By Amy Nicholson
By LA Weekly critics
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Anthony D'Alessandro
Late Marriage (Israel/France, Dover Koshashvili) A deceptively simple romantic caper set among the vigorously traditional Georgian-Israeli community digs deep into philosophical issues about the way we all try to make over an intractable world in the image of our own desires.
Little Otik (Czech Republic/U.K./Japan, Jan Svankmajer) The great Czech surrealist's magnificently twisted black comedy, about an infertile couple who try to raise a child out of a tree stump, has much to say about greed — for food, for love, for control. All done with a pile of twigs.
Punch-Drunk Love (USA, Paul Thomas Anderson) The year's goofiest and most touching romantic comedy. Adam Sandler shines as a superdoofus only Emily Watson could go after, temper tantrums and all.
Talk to Her (Spain, Pedro Almodóvar) Almodóvar grows up and out of burlesque with this wonderfully improbable tale of two men learning to love two comatose women. Only Almodóvar could make this plausible, not to mention deeply moving.
Time Out (France, Laurent Cantet) A tough, heart-rending, infinitely humane study of a laid-off executive (brilliantly played by Aurélien Recoing) who, refusing to acknowledge that he's been laid off, invents a new life. He's not a hero; he's not a victim. He's a monster, created by a monstrous world.
24 Hour Party People (U.K., Michael Winterbottom) Michael Winterbottom and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce catch the moment of Manchester's mid-'70s musical heyday, with a terrific Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records and the Hacienda dance club.
MOST UNDERRATED: The Believer(USA, Henry Bean) Profanely sacred, where many thought it was sacrilege.
FESTIVAL FAVORITE: Mai's America (USA/Vietnam, Marlo Poras) Marlo Poras' documentary, about a young Vietnamese exchange student from Hanoi as she tries to find a place for herself in rural Mississippi, embodies the best in nonfiction filmmaking. Observant and nonjudgmental, Poras sympathetically charts the collapse of Mai's American dream, while remaining open to unexpected themes.
PERSISTENCE OF VISION
In Punch-Drunk Love, Emily Watson strides away after being rebuffed by a clueless Adam Sandler, then stops dead, stares straight ahead with a wisp of a smile, turns on her heel and goes back for another try.
About Schmidt (USA, Alexander Payne)
All About Lily Chou-Chou (Japan, Shunji Iwai)
Chicago (USA/Canada, Rob Marshall)
Far From Heaven (USA, Todd Haynes)
The Hours (USA, Stephen Daldry)
Life and Debt (USA, Stephanie Black)
The Piano Teacher (France/Austria, Michael Haneke)
Sunshine State (USA, John Sayles)
Y Tu Mamá También (USA/Mexico, Alfonso Cuarón)
MOST OVERRATED: Adaptation(USA, Spike Jonze)
FESTIVAL FAVORITE: Life on Christopher Street (USA, Maria Clara and Kimberly Gray) A hip-hop Paris Is Burning, only tougher, stripped of sentimentality even as it digs deep into the wound of queerness + race + poverty. Smart, funny and insightful (and far too brief), this documentary short — with its hip-hop homo Goths, fierce baby dykes and dry-witted young queens — serves up images of contemporary queerness and people o' color that shame almost every other film made by either American queers or melanin-blessed heteros.
1. Ivansxtc(USA/U.K., Bernard Rose)
3. Gangs of New York (USA/Germany/ Italy/U.K./Netherlands, Martin Scorsese)
4. The Bourne Identity(USA/Czech Republic, Doug Liman)
5. Sex and Lucia(France/Spain, Julio Medem)
6. Lovely & Amazing(USA, Nicole Holofcener)
7. Personal Velocity(USA, Rebecca Miller)
8. 25th Hour(USA, Spike Lee)
9. Autofocus(USA, Paul Schrader)
10. The Man From Elysian Fields(USA, George Hickenlooper)
11. The Triumph of Love(U.K./Italy, Clare Peploe)
12. 8 Mile(USA, Curtis Hanson)
13. Frida(USA/Canada, Julie Taymor)
MOST OVERRATED: Road to Perdition(USA, Sam Mendes) This film boasts a surplus of beauty in its cinematography (so much so that the characters seem to brandish Oscars instead of Tommy guns), but is fundamentally empty.
MOST UNDERRATED: Frida You could even argue that it has been underrated by me — though I made it No. 13 with an eye toward the possibility that, where posterity is concerned, "The last shall enter first."
FESTIVAL FAVORITE: The Secret Lives of Dentists(USA, Alan Rudolph) ä Written by Craig Lucas (based on Jane Smiley's short novel The Age of Grief) and starring Campbell Scott and Hope Davis, here's a hellish season in the life of a married couple in their 30s, unflinchingly traced and for that very wise and funny.
PERSISTENCE OF VISION: That moment in Ivansxtc (pronounced "Ivan's ecstasy") when superagent Ivan Beckman — played unforgettably by Danny Huston — has surprised himself by opening up to a pair of hookers. He has no one else to talk to. He is literally dying behind his professionally forced smile, as the cancer he's kept secret from the world is moving into its final stages. He catches his own reflection in a fragmented mirror and takes a quick but serious look, like a man who's never really noticed himself before.
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