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27 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
Love, Brotherhood, and Television: 10/10, 8 August 2002

The Million Dollar Hotel is not for passive watching where you are led by the hand through the familiar landscape and characters of a mystery movie. Nor are you given musical cues to know how to feel in a particular instance. You have to work off your senses and intellect to perceive it, and to be patient if it takes you in a direction opposite to your wildest guesses.

It can even get irritating - as you are about to blame the movie for having no spine - or in truth, for lacking, entirely, conventional twists and turns. It throws you off as you are figuring out whether to perceive it as a film of crime or suicide, romance or a freak house, comedy, mockery or living poetry. Like life, this film has it all.

Yet in a sense, the movie is transparent in foreshadowing its three major themes and their resolution - coming from its very heartbeat, the lyrics co-written and performed mostly by Bono. In the opening scene, a young man Tom Tom hurls himself from the roof of a dreary flophouse - "The Million Dollar Hotel" in downtown Los Angeles - committing suicide with a strange joyfulness. The mystery of his exuberance in this moment becomes the driving question of the film as we then review the last two weeks of his life. But in the moment itself, Bono's song which accompanies Tom Tom's rush to the brink contains three revealing verses:

`I have a lover... She shows me colors where there's none to see Gives me hope when I can't believe...'

`I have a brother... I spend my whole time running He spends his running after me... But for the first time I feel love.'

`My father is a rich man... He said: I have many mansions And there are many rooms to see. But I left by the back door And I threw away the key.'

Love, brotherhood and father-son relationships so outlined in the song are treated here entirely unconventionally. And the breakdown of formal conventions simply occurs with a `surprising' shift in accents, or values - when love is more important than mystery solving, and a cop treats his suspect as his brother...

In the world of this movie, the love of a slightly odd boy towards a prostitute, awkward at first, ends up transcending death. And so does the brotherhood binding the colorful resident freaks of the Million Dollar Hotel; though verging on parody, it's rooted in that same longing of the heart, `a Sleeping Beauty` which `dreams to be awakened.` And we forget the commentary on the bizarre events and characters are made by a dead `brother' telling us of the best two weeks in his life.

As the movie rolls back in time, we learn of a similar fate, falling from the hotel roof, of Tom Tom's best friend - who had come `from money and power' yet rejected them to live `with bums and Indians.' The son of a Jewish multibillionaire media king whose `people decide truth in 60 countries every morning,' the Father who has many mansions, the God of Television, of the reality game which so charms the hotel residents and Tom Tom... until Tom Tom begins to have a life which is `much better than television.'

And while you are still trying hard to follow the intrigue, all of a sudden your heart is being cut open... but then is mended together. Broken to be healed. To find a new meaning in death that brings the living together, and love that brings one to death, yet brings out even more love. The death after which `things finally hit you,' when you see it all that clearly that `life is perfect... full of magic, beauty and opportunity' but which we `only really feel when it's gone.' It's not the same as television. `For the first time/I feel...'

One character talking, the other doing the action at a different place seem to convey the shared experience of living. One distinct voice, of a poet retelling us the story in his songs, is Bono's. He appears in a flash as a silent cameo mixed with the crowd of the Million Dollar Hotel residents. A powerful voice of Tom Tom's innermost self, the voice of his soul, Bono's singing exceeds anything I've ever heard before, reaching straight into your heart. `I come back above/Where there is only love...' his voice is fading, as if calling from above, sensitizing you to the very tips of your fingers. All the while the uplifting images from under the sky of downtown Los Angeles take you up to another dimension.

Mel Gibson, whose `Icon Productions' co-produced the movie, waived his star fee. His contribution to the film as an unconventional cop, somewhat resonating with his directorial debut, `The Man Without a Face', has a unique flavor you should discover on your own. The brilliant casting, starting with Jeremy Davis' finely tuned performance as the blessed fool Tom Tom, is topped by Wim Wenders' ever masterful charting of unknown territories in filmmaking. The artful cinematography and editing are yet another reason for film adepts and students to see this one.

Nevertheless, The Million Dollar Hotel played in U.S. theaters for only a week. I recommend this movie to anyone who believes film is not just for escapist entertainment but for awaking our senses and stirring our minds. As with a good book, you can embark on a journey through The Million Dollar Hotel-DVD over and over again, as if reading it each time for the first time.

21 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
A Breath of Hot Oxygen: 10/10, 4 August 2002

Like Water for Chocolate is a masterpiece in that it conveys the essence of our ancestors' knowledge forgotten in the fast pace of modern living.

It centers around the wonder of cooking: a sacred ritual, not a boring chore; and when done right, with love, it creates magic. Raised and taught to cook by her old Mayan nanny, Tita (exquisitely performed by Lumi Cavazos) masters the near-magical ability of transferring her love and other feelings into her creations passed into one who eats them.

The characters‘ senses are so refined, they enable everyone involved in this family drama to be tuned to the finest nuances of their world, opening the door to non-material pleasures. Rich with metaphors, their language reflects the skills of keen and sometimes humorous observation. The story brings our perception to a different level - as its characters' empathy borders on miracles and magic, and things we only sense and feel become real. Tita's virgin breasts, feeling `like dough kneaded' by strong hands, turn into mature breasts under Pedro's burning eyes (to later start lactating) - their glances, just like her food, becoming the means of communicating their forbidden love.

Yet all magic becomes wasted in the face of a man's choice. The Universe may scream into Pedro's ears about the path he is to take, but if he doesn't follow it, no magic can save him. We witness the story of a fatal attraction between two soulmates, whose passion, confined by an enslaving family tradition, lights up everyone around them... But for themselves, it's so intense, it literally engulfs the lovers in flames. Did they have an alternative? It is for the viewer to figure out.

You may ponder, however, over the young doctor's Indian grandmother saying that `each of us is born with a box of matches inside but we can't strike them all by ourselves; we need oxygen and a candle to help. The oxygen would come from a lover's breath; the candle could be a food, a melody, a word, a caress, or a sound...' He remembers her warning, though, that `it is important to light the matches one at a time' because otherwise the heat generated would produce too dazzling a brilliance.

Thus the wisdom of the ages, just like the power, is passed here through women and the men who are in tune with them. And the intense interactions between the colorful characters of five generations extend to dead family members who continue to counsel or despise the living.

When coming into her room with Pedro after 22 years of their waiting for each other, Tita is greeted by her long deceased nanny lighting her bed and the room with multiple candles. And the consequences of one's actions carries on beyond time - as each person continues her path notwithstanding death.

Hot yellow-red colors intermixed with dense lighting rekindle one's passion for living and appreciation for the gifts and mysteries of the Mexican land. The magic realism becomes a way of living in a culture connected with its heritage.

I recommend Like Water for Chocolate to anyone who feels like he/she is lacking color and passion in life - if watched with an open mind and heart, this beautiful and enigmatic film will stir your senses and imagination and light up your box of matches!

K-PAX (2001)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A new take on an alien theme: 10/10, 28 July 2002

K-PAX is an extraordinary, new take on an alien theme. It expands on the mystery of our existence, suggesting a personal, inner connection with beings from other worlds. We start to realize this when we learn from a hypnosis session that the alien Prot travels to Porter whenever the boy is in crisis. And if thoughtfully analyzed, the story is about Prot merging with Porter's body at a moment of great tragedy, reviving it with his spirit and consciousness, and later leaving it again - but as a post-traumatic catatonic body. Throughout the film, we keep guessing whether Prot is an alien or a human who has transformed through trauma - just as the psychiatrist's and our own beliefs about the existence of alien beings are tested. To give us a subtle clue that the two are different people - as the director points out in his DVD commentary - Kevin Spacey had a prosthetic change in his nose between character changes.

The promise of a different vision of humanity and its place in the universe is given at the very beginning through the subtle futuristic, otherworldly photography. With its cooling, luminescent blue lighting and slightly hypnotic soundtrack, Grand Central Station appears like a spaceport - suggesting a story opening on new horizons. Prot's detached commentary on our planet: it's surprising, given our sense of morals, that we've made it this far - is a somewhat energizing, healthy look at ourselves from the outside.

I give the film 10/10, but one upsetting thing was the absence of visible credits to the writers of the novel and its screen adaptation. I rate as superb Kevin Spacey's unearthly performance and Iain Softley's subtle, innovative directing. But I felt disappointed that `the making of' clip on the DVD had no mention of the creators of the original material and the artful dialog, which I think are pearls deserving to be noted.

Thank God, I found that information on! I'm looking forward to reading the book by Gene Brewer.