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J R's Images & Ideas

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Movies staring with a number or an A

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The 6th Day** was insipid but sci-fi, so I thought I had to see it. And I've seen it again since, and I always enjoy the stupid thing...

I went to see 8 1/2 Women***/ for purient interests but was disappointed. Oh, there was plenty of female and male (probably more of the latter) frontal nudity. The plot — Dad's wife dies, so he and son gather a harem together for love and affection, and then the ladies fade away — was accessible, although the dialog wasn't necessarily. Visually, it was stunning, with Peter Greenway's usual obscured text not really explaining anything, either. Surreal to see, odd to understand, but still visually memorable. 2000

In 8 Mile**** M&M is a killer wordsmith who movies serial romance and big chance into a choreographed dance that knocks me out. Impending new form in a freeform freefall film free-for-all. When it came out, a lot of critics wondered if he could play anything but himsellf, but that would be the hardest possible role, and he does it superbly. 2003

I was really disappointed with the DVD of 12 Monkeys****. Oh, it's still one of my all-time top ten movies, and I loved seeing it in widescreen and higher resolution. But the "added features," especially the "how it was filmed" featurette and the director's commentary each put me into a coma. I'd hoped to learn about the fascinating specifics of the movie, but those two features were devoid of specificity or interest. _

I heard the music in this one. Kinda wish I hadn't started the ride. Don't know if this was popular. Probably. Maybe. Not sure if it shoulda. Interesting disjointed parallel timeline flick with Hillary Swank, Patrick Swayze, Barbara Hershey and a buncha kids I don't know. A romp. Actually, the music is okay. Opening titles are great, at first, then go long. As does the movie, but everybody gets what they deserve in 11:14***.

13 Conversations About the Same Thing**** mixes chronosynclastic infidelium (the condition of becoming unstuck in time, a term originated by writer Kurt Vonnegut), time travel and happenstance with delight and deadpan. Quirky, serendipitous, smart, deliberately paced, human; a learning process, gently acted; with careful colors; clear, luscious cinnematography, a superb, near-perfect fit of a score — a deliberate trajectory; fate. 2003

I have a whole page of notes Anna and I made while watching The 13th Floor* but naturally, I can't find them now. All I remember for sure was that it was strictly amateur making and acting.

Sandra Bullock's 28 Days*** is a little deeper than the previews would lead us to believe, but not much. Still it's a half-way serious, comedic romp through recovery from various addictions, neatly skipping sex and love addictions in particular. Usually on mark, often funny, not entirely devoid of inteligence and decidedly entertaining. NS 2000

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Strongly visual and visually suggestive, with dense colors, hard, sharp contrast and the Abandon***/ of a first-time writer/director, this spooky, dark, mostly smart, psycho thriller only falls for a few seconds — sprawling suddenly ungainly into a uneccessary plot twisting, swing back rechance, then races headlong to its end. Maybe a little, in retrospect, heavy on the psycho, but fleet in the thrills.

The cover that I didn't get to take home from MegaFlicks and study while I watched the movie mentioned Breaking the Waves, and I think I recognized Emily's boyfriend as the drunken Dad, which he did even better than in, but otherwise not much to do with that stellar flick, but okay a character development story on its own, as we follow a dying mom's last wish to have her daughter drag her reluctant but oh so slowly reforming drunken dad to mom's death bed and odd, drunken and coked up adventures along the way. I could dance to it, but the beat fades from time to time. Aberdeen*** 2001 NS

About A Boy***/ is funny, human, involving, quirky, and a gentle joy. 2002

About Schmidt*** is a sad, big movie about American mediocrity, with an aging Jack Nicholson seriously underplaying the role of Walter Matthau.

Absolute Power** wasn't all that wonderful a political intrigue with burglaring subplot. Not Clint Eastwood at his best.

Afterglow***/ was gloomy, dark, quiet, moving and strange.- It's a careful, deliberately told story constructed of dove-tailed characters, dialog, action and plot. Often sardonic, it makes you think — about love and relationships and loss. Beautiful. 1997- Unsure ending marred the plot. But it was good-enough, aging Clint Eastwood. Eminently forgettable. 1997

The Affair of the Necklace** tedious period piece. 2002

Affliction*** hurts to watch the adult child of a mean alcoholic walk the same path, destroying love, family and friends along the way. Superb acting, excellent characterization and fine camera work. Slow pacing and a bit of murder mystery that doesn't go anywhere. 1999

After Life***/ is a beautiful Japanese film with long moments of slow anticipation as dead people decide on the golden moments of their lives they want to relive forever through low-tech film recreations, kind of an inside joke for filmmakers. Worst thing about the flick is

Another real-father-comes-back movie. A much better one, whose plot lines are never so clear, whose realities are more complex and whose characters are far more interesting and human. After The Wedding***/ is superb, beautiful, rich and deep. This time the returning Dad has more character and responsibility. The story twists without Hollywoodian clarifications, because there aren't any of those in real life, and death.that the English subtitles are in white, and the cinnematographer tends to place bright white objects in the middle, bottom of the screen. Yellow titles would have been easy to read, but these were often indecipherable. 1999

Against Time**/ is a sloppy, sentimental claptrap movie that borrows time travel without really ever engaging it and at the end, blows all sense, smarts or character progression out the window. Stupid. Disappointing. Like a made-for-TV movie.

Air Force One*** — smart, tense, violent, twisting and turning plot, grand fun. An awful lot of shooting bullets inside a plane, without losing cabin pressure. 1997

Albino Alligator ***/ is a great movie with long, slow flashes of cinematographic genius, great characters and smart dialog up until the end, which looses it, gets stupid and dies. Alas. Has one of those, what we call, "Basically, It Stinks" endings. 1997

And I remember being excited about seeing the early Alfred Hitchcock Shorts**/. But I'd rather see Alf in shorts. It was ancient and tedious, slender entertainment and educationally bereft.

Akeelah and the Bee*** was fun and a tear-jerker and very predictable but, like I said, fun. About a poor little Black Girl who beats all the odds by rising from her lower income neighborhood in South Central L.A. to be Spelling Bee champion of the world. Good-hearted schmaltz.

I rented PBS's American Masters production Alexander Calder*** to see his affect on my late friend Jim Crowe's very similar work. As I watched I learned Calder's effect on all sculptors, whether they know it, own up to it or not. Art Shirer's work has that childlike simplicity and wiggling, sometimes winding movement. He has taken Calder's directions and expanded them in several dimensions. T.Stone has inherited his monumental moderness. Jim copied many of Calder's ideas and delight. So many others have copied this or that piece possibly without even knowing it. This bit of history of a happy, often child-like man, is its own delight, complete with many films of the master himself doing what he did best, have fun making art. A must-see.

Ali*** - Unfortunately, soul music — which is fabulous stuff, no doubt about it — is as large on the screen as any of the fine actors. It calls attention to itself over and over through this otherwise solid movie until it become a nuisance. Other quibbles include that the sex scenes aren't very sexy — I'm guessing Hollywood still can't muster any sensuality for Black people. And though I don't see anything wrong with the acting, there's lots wrong with this movie. Powerful times, powerful themes, important stuff, but it just don't make it a powerful movie. No Special Features, but what a long, long, movie. { reticent menus. Usually I don't like ads on DVDs, but MiBII and Spidey trailers were nice. } 2001

I read Robert Penn Warren's novel, All The King's Men*** when I was in journalism school at East Texas State University in the mid 70s. I was moved by it and still quote lines that echo in my mind. None of the extensive documentary and historical special features on this disk seem to remember an earlier movie of the same name, and I'm now compelled to see that again. I'm sure it's not as darkly gritty as this, nor as complex. A lot of fine artists mixed up in this one, so it's easy to watch yet complex to understand.

Alias Betty***/ plays the serenditpity game, but well. Characters miss as well as connect in this lush, gentle film with just a little madness thrown in to good effect. Smart, pleasantly complex, happy ending. 2003

After a really bad artshow today, I watched Alice Neel***/ and got to see her wonderful portraits that showed real people not just posing for her, but being for her and for the painting. Gives me joy where despair was settling in. Nice to meet the lady, too, well past she's dead. Impressive gathering of her and her treasures. Maybe a tad too much of talking heads, but always a treat to go back to her work.

I want to tell you that Tim Burton's new Alice in Wonderland***/ is wonderful, but all I saw was fuzz. In the bathroom later, I overlistened to someone telling his friend the same thing. I wasn't the only one. Some of us can't see the latest 3-D technology, all we see is fuzz. I'm looking forward to seeing the 2-D version. I think it'll be really good.

Alien Visitor**** sounds like a terrible title. But this little Aussie movie is fine, though didactic. It's little in that there's only two main characters — and only five total. But its scope is global and almost as amazing as the cinematography, which involves lots of superb time-lapse panning and spinning under and among the stars, which is, after all, what Earth is all about. The thrust is that an alien comes down to change the way we think about pollution. Sounds dreary, I know. But the execution is efficient, the story elegant and primarily visual. Like the very best science fiction, it engages and makes us think, and entertains all the way through. 2003

Alien Visitor***/ is a much-improved rehash of a somewhat similar, also Australian film I saw months or years ago by some of the Koyanaskotzi people. This is better, more technologically original, with a much better story. A love story in many of the usual ways, but it is about saving the earth and the stars. Less beautiful in some ways than that other movie, but with a better, more filmic story. Moving, serious, real while involving techniques that aren't. Quite good really.

All About My Mother***/ is Almodovar's most accessible story yet. Still weird characters, of course, and lush, dense colors and startling wallpaper but more mainstreamy weird, too. Strong mothers, weak fathers and A Streetcard Named Desire.

I had to see All the Pretty Horses***, because I never managed to finish the book. The movie was okay, but not wonderful.

All the Real Girls*** is a better movie than a title. It's about one guy who's been a philanderer, making it with every girl in town, so they all hate him. And one woman, who's his and she's his, best friend. Dialog is intelligent, conversations are realistic, the plot progression makes mostly sense. He and she together are golden, then they're not, and then, well then you have to watch the movie, which is mostly worth the effort, a charmer, smart as well as romantic. Friends come and go and come back, lovers are a different story. A complex one but worth the time and effort.

All The Real Girls***/ is quirky deep, not goofy quirk. Serious strangeness like life is. A guy who's had every girl in town, now with his best friend's little sister, and everybody's worried about them being together. Him, too. But he and she know it's right, or think they do, then something happens, and they're not, and then ... Cinematic transitional scenes like the two-legged dog walking through emphasize the oddness of it, yet the deep reality, and that it goes on. People make do, screw up, learn and make better. She's not scared with him, but he's very careful with her. Slow. Shy. She's not. He is. And all the way through there's the oddest dialog, with everybody. They're real to a fault, only more real than fault. Really peculiar dialog. Somebody thought it through careful, though because it all works. It's close enough to real to accept, believe.

Almost Famous***/ is a sweet story, well acted, about a very young journalist who nearly loses himself in the world of early 70s rock and roll, then writes more or less honestly about the experience. He doesn't, however, write about the love intererest or the groupies, which comprise most of the plot. 2000

Alphaville***/ - Now that's what I expected of a Jean Luc Godard movie. Very strange, hauntingly beautiful, in glorious, surreal black and white, moments of sheer cinematic brilliance, reminiscent of Kafka ( they guy, not the movie ), deep, intelligent, intellectual.

Amélie**** is Major Quirky, perky, swet and light-hearted — not light weight. Real in a fantastical way. Wonderful, well drawn characters. Complexly simple love story. Visually intelligent and utterly original all the way through. From the director who brought us City of Lost Children comes this marvelous charmer. 2002

I kept wondering after seeing A Man & A Woman**** again after 44 years whether when I saw it the first time, did I appreciate all those wonderful filmic details. Did I notice how the man and the dog keep showing up in moments of transition? Did I care that many scenes weren't miked and were shot telephoto or that we never heard the unnecessary dialog? I don't know, and I don't remember individual scenes, but I remember the movie and when I saw it and with whom, and that we loved it. Wildly romantic. As alluring now as the first time, and the only thing dated about it was that the credits rolled before it started. Once they did I didn't care, I loved watching it again as I loved watching it the first time. Easily caught up in its motions and emotions. Only learned later, in the interview with filmmaker Claude Lelouch that all the interiors were in black & white and all the exteriors in color. Jean-Louis Trintigant and Anouk Aimée are fabulous, as were the old man and the dog.

American History X***/ is one of those movies that still percolates in my mind, more than six months after I saw it. Angry, mean skinhead turns into a nice guy. Ed Norton at his best.

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I've already seen American Beauty***** on the big screen twice. It's superbly filmed, eloquently acted and cast and easily the best movie of the year, full of sardonic and humane humor and dread. A dysfunctional family saga in the style and grace of Ice Storm crossed with Ordinary People, only better. 1999

I'd avoided seeing American Beauty**** on DVD, although I've been tantalized by it in stores. I carefully avoided reading what I said about it when it first came out, because I've discovered new meaning in all that weirdness with this watching.

We are, I think this wonderful movie reminds, more prisoners of our own visions, our own self-images, than of anyone else's. In the movie's and his own end, the anti-hero — brilliantly played by Kevin Spacey — figures out that only by freeing himself from those blinding and shackling self visions, can he lower his goals but not his expectations. Late — but not too late, he dies a truly happy man. +
  

American Buffalo***** is a memorable motion picture event. Outstanding performances. Intriguing but sometimes annoying dialogue rhythms. Like in Oleana, the perceived truth keeps changing, moment by moment through the film. I'm still thinking about this thing a week later. 1996

This American Life*** is one of my favorite radio programs, and before I saw this I could not understand how it could become a television show. The answer, however, is "easy." Like on radio, some of the stories make for compelling media. Some are stupid. Mostly, however, they are intelligent, deeply human and either nod-and-quietly-agree or laugh-out-loud funny.

American Movie *- A stupid drunk hippie asshole Ed Wood. There should have been some violence in this insipid pseudo documentary. 1999

American Psycho*** is deeply disturbing, about a picky man who likes to cut up women and murder guys with an axe in the face. Oddly sardonic, mostly senseless, sometimes exciting, but always vapid. V+S+ 2000

American Splendor**** is a quirky big film about a pair of in many ways dysfunctional adults who enjoy a remarkably happy life despite being portrayed with much irony in a series of comic books originally illustrated by a very famous artist (R. Crumb) whose work never appears in the movie.

It is not without a deep sense of irony that I watched Peter Pan***. I’ve always loved the story, and have seen almost every version possible, though I have not and do not ever wish to see Hook.

Living nowhere, never
Being young forever.

Is my understanding of the Peter Pan fantasy, and I’ve always enjoyed mine, and I have enjoyed this movie.

Amistad***/is Hollywooded nearly to death and vocal choraled to the highest heavens, this 2.5-hour legal adventure still thrilled and chilled, despite no women. 1997

Analyze This***/ is funny. Smart, too. But funny. 1999

Anastasia**/ is Disney animation without Disney. Wildly romantic, pretty to look at, utterly predictable. Picks up with goofiness almost everytime the kids get restless. 1997

An Angel at My Table**** is a deeply affecting story of a reclusive writer whose life passes past her while everybody else tells her who to be, where to go, what to be up to. Till at last she learns who she is. Near three hours long, her painfully shy childhood weaves into her painfully shy time in the asylum and on to her ascension into the great writers and poets. Never an easy life.

Angie ** - unmemorable 1996

Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens*** is a credible documentary about one of the most credible photo portraitists of our time. Her story is more interesting than three asterisks, but the movie has a sameness about it.

An Ideal Husband***/ is smart and engaging, a period piece from from an Oscar Wilde play. 1999

Anna and The King** is sumptuously filmed and competently acted. But it's essentially stupid, historically inaccurate and ridden with clichés. Most of all, it's long. 2000

Some movies are simple to sum. Others complicated. And Now Ladies and Getlemen****, with the ageless international jewel thief Jeremy Irons playing along in a French movie by Claude Lelouch is not a failure, nor success neither. Somewhere in between broad and subtle comedy, odd dubbing at odds with subtitles as subtexts and motives, a smoothed over complexity of plot vs. subplot, dreams and reality, parallel blackouts that change colors not fade to black, faith and spirit, a jazz vocal refrain and dialogical improv, culture and memory, all amix in post mod remix. Lovely to see and listen, disjunctive to comprehend, like real life and real dreams and, of course, movies, especially French ones.

Love a good angel movie. Haven't seen one for years, maybe decades.This time the sinner's a short, little-minded lying thief, and the angel who saves him (or is it him saving her) after they both jump in the river has acquired a sexy bitch costume for this assignment. Great casting, great little story shot in gorgeous, subtle black & white in Paris. Superb filming, always coming back to one bridge or another they're walking over, a consistently marvelous transition. Bridges into sensible-ness, sensitivity, actual love instead of using, telling the truth, but I'm getting ahead of ourselves. Quirk as all get out of. Amazing chemistry between the gutter rat and the sexy angel. French. Wonderful. Angel A***/

Well, I finally saw Angela's Ashes**/ from the book I never finished, because it was so long, sad and depressing, and now I can see why the movie was not a success. it's too long, sad and depressing... Emily Watson, who is why I perservered and saw the damned thing, wasn't all that good; the cinematography was fabulous, utterly beautiful; but who wants to see gorgeous slums. It was what, three hours long? I think it would have made an okay hour and a half flick.

Animatrix***/ is an intriguing, often even fascinating concept. A matrix of nine anime visions loosely based on the concepts of The Matrix offers an often beautiful, eminently Dark, thoughtful and thought-provoking political film.

Antonia's Line ****/offers an oddly shorthand way of telling a family's story. Quirkily European. Intriguing characters. Strong, steady story. Superb 1996

Presented without distractions, director Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudi**** is exquisite. A documentary of works of architectural art by the Catalonian master whose span bridged the beginnings of the 20th Century, this remarkably direct film tells Gaudi's story visually, without insulting us with facts or comparisons, historical or critical contexts. We see, and we understand. No one tells us what to think. Far from the usual documentarian's parade of talking heads, this motion picture shows only the barest essential people talking at all. Instead, it concentrates on what's left of Gaudi's visions, his buildings, models and drawings. Showing us what they look like in their own contexts in motions and use. Fascinating and beautiful.

I cry at movies, and I wrecked about five paper towels (Kleenexes disintigrate too quickly) through Antwone Fisher***. Good story, Hollywood embellished, not all true — and it rings that way, loud and clear — but a good telling. Raised rough child grows to be a good man with a little help from a shrink who's got mostly offstage problems of his own. 2003

Antz* was so bad I couldn't continue it past the first half hour.

Apocalypse Now Redux****, resplendant in additional scenes, proves itself one of the the all-time great films, perhaps the best Vietnam War film. Except for the talky plantation dinner scene, which does state — not show — some basic history, and one glaringly inept love scene with just plain stupid soundtrack — making obvious why those scenes were deleted in the original release, this is a fabulous director's cut release.

Apocalypse Now**** is a masterpiece of American literature. I'm eager to see the latest, unexpurgated version that's even a couple of hours longer.

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The Apostle***/ is humanely spiritual and richly religious in a rhythmic (I'd give it an eight and a half, you could dance to it), moving gospel music instilled, deliciously sweet story of the battling good and evil dwelling in even the most sincerely religious of people. Duvall is just short of wonderful, as is everything else about this flick. Except Billy Bob Thornton, whose part — though superbly acted, of course — is pasted in toward the end without even bothering to continue his character. It just needed something, and there was Mr. Slingblade. Farah Fawcett even acts (!) almost human, if frail. 1998

The Aristocrats*** is a funny, down and dirty TV documentary style not in any sense of the word innovative except the premise and the rating, flick of comics telling the same, stupid, dirty as hell joke, over and over and over again without the joke getting old, although by then the movie was. 2005

Arlington Road*** is an intelligent, tense, exciting political thriller with a stupid title and a few highly improbable plot turns. Solid acting, paranoids proved right, but... Flashes of superb artsy cinematography. Sharp, clear with a nasty, thought-provoking twist at the end. 1999

Okay, because it's sci-fi, I had to see Armageddon*. However, at no time during this movie did I ever manage to lose myself in it. Because of all the triteness, stupidities, compound cliches, bad acting, idiotic directorial decisions and general goofiness, I could not willfully suspend my disbelief, which remained intact throughout. I did, though, enjoy this movie. Kinda like Twister, it's stupid and waaaaay overblown, but so what? It's fun and often a visual treat. NS 1998

Warning: this is the whole story: Lars van Trier movies are difficult to watch sometimes. Other times to understand. I am not even trying to comprehend here, just soaking in the senses in this. I am watching Antichrist**** as I type. It is visually beutiful but interiorly grisly. Frightening without visual traces of that eeriness, of the fear that grips as I experience its dark shadows and strange but real, natural sounds. It is comforting that I can stop it — as it plays on my computer, fed by Netflix. Rich and exquisite nightmare. Ah, there's a memorable bit of surreality. Trip scene. A moment of strange psychedelia. Haunting. Like when the devil transfers person to person in Fallen. She says she's fine now. He has been, but we now see he's acquired the fear, even he's not sure yet, but we know. A palpable fear, made real before our eyes, he is coming upon it. Spooky whoosh of wind. Geez, a bit of fearsome horror. The antichrist speaks the only time. I want to finish the movie, then sleep, but I am afraid. Not surprising. Lars is amazing. This may be his most accessible film yet, but deeply disturbing. Any movie I can get to forty minutes to the end, I will finish. Witch burning imagery now, in the attic, someone or some thing's rogue gallery, long ago thesis. Dark brooding music now. And bookmarked books, handwriting into dindecipherability writ large. Trees falling. Vivid psychological scary. Her grief consumes. She wants pain instead. He won't. They are controlled by something outside themselves that is growing into them. Their fear becomes our fear. Is made into sex, the ultimate film prohibition. She sucks him into her fear. He succombs. They are fucking in dark hell. He, the therapist. Telling her people cannot be hypnotized to do something against their nature, while he has just done those things. Spooky fog as their history with the child who died, almost suicide in the tragic first moments of this dark film. Violence now. Sexual violence. She on him. Bloody ejaculation. Slow, turning violence against his prostate, perhaps dead form. Gruesome. He comes to, in pain and horror. She axles heavy millsone to his shin. Refracting her torturing their child in Left and Right wrong shoes. Her fear, his excruciation, mix in our minds. We watched those altogether too familiar dark women in witch trial reports we've all seen too many times, as they descend into hell, she fears he'll leave her, he decending still, into the dirt she dug under real ground. Where he is discovering evidence ... Hatred now. She's screaming. Running through dark fog, back to bury him. I am shaking. Wish I hadn't started this. It may haunt me too long. Trier's movies are too often deeply affecting. This is one affecting me. Scary. Dark. She unearths him, not dead. More implements of torture. He's been torturing her to experience the fear by therapizing her. They are alone in the darkness. Tweny minutes to the end. "Did you want to kill me?" he asks. "Oh, yes." How I wish subtitles were available here. Inaudible rhymes like witches' chant. She to him in intimate whisper. Scissors and a vagina. Screa., and she is alone in the dark night woods. He wakes, sees stars patterning the Three Beggars Constellation she denies the existence of. More screams and hail on the tin roof. A fox enters their night cabin woods. The writhing crow trapped under the floor. He finds the wrench, unwrenches his grindstone, slow with great pain, we see blood and blood and deep shadows. She stabs him with scissors. More blood spatters. He wrenches the stone from his leg, strangles her. Her writhing, eyes fall back. She falls limp. A fire in the woods. He limps slow motion through the Dantean hell like she did to enter it before. Epilog, it says. He limps back in soft maybe infrared black and white, sees all last night's dead creatures in dawn's light, living, looking back at him, people coming in, faceless women everywhere, mobbing the graytone woods. Fade to black. Dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky 1932-1986. End credits in slow crawl, fine print over the hand-written title. Of body doubles and set runners, medical service, script consultants and on. Brief music fades into dark gutteral sound. I've been movied. Hope you don't mind this, but I doubt anybody would want to subject themselves to this. Deeply affecting. Horror film. Dark music again, slowed. Another minute and a half of slow crawl credits. "All animals in this film were handled by professionals or computerized." Fade to black. I put the requisite asterisks on the title above and wonder whether anybody reads these words. First time I've seen a movie not DVD released yet on my computer screen. Might not want to again. But's amazing dark. Gloom-filled. Not so sure about the Antichrist, but truly dark.

I had to see Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers***, because their music at that same time (1958) was a childhood favorite. Not the first record I ever bought, though that too was jazz. But an early addition to my burgeoning LP collection. I watched it three times, actually listened to it, usually while writing. Interesting but not fascinating. A slight return. Not really a movie, just them on stage, no background info, no documentary, just them playing amazing jazz. Would have been substantially better if it'd told us something about these players.

Art & Copy*** is another one of those documentaries about the ad biz. The really good ones come along every once in a while, and the bad ones more often than that. They are all mostly the same. Creative people talking about being creative in service to industry. They're like listening to somebody talking in an otherwise dark room. I get ideas. That's enough reason to watch the next one, too. This one is rather ordinary. Nice enough examples. Very ordinarily put together, but nothing as interesting nor as creative as Helvetica.

Art City*** is a quick paced run through a variety of New York City artists (whom I probably should know) and critics and curators (whom I am aware of) in a documentary about art. Very reminiscent of Art in the 21st Century, though not as deep, it's fun to listen to the selected artists talk about art as they make it. Special Features include the portions of the interviews that didn't make it into the film, and we can easily see why. The film's not always in focus, but the film's focus is sharp and incisive and the artists fascinating.

Artemesia**/ was very reminiscent of Camille Claudet a few years ago. Set in the early Seventeenth Century, about a woman struggling to know life, experience love and practice art, it's an exquisitely beautiful film, with fine acting, solid character development and a moving plot. A truly positive film experience. 1998

The Art of the Steal***/ See how politicians, beneficiaries, lawyers, so-called journalists including NPR, major Philadelphia foundations, including the powerful PEW and Annenberg foundations, museum mavens, the American Judiciary, the IRS and others stole the world-famous Barnes Collection that Barnes himself insisted remain always as a teaching institution away from the grubby hands of all those Philadelphia liars and thieves. So the liars and thieves got it. Fascinating story, lots of evil amuck. Not nearly enough attention to the individual work in the collection, but a real flavor for who has the real power in America, and can have anything they want and nearly always win.

The Arrival *** is good, solid sci-fi. Solid plot. Pleasant characters. Good flick. Surprise - I'd given up on Charlie Sheen ever acting again. Odd depiction of aliens. 1996

  
Artificial insemination (actual title Artificial Intelligence, see re-view below) was a vast disapointment. The entire showing I saw, from opening to closing credits — and all the dark, fuzzy, gloomy stuff in between, was out of focus. I complained three separate times to the management of Dallas' Glen Lakes Theaters, and once, a guy in a headset actually came into the theater and cursed quietly about how out of focus it was, but nobody sharpened it. I sat as far back as I could, so it wouldn't seem so bad, but it was hard to concentrate on the dismal story when even eyeballs were blurred (when all else is blurred, photo- and cinema-tographers tend to focus on eyes).

Worse, this print had burned slightly on the previous showing, so it jerked around just at some very important places, and the audience missed several essential bits of dialog...

The big problem with over-hyped movies is they need the hype to survive. AI*** is hardly ground-breaking. If you've read any sci fi in the last three decades, this is pretty old territory. Even Hollywood has had its way with the subject numerous times. Android flicks are one of my favorite genres. Robin Williams has starred in several, one of which is called, Being Human. I reviewed it in the last couple of years, but it explores, as AI sorta does also, what makes something human.

Besides the focus problem and the overt darkness throughout the film, AI's biggest problem is that it isn't very real. Oh, the kid is real. And He's a fine actor. But he never seemed particularly alien to me. His parents, supposedly the humans in this drama, are the real aliens. Their other child is basically human, but there's not much goodness in him, which reflects badly on them and on the directors. That's the other major problem. Two directors. Both very famous, and usually the best directors around. But the second one was nearly clueless, and the first was too old. Then he had the audacity to die in the big middle.

You want to see a good android movie, see Bladerunner (below). It's probably the best ever made. But make sure you see the Director's Cut, too. I prefer the theatrical release version, but together, they average way better than this over-hyped mess, which I'll wait for the DVD release to see again.


Artificial Intelligence**** is a difficult film to watch. Again. Oh, it's long and oddly convoluted. But it's the stringent emotions that make it difficult. When I was a kid, my mother used to play a record about Sparky, a radio boy who wasn't real but desperately wanted to be. AI is about another Pinocchio, a robot boy created to show and receive love, and his long, lonely and largely unrequited quest for real motherly love.

There's an extravagance of subplots and characters along the way, but we center on Jude Law as a robot gigolo and a crusty old Teddy Bear who nearly steals the show. It took this long for me to get around to seeing it the second time, and it might take another decade before I want to see it again. But it's an amazing movie, with grand scope, big ideas and a sci-fi fairy tale plot filled with dark angles and deep angers.

  
I like Keanu Reeves in science fiction. I adore Richard Linkletter's peculiar variety of kinoscopic animation. And Philip K Dick is god. So A Scanner Darkly**** was amazing to this humble reviewer. Inventive, thought-provoking, weird, funny, dark, intellectual, superbly acted, marvelously rendered. I still watch Linkletter's initial experiment, Waking Life, from time to time. I know they take years to make, but I am waiting eagerly for the next one.

As Good As It Gets***/ — Jack Nicholson can do anything. This goofy matchup of quirky characters, yields a heart-warming movie of character development, even if Helen Hunt is her Mad About You neurotic self. 1997

This is a movie of the heart, about a community that moves and grows under the deft but unknowing leadership of a member of that community. That learns to know itself and each member learns who they are and what their voice is. The community is a choir and a town and people. The story builds slowly, and its beauty in interior. Its truths real. Its people human. Its metaphor is its music, sadly unavailable except here. It grows like a symphony. As It Is In Heaven***** is amazing, beautiful, joyous and sad. Triumphant. in Swedish.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford***/ actually does turn up a few historical facts about the notorious outlaw of the American West. It's pretty to see and psychological to consider, even if it engages in historical misdirection.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon***/ has not much to do with the assassination of Richard Nixon, which, of course and unfortunately never happened. It is, instead, the more or less true and extremely depressing story of the long, painfully slow demise of a pathetic loser, superbly and entirely too realistically played by Sean Penn.

Assisted Living***/ crosses the lines between documentary and feature and is about moments of lucidity, "living with the crazies" both on the staff and among the residents of an assisted living faciclity. And compassion. Poignant, gentle and humane.

The Astronaut Farmer*** is light fantasy not hardly ever approaching science fiction, even though a couple of rockets, one astronaut and nine orbits around the earth are involved in the plot. But then so's a happy family. It's a fun little movie with more heart than head. It's about hope and dreams with some science lingo thrown in and NASA, the FBI and the government as the bad guys. Its setting is down home West Texas, and its people are about as real as Hollywood can budget.

Like Awakenings by the same author, At First Sight*** tells a tale of loss, recovery and re-loss. It's about sight, and it's best told in images, and the visuals are nice, and the dialog turns and turns on seeing, but it's weepy all the way through, and not as visually strong overall as some of its better moments. 1999

From what I'd heard and read about Atonement****, I didn't think I'd like it. Though I should know not to believe those things. It was a beautiful WWII and pre romantic novel about truth and fantasy from someone who didn't know the differences, then learned them too late. It's beautiful to look at, delicious to watch it stop suddenly in its tracks, back up and tell from a different angle or point of view.

A Thousand Acres*** is a modern King Lear with costarring great actresses, decent plot, fine performances, but this is not the best drama of the year, like the hype claims. It's nice, melodramatic and all, a little weepy. 1997

August Rush*** is the rare movie that's uses — and never lets go of — sound. It's about family, fathers and mothers and having and not having those things. It's also a sweet romance and one of those movies where all the main chraracters keep almost but not quite meeting although they're close so many times. Eminently predictable and never entirely believable, it's still a fun flick and a decent tear-jerker.

El Aura (with vivid English subtitles)**** is about a timid taxidermist with complicated ambition who stumbles into murder, a plan for the perfect heist and the violent perpetrators needed for the task. He has eidetic memory and epilepsy. Both play roles in this long (2 hours and 8 minutes), slow (more like the best of European cinema, except this was made in Argentina) psychological thriller, with plenty of time to let it all soak in, nice scenery and very real looking characters. Only one pretty here, most are ugly and credible. Superb.

Aurora Borealis***/ combines coming of age and aging into an excellent film about families and, of course, romance, and what you have to give up to get the joys of those. Plus it's got Juliette Lewis and Donald Sutherland in the best performances I've seen of either of theirs in years. Wry, funny, serious, heart-warming.

Auto Focus*** is another serial bad guy. This time an unrepentent sexaholic who makes it big on the little screen as Hogan, the star of the Hogan's Heroes TV show. Then his growing addiction takes him spiraling down. Wrenching but not fascinating. Dahmer killed his only friends. This guy's kills him. 2003

Avatar*** was okay. Big, comic book story and execution. I knew soon as the characters were established how it would end. There was never any mystery or magic. It just plodded along and eventually it stopped.

Maybe it is that The Aviator*** needs seeing on a big screen. On the little screen it loses power. Solid story, well enough told, great cinematog, but hardly the filmic exultation I expected from the hype. Interesting possible, maybe even probable, biopic-alization of a modern American "success" story. Dark, consequentially reminiscent of Citizen Kane, without the glory or quality. Intense but not entirely successful.

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