View Full Version : My Favorite Films of 2004

oscar jubis
07-08-2004, 11:44 PM
These are 16 films (8 in English, 8 Subtitled) I've seen since March 1st that I found particularly accomplished. These are the ones that in my opinion merit a second viewing. A list of the releases I found "worth watching" would be much longer.


My favorite movie of the year finally convinced me that Charlie Kaufman is a talent of the first magnitude. If released last year, this would have cost Ms. Coppola her Original Screenplay Oscar. The mise-en-scene is superb.

Rosenbaum hated it and Hoberman loved it. A rare occurrence. An allegorical parable that adds a twist to Trier's typical damsel-as-victim premise.

The most important political doc since The Panama Deception, or perhaps Hearts and Minds. Funny and tragic.

Guy Maddin's first film to get wide distribution remains true to his iconoclastic vision, even with Isabella Rossellini and Maria de Medeiros in the cast. Set in Depression-era Winnipeg, of course.

A ravishing recreation of a mountain-climbing accident. An incredible tale of survival told with great skill. Small screens not likely to do justice to its vistas.

The new doc from the director of Sherman's March, seen at the Miami Film Festival.

Darker and more poetic than the previous two installments. Mr. Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien) is a major talent. The cast includes Emma Thompson, Davis Thewlis and others not commonly found in summer flicks.

Seventeen years in the making but not as ambitious as Dead Man or Ghost Dog. A formalist exercise consisting of conversations between two or more celebrities. Fame and its repercussions is a major topic, though certainly not the only one. Full of internal rhymes and jokes that slip by you if you're not paying attention (or if you haven't seen the great films directed by Jim Jarmusch).

I'm equally excited about 8 subtitled films, but I'll post about them in a couple of days.

07-09-2004, 02:45 PM
Emma Thompson & Thewlis in Harry Potter? Maybe I'll see it...

Glad you saw Coffee & Cigarettes. To borrow a quote from Dietrich, I felt like a plant that was watered after Jarmusch's latest.

Don't you mean "spotless" mind? :)

Dogville . I'm an unabashed Trier disciple now. He could make the worst film ever and I would find merit in it somewhere...

I had an opinion on Fahrenheit. It's somewhere on this website. *smirks*

If Michael Moore is a American treasure, then Guy Maddin is a Canadian treasure. Madden is our best-kept secret. (Not too many people have heard of Winnipeg's son).

Need to see "Void" & "Bright Leaves".

07-09-2004, 06:35 PM
Dogville, Fahrenheit 911, Touching the Void and Harry Potter (the last, a big suprise). Oscar, we come out fairly similar with our lists. I will post a Harry Potter review I recently put together. Should have made a forum for it as I found to be really entertaining!

Still have to see a couple that I've missed in the past few months....

oscar jubis
07-11-2004, 03:35 PM
Originally posted by Johann
Don't you mean "spotless" mind? :)

I do. A gaffe on the title of my favorite film of the year! Perhaps my favorite American movie since Mulholland Drive!

If Michael Moore is a American treasure, then Guy Madden is a Canadian treasure. Madden is our best-kept secret.

Don't you mean "Maddin"? :)
I also love the films of fellow Canadians Cronenberg, Robert Lepage, Atom Egoyan, Denys Arcand and John Greyson.

07-11-2004, 03:49 PM
A Ha! This is why I love your mind, oscar...

07-13-2004, 12:25 AM
Your list helps me to focus on some overlooked movies that I have yet to get to see, probably they will be necessarily DVD that will have to be rented. Your top two favorites are examples that I just never got around to...but your pinpointing them make it much more likely that I will make an effort sometime this year to rent them. Many thanks!

oscar jubis
07-13-2004, 02:07 PM
You're welcome, tabuno. I strongly recommend, without reservations, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The dvd will be released on September 28th. Make sure you pick up the WIDESCREEN version, as the film is also being released in so called "full frame". Dogville and Saddest Music are not to everyone's taste. Fahrenheit is controversial. But I have not heard of anyone disliking Eternal Sunshine.

oscar jubis
07-13-2004, 03:26 PM
Part II of my list of favorite films seen in the past 4 months (January and February releases here are 2003 films released in NYC and LA in December to qualify for awards).

Feels strange listing a 2002 movie, but Miramax finally plans to release Zhang Yimou's film in the US on 8/20. This is one of the most beautiful color films ever made. It will remind many of Crouching Tiger, the highest grossing subtitled movie, but Hero is more graceful and imaginative.

This winner of 12 Japanese Academy awards features a samurai like no other. Iguchi is not interested in geishas, fighting or sake. He's a family man who dreams of being a farmer. Call it a "revisionist" samurai flick. 72 year-old director Yamada puts all his skills in the service of storytelling, which is warranted when the story is this good.

3.TE DOY MIS OJOS (Take My Eyes)
The best film I've seen this year that has no distribution deal in North America. Winner of multiple festival awards and 7 Goyas (Spanish Academy). It deals with domestic violence but it's not a horror film because its female director and writers have not turned the husband into a monster, like so many other films dealing with this issue. Engaging, sensitive drama achieves the right tone.

4.Spring,Summer,Fall,Winter and... Spring
Provocative film from South Korea, from director Ki-duk Kim (Isle, Address Unknown). Spring defies audience expectations. Kim's new film, Samaria, received the Silver Lion for best direction at Berlin FF. Kim continues to ruffle feathers. Devout Catholic widower discovers his teen daughter is having sex with (much) older guys and decides to confront the johns, not his daughter.

Andre Techine(Wild Reeds) directed this movie about a young widow (Emmanuelle Beart) fleeing with her kids as the Nazis invade Paris.

The Dreamers
Bertolucci, the last Italian master standing, celebrates youth and cinema circa '68.

The Return
Winner at Venice, the debut of Andrei Zvyagintsev concerns a man who returns to his family after a long absence. The Return is primarily concerned with how his two sons react to this mystery man. The film achieves mythic overtones.

The Clay Bird
A film from Pakistan. Winner of the Fipresci award at Cannes "for its authentic, moving and delicate portrayal of a country struggling for democracy". What I personally valued even more was the way The Clay Bird illustrates the need to separate "church" from state and the evils of orthodoxy.

07-16-2004, 02:52 PM
Originally posted by oscar jubis

Feels strange listing a 2002 movie, but Miramax finally plans to release Zhang Yimou's film in the US on 8/20. This is one of the most beautiful color films ever made. It will remind many of Crouching Tiger, the highest grossing subtitled movie, but Hero is more graceful and imaginative.

Hmm...interesting. I really thought Hero wasn't that impressive, and found Crouching Tiger to be vastly superior. There were too many flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks and different interpretations and what not. In the end, I felt dissatisfied.

oscar jubis
07-16-2004, 11:32 PM
I'm glad you read my post in foreignfilms and decided to join us. Welcome, arsaib4!
Thanks for the link to totcine, a "cinema magazine" in Catalan. I know of two Spanish webstores where you can buy Te Doy Mis Ojos: ociojoven and Fnac. I've had dvds delivered to my in-laws in Zaragoza (about 2 hrs. north of Madrid) because both sites charge a fortune to ship to North America. I could provide proper links if anyone is interested. There are many dvds available only in Spain including, believe it or not, Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight.
On the other hand, there's a webstore in the UK that charges a mere 1.25 pounds($2.30) to ship each dvd to North America:
Where did you watch Te Doy Mis Ojos? Your opinion: are American distributors shortsighted? Or is an "issue movie" like Te Doy, no matter how good, poison at the box office?

oscar jubis
07-20-2004, 01:05 AM
Tsai Ming-liang
I have watched every feature film directed by Ming-liang including Goodbye, Dragon Inn. I consider him one of the most important and accomplished film directors. I am really glad Wellspring plans to release the film in the U.S. I admire every one of his films. The River is his best, in my opinion. Some of the scenes involving father and son are simply unforgettable, including one of a sexual nature.
I appreciate arsaib mentioning Goodbye, Dragon Inn. Perhaps his most "minimal", as he says, because the whole film takes place in a single location, a theatre about to close permanently. But the film seemed to me to ellicit a wider range of emotions than most of Ming-liang previous films. I will have more to say about it upon its release, when members are more likely to post responses. I probably will write a post discussing Ming-liang's whole filmography.

Michael Haneke
As implied by arsaib4, Code Unknown displayed a level of maturity and intelligence not apparent in Haneke's previous films. I'm looking forward to the release of Time of the Wolf, starring Isabelle Huppert. Palm Pictures has acquired distribution rights for North America.

I reviewed this Swedish film in my Miami International Film Festival thread. It won the Audience Award. I am surprised it hasn't been picked up for distribution in the US, because its commercial potential is obvious. Worth-watching but nothing special, in my opinion.

oscar jubis
07-20-2004, 07:33 AM
Originally posted by arsaib4
I think you accidentally just switched the two films, i was actually mentioning TIME OF THE WOLF

You wrote "The days of BENNY's VIDEO and FUNNY GAMES are far behind him as this is his third film in a row (after CODE INCONNU and LA PIANISTE)..."
I understood this to mean that Code Inconnu was the first of three films that constitute a departure (and perhaps an improvement) compared to "the days of Benny's Video and Funny Games". If not, what did you mean?

Rosenbaum's review is positive but he clearly states Time of the Wolf is not as good as Haneke's best: Code Inconnu and Seventh Continent, in his opinion.

oscar jubis
07-20-2004, 05:59 PM
I haven't seen The Seventh Continent and it's not available on video, as far as I know.

08-12-2004, 07:18 AM
Originally posted by oscar jubis
Tsai Ming-liang
I have watched every feature film directed by Ming-liang including Goodbye, Dragon Inn. I consider him one of the most important and accomplished film directors. I am really glad Wellspring plans to release the film in the U.S. I admire every one of his films. The River is his best, in my opinion. Some of the scenes involving father and son are simply unforgettable, including one of a sexual nature.
I appreciate arsaib mentioning Goodbye, Dragon Inn. Perhaps his most "minimal", as he says, because the whole film takes place in a single location, a theatre about to close permanently. But the film seemed to me to ellicit a wider range of emotions than most of Ming-liang previous films. I will have more to say about it upon its release, when members are more likely to post responses. I probably will write a post discussing Ming-liang's whole filmography.

I would love to read that Oscar. I just saw Goodbye Dragon Inn last night and I was blown away by it. Apparentally Tsai was walking by this theater when he noticed that they were closing it. He then made a film in a relatively short time period. I think it's so beautiful. Some of the most stunning photography. A friend had a hard time connecting to it in any emotional way, but I found the insular qulaity of the space, the inside/outside presence of the rain and the tension of the relationships to be really engaging.


08-12-2004, 01:25 PM
I am glad you liked it Peter, here's a relatively young director (liang) that i don't have any reservations about in calling him a 'master'. GOODBYE DRAGON INN is by far the best film i've seen this year and hopefully Wellspring will release it soon.

08-13-2004, 11:11 AM
We will see if Wellspring gets it out... It's a tough one. I would certainly call it a great film and perhaps the best the most beautifully shot film I've ever seen. Still, I like Before Sunset as this year's best.

08-14-2004, 12:28 AM
Oscar, you're going to have to add "Collateral" to your list. If you haven't seen it, please do so right away and tell me what you think. It blew me away... and you know how much I hate violence... this was... different.

oscar jubis
08-14-2004, 01:05 AM
I admit it's not the type of film I generally respond to, but I will walk into the theatre with an open mind. I usually end up watching Hollywood thrillers at the theatre because my wife is a fan of the genre. One question about Collateral that nags at me has to do with the premise. I have avoided reading reviews because I don't want to walk in knowing too much about the plot. But I know it's about a cabbie forced to chauffer a killer bent on murdering five people in one night. I hope the narrative provides a valid reason why the cabbie doesn't drive away and report it to the police at the first opportunity. A lot of Hollywood films strain credibility in the service of cheap thrills. Too many of these films are more concerned with plot twists than characterization. At the present, based mostly on your recommendation and some of the director's previous films, I will assume Collateral to be the exception. I have a couple of films to watch likely to leave theatres before Collateral does, so be patient with me. :)

08-14-2004, 01:25 AM
Without giving too much away here, I'll tell you that the cabbie in "Collateral" doesn't really have the choice to get away and report it to the police. He'd certainly like to do just that. And, there are a couple of surprising moments, but I wouldn't consider them to be plot twists in any way that's overly tricky or manipulative. Don't read too much into the characterizations in this film; it is, after all, still intended to be a big Hollywood summer blockbuster. But the film is beautifully stylized, and Mann really doesn't make any mistakes in his pacing or in his shots.

Also, when I saw it, there was a preview for a martial arts film called "Hero", which was billed as being presented by Tarantino. Is this the same "Hero" that you've been raving about here from time to time? The preview looked extravagent.

oscar jubis
08-14-2004, 01:53 AM
Same film that had its world premiere in early 2002. I've bought the dvd five times now because every time I show it to a friend or relative, he/she wants to buy it from me. Most people are totally fascinated by it, and with reason. I have been surprised though that some have difficulty with the narrative and appear to give up. The film makes perfect sense and there's a huge emotional payoff, at least for me Justafied. Admittedly, there are events that are presented from two different points of view, which can be confusing if one is not attentive. And Hero involves the type of wire fu scenes familiar to people who watched the enjoyable (but inferior in my opinion) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

08-14-2004, 02:08 AM
I'll definately make a point to catch it at the theater. Have you seen it yet on the big screen? The visuals in the preview were impressive, and I imagine the film could be even more stunning in the theater versus at home on DVD. I was half-asleep during the preview, as it was sandwiched between other previews of the crap coming soon to the multiplex. It wasn't until the end where I saw the film name that it occured to me I had read good things about it here. Again, it looks extravagent, it looks like it's got the grandiose and the mythology of the LOTR films, combined with the martial arts and the "Eastern thing" of Crouching Tiger. Looking forward to seeing it. I'll be sure to stay attentive so I don't get confused.

oscar jubis
08-14-2004, 02:16 AM
Hero deserves to be seen on the big screen. The other day my kids were watching MTV, and they bolted out to tell me they'd seen the preview. They made me promise we'd watch it on opening weekend. Some promises are easy to keep Justafied.

08-14-2004, 06:26 PM
Ok, a big screen treatment would be fine by me. The film is really visually fantastic, but I feel the substance was lacking too much. Maggie Cheung put in a performance, in my opinion, far inferior to her better works such as Irma Vep. And Zhang Ziyi made me cringe with her strange antics, far different than what she was like in Crouching Tiger.

The best thing about Hero is its fight scenes, but beyond that, I think it's just not much. Especially all these flashbacks within flashbacks and confusing double truths. It all seemed like an excuse to show more fight scenes.

08-15-2004, 01:48 AM
Article in today's NYT about the color schemes in "Hero". The link's got a slide show of different scenes. Looks impressive:


August 15, 2004
Cracking the Color Code of 'Hero'

THE martial-arts epic "Hero," which opens on Aug. 27, is the product of an unlikely collaboration between two dazzling visual stylists: the Chinese director Zhang Yimou and the Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle. That they had never before worked together is not surprising. Mr. Zhang ("Raise the Red Lantern," "Shanghai Triad"), a former cameraman, is known for the quiet beauty of his carefully composed shots; Mr. Doyle ("In the Mood for Love," "Chungking Express"), who prides himself on his ability to improvise with the camera on his shoulder, prefers, as he says to "find the film" as he is shooting it. Mr. Zhang makes still lifes; Mr. Doyle is an action painter.

Why then did Mr. Zhang pick Mr. Doyle to shoot "Hero," his first attempt at a martial-arts movie with digitized action sequences in the style of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"? According to Mr. Zhang, it was because Mr. Doyle is known for pushing film to its limits in order to produce extraordinary hues, and Mr. Zhang's plan was to divide "Hero" into five sections, each dominated by a single color.

The outcome of the collaboration is a spectacular film that looks like nothing that either man has done before. "Hero" tells and retells one story three times: how an anonymous assassin in ancient China overcomes three rivals. Two of the versions are false, one true. And they seem to come from different worlds: a red one, a blue one and a white one. "Obviously," Mr. Doyle says "it's our `Rashomon.' "

Add to this a frame tale dominated by shades of black, and a series of flashbacks infused with vibrant greens, and you have a film that functions like a prism.

While Mr. Zhang and Mr. Doyle insist the choice of colors was aesthetic, not symbolic, the coloration itself becomes the movie's theme. "Part of the beauty of the film is that it is one story colored by different perceptions," Mr. Doyle says. "I think that's the point. Every story is colored by personal perception." Slide Show: The Colors of 'Hero'

oscar jubis
08-18-2004, 06:40 PM
Thanks Justafied. I enjoyed it very much. The most recent version of the Hero dvd includes a special feature on the color scheme (and the Miramax logo in the credits), but it's not subtitled in English. Even Chris Doyle speaks Mandarin in it. Having seen it over and over at home, I plan to watch it without even a glance at the subs. I'll just immerse myself in the beautiful moving pictures.

Did anyone watch Twilight Samurai? A unique samurai story tailored to a mainstream audience, very engaging and well told, with very likable protagonist.

oscar jubis
09-02-2004, 02:02 AM
Glad to learn New Yorker picked up Take My Eyes for distribution. Hero finally opened and it looks great at the theatre. Still need to catch up with a couple of blockbusters. So this list represents my favorite films watched during July and August, "the mean season" as we say in these parts. Two or three opened elsewhere earlier in the year or will open soon. In very tentative order of preference (I plan to rewatch most, top 7 are very close). * denotes films already on dvd in N. America.

BEFORE SUNSET -The second American film of 2004 better than any from 2003. The couple from Linklater's Before Sunrise meet nine years later.

*CRIMSON RED- The last of director Jafar Panahi's films to be banned in his native Iran and lauded in the West. Having exposed the Islamic government repression of women in The Circle, Panahi gazes at the wide gap between rich and poor, and the identity issues of the 4-5 million exiled Iranians with his trademark subtlety and skill.

*BLIND SHAFT- Another film banned in its own country. Discussed in thread "do Not miss this hidden treasure".

GOODBYE DRAGON INN- Tsai Ming Liang's latest is a fave of arsaib4 and our own pmw. Discussed in previous posts here.

MARIA, FULL OF GRACE- Catalina Sandino Moreno takes over this Amerindie shot in Ecuador and Queens, about a Colombian girl who swallows heroin to bring it to NYC. In Spanish.

SINCE OTAR LEFT...-Otar has moved to Paris to work while his mother, sister and niece face difficulties in the republic of Georgia. One of the best dramatic movies made in France in years. You will not forget these women easily.

ZAITOCHI- Takeshi Kitano's updating of the famous Samurai serial introduces elements of the comedy and musical genres, as well as his appreciation for the absurd. Quentin, THIS is how it's done.

THE MOTHER- Engrossing drama from the UK. About an old woman who experiences a sexual awakening after her husband dies. Her grown kids aren't very happy. Superb perfs.

CONTROL ROOM- Doc about coverage of the US invasion of Irak from inside the headquarters of the Arabic TV network Al-Jazeera.

JAMES' JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM- Young African is chosen by his Church to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but Israelis keep getting in the way.

OASIS- Grim romance between a mentally retarded man and a woman with severe CP, who face cruelty and abuse at every turn. Fom South Korea.

*BROKEN WINGS- Well written and acted Israeli drama about a family adjusting to the premature death of the husband/father.

*OSAMA- Compact, intense rendering of the Taliban repression of everything female as seen through the eyes of a 9 year old trying to pass for boy.

*OUTFOXED- Doc exposes Murdoch's propaganda Fox News network. Fair and Balanced my ass!

GO FURTHER- Ron Mann directs this highly inspirational doc about Woody Harrelson's bus tour to promote environmental causes.

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE- Joel and Ethan need to watch it to learn how to have fun with goofs, nerds and idiots. Aki would approve.

09-11-2004, 09:41 PM
In-depth article on this film, being released in a few locales here in the states. Article written by Nathan Lee, who I believe is a friend of our Administrator Peter. Good to see his stuff being published in the illustrious Times...

The Best Film With the Smallest Release

Published: September 12, 2004

WHEN historians of the future look back on the current movie scene, they will note the presence of giants among us, and marvel that they passed by so little noticed. On the film festival circuit and in the pages of serious film magazines, the names are already legend, but in what remains of the art-house culture in America, their reputations are barely a whisper. Wong Kar-wai, Jia Zhangke, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang: the great foreign filmmakers of our time sound more foreign than ever.


09-15-2004, 03:51 PM
It's a great article by Nathan Lee, and thanks Justafied for posting it here. It's good to see someone who appreciates Tsai as much as I do and he obviously has a very good understanding of the material. As Nathan also mentioned, all of Tsai's feature films are available on dvd in the U.S (except his short The Skywalk is Gone on which his next film will be based) which is not the case with the likes of Hou and Zhang-ke so there isn't an excuse for the cinephiles to not know more about him.

09-22-2004, 05:50 PM
Here's something refreshing to hear from an exec.

"It is what it is," commented Ryan Werner, head of distribution at Wellspring on the opening of Goodbye Dragon Inn. "We didn't do this film expecting a huge opening. It is a filmmaker that Wellspring has always supported, and we have every single one of his films on DVD, and have theatrically released the last two. If a film this good doesn't get a release, something is wrong in the world. Hopefully we've found a way to make sure that we can do a couple of films like this a year without putting ourselves at risk, and still getting the film out there."

10-02-2004, 03:41 PM
Finally saw "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", and I agree it's one of my favorites so far this year. Kaufman's first film with a heart. I loved "Being John Malkovich", it was more clever and funny and entertaining than I thought a film could be, but it was still a bit icey around the edges. "Sunshine" is just as warped (or close, at least), but it's also achingly human. Wonderfully original direction also, probably more focused than Jonze. One scene that keeps cracking me up is Carrey on the bed asleep, with Ruffalo and Dunst dancing on the bed in their underwear, high.

Other favorites of mine: "Hero", "Fahrenheit 9/11", "Control Room", and even "Collateral".

Really looking forward to seeing "I heart Huckabees", even with the lukewarm comments about it I've read here. I've loved everything David O's done so far. Better drink a lot of coffee before seeing this one, don't want to miss anything.

Also looking forward to seeing "Life Aquatic", "Proof", and "Sideways" (I think it's called), the new Payne film.

What are the Hollywood heavy hitters throwing out at us this holiday season in attempt to get Oscar attention? I'm sure Tom Hanks or Ronny Howard have something coming our way...

10-03-2004, 08:02 PM
I'm also looking forward to I * Huckabees (well, it is out), I believe Pmw saw the film here and he just might be right as many critics haven't exacty embraced it, but this one i'll have to see for myself.

I do wonder if Sideways is this year's Lost In Translation which was unanimously over-praised by critics in their festival reviews and then even upon it's premiere locally while most cinephiles had some reservations about that kind of approval.

Unfortunately Hanks is back, this time as a CGI character in The Polar Express. He's certainly not having a good year with The Ladykillers and The Terminal.

As for Oscar glory, we have Jamie Foxx in Ray, Liam Neeson in Kinsey, Alexander (which is apparently delayed till the end of November due to some gay love scenes), just to name a few.

10-04-2004, 07:13 AM
Originally posted by arsaib4
I'm also looking forward to I * Huckabees (well, it is out), I believe Pmw saw the film here and he just might be right as many critics haven't exacty embraced it, but this one i'll have to see for myself.

M. Dargis at the Times gave it a positive review. Hoberman's review is lukewarm, I think the critics at the least admire that it's different . Denby calls it "an authentic disaster, peppered with many odd and brilliant moments". Myself, I'm still a sucker for a movie about existentialism in America. I appreciate a rather absurd look at the "normal" day-to-day life in this country, perhaps it can foster new perspectives.

I forgot about Alexander. Of course. So, they're editing it because of a gay love scene? Does Stone know about this?

10-04-2004, 05:44 PM
Originally posted by JustaFied
I forgot about Alexander. Of course. So, they're editing it because of a gay love scene? Does Stone know about this?

Stone does know and apparently isn't too pleased, but my guess is that the budget which is reaching $130 M doesn't help his cause. As reported on imdb a Warner Bros. spokeswoman declined to discuss the report, saying "We wouldn't talk about anything involving the process of making a movie," which kind of gives it away. A friend of mine pointed out that 40+ years ago, the "oyster" scene between Olivier and Curtis in Spartacus was edited to remove the homosexual context, look how far we've come. I think America is just happy with their gay characters on television during the 'family hour' who laugh at bad jokes and keep good hygiene, i don't think they are ready for a guy taking it in the ass, something else they like to do (or so i hear). I say let's bring on the 'unrated' dvd.

oscar jubis
11-19-2004, 10:32 AM
Below a list of my favorite films seen in the past ten weeks or so. Still upset with self for missing Zelary and Vera Drake during their one-week stay in town. Maybe Imelda Staunton will get an Oscar nom and the acclaimed Brit film comes back to theatres.

This 145-minute Canadian doc from directors Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar is perhaps my favorite movie of 2004, or more specifically, the most important one. "I can't think of another documentary that's taught me as much as this one" (J. Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).

The latest from Georgian director Otar Iosseliani received a limited release in Canada last year but not in the US (outside of fests and isolated screenings). This French/Italian coproduction juggles deadpan comedy, astute psychological observation and sociological subtext. Available on dvd from the UK.

David Gordon Green is still my favorite young American director. Can't blame him for wishing to appeal to a larger audience by providing genre thrills. More comments on the film's thread.

87 minutes of fragments from 20 years in the life of a man exposed to abuse, family dysfuction and mental illness. Most of the material is culled from home movies and the director's own short films. Raw, unprocessed and messy but quite powerful and moving.

Engrossing French thriller about an alcoholic and his wife driving from Paris to pick up their kids at a summer camp. Well written and performed.

The film avoids controversy by focusing on the consciousness-raising, South American voyage of the young medical student that would become El Che. Rewarding and nice to look at, but rather tame, calculated not to piss off anybody.

I had more fun watching it than any other superhero or animated film of 2004.

MARMOULAK (The Lizard)
A thief escapes from prison disguised as a mullah. He finds it advantageous to maintain the pretense. By the time the religious establishment in Iran figured out how subversive this comedy was, the film had been a box office hit for weeks. All reels were confiscated, but the Fort Lauderdale film fest managed to find a pirated dvd copy for exhibition.

Garden State
At times too precious. A tad indulgent. But it provided me and Chelsea with enough pleasure and edification to recommend it.

I heart Huckabees
After the premiere at Cannes, Ebert was asked for his opinion and he said he didn't know. I had a similar reaction. I know I'm glad there are filmmakers attempting something original, and the premise/concept appeals to my sensibilities. I know I want to see it again but I wonder if these characters will ever feel "real". Maybe it doesn't matter. Perhaps it's more a film about ideas than anything else. This film could be as great as Glenn Kenny (Premiere) thinks, or as mediocre as Ebert concluded after a second viewing.

oscar jubis
11-28-2004, 12:26 PM
I appreciate the opportunity. Otar Iosseliani was born in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1934 and has been active as a film director for over 40 years. He has lived in France since 1980. Monday Morning is the first of his dozen or so features that I've had the opportunity to watch. Several of his films have received awards at Cannes, Berlin and Venice but none has been released stateside. It's appalling. My first encounter with Otar Iosseliani was the film Son of Gascogne in which he acted as himself. Two of Iosseliani's films are available in the US: Chasing Butterflies on vhs and Brigands Chapter VII on dvd. I plan to seek them out soon.

Monday Morning won the Silver Bear for best director and the FIPRESCI prize at Berlin, where it premiered in 2002. It concerns Vincent, a chemical factory worker encumbered by monotonous routine and familial responsibilities. One day, he decides to travel on his own to Venice. The first half hour depicts Vincent's routine in his French village and interactions with his wife, children and mother. Then, the film seems to forget about the main character to show amusing vignettes of village life. One hour into the film, Vincent is on a train to Venice, where he meets several interesting individuals, including an old aristocrat played by Iosseliani himself. What is remarkable about the film is its almost complete reliance on visuals to convey character detail. Forced to identify antecedents to this type of filmmaking, Jacques Tati comes to mind, but Iosseliani seems less obviously comedic. The sparse dialogue plays second fiddle to the images, which display a masterful command of cinematography and mise-en-scene.

Monday Morning is available on dvd in the UK. The disc includes director's biography, filmography, and a 6-minute
interview that left me wanting more. Monday Morning is not a heavily plotted film and those who demand dramatic tension from cinema won't find it here. Perhaps this accounts for its lack of US distribution. I think Monday Morning is a remarkable film.