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January 14, 2005 - Image 10

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 14, 2005

FRIDAY FOCUS

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE
SPOTLESS MIND - Screenwriter
Charlie Kaufman finally delivers the
complete script we all knew he was
capable of while Jib Carrey and Kate
Winslet serve up peformances that I
never believed were within their ambit
of ability.
SIDEWAYS - The pastoral setting of
Northern California is the perfect back-
drop to the understated brilliance of Paul
Giamatti. The film's, deliciously clever
dialogue and the steady hand of direc-
tor Alexander Payne transform a simple
love story into a masterpiece about mid-
dle-aged boredom.
KILL BILL: VOL. 2 - Quentin Tar-
antino threw a change-up with the con-
cluding volume to his evenge saga. The
year's strongest scoretnd another incred-
ible performance from Uma Thurman
illuminate the bleak world of desert and
carnage that only a mind as diabolically
twisted as Tarantino's could create.
THE INCREDIBLES - A straight-
forward action flick hat asks all kinds
of philosophical q' i ns that a Holly-
wood blockbuster targeted to pre teens

typically avoids. Pixar's finest animation
to date makes the film a treat for the eye,
while its surprisingly sophisticated writ-
ing provides sustenance for the mind.
COLLATERAL - With its dark depic-
tions of a lonely and balkanized Los
Angeles, the initial two thirds of "Col-
lateral" challenges "Chinatown" for the
honor of greatest film ever made about
L.A. Director Michael Mann then pro-
ceeds to blow it by inserting a cheap love
interest into this noir thriller.
HOTEL RWANDA - Don Cheadle
gives a stunning portrayAL of a Rwan-
dan hotel manager who evolves from a
Hobbesian man, only looking out for the
interests of his family to a human rights
hero. Despite directr Terry George's
mawkish style and his attempts to turn
this compelling human drama into a
tawdry action film, "Hotel Rwanda"
rises above these limitations on the
strength of Cheadle.
CONTROL ROOM - This docu-
mentary about thF I-Jazeera satellite
network during the opening days of the
war in Iraq has tak a good deal of flak,
much of it legitimate, for its tendentious

take on the station. But these criticisms
miss the point. In the future, this incisive
look at the role of media in warfare will
be studied as the "Battle of Algiers" for
the satellite era of combat.
KINSEY - In the rare biography that
refuses to idolize its subject, supporting
players Laura Lia#'ey and Peter Saars-
gard outduel Lia Neeson with their
electric acting. Unfor unately, the film's
rushed second half detracts from these
strong efforts and leaves the movie feel-
ing incomplete and unresolved.
HERO - This 2002 Chinese release
finally hit stateside in 2004 and was
worth the wait. ithome of the year's
most awe-inspirin e..ematography and
a set of dignified peormances led by Jet
Li, the lack of plot and vexing repetition
is forgiven.
THE LIFE AQJATIC WITH STEVE
ZISSOU - Even with its hollow plot
and disappointing dialogue, "The Life
Aquatic's" stunning sets, costumes and
score once aga isowcase the vivid
imagination of directcr'Wes Anderson.
You'll never have so much fun watching
such an incoherent film.

01

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE
SPOTLESS MIND - The most satis-
fying film experien this year. Charlie
Kaufman's hectic Meditation on love,
longing and memory explodes with wit
and grace. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet
turn out the best performances of their
respective careers.
KILL BILL: VOL. 2 - Quentin Taran-
tino's two biggest stengths - gaudy dia-
logue and gaudy violce - have never
blended so seemlessyr with such deliri-
ous enthusiasm. Thna's performance,
RZA's soundtrack - everything about
Tarantino's epic is simply pitch-perfect.
CLOSER - Everything that you've
heard about this movie is true. It's preten-
tious. It's plodding. It difficult. It's also
cinema's bravest and most exciting leap
toward the candor'and complexity of lit-
erature in years. All four leads give sub-
dued and stellar performances.
SIDEWAYS - Set against the stark
beauty of California's wine country,
Alexander Payne's fourth film is by far
his most generous. Aimple tale of two
frustrated middledaged nobodies on a
last-ditch effort to live like young men,
the movie speaks volumes about loyalty,
failure and love. Paul Giamatti deserves
the Oscar.
MOTORCYCLE DIARIES - A his-
torically inaccurate biopic that wears
its heart on its sleeve; the story of Che
Guevara's 5,000 ki1 meter motorcycle
trek through South America is beautifully
shot, smartly written and well acted. Gael
Garcia Bernal cements his status as inter-

national cinema's rising young star.
OPEN WATER - 2004's most origi-
nal and disturbing thriller was unfairly
maligned for lowproduction value and a
nearly non existt plt. Regardless, this
story of an embat & oung couple aban-
doned at sea may be the most disturbing
film in years. The ending will haunt you
for days.
THE INCREDIBLES - Pixar's most
joyous and enjoyable movie since the
original "Toy Story," Brad Bird's slap-
happy action extrav ganza is at turns
wacky, warm and philosophical. Disney's
best animation to date beautifully masks
this raging diatribe against complacent
mediocrity.
THE LIFE AOIJATIC WITH STEVE
ZISSOU - Until Wes Anderson aban-
dons ensemble nonsense and returns to
the subdued, simple roots of his first two
films, we'll just have to make due with this
incoherent - albeit hilarious - rambler.
COLLATERAL - America's poet lau-
reate of masculinity, Michael Mann,
accomplishes the seeningly impossible in
this noir thriller: He rces Tom Cruise's
obnoxious antics into the background and
allows Jamie Foxx and nocturnal L.A. to
steal the show.
I HEART HUCKABEES - Like
watching soemone else's crazy, convo-
luted dream, this'jili shines and dazzles
from a distance. Naomi Watts as a quaker;
Dustin Hoffman with a mop-top; Jude
Law breastfeeding Jason Schwartzman.
What's not to love?

N

N
0

KILL BILL: VOL. - Quentin Taran-
tino's masterpiece is 's best film since
"Pulp Fiction." It is,, joyous experience,
made possible by Tarantino's ability to
create both interestig characters and off-
beat dialogue to brihg them to life. The
Bride's final encounter with Bill is the most
rewarding film climax in recent memory.
MILLION DOLLAR BABY - Clint
Eastwood's 25th film as a director show-
cases his singular ability to craft graceful,
heartbreaking films. It follows a great but
fading boxing traine (Eastwood) and his
first woman trainee (illary Swank) but
don't mistake it for: asports picture. It is a
human drama thatrn mits to its charac-
ters and stands by them through their great-
est successes and tragedies. The film is in
no hurry to get anywhere-just to observe
everything through to the very end.
HOTEL RWANDA - A film that has
been rendering audiences speechless since
September's Toronto Film Festival, "Hotel
Rwanda" is set duri the 1994 genocide
in Rwanda. It is thetue story of a hotel
manager (Don Cheadl, in his best perfor-
mance to date) who saed more than 1,000
lives during the atrocities. The film packs
a greater emotional punch than any other
film this year.
THE AVIATOR - A sumptuous biopic
of Howard Hughes, marked by Leonardo
DiCaprio's deeply heartfelt performance as
the title character and the masterful direc-
tion of Martin Scoreese. The stunning final
scene brilliantly captures the madness that
Hughes, no matter his life's triumphs, was
ultimately never able to overcome.
CLOSER - Some of Hollywood's
most beautiful people and its nastiest,
most reprehensibe haracters make for
a brilliant mix. Rich,, edgy dialogue and
wonderful turns frt its cast bring to life

this story of passion, sex and betrayal
between couples.
MARIA FULL OF GRACE - A pow-
erhouse of suspense, emotional resonance
and eventually triumph, the film follows
a young Colombian woman (the exquisite
Catalina SandinoMoreno) whose drive for
a better life leads her to-the drug trade. It's a
fictional film so in touch with reality that it
could easily pass for a documentary.
KINSEY - Sensational performances
from its cast enhance this real-life drama
about the man wh e ybelieve was a cat-
alyst for the sexual rolution of the '60s.
Writer-director Bilk Condon obviously
admires his subjec ut explores both his
trials and triumphs; a well-told and uncom-
monly effective biopic.
WE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE
- A highly literate and beautifully photo-
graphed film that is highlighted by stand-
out performances from its four leads. It
is an unconventioja exploration of two
couples and their~ idoterous shenanigans
in a New England college town. The film
sticks around to observe the consequences
- which are not what one might expect.
THE DREAMERS - Italian director
Bernardo Bertolucci's sexually charged
film is an evocative portrait of 1968 Paris
amid student riots; It is'an affectionate nod
toward classic cinema nd a small-scale but
engrossing story of sex and love between
two French siblings and a naive American.
GARDEN STATE - Zach Braff bursts
onto the filmmaking scene as writer, direc-
tor and star of this intimate, heartfelt and
disarmingly fun y nedition on twenty-
something disillusionment It tells the story
of an emotionally comatose man who
returns to New Jersey and begins to recon-
nect with his past life.

01

SIDEWAYS - No film this year had
more complex characters, bigger laughs or
worse heartache th , Alexander Payne's
fourth effort. From .: Giamatti's bril-
liant portrayal of santhrope Miles to
Thomas Hayden rch as the over-
enthused, middle-aged frat boy Jack,
everything felt just right.
THE INCREDIBLES - The perfect
combination of action, humor and heart,
"The Incredibles" wasSimply as good as
its title suggests. Pixar' animation reached
new heights, especia with visually stun-
ning action sequenc' it's the best comic
book movie of the year, and it wasn't even
based on a comic book.
SPIDER-MAN 2 - While "Spider-
man" told a necessary origin story, it didn't
work out exactly a signed. Its sequel,
however, added cha ter depth rarely
found in comic films, created formidable
and tangible obsta ArrPeter Parker and
stayed true to the spirit of its source mate-
rial. "Spidey 2" is the rare sequel that sur-
passes the original.
I HEART HUCKABEES - David O.
Russel's quirky rumination on existen-
tialism divided critics and audiences, but

"Huckabees" is hilarios and thought-pro-
voking all at once. Aky Mark of Funky
Bunch fame so manages to steal a
movie from Jude Law'Naomi Watts and
Dustin Hoffman.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE
SPOTLESS MIND - Charlie
Kaufman's most complete work to date
humorously and depessingly takes Jim
Carrey and Kate ilet through a tragic
romance again and agn. Though the con-
fusing and muddled4 gets caught up in
its pretentious memory erasing concept,
the engaging script and Michel Gondry's
directorial skill make up for it.
THE AVIATOR - Leonardo DiCaprio
has done the unthinkable: successfully
replaced Robert DeNiro as Marty Scors-
ese's actor of choice The aging auteur has
reasserted his posiio as the filmmaker's
filmmaker. This bpicis light on fully
formed characters, but DiCaprio's perfor-
mance admirably captivates the audience.
KILL BILL: VOL. 2 - Quentin Taran-
tino's blood and gnt opus ended in grand
fashion. Uma's Bride did kill David Car-
radine's charismatic ill, but only after he
delivered a riveting onologue on Super-

COLLATERAL - "Collateral" was great
- well the first two-thirds of it. Jamie Foxx
was a revelation (r e ber, this came out
before "Ray") and - Cruise was trying
his hardest not to playTom Cruise. Unfor-
tunately, the film veered dangerously off-
course when Foxx's taxi flipped over and
he became a superhero, leaving the final
act absurd, and the audience disappointed.
SKY CAPTAIN AND THE
WORLD OF TOMORROW - "Sky
Captain" had robots >.. lots of robots.
Throw in Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude
Law, and you have one of the best pop-
corn flicks of the yea. Kerry Conran's
blue-screen experiment wowed audi-
ences and harkened back to the days of
"Raiders of the Lost Ark."

0
6

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE
SPOTLESS MIND - One of the
most original and heartfelt movies ever
brought to the screen, brilliant screen-
writer Charlie Kaufman somehow tops
his previous gems with a story about
memory's importance to personal iden-
tity. With the help of visionary director
Michel Gondry and a fabulous ensemble,
this film is impossible to forget.
THE INCREDIBLES - Pixar keeps
up its flawless trak record with one of
the most inventive, .funny and mature
animated films of all time. Writer-
director Brad Bird finally getting his
due, honing in on the importance of
family and society's growing obses-
sion with lauding mediocrity.
MILLION DOLLAR BABY - As
an even more powerful follow-up to last
year's "Mystic River," Clint Eastwood
scores a trifecta as" director, actor and
composer with this gut-wrenching char-
acter drama. More than a boxing movie,
Eastwood masterfully shows how extraor-
dinary life can be, and just how fragile it
really is.
HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS -
Filmmaker Yimou Zhang had two suc-

COLLATERAL - One of the mostclever
thrillers in years, leave it to Michael Mann
to make the characters more exciting than
the action, and flawlessly bring alive L.A.'s
nightlife. Tom Cruise has what it takes to be
a villain, and don't forget - this was Jamie
Foxx's first great performance of the year.
BEFORE SUNSET - What could have
been a disastrous sequel to one of the
most romantic and thoughtful movies ever
made, Richard Linkaer - along with
Ethan Hawke and Jude Delpy - brings
forth an organic continuation to the saga
of Jesse and Celie. It's 80 minutes of
conversational bliss.
THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR - A
partial adaptation of John Irving's "A
Widow For One Year," Tod Williams's
stirring portrait of a ollapsing marriage
showcases Jeff Bridgs in another meaty
role that's Oscaravorthy and Kim Bas-
inger in her best performance since "L.A.
Confidential."
SHAUN OF THE DEAD - Much
more than a zombie flick, Edgar Wright
and Simon Pegg (from the cult British TV
series "Spaced") have made a relatable
comedy about failed relationships, family,
friends, the importance of pubs and the
rrnncc of ithe "Putma~n" roirnetrack It

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