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:
Sunday, November 09, 2003

Suspended Animation

We'll make this one quick: "Suspended Animation" would have been a terrific film if director John Hancock could have whittled down all the superfluous, boring parts and concentrated on the tense hostage scenes that serve as this film's bread-n-butter. Of course, that would have also made the film twenty minutes long at best, not to mention comprised entirely of violent scenes minus any context... but at least I'd have nothing to complain about. At two hours, though, and with more padding than your father's old recliner, there's only one possible reaction: Boy, this movie's dumb.

How dumb is it? Well, let's take a look at that title. Seems like a solid title for a grisly thriller until it's revealed that the hero makes animated movies (ones nobody seems to have heard of, despite his obvious wealth) and he goes jet-skiing at the beginning of the film, thus putting him in harm's way, because he's hit a creative block with his latest film. So instead we're saddled with a clumsy bit of wordplay that somebody must have thought was awfully clever. You get that a lot here. One instance: Tom (our hero), having been captured and tied down by two deranged, murderous and possibly cannibalistic sisters with a cupboard full of pickled parts, has to think of a way out. He pleads for his life and mentions that he'll be missed in Hollywood because, you know, he's a famous animator and all. He then offers to put the two in his next movie, saying he can whip up quick sketches of how cool they'd look if only his writing hand was free. Sounds plausible on paper, yes; however, in the enacting it just sounds silly. Even better, though, is the fact that the sisters buy into his codswallop and agree to free his hand instead of saying "Yeah right" and gutting him on the spot. Making your villains appear to be total imbiciles, I have found, is not exactly a surefire way to keep the audience's interest.

Compounding the problem is that two-hour running time, which wouldn't be that big a deal if the film didn't reach a perfectly good climax forty minutes in. Left with over an hour to go, Hancock spins his wheels ferociously while looking for somewhere -- anywhere -- for the story to go. For a while, he seems to want to push it into "Stendahl Syndrome" territory, with Tom appearing increasingly unhinged as he stalks Clara, a young actress who may or may not be the long-lost daughter of one of the insane sisters; inevitably, he pulls back from that abyss and settles into an insanity-runs-in-the-family groove, throwing the spotlight on Clara's mean-natured son Sandor. And yet, when this plotline reaches a conclusion, the movie still isn't over. It's about this time that I started wondering "Where else can this go?" Where exactly it does head in its last twenty minutes is not for me to reveal, but I will say that it's both fairly riveting and punch-yourself-in-the-head stupid. No doubt the rambling story worked better in the source novel (written by Hancock's wife), if only because there's room to stretch things out in print and you can use stylistic devices to punch up a less-than-stellar narrative. Hancock only has a camera, his adequate directorial talents, an inadequate budget (everything looks vaguely TV) and a handful of really bad actors to try and sell this drivel. Why this didn't go straight to video is beyond me.