By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
An autobiographical documentary whose significant emotional power is derived from facts stated in straightforward intertitles--Mom received years of shock "treatments," son was abused as a toddler--and images that illustrate, twist, mock, question, heighten, and otherwise continue to respond to those facts creatively. Filmmaker/subject Jonathan Caouette seemed to know even at the age of 11 that authenticity, too, is a performance.
7. Notre musique
Jean-Luc Godard's meditation on war and art begins with an intricate and intense montage of battle scenes, staged and otherwise. It's not a collection of great war moments, more a set of "forgotten hits" that pushes, say, Saving Private Ryan into perspective. That is: There's little that's "great" about war, unless you count the sorrow it engenders. The rest of Notre musique focuses on current conflict through the lens of life after war: people, including Godard, wandering the broken buildings of Sarajevo, trying to figure out what to do that might matter. (Opens January 14 at the Oak Street.)
8. Blissfully Yours
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's characters grant themselves a drowsily sensual afternoon in the sun against a backdrop of dull daily work at a "Made in Thailand" sweatshop. A visceral portrait of world trade policy at ground level.
9. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Under the tutelage of a $40,000-a-month counselor, the members of Metallica learn to negotiate their relationship to one another rather than acknowledge the creative death of a successful name brand. It's surprisingly painful to watch--maybe because these stunted young men barely learn how to identify an emotion before they're learning how it can be profitably manipulated. A visceral portrait of world trade policy at ground level, Part II.
10. Maria Full of Grace
Colombian brings pellets of cocaine to America in her belly. A visceral portrait, et cetera, Part III.
Honorable Mention (alphabetically): Before Sunset; The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Infernal Affairs; Kinsey; Moolaadé; Time of the Wolf; Vera Drake.
It Is What It Is
BY MATTHEW WILDER
Bodhichitta--the simultaneous awakening and softening of the heart, the process of becoming vulnerable to the grief of others--is both subject and object of most of my favorite movies of 2004. Many filmmakers--Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Haneke, and Michael Moore being preeminent among them--came at the follies of the globalized moment with the canon of Western tragedy in mind: Godard recalled Dante, Haneke conjured Goya, and Moore created a tragic poem out of 21st-century image-language.
But the movie that gave me the most pleasure and consolation this year, not to mention the profoundest font of wisdom, didn't have a tragic shape: It was light rather than heavy, surprising and humorous rather than harrowing and inevitable, colored like a pleasant afternoon with your aunt at an upscale food court. And in its contemplation of very serious things, it felt like a feathery gust of cool breeze in the face: a refreshing draft of bodhichitta.
Part of what gives me such enormous joy in I Huckabees is that it reflects what I think and worry and dream about every day--only it has Naomi Watts and Jude Law and Mark Wahlberg speaking all the parts instead of the wheedling little voice in my head. Huckabees doesn't leave us shattered like Godard's Notre musique or pumped up to burn down the White House like Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11: It leaves us feeling slightly gentler toward ourselves and the person sitting next to us; it encourages us to receive catastrophe with mirth, ease, and an appetite for pleasure; it makes us more elegant and makes our lives more like art. I am coming to think that this might be a moviemaker's loftiest goal.
1. I Huckabees
Why do the actors seem so much happier than they usually do, even though the director reportedly screams all the time? Why is Mark Wahlberg throwing away all those Twizzlers? How am I not myself? What makes Talia Shire seem so sad? Is that supposed to be funny when Jason Schwartzman and Isabelle Huppert are fucking in the mud? Why is the "African guy" smiling like that? What happens when you don't figure something out? Doesn't she look so much nicer in a bonnet?
2. Notre musique
Contemporary cinema's preeminent existential detective explores the colossus of genocide as an abstract fugue on the permanence of sorrow. Godard's best movie since Every Man for Himself--and, with the possible exception of Contempt, his most emotionally naked.
3. Time of the Wolf
The impact of the end of the world on well-read, well-traveled, well-meaning First World people who aren't particularly handy or resilient and, I'd bet money, are much like yourself. Haneke is a tough-love purveyor of bodhichitta, but you leave the theater feeling almost obscenely open to the pain you had shut out of the corner of your eye.
4. Fahrenheit 9 /11
I seem to be the only critic in America who believes deeply that this is a great movie and not just a stirring op-ed piece. But hell, I think George Clooney is currently a better director than Martin Scorsese, so take me with a grain of salt. Still: If you have the DVD lying around, watch the last five minutes, then tell me what else has given you those goose bumps lately.