August 2003 Archives

The Performers

Did they do it? Capturing the Friedmans is wonderfully rich, and of all the things in it, this is among the least rewarding lines of inquiry for me. The most obvious point of the film is that we cannot know the truth of the accusations, so why argue about it?

Author! Author!

It probably sounds like faint praise to say The Quiet American is a good story well told, but it’s certainly not intended that way. I mean that the movie is a solid, unpretentious, straightforward, compelling narrative that is skillfully written, directed, designed, filmed, and acted. It won’t knock you over, but you can’t find much fault with it. Plus: The Hours

I just don’t get how normal, smart adults get turned into raving geeks by Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Gits only released one album before singer Mia Zapata was killed, Frenching the Bully, but it’s quite amazing. The record is good — debuts are rarely great, and this has all the typical trappings — but it’s valuable as a document of how good Zapata was.

A Confluence of Death

Eye of God is a great demonstration of the power of structure. The 1996 film written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson piles cliché upon cliché. And yet, the movie works.

The Stepford Wives is the strange case of an awful movie that somehow became part of the cultural vocabulary. How could something so unambiguously bad penetrate so deeply into our society?

100 Favorite Albums

The top 10: Apple, Fiona — When the Pawn ...; Case, Neko — Blacklisted; Clash, The — London Calling;
Coil — Horse Rotorvator; Hendrix, Jimi — Band of Gypsies; Lovett, Lyle — The Road to Ensenada; Portishead — Roseland NYC Live; Radiohead — OK Computer; Sleater-Kinney — Call the Doctor; Tool — Aenima

Michael Moore’s divisive Bowling for Columbine is ingeniously critic-proof. If one complains about the politics of the movie, one if branded a right-winger. If one complains about fact-fudging or fairness, one is accused of missing the point.

Although a description of Donnie Darko might make it sound like an amalgam of motifs from the mind of Terry Gilliam, the film integrates its strangeness so well into a larger narrative that it feels more realistic than most movies. It’s funny, frightening, and ultimately devastating, a human story told very, very well.

Spike Lee’s 25th Hour would appear to be about a good-hearted drug dealer’s last day of freedom before he begins a seven-year prison sentence, but the movie insistently pushes itself beyond that. It should be a circumscribed drama limited to the dealer (named Monty and played by Edward Norton), his girlfriend, his father, and his two best friends, but the film regularly veers into the margins.

Four years in the making, the documentary Winged Migration is beautiful to watch yet empty. For all the time, money, and effort spent filming migrating birds, would it have been too much to ask to bring an editor on-board to turn the result into something a bit more compelling?

Why Go to Movies?

I was expecting something special out of the IMAX presentation of The Lion King, but it was merely bigger than I’d ever seen it. This was not the transcendent experience I expected and (to a degree) hoped for.

Failing Well

Some movies are difficult to criticize. Yes, they’re bad, but they’re well-intentioned and made with a certain amount of skill and ambition. The filmmakers have given the audience credit for being intelligent and open, and viewers ought to re-pay the favor. So it is with May, the low-budget solo debut from writer/director Lucky McKee. The movie is an attempt at a character-driven horror movie, and for that alone it deserves to be seen and praised.

spider-1.jpgAfter watching David Cronenberg’s Spider, I was acutely underwhelmed and disappointed. It could be that the movie’s impact on my first viewing — akin to dropping a light object onto a feather pillow — was a function of overblown expectations. Or it could be that the movie was designed to end with more of a whimper than a bang.