the man who wasn't there

Following last year's 'O' Brother Where Art Thou', the Coen brothers deliver another remarkable story about unremarkable people. The film takes place in the late 1940's, shortly after World War 2, shot in black and white with wonderful cinematography by Oscar-nominee Roger Deakins. Witty and intellegent dialog are the strongest parts about this film, however. Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thorton) is a quiet low-key barber whose wife Doris (Frances McDormand) is cheating on him with her boss (played by James Gandolfini). Aware of this, Ed finds a way to blackmail her boss for $10,000. Ed is a simple man but from that moment on his life is forever changed. There are many surprises in the film, not including a crazy invention called "dry cleaning" (which is why Ed needs the $10,000). 'The Man,...' earned Joel Coen a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival beside David Lynch for 'Mulholland Drive'. Expect to see another Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay.


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mulholland drive

The mark of an exceptionally visual film director is that every frame could stand alone as a great photograph, poster or post card. With the exception of 'Lost Highway', David Lynch has seemingly held on to this skill. In the style of his most popular films, he sets up this story as a mystery, wrapped inside an enigma. Set in the Hollywood Hills, a woman is the only survivor of a car accident but is left wandering with amnesia. By chance she happens upon a vacant apartment (as the renter is vacating) and hides out until she's discovered by a wholesome passenger who gets sucked into the rollercoaster ride. Lynch has an undeniable mastery of all elements as the score, sound effects, characters and camera shots all play into a twisted story of the hyperphysical underground of a shallow business: filmmaking! Popular Lynch elements also come into play: the use of coffee, unexplained objects, the name Diane, red stage curtains, death and light, invented (as opposed to strategically placed for advertisement purposes) products, off-camera people answering on-camera phones knowing who the other caller is when they pick up, and of course Roy Orbison. (Rebekah Del Rio's a'capella Spanish rendition of "Crying" has got to be one of the most captivating moments of the film.) Betty and Rita are the innocents playing detective, selflessly trying to help each other out and uncover the mystery, yet Diane and Camilla are the alter-egos, guilty as sin and driven by selfish desires. As complex as the plot seems, this film is basically about deceit, but on many levels however. Not only are the characters deceiving each other, they are deceiving themselves while David Lynch is completely deceiving the audience into believing which part of this film is reality and which part is fantasy. At the end it's up to you to decide which is which.


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mulholland drive

Imagine being lost in some 1950's sitcom, except when the lights and cameras go off and the phony smiles disappear there is a dark lifeless world of crime and murder. The lead character Betty seems almost perfect with her conservative appearance and charming personality, but by night she seems like a different person, often naughty and dangerous. In Lynch's Hollywood, the night is extra dark and the day seems excessively bright. The sounds of the night are often dark and disturbing while the sounds of the day are perky and happy. The other lead, Rita, is introduced on a darkened stretch of Mulholland Drive where a murder is about to take place, her own. A horrific accident causes her to escape but with no recollection of who she is. The mystery begins when Betty and Rita meet up and try to figure out who Rita is. As they come closer and closer to the Rita's identity, they fall in love. Their love seems so perfect, yet it doesn't seem real. Like that 50's sitcom it seems to be all a dream. When will this dream end? It doesn't. Mulholland Drive remains a dream, remains a mystery. As we come closer to discovering the truth, Lynch switches characters around and Rita becomes Camilla Rhodes, an actress in love with a director and Betty becomes Diane Selwyn another actress in love with Camilla. Just when you think you've figured everything out the plot thickens. The dream goes on forever. At this point, however, you simply have to sit back and enjoy the dream. Don't try to figure it out or it will end up haunting you and leave you wandering down Mulholland Drive forever.
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At first, I thought this film was a history of the company that makes the jeans. I was curious to find out why their sizes that are stated are always smaller than they really are. However, I was doomed to find out that this film was nothing about the jeans. Instead I sat through a decent yet unfulfilling film about a homosexual child who falls for an older man. The overall story isn't really that bad. It may seem original to some and average to others. It looks like a teen angst film for the modern world. The story of a boy whose mother has passed away and father has no interest in him. Oh wow, as if that hasn't been done before. What they try to make interesting is the romance between the boy and an older man. It just doesn't go anywhere. After sitting through this film for almost two hours waiting for something to happen you're left disappointed. The film builds up to this climax which just leaves you waiting for more. You sit wondering is that what I waited 2 hours for? It could have went in much better directions, it just chose not too. I suppose the filmmakers thought that the subject matter was daring enough and not to make a daring film about it. I can't say that it was a waste of film, but i can say that it's no show stopper.
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Ghost World

Thora Birch, Scarlett Johanassen, Steve Buscemi, and Illeana Douglas star in this indie comic turned indie film. Ghost World follows a recent high-school graduate Enid (Birch) and the strange things she does to pass the time including: taking a summer-school art class, harassing people from Personals Ads in the newspaper, harassing the employee of a convenience store, and tracking Satanists. Writer Daniel Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff have managed to craft the most genuine and touching film I have seen this year. The wonderfully honest performances from the stars combine with the creators' skills to present the sort of character and story a viewer could easily identify with. The realistic (and sometimes depressing) sets and costumes create a strong sense of reality while making the film's satiric qualities all the more humorous. The talented cast sometimes accurately depicts everyday people and sometimes hacks them apart with the ugly and oftentimes funny truths of humanity. Sarcasm and satire usually numb an audience, distance them from the film, and therefore prevent them from taking the story seriously. Ghost World expertly avoids this with sporadic displays of genuine warmth and emotion. Buscemi, Birch, and Douglas have never been funnier, and the dryness of Johanassen definitely has its moments. Over time, I can definitely see Ghost World becoming a cult favorite as the coming of age film for people who would roll their eyes at the term "coming of age film."


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rat race

The Zucker Brothers have some of the funniest comedies of the last 20 years, including the Airplane movies, Top Secret and the Naked Gun trilogy. Although the story of Rat Race has been done before, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the overall idea is fresh and new. The story involves 7 strangers who receive these mysterious coins while gambling at this casino in Las Vegas. The coins read that they are winners and are instructed to go to this conference room. There the owner of the hotel, John Cleese, one of the richest men in the world, tells them of a game that he made. It's a simple game, there are $2 million in a train station locker in Silver City, New Mexico, and the first person there wins. It seems that those who receive this coins are the oddest people in Vegas that day. The cast is superb, Seth Green, Cuba Gooding, Whoopi Goldberg and the scene stealing Rowan Atkinson and Jon Lovitz. This is the funniest film i've seen in a long time. Nothing but slapstick physical comedy. Everyone in the theatre was laughing throughout the whole film. At first i thought this would be one of those films where the funniest parts are in the trailers, but i had no idea that it could ever be this funny. As of now, this gets my pick as the best film of the year. Even if it is just a stupid comedy.



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The first 20 minutes you are just staring, without a clue of what's going on in these simultaneously projected movies which fit to four parts of the screen. The director switches the viewer's attention in various combinations (of 4) making it more sharp. So that at one moment you are realizing that the puzzle is partly solved and that your perception has just been rebuilt to suit the movie's unusual stream: it was shot without montage in real time with four cameras.
EBTG's "Single" follows after Mahler's 5th symphony Adagietto only to finish it with a ridiculous DJ's version of an old russian folk song "Poljushko, Pole". But within this seeming chaos the structure, plot and characters are building.
The most interesting thing happens when you walk out of the cinema finding yourself in a state of incredible lightness and your perception (which got used to that complicated 4-dimensional scheme) frees and allows you to get reality more real. This is a magical movie.
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Shadow of The Vampire

To use a word commonly used by my friend Jeremy, I would call this one "Crap-tacular!" While this film showed promise with a plot based on the mysterious filming of the classic "Nosferatu" and a cast including Eddie Izzard, Willem Dafoe and Udo Kier, it started off bad and got worse. The accents were terrible and disgustingly mismatched, both American and English actors clumsily fumbled through the German tongue, John Malkovich being the biggest offender, slipping in and out of his accent faster than you can say "Robin Hood." The continuity problems were an eyesore, with different typings of "Orlock," a seeminly endless ladder walk and mismatched cigarette positions. Most important of all, the story was shit, leaving holes everywhere in the plot. The warning signs were all here however. First off: Executive Producer Nicolas Cage—they must have shopped this one around quite a bit before landing on somebody as rich and inexperienced as Cage. Next up was the single preview syndrome—if you only see one preview over and over again then even the promotions team couldn't find any better clips to show. (I did want to spank everybody who laughed at the "I'll eat her later" line, since everybody's heard it a million times by now.) And finally: director Edmund Elias Merhige. While he may have been praised for 1991's "Begotten" for his stylish imitation of classic black-and-white film, he hasn't directed anything else, automatically qualifying him for the "discount director" award. Stay far away or go rent Ed Wood.

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If you liked "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and want to go see it all over again, then this film is for you. This time around, the pretentious cooler-than-thou wankery of Mr. Madonna has materialized into an even more MTV-generation-ready Brit flick obviously made for export. While the camera shots and editing tricks were slick and involved, it didn't put this film on par with something like a Mamet or Tarrantino gangster film with plot ironies. There were some fun and cheap laughs, like the dog who swallowed a chew toy and squeaks every time he barks (this kept Tom the Fish laughing in the row behind me throughout the flick). But it's too much to believe that everybody in England talks with the same cockney accent or can get simply get the guns they had. Brad Pitt was surprisingly entertaining, which lends evidence to my theory that Hollywood rubbish like him and Tom Cruise can be good in roles where they're not the lead. Benicio Del Toro, who can usually save a failing movie was disappointingly under-utilized however. My fear is that more films like this will appear, getting worse and worse and worse. Long-term effects may result, including English kids pretending they're all bad-ass and the ever-annoying stereotype of all Brits talking like cockneys being perpetuated from abroad. For the most part I disliked it but if you loved "Lock Stock" then you've already seen this film and will send hate email to me. Fuck off in advance.

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State And Main

State and Main is the newest movie from David Mamet, writer/director whose film credits include "Glengarry Glen Ross," and "The Spanish Prisoner." An acclaimed playwrite, Mamet's distinct style of dialogue has made some of his movies jumpy and difficult to follow at points, making his drama (like "The Edge") somewhat unenjoyable to watch. However, this signature style adapts well to comedy, and is partially why this movie is uproariously hilarious. Fans of his comedy, "Wag the Dog" should enjoy this one as the styles are quite similar. His directing style is clean, direct and straight to-the-point, coloring the screen with the performances of the well-assembled cast members. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is great as usual as are William H. Macy and Sarah Jessica Parker. While I usually do not care for any of the Baldwins, especially Alec, his role as a pretentious movie star suits him quite well. Plotwise, the story is simple but works well: the cast and crew of a movie, "The Old Mill," for reasons unknown had to relocate the shooting of the film from a quaint New Hampshire town to an even more peculiar Vermont village. The rest is a combination of great comedic twists and irony. "State and Main" is a must see for comedy fans tired of unintelligent formulaic Hollywood Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler trash.

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Ratcatcher / George Washington

These films were shown recently as a double-bill at a local movie-theatre. And they were both remarkably similair yet nothing alike. Or some such crap. Both films are the feature-legnth debut of the writers/directors, David Gordon Green for George Washington and Lynne Ramsay for Ratcatcher. Both films circle around the children of the working poor and the reaction of said children when they are partly responsible for a playmates death.
Now those of you who remember my previous movie reviews know that I suck at writing these things. You can all bite me. Suffice it to say both of these films are hidden gems and easily get a listing in my top 10 films of 2000. Both directors have amazing vision and each cast of unknowns shine through. And the George Washington;s minimal soundtrack is the best movie soundtrack I have heard since Joe Hisaishi's Hana-Bi soundtrack.
In honor of these films I have composed a Haiku for each:

    George Washington:

    don't get your head wet
    are we heros or villains?
    uncle don't like dogs


    London Garbage Strike
    No Englishman is sober
    There's mice on the moon
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Hoo boy. If they could cut 2/3 of this movie it would be pretty damn good. There are three main storylines going on and one sideplot, by my reckoning, and only a few standout actors and very solid direction save it from being a total wash. And an excellent soundtrack. (What is it about excellent soundtracks and bad/mediocre films this year? Traffic, Reqium for a Dream for starters.)

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Two years in production, with 30 pimps interviewed in 15 cities has come together in one of the most bold, entertaining and insightful documentaries in the last few years. Questions like "Why does a ho need a pimp?," "What does a pimp do?," as well as definitions like Mack, Player, and Knockoff are all covered in the words of active and retired pimps and hos. From the ruthless player types to the seasoned professional, from the nation's capital to Hawaii, the characters are genuine and enlightening. 'American Pimp' documents what is generally believed to be the origin of the pimp, through the uprise in popular culture to the present day, where many of the film's stars have retired and moved on. The truth can be glamorous yet unsettling, with the perpetually looming dangers of drugs, jail and death. The lyrical mastery and swave debonair of real-life players Fillmore Slim, Payroll and Gorgeous Dre are alarmingly more animated, intelligent and lovable than much of the fictitious characters often portrayed on the screen. An undertaking like this is a triumph for the Hughes Brothers, as the subject matter must make it difficult to seek out the stars and capture them in their own words. Seek it out.
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I can truly say I agree with Tom the Fish on a movie. Although the bastard was too lazy to write about it, I thought I'd give it a shot. This Chinese film centers around a restless, disrepsectful and arrogant aristocratic young girl, Jen (played by Ziyi Zhang) who is facing an arranged marriage she doesn't want to go through with. Chow Yun Fat plays a legendary warrior who is tired of the warrior life and is trying to retire a 400-year old magical sword, the Green Destiny. The love of his life is a female warrior, Shu Lien, who is played by Michelle Yeoh. From early on, young Jen expresses to Shu Lien that she too wants to be a warrior and leave the aristocratic life. Little did everybody know from early on that Jen is indeed the hidden dragon: powerful yet stupid. Chow Yun Fat might be the most Amercan known actor in the film but the ladies take center stage in this film, all of whom kick some serious ass. The fighting scenes are stunningly choreographed, meshing martial arts, ballet and inventive camera angles and effects. The scenery is breathtaking on the large screen and the interplay between Jen and her true love, Lo are amusing and entertaining as well. Throughout the course of the film, an alarming number of people take an interest in leading young Jen down a path they all feel is right for her. I'm not going to give the ending away, but I will say the three of us who saw this film on Christmas Day all had a different take on what actually happened in the end. It all depends on how pure you, the viewer, believe her heart actually is. This movie has definitely become one of my top choices for best film of 2000.
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James and Andy of V/Vm wake up one morning to find a lifetime supply of pudding in their cabinets, Andy's car is missing and neither can remember what happened last night. An answering machine message is left by their girlfriends, the twins, played by Mira Calix and Andrea Parker, bitching them out for the mess they made last night and how they forgot it was their anniversary. Now the two are screwed because they can't find their car with the anniversary gifts they bought for the girls. On their journey into the town Wendy Carlos tries to run over Andy, Colin Newman and Malka Spiegel try to run over James. They meet up with their old friend who's played by Andrew Mackenzie. From there, the three drive to get some Chinese food, where Takako Minekawa gives them hell on the drive-through intercom. After a small incident, Mackenzie takes off and leaves the two to try to piece everything together. A hot girl from school, played by Bettina Richards sees the two on the street, flirts with Andy as her boyfriend and some other thugs (played by the Isotope fellas) show up and threaten to beat our two heroes up. A run in with a transgendered girl played by Riz Malsen (Neotropic) at a strip club adds another twisted piece to the ever-growing puzzle, while an Asian tailor, played by Masami Akita hooks them up with hip Addidas outfits with magical pockets.

Upon leaving the shop, the two are abducted by the Add N to (X) folks who play a gang of underground nerds trying to communicate with space. This is where it gets weird: the Add N to (X) crew (who later torture the main characters by playing some of their music) inform them that they need the Continuum Transducer to save the universe. Once our heroes break free from the nerds, Chicks on Speed show up also wanting the treasured Continuum Transducer. But it gets even more bizarre: Stefan Betke and Florian Hecker also appear in the film, claiming to be the keepers of the Continuum Transducer and well, the rest of the story has young James and Andy running around, trying to get the car and save the universe and figure out what happened last night. Honest!
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It's a good thing that I haven't filled out the survey for the best stuff of the year yet, because now I can honestly say I can add this film to it. I must admit I was worried that this film would be too MTV-generation, but the quick camera shots, center stage sound fx / score, and creative photography made this film all the bit more intense and entertaining. Ellen Burnstyn's role of the television slaved mother turned speed addict was a performance actors dreams are made of. Her character's physical and emotional transformation from start to finish of the film was absolutely intense. Jared Leto's role as her son was excellent as well, along with his strung out girlfriend and best friend, played by Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans, respectively. The film was bold in its portrayal of these four main characters and how their lives were ruined over the course of three seasons by compulsion and drugs. It was unsettling, uneasy, yet I couldn't remove my eyes from the screen. It was impossible as every single second, every image on the screen would make for a perfect picture. In no way is there a happy ending, everything is destroyed, everybody loses. It's most definitely more of an anti-drug propaganda film than Trainspotting. A requiem is more or less a song for a funeral, and "Requiem for a Dream" was truly a thrilling modern nightmare. 
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How's this for Hollywood trash? Sure, it's a movie about the insane asylum days of the Marquis de Sade (from which Sadism was coined for all you newbie gawths), but it's very VERY loosely based on historical events. Keep in mind if you see this that the film is in fact based on the play, and should be viewed for entertainment purposes ONLY. Aside from that the performance by Geoffrey Rush was incredible as Sade, the elegant and innovative use of sound was a pleasant unexpected surprise, and the supporting cast of imbeciles was exciting to watch. However, I can't get past a few grave inaccuracies and personal issues.

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Do you like to indulge in Bjork-ness for long periods of time? Do you love to watch people do things on screen that you'd never do in their situation? Do you want to feel nauseous for 2 hours of unsteady camera shots? If you answered yes to any one of those questions, then this movie's most certainly for you. I'll admit: it was well-done, it was effective and emotional, I was in tears at the end, but I didn't need to see this movie. Like Bjork's character, I too can relate to daydreaming as well as listening to sounds and rhythms that exist in life, imagining songs to go along with them. Don't let anybody tell you this is a "musical." In a musical, there are happy endings and more than one character has songs. ["West Side Story" is considered more of a Modern Opera than a Musical.] Since Bjork is the lead singer in every song in this film, 'Dancer' is better classified as an extended music video. If you love Bjork and don't mind watching something completely self-indulgent then it won't be as stomach-turning as it was for me. After watching this film, I honestly wouldn't care if I never saw her face or heard her voice ever again. She's got two emotions: one is of deep melodramatic sadness and the other one is of that little girl looking at the big world through bright star-filled eyes. That's IT! There's nothing more to her character. Catherine Deneuve's extensive career has a long line of wonderful performances, showcasing many abilities - here however her role completely puts the esteemed actress to waste. I've never walked out of a film and I was seriously considering leaving after about an hour. By the time she shot and killed her neighbor, Bill, I knew I made the wrong decision in staying. I recommend this film for all Bjork fans because something about her aura just drives people to go insane and kill themselves. Cheers!
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I really didn't know much about this film when I went to see it. I knew the cast and a basic idea of the plot, but I wasn't really prepared for what was about to unravel.
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"I held a Pasolini film fest and nobody showed up!" Waters takes out the Hollywood trash in Cecil, letting his bitterness towards the Californian movie machine shine bright.
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