30 April 2009

The Decade List: 'R Xmas (2001)

'R Xmas - dir. Abel Ferrara

Obviously, the US doesn't know what to do with Abel Ferrara. All three of his last films (Mary, Go Go Tales and Chelsea on the Rocks) had their theatrical releases canceled, and one of his best films, The Addiction, still hasn't seen a DVD release. He's unquestionably a commanding voice in American independent cinema, so why is he so disrespected? 'R Xmas, which I must thank Girish Shambu, Andrew Grant and Jeremy Richey for convincing me to finally watch, is incredible, and yet it barely received a theatrical run before being thrown onto DVD, in the hopes of appealing to the Sopranos/Scarface crowd.

Pre-dating HBO's The Wire by a year, 'R Xmas takes a similar approach to its crime yarn, concerning a high-on-the-food-chain Dominican drug dealer (Lillo Brancato, Jr.) and his wife (Drea de Matteo) during four days around Christmas. There's a kidnapping and a double cross that follow, but Ferrara doesn't concern himself with plot devices or narrative expectations. It is, like most of his films, a skewed portrait of American dreams, but what separates 'R Xmas from many of his other films, other than The Addiction of course, is that he places a woman (de Matteo) at the center, which alleviates some of the usual aggravation that repels most of the people who hate his work. de Matteo's character, who is never named, doesn't suffer from the same Catholic agony the characters of his male-centered films do. She's faced with the same sort of moral gray area but spared the sort of misanthropic tendencies that plague the protagonists of The Blackout, Bad Lieutenant or Mary.

It's not often that a film calls to mind The Wire without suffering from the comparison. Ferrara not only distances himself from his characters but also from glorifying or condemning their actions. What prevails is a question of "doing the right thing," and it really is a question, not a pursuit. Leaving things beautifully unresolved, Ferrara suggests a sequel, concerning a Giuliani era chronicle of crime in (and off) the streets of New York City. Outside of an amateurish performance from Ice-T, 'R Xmas is remarkable, one of the overlooked masterstrokes of one of the under-appreciated American artists.

With: Drea de Matteo, Lillo Brancato Jr., Ice-T, Lisa Valens, Victor Argo
Screenplay: Abel Ferrara, Scott Pardo, based on a story by Cassandra De Jesus
Cinematography: Ken Kelsch
Music: Schoolly D.
Country of Origin: USA/France
US Distributor: Artisan

Premiere: 9 May 2001 (Cannes Film Festival)
US Premiere: 5 October 2001 (Chicago International Film Festival)

Awards: Best Feature Film, Best Actress - Drea De Matteo (New York International Film & Video Festival)

The Decade List: 40ish Great Performances (2000-2001)

In no particular order.

Naomi Watts - Mulholland Drive
Isabelle Huppert - La pianiste [The Piano Teacher]
Nicole Kidman - The Others
Dover Koshashvili, Ronit Elkabetz - Late Marriage

John Cameron Mitchell - Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Piper Perabo - Lost & Delirious
Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Marisa Tomei - In the Bedroom
Renée Zellweger - Nurse Betty, Bridget Jones's Diary

Stockard Channing - The Business of Strangers
Brian Cox - L.I.E.
Emmanuelle Devos, Vincent Cassel - Sur mes lèvres [Read My Lips]
Tilda Swinton - The Deep End

Javier Bardem - Before Night Falls
The entire cast - The Royal Tenenbaums
Juliette Binoche - Code inconnu [Code Unknown]
Charlotte Rampling - Sous le sable [Under the Sand]

Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung - In the Mood for Love
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Janet McTeer, Romane Bohringer, Lia Williams - The King Is Alive
Lauren Ambrose - Psycho Beach Party, Swimming
Björk - Dancer in the Dark

Eric Bana - Chopper
Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge - Best in Show
Christian Bale - American Psycho
Jamie Bell - Billy Elliot

Daryl Hannah, Jennifer Tilly, Sandra Oh - Dancing at the Blue Iguana
Reese Witherspoon - Legally Blonde
Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith - Gosford Park
Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss - Memento

John Goodman, Paul Giamatti, Robert Wisdom - Storytelling
Lupe Ontiveros - Chuck&Buck, Storytelling
Mike White - Chuck&Buck
Aurélien Recoing - L'emploi du temps [Time Out]

Maribel Verdú - Y tu mamá también
Mark Ruffalo, Laura Linney - You Can Count on Me
Willem Dafoe - Shadow of the Vampire
Ben Kingsley - Sexy Beast

Sergi López - Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien [With a Friend Like Harry]
Albert Finney - Erin Brockovich
Anna Thomson - Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes [Water Drops on Burning Rocks]
Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald - Series 7: The Contenders

The Decade List: Awards (2001)

As April comes to a close, naturally I haven't gotten around to all the films I'd like to, but I've added the films I've already discussed on the sidebar of this blog. More will follow. I've also started a regular feature on Film for the Soul's Counting Down the Zeroes, which goes through the major film awards of each given year. I've already gone through 2000, and 2001 will close sometime next month.

Of course, in relation to the films of 2001, it's a pretty infamous year as far as awards are concerned, not least of which being at the Oscars, where they dropped the liberal card and played it safe at the very same time. Ron Howard beat out Robert Altman (for one of his lesser, but fine, films), David Lynch (for one of his best efforts), Peter Jackson (who would win when the third LOTR rolled around) and Ridley Scott (whose Black Hawk Down forgave Hannibal, for many people) in the Best Director race. The Academy introduced the long-overdue Best Animated Feature prize which decided to nominate Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius over Richard Linklater's Waking Life (the first Shrek would be the first winner in this category). And then, there was Denzel Washington, Best Actor winner for a medicore genre film where he would spend less time onscreen than Best Supporting Actor nominee Ethan Hawke, and Halle Berry, who actually beat out Sissy Spacek. Despite the love shown for Amèlie in its native country, at the Independent Spirits and at the box office, Danis Tanovic's No Man's Land routinely topped it at both the Golden Globes and Oscars. And the Razzies once again showed that they don't really "get" it, with Freddy Got Fingered sweeping the awards Mariah Carey and a bunch of apes couldn't. Tom Green would be the first person to show up to receive his "honors," though I heard the year's Best Actress Oscar-winner did the same for Catwoman.


Palme d'Or: La stanza del figlio (The Son's Room) [d. Nanni Moretti]
Grand Prix: La pianiste (The Piano Teacher) [d. Michael Haneke]
Best Director: (tie) David Lynch - Mulholland Drive; Joel Coen - The Man Who Wasn't There
Best Actor: Benoît Magimel - La pianiste
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert - La pianiste [unanimously]
Best Screenplay: Danis Tanović - No Man's Land
Technical Grand Prize: Tu Du-Che - Millennium Mambo
Camera d'Or: Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner [d. Zacharias Kunuk]


Golden Lion: Monsoon Wedding [d. Mira Nair]
Grand Special Jury Prize: Hundstage (Dog Days) [d. Ulrich Seidl]
Best Actor: Luigi Lo Cascio - Luce dei miei occhi [Light of My Eyes]
Best Actress: Sandra Ceccarelli - Luce dei miei occhi
Career Golden Lion: Eric Rohmer


People's Choice Award: Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (Amélie) [d. Jean-Pierre Jeunet]
Discovery Award: Chicken Rice War [d. Cheah Chee Kong]
Best Canadian Feature: Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner [d. Zacharias Kunuk]


Golden Bear: Intimacy [d. Patrice Chéreau]
Best Director: Lin Cheng-sheng - Betelnut Beauty
Best Actor: Benicio Del Toro - Traffic
Best Actress: Kerry Fox - Intimacy
Jury Grand Prix: Beijing Bicycle [d. Wang Xiaoshuai]
Jury Prize: Italiensk for begyndere (Italian for Beginners) [d. Lone Scherfig]
Outstanding Artistic Achievment: You're the one (una historia de entonces) [d. Raúl Pérez Cubero]
Honorary Golden Bear: Kirk Douglas
Teddy (Feature): Hedwig and the Angry Inch [d. John Cameron Mitchell]
Teddy (Documentary): Trembling Before G-d [d. Sandi Simcha Dubowski]
Teddy (Jury Award): Forbidden Fruit [d. Sue Maluwa-Bruce, Beate Kunath]


Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic): The Believer [d. Henry Bean]
Grand Jury Prize (Documentary): Southern Comfort [d. Kate Davis]
Director (Dramatic): John Cameron Mitchell - Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Director (Documentary): Stacy Peralta - Dogtown and Z-Boys
Special Jury Prize (Dramatic): In the Bedroom, for Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek
Special Jury Prize (Documentary): Children Underground [d. Edet Belzberg]
Cinematography (Dramatic): Giles Nuttgens - The Deep End
Cinematography (Documentary): Albert Maysles - LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton
Audience Award (Dramatic): Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Audience Award (Documentary): (tie) Dogtown and Z-Boys; Scout's Honor [d. Tom Shepard]
Audience Award (World Cinema): The Road Home [d. Zhang Yimou]

Academy Awards

Best Picture: A Beautiful Mind [d. Ron Howard]
Best Director: Ron Howard - A Beautiful Mind
Best Actor: Denzel Washington - Training Day
Best Actress: Halle Berry - Monster's Ball
Best Supporting Actor: Jim Broadbent - Iris
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Connelly - A Beautiful Mind
Best Original Screenplay: Julian Fellowes - Gosford Park
Best Adapted Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman - A Beautiful Mind
Best Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Best Documentary: Un coupable idéal (Murder on a Sunday Morning) [d. Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, Denis Poncet]
Best Foreign Film: No Man's Land [d. Danis Tanović]
Animated Feature: Shrek [d. Aron Warner]
Honorary Award: Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford


Best Film: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [d. Peter Jackson]
Best Director: Peter Jackson - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Best British Film: Gosford Park [d. Robert Altman]
Best Actor: Russell Crowe - A Beautiful Mind
Best Actress: Judi Dench - Iris
Best Supporting Actor: Jim Broadbent - Moulin Rouge!
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Connelly - A Beautiful Mind
Best Original Screenplay: Guillaume Laurant, Jean-Pierre Jeunet - Amélie
Best Adapted Screenplay: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, Roger S.H. Shulman - Shrek
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins - The Man Who Wasn't There
Film Not in the English Language: Amores perros [d. Alejandro González Iñárritu]

European Film Awards

Best Film: Amélie [d. Jean-Pierre Jeunet]
Best Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet - Amélie
Best Actor: Ben Kingsley - Sexy Beast
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert - La pianiste (The Piano Teacher)
Best Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel - Amélie
Best Screenplay: Danis Tanovic - No Man's Land
Best Documentary: Black Box BRD [d. Andres Veiel]
Discovery: El Bola [d. Achero Mañas]
Screen International: Moulin Rouge! [d. Baz Luhrmann]
Audience Award (Actor): Colin Firth - Bridget Jones's Diary
Audience Award (Actress): Juliette Binoche - Chocolat
Audience Award (Director): Jean-Pierre Jeunet - Amélie
Life Achievement Award: Monty Python

Independent Spirit

Best Feature: Memento [d. Christopher Nolan]
Best First Feature: In the Bedroom [d. Todd Field]
Best Director: Christopher Nolan - Memento
Best Male Lead: Tom Wilkinson - In the Bedroom
Best Female Lead: Sissy Spacek - In the Bedroom
Best Supporting Male: Steve Buscemi - Ghost World
Best Supporting Female: Carrie-Anne Moss - Memento
Best Debut Performance: Paul Dano - L.I.E.
Best Screenplay: Christopher Nolan - Memento
Best First Screenplay: Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff - Ghost World
Best Cinematography: Peter Deming - Mulholland Drive
Best Documentary: Dogtown and Z-Boys [d. Stacy Peralta]
Best Foreign Film: Amélie [d. Jean-Pierre Jeunet]
Someone to Watch Award: Debra Eisenstadt - Daydream Believer

Golden Globes

Picture (Drama): A Beautiful Mind [d. Ron Howard]
Picture (Comedy/Musical): Moulin Rouge! [d. Baz Luhrmann]
Director: Robert Altman - Gosford Park
Actor (D): Russell Crowe - A Beautiful Mind
Actress (D): Sissy Spacek - In the Bedroom
Actor (M/C): Gene Hackman - The Royal Tenenbaums
Actress (M/C): Nicole Kidman - Moulin Rouge!
Supporting Actor: Jim Broadbent - Iris
Supporting Actress: Jennifer Connelly - A Beautiful Mind
Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman - A Beautiful Mind
Foreign Film: No Man's Land [d. Danis Tanović]
Cecil B. DeMille Award: Harrison Ford

Césars Awards

Best Film (Meilleur film): Amélie [d. Jean-Pierre Jeunet]
Best Director (Meilleur réalisateur): Jean-Pierre Jeunet - Amélie
Best Actor (Meilleur acteur): Michel Bouquet - Comment j'ai tué mon père (How I Killed My Father)
Best Actress (Meilleure actrice): Emmanuelle Devos - Sur mes lèvres (Read My Lips)
Best Supporting Actor (Meilleur acteur dans un second rôle): André Dussollier - La chambre des officiers (Officer's Ward)
Best Supporting Actress (Meilleure actrice dans un second rôle): Annie Girardot - La pianiste (The Piano Teacher)
Most Promising Actor (Meilleur espoir masculin): Robinson Stévenin - Mauvais genres (Transfixed)
Most Promising Actress (Meilleur espoir féminin): Rachida Brakni - Chaos
Best Screenplay (Meilleur scénario): Jacques Audiard, Tonino Benacquista - Sur mes lèvres
Best Cinematography (Meilleure photographie): Tetsuo Nagata - La chambre des officiers
Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger): Mulholland Drive [d. David Lynch]
Best First Film (Meilleur premier film): No Man's Land [d. Danis Tanović]
Honorary Césars: Anouk Aimée, Jeremy Irons, Claude Rich


Worst Film: Freddy Got Fingered [d. Tom Green]
Worst Director: Tom Green - Freddy Got Fingered
Worst Actor: Tom Green - Freddy Got Fingered
Worst Actress: Mariah Carey - Glitter
Worst Supporting Actor: Charlton Heston - Cats & Dogs, Planet of the Apes, Town & Country
Worst Supporting Actress: Estella Warren - Planet of the Apes, Driven
Worst Screenplay: Tom Green, Derek Harvie - Freddy Got Fingered
Worst Remake/Sequel: Planet of the Apes [d. Tim Burton]

29 April 2009

Calling All Ken Russell Fans!

Apparently voting is the way to go these days, for both the Warner Archive Collection and Criterion Blu-ray, and now MGM. Check their page to vote for a DVD release of Ken Russell's The Music Lovers, his take on the life of Tchaikovsky starring Glenda Jackson and Richard Chamberlain, and any of the others you want to come out. Ken Loach's Ladybird Ladybird, Nick Broomfield's Diamond Skulls, Mark Romanek's Static with Amanda Plummer and Sergei Bodrov's The Prisoner of the Mountains (which is actually already on DVD and still in print as part of MGM's 'World Films' series) are other options. I'm pretty sure Russell's woefully underrated The Boyfriend belongs to Warner now (though I could be wrong). Make it count! Us Russell fans have been suffering too long. Thanks, Eric.

28 April 2009

Pick Flick

While scoping the Amazon page for this movie's Blu-ray release, I noticed a promotion from The Criterion Collection in which users can vote for which, out of five choices, film you'd like to see Criterion release in high-def format. The films are all solid, deserving choices: Louis Malle's Au revoir les enfants, Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law, James Ivory's Howards End, Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan and Peter Weir's Picnic and Hanging Rock. It was strange to see Kwaidan among the picks, as its DVD release is one of the more notorious in the collection (the DVD is not the complete version of the film). So, happy voting to you.

Wicked Game(s)

The Informers - dir. Gregor Jordan - 2009 - Germany/USA - Senator

I've been toiling around with writing about Gregor Jordan's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' The Informers for the past couple days. I've tried defending my liking of it, but the words just aren't convincing. The Informers is a mess, which may or may not be a result of the studio's decision to reject the director's three-ish hour long version, and yet, in my eyes, it's the most successful attempt to bring Ellis' vision to the screen. Of course, it doesn't have a lot of competition. Less Than Zero is an abortion, and both American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction are inspired failures. Jordan does have an advantage over the other filmmakers in choosing Ellis' hands-down worst book to bring to the screen, a loose collection of sordid tales of LA decadence that feel more like B-sides to his better stories (and not the good and/or sought-after type of B-side).

I can't decide if its bit of casting is inspired or if it simply uses the availability of its somewhat absent-from-the-screen stars. With Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Chris Isaak and Mickey Rourke (before The Wrestler placed him back on the map), all four would have a dream line-up in Hollywood's eyes had the film been made shortly after it was set, but in 2009, it may have been the only work those actors could find. In Isaak's defense, he was only a part-time actor, though I've always held his turn in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me in high regard. So, like Rourke in The Wrestler, each of the performances exist in an alternate level of reality: Basinger as the pill-popping beauty, Ryder as the disrespected TV anchor, Isaak as the alcoholic flirt who missed every opportunity to connect with his son (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Rourke as the former bodyguard blacklisted from Hollywood after "an incident with that actress." And, really, each of their performances, along with Billy Bob Thornton's movie producer ex-husband of Basinger, are quite potent, much more so than their younger counterparts.

Visually, Jordan captures Ellis' world perfectly in its glassy, cloudy, empty sheen. Though the implications are glaring, the sweeping aerial shot of the Hollywood sign, ominous from a distance and graffiti-ridden up close, is absolutely radiant. Jordan avoids the showboat approach Roger Avary took to capturing The Rules of Attraction and sticks to lens filters to tonally dress the frame. What vanishes though, aside from a number of the book's characters, is Ellis' sense of humor, despite the fact Ellis wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Jarecki, director of the James Toback documentary The Outsider. His humor isn't completely absent, seen best when a woman plays her son's favorite song, Pat Benatar's "Shadows of the Night," at his funeral, but the straight-faced desolation of The Informers manages to work on some level, something Less Than Zero, the film, didn't come close to accomplishing.

Despite the fruitful attempts by Jordan and the senior members of his cast (though, really, all of the younger actors, except for Austin Nichols as music video director Martin, are effective in their hollow poses), I think I fall into the camp of people who don't believe Ellis' work could ever be successfully translated onto the screen. With money comes a level of restraint that his novels never showed, though it's perhaps notable that The Informers left its characters' (bi-)sexuality intact (though only in mention, not in practice), whereas Less Than Zero turned Robery Downey, Jr.'s character straight and The Rules of Attraction made Ian Somerhalder's gay, both differing forms of simplification. A certain explicitness, as well as an understanding of its purpose in Ellis' world, is necessary to convey the author's ideas, and that will probably always remain the greatest obstacle between the written and filmed works. We may never see Jordan's intended version of The Informers, in the same way US audiences have never officially seen the unedited cut of The Rules of Attraction or its counterpart Glitterati, but somewhere within its current shape, there are moments that suggest the "outstanding movie floating out there somewhere" that Ellis alludes to in Scott Tobias' interview with him on The Onion's A.V. Club, and those moments, particularly the final shot, really knocked me out.

27 April 2009

L'important c'est d'aimer in June

Mondo Vision announced L'important c'est d'aimer as the next of their Andrzej Żuławski titles to be released on DVD in the US. Like La femme publique, it will be available in standard and limited signature editions on 16 June. The film stars Romy Schneider (in what she considered her best role), Klaus Kinski and Jacques Dutronc, and it comes highly recommended.

The Decade List: Some Honorable Mentions for 2001

It's tough making these lists. You want to be as thorough as possible, but who has time to go back and rewatch all of the films they saw during a given year? On one hand, I'd love for some crystal ball to tell me if I'd like The Devil's Backbone as much now as I did when I first saw it in the theatre. On the other hand, if I had such a device, it would spoil the joy of finding out that you were plain wrong in disliking something upon first viewing (that happened to me with Performance). I like to think my taste has improved from when I was 17, but with four exceptions, I haven't seen any of the films I've listed below in at least five years. Alas, I'm still holding out on a couple of films that I will actually sit down and watch again, so by no means is this a definitive list of 2001 Honorable Mentions, but more, the films from 2001 I don't have the time (or desire) to see again. Unless of course, you convince me otherwise. They are not ranked, but I've placed the annotated ones first.

Intimacy - dir. Patrice Chéreau

Before Chloë Sevigny, Kerry Fox became the first legitimate English-speaking actress to perform fellatio onscreen (I didn't come up with that distinction). And, as you may have heard or seen, it's nothing to fuss over (I recall people leaving the theatre once it happened not out of outrage but because they saw what they came to see). Opening with one of my favorite Tindersticks songs, "A Night In," Patrice Chéreau's Intimacy chronicles the no-frills sexual relationship between two adults (Fox and Mark Rylance) with a candid eye. Compared to some of Chéreau's other films, Intimacy, which was the director's first film in English, isn't wholly remarkable, but the leads are wonderful and the cinematography from Éric Neveux, who has worked on a number of films by Arnaud Desplechin and Olivier Assayas, is exquisite.

With: Mary Rylance, Kerry Fox, Marianne Faithfull, Timothy Spall, Susannah Harker, Alastair Galbraith, Philippe Calvario, Fraser Ayres
Screenplay: Annie-Louise Trividic, Patrice Chéreau, based on stories by Hanif Kureishi
Cinematography: Éric Neveux
Country of Origin: France/UK/Germany/Spain
US Distributor: Empire Pictures/Koch Lorber

Premiere: 20 January 2001 (Sundance Film Festival)

Awards: Golden Bear, Silver Bear - Kerry Fox (Berlin International Film Festival)

Vagón fumador [Smokers Only] - dir. Verónica Chen

Certainly one of the lesser examples of the recent artistic surge in Argentina, Smokers Only is admirable in its disposition, even if it's not entirely successful. I actually wrote a paper for a class defending the film's merits (nearly every critic that reviewed the film hated it), but due to a hard drive crash and a stolen "man bag," it has disappeared into the ether. Verónica Chen's later effort Agua from 2006 would officially cross her off my list of exciting new directors to keep an eye out for.

With: Leonardo Brzezicki, Cecilia Bengolea, Adrián Fondari, Carlos Issa, Fernando Moumdjian, Juan Martín Gravina, Adrián Blanco
Screenplay: Verónica Chen
Cinematography: Nicolás Theodossiou
Music: Edgardo Rudnitzky, Chango Spaciuk
Country of Origin: Argentina
US Distributor: Strand Releasing

Premiere: 11 November 2001 (Thessaloniki International Film Festival)
US Premiere: 20 December 2002 (New York City)

Bridget Jones's Diary - dir. Sharon Maguire

Just as 2001 reminded us of the long-forgotten days when we thought we didn't like Penélope Cruz, I was reminded of a time when we thought another actress with an accent aigu in her name: Renée Zellweger. Following her brilliant performance in Neil LaBute's Nurse Betty (which is currently in my rewatch queue), Zellweger defied the naysayers (Brits, mostly) and pulled off a near-flawless British accent as the titular Bridget Jones. Her charm went beyond the expected chicklit/romcom standard, and even placed Hugh Grant against type as Jones' asshole boss. I never saw the sequel, but I seem to remember a friend saying something about Bridget Jones getting thrown into a Thai prison for drug smuggling... and with that, I decided to keep my memories of Bridget pure, even if I'll never be able to do the same for the actress playing her.

With: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Celia Imrie, James Faulkner, Shirley Henderson, James Callis, Sally Phillips, Embeth Davidtz
Screenplay: Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies, Richard Curtis, based on the novel by Fielding
Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh
Music: Patrick Doyle
Country of Origin: UK/France
US Distributor: Miramax Films

Premiere: 4 April 2001 (UK)
US Premiere: 13 April 2001

Awards: Best Actor (Audience Award) - Colin Firth (European Film Awards)

Hotel - dir. Mike Figgis

Taken from my earlier review: Cinema so rarely gives us that beautiful escapist feeling any more (The Transporter 2, which I may write about soon, is a fine example of the contrary), so when a film does, whether it's of high merit or not, one must appreciate it. Mike Figgis' Hotel is one such example. It's like going on a fucking vacation... and not one of those vacations you had to go on with your parents and siblings where you placed license plate games and stayed in the hotel watching TV the whole time. It's more like a vacation to a gorgeous European locale where you don't speak the language and don't really care. Such artistic pretension hasn't shown its face since Peter Greenaway (a fellow Brit). Well, such satisfying pretention, that is. Figgis' Time Code was a digital experiment in which four camera captured real-time action loosely surrounding a Hollywood satire. The feat itself was marvelous, even if the film was deservedly forgotten shortly afterward. He returns to digital experimentation with Hotel, sometimes employing the quad-screen in Time Code, but often using simple split-screens, night vision camera, and the blending of images. American audiences threw their hands up, and the film went hidden for nearly four years until getting a direct-to-video release. There's a lot of fucking stuff going on here, including a British film crew making a tasteless Dogme adaptation of The Duchess of Malfi, an American tabloid whore Charlee Boux (Salma Hayek) making a documentary about the production, a murder subplot, and the hotel staff that appears to be kidnapping people and feeding their bodies to the clientele. All of this sounds like a mess, and it is -- but a rather glorious mess. I purchased Hotel from my work for around 5 dollars (we had plenty of backstock) and found that multiple viewings really don't enchance the film in any way. One would think a film as convoluted as this would do so, but you soon realize that the magic of Hotel is in your initial blindness to its strange and alarming provocations. I have a particular fondness for films that challenge our senses, even if the final result is as messy as my room looks right now, and especially when its teamed with lofty ambition. To make sense of Hotel would be futile, but I can't say it's not worth a shot to allow yourself to just go with it.

With: Rhys Ifans, Saffron Burrows, David Schwimmer, Valentina Cervi, Lucy Liu, Max Beesley, Julian Sands, Salma Hayek, Valeria Golino, John Malkovich, Burt Reynolds, Chiara Mastroianni, Mía Maestro, Ornella Muti, Mark Strong, Jason Isaacs, Danny Huston, Laura Morante, Heathcote Williams, Andrea Di Stefano, Stefania Rocca, Mark Long, Fabrizio Bentivoglio
Screenplay: Mike Figgis, Heathcote Williams, loosely based on the play The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
Cinematography: Patrick Alexander Stewart
Music: Mike Figgis, Anthony Marinelli
Country of Origin: UK/Italy
US Distributor: MGM

Premiere: 12 September 2001 (Toronto International Film Festival)
US Premiere: 5 June 2002 (Atlanta Film and Video Festival)

The Fluffer - dir. Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

As I haven't the time to re-watch all of the films I'm spotlighting in the Honorable Mentions section, many of these films have been included as a result of being pleasant surprises as opposed to exceptional films. I'm not sure which category The Fluffer falls in, as I simply remember blindly purchasing a ticket for it and being startled at the fact that it was much better than I would have anticipated any film called The Fluffer could be. The premise is a bit silly: a young film student (Michael Cunio) tries to rent a copy of Citizen Kane, only to find that the video cassette he's rented isn't the Orson Welles classic but a gay porn called Citizen Cum. This "happy accident" leads the ambitious Sean to the LA-based porn studio, where his dream to make it in the film industry is overshadowed by his lust for Citizen Cum's gay-for-pay leading man Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney). Much to his delight, Sean becomes the porn star's fluffer. The rest of the film concerns Sean's (failed) attempts to rationalize his feelings for Johnny, whose stripper girlfriend (Roxanne Day) has just found out she's pregnant, and the film ends on a strange, elusive note that has stuck with me to this day. It's highly possible that The Fluffer merely worked by exceeding my expectations of American gay cinema (I actually didn't even know the film fell into this category when I bought the ticket), but it's also nice to remember a recent gay flick with something other than just a bad taste in your mouth. Note: The pun wasn't intentional, but I'm leaving it anyway.

With: Michael Cunio, Scott Gurney, Roxanne Day, Deborah Harry, Taylor Negron, Josh Holland, Richard Riehle, Ron Jeremy
Screenplay: Wash Westmoreland
Cinematography: Mark Putnam
Music: John Vaughn, The Bowling Green
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: TLA Releasing/First Run Features

Premiere: 11 February 2001 (Berlin International Film Festival)
US Premiere: 25 September 2001 (Portland LGBT Film Festival)

Sugar & Spice - dir. Francine McDougall

It's a shame so many people hate Sugar & Spice, because it's actually rather sharp, even in its diluted version which was so altered by the studio from Lola Williams' original screenplay that she asked to have her name taken off of it. A set of high school cheerleaders plot to rob a bank and, sorry for the "spoiler," get away with it. As the pregnant squad captain Diane, Marley Shelton shows great comic timing, whether using Madonna lyrics as words of wisdom or greeting her reflection every morning with a pep talk, and this would be utilized best in Grindhouse a few years later. It may not be one of the best teen comedies Hollywood has given us, but it's certainly a lot better than you've heard.

With: Marley Shelton, James Marsden, Marla Sokoloff, Mena Suvari, Rachel Blanchard, Melissa George, Alexandra Holden, Sara Marsh, Sean Young, W. Earl Brown
Screenplay: Lona Williams, under the pseudonym Mandy Nelson
Cinematography: Robert Brinkmann
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: New Line Cinema

Premiere: 24 January 2001

Wet Hot American Summer - dir. David Wain

Wet Hot American Summer sure was a hoot when it first came out. Subsequent viewings haven't proven as fruitful, and Showalter's bit during the talent show is really tedious. It remains the most successful cinematic foray from the State guys, though The Baxter isn't without its moments.

With: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Marguerite Moreau, Paul Rudd, Michael Ian Black, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Amy Poehler, Zak Orth, A.D. Miles, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Elizabeth Banks, Marisa Ryan, Gideon Jacobs, Liam Norton, Kevin Sussman
Screenplay: Michael Showalter, David Wain
Cinematography: Ben Weinstein
Music: Theodore Shapiro, Craid Wedren
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: USA Films

Premiere: 23 January 2001 (Sundance Film Festival)

Lost & Delirious - dir. Léa Pool

Despite a handful of clichés, Lost & Delirious is probably one of the better girls-at-boarding-school films outside of the exploitation genre.

With: Piper Perabo, Jessica Paré, Mischa Barton, Jackie Burroughs, Graham Greene, Mimi Kuzyk, Luke Kirby, Emily Vancamp
Screenplay: Judith Thompson, based on the novel The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan
Cinematography: Pierre Gil
Music: Yves Chamberland
Country of Origin: Canada
US Distributor: Lions Gate Films

Premiere: 21 January 2001 (Sundance Film Festival)

Awards: Best Cinematography (Genie Awards, Canada); Best Cinematography in Theatrical Feature (Canadian Society of Cinematographers)

Jeepers Creepers - dir. Victor Salva

Like Candyman, Victor Salva's Jeepers Creepers is remarkably scary for its first third, and also like Candyman, it looses its scares when the Boogeyman shows his face.

With: Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck, Patricia Belcher, Eileen Brennan, Brandon Smith, Peggy Sheffield
Screenplay: Victor Salva
Cinematography: Don E. FauntLeRoy
Music: Bennett Salvay
Country of Origin: USA/Germany
US Distributor: United Artists

Premiere: 20 July 2001 (München Fantasy Filmfest)
US Premiere: 31 August 2001

The Royal Tenenbaums - dir. Wes Anderson

With: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Danny Glover, Seymour Cassel, Kumar Pallana, Grant Rosenmeyer, Jonath Meyerson, Alec Baldwin
Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Cinematography: Robert Yeoman
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: Touchstone Pictures/Criterion

Premiere: 5 October 2001 (New York Film Festival)

Awards: Best Actor, Musical or Comedy - Gene Hackman (Golden Globes)

L'emploi du temps [Time Out] - dir. Laurent Cantet

With: Aurélien Recoing, Karin Viard, Jean-Pierre Mangeot, Serge Livrozet, Monique Mangeot
Screenplay: Robin Campillo, Laurent Cantet
Cinematography: Pierre Milon
Music: Jocelyn Pook
Country of Origin: France
US Distributor: Miramax Films

Premiere: 4 September 2001 (Venice Film Festival)
US Premiere: 3 October 2001 (New York Film Festival)

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge - dir. Shohei Imamura

With: Kôji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, Mitsuko Baisho, Manasaku Fuwa, Isao Natsuyagi, Yukiya Kitamura, Hijiri Kojima
Screenplay: Motofumi Tomikawa, Shohei Imamura, Daisuke Tengan, based on the novel by Yo Henmi
Cinematography: Shigeru Komatsubara
Music: Shinichirô Ikebe
Country of Origin: Japan/France
US Distributor: Cowboy Booking/Home Vision

Premiere: 19 May 2001 (Cannes)
US Premiere: 29 September 2001 (New York Film Festival)

Tape - dir. Richard Linklater

With: Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Uma Thurman
Screenplay: Stephen Belber, based on his play
Cinematography: Maryse Alberti
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: Lions Gate Films

Premiere: 26 January 2001 (Sundance Film Festival)

Le peuple migrateur [Winged Migration] - dir. Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzard, Michel Debats

Screenplay: Jean Dorst, Stéphane Durand, Guy Jarry, Jacques Perrin, Francis Roux, from an idea by Valentine Perrin
Cinematography: Olli Barbé, Michel Benjamin, Sylvie Carcedo-Drejou, Laurent Charbonnier, Luc Drion, Laurent Fleutot, Philippe Garguil, Dominique Gentil, Bernard Lutic, Thierry Machado, Stéphane Martin, Fabrice Moindrot, Ernst Sasse, Michel Terrasse, Thierry Thomas
Music: Bruno Coulais
Country of Origin: France/Italy/Germany/Spain/Switzerland
US Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Premiere: 12 December 2001 (France, Belgium)
US Premiere: 5 April 2001 (Philadelphia International Film Festival)

Awards: Best Editing - Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte (Césars)

El espinazo del diablo [The Devil's Backbone] - dir. Guillermo del Toro

With: Fernando Tielve, Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Íñigo Garcés, Irene Visedo
Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Muñoz
Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro
Music: Javier Navarrete
Country of Origin: Spain/Mexico
US Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Premiere: 20 April 2001 (Spain)
US Premiere: 2 September 2001 (Telluride Film Festival)

Hundstage [Dog Days] - dir. Ulrich Seidl

With: Maria Hofstätter, Alfred Mrva, Erich Finsches, Gerti Lehner, Franziska Weisz, Rene Wanko, Claudia Martini, Victor Rathbone, Christian Bakonyi, Christine Jirku, Viktor Hennemann, Georg Friedrich
Screenplay: Veronika Franz, Ulrich Seidl
Cinematography: Wolfgang Thaler
Country of Origin: Austria
US Distributor: Kino

Premiere: 3 September 2001 (Venice Film Festival)
US Premiere: January 2002 (Sundance Film Festival)

Awards: Grand Special Jury Prize (Venice)

Rain - dir. Christine Jeffs

With: Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Sarah Peirse, Marton Csokas, Alistair Browning, Aaron Murphy, David Taylor, Chris Sherwood, Claire Dougan, Alison Routledge
Screenplay: Christine Jeffs, based on the novel by Kristy Gunn
Cinematography: John Toon
Music: Neil Finn, Edmund McWilliams
Country of Origin: New Zealand
US Distributor: First Look

Premiere: 14 May 2001 (Cannes)
US Premiere: 12 January 2002 (Sundance Film Festival)

Awards: Best Actress - Sarah Peirse, Best Juvenile Performer - Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Best Supporting Actor - Alistair Browning (New Zealand Film and TV Awards)