10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday,January 19,2004
year to Crowe about
By Lyle Hwetty - Daily Flu
2 000: The year that was. Many of two bordering on excellence.
us expected to be arriving at col- . Outside of a few serious moneymak-
lege in flying cars, to be cavorting ets ("What Lies Beneath" and "Mis-
with aliens or maybe just enjoying the sion: Impossible 2" both made the cut),
immense progress of our national trea- the best and the brightest of the year
sures, the Hollywood filmmakers. had to be sought out. "Billy Elliot," the
Sadly, we have been disappointed on story of a young man who just wants to
all three levels; but all is not lost. After -danceflayed only in art houses and
many have written off the last year's was-given little fan-fare outside the rav-
crop of movies as the worst consorted ing of a few critics. This also was also
effort ever, the Daily's film staff the fate of "Quills," as the story of the
remains optimistic. There were man Marquis de Sade isn't the perfect dou-
good films last year, some great, one or ble feature with "Dr. Seuss' How the
Grinch Stole Christmas." Yet both of
these films cut to the bone, in quite dif-
ferent ways, and forced the viewer to
re-evaluate their beliefs (can a boy
dance ballet? Is pornography okay?).
Also, consider Lars Von Trier's Bjork
driven musical "Dancer in the Dark," a
musical about a woman losing her
sight. The film is mesmerizing in the
sheer audacity of its existence, con-
sidering the grim subject matter and
Bjirk's notoriously odd behavior.,
Many of the best films of last year
came from art directors of the low-bud-
get variety. Darren Aronofsky's second
feature, "Requiem for a Dream" may
be the most disturbing, realistic drug
movie ever made. Also, with more than
2,000 cuts (nearly four times the aver-
age movie), Aronofsky re-vitalized a
technique that many consider "gim-
micky" or "too MTV" The polar oppo-
site of "Requiem"'s hectic, painfully
quick pace is Jim Jarmusch's laconic,
thoughtful "Ghost Dog: the Way of the
Samurai." Jarmusch's film is about an
old-fashioned "warrior" living in a
modern ghetto and this dichotomy is
captured beautifully by both the camera
and The RZA's soundtrack. Gus Van
Sant's "Finding Forrester" seems tailor-
made for the college crowd, mixing J.D.
Salinger and basketball, as well as Sean
Connery's greatest performance in cle "Erin Brockovich."
years. Stephen Frears made slacker And of course, what year would
movies cool.again with his re-work- be complete without a
ing of Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity." masterpiece? Sadly, we
Even "Jerry Maguire" director cannot agree on what
Cameron Crowe scaled things down it is. "Chicken Run"
a notch with his amazing music/com- was entertaining as
ing-of-age saga "Almost Famous," well as the most
which will probably meticulously put
net a few together film since
away. But what
for its ensemble.,:x
In a year with so many bad movies,
it's nice to see that we can
still find enough good
The "most quality put forth by one
man" award would seem to be a draw.
between actor Michael Douglas and
director Steven Soderbergh. Both men
could easily be given Academy
Awards for their efforts in very differ-
ent capacities. Douglas' pot smoking
professor in "Wonder Boys" is a far
cry from his U.S. drug czar in "Traf-
fic," yet both performances are care-
fully drawn with skilled nuance.
Soderbergh gave "Traffic" amazing
life, changing film stock, crosscutting
and handing several tangent-related
story lines with the agility of Charles
Dickens. Yet he also proved himself
a quality mainstream Hollywood
director with the Julia Roberts vehi-
t h e
m i n d
Or the clever,"
Courtesy of Sony Pictures
strikes a blow for
as the female
heroine Yu Shu lien
in Ang Lee's
Steven as off an incred-
ible threer'year zru wt his fabulous
opus on diutraffieing. The cast, the
direction and the style are all second
to none among this year's films.
2. STATE AND MAIN
The sharpest take on Hollywood since:
"The Player" gives its talented
cast plenty of room to shine:
Praise is in order for all the per-
formers including Philip Seymour
Hoffman and Rebecca Pidgeon.
3. THE VIRGIN SUICIDES
Sofia Coppola's film is miles more
exciting and audacious than any-
thing her father has done in years.
Michael Almereyda's daring
adaptation had the gusto to put Ham-
let in Blockbuster for his "to be or not
to be" speech. And it worked.
5. THE SKULLS
Praise God for "The Skulls," one of
the most overlooked films of the year,
which provides duels, brandings and
quality entertainment. Almost enough
to make one want to snob at an Ivy
League school. Almost.
6. YOU CAN COUNT ON ME
Kenneth Lonergan's touching, simple
story of a brother and sister's strained
7. THIRTEEN DAYS
A riveting retelling of the Cuban missile'
crisis soars until its dopey denouement.
Kevin Costner may be the star, but it's
the Kennedy boys who steal the show.
8. ALMOST FAMOUS
Philip Seymour Hoffman's turn as
Lester Bangs was the standout perfor-
mance in Cameron Crowe's well-acted
1. RE99IEM FOR A DREAM
Darren Aronofky makes the best drug
film to come:out to date. Terrifying and
eiotional, Jordan Catalano is but a dis-
tant memory in Jared Leto's striking,
heartbreaking turn as Harry Goldfarb.
2. ALMOST FAMOUS
Cameron Crowe's ode to '70s rock is
fun, honest and innocent. Still-
water kicks out the jams with
"Fever Dog" and soon-to-be
star Billy Crudup.
Steven Soderbergh tackles drug
trafficking in America and dar-
ingly navigates multiple plots
using diverse film techniques.
4. CHICKEN RUN
Nick Park reaches a pinnacle of
child-adult humor in this delightful fable
made of plasticine. The foreign accents,
an engaging love story and Mel Gibson
... it's the year's best "chick" flick.
a. YOU CAN COUNT ON ME
Mark Ruffalo is a diamond in the rough,
or in this case, upstate New York. Ken-
neth Lonergan makes a charming, hon-
est human story between a brother and
sister without any Hollywood pizazz.
6. WONDER BOYS
Filled with an ensemble of wonderful
characters and oddball comedy, I can
forgive the cheesy ending. Michael
Douglas has never been better as ston-
er writer/professor Grady Tripp.
7. DANCER IN THE DARK
Dogma 95 meets Busby Berkley.
Techno artist Bjork gives an eerie,,
tender performance as a blind mom.
8. BILLY ELLIOT'
Jamie Bell's perfect dark-eyed
innocence and tousled tounge make
1. GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF
Once again underground auteur Jim
Jarmusch neglects no aspect of film
making, showcasing a far-out story,
1. LOVE AND BASKETBALL
A heartfelt movie about growing up,
"Love and Basketball" is about so
much more than love and basketball.
2. WHAT LIES BENEATH
tight acting, creepy cinematography This movie takes you back to the
and a brilliant soundtrack by The RZA. days of Hitchcock when sus-
2. TRAFFIC pense was not necessarily about
This anti-drug opus-envelopes you. what is said and what is seen but
Just what films were meant to do. exactly the opposite. "What Lies
3. CROUCHING TIGER, Beneath" is eerie, suspenseful
HIDDEN DRAGON and not to be missed by anyone
What can 1 say about this movie that that likes a good scare.
hasn't already been said? Very little. 3. FREQUENCY
Awesome. This film has it all - a mystery,
4. AMERICAN PSYCHO tons of suspense, a little action.
Director Mary Harron delivers an '80s 4. THE WHOLE NINE YARDS
Wall Street satire classic - a night- An absolutely hilarious movie starring
mare of black and white furniture, Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry about
business card holders and videotapes a mobster, a dentist and a deadly wife.
that must be returned. 5. KEEPING THE FAITH
5. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM Boasting a wonderful cast, this
This film studies how addictions movie does a great job of show-
of various sorts don't ruin lives ing the importance of religious
as much as become them. and familial bonds in a fun and
6. PSYCHO BEACH PARTY often slapstick way.
I fully plan to be the only critic in , 6. GIRLFIGHT
America to include this A highly unrecognized film,
spoof/homage to the beach movies "Girlfight" is a poignant portrayal
of the '60s and the cheesy psycho- of 'n adlescent girl and her
logical thrillers of the '50s. struggle to figure out who she is,
7.QUILLS I through boxing hough. it may sound -
This biopic follows "The People Vs. like a "chickflick,'°l assure you it's not. -
Larry Flynt" by -exalting a pornogra- 7. BILLY ELIQT I
pher (in this case, the -Marquis De A great movie, about ayoung boy's'
Sade) as- a free spirit, but not dream to becoie a ballet dancer-- filled
necessarily as a good person. with the pertgpt amount of humor and
8. THE CELL tenderness that-at times-you are not quite
Director Tarsem Singh takes what sure whether you want to laugh or cry.
could have been a typical ScbFi * 8. FINAL )STIN4ATION
potboiler and turns it into a feast ~What looks like just another cheesy
for the eyes and-the imagination, teen flick is filled with-some of the
at ~r..1r, atn . Nt,4 - .,. .. C..,«,.
1. CROUCHING TIGER,
Everyone who sees this movie will
want to be Chow Y~un-Fat, who is
unbelievably cool as, Li Mu-Bai, a
Wudan master with unmatched
skill and wisdom. Constant
scenes of breath-taking landscape
. complete this film and make it a
truly unique experience.
2. ALMOST FAMOUS
If there was any justice in the
world, Philip Seymour Hoffman
would get a nod from the Acade-
my for his portrayal of aging rock
critic Lester Bangs, whose appear-
ance in the film is painfully.brief.
Benicio del Toro steals the show as the
stoic but mesmerizing policeman in
this phenomenal ensemble style film.
4. WONDER BOYS
Though not perfect, this film is thorough-
ly enjoyable and innovative. Michael
Douglas' portrayal of a pot-smoking,
pink bathrobe wearing professor with
writer's block is among his best roles.
5. o BROTHER, WIERE
A RT TI-IOU
This Coen brothers creation is a
bizarre but enjoyable and side-split-
tingly funny film. The music and
imagery in the film is mesmerizing.
6. CHICKEN RUN
Nick Park's masterpiece about a rebel-
lion on a chicken farm. The Tweedys,
who could be right out of a Roald
Dahl story, are brilliantly malicious.
7. DANCER IN THE DARK
David Morse and Peter Stormare are
excellent. An amazing but agonizing film.
8. HIGH FIDELITY