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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McBain Recommends
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Top 20 List
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Top 20 List
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The Blog:
Thursday, June 24, 2004

This Post Was Pre-Empted by a Tornado

Not that sitting in the basement of my apartment for 45 minutes really gave me a lot of time to add additional thoughts to these short reviews:

Dawn of the Dead (d. George Romero, 1978) - I’ve learned two things about the coming zombie apocalypse after watching this film and it’s predecessor in Romero’s zombie trilogy, Night of the Living Dead: (1) stick close to the resourceful, commanding black guy, and (2) after shooting all the zombies, save enough bullets for the humans, who are the true dangers in both movies. Though Dawn of the Dead, which is a film that I definitely need to add to my permanent DVD collection, gets a lot of attention for Tom Savini’s groundbreaking gore (now rendered fairly tame by today’s standards) and the satire surrounding the zombies mindless revisiting of the suburban shopping mall in a gruesome parody of their former life, I really appreciated the film for it’s evocation of a post-apocalyptic landscape, a combination of anarchy (the racist cop no longer differentiating between the living African-Americans he is “helping” to evacuate and the zombies) and isolation (the most prevalent feeling, even thought the landscape is populated by the mute zombies); the methodical way the four survivors create a community within the shopping mall (including a pretty swank 70s style apartment), and the resulting respite; and then the final turn of events leading to the rather downbeat ending. Simply awesome, and immeasurably helped by Dario Argento’s pulsating music. After seeing this film, I think it may have ruined any chance of me actually enjoying the remake.

Saved! (d. Brian Danelly, 2004) - Quite simply, I found it hard to peg my feelings regarding the film; it seems like every 10 minutes my opinion seemed to shift, which I think is tied to the schizophrenic attitudes of the story. As one reviewer put it, the film is trying to be both “irreverent and reverent” towards it’s subject of modern evangelical Christianity. With that in mind, I found it easier to summarize my reaction to the film as a whole: I really liked the middle section where Jena Malone’s character (who by the way, is unbelievably frumpy and plain in this role when compared, say, to her role in Donnie Darko), the “ironically” named, pregnant teen Mary, begins to hang out and bond with the other outcasts at her Christian high school: the wheelchair bound agnostic brother of her former best friend (Macauly Culkin); the lone Jewish student at the school, a punkish outcast (Eva Amurri); and the school skateboard rebel, who happens to be both the object of every girls desire and the son of Martin Donovan’s Pastor Skip, the principal of the school (Patrick Fugit, an odd choice for a teenage dreamboat, but hey, what do I know). In the process, Mary gives birth to a true Christian community of love and tolerance, comprised of societal outcasts. Too bad these sequences are sandwiched between an uneven beginning, which inches towards the land of actual satire, but pulls back at the last minute, and a preachy, prom-set finale where the film’s moral treatise is explicitly stated in a confrontation between Mary and Pastor Skip. Though, even the parts I liked were marred by Mandy Moore’s shrill performance, but man, where there some funny lines (the joke about Christian girls and Planned Parenthood, for instance).

Okie Noodling (d. Bradley Beesley, 2001) - I rather enjoyed this short documentary (57 minutes), a slice of regional Americana. The film itself is about “noodling” or “handfishing,” which involves probing a creek, river, or lake bed for holes, in which you stick your hand in hope of inducing a flathead catfish into biting your hand so you drag it out of the water. It’s an eccentric pursuit, and the blue-collar Oklahomans (OK, they’re all pretty much rednecks) that the film initially follows turn out to be colorful and resourceful characters. Apparently noodling is an infectious pursuit, though there is no way in hell that I could be convinced to stick my hand in a hole in the hopes of a 45-pound catfish biting it, with the filmmakers not only taking up the sport themselves, but helping put together the 1st Annual Noodling Tournament. Director Beesley has worked on a couple of Flaming Lips DVDs and music videos, and the band provides much of the documentaries soundtrack.

The Happiness of the Katakuris (d. Takashi Miike, 2001) - Watching Audition and Fudoh the Next Generation did not prepare me for this film, which is my clear, early favorite for the best Takashi Miike film that I’ve seen (thanks to GreenCine, I’m slowly making my way through Miike’s immense oeuvre, or at least, what is available on DVD). An extremely bizarre, and quite funny, black comedy/karaoke-influenced musical with a couple of crude, claymation fantasy sequences thrown in for good measure, the film tells the story of a laid off shoe salesman who buys an isolated vacation hostel on the side of an awakening volcano, and drags his entire family (his supportive wife, irascible father, miscreant son, lovelorn daughter, and his adorable moppet granddaughter, who also serves as the film’s narrator) with him. The catch, the long promised new highway has yet to materialize, and what few travelers appear at their doorstep manage to die during their overnight stay, prompting a lot of singing, dancing, and bonding as the family conspires to hide the corpses so their potential business will not get hurt. The plot is ridiculous, with many, many melodramatic turns; the singing and dancing is crude and amateurish (still loved, the cosmic, matted back drops; the dance of the corpses; and the happy jazz hands of the buried cops and robbers); and the ending is downright weird, but the whole film is actually heartwarming, hilariously funny, and the songs are infectious to boot (I loved the scene where the family finds the first body, as well as Richard and Shizue’s first song). Again, I find myself loving a rough hewn musical instead of such slick Hollywood confection as Chicago.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (d. Rawson Marshall Thurber, 2004) - Hey, I thought it was hilarious. Stupid, but hilarious. "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." Loved the frequent cameos.

I also saw The Terminal on Saturday, but I posted about that film under Phyrephox’s review.

By the way, anyone interested in Joss Whedon, The X-Men, comic books, or good storytelling should check out Whedon’s first two issues of his Astonishing X-Men run. Great stuff, with Joss Whedon and John Cassady’s work actually being very cinematic (example, check out the panel montage that concludes the ending of “Gifted Pt. 1”).