March 5th, 2006

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Last Minute Movie Round-Up [+ Oscar Predictions]

When all is said and done, I will remember 2005 as the year of the documentary. Oscar has a tradition of snubbing the superior docs of the moment, as with this year's Grizzly Man -- not even a nomination ! Some of the most brilliant selections of all time, including Thin Blue Line, Crumb and Roger & Me were given the cold shoulder in the past. However you feel about Michael Moore, it is thanks to his recent films that execs have greenlighted more worthy non-fiction projects. 2005's wealth of fine feature documentaries saved what would have been a terribly weak entry in cinematic history.

Just in time for the Oscars, I present to you a brief round-up of the year in film :


CREME DE LA CREME

:1: Mysterious Skin | [Reportedly released in 2004 AND 2005, so don't bust me on this one]. By far the most powerful, unsettling work by Gregg Araki or really any director this year [save Herzog, who is equal in that respect]. This is the most unflinchingly honest, nuanced piece on pedophilia ever committed to the screen. Mostly panned by critics for being shamelessly lurid, Mysterious Skin was misunderstood as expected. Nearly 80% of my relationships are with victims of child abuse, so take my word for it : this is the real deal, no dramatization needed.

:2: Grizzly Man | Nothing short of astounding. The most challenging, revelatory documentary of all time. I guarantee it will set the wheels turning. Reviews only cheapen the experience, so I will let you find out for yourself.

:3: Last Days | Gus Van Sant's third entry in a trilogy of quiet, experimental indies. Bound to frustrate most and inspire others, it is truly iconoclastic. The best thing about Last Days is the way in which it avoids insulting the viewers' intelligence by allowing the imagination to piece the story together. In the right mood, it's a participatory pleasure.

:4: Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill | Yet another slice of real life, concerning a bay area eccentric who befriends a flock of non-native neon-hued parrots. Like a modern St. Francis, he became a respected fixture in the bohemian SF locale. Endearing and insightful, Wild Parrots draws parallels between species with grace and wisdom. The most life-affirming film this year.

:5: Murderball | Fascinating and genuinely moving, this MTV-produced doc is a joy throughout. Not simply a PC crowd pleaser, Murderball is a rare peek into a lifestyle oft misunderstood.

:6: Saraband | Ingmar Bergman's swan song is a stark slow burner with penetrating emotional honesty. Some 30 years after Scenes From A Marriage, formerly married Marianne and Johan reunite with mixed feelings and a load of familial drama. Typically brilliant Bergman piece that plays like filmed theater, with outstanding lead performances by Ullmann and Josephson.

:7: Squid and the Whale | Noah Baumbach's loosely autobiographical depiction of the reverberations of divorce is at once uniquely hilarious and painfully realistic. The character arcs ring true without being melodramatic or stagy. Certainly not a knock-out, but a highlight all the same.

:8: Hustle & Flow | Stylish, intelligent tale of a Memphis pimp with lofty dreams of rap stardom. Terrence Howard is deliciously gritty in a to-die-for role as Djay, the pimp with a heart of gold. Three Six Mafia wrote the fantastic dirty South anthems that serve as a strong center piece for the film. With a killer soundtrack and characters you can root for, this is a substantial bit of fluff.

:9: Nine Lives | Get a good dose of estrogen with this quiltwork of plaintive, poignant vignettes featuring women of many walks of life. At first the segments appear to be aimless and wispy, but with time, they begin to form a potent picture of human struggle. Stay tuned until the end -- it packs an emotional wallop you won't see coming.

:10: Wedding Crashers | Let me begin by stating that I am NOT a fan of most Frat Pack ventures [Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, etc.], but this one blindsided me with genuine comic timing. It's hit and miss and the last half hour is mired in out-of-place seriousness, but the majority of the scenes work incredibly well. Vince and Owen's antics had me howling from the get-go. Undoubtedly, the star of this year's comedic crop.


RUNNERS UP

Walk the Line | Just when you think it's veering into the realm of corny biopics, Reese Witherspoon appears and sets the screen aglow. A surprisingly reserved approach to the romantic storyline saves the film. Not to mention the sublime subtlety in the acting -- namely Witherspoon who steals the movie with radiance and grace. And props to the duo for singing the legendary material [and not fucking it up !].

Crash | Interwoven stories of racial tension effectively unfurled. The crash scene with Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton is amazing.

Sin City | Simply the most marvelous graphic novel adaptation ever created. Stunning, arresting visuals lovingly rendered by Frank Miller and Co. A must-see !


MOST EXCRUCIATING

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Wretched adaptation of the cult novel. A few good ideas sprinkled in, but they are entirely overshadowed by the colossal mishaps in the script, acting, special effects -- well, basically everything. Totally unbearable.

Exorcism of Emily Rose | Words cannot describe the suckage that is this film. Long, dreadfully boring courtroom scenes with a few terribly done horror segments. It is neither interesting nor scary. An offensive waste of celluloid.

Junebug | I couldn't disagree more with the critics on this one. Junebug is one of those pseudo-quirky indie films that is so amused with itself, you can hardly stand it [see : Garden State]. A cast of colorful [AKA totally irritating] characters reciting pretentious material with nauseating glee. Amy Adams plays possibly the most obnoxious character of 2005 and shockingly gets an Oscar nomination for it ! I give up, people.

OSCAR PREDICTIONS -- Wish me luck !Collapse )
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