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The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
The precious title tells it all.
I've seen this film twice now, and had the same reaction both
times, so I feel a little more secure in decrying this a vile
piece of garbage. The central idea (a school bus crash) has
such monumental emotional repercussions that it's easy to be
washed away in grief enough to not notice the emptiness of the
conceit built around it. As an intruding lawyer, Ian Holm is
asked to give a performance of staggeringly self-conscious
falseness in which his every word, movement and breath is meant
to project "SOMETHING IMPORTANT". His episodic encounters with
the people of the community in which the accident took place
only reveals Egoyan's total condescension toward life's "little
people", presenting them as simpletons who, gosh darn it, love
their children and each other and turn their noses up at
anything so disgusting as a dollar bill. In a failed attempt to
make the lawyer at least two-dimensional, a subplot is slopped
on about his losing touch with his own child, the most
ridiculous drug-addicted banshee every put on film. Toss in
heavy-handed allegories, heart-tugging music and trite
conclusions, and what have you got? An award-winning "masterpiece", to hear most people talk. More than likely they
woke up the next morning, remembered something about angelic
children heading for their final bus ride, and forgot the rest.
There's no other explanation. Rent the first episode of
Kieslowski's 1988 "Decalogue", which covers similar thematic
ground and, in 50 short minutes, accomplishes worlds more. 3
out of 10 for the nice work by actors Bruce Greenwood and Sarah
The Perfect Storm (2000)
"The Perfect Storm" tells of the 1991 "Storm of the Century", in which three storms collided over the Atlantic Ocean with catastrophic effect. The filmmakers attempt their own triple-header, following three stories of people affected by the storm - a group of people about a sailboat and their Coast Guard rescuers, the crew of a fishing boat, and that crew's family and friends back on the mainland. The results are equally rocky.
This is meant to be a story of heroes, which aptly applies to the rescuers and families. Unfortunately, the film thinks the FISHERMEN are the heroes, treating them with all the noble reverence of the soldiers marching off to save democracy in "Saving Private Ryan". Please Note: THEY CATCH FISH. FOR MONEY. THEY PURPOSEFULLY DIRECTED THEIR BOAT INTO A STORM. THEY'RE IRRESPONSIBLE FOOLS WHO CAUSE TRAUMATIC CONSEQUENCES FOR ALL THOSE AROUND THEM.
Now that I have that out of my system, I admit I found the film gripping. This is definitely an Oscar nominee for its Sound, Editing, and Visual Effects. The storm scenes are truly frightening. The cast is thoroughly appealing ... George Clooney, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, John C. Reilly, Diane Lane, Mark Wahlberg, Karen Allen, Cherry Jones. We care about them even though we are given ridiculously little (or in some cases, absolutely no) character development to base those feelings on.
But the film is just fundamentally wrong-headed, focusing on the wrong small story in weather's Big Story. I was rooting for the fish.
Mission: Impossible II (2000)
Choose not to accept.
I loved the first Mission:Impossible film. LOVED IT. Beautiful European locations. Complex plot that had to be experienced twice to fully understand (how refreshing!). World-class cast playing well-defined characters, spouting witty, intelligent dialogue (Jon Voight! Vanessa Redgrave! Jean Reno! Emmanuelle Beart! Kristin Scott Thomas!) Magnificent set pieces (the restaurant explosion, the embassy ball, the high-security hanging-by-a-thread break-in, the high-speed train/helicopter/tunnel finale). Suspense, humor, drama... and all of it involving and thrilling.
Mission:Impossible 2 is exactly the opposite. Stock characters, stock plot, stock actors, stock locations, stock action sequences. Instead of suspense we get gun fights and car chases. Instead of humor we get tired double-entendres. Instead of drama we get "Octopussy"-level heavy breathing. Gone is the idea of Ethan Hunt being part of a M:I team. Now he's a stock superman, invincible and therefore totally boring. As is the film. A shame.
Ma vie en rose (1997)
A total charmer.
Why is this wonderful family movie rated "R"? Why, on cable, is this heart-warming gem preceded by warnings of "violence" and "adult content"? Ludicrous! Although told in an almost fable-like manner, "Ma vie en rose" is an all-too-rare depiction of believably real parents and children dealing with life's pressures together. Beautifully written, directed and acted, any child would benefit from watching this utterly delightful and thought-provoking film with their parents and discussing the struggles of little Ludovic and his family. Don't miss the opportunity.
Small Time Crooks (2000)
The Last Straw.
Going to the new Woody Allen used to be an event each year for me, but those were the days of "Husbands and Wives," "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Alice," "Manhattan," "Purple Rose of Cairo," "Interiors," "Annie Hall," "Another Woman," "Stardust Memories," "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Broadway Danny Rose." These were films of thought, depth, character, humor and insight. Even the occasional flights of whimsy like "Zelig," "Radio Days," "Sleeper" and "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" were delights. But now we've had NINE shrill, shallow, half-baked Allen films in a row - one-dimensional characters, directionless plots, no feeling - "Shadows and Fog," "Manhattan Murder Mystery," "Mighty Aphrodite," "Deconstructing Harry," "Celebrity," and now "Small Time Crooks." Yes, there was charm to be found in "Bullets Over Broadway," "Everyone Says I Love You," and "Sweet and Lowdown," but not when you compare them to those earlier films. Where's the depth?! Is this a Keaton/Farrow influence versus Soon-Yi influence issue? One could speculate. All I know is that this fan gives up. From now on I wait for dollar day at the video store.
Stunning! (for all the wrong reasons)
You follow the hype... "T.Rex in 3-D!" You arrive an hour early to secure the best seats. You pay the exorbitant ticket price. You put on the painful helmet. But hey, it's a 45-minute 3-D thrill ride, right? WRONG. Within 5 minutes you're having serious doubts. A lonely girl wanders through a museum (Zzzzz). Paleontologists chip stone at the camera (Wooo!). A jackass father comes to appreciate his psychotic daughter (Awww!). The acting is horrible. The writing is worse. But wait! A big finish! Three whole minutes of the same computer-animated dinosaurs you can see any weekend on the Discovery Channel! The end. The audience leaves silently. Beware.
American Psycho (2000)
The Reagan Era, gutted.
It's an intriguing, if fairly shallow, premise - cross the protagonists of "American Gigolo" (Julian Kaye) and "Psycho" (Norman Bates) - and offer up the adventures of a designer-clad "American Psycho" (Patrick Bateman) as a satire on soulless 1980s consumerism and social hypocrisy. It works, though not as complexely as such other recent social allegories as "Silence of the Lambs," "Crash," "Eyes Wide Shut," "Fight Club" and "American Beauty" - and, like those films, not for everyone.
The Woman in the Window (1944)
Be Careful What You Wish For...
This wonderfully entertaining "film noir" by master director Fritz Lang is a curiosity, defying all of our expectations as a viewer and basically subverting the "noir" genre barely before it had gotten started. The dark shadows, the femme fatale, the harboiled detectives, the murder... all the elements are in place for a typical outing, but when all is said and done, look back at the motivations, the events, even the "femme", and what we have is not a world of evil (the typical "noir" stance) but a world of innocence darkened by a few petty thugs. Like the more obviously subversive (and equally wonderful) "Kiss Me Deadly" fifteen years later, "The Woman in the Window" seems to say that evil only lives when people look hard enough for it - practically a "film noir" rebuttal. As in "M" and "Fury," Lang (a refugee from the Nazi regime) once again examines issues of social evil in ways more complex than any of his contemporaries. Enjoy "The Woman in the Window." The cast is impeccable, the writing a delight, the direction peerless, the music score years ahead of its time. A small feast.
Man on the Moon (1999)
The man on the moon is Milos Forman.
Another piece of bloated hackwork from the revered Milos Forman, who made a good flick 25 years ago (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and has since destroyed Hair, Ragtime, Valmont, Amadeus, Larry Flynt and now Andy Kaufman with his shallow, operatic puffery. Milos, please consider turning your creative energy toward something you're more skilled at. Finger-painting, perhaps.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
For those of you who don't know, lesbian author Patricia Highsmith wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1955 as a metaphor for the lives of suspicion, contempt, deceit and self-loathing gay people felt themselves trapped in at that time, and the destructive consequences that come from leading such a charade. Bravo to Anthony Minghella for not only honoring, but heightening, that theme, and to Matt Damon for his heartbreaking turn as the trapped and increasingly desperate Ripley. A film of stunning depth.