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:
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Short Takes

demonlover (d. Olivier Assayas)

A strange, schizophrenic film, quite different, in both tone and focus, from Assayas's last film, Les Destinees sentimentales, though the constantly roving, hand-held camerawork betrays its creator's stylistic handiwork. demonlover, ostensibly a sleek tale of corporate espionage in the cyberage, quickly devolves into a world where nothing is "real," not sex, not emotion, not identity. These characters "exist", encased in a glass shell of ultra-posh buildings and anonymous hotel rooms, literally swimming in a fishbowl of mediated images; it's a post-national world, where characters freely mix French, English, and Japanese (matched by it's international cast of French, American, Japanese, and Danish actors). This is not the postmodern playground of Lost in Translation, but an oppressive environment, where the ultimate hands of control emerge from behind the scenes only fitfully, often, quite literally, manipulating the characters like puppets, yet ultimately remaining hidden. In short, paranoia rules the day, accompanied by a dissonant score by Sonic Youth. Dissonance, breakdown, by the last third of the film, narrative itself has begun to completely unravel: characters begin acting arbitrarily, relationships become upended, transitions are confused, locations are mutable, and the action becomes obtuse. Of course the ending is the requisite, incestuous twist which calls into question all that preceded it (I'd love to discuss the implications of the ending in the comments, for anyone who has seen the film and is interested), but before that, Assayas has crafted a deeply disquieting film which almost demands repeat viewings (if for nothing else, just to really figure out what the hell was going on).

Bubba Ho-Tep (d. Don Coscarelli)

It sure sounded like a surefire premise when I first heard it: Cult film star Bruce Campbell plays an aging, impotent Elvis, who switched places with an Elvis impersonator before his official death, and now finds himself in an East Texas nursing home with a bum hip and no family, friends, money, or dignity. His only friend is another resident, and elderly African-American man, played by Ossie Davis, who is convinced that he is JFK (his explanation is that the CIA dyed his skin black in an effort to hide him). To top that off, Elvis and JFK face-off against an ancient Egyptian mummy, who sports a cowboy hat, and spends the film using the nursing home as an all you can eat buffet. Sounds great, right? Well, it�s mostly disappointing, neither as funny (there are a couple of funny sight gags and Davis has some funny lines about LBJ) or as horrific as the filmmakers intended. What is does have in spades are some unwieldily exposition scenes and an annoying, affected visual style. My final judgment, the filmmakers made a fatal mistake. They set out to make a calculated cult classic and failed, instead of just making a good film which becomes a cult classic on its own.

The one thing that made this film a salvageable experience was Campbell's performance as Elvis. He infused his performance with enough regret and poignancy, that the slower, more dramatic parts, when Elvis was looking back on the ultimate failure of his life, were by far the best. It's something I don't usually expect to see from Campbell, and I'd be interested in seeing him try out a few "straight" roles.