Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Beau Travail

[Written for The Stranger]

Beauty is a dangerous thing. Not because, as we are often told, it is superficial or deceptive or skin deep; nor for any of the other tepid half-truths we admire because they flatter our own awareness of how far from beautiful most of us are. It’s dangerous because it is so easy to surrender to, because devotion to beauty can so easily become an obsession. Which is to say, beauty is harmful not in itself, but for what it spawns in others. Claire Denis understands this fact. In Beau Travail, Denis has made her greatest examination of beauty yet — at least of the films we’ve been able to catch Stateside. It is also, of course, her most beautiful.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Battlefield Earth

[Written for Film.com]

A thousand years from now, things haven’t changed all that much. Oh, the Earth is rubble, and mankind is reduced to a small band of ragged tribesmen. The planet is ruled by the Psychlos, a tall race of alien meanies who breathe acidic air in their huge biodome enclosing what used to be Denver.

For all the apparent differences, however, life is still a series of bureaucratic frustrations and thwarted ambitions. This is what we learn from Battlefield Earth, a dismal sci-fi epic that recalls the tired-blood landscapes of Saturn 3 and Solarbabies.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Space Cowboys

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Imagine an Armageddon where, instead of oil-rigger roughnecks, the fate of the world rests on four geriatric, long since retired Air Force test pilots. That’s the plot in a nutshell: a failing Russian satellite running on an archaic American guidance system must get back to full capacity, and the only man capable of correcting it is flinty former Air Force officer Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood).

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: You Can Count on Me

[Written for The Herald]

Good movies almost always let you know they’re good within the first couple of minutes. You Can Count on Me is that kind of good movie.

In a way both casual and heart-stopping, this independent film begins with a car accident that takes the lives of a married couple. They leave behind two children, a sister and brother. You may think you’ve seen this kind of sequence before, but writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, a playwright making his first film, hits all unexpected notes.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Dancer in the Dark

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The great pleasure of Cannes is having no idea what you’re going to see, and knowing that you’re about to be one of the first in the world to see it. When the picture turns out to be absolutely extraordinary — a stylistically exhilarating vision that also sweeps up the entire 2,400-strong audience in the Salle Lumière in its emotional embrace — one’s first impulse is to wish the same experience for audiences around the world. In short, you don’t want to tell anybody about it, don’t want to foreclose their pleasure of discovery in any way. You just want to say, “When you have the chance, go!”

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Time Regained

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Time Regained, adapted by Chilean director Raul Ruiz from the final volume of Marcel Proust’s epic Remembrances of Things Past, is about the texture of memory. Set in the first decades of the 20th century, in the salon society of the Paris élite, the film begins with the aging narrator (a not-so-thinly veiled Marcel Proust, played by lookalike actor Marcello Mazzarella but voiced by Patrice Chereau) dictating his final novel from a sickbed: “Then one day, everything changes.”

That phrase describes the film nicely: nothing is fixed, everything is in flux. In this opening scene the camera glides through the bric-a-brac of his bedroom, which themselves take slow flight in a dance with the camera as the room expands and shrinks wildly from shot to shot. Far from mere cinematic acrobatics, this sets the stage for an exploration of the fabric of memory from a director whose films have traditionally reverberated with the tensions between reality, dreams, and perspective.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Wonder Boys

[Written for Film.com]

by Robert Horton

If we can stop talking about Catherine Zeta-Jones for a moment, we might give Michael Douglas his due for Wonder Boys. After enduring a lot of jokes about May-December romances, Douglas comes bouncing back with one of his best performances, the central role in an adaptation of Michael Chabon’s comic novel.

The role is Grady Tripp, novelist and college professor at a university in Pittsburgh. If he is not actually over the hill, it is only because Grady never got to the top in the first place, although his previous novel — seven years old now — received acclaim. Trying to bash out that follow-up book has proved difficult, and Grady’s love life is an even bigger mess: his wife has just left him, and his married mistress (Frances McDormand) is pregnant. Oh, and her husband is the head of the English department at school.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton

2000 Eyes: Traffic

[Written for Film.com]

In a very short period of time—since monkeying around with a self-made fandango called Schizopolis—Steven Soderbergh has mounted a kind of stealth attack on Hollywood formula moviemaking. Out of Sight brought suppleness to the traditional star vehicle, The Limey dizzily jumbled expectations in a revenge plot, Erin Brockovich expertly balanced the dictates of political film and inspirational comedy, and Traffic looks coldly but energetically at the drug war. Each film also manages the feat of being an obviously personal project of its director. And except perhaps for The Limey’s overtly indie status, each uses big Hollywood bucks (and movie stars) to subvert the usual order of things. That’s what makes it a stealth attack, of course.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: In the Mood for Love

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

There may be no more sensual director in the world today than Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-wai.

His best films (Chungking Express, Ashes of Time) are rich in unconsummated affairs. The delicate shadow dances of would-be lovers and flirtatious courtships of couples that only fleetingly make contact are like a postmodern vision of a 1940s Hollywood melodrama shot in splintered glimpses and burning color.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson

2000 Eyes: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The first weekend of the 53rd Cannes Film Festival couldn’t have dawned more auspiciously. The Coen brothers are back with their first movie of the millennium and it’s a doozy. Taking their title from a maudlin catchphrase of the Great Depression—and from the mock-allegory with which Preston Sturges’s 1942 classic Sullivan’s Travels began—they’ve come up (again) with a complete original: a hilarious lowbrow comedy that only highbrows could have made, filled with an exultant sense of how big and startling and beautiful the pleasures of movies can be.

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