The Year in Film

What you see is (not) what you get: Twelve months of well-screened duds and rarely viewed wonders

 

Better Than You Heard (alphabetically)

These ten got a bum rap, critically and/or commercially: American Psycho; The Broken Hearts Club--a romantic comedy; Crime and Punishment in Suburbia; Kikujiro; Loser; Me, Myself & Irene; Mission to Mars; The Ninth Gate; Scary Movie; and What's Cooking?

Number 1 of the Top Ten: Flowers of Shanghai
Number 1 of the Top Ten: Flowers of Shanghai

 

Musts to Avoid
(alphabetically)

Granted, I didn't see The Grinch or Battlefield Earth; these ten were egregious enough. Your SASE gets my list of a dozen more--for your protection:

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Documentarian-turned-schlockmeister Joe Berlinger earned rare distinction in 2000 for perpetrating half of the great Revelations: Paradise Lost 2 (with collaborator Bruce Sinofsky) and half of this ineptly reflexive sequel (with Artisan Entertainment). "Somebody fucked with that tape!" indeed.

Duets. In this appalling slice of Robert Altman Lite set on the karaoke circuit, the sole character of color--a heat-packin', sweet-singin' ex-con (Andre Braugher)--meets a tragic fate that miraculously fails to prevent a happy ending. How sweet it is that his white buddy (Paul Giamatti) is finally able to use frequent-flyer miles in trade for hotel lodging!

Groove. Every generation deserves its Rock Around the Clock, I suppose. But will even Groove's rave reviewers remember this bad trip in a year?

Here on Earth. After a blessedly long respite, Hollywood returned to our fair state with this interminable Ice Castles update, in which Welch, Faribault, and Red Wing are "the Berkshires," and love means never having to say "cut."

Into the White. Directed by Hinckley native Steve Kroschel, this tortuously fictionalized documentary of the auteur's experiences shooting nature footage in avalanche-prone mountains fully earns its billing as "the true story of a snow job."

Nurse Betty. Many seemed convinced (by the cheery production values?) that this snide dissection of a lame-brained Kansas waitress signaled the arrival of a kinder and gentler Neil LaBute. But if there has been a more viciously satiric portrayal of a working woman in the five years since To Die For, I haven't seen it.

Pay It Forward. Only an ogre would object to a movie about a social movement premised on altruism--but only a sucker would accept this shameless sap-fest as that movie.

Shaft. "The man who would risk his neck for his brother man" lead-poisons 16 brown-skinned members of a Dominican drug lord's crew. "It's Giuliani time!"

The Tao of Steve. Small wonder this frat-row indie recommends "Taoist" seduction as a courting tool: It worked on the audience.

Time Code. One thing this "revolutionary new look at motion-picture storytelling" proves definitively: Digital video looks much better at one-fourth the size.

 

You Must Remember These

In another strong year for local repertory and festival programming, the (many) standouts included: "Sound Unseen," "Cuba Si!", "Iranian Film Week," and the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Jewish, and LGBT fests at U Film Society; "Women With Vision," "American Experimental Film," The Decalogue, and the Hou Hsiao-hsien, Leos Carax, Dorris Dorrie, Craig Baldwin, and Kurt Kren retros at Walker Art Center; "DV or Not DV," "Midwest Hustlers" (including Chris Smith shorts), and Jeanne Dielman at Red Eye Cinema; "Women in the Rejected Chair," Tanner '88, and "Films First Fridays" at Intermedia Arts; Faces, "Two-Minute Film Trials," Stan Brakhage shorts, and "Hell Bent for Election!" at City Club Cinema; silent classics (with live accompaniment), The Thing (From Another World), and Lawrence of Arabia and Vertigo in 70mm at the Heights; The Birds (with Tippi Hedren in attendance) at the Riverview; Dracula (with Philip Glass) at the Northrop; Perfect Blue, Planet of the Apes, and "Coven" at the Uptown; 30 Frames a Second: The WTO in Seattle at Bryant-Lake Bowl; The Annihilation of Fish at the Parkway; Asian Media Access's "Cinema With Passion" at the Riverview and Oak Street Cinema; the Red Eye's movies-and-music series (including Purple Rain) in Stevens Square Park, and the Walker's (including Pillow Talk) in Loring Park; the "Multiplex" conclave at the Soap Factory on July 4; and damn near everything at Oak Street, but especially "Out of the Seventies," "Saph-O-Rama," Pandora's Box, Safety Last, The Edge of the World, A Moment of Innocence, In the Presence of a Clown, "Hindi First Fridays," and the Ophuls, Kubrick, and Antonioni retrospectives.

 

Local Heroes

The following dozen Minnesotans (current or former) screened worthy indie work in 2000: Matt Ehling ("Access"); Laureen Griffen ("Nature Walk"); Roger and Rodney Johnson (Welcome to Alaska); Tom Lieberman (We Knew Who We Were: Memories of the Old Northside); Josh Margolis (Joanie Loves Furbies); Tim McCusker ("Napoleons"); Wyatt McDill ("Have You Seen Me?"); Kelly Nathe ("Hotel Hidajet"); Benno Nelson ("Moment One"); Darren Roark ("A Young Man's Guide to Dating"); and Kevin Zinniel (Uprising: Revolution From the Roots).

 

Ten to Watch For (or Hope For) Next Year

Having graced the film-fest circuit in 2000, these variously marginalized gems would require only distribution to crack my Top 10 in 2001: Takeshi Kitano's Brother; Agnès Varda's The Gleaners and I; Béla Tarr's The Werkmeister Harmonies; Barbara Kopple's My Generation; Shaya Mercer's Trade Off; Jiang Wen's Devils on the Doorstep; Jim McKay's Our Song; Jafar Panahi's The Circle; Baltasar Kormákur's 101 Reykjavik; and (best of all) Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood For Love.

 

R.I.P.:

Paul Bartel, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Richard Farnsworth, John Gielgud, Alec Guinness, Wojciech Has, Hedy Lamarr, Ring Lardner Jr., Joseph H. Lewis, Walter Matthau, Richard Mulligan, Jack Nitzsche, Jason Robards, Curt Siodmak, Claire Trevor, Roger Vadim, and Loretta Young.

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