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Charming, intelligent romantic comedy which makes a good deal of progress towards bringing back the "comedy" in this genre. Intelligently acted by all involved--Cusack is his usual likeable self, and Beckinsale is dazzling. Molly Shannon and Eugene Levy in particular shine as supporting players. John de Boorman's cinematography is superb, Marc Klein's script is witty, and Peter Chelsom's direction holds the whole thing together. The producers made the extremely wise decision to shoot all exteriors in New York City itself (although rumor has it the interiors were shot in Toronto.) My only complaints would be that the film seemed to have been edited down somewhat--another ten-fifteen minutes wouldn't have hurt--and the soundtrack was somewhat conventional. Still, well worth seeing--a film with such a positive, romantic view of New York has a chance to do very well in light of recent events. Expect good things.
A perfect film
I second the view of the Canadian commentator, who said this was the greatest animated short every made. It is perfect in a way only Chris Marker's "La Jetee" is--pure and simply, one of the best films ever made. Go out of your way to find it on video--it should be on one of the "International Tournee of Animation" videos or the video pictured above. 6 men. 1 platform. And a strange object.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Totally demented--I loved it
When Terry Gilliam's film adaptation of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was released last year, J. Hoberman loved it and wrote in the Village Voice (approximation) "Brilliant, original, and insane. How did this movie ever get made?" Much the same could be said of "Being John Malkovich," which ranks with "American Beauty," "Three Kings," "Bringing Out the Dead," "After Life," and "Run Lola Run" as one of the best films of 1999. Although I am in the minority with regard to the visual style--I wish Jonze had been more flamboyant (like the aforementioned Gilliam)--as opposed to the "realistic" look he used, I can still understand why he took that route. Charlie Kaufman (the writer) and Jonze tosses off more ideas in ten minutes than most movies do in their entire running length. It also happens to be laugh-out-loud funny in some parts. There is a slightly misogynistic bit about a woman getting locked in a cage, but the character who does this definitely gets his comeuppance. To sum up: this film is demented, twisted, hysterical, poignant, and wacky, with brilliant acting, great writing, a fabulous score by Carter Burwell, and fine direction. See it. You won't regret it.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Flawed but redeemed by a few great scenes
Edward Scissorhands had some beautiful moments, its heart was certainly in the right place, and it had some relevant things to say about how we abuse people who are "different." But I still think Roger Ebert is right about this film, though--the writers (Tim Burton & Caroline Thompson) take a fabulous creation but give the story melodramatic twists 2/3rds of the way. Then again, it's quite unconventional for a Hollywood film (possibly up there with Terry Gilliam's work and Being John Malkovich.)
And I can't in good conscience give this film anything less than 3 and 1/2 stars (out of four), because it did make me tear up in a few places, something almost no movie can do. (Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life is the other recent successful tearjerker.)
Possible spoiler ahead??
Great scenes: The ice dance, all the scenes in the castle (particularly when Vincent Price is holding out the hands to Edward, heartbreaking), and the final scenes, starting from just after part of the castle collapses to the closing moments
The acting, set design, and photography are uniformly superb, but the best element is Danny Elfman's score. It's transcendent, luminous, and heartbreaking.
He Got Game (1998)
Fantastic performance by Washington in film that doesn't quite support him
I had to remind myself several times Denzel Washington was an actor and that he was playing a character named Jake Shuttlesworth--his performance is that good. I'd give him the Academy Award for Best Actor. I'm serious--he's amazing. In terms of the film, it isn't quite good enough to support his performance. (We are expected to believe there's no one looking out for Jesus [everyone in the film has an ulterior motive], and Jesus himself is too much of a saint.) Definitely worth watching, though--any Spike Lee film usually is. But I'm annoyed at Lee: he's too good a director to insert the MTV-style shots in this film. Unlike so many who have tried to cover basketball before, however, Lee knows the game. This gives (the all-white) Hoosiers a run for its money as the best basketball film
of course, there isn't much competition.
Bob Roberts (1992)
Political satire puts Wag the Dog to shame
This left-wing mock documentary skewers right-wingers where it really hurts. It rings so true. Tim Robbins is fantastic as the title character, a Republican folk singer who's out to sleaze his way into a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Giancarlo Esposito is a homeless muckraking journalist who's out to expose Roberts. If you're liberal, you'll love this film.
Don't get me wrong--I liked Wag the Dog--but certain things about it bothered me, mostly its lack of political base. (The novel Wag was based on, American Hero, is specifically about how George Bush started the Gulf War to win re-election, not how a faceless President started a fake war.
In the Lake of the Woods (1996)
TV Movie surpasses the limits of the form
Brilliant TV movie. Dark, complex, well-acted, skillfully directed, and well-photographed, all the elements come together to make this a worthwhile viewing experience. I haven't read the novel, but I'd guess that the adaptor and director captured O'Brien's tone very well. The plot concerns a former Vietnam Vet who was running for political office but lost. His wife disappears shortly thereafter. The story is told in a mixture flash-backs and interviews. Strauss and Quinlan create real, three-dimensional characters, but of particular note are Boyle, who plays the campaign manager, and the actor (whose name I unfortunately forget) who plays the investigative journalist who exposes the secret which destroys the campaign. See if you can find it on video.