris Columbus) 52
[ The first film was fun enough, but this is just an uninspired rehash, despite amusing bits by Tim Curry and Rob Schneider. ]

(24 Dec) Men In Black II (2002, Barry Sonnenfeld) zzz
[ Stumbled upon it on TV, lasted only 15 minutes. Crappy FX, unfunny humor, Will Smith mugging for the camera… Ugh. ]

(Xmas) Cold Mountain (2003, Anthony Minghella) [ review ] 90

(27 Dec) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, John Cameron Mitchell) [ review ] 91

(30 Dec) Paycheck (2003, John Woo) [ review ] 46

November / January