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8 stars

Minority Report

dir: Steven Spielberg
[img_assist|nid=1065|title=The eyes have it|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=304|height=450]
Even with access to my hefty imagination I didn't think this would work. See, Spielbergo gypped me last year with AI, and it left me thinking that the man had traveled so far up his own anus that getting an intelligent and enjoyable film out of him was an exercise in wishful thinking.

Sometimes I am happy to be proved wrong. This film more than makes up for the lacklustre, uninspired kiddies' film AI. Even though he appears to be working in the same genre, this film, based on a Philip K Dick short story of the same name, towers over pretty much all of the recent sci-fi films that you've bothered to shell out your hard earned money for. Attack of the Clones looks like the work of a very technically minded retard in comparison.

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Pianist, The

dir: Roman Polanski
[img_assist|nid=1068|title=Not The Penis, The Pianist|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=450]
"Breathtaking!" "Stunning!" "A Masterpiece!" "Grunties!"

These words are used to describe everything from the most recent Jerry Bruckheimer film to the latest hemorrhoid creams on the market. Superlatives are such an integral part of the marketing hyperbole industry that the words have lost all meaning. Certainly their use, by anyone, especially film critics should be taken not with a grain of salt, but with a quantity of salt not exceeding that available in your average ocean.

That being said, when people you respect (for whatever reason, whether it be their professional credibility or the way they keep handing you lollies until you get into the car with them) start using words like that about a film, you prick up your ears. In this context, some of those words have been applied to The Pianist, and perhaps not without merit. The film has even been honoured at this year's Academy circlejerk, which, whilst not usually an indicator of anything more important than the fact that Hollywood is more insular and inbred than a hillbilly family from the Appalachian mountains (you know, Deliverance country), has for once potentially gotten it right.

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Twilight Samurai, The (Tasogare Seibei)

dir: Yoji Yamada
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The Twilight Samurai is a deceptively simple, measured Japanese film about a low-ranked samurai with no ambitions in life apart from looking after his children and senile mother in peace and quiet. If every character aspiring to a life of peace and quiet ever got their wish from the start, these flicks would never get made.

Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyada Sanada) is the derisively-named Twilight Samurai, so named by his workmates because when dusk comes around and their daily labours end, instead of boozing and whoring it up with his colleagues, he scurries home in the increasing dark to see his daughters and mother. Seems like a strange thing to insult a guy over.

Seibei’s wife has recently died of consumption, which used to be the pretty way of saying tuberculosis. As such, he is flat out working and taking care of his remaining family, and doesn’t have the money or time to look after himself or fix up his clothes. In that light, he is unwashed and unkempt, and his kimonos are dirty and torn.

He is loyal to his clan, but plays no part in their interactions and machinations with / against the local Lord. He is of the lowest ranks of samurai, as measured by his miniscule stipend of 50 koku. I don’t know what a koku is. But it doesn’t sound like much.

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Whale Rider

dir: Niki Caro
[img_assist|nid=1066|title=Whales. Maoris. Hilarity ensues.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=515]
Whale Rider is certainly a touching, sweet film, but people shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s a children’s movie. It is a story of far greater complexity and depth than what one comes to expect from films that seem to be aimed at the kiddie market.

It’s clear, at least to me that there is much more going on here. As well, dismissing it as a glib post-feminist treatise about how wonderful girl power is would be doing the film a disservice, and would denigrate the work all the people involved put into crafting this little gem of a film. It is not a masterpiece by any estimation. It is however a sweet film about a little girl finding her destiny and teaching an old man that the links between the past, present and future can be strongest in the places we are least able to see.

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24 Hour Party People

dir: Michael Winterbottom
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It's like this film was based on a book written by a Kurt Vonnegut born in the sixties who got to see the glorious birth of punk first hand. It's a fractured, glorious shambles of a film. It doesn't always work, and I had major issues with the second half of the film, but, Jesus, what a ride.

Steve Coogan had made a career out of playing a character that Tony Wilson was the template for way before this film was ever conceived of. Anyone who's ever seen any episodes of Knowing Me Knowing
You with Alan Partridge
would know the only real difference between Alan Partridge and Tony Wilson is the wig. It seems fittingly appropriate that he end up playing him for real. You have to ask yourself whether the film is about what it purports to be about: Manchester and the incredible importance it played in the growth of two major scenes in contemporary music.

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21 Grams

dir: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
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Poetically, romantically, the human soul is said to weigh 21 grams. This is based on experiments inaccurately carried out long ago which claimed that upon death a person would instantly lose 21 grams of weight, thus the departure of the soul must be responsible for the change. Of course it has no basis in reality. But the central question still remains: whether the body loses 21 grams or not upon death, how much do we lose when those we love die? How much do they lose when we die? When we take a life, save a life, how much is gained? How much is lost? This film seems to indicate that at the very least it's something more than 21 grams.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu is two for two. After his most excellent debut with Amores Perros, along with writing partner Guillermo Arriaga he again delivers a compelling, emotional and thoughtful film which packs an emotional punch without resorting to cheap tricks or manipulation. Whilst most will focus on the disjointed chronology with which the story is portrayed through the complicated editing, at its core the film deals with powerful moments in these character's lives which rarely if ever overstep the bounds of genuine drama into kitchen-sink melodrama. The film achieves pathos without bathos, which is a glib way of saying that it's a damn fine film.

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Adaptation

Adaptation

Some days it's hard not to feel exactly like that

dir: Spike Jonze

2002

This is one of the best films from last year that practically no-one is going to bother seeing, I can just feel it. It probably has one of the least marketable premises of any film I can think of in recent memory, and doesn't exactly scream 'rollercoaster ride of thrills and spills' for your $13.50

It is still in my anything but humble opinion one of the best films of 2002, and Nicolas Cage manages to surprise me heartily by delivering two sterling performances, when I expected nothing from the man. Nothing at all. His last bunch of films have been dogs, so I had begun mourning the talent that Cage used to possess. And what does the fucker do? He delivers his best performance in over a decade.

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Quiet American. The

dir: Philip Noyce
[img_assist|nid=1044|title=I wonder how that war ended up going...|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=319|height=475]
Wait, there was a war in Vietnam? Why didn't anyone tell me about it? Was it a big war? And why has Hollywood ignored this potential goldmine? They should get that room with the thousand monkeys chained to their typewriters cracking right away.

I am sick to death of films relating to the Vietnam war. Thoroughly sick to fucking death. Sure, there's been plenty of wonderful and touching films about America's obsession with that little communist country (Full Metal Jacket, Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Hamburger Hill) and the apparent deep scar it has left on the national psyche, but I think it's been done more than enough. Give it a rest, people. Hell, I love a good war film as much as the next sociopath, but there's this point where a dead horse has been whipped so much that you haven't even got enough horse left to make gravy with.

In that case am I glad that this film, though it deals again with that country, is focused upon the lead up to
the 'war' as opposed to the war itself? Well, kinda.

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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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Mulholland Drive

dir: David Lynch
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A few minutes after watching the film, I found myself at a pub which just happened to be conveniently located around the corner from the cinema. I wasn't sure how I'd gotten there, nor what I was planning on doing once I was there. I sat at the bar, confused and wondering.

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