2003 Milk Plus Droogies

Best Picture
Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Director
Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Actor (tie)
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean

Best Actor (tie)
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Best Actress
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. I

Best Supporting Actor
David Hyde Pierce, Down With Love

Best Supporting Actress
Miranda Richardson, Spider

Best Screenplay
Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Best Foreign Film

Best Cinematography
Harris Savides, Gerry

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The Blog:
Thursday, September 04, 2003

Brief Notes

There hasn't been much of interest in theaters lately, so here's a quick run-down of some films I've seen on video, plus one very welcome screening of a 2000 film in the theater:

* The Hunted -- Contender for one of the ten worst films of the year. Billy Friedkin helms this poor excuse for a chase movie; a cat-and-mouse game between Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro. Decent cast, but the entire thing is 90 minutes of ultra-macho, red-meat, animalistic grunting... very violent, extremely pointless, and marred by an idiotic plot with worthless supporting characters, silly developments of psychological themes, and clumsy action scenes. It's off-putting early on and never gets its footing back, though the final 20 minutes are less painfully stupid than the rest -- if that means anything. Skip it. 3/10

* Big Trouble -- A very funny forgotten comedy (and John Cassavetes' big leap to major studio work) from the '80s now on DVD. Although it slips a bit in an overly wacky and sloppy third act, this satirical remake of Double Indemnity is worth seeing for three things: Alan Arkin (as good as he's ever been), Peter Falk (dependably endearing), and the single greatest spit take in cinema history. 7/10

* Final Destination 2 -- Exactly the same as the first one, which I mildly enjoyed. This series is really all about its kills, which are very, very cool. But its writers and directors seem completely disinterested in character (for the most part, save an Ali Larter "arc" in this one) and dialogue, which are hopelessly stupid. The plot in this one doesn't make any more sense than it did in the original, but if you just want to see some fun moments of gory shocks, it gets the job done. 6/10

* The Lizzie McGuire Movie -- OK, this post is not a joke. I was never interested in seeing this interchangable entry in the tween movie nonsense infecting theaters this year. What a Girl Wants, How to Deal... it's just too much to bear. But I have constantly been nagged by the ridiculous praise of a fellow film critic who thinks, after 12 viewings of Lizzie, that it's even better than Gerry. He's wrong, of course, that's not to say he isn't on to something. What director Jim Fall has done with this fluffy fantasy fable for girls is instill every character and event of the plot with a delicate, complicated subtext. It poses questions about identity, doubles, frauds, fame, photography, aging, parenting, and ultimately love, that no Disney cash cow has any business confronting. Read the linked review for more insights, but I'll just say that besides being pretty funny and sharply paced the entire time, the movie had me thinking about every sequence with the same attentive rigor I grant to the most well-respected art films. Just one example: there's a hotel elevator in this movie that's a very significant location; Fall uses it for several characters to show how people are falling in love, doomed to be alone, transitioning from place to place and from fantasy to reality, and how two disparate characters can be so at odds that they can't even cross the boundary of the doors together. The Lizzie McGuire Movie, perfectly fine for young girls as a forgettable substitute for babysitting, can also be read by cinephiles as something far more thoughtful than it's likely to be credited. It has its problems -- a few too many cliches, a bit pandering to the demographic, too short to really get into its characters' larger possibilities (not to mention Hilary Duff is rather challenged as an actress) -- but I liked it and I'm not ashamed. 7/10

* The Last Boy Scout -- I hadn't seen it in over ten years, so I revisited this weaker entry in Tony Scott's canon. The director has done a lot better: True Romance, Revenge, Spy Game, Enemy of the State, Crimson Tide, etc. But at least this isn't awful. Bruce Willis is pretty good, Damon Wayans is decent, and the character development is almost moving -- that is, until Shane Black's dialogue becomes so overbearing and omnipresent that you want to punch him. No one ever shuts up the whole time, and the quips are not funny. The action is ludicrous and the plot is cookie-cutter. Should have been better, could have been worse. 5/10

* Songs From the Second Floor -- This has been reviewed before on MilkPlus, but it finally got screened in Los Angeles. I loved it, loved it, loved it. One of the best films of 2000, a gorgeously shot Swedish drama that utlizies precise composition and perfect sound design to create an alternately hilarious and depressing view of purgatory that speaks to the very core of the human condition. There are at least 4 single takes that are so breath-taking that I didn't want to blink. 9/10

* They Shoot Horses, Don't They? -- I rented this Sydney Pollack film from 1969 because its premise is similar to a script I wrote last year. But I liked the idea more than the execution; Pollack's camerawork is clumsy and he forces the actors to overextend themselves into caricature. Jane Fonda is magnificent, and so is a young Bonnie Bedelia. The ending also works well, but up to that point it had been a wasted concept (Depression-era dance marathon that shows how desperate people are for money). Not dissimilar to Norman Jewison's Rollerball, but slightly better thanks to Fonda. 6/10