Archive for the ‘Rating – 4 Stars’ category

Recent Viewings



Blue is the Warmest Colour (Kechiche, 2013)

*** 1/2 / *****


Citizenfour (Poitras, 2014)

**** / *****


 Life Itself (James, 2014)

*** 1/2 / *****

The Top 100 Films of the 1990s


THIS – a work in progress.  In reverse order.  For posterity.


100. The Thin Red Line (1998, Malick)


99. Girl, Interrupted (1999, Mangold)


98. Pi (1998, Aronofsky)


97. American Beauty (1999, Mendes)


96. Zero Effect (1998, Kasdan)


95. The Cutting Edge (1992, Glaser)


94. Ruby in Paradise (1993, Nunez)


93. Deconstructing Harry (1997, Allen)


92. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998, Gilliam)


91. Starship Troopers (1997, Verhoeven)


90. Following (1998, Nolan)


89. Before Sunrise (1995, Linklater)


88. Go (1999, Liman)

Oh, Katie Holmes, how you were so ruined by the xenophobic Tom Cruise.  This is an exciting film that highlights the great Sarah Polley and William Fichtner as a triangular sales rep extraordinaire.


87. Clueless (1995, Heckerling)


86. Audition (1999, Miike)


85. The Straight Story (1999, Lynch)


84. Everyone Says I Love You (1996, Allen)


83. A River Runs Through It (1992, Redford)

elisabeth shue

82. Leaving Las Vegas (1995, Figgis)


81. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993, Allen)


80. I Stand Alone (1998, Noe)

79. Misery (1990, Reiner)


78. Slacker (1991, Linklater)


77. Hideous Kinky (1998, MacKinnon)

Post Titanic Kate Winslet took risks including this film and Holy Smoke – an honorable mention in this list – and good for her.  I’ve had a crush on Kate for years, unrequited.  A sweet film with Julia (Winslet) and her two young daughters as expatriate Brits in 1972 Morocco struggling against a wayward father/spouse.


76. To Die For (1995, Van Sant)


75. Cape Fear (1991, Scorsese)


74. Chungking Express (1994, Kar-wai)


73. Crumb (1994, Zwigoff)


72. JFK (1991, Stone)


71. Rushmore (1998, Anderson)


70. Saving Private Ryan (1997, Speilberg)


69. Twelve Monkeys (1995, Gilliam)


68. Waiting for Guffman (1996, Guest)


67. Buffalo ’66 (1998, Gallo)


66. The Remains of the Day (1993, Ivory)


65. Lorenzo’s Oil (1992, Miller)


64. Dumb and Dumber (1994, Farrelly Brothers)


63. Mighty Aphrodite (1995, Allen)


62. Ringu (1998, Nakata)


61. Carlito’s Way (1993, De Palma)


60. The Fisher King (1991, Gilliam)


59. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991, Cameron)


58. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, Coppola)


57. Magnolia (1999, Anderson)


56. Three Colors: Red (1994, Kieslowski)

55. Schindler’s List (1993, Speilberg)


54. The Silence of the Lambs (1991, Demme)

53. Six Degrees of Separation (1993, Schepisi)


52. Out of Sight (1998, Soderbergh)


51. Internal Affairs (1990, Figgis)


50. Death and the Maiden (1994, Polanski)


49. Boogie Nights (1997, Anderson)


48. Felicia’s Journey (1999, Egoyan)


47. My Own Private Idaho (1991, Van Sant)


46. Flirting With Disaster (1996, O’Russell)


45. The Insider (1999, Mann)


44. Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995, Solondz)


43. The Ice Storm (1997, Lee)


42. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997, Armitage)


41. Affliction (1997, Schrader)


40. Three Colors: Blue (1993, Kieslowski)


39. The Cable Cuy (1996, Stiller)

This is ranked way lower than it should be.  I am sure the French love Jim Carrey and that is enough proof for me of his brilliance – which might be gone.


38. Miami Blues (1990, Armitage)


37. Fly Away Home (1996, Ballard)


36. Fight Club (1999, Fincher)


35. Exotica (1994, Egoyan)


34. Kids (1995, Clark)

Walk 1

33. Reservoir Dogs (1992, Tarantino)

32. The Big Lebowski (1998, Coen Bothers)


31. The Pillow Book (1996, Greenaway)


30. Wild at Heart (1990, Lynch)


29. Bottle Rocket (1996, Anderson)


28. Election (1999, Payne)


27. The Loss of Sexual Innocence (1999, Figgis)


26. Husbands and Wives (1992, Allen)


25. The Player (1992, Altman)


24. Goodfellows (1990, Scorsese)

23. The Sweet Hereafter (1997, Egoyan)


22. Heat (1995, Mann)


21. The Grifters (1990, Frears)


20. Fearless (1993, Weir)

19. Crash (1996, Cronenberg)


18. Lost Highway (1997, Lynch)


17. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992, Mamet)


16. Jackie Brown (1997, Tarantino)


15. In the Company of Men (1997, LaBute)


14. Until the End of the World (1991, Wenders)

This is where it gets to hallowed ground.  This amazing, expansive film by Wim Wenders was originally cut to 18 hours or so.  William Hurt, although an apparent asshole in real life, is great in this role of post apocalyptic 2000s.  Decidedly off tract the film shows a visual flair unseen in other Wenders’ films.


13. Heavenly Creatures (1994, Jackson)


12. Fargo (1996, Coen Bothers)

11. Casino (1995, Scorsese)


10. Safe (1995, Haynes)

9. Short Cuts (1993, Altman)

8. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, Lynch)

7. Pulp Fiction (1994, Tarantino)


6. Eyes Wide Shut (1999, Kubrick)


5. The Truman Show (1998, Weir)


4. The Spanish Prisoner (1997, Mamet)

3. Twin Peaks (pilot) (1990, Lynch)


2. Happiness (1998, Solondz)

1. Breaking the Waves (1996, Von Trier)

Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys (Haneke, 2000)


10 Code Unknown

“La Binoche.”  That is what the French refer to the country’s highest paid and beloved actress, Juliette Binoche, and she is the center of this interesting film.  The film opens with a collision of the central characters, in a Paris street,  surrounding a simple yet pathetic act by a boy, understood at first to be the son of Marie (Binoche).  Upon finishing a pastry he throws an empty paper wrapper on a homeless, immigrant woman.  What ensues is a series of jump cut flash forward and flash backward scenes that are wonderfully confusing but not necessary to understand even if you are overly interested in linearity.  After seeing Haneke’s brilliant Cache’ (2005) and his entertaining American version of Funny Games (2007) I didn’t know what to expect.  This is certainly more humanist than the latter.

There is interest in watching characters doing mundane things like pressing clothes, having a silent and sad dinner of just baked beets, working on camera equipment, family conversations not part of any story arc whatsoever and a touching scene involving the homeless, immigrant woman distraught and crying about her inability to find work.  Haneke throws in an a terrifying scene early that left me wondering if the narrative would end in a frightening place.  I won’t spoil here.

Anne plays an actress in the film (of course) and there are scenes that the viewer is shown that are a film within a film and others where it is left to your imagination.  In any event its the best acting I can recall during a film within a film.  Definitely worth a watch.  On Netflix streaming.

****  / *****

Hide Away (Eyre, 2011)



Josh Lucas (unnamed in the film – except for “Young Mariner”) stars in his first dramatic lead in this rather stunning, overly metaphorical and imperfect film.  His performance is hugely successful.  Hide Away (originally titled A Year in Mooring) is a tale of redemption and the film does not survive the clichés of the genre, but barely so.  The mysterious supporting characters speak primarily in metaphor and poem referring to the grand Traverse (the film is beautifully shot on the waters of Traverse City in Northern Michigan), Hesperus (Lucas’ boat) and with rather direct hints at Buddhism.

Young Mariner has lost something and we know up front that it’s his family but we don’t find out how until about 2/3 of the way through the film in a short powerful sequence that adds weight and purpose to the narrative.  The film is like a Nocturne, dreamlike with little exposition.

Its 1 and ½ hours equates to the 1 and ½ years that Young Mariner must pass through to achieve said redemption.  The soundtrack is the personal stamp of its director, Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals, Edge of America).  Critics have been surprisingly harsh on a film during a time when so much comic book tripe is being released.

**** / *****

Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)


Spoilers ahead.  Not in a very long time have I such anticipated a film’s opening, in this case from the greatest living director (his words), bad boy Dutchman Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.  This was set to be the best apocalyptic film yet made.  Fresh off his depressing and drab Antichrist (2009), he grabbed me with his stunning trailers and imagery promising us a visual masterpiece.  What follows is prelude as climax, eight to ten minutes of epic slow motion beauty:  Kierstin Dunst (a great perf and Best Actress at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) running through the woods in her wedding dress dragging tree limbs, a close up of Dunst with falling dead birds, Dunst with electricity coming out of her fingers as power lines behind her do the same, Dunst in a set piece in dress smothered by mother nature (see above image), a stunning sequence of a woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) running through some hellish 19th hole (I take it as von Trier’s shot at country club culture?) then beautiful shots of the planet Melancholia threatening earth.  All of this is set to the overture to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde that peppers the film throughout.

Then comes the Part 1, “Justine,” an interesting if not hum-drum wedding reception of Justine (Dunst) and new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgård).  Justine’s mother Gaby (Charlotte Rampling) makes a scene by denouncing marriage, the new couple is three hours late to their own reception, Justine squabbles with her boss Jack (von Trier’s often used Stellan Skarsgård) about an ad campaign and Justine bonking a co-worker on the golf course on the palatial estate of the set for Part 1, Justine’s brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland).  This act seems pleasantly improvised yet a too familiar story of family dysfunction.  The protagonists see and discuss a new star in the galaxy.  Justine tells Michael to piss off.

Part 2, “Claire,” has main protagonists Justine, John, Claire and Claire’s young son Leo (Cameron Spurr) holed up in John’s estate awaiting the outcome of the soon to be colliding, or passing by, planet Melancholia.  John is optimistic, Claire is frightened and Justine is ready for it.  It’s a set piece for Justine’s extreme depression and its moving in that regard;   however as impending doom approaches I waited for a return to the film’s prelude.  It never happens.  The film ends with a bang but also disappointment as it delivers straight forward storyline, not the prelude’s surreal landscape that promised my expectation of a better film.  Subsequent viewings might sway me.

Postscript.  After four other viewings I realize how much this film represents the best of 2011.  A complete artistic achievement.

**** / *****

2 Days in Paris (Julie Delpy, 2007)


Julie Delpy, who had to be directly inspired by her participation – acting, in Richard Linklater’s high acclaimed “double feature” Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), produced this creepy little romantic comedy in 2007.  Yes, how often you hear the words creepy romantic comedy used together?

Working with a hilarious Adam Goldberg (does the guy play himself in every film he does? here he seems to be stepping straight off the Entourage set); actress, writer, director, editor AND composer Delpy created this little farce of a thirty something couple taking a break from a less than stellar 2 days in Venice (and a longer break from hometown NYC as they have been in a two-year relationship).  In Paris they bunk up with her parents, played by Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy – Delpy’s real life actor parents.  Goldberg’s character (Jack) is overwhelmed with French eccentricity, mostly in its sexual form and this brings out jealousies and resentments as Delpy (Marion) continues to run in to one ex-boyfriend after another.  These encounters, often heated, are told in French with English subtitles so we know what is being said but poor shmuck Jack has no clue.  Jack’s character is straight out of a Woody Allen sketch – in this film Jack has no problem calling the French on their often clichéd attitude towards foreigners – see hilarious scene in a hamburger restaurant:  his closing comment to a purely French-speaking fast food hamburger clerk – “Paris sucks.”  Delpy edits the thing perfectly and the story really does cause some unease – I recommend imbibing a little when you see it.  Total surprise and Delpy is some talent!  Smart, funny and very recommended.  Great date film for those that don’t desire the latest Julia Roberts’ romantic comedy.

**** / *****

Taxidermia (Gyorgy Palfi, 2006)


Move over Gasper Noe, hello Gyorgy Palfi.  I don’t remember reacting so viscerally to a film since Requiem for a Dream.  I read somewhere that the film was a metaphor for post-war Hungary.  I won’t even try to figure that one out.  The three part film covers three generations of Hungarian male protagonists: 1) a hair-lipped military orderly from WWII times that has a sexual fetish for eating fire and masturbating in the most unique ways, 2) his son a champion speed eater, the competitions of which are the cornerstone of the film and 3) a desperately lonely taxidermist that is also the caregiver of his now comically obese champion speed eating father.  I watched the entire film with my mouth agape not quite believing what I was seeing.  Among other things:  1) watch large speed eaters compete then group vomit in very prolonged scenes, 2) watch a drop of sweat from an obese woman’s hairy armpit drip onto her husband’s face while he licks it up and 3) watch the first time in film that a rooster pecks a cock (not another bird mind you).  All this being said there are amazing visual sequences throughout and extraordinary things that happen under the most astonishing cinematography – mostly extremely grotesque.  Furthermore, the romance between the speed eater and his wife is surprisingly sweet and funny.  But unless you have sat through, liked and/or tolerated extreme films like Gasper Noe’s Irreversible, Takashi Miike’s Audition or more recently Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, DO NOT watch this film.  It is extremely disturbing and the 3rd and final act is indescribably repulsive.  But given its stunning originality and its ability to pull off the darkest of comedy I otherwise recommend the film.

**** / *****