Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) (Undecided on Rating)- A hitman film that forgoes the traditional "action" in way of perpetuating beauty-- it's focused more on its characters' inner grace than the physical actions they make. In this way, it's hardly a "hitman" film at all. By taking the route less traveled with the genre, Jarmusch makes it much more enveloping to watch; it's a very satisfying, almost haunting experience. I definitely want to revisit this one sometime soon.
Nights of Cabiria (1957) ****- An absolutely devestating film. It begins hilarious, near-slapstick comedy, then turns into one of the more depressing heart-jerkers I've ever seen. Here, Fellini has a way of making some of making Cabiria's happiest moments the most melancholy for the audience. Giulietta Masina carries the film, brilliantly... I feel it will be a long time before I get her out of my head. Nino Rota's music is equally extroardinary.
Lost in Translation (2003) ***- A very nice film that will no doubt bring Sofia Coppola to the forefront of American filmmaking. The cinematography allows the enitre thing to simply wash right over you, and Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray give top-grade performances. This didn't quite affect me as much as it did others, since although it portrays its feeling of estrangement with warmth and precision, I felt like I could not fully connect (as I have not yet experienced much of what the two lead characters have). A film like "Ghost World" is much closer to my experience in its feelings of isolationism. But this is not a strike against "Translation"; do not let this deter you from seeing it.
Russian Ark (2002) (Second Viewing) ****- Just beautiful... a work of art. Doesn't lose any of its poignancy the second time around. For those who think this is just a technical exercise, I personally think you're missing the whole point. I highly doubt I'll see a better film come out this year. My full review...
Pirates of the Carribean: the Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) (Second Viewing) ***- Still probably the coolest action movie to come out this summer. The special effects are really something else (the fight scene between Depp and Rush- damn.) But the main attractions are still Johnny Depp and Geoffery Rush. My full review...
Down By Law (1986) ****- Jim Jarmusch's film, by finding the balance between American and European styles, functions almost like theater. The three leads (Tom Waits, Roberto Benigni, and John Lurie) are impossible to turn away from. This is the kind of film that makes you feel like you've really been on a journey... and makes you smile at the end. A simple story, impeccable executed.
Bus 174 (2003) (BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL) ****- You think Michael Moore got to the root of violence? That barely scratches the surface compared to this documentary; an incredibly important piece of work. It is compelling in a narrative sense, but it also gets so deep below the skin and succinctly hits every issue right on the nose. Definitely seek this one out when it opens later this year.
Dirty Pretty Things (2002) **- This thriller deals with very serious issues. That's why it dissapointed me that it takes them as seriously as any other cheap thriller plot device. It almost gets to the point where it makes light of the situation. I never really felt the weight of any of the decisions. There were parts I liked; when it actually needed to function as a thriller towards the end it was fine, and Sergio Lopez was something else.
Matchstick Men (2003) (BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL) ***- My sighting of Nicholas Cage, Alison Lohman, Sam Rockwell and Ridley Scott was less than thrilling, but the movie itself was a lot of fun. Cage's character was very nicely developed, as was the relationship between him and his daughter (Alison Lohman). Which is why the ending ticked me off so much.
Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (2003) (BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL) ***1/2- At the Q&A after the film, Lorne Scherfig stressed that this isn't a film about suicide. She's right, dammit. This (brilliantly titled) film is an odd duck in how it defies the conventions of tragicomedy by celebrating life. Very, very funny and quite touching at the same time. To be released in 2004, I believe.
Bought and Sold (2003) (BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL) **- This modern day mob tale certainly isn't terrible; it kept my attention and kept me entertained for the entire thing. Some of the performances are likeable, but the dialogue is so stiff that they're all undermined. It gets points for the subplot involving the Armenian Holocaust, however.