Thursday, January 09, 2003

Top 10 films of 2002

Punch-Drunk Love
Not being a fan of Adam Sandler, I had my doubts about this film. But since it was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, I thought I’d check it out. I was floored; who knew Adam Sandler could act? He was actually pretty good I must admit. Pudding promotion, phone sex and a quirky love story combine to make this a great film. Bonuses: lush cinematography, a great soundtrack and a stand-out performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Late Marriage
Probably the only film in existence that employs a baby’s foreskin as a lucky charm. This Israeli film has one of the most believable love scenes outside of… well… can’t name another love scene that is so convincing. The film’s main character Zaza, is 31 and unmarried. He’s being paraded around Tel Aviv by his overbearing Georgian family in an attempt to marry him off. Meanwhile, he is in love with a 34-year-old woman his family disapproves of. Therein lies the rub. Excellent ending.

Far From Heaven
This melodrama was a bit too strong on the art direction and weak on character development (mostly one-dimensional) and plot line (simple). But the film was still good. Todd Haynes made a male friend and me feel like 1950s housewives - and it was awful. Dennis Quaid was surprisingly good as the gay husband. The soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein is excellent.

The Kid Stays in the Picture
Liked this documentary a lot. Robert Evans narrates this biopic, and he is fascinating. At times it reminded me of “Madonna: Truth or Dare.” Both were a bit short on the “documentary” but strong in the performances. Evans glosses over some key elements of his life; for example, he mentions only one of his seven wives. But no matter, the film does a thorough job of exploring his career as a producer. Cool computer animation and cutouts. Any fan of “Rosemary’s Baby” should see this just for the anecdotes about Polanski.

Y Tu Mama Tambien
Gael Garcia Bernal as Julio is great in this beautifully filmed coming-of-age movie. Is there a movie he’s not good in, for that matter? This could have been the Mexican “Porky’s,” but it’s so much more complex: an exploration of class differences and the relationship between two oversexed boys. Love the dreamy quality of the cinematography.

El Crimen del Padre Amaro
I like a film that takes a religion to task and shakes things up a bit. Some religious and political leaders in Latin America have been trying to limit viewings - afraid the film’s unflattering depiction of the Catholic Church may sway the public’s views. Now how is that for affirmation that a film is having an effect? Maybe not the best film of 2002, but definitely one of the top 10; at times predictable, but excellent over all.

The Trials of Henry Kissinger
Watching this made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. A man who destroyed so many lives, was for a brief time employed by W. and yet was so utterly charming. Scary stuff. Based on the book by Christopher Hitchens this should be required viewing for all Americans, who especially like myself, are a bit ignorant about US foreign policy. A profoundly sad and disturbing film. One hilarious moment: Alexander Haig describing Hitchens as a "pipe sucker."

Bowling for Columbine
Talk about needing to grab a beer after seeing a film. Definitely one of the most powerful films I have seen this past year. And yet another doc that is required viewing for all Americans. “Culture of fear” is a concept I’m convinced may explain why Americans are so violent - though Michael Moore never clearly offers up pat answers, but instead fodder to digest. Favorite scene: Moore getting a free gun for opening a bank account - both hilarious and disturbing.

A provocative behind-the-scenes look at comedians Orny Adams and Jerry Seinfeld. Director Christian Charles (II) chronicles Seinfeld’s insecurities and the whiny Adams’ frustrations as they develop stand-up comedy routines and perform. Comedy isn’t rocket science, but apparently developing five minutes of material is an agonizing process if you are Seinfeld. Funniest moment: watching Seinfeld kvetching about jumpstarting his stand up career to A-List comedian buddies such as Colin Quinn and Bill Cosby - all the while enjoying his private jet and lavish life style. My heart goes out to ya, Jerry.

La Pianiste
Michael Haneke's disturbing film (surprise!) in which Isabelle Huppert plays a repressed piano teacher with sexual fetishes. In a character study about self-hatred and control issues (who can’t relate, right?), Huppert is amazing. Not an uplifting film, and at times hard to watch, especially the razor scene which had me squirming in my seat. If you are a fan of “Damage” or “The Night Porter,” you will like this film. A must-see for the depraved.