November 30, 2005

Fear Eat Soul

It’s not too early to start speculating about the Oscars.

2005 is the first year in the five that I’ve been seeing everything (well, about 400 a year) that I will say is a drag across the board. There are good films, and bad ones, but the good ones aren’t as good and the bad ones aren’t as bad – the missing ingredient this year is passion.

The secret word is “apathy.”

I had a lot of high hopes for the fall – but I’ve seen most of ‘em now with the notable exceptions of Munich and King Kong, and I’m not too hot under the collar about any of the ones that I’ve seen, either. It’s a year where everything has tended toward the middling ground – everything’s safe. If you touched a tongue to 2005, it would taste like plain oatmeal.

I mention all this because I think that Spielberg’s Munich - not even done yet – is going to sweep the major categories – mainly because it’s going to run unopposed and because Spielberg is an idiot savant when it comes to movies. Its chief competition will either be King Kong or Crash depending on how well people suffer Kong’s three-hour running time. Thank god March of the Penguins has its own category. My rooting interest is in Kong because, basically, I’m a big fat dork – but each time Spielberg makes a movie, I confess that I get a tingle of hope because, basically, I’m also a big fat idiot.

Best Pictures nominees: Crash, Munich, Match Point, Brokeback Mountain, King Kong - possible dark horse going to History of Violence.

To prep for Munich, I watched Fassbinder’s transcendent Ali: Fear Eats the Soul after a speaking engagement last night, and was transported once again by his meticulous framing, his disciplined camerawork, and what might be, still, the best portrayal of the acidic heart of racism in modern cinema. It’s a melodrama in the best sense of the word, the tale of a mid-thirtyish Moroccan laborer Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) who falls in love with sixtyish cleaning lady Emmi (Brigitte Mara), to the horror and disgust of all her neighbors, family, and co-workers. A scene in the mid-point set in a sea of yellow chairs set up in an open-air café’s courtyard marks the turning point of the film where the pressures of race and age begin to tell on Emmi and Ali – leading eventually to the statement that “together, we’re strong.” It’s simple, touching, remarkable – a picture that the amazingly prolific German filmmaker (dead at 35 from alcohol, I think) marked as his gentlest. I wiped away more than one tear more than once during the course of the film – when Emmi watches Ali take a shower, for instance, and says, simply: “You’re very beautiful, Ali” – or when Emmi calls herself an old woman and Ali says “No, you’re a good woman. You have a kind heart.” – but most when Emmi, crying (unattractively – nothing “Hollywood” about this picture), is awkwardly comforted by Ali who says to her “Oh, baby” then “oh, baby” again.

It’s one of the best movies about love, too.

The film was made two years after the murder of the Israeli athletes in Munich when Arab/German tensions were at their height in the Berlin of the picture. Until I see Spielberg’s film, it is in my mind the definitive picture about that awful moment in time – and, it goes without saying, that watching it now as an American in the middle of chapter 2 of Bush 2, the echoes are deep and our fresher scars are still sensitive to the touch.

Hot off the Presses (12.1.05)

Travis continues with his tour through the highlights of Jerry Lewis' filmography with my personal fave (not for quality reasons, perhaps, but nostalgic ones for sure), the abrasive, and ain't they all, Cinderfella and offers his thoughts on cult giallo Seven Deaths in a Cat's Eye.

Bill, meanwhile, writes a DVD addendum to the loathsome - but now fascinating for its setting (New Orleans), Skeleton Key.

Hot off the Presses (12.3.05)

Sarah Silverman breaks my heart with the stilted, unfunny (impossible!) Jesus is Magic and our interview with the great Neil Jordan for whom we just don't have enough reviews at the muthasite.

feed the beast (the beast is hungry) - buy Film Freak Central's 2005 Annual

November 28, 2005

Notes from the Trenches

Ah, the holidays. Two things happen during the holidays: the first is that they give us a week’s break or so from screenings and the other is that they start to mail us screeners so that when the screenings start up again, you won’t have to go to as many. Bliss.

A week with the family watching movies I’d missed (or can now safely miss) and eating turkey and enjoying the hometown Denver Broncos pull out a squeaker from the resurgent Dallas Cowboys. My Fantasy numbers are pathetic, but my team is 9-2, so in the testosterone calculus, I’m up.

Finally took in the Enron documentary which is too long and goes off on the skylark now and again, but is outrageous in the way you feel frustrated about because you sort of know that it won’t make any difference to anyone one way or another. When the dust settles, what’s done is done, and I’d be surprised if anyone learns anything from the whole mess – but as far as craft goes, it’s good. Watched John Dahl’s The Great Raid - a film I had to miss for scheduling conflicts a few months ago and, consequently, was denied an interview with Dahl which is just as well, I guess, as I only really wanted to talk to him about The Last Seduction. It’s one of Miramax’s last hurrahs and about as good as you'd expect given its brethren.

Sifted through a lot of mail – more polite, carefully-worded support for the Harry Potter 4 review and a lot of real anger about the Rent review. Almost all of it told me that creator Jon Larson didn’t die of AIDS and requested that I do my homework – which is fair, except that I had done some homework (Larson went to the ER twice, once for food poisoning to have his stomach pumped, the second time only to be diagnosed with the flu – he had an x-ray taken but it was read by a doctor of the wrong discipline – and so a weakness in his aorta went undiagnosed), and was trying to make a (bad) joke that Larson had died of a “romantic wasting disease” like “disenchantment.” More to the point, that Larson's death became a rallying point for supporters of the play: hardly a positive comment about it goes by without mention of its irony (Paul Clinton's review is especially revolting) - and that although he died of a misdiagnosis and congenital defect, his followers have exploited it in ways subtle and, sadly, less subtle. It’s a theme I was pursuing, see – and my having to explain it suggests that I pursued it poorly – that Rent is hysterical proselytizing: grandiloquent and self-important pop melodrama that, I thought, hurt its message more than helped it. Its triteness (and awfulness) aside, just by ghettoizing it in an imaginary cartoon Alphabet City that doesn’t look anything like this anymore, you run the risk of the “wrong” people getting it into their heads that AIDS was an isolated phenomenon.

More: that it’s isolatable.The review is an attack of the film and of the source material and of Chris Columbus who, I was told, was given the latitude to make an “R” rated film (something he desired) and still could only manage a “PG-13”. Were I to write a review for Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, it’d be pretty much the same review, I think – but, like the piece on Rent isn’t about AIDS or homosexuality, the review of Life is Beautiful wouldn’t be about the Holocaust or Jews.

Still, the question was posed to me eloquently of whether or not there were any issues near and dear to me that would cause me to forgive the presentation of them. It’s something I thought about a long time and it brings us all the way back around to last Trenches’ brief thread about the casting of Chinese actresses in the roles of Japanese Geisha, “pleasuring” Japanese war profiteers and “heroes” of the occupation of Manchuria. For as few films about AIDS as there are in the mainstream in the last ten years (let’s see, um, Philadelphia was actually twelve years ago, Angels in America on cable, and. . . um. . . Rent?) there have been no significant films about the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and the massacre, rape, general atrocities (including beheading contests) and war crimes they committed there against the Chinese people. (James Ivory’s The White Countess is set at that time and place, but is about Ralph Fiennes as a blind club-owner and Natasha Richardson as his Russian Countess girlfriend.) Estimates of civilian death toll under Japanese occupation range from a hard 9,000,000 to a soft 18,000,000 – and yet the Japanese have to this day denied any wrongdoing and refused to apologize. The period isn’t taught in their history books (as the Holocaust is taught in Germany) – but let’s veer off that soapbox (get Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking and its accompanying photographic history for the rest of the story.)

So back to the question: what would I think of a musical full of bad songs and treacly sentiments about the Japanese occupation of Manchuria based on an outrageously popular stage musical? Um. More ambivalent, probably, but I wonder if I’d be even more critical of it because, for fuck’s sake, after all this time, this is the popular representation of that atrocity? I would think that most people would feel about stuff like Rent not relief and gratitude that it’s getting the message out on AIDS (mainly because it’s really not), but frustration that not only is there not more about this in the popular culture, but that when it does come, this is the parcel that it comes packaged in.

“Different, but same” as the late Pat “Mr. Miyagi” Morita once said, find the publication of my four-movie odyssey through The Karate Kid epic in which in the first film, and in the series’ most powerful ten minutes, a drunken Miyagi tells Daniel-san about how he fought with valor in WWII on behalf of his adopted country and of how his wife and child died back home in an internment camp while he did it. That’s a level of bone-crushing humanity right there in the most popular of popular films about a shameful artifact of our wartime years that makes me look around like an idiot: the Chinese guy at the country-western bar and it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

So I understand the support, at least in theory, of Rent by the gay crowd – what I wish, though, was that there was more outrage that whenever we hear about AIDS, we hear about it in ways that are pandering and trite. It might be a hoot in a retro sort of way, campy/kitschy, whatever – but aren’t there enough “Queer Eye for the Straight Guys” and “Playing it Straights” and “Will & Graces” already? Until you make this struggle a recognizably human one, all it is, is a notably gay one (sometimes IV druggie one, too, but that makes my point). And there’s nothing easier to continue to ignore and dismiss than a weird fandango indulged in and suffered by an already marginalized minority. To me, Rent does more damage to the cause of AIDS awareness in the United States than not – you can hear the recognition and empathy Dopplering off into the distance every time some idiot in the musical says that the stripper/smack addict is just what the recovering-smack addict/Jon Bon Jovi rocker needs. That is, if anyone other than fans of the musical are going at all.
I should say, apropos of probably something, that I flat love Hedwig and the Angry Inch - more now than when I first reviewed it. The music is great and the staging is fantastic both in the theater and on screen: John Mitchell has genuine talent, but humanity is the ancient Chinese secret ingredient here.

Now reading David Foster Wallace’s Broom of the System and loving the ever-loving chocolate factory out of the new acoustic Cyndi Lauper.

Here’s this week’s screen capture (2.4): a three-way heat between Jack S., Chad E., and Tim R. – shaping up to be another photo finish (HA! – God, I’m clever). Have at it.

Catch Bill’s DVD write-up of Sky High - a movie I stepped on but have to reassess now in light of Bill’s affection for the piece. I watched this film moments after Linklater’s Bad News Bears so was in a foul mood – made fouler by circumstances surrounding the screening (filled/daytime) and so on. A subjective business, this one, and I wonder if this’ll join the list of reviews I regret as time goes on. You do this job to be on the record, and sometimes that record comes back around to kick you in the ass.

Hot off the Presses (November 28, 2005) -
Just back from a screening of Adamson's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and have to say that it's better than I thought it was going to be. It's childish, like the text, but it's not terribly squeamish when it gets down to the battle sequences. The performances are pretty good - the screenplay isn't oppressively cute nor oppressively proselytizing - and the CGI is workmanlike and only moderately distracting. The Christian aspects of the piece are crystal clear and front and center but, like the books, only really sickening when certain fundamentalist factions of Christians exploit it - it's possible, I think, to watch it without being too bothered by the crusadish elements of it just like, for instance, the Lord of the Rings films. I like Lewis' Mere Christianity a great deal, in fact, mainly because it appeals to common sense rather than slavering jihadism. Chesterton is better, but Lewis ain't bad. If something sinks the film, it's the score. Good god, so to speak.

Still and all, it's true to itself and for whatever that's worth, there you have it.

A personal stump:

Give the Film Freak Central Annual a little love - click through the main banner at the mutha-site or go to any of the major online retailers (best yet, order it through your local brick & mortar. It is, finally, widely available for order through every major bookseller. . . and just in time for Christmas. If we sell enough of these guys, we can keep doing this for another year (disincentive for many, incentive for a sad, proud few) and by "this" I mean run this site and piss off giant demographics and random studios with depressing regularity. Rather than begging for a handout - I'm begging, on behalf of the other freaks in the asylum, that you stuff your stockings this year with three-hundred-plus pages of blood, sweat, and tears. You'd do it for Ebert (says the Jewish mother in me). Oy vey.

Barnes & Noble - Lulu - Borders - Amazon - and

[/pledge drive]

Hot off the Presses (November 29, 2005)

Moderated an extremely well-attended screening and discussion of Bob Fosse's Cabaret tonight at the Denver Public Library - leading me to read one of Fosse's biographies as well as watch the film three times today to pull scenes for shot-by-shot analysis. Have come to the conclusion that the film is better than I'd remembered it and I remembered it to be pretty great - something about the artificiality of Minnelli's persona fits Sally Bowles to a "T" - and when you draw a line between her and the ventriloquist's dummy in the piece as Fosse seems to do: well, it's pretty cool. Alex has a typically-interesting contrary opinion over at his site, but I think that the things that he disliked about the piece (the distancing of the musical sequences, for one, though I don't think that they're distanced so much as self-reflexive) are things that mark the film as very much a picture of the seventies and, perhaps, the kind of "secular" piece that he dislikes. I don't want to speak for him, though, go read the review.

Discussion went smashingly, I thought - lots of great observations leading into a discussion of the best part of Rob Marshall's Chicago: the marionette sequence on the city steps that is the most Cabaret. I love, love, love Joel Grey, by the way - in this film and as the Asian manque in Remo Williams.

Also took in a screening of the excellent DVD of Xtro - one of the nastiest pieces of work in the annals of the British "Video Nasty" tradition - one of the weirdest, too. It's something like a puberty thing - very much so, actually, with a full-frontal Miriam D'Abo and some real cruelty towards children and old ladies to boot. Mmmm, now that's some good trash.

CNN has an interesting clip about the growing storm surrounding Memoirs of a Geisha which culminates, after quotes from Japanese and Chinese people expressing various degrees of outrage, with a white film critic saying that the political ramifications are overblown and the movie's better than he thought it was going to be. What confuses me, though, is the this reporting of a love scene between Watanabe and Zhang. . . not in the film I saw.

Back on the muthasite: read my twofer of Jacques Tourneur's War-Gods of the Deep and the Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation At the Earth's Core. They're craptacular! Also, Bill's DVD addendum to our new force-fed annual tradition: the bi-Polar Express.

November 21, 2005

Notes from the Trenches

Attended the closing night of the Denver International Film Festival last night to see Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain - something I was forced to do when Focus Features and the Denver Film Society denied me access to a press screening a couple of weeks ago. Before the closing night show, a parade of DFS presenters announced the winners of this year’s juried awards. The jury that I was on: the Kieslowski award for best foreign picture, had a conference call on Saturday morning that I wasn’t told about – and the level of hostility greeting my query about it (about an hour after the event), told me that my making this call, on my own, about something that they should have been calling me about was proof, somehow, that the bad communication was all my fault.

I had to ask a week previous for a screener for the last entry, informing them at that time that I hadn’t been getting any emails: including an invitation to a dinner for the jurists that took place earlier in the week, including a complete guest list, including any responses to my two queries about screeners for Chinese films and something called Fateless that I'd intended to cover. . . on and on.

I’m not arrogant enough to believe that the DFS are being vindictive because of two earlier blog pieces about the failings of this year’s festival – so maybe it is as I was told, something wrong with the email system (probably mine) and nothing personal. I’m willing to forget that the only publicist who talked to me this year during the fest was from out of town and had worked with me in the past and had somehow not forgotten my cell phone number after a year of not using it (nor my work email, nor my home phone) to get in touch with me about coverage of her clients and so on. And I'm willing to believe that sometimes computers are weird and I might get all the festival daily PR pieces with no problem, but none of the internal memos that would have meant greater participation.
I'm going to go with the idea that since I made the mistake of declaring that we’re not going to do much coverage this year of a subpar fest that I’ve fallen right off the call-back/follow-up list during the one time of the year that they would have anything to call me about. It's only fair, in all honesty, that if I've given up on them that they give up on me as well.

But anyway, the closing night, and this is a problem for me: Al Maysles is there to present the documentary award named after him and was introduced as, along with his brother David, the inventor of cinema verite. An assertion wrong and potentially insulting to a legendary documentary filmmaker, wouldn't you suppose? I think the term is “direct cinema” and, y’know, it ain’t the same thing because among other things, one refers to fiction, and the other to non-fiction.
We can talk about the slipperiness of that distinction, but we should make the distinction. Particularly with Mr. Maysles who makes the distinction so sharply.

It’s not important to everyone, of course – to most it will appear to be picking nits – but it should be important in this setting, and in this company.

Okay, maybe we should put the egos on hold and start to talk about how to turn the ship around instead. Jesus, look at what I say when no one’s asking – can you imagine if someone asked?

Brokeback Mountain is a disappointment, by the way. Middlebrow and squeamish – not in its sex scenes which are puzzlingly brutal – but in the way it puts an exclamation point behind every gay moment. If you’re going to make a film about aliens, just make a science fiction piece – romances should be about people. At least it’s better, a little, than Rob Marshall’s Memoirs of a Geisha which, besides describing one character as a war hero for being injured in the Japanese occupation of Manchuria (the sort of thing that irks me if no one else except two billion other Chinamen), has Chinese woman Zhang Ziyi and Malaysian-born Michelle Yeoh cast as Japanese Geishas. It’s the equivalent, not to put too fine a point on it, of a fine Jewish actress happily playing a heroic Nazi prostitute – bless Maggie Cheung for turning down the opportunity to sell out her culture. (And for what? Memoirs of a Freakin-Geisha? There’s not even the question of subversion here.) At least they give Zhang a pair of blue contact lenses, right? Racial tensions aside, it’s silly in an unfortunate po-mo way in that it could’ve been called “The Katie Holmes Story” for its tale of a little girl who idolizes a grown man and, after her breasts are no longer sore from growing, seduces and marries him! Hurray!

Biggest non-surprise: there’s a voiceover narration. Biggest surprise: it’s not Morgan Freeman doing it.

Four speaking engagements: the first, The Sixth Sense as part of a ghost series, shepherding in autumn to the Rockies. Gilpin County, I should mention, where I do a lot of these shows, is at an altitude of about 8,900 feet, meaning that I get really light-headed and confused sometimes. Even more so when I’m up there, even. A close scrutiny of the film, at times scene-by-scene, reveals an incredibly arrogant picture as well as an amateurishly-directed one. Lots of push-ins and over-scoring take on the burden of the emotionality of the piece, leaving the twist as all that’s left to consider. Saving it on not-too-close looks at the mechanics of the picture are the performances of Willis, Osment, and especially Toni Collette. It can only be read in any case through the prism of a film about the sacred-ness and the need to protect the cult of childhood – but even that is betrayed by the bully humiliation at its conclusion: a devouring need by Shyamalan to appease as broad an audience as absolutely possible. My estimation of the picture has dropped precipitously after this engagement – but my fascination with its popularity at the epicenter of our most recent fin de siecles is stoked hotter.

Next, The Others - a beautifully-directed picture that uses negative space and the template of The Innocents to lovely effect. It’s scarier than I remembered, as well, and Kidman – doing the film so soon after her divorce and a highly-publicized miscarriage – turns in the first of a series of courageous performances. Then, A Tale of Two Sisters: the culmination of all the films of the series (The Innocents, The Haunting, The Sixth Sense, and The Others) in its use of an isolated house used as a metaphor for a woman’s psycho-sexual traumas and repressions; the oppression of children; striking use of color; cold spots; inciting events; on and on. And all of it skewed ever so subtly south of true by its distinctly Asian sensibility. Of course it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the most tactile; flat out gorgeous pictures of the last several years.
Did a show, too, for the Denver branch, of Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain.

Before it, I realized that I had loaned out my copy and so went to the local video store in search of a copy. They had it, but only on a battered VHS copy – so I went to Blockbuster. . . to Blockbusters: all four of them that are within about a three-mile radius of where I am – not a one of them had it. One of them stocked it, but it was “lost” and it was an old issue of it in any case (though it would have done). None of the people in any of the Blockbusters seemed to have any idea what I was talking about when I asked for it. You know, I didn’t know that that store only had categories for “Drama, Comedy, Action, Horror, Family, New Release,” sometimes “Foreign” and then the inexplicable “Special Interest” which includes exercise videos and Errol Morris. There’s a lot of talk lately about Blockbuster having to declare bankruptcy any day now – for all the harm that they’ve done catering to what people “want” (editing movies, putting indie video stores out of business, etc), they well and truly deserve everything that happens to them and their brand.

But the show itself: afterwards, a young woman with her young daughter contributed to the discussion by saying that her mother used to sing her Freed & Brown’s songbook, a lot of it used in this picture (folks who diss Moulin Rouge! for mining top 40 – as if there aren’t other things to diss the film for – look no farther than Singin’ in the Rain for the template) – and that she wanted to experience (and share with her own daughter), and to understand what it was like to hear the tunes in a public setting with a group of others. (“And did you?” “Oh, yes.”) Of the 60 or so in the audience (a surprisingly small number, but it did compete with the very popular festival – more tickets sold this year than ever crows the DFS! Meaning, of course, that it’s good!) only one hadn’t seen the film before. I don’t think that it’s a perfect film, but I do feel like every time Kelly performs in the puddles and on the lampposts of MGM’s ‘50s backlot, that it’s the first time. Ground zero of a landmark in our popular culture. Oh what a glorious feeling.

Saw a screening of Rent, packed with the public and theater geeks who knew every single word (and sang along! joy!), which did not prevent eight lucky walkouts. Because I’m guessing this was largely a theater-crowd, it was relatively well-behaved (save the sing-alongs, of course), but I should say that the kid taking tickets at the door to the Denver Pavilions was the rudest little punk I’ve ever had the misfortune of asking a question.

- Hi, I’m here for the screening of. . .
- Harry Potter? Get in line over there.
- No, Rent.
- Where’s your ticket?
- I’m a member of the press.
- Stand over there. And you have to stand behind those people.
- Can I talk to your manager?
- You don’t need to talk to the manager.
- Can I talk to the publicist?
- She’s not here.
- But the show’s starting, when will she be back?
- Don’t know, don’t care.
- What theater is it showing in?
- Don’t know, don’t care.

At which point I walked past him, asked his manager (who was about fifteen in a bad suit and didn’t give a shit, either), and then went and watched the film. The creme? The little punk didn’t care that I’d walked over to his manager. There are a lot of reasons that people don’t go to the movies anymore. Here’s another one. Customer service is non-fucking-existent at these places: they pay minimum wage to these little assholes and then they pay minimum wage plus a dollar to their managers – all of whom spend detention after school together and could give a fuck about customer retention and satisfaction. I’ve heard stories about this kid before: that he’s still gainfully employed at this establishment tells me that there’s a bad case of institutional rot going on here and why in heaven’s name would anyone looking to have a nice evening out even think about going to the movies here?

And speaking of getting bent over a turnstile, Rent made most of my orifices bleed. Why is it that people with AIDS are canonized? I’m not assuming that they’re not saints, see, but why must I be assured that they are? Between this and Brokeback Mountain, I’m still waiting to see a high-profile film that doesn’t treat gayness as some kind of “neat” thing, something quaint and adorable, some sort of wondrous theme park ride instead of just a matter of banal fact. I’ve known a few gay gents and not a one of them struck me as particularly dazzled by the fact of homosexuality. I've been Chinese now for 32 years and not once has a mystical gong gone off when I've come into a room. I’m waiting, in other words, to see a gay movie that isn’t just about being gay – can’t gay men and women on film have relationships that are every bit as boring and dysfunctional as breeders? Or must they all end in disease and outrageously non-PC murder subsequent to hilarious sequences where they’re walked in on by their friends and family? Catch a scene in Brokeback Mountain where you’re encouraged to have a chuckle at the expense of a totally innocent character (who’s later vilified again at the weirdest time for no reason at all). At least they’re not helper elves in these pictures – or quirky best friends. Oh, wait. Rent. Never mind.

Still reading FitzGerald's astounding Way Out There in the Blue - here's this week's screen capture (2.3) - I believe the tally so far is Jack S. - 1 and Chad E. - 1:

Incidentally, Bill's long-awaited (by me and anyone else in the know) take on the first season of "Leave it to Beaver" is in the can and on the site. Just as he opened my eyes to John Hughes in the years that I've been familiar with his writing, he's opened my eyes to "Leave it to Beaver" - and there may be no more important work done on either than right here in our own, as they say, backyard. The review is well worth the wait.

And how much is left that you can say that about?

Hot off the Presses - November 23, 2005

Just in time for Walk the Line, Travis kicks La Bamba around for a while, but finds a little soul in The Buddy Holly Story before doing yeoman's work on Wim Wender's compromised noir, Hammett.

And then there was Rent. Kudos, by the way, to Caption Boy who has really outdone himself with the hilarious, and point-on "AIDS of Aquarius" line. That's really fucking brilliant - you can (and oughtta, probably) just skip the review body as these six syllables do all the slaying that needs to be done.

Hot off the Presses - November 24, 2005

We wrap up the 28th DIFF with a capsule of something Ebert calls "another Sundance gem" which, if it sounds backhanded, might only sound that way to a genuine asshole like me: Love, Ludlow. I had intended on wrapping with a review of Lars Von Trier's Manderlay or the Holocaust drama Fateless, but scheduling being what it was, missed both screenings. Our doing this picture is a testament to creative and persistent PR as not only did the team behind it send me a screener, but the publicist sent a personal note as follow-up and the screenwriter sent a handwritten, and personal again, postcard! Critics are sort of used to being reviled and ignored - when you get this kind of attention, it doesn't always get results, but it's always appreciated. I was glad that a combination of factors this year opened a slot for the picture. It's not great, but it's not awful, either, and I'm not sorry to have seen it.

Over in the other column, Hans Petter Moland's Malick-produced The Beautiful Country comes to DVD and, in a rare (for a reason: I suck at them) happening, I write up the DVD specs on the new, infernal, Cheaper by the Dozen: Baker's Dozen Edition.

Hot off the Presses - November 26, 2005

Travis continues his Jerry Lewis safari with The Bellboy and my interview with Lodge Kerrigan goes live.

November 16, 2005

Pilgrim's Progress

First New Line tries to subliminally affiliate The New World with the middle cow in their cash herd; then they show even less inspiration with their final one-sheet (below), which I thought was fan art when it first showed up online.

You know you're living in anti-intellectual times when the poster for a Terrence Malick movie is identical to that of a Dakota Fanning weeper. Remember the good old days (of Heaven)?

November 15, 2005

Heaven and Hell

Like sleep, or cocaine, the more movies I see in a short period of time the more I tend to want to watch something recreationally so as to cleanse the palate between tastings, so to speak. (You can imagine what the spit bucket looks like this late in the year.) Besides, it’s sort of exciting to find yourself in that groove where movies suddenly all seem ten minutes long (no small boon given stuff like The White Countess and Harry Potter 4) – and the writing on them eases if only for a short while.

Watched Tim Blake Nelson’s Eye of God for the fifth or sixth time, spurred on by the use of the Abraham/Isaac story in the ridiculous The Bee Season which also opens Nelson’s picture, to be impressed anew by its sense of quiet, by its tremendous cast (anchored by the great Martha Plimpton in her definitive role and national treasure Richard Jenkins), and by its clear-eyed vision that smoothes the wrinkles in time it offers in its narrative. I’m haunted by a moment when a boy played by Nick Stahl finds something on the ground and grips it so hard it takes four grown men to wrestle it away from him – and of the moment that Hal Hartley advised Nelson to move to the prologue of the picture, when that same boy turns, the “wrong” way (around to the left rather than right), caught in a car’s headlights: pale, smeared with gore, and struck dumb by something he’s seen. The whole film is about bearing witness, really, and that desire to make some sort of connection. Jenkins’ parole officer tells, piecemeal, he and his wife’s doomed attempts to conceive a child while Plimpton’s resilient small-town girl Ainsley earns a late-night bus-stop reputation for being “a talker” and, thus, to be avoided at all costs. Hal Holbrook is wonderful as a tired sheriff, his voiceover narration at the beginning and end taking on the monumental ennui of M. Emmett Walsh’s from Blood Simple - and so is Kevin Anderson as a man a little too in love with God.

One of the great debuts – it fits comfortably alongside other such modern Southern Gothics as Lone Star and One False Move.
Also took another spin around Mark Robson’s Val Lewton-produced noir inversion The Seventh Victim. Starring Kim Hunter as Mary, a few years before her Oscar spin as Stella in Kazan’s Streetcar Named Desire, it locates her at the center of the typical noir set-up which, in 1943, was still in its stem-cell stage on film (The Maltese Falcon tipping many of the elements of the popular formula two years previous) – the femme fatale, then, becomes her contact in the big city, lawyer Gregory Ward (Hugh “Ward Cleaver” Beaumont), an acquaintance (no fair telling how) of Mary’s missing sister.

Given a miniscule budget and a title as was RKO’s habit with Lewton, the original story was to have been a woman-in-peril piece the twist of which being that she was also the gumshoe – something like a D.O.A. conceit, I guess, in which her failure to solve whatever would result in her becoming the title’s (and the killer’s) seventh victim. What evolved from that is a story of Mary, pulled from a creepy parochial school (she’s warned never to return by a nervous secretary), and thrown into the turmoil of the big city where it’s revealed that the object of her sister’s disappearance is a very genteel social club comprised entirely of earnest Satanists. A precursor to Rosemary’s Baby in its scenes of smoking-club devil worship (the grotesques, the aged and the subtly crippled), it also prefigures Psycho’s shower scene with a silhouette of a woman in a hat (that looks like horns, naturally) menacing poor Mary in the shower. The best scene of the film, however, involves Mary’s hiring of a private eye, the corpse of whom she later encounters in a most unusual way. The Seventh Victim, despite its supernatural trappings, is really more noir than typical Lewton horror and has, I think, been regarded as spare parts as a result – but it’s prime for rediscovery. Its ending, in particular, is the sort of thing that we would never, ever see today: a bleak, almost nihilistic series of images and dialogue that suggest that it isn’t just that there’s no love in the naked city, but that there’s no possibility of it, either.

Robson, like Robert Wise, was an editor for RKO before getting his big break with Lewton – he would go on to helm Ghost Ship, The Isle of the Dead, and, finally fully hitting his stride, Bedlam, with Lewton, before going on to helm a few fairly dreadful big-budget war and bodice ripper flicks. Best known today for Peyton Place, Robson’s peak came more than a decade earlier – and his impressive four-film cycle with Lewton begins here.

November 14, 2005

Notes from the Trenches

A hard week: only part of it due to the workload.

Fourteen screenings this week – that’s four days with three screenings/day and one with two – plus one interview with personal hero Neil Jordan that precluded a fifteenth. The showing for Jim Sheridan’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was attended by a minimal-capacity crowd, rowdy and unhappy not for having to go through the usual security gauntlet but having to share space, I think, with two armed and uniformed policemen. There’s a matter of consent (and I’m not talking about willful consent necessarily, but tacit or even unconscious) in situations like this sometimes. I saw a sneak of Candyman in college at the school’s largest auditorium and the entire football team was in attendance (at the University of Colorado at Boulder, almost the only black students are the football players) - when a black cleaning woman made an appearance in the film, that section of the audience erupted into hoots and jeers. As a relatively young, relatively stupid man, I learned a fairly valuable lesson about a lot of the images pushed in our culture that I was not conscious of being offensive – for me, that the cleaning woman was black was an “of course she is” – and for the black audience I was seeing the film with, that she was black was an “of course she is.” I think that kind of consent has a lot to do not only with why almost no professional critic in the United States comments on things like that, but with how audiences respond to riot police being preemptively deployed to a screening of a film about a black rapper who, I guess, owes at least part of his fame to being shot three times.

There was a murder in the lobby of a theater showing this film this weekend, the Loews Cineplex in West Homestead Pennsylvania. Read about here at The Hollywood Reporter, and though the theater has admitted that they have not been able to establish a direct connection to the film (the victim is a 30-year-old man who got into an altercation waiting for the bathroom – not exactly the typical gang-banger stereotype, but what do I know), Loews has decided to yank the picture from their lineup regardless. Here’s what else is showing a the Cineplex: A History of Violence, Capote, Chicken Little, Derailed, Doom, Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, Flightplan, G, Good Night, and Good Luck., Jarhead, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, North Country, Prime, Saw II, Shopgirl, The Legend of Zorro, The Weather Man, Wallace & Gromit and Zathura.. You can probably let Shopgirl, Prime and Good Night and Good Luck. off the hook, but the rest of the pictures are at least hyperkinetic and at worst (Saw II, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Doom, Derailed) actually in love with bloodlust.

Derailed, especially (sharing the same weird “gather ye rosebuds” message as Saw II, oddly enough), is woefully nihilistic and packed with disturbing imagery – more so, I’d say, than Get Rich or Die Tryin’. But Derailed is only about a white guy killing without consequence to protect his wife and his mistress from a French ponce and a black thug (played by a rapper – the white guy’s black guy is also played by a rapper, incidentally) – while Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is a rather boring biopic about the idiotic rise of a black rapper whose success is mostly owed to chest-pounding, and pointing out the same sort of darkie menace-hysteria and feckless racism as has accompanied the opening of his film. He’s made a mint, in other words, by being a racist prick rhyming about other racist pricks – ain’t the world a complicated place?

In any case, I felt miserable and depressed during the show – with no reason to believe that it had much, if anything, to do with the film itself, I felt like it wasn’t fair to write on it until I have a chance to see it again.
Besides the flicks I’m on the hook for already, also saw Walk the Line and Harry Potter 4 - neither of which blew my skirts up though I liked the Cash biopic a little tiny bit better than I liked the Potter. Joaquin Phoenix is very good (so is Witherspoon) but to what end? Here’s the drill, say it with me: childhood-struggling early adulthood-singing-big break-marriage-drugs-groupies-singing-divorce-drugs-singing-reconciliation-rehab-singing-end titles-end credits. Here’s one-fifth of the nominees for Picture, Actor, and Actress, though, all in one place in any case and almost by default, so if you want to get a head start on looking at the films Oscar gets a woody for this year, here’s your chance. In all likelihood, however, the best picture noms are films that we haven’t seen yet (or aren’t finished): Syriana, Munich, Match Point, Memoirs of a Geisha, King Kong, The Libertine, and so on. If you think, like I do, that Oscar is a load of incestuous bullshit – consider that I’d be hard-pressed at this point to name more than one or two mainstream films that even have a chance of cracking my top-ten so far when all’s said and done (and is History of Violence even a mainstream film?). First time that’s happened in five years or so this late in the year. Fingers still crossed for King Kong, though. Three hours with a big monkey and a T-Rex and Naomi Watts? Sounds like picture of the year material to me.

Anyone taking bets on how Spielberg will provide Munich with a cozy, familial, happy ending?

For Harry Potter, well, it’s the first time that I’ve been bothered by the kids’ acting (they took a lot of acting training under Mike Newell’s dubious tutelage, and it shows in their self-consciousness and budding pretention), and it’s the first time that I’ve been bored to tears by it. The scenes don’t so much end as drop off a table to be replaced, clumsily, by more scenes that aren’t edited worth a shit and go on forever. Worst culprit is the formal ball: complete with a band that sings a "wizardy" song with "wizardy" lyrics. Yep. The setpieces are fine, but the series has reverted to looking at special effects. I loved Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter 3 - it makes the fall this time around just that much more precipitous.

The DIFF started this week on Thursday with their gala Red Carpet opening night. The press release is fairly hilarious as was local news coverage that showed first the head of the Denver Film Society, then our mayor, then a group of Japanese industry professionals that no one knew who they were, then some guy who was maybe Claude LeLouch, and then a bunch of bikers from a local Indian Motorcycle club invited to be guests at this $75/ticket (or $250/ticket) screening of The World’s Fastest Indian. Roger Donaldson flew in, I guess, and I have no reason to believe that he didn’t, at the last minute – but I didn’t see him on the “carpet” as it were. Last thing and then I’m most likely done talking about this fest except to give a few blog-exclusive capsules on some of the films we’re not going to bother covering officially, the Film Society this week announced that their plans to join in a renovation of a historic theater in Denver and share the space with a huge bookstore (the venerable Tattered Cover) and music retailer (Twist & Shout) had fallen through.

What I suspect is that the intention was to announce that negotiations on the project (touted for some time as the cornerstone restoration project in Denver’s rundown East Colfax area) had reached a fruitful resolution on opening night – instead, on the day before their 28th festival, news breaks that it’s all come tumbling down. Here’s an article from The Denver Post last week

detailing the struggles to that juncture. Everybody’s saying the right things now – and so they have for almost three decades – which is, you’ll agree, a lot of talking. Fingers are pointing: most of them at the Film Society for having bigger eyes than fundraising capability. The Rocky Mtn. News reports on the fiasco here . What’s the truth? What difference does it make? Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark – and a city the size and education level of Denver should have more serious cinema-culture/educational opportunities for the rest of the year than, oh, next to none.

Quis custodiat custodium? Who's even keeping score, anymore?

Currently reading Frances FitzGerald’s amazing Way Out There in the Blue:

Here’s this week’s capture – (2.2) – winner last week, Jack S.:
New Reviews:

A capsule for the new Lasse Hallstrom disaster, Casanova , Bill's DVD write-up for the astonishing new War of the Worlds (2005) DVD, and Alex's takedown of poor Monster High.

Hot off the Presses (updated 11/15/05):

Check out Bill's take and DVD review of Ozon's 5 x 2 - a film I missed in its eyeblink tour through Denver (sans critic's screening) and Bill's review doesn't make it much of a priority that I catch it, no matter how tantalizing the description of it as "Irreversible-lite."

Another capsule from the DIFF, this one James Ivory and Kazuo Ishiguro's The White Countess, find in it Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson (and both of the Redgrave girls) in antebellum Shanghai, decomposing in the decadent way of potpourri in velvetine sitting rooms.

Hot off the Presses (updated 11/16/05):

New reviews of Richard Gere going all Kabbalah on our asses in The Bee Season, and Joaquin Phoenix going to a funeral in the suspiciously familiar Walk the Line. Over in capsules, we find Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear take the bull by the horns in The Matador.

One of my favorite reviewers, Duncan Shepard, takes a few of these films apart in ways more eloquent than I'm capable - check it out here if you promise to come back. Especially like the part about 50 Cent being a "two-bit" actor. Arcane, and funny - and true.

Hot off the Presses (updated 11/17/05):

The one you've all not been waiting for: Harry Potter 4.

November 07, 2005

Notes from the Trenches

Hey! Be Your Own Critic at the Denver Film Festival!

Having watched about a dozen films now for the Denver International Film Festival, I’m going to pitch coverage for the site at about ten select capsules with any interviews that I might do there (none through the DFS in any case) going live in conjunction with the official releases of the films in question. DIFF has never attracted much national interest and the extent that we’ve covered it here at FFC has been, I think, mainly Bill indulging my hope that my hometown festival would evolve into a festival for people knowledgeable about film rather than an annual fundraiser (and a wildly successful one) for the Denver Film Society.

Reading an interview (give it a look, a good read written by friend and colleague Robert Denerstein) with DFS president Ron Henderson in this weekend’s Rocky Mtn. News, I was disappointed to see that the emphasis (after the dubious proclamation – and dubious pride accompanying it – that had the DIFF not moved back a month in the year that it wouldn’t have been able to obtain such barnburners as The World’s Fastest Indian and Casanova for its opening night and centerpiece presentations) seems to be that presale tickets to Society members this year more than doubled from the same period of time for last year’s edition. What that makes me feel is a lot of hopelessness and apathy: if the champions of our film culture are going by box office in the assessment of quality – well, yeah whatever – maybe I’m just naïve and it’s always been this way. In any case, give the article a look because even if the DIFF isn’t even a blip on the radar for you (and why should it be?), it’s a pretty fascinating insight into why some festivals soar and why others just sort of wander around.

Two questions and I’m done asking questions: why would fewer people come if the movies were great? and if the audience in Denver is unusually gullible, then who if not the DFS is entrusted to provide educational opportunities for the rest of the year?
Was shut out of a screening of Brokeback Mountain at a festival screening this week by what I’m told is Focus Features because they didn’t want any Internet press to see it. I’m not sure, in that case, how Slate and Salon got to see it (probably why it wasn’t so-restricted at TIFF, which we also covered, oddly enough) - but I do know that what it meant was that I didn’t get to go while people that no one in the critical community has seen at any other screening: ever (calling into question who the hell they are, of course, but it’s not an urgent question), along with a few members of dubious local print outlets with microscopic distributions. Probably just answered my own question - but what’s strangest is that there are no such restrictions (how could there be?) on me attending the closing night presentation of Brokeback Mountain as a civilian guest of the festival. I guess that means that we’re going live with a full-length review of it in a couple of weeks independent of the DIFF (ditto Breakfast on Pluto). Besides, there’s no embargo on this fucker anymore – and what the hell is the point of an embargo, but to allow industry rags like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety first shot? What if everyone threw a mutual admiration party and we didn’t show up?

Oh, right, no more questions.

Also denied an interview with the suddenly media-shy Ang Lee who will, however, be interviewed on-stage by Lisa Kennedy

of the Denver Post. Here’re the ten titles I’ll be reviewing for the site in conjunction with the festival: first, the opening night, centerpiece, and Cassavetes tribute films (World’s Fastest Indian, Casanova, and Duck which have the honor of sharing two stars total between them – it occurs to me that it doesn’t matter how the two stars are distributed) – then a mediocre Primer-like mindfuck from Switzerland called Absolut; probably Pierce Brosnan’s The Matador; a weird Bugsy Malone-like experiment, but with noir this time, called Brick (Raymond Chandler in high school); probably a Holocaust flick called Fateless; probably Lars Von Trier’s Manderlay and Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy and most likely either Mrs. Henderson or Duane Hopwood even though the same local freelance publicist who raved about Dreamer, raved about it.

You kid yourself that you’re doing something that matters by covering a minor festival in detail when really what you’re doing is putting people to sleep (and torturing your editor) by talking about bad movies that will most likely never see the light of day. It isn’t that there aren’t good films that don’t get distribution (like almost all of Hao Hsiou-Hsien’s films – or Beat Takeshi’s – or Edward Yang’s), and if I find any, I’ll talk about them – it’s that most films that don’t get distribution are bloody horrible. I mean, Christ, look at what does get distributed. It’s unconscionable that people are charged cash money to see something like Duck (and you wouldn’t be hearing about it from me, either, if it weren’t a major screening at this fest – lambasting indie pics that you will probably never see again in any format is a lot like potting clay ducks) - and that, more, it’s up for an award for new filmmakers offered at DIFF along with the deeply suspect Bittersweet Place (which we reviewed at the Tribeca Film Festival).

It’s not that most anyone in this audience will feel cheated, it’s that it strikes me as amoral in a way (and bound to backfire sooner or later) when you take your audience so for granted.

Here’s this week’s mystery capture (Contest 2, Capture 1/7) – The Captain has graciously offered to sit this one out (and I accepted that offer initially) – but, you know what, that’s ridiculous – he’s the king right now, and what fun is it if there’s no one to knock off the hill? Fair game, in other words, all in – let’s start with an easy one from one of my favorite pics:

Hot off the presses - updated 11/09/05

The first of my DIFF caps, this one Philip Baker Hall's jaw-dropper Duck

Travis talks about big swords in Blue Underground's new double-dipper of Fire and Ice
I talk about Jennifer Jones' embalmed and melted to Rock Hudson in A Farewell to Arms
and Travis again about Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills 2.0 Parent Trap I & II

Also, absolutely do not miss Bill's thoughts on Fox's new (hopefully short-lived) practice of defiling review copies of their screening DVDs. (Scroll past the Mr. and Mrs. Smith review to get to the chewy goodness.) Not the smartest move, says common sense, and Bill's articulate outrage starts a conversation we all should be having.

Hot off the presses - updated 11/10/05

Joe Wright's almost post-mod Pride and Prejudice is better described as Impressionistic, I guess - but no great loss, it not being meta, as, having seen Michael Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy and Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, there's no paucity of po-mo epics in the pipeline.

In DIFF news, an old Anthony Hopkins rides an old motorcycle across the Bonneville Salt Flats. But not before spreading his pixie dust over a collection of stock sad-sacks in Roger Donaldson's The World's Fastest Indian.

Also check out a little blather about a little pittance: Marcus Nispel's Frankenstein: a failed pilot for an ill-conceived USA Network television series. Main miscreant responsible? Dean Koontz. Millionaire. Idiot.

Hot off the presses - updated 11/11/05

Not going to write on the Jim Sheridan/50 Cent pic because I need to see it again. Audience I saw it with was awful and, more, for the first time ever it was presided over at either entrance by two armed policemen in full uniform (in addition to the usual security retinue). Yep, it's racism. Distracting and, worse, a self-fulfilling prophecy - lots of unpleasant anxiety in the air and I found myself not able to concentrate for long stretches. It didn't seem like it was worth a shit, but I want to be sure.

Here, however are new reviews for Derailed: Jennifer Aniston's attempt to break into mainstream flicks by slutting it up a little, tiny, bit. Am I alone in thinking that Aniston's sexuality is so bland and chaste that she couldn't get a rise out of a ten-peckered owl? In any case, she's so bad in this film that she sort of undermines it - what there is to undermine, that is. Also a review of Shane Black's Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: a film that's easy to hate. But I didn't.

On the festival circuit, find a capsule for Michael Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.

Travis, meanwhile, throws down the gauntlet before Jerry Lewis' entire filmography - or as much as he can stand.

November 06, 2005

Lewton Family Val-ues, part two

After cutting his teeth at RKO as an assistant editor (progressing on to being Orson Welles’ editor on Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons) Robert Wise was given a shot at directing a couple of low-budget creepers for Lewton: the astonishing Curse of the Cat People (where he’s billed as co-director with Gunther von Fritsch though von Fritsch was dumped from the production fairly early on – what you see is basically Wise and Lewton) and the somewhat more conventional (and only partially successful) The Body Snatcher. Open Curse of the Cat People with a kindergarten class wending their way through a path in Sleepy Hollow; an anxious children’s game; and a creepy little girl Amy (Ann Carter, more Martin Stephens than Dakota Fanning) strays from the path and befriends a butterfly that a well-meaning playmate promptly crushes. She slaps him, of course, and we’re pushed into the claustrophobic confines of the true progenitor of The Sixth Sense (a film that progressively falls apart the more Shyamalan’s childish direction and inexplicable skylarks are put under the microscope – worst is probably the bully comeuppance in a film that has essentially been a sanctuary for lost children)*: a piece about the secrecy of the cult of childhood and the terror of parents who no longer recognize their children in the wild, overgrown, out there. It’s one of the finest evocations of childhood as a hallucinatory maze through which kids wander alone. Amy is freaky, no question, hearing voices from the witches house (and receiving gifts) and wishing for a friend that manifests itself as the possibly psychotic ghost (Simone Simon, reprising her role) of her daddy’s first wife - but the real anxiety of the piece is in her parents wondering if madness is congenital - and if lines of communication allowed to founder can ever be repaired.

Smothering and nightmarish from start to finish, the film erects a dreamscape patched together all of fairy tales and suggestion – enough so that a late scene of carolers takes on the confused dread of exorcist Merrin showing up at a certain Georgetown brownstone. It’s a flat brilliant film – more sustained, certainly more sophisticated than its predecessor – with our Amy dressed throughout like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, staring out from the warmth of her family’s bosom into the cold and her dead friend who doesn’t seem to want to talk about where she’s from, or where she might be taking her. Fans of Wise’s The Haunting will find many of the director’s hallmark use of camera angles, triple-dissolves (a Lewton standard), sound design, deep focus, and explosion of mirrors, both here and in Wise’s next Lewton picture, The Body Snatcher.

Paired with Boris Karloff, Wise undertakes Robert Louis Stevenson’s grim little ditty about the acquisition of cadavers for medical use, inspired, perhaps, by notorious grave robbers (and Stevenson contemporaries) Burke and Hare. The highlight of the piece probably Karloff’s grim, maniacal Mr. Gray: a cat person, of course, in this Lewton production, a dog meets an untimely end in only one of a myriad shocking things, and suggestions of things, in the piece. But it doesn’t cohere in the same way as many of Lewton’s others – mainly, I think, because it never provides a baseline for its characters’ behavior and so it’s a collection of lunatics rubbing up against each other in a moral vacuum. Probably the point, the film falls into camp long about the time Bela Lugosi makes a useless cameo – it’s not a disaster, but it’s not a masterpiece either and the bar has been set high. A shame that a proposed collaboration between Wise and Lewton on Sheridan le Fanu’s “Camilla” never had a chance to come to fruition.

*Hitchcock’s Marnie also owes a debt to this picture in its horrible look at madness and jealousy between a doddering old woman (possibly a witch) and her daughter who, despite appearances, the lady maintains has died “long ago”. Should also mention a lot of the landscapes of Burton’s Corpse Bride as finding seed here.

November 03, 2005

Top 10 of 1999

Inspired by Ed Gonzalez's ongoing 10-best project over at Slant, and seeing as how 1999 is the one year in FFC's history for which there is no list on file, I hereby announce with spectacular punctuality my Top 10 of 1999:

1. Eyes Wide Shut (d. Stanley Kubrick)

2. The Straight Story (d. David Lynch)
3. Being John Malkovich (d. Spike Jonze)
4. Bringing Out the Dead (d. Martin Scorsese)
5. The Blair Witch Project (ds. Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez)
6. Ravenous (d. Antonia Bird)
7. Beau Travail (d. Claire Denis)
8. Election (d. Alexander Payne)
9. Titus (d. Julie Taymor)
10.American Movie: The Making of Northwestern (d. Chris Smith)

Honourable Mentions: The Insider; The Ninth Gate; The Iron Giant; eXistenZ; Rosetta; Human Resources; Fight Club; Summer of Sam; The Limey; Toy Story 2; Sweet and Lowdown
Blind Spots: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai; L'Humanite; The Wind Will Carry Us