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:
Monday, May 02, 2005

Dispatches from the Doldrums of Spring

Millions: It's certainly different, I'll grant it that. Whether or not that translates into a good thing probably depends on the viewer. Personally, I found the screenplay's fuzzy spirituality at odds with the worldview of director Danny Boyle. I give him credit for trying to stretch and make a cute family comedy with a little bite to it, but he wasn't able to divest himself of his mile-wide cynical streak. This leads to things like the disconcerting scene between the shop-happy Mormons and the cops. Apparently, the message here is that we're all either greedy sons-of-bitches or holy fools. Have fun with that, kiddies.

Melinda and Melinda: It is with a heavy heart that I come to realize that maybe, just maybe, it's time to give up on Woody Allen. At least he stays behind the camera for this latest embarassment. The 'comedy' half of the film is occasionally entertaining, due mainly to the efforts of Will Ferrell (whom I think I would now watch in pretty much anything); the 'drama' half, on the other hand, is a fucking disaster, and Woody bludgeons the film's momentum to death every time he shifts back to the dramatic portion. The problem, possibly, is that Woody has constructed two narratives around a character who possesses all the magnetism and appeal of a moldy English muffin. It's difficult to believe that at least one other character wouldn't finally lose patience with Melinda and start slapping her around while screaming, "Get over yourself, you dizzy bitch!" Especially in the dramatic portion. Woody's renowned talent with actors is also mysteriously in absentia here -- of the vast and varied cast, only Ferrell and Chloe Sevigny manage to acquit themselves of crimes against screen acting. If "Match Point" turns out to be a dud, I'll call it quits on Allen for good.

The Amityville Horror: How refreshing to find a satirical film that doesn't practically shout its intentions at the viewer! This reconstruction of the poorly remembered 1980 box-office hit takes its surface cues from its source materials, but underneath the manufactured jump scenes and the ghostly hooey, there's an extraordinary and ever-so-subtle parody of modern horror and the haunted house genre. Director Andrew Douglas puts on the trappings of today's cliched rumble-shock fear flicks, but there's an off-balance quality to his use of these things. Between the shaky-cam and the jumpy cutting and the ear-splitting sound cues, one can perceive a winking sense of humor, as if none of this is meant to hurt you. "Something tells me we've all been here before", Douglas seems to say to his audience. His digging-up (if you'll excuse the pun) of the Indian-burial-ground trope, in this context, is the film's finest satiric florish: In taking a 'true' story that from the beginning has always been patently unbelievable and reframing it as the hoariest of haunting cliches, Douglas tips us off to his intentions. He's here to bury the genre and fuck the praise. Note too, the film's casting. Ryan Reynolds downplays his identity as a breezy comedian, but in his knowing channeling of Jack Nicholson and a hundred other cinematic psychos there is a playful wit. Melissa George, too, turns in a perfectly overbaked performance. (The way she delivers the line "I'm living in their house" is unbeatable for a good belly-laugh.) In fact, I would go so far as to say that this new "Amityville" is the most enjoyable comic horror film... wait, Douglas says here in Fangoria that he was trying to actually make a scary movie. Oh, shit. So I guess the gales of laughter that erupted from me were unintended. Sorry, Andrew. Don't mean to piss on your parade or anything.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: So this is it, huh? I'm not sure if an unfamiliarity with the source material is a hinderance or a blessing in this case. It'll blast my geek credentials to hell by admitting it, but I've not read even the slightest bit of Douglas Adams. As I understand it, though, his work is heavy on the sardonic whimsy. That's all well and good in print, but whimsy's tough to keep afloat in the medium of film, especially in Hollywood. To get an idea of what this film is like, imagine the cheeky tone of Adams's novels. Now imagine a film trying to maintain that tone after the Hollywood Mafia has gotten ahold of the material, slapped it around, pistol-whipped it, cut off its nuts and stuffed them in its mouth, and as a topper fitted it with cement shoes and an overcoat to match. Got that image? Sucks, doesn't it? That's about how it goes here. Neophyte director Garth Jennings does the film no favors either -- his clumsy staging and nonexistent sense of pace destroy any chance for resuscitation. Scene after scene crashes to the ground, and though we can see the humor it's merely theoretical. (The point at which the film truly lost me was during the mock religious ceremony. I felt like Peter Falk in "The Princess Bride": Yes, very clever. You're a smart boy. Shut up.) Jennings can't keep his actors in the game either -- everyone looks like they don't give a shit and would rather be somewhere else. The visual invention is neat, true, but the film itself seems unimpressed by its own wonders, so why should we be any different? There are a couple modestly clever bits (the falling-whale-and-begonias scene was amusing), but then if a modest cleverness is all your ambition will allow why the hell are you even bothering me? Get outta my face, movie.