Artists of the Year

It wasn't until I saw the picture that I became fully aware of just how astonishing a performance he constructed. Bill Cutting is ruler of all he surveys, and he is 47 years old--ancient for the time. He is supremely self-possessed, wearily amused, and grimly aware of the price of everything in life. He is one of those grand villains you don't hiss because they are so much fun to watch, and also because in some way you can't name they reveal the soul inside the bogey--think of Erich von Stroheim in Grand Illusion. It is a knowing work of vaudeville melodrama--down to the mustache that conceals his mouth so that you don't know if he is grinning or seething when his eyes are glittering slits. And yet it is classical in its complexity. It is outsized in a way you never see anymore, that makes me reach back for comparison to such titans as von Stroheim and Orson Welles, actors who understood both the grandeur and the cost of villainy. If Day-Lewis doesn't get an Oscar for this, there is no justice--which probably means they'll give the award to some schmo who cried onscreen.

Luc Sante is the writer of Low Life and The Factory of Facts. He lives in Ulster County, New York.

 

Julianne Moore
ANDERSON JONES

I haven't always been a fan of Julianne Moore. Sure, I enjoyed her work in Boogie Nights, and I appreciated her bravery in Robert Altman's films. You'll recall that in Altman's Short Cuts she delivered a monologue without the benefit of clothing below the waist, and believably lost her mind in the director's Cookie's Fortune. In fact, Moore has proven particularly adept at playing women on the verge--a half-step away from being completely unhinged. Witness her brief but terrifying turn in Bart Freundlich's World Traveler: She can be spooky. Freundlich just so happens to be Moore's husband, and if you've ever taken a good look at the man, you know that she has got good taste, too.

I once classified Moore as one of those character actors, like Kathy Bates, who's a reliably solid performer, but not a movie star. To be fair, most movie stars don't act--they don't have to. And that's why Julianne Moore is perhaps the finest movie star of our generation: She can walk both lines; she's both luminous and a gifted thespian. I realized this watching her in Todd Haynes's film Far from Heaven. As the very model of a '50s housewife caught between a sense of duty and being true to her heart, Moore is a vision--and she breaks your heart into a million pieces. She makes me cry--sob, really, because I just want her to be happy. Haynes knew this before the rest of us, anointing her as his muse while the rest of us were scratching our heads over Hannibal--a movie for which Moore has redeemed herself and then some. She is the actress to beat at the Oscars this year, and in fact Hollywood should be put on notice every time she chooses to step before the camera. This is Moore's moment. How lucky we are that we get to watch.

Anderson Jones is editor of E! Online Plus.

 

Douglas Sirk
MARK PERANSON

Episode 2002: Attack Of The Clones. The usual array of I Spys aside, autumn was the season of odd film remakes: The Ring, The Truth About Charlie, Red Dragon, Solaris, Swept Away. (You may have missed that last one.) The year's runaway critical hit, Todd Haynes's Far from Heaven, is also a remake--of sorts. Although Douglas Sirk died in 1987, 2002 saw the academic revival of his once-dismissed Hollywood melodramas crossing over into full-blown cinematic reanimation. Intimations of Sirk have been present in stylized films by directors as diverse as Fassbinder, Scorsese, Almodóvar, and François Ozon (whose Sirkian genetics experiment gone wrong, 8 Women, was released this year). But no director has been as dedicated to elaborate pastiche as Haynes, the former semiotics major at Brown University. More than merely grafting Sirk's All That Heaven Allows onto Fassbinder's own Heaven Allows remake Fear Eats the Soul, Haynes uses Sirk's cinematic syntax and Julianne Moore's sublime face to sculpt a supremely strange object that's unimaginable without at least a cursory reading of Sirk on Sirk; his is a film whose artificiality is the very key to its emotional depth. Sirk's estate could easily demand a co-director credit.

Abetting the Sirk craze are the Criterion Collection's dazzlingly remastered DVDs of Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind: real treasures for cineastes who aren't lucky enough to have been alive during the greatest decade for American sound and color. Though it manages, with the frisson provided by a well-placed cussword, to be contemporary, Haynes's re-creation of '50s cinema is truly bigger than life: a compendium of impeccable set decoration, to-die-for costumes, detached camera angles, and, most of all, color.

As for Ozon's homage? If Sirk were alive, he'd sue for character defamation.

Mark Peranson is a Toronto-based writer and the editor of Cinema Scope

 

Mike Skinner
KEITH HARRIS

Mike Skinner is the first genuinely British MC in the same way Johnny Rotten was the first genuinely British rock singer. Recording as the Streets, Skinner has arranged a dense, sprawling introduction to his world, Original Pirate Material (Locked On). His love of language, which expresses itself less through acrobatic wordplay than through the pithy bloke-ism, would get him heard regardless of his subject. (The most quoted tag from the most quotable album of the year: "Sex, drugs, and on the dole.") His subject matter alone--the sort of working-class culture that American MCs generally disdain in their pursuit of self-advancement--would make him worth hearing. But his commitment to swallowing consonants and drawing out vowels, to letting his words drip in between the bump and twitter of his garage beats with a definitively working class Brit cadence--that's what makes him a trailblazer.

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