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6 reviews in total 
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12 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
Horrifically Sentimental Clap-Trap, 6 October 2005

I admit it makes me see red when so many people so enthusiastically embrace a picture of life that not only reinforces every sexual stereotype the West has ever endorsed but also disingenuously tries to pass itself off as an ode to female empowerment. This movie wants it both ways and fails miserably on both counts. It doesn't have the courage of its convictions- too self-conscious of the miserably PC early 21st Century spin it wants to have when looking back on a "simpler" time (when men were men and women just took it like, well... men) and desperately craving mass-approval like some kind of demented puppy constantly stood on its hind legs- it just sits there like a pink elephant requiring nothing of its audience but to ooh and ah at its kitschy sprawl. Leave your mind at home should you venture out to see this one, folks. Because you'll be asked to swallow all sorts of hokum: Woody Harrelson's embarrassing "love me!" acting as he shies away from playing a semi-violent drunk is just one example.

As for Julianne Moore, I figure that taking this role was quite the calculated choice on her part. None of those dark and difficult roles seem to have done her any good at Oscar time so she decided to do a 180 and take on the most sunny, inane role she could find. Well, the only person who could have possibly pulled off this syrupy mess was Lucille Ball. And even then we would have preferred watching her much more clever and subversive version of this role as Lucy Riccardo. Note to Julianne: I don't think this is Oscar year for you, either. Go back to P.T. Anderson, soon, please!

If what you want from a night at the movies is mindless diversion posing as both entertainment and a moral message, then this is for you. All others need not apply at the box office.

Mrs. Harris (2005) (TV)
30 out of 57 people found the following review useful:
Best movie I saw at Toronto Film Festival, 25 September 2005

My husband and I sat through 20 films this year and this one, along with Michael Haneke's "Cache," was by a long way the best and the most surprising we saw. You go to a gala at a film festival and you're prepared for mostly safe stuff chock full of movie stars, so many of them, like curios in cabinets ("Walk the Line" and "North Country" are two such examples; there are others), that you lapse into a deep sleep just looking at the credits, knowing the exercises in taste and decorum that will follow. I wasn't encouraged by the cast list of "Mrs. Harris" but was really interested in the whole Jean Harris story so along we went to the screening.

For those of you who are not familiar with the tale, this is the murder of the Scarsdale Diet doctor saga in 1980. Jean Harris was an uptight headmistress who, so the media spun it at the time, in a fit of jealous rage drove from Virginia to New York in a blinding rainstorm and pumped the doctor full of bullets because he wanted to marry another woman.

What seems like a pretty straightforward narrative turns out to be anything but that, principally because of the way the story is told in this version and the incredible performances, not just from Annette Bening, though I have never seen such subtlety from this actress but also from Ben Kingsley, Cloris Leachman, Frances Fisher, Mary McDonnell and a host of others in truly perfectly judged cameos.

The first-time writer and director of "Mrs. Harris" never judges the characters and thus wisely puts the responsibility for making any judgments solely in the laps of the audience. The tonal shifts in this film are dizzying but never confusing and perhaps the most brilliant thing about it is the way in which you're seduced into laughing at or with all the insanity and then immediately are shown something that makes you question why you laughed in the first place.

It's not an easy ride or the most comfortable of films to watch, but it's one of the finest depictions of obsession, dependency and love gone wrong I've seen in a long time. It's not for everyone. My husband, who also loved it, had a heated debate with another couple we saw it with who hated it and mostly hated it because of the way it refuses to score easy victim versus villain points. It's divisive and from time to time you wonder about certain shots or the juxtaposition of certain scenes but these are minor quibbles. This is a debut feature that outclasses most of what I've seen in multiplexes this whole year. Go if you want to think and feel as a result of that thinking.

I heard a rumor that the film is not going to be released in movie theaters but will air on HBO. That, if true, is a pity because it's something that should be seen and the performances, writing and direction are first rate.

Birth (2004)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
The best film of 2004, 22 September 2005

A real tragedy that this suffered at the hands of critics and studio marketing types who could not classify its "genre" absolutely. It features Nicole Kidman's finest performance- hands down- and refuses to take the easy way out. It is put together with breathtaking precision and marks an exciting advance over Glazer's "Sexy Beast," which was itself a refreshing re-invention of the tired British gangster flicks that have been proliferating like poisonous mushrooms in the UK over the last decade.

An easy ride you're not going to get on this one, but an immensely rewarding, subtle and complex film awaits those who are willing to invest some intellectual moxie into it.

Sweetie (1989)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Jane Campion's Best Film, 22 September 2005

Well... it's tough to decide between this and "Holy Smoke," but on balance, the sheer emotional pull of "Sweetie" breaks the tie. Restrained and never reaching for obvious sympathy, not interested in scoring easy points with viewers and featuring a truly extraordinary central performance, "Sweetie" is essential viewing for the serious film-goer.

Fast-forward through the feminist empowerment bits which feature tree roots growing through concrete. This foreshadowing of the impossibly artsy-pretentious Campion of "In the Cut" will leave you wanting to throw the remote at your television set.

Stick with this one. The final image will linger and hold you for a long while.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A darn-near masterpiece, 22 September 2005

I'm not even sure if a DVD is available in North America, and if it isn't it would be a tremendous shame. "A Question of Silence" is a tough, rigorous, unsentimental and unblinking examination of justice and is, as another comment observed, a far less mainstream and safe film than Goriss's "Antonia's Line."

For anyone who has even a passing interest in dark, uncompromising work, go out of your way to find this film. It's a little wonky technically and there are perhaps 5 minutes or so of didactic twaddle one wishes the director has discarded in the cutting room- but none of this diminishes from the towering overall achievement.

For anyone whose taste runs to the safe and predictable and who doesn't like being provoked by the films they watch, avoid this one. It's not for you.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
When will we learn that good reviews are historically irrelevant?, 21 September 2005

Increasingly, I am disturbed by the number of enthusiastic, seemingly intelligent film-goers who decide to see films- or not see them- based on a.) IMDb comments; b.) print film critics; and most worrying of all, c.) online film blogs. Perhaps we all need a helping hand of some kind to gently nudge us in forming our personal tastes when we are budding culture vultures. But after a while, doesn't one grow more confident in sussing out the kind of material one might like or at least be curious about without resorting to one's local newspaper critic or spotty-faced internet geek blogger?

The astonishing overrating of "Whale Rider" doesn't mean that the critics have necessarily lost their minds. What it does mean is that sentimentality- the true enemy of art and even of good old-fashioned entertainment- continues to rule the day. Niki Caro made a skillful, sincere and ultimately too-po-faced-for-its-own-good "issue movie." The kind that, yes, we used to happily watch at 2am on television. People like to see what they already know. It comforts them. Nothing too disturbing, nothing too tasteless, nothing that will disturb the after-movie meal. "Whale Rider" is the equivalent of a comfortable pair of slippers: you know you should replace them, but you just don't wanna give them up.

Historically, films rhapsodically praised on their release- including many (though not all) Oscar winners and the unanimously acclaimed- fade into obscurity before the next generation of film-goers has a crack at 'em. Think "American Beauty." A scant six years ago, serious critics were proclaiming this rather pedestrian effort to be a work of enduring genius. Now, they're reassessing. In a hurry. Alternately, think of "The King of Comedy." One of Scorsese's most brilliant works, yet roundly slated on its release. 25 years or so on, the critical revisionism finally comes full circle and it can justly take its place among the best.

When a film is nearly unanimously loved, you have to think about how odd that is. How could something complex and multi-layered appeal to so many people? It simply can't. The best films, for me, are the ones that sharply divide opinion, sometimes quite viciously. It took me quite some time to see "Whale Rider" because of the unanimous acclaim and frankly, because even reading about its plot made the film seem a tremendous bore. Sadly, I was not disappointed. It is predictable in the worst possible way- buying into every cliché in the film-making book. And what's worse, it has zero sense of humor.

Does it mean well? Sure, it does. But so does my granny. And she's not making movies.