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2002

Red Dragon

dir: Brett Ratner
[img_assist|nid=1035|title=Ralph Fiennes never looked so cute|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=271|height=288]
I would never have believed that Brett Ratner, director of such classy fair as some of Mariah Carey's film clips and Rush Hour 2 would be capable of making a decent film. I guess films like this go against the auteur theory of film making, either that or he deserves more credit than I am capable of giving him.

It's weird. The film works, amazingly enough. It's not Battleship Potemkin, don't get me wrong, but it is not the mess that I expected. What can be said with a comfortable level of certainty is that Ratner achieved something that Ridley Scott, for all his pretensions of being a first rank director, could not: he manages to make the whole serial killer thing work again, and somehow compelled Anthony Hopkins to actually act. Like he gets paid to.

My hatred of that farce masquerading as a film known as Hannibal is well known, If it isn't, it should be. I proudly aligned myself with the masses last year in declaring it one of the most truly stupid and mishandled films ever made. I can count at least fifteen levels upon which Hannibal failed, and with a somewhat slightly less passionate zeal I can comfortably assert that in my anything but humble opinion, Red Dragon gets it right.

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Secretary

dir: Steven Shainberg
[img_assist|nid=1034|title=There have to be better ways to get the mail. But I fail to hear any complaining.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=467]
What a fucking freaky film. It starts off being a film about one freak, who then finds an even bigger freak than herself. It just makes you hope they eventually get together and raise some freak babies.

There were certainly a bunch of people in the audience I saw this film with who didn't have a singular clue about this film. They were the ones that walked out not because of the sexual / sadomasochistic content, but because the psychosexual stuff wasn't sexy. They were actually expecting or hoping for some T & A and double entendres about taking dictation and doing a Lewinsky under the desk. Not a story about a demented self-mutilator and a sadistic obsessive-compulsive.

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Reign of Fire

dir: Rob Bowman
[img_assist|nid=1030|title=Matthew McConaghey trying to fuck a dragon in mid-air|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=344|height=260]
Dragons. Post apocalyptic scenarios. People dressed like Mad Max. People being burned or eaten by big lizards. Gay pirates. What's not to like?

Yes, the film has been out for a donkey's age, but I only got to see the film a few days ago. And I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, in that I wasn't violently disgusted by the film that transpired.

I do have to wonder who thought this would be a good idea for a film. Audiences stayed away in droves. Critics collectively scratched their heads and groins. Still, someone must have thought that wasting nearly a hundred mill on a film that grossed $30 was a worthwhile exercise. Damn, I wish I worked in the industry. At my place of work if 30 bucks goes missing they bring in the auditors and the Federal police and the guys we refer to as the ‘nutcrackers’.

Hollywood is a place of magic, which extends to their accounting practices as well. Still, what zeitgeist or movement were 'they' trying to capitalise on? Did someone think that audiences driven ecstatic and orgasmic by Fellowship of the Ring would be so desperate to see anything with a fantasy theme that they'd be selling their firstborns in order to be able to get in line? Have dragons ever really been that much of a box office draw card?

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Donnie Darko

dir: Richard Kelly
[img_assist|nid=1033|title=Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=500]
Hmm. An interesting film. I was simultaneously surprised and non-plussed by this crazy film, having had an inordinately high level of expectation due to a bunch of positive reviews and some decent word of mouth. Despite going in knowing plenty about the film, it was still a mystery from beginning to end, and still remains something of a mystery for me right now. Right now, writing this, there are still many elements that I can't work out, and will be pondering for some time to come.

Which is definitely a good thing. It is a film that despite its somewhat modest scale (which people who've seen it would dispute, I'm guessing), defies any real category and comparison, though by its end it achieves a conventionality which I never predicted. See, whilst watching it I initially couldn't foresee that there was an overarching logic, a method to the madness that was eventually going to make sense. I stupidly believed that it was going to be disconnected, schizophrenic vignettes connected by quirky bridging scenes with no sensible conclusion. I was profoundly wrong.

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Insomnia

dir: Christopher Nolan
[img_assist|nid=1029|title=So very sleepy|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=450]
Well, who wasn't going to be disappointed by Nolan's follow up to Memento? Nolan had the profoundly unenviable task of moving on from one of the most critically celebrated films of the last bunch of years, and delivered a film that many would find unsatisfactory simply due to its conventionality, solely in comparison. Despite this, he has managed to deliver a decent film, again, showing that he is a quality director, and that he's not just a one-trick pony.

Many refer to the central conceit of Memento, being the non-linear format, as a gimmick, almost as if it was a flaw. They mean it as a pejorative term. That's fine and dandy, but without it, instead of being a brilliant film with a sad, occasionally affecting story, it would have been an unworkable yet mundane revenge 'thriller' with a joyously happy ending. Perhaps he should have also taken out the main character's progressive amnesia / Korsakov's syndrome out as well just to make it extra simple for the test audience demographics that he never screened it to.

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Ghost World

dir: Terry Zwigoff
[img_assist|nid=1032|title=She broke a million nerd hearts with this role|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
Movies tend to celebrate the triumph of the individual. The underdog beats the less-likeable and usually wealthy favourite to win the adulation of the crowd. Villains get their comeuppance at movie's end, with the hero finally getting the girl and the acknowledgment that they deserve, usually with a large television audience watching in masturbatory glee.

We as people want to associate ourselves with winners, with success, with victory. We can relate to the personal hardships that the film protagonists go through, as we all have mishaps, accidents and fuckups in our lives, just probably not on the same scale. And when they (usually) inevitably triumph over the odds to win the belt, the cup or kill the bad guy, we feel that associative rush as well, sharing in their triumph. We're winners as well. Our value systems, whilst certainly not uniform around the globe, tend to prize success, coolness, triumph in competition against others, the overcoming of obstacles, prejudices etc to achieve what we all ultimately want: acceptance and approval by society and those around us.

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Signs

dir: M. Night Shyamalan
[img_assist|nid=1028|title=Signs and more signs for your own protection|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=763]
It's an interesting film, I'll give it that much. And it's a credit to M. Night Shyamalan that he manages to get the best performance out of Mel Gibson that I've seen in nearly a decade. As for how successful the film is overall, well, that's hardly a question for the ages.

Box office-wise, Signs has managed to dispel the fear that arose of "one hit wonderness" after the lackluster receipts that the far more ambitious Unbreakable was responsible for. He's managing to incorporate the quite difficult aspects of credible film making and ticket sale success, and then some. He is undoubtedly a populist director, making stories that are on the surface fairly straight-forward that manage to tap in to either the collective unconscious or issues of pop cultural currency without being either pretentious or lowest common denominator shit-stupid.

His level of subtlety is not what I would call delicate, but this film at the very least stands as a testament to his willingness to tackle commonplace ideas with his own individual take, willing to not always give audiences what they want initially with the view of giving them something completely different at film's end. It's a conceited bait-and-switch, I know, but as someone who's seen literally thousands of films over the years, it's something I can appreciate.

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Panic Room

dir: David Fincher
[img_assist|nid=1027|title=Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=212]
There's no disputing that this is a technically adept film. There is also no denying the irony that whilst being one of David Fincher's most successful movies at the box office, it is also one of his most uninvolving pictures to date. I have pretty high expectations when it comes to the guy.

In a recent interview in Sunday's Age, Fincher draws a distinction between the 'films' and the 'movies' he makes. His 'films' so far have been Se7en and Fight Club, his movies, in his own words, would therefore be Alien 3, The Game and now Panic Room. He loosely defined (or I am sporadically paraphrasing him in such a way as to further my own flimsy argument) movies as being made solely for an audience, whereas 'films' are where a director has greater leeway, and creates the picture for himself/herself as much as for an audience.

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