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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
Irreversible

Best Cinematography
Harris Savides, Gerry

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The Blog:
Saturday, December 20, 2003
 

Brief Notes



* Cold Mountain -- Easily one of the best films of the year. It's hard to find any flaws in Minghella's stirring, eye-catching epic anti-war romance; and it's even harder to single out what the best thing about an across-the-board brilliant film is: is it John Seale's luxurious camerawork? The sharp, poignant, efficient use of dialogue? Or is it the veritable thundershower of exceptional performances? If it's the latter, then try to choose between Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Natalie Portman, Brendan Gleeson, Ray Winstone, Giovanni Ribisi, Phil Hoffman, Cillian Murphy, Melora Walters, and Kathy Baker. I dare you. Minghella has once again fused grand Hollywood storytelling with personal, intelligent artistry and made a movie that will please brows both high and middle. It's about what war does to cultures, to generations, to the soul, and most of all to love. Then it becomes about how much we can know each other, and what value ephemeral love has in a world threatened every second by the potential for violence and death. Tear-jerking, lavish, ultra-professional, and constantly gripping, Cold Mountain is the kind of big-budget prestige pic that would actually deserve its Oscars. [9/10]

* Gigli -- I'm really getting sick of the smug assholes blabbering on E! and the internet about how awful this film is, especially when they haven't even seen it. It's the film people love to slam because of their bias against the admittedly over-exposed and obnoxious couple of Affleck and Lopez. So I decided to give the film a chance based on hope that Martin Brest (director of the great Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run) had made a subersive picture worthy of intelligent analysis. Damn, was I wrong. It sucks ass. At least I took it seriously and stayed open-minded; but it's boring, flat, stupid, unfunny, poorly conceived, predictable, contrived, and irritating. It's a film that struggles to say something about masculinity, gender roles, and genre conventions, but fails so miserably that you feel more sorry for the film than anything. Christopher Walken has one great scene, and Lopez isn't too bad. The rest is crap. [3/10]

* Man on the Train -- Patrice Leconte bounces back from a couple of stumbles (Felix et Lola and The Widow of St. Pierre) with a film that finds the director on sure footing once again, creating deep, lovable characters on par with Monsieur Hire and Girl on the Bridge, while lacking the spark and ambition of his best work to date, Ridicule. A simple story about the friendship between a bank robber and a retired literature professor, the film earns its warm welcome from the terrific performance of Jean Rochefort as the professor. Johnny Hallyday fares less well as the crook, but the dialogue is fresh enough to sustain any flaws of acting. It's a quiet, understated dramedy that builds to a poetic, satisfying conclusion. [8/10]

* McCabe & Mrs. Miller -- My second viewing of this film, and the first in many years. It's clearly good, but I can't muster the kind of "it's an unbelievable masterpiece" enthusiasm that has galvanized film geeks for decades. Beatty's performance is too mannered, but I love Julie Christie as always. Interestingly, the climactic scene in the snow with Beatty in a gun-fight with Old West killers is directly quoted in Cold Mountain, but Minghella has the slight edge over Robert Altman. [8/10]

* The Dancer Upstairs -- John Malkovich's directorial debut is terribly boring for the first hour and a half or so, but it comes back big-time in the end. Javier Bardem is fine as an honest cop hunting a terrorist, but the procedural aspect of him getting clues while simultaneously falling in love with a ballet instructor grinds the film to a deadly halt. But then when betrayal and disaster strike at the end amidst an ostensibly happy conclusion, the film takes us to a surprisingly moving ballet performance (as Bardem must watch from behind a closed door) that beautifully encapsulates the underlying themes of the film. Intelligent, slow, and awkward, the film is still worth seeing for the impact of its final 20 minutes. [7/10]

* Together -- Has a great director ever fallen so hard so quickly? Putting Francis Ford Coppola to shame, Chen Kaige responds to his masterpieces Farewell My Concubine and The Emperor and the Assassin with the hilariously stupid erotic thriller Killing Me Softly and this maudlin, crowd-pleasing tear-jerker that basically pits the sensibilities of Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg, and Jon Turtletaub into one Chinese version of Hollywood pablum. A few fair moments here and there, some good photography, but insipid characterization and a shamelessly manipulative climax. Poor Chen. Maybe he needs to get pissed at the government again. [4/10]

* The Hit -- This is a super-cool little crime drama from 1984 courtesy of High Fidelity's Stephen Frears. Obviously more like The Grifters than the Cusack comedy, this road picture about two hitmen bringing a rat ex-con and a female hostage through the Spain countryside is a bit thin on plot, but huge on atmosphere and philosophy. And how can you go wrong when you cast John Hurt, a bouyantly youthful Tim Roth, and the jaw-droppingly awesome Terence Stamp? Answer: you can't. [9/10]