christopher funderburg


1. Last Days.

In less than five years, Gus Vant Sant goes from one of my most hated filmmakers to an overall favorite. Like Elephant, Last Days succeeds by taking an event with major cultural impact (Columbine, Kurt Cobain's suicide) that's long since wilted under the intense light of pop cultural scrutiny and endless media dissection. and then making it flower by approaching it with intimacy and sincerity. Last Days aches and stumbles through Van Sant asking "Why would I kill myself if I were him?" The answers are unexpectedly and pointedly personal because they step out of the path of the cultural machinery designed to prune our responses and mow down complicated answers. This isn't Kurt Cobain, this is Gus Van Sant rebuilding himself (and then tearing himself down) out of Kurt Cobain's material. It is alternately absurd and hilarious and suddenly terrifyingly bleak. It perceives the seemingly imperceptible switch between living your life and ending it.

But all this doesn't mean it shuts out the larger reality either: like Elephant, it's also the most incisive cultural critique of its subject around. They understand Columbine and Cobain better than the respective "jocks and losers, video games and gun culture" and "drugs and rock n' roll, alienation and fame" analyses that are the simplistic summations generally offered by most commentators. To top it all of, it's a bravura piece of filmmaking and one of the most stunning cinematic achievements I've ever seen. I don't use "bravura" or "stunning cinematic achievements" as placeholders either: to create its unique mood, this film takes stylistic risks that few films even attempt - it's not just its long take style that requires both flawless acting and impeccable technical expertise, but the way in which it modulates within individual shots and arranges its sounds and images to create surprising moments. This is a film you can't make without knowing exactly what you're doing and how to pull it off. Sad, strange, funny, and beautiful. Man, what a great movie.

2. Wheel of Time.

Herzog in his Fata Morgana/Lessons of Darkness mode, a pure film in terms of the visuals and tone on which it meditates. The insane poetry of the religious spectacle it follows provides more than enough material to reach the level of "ecstatic truth" that's often goal (but not always a reality) in Herzog's work. A ritualistic approach to a film about ritual, it doesn't have the delicate precision of the sand wheel at the center of the proceedings, but its rugged hand-made quality reminds you that in some ways Herzog will never be capable of making anything other than outsider art. It's not a documentary because he's not simply a filmmaker tooling around with a camera: it's the type of film that couldn't be made without becoming a pilgrim and taking a journey of a million steps and supplicating yourself along the way. For some reason, his narrative-weak documentaries get relegated to the sidebar like interesting knick-knacks in a museum for a long-dead culture. In reality, they're the main event - artifacts crafted in the fire by a true believer, objects that are the centerpieces in his rituals of transcendence.

3. Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Speaking of hand-crafted, Nick Park's lovingly detailed work on Wallace and Gromit continues to be some of the fabulous and joyful filmmaking ever created. There's little to be said about this film that hasn't already been said by the chorus of critics world-wide praising it. What's missed in all of gushing, I think, how truly amazing a filmmaker Park is. He almost breaks out of the children's film ghetto in terms of reputation, but almost no one mentions the variety of styles and genres he effortlessly mixes and matches to great effect. Not only is this the funniest film I saw all year, it's also the best horror movie. The opening scenes perfectly ratchet up the tension and intrigue, so that you're not simply being carried along on a cascade of jokes: you're into the eerie story as well. As a comedian, is there anything he can't do? Slapstick, wordplay, visual riffs: even the minute throwaway gags in this film alone are ten times funnier than the main set-pieces that lesser comedies struggle to bring off. He works in a medium left for dead by other filmmakers and does more with lumps of clay than Dreamworks can do with a hundred computers. You'd never notice the sheer improbability of his amazing feats, though, because you're having too good a time.

4. Cache.

I was a little worried about this film before I saw it. It's being touted as Haneke's break-through film and a "thriller" and all that, so I had an inkling that this could potentially be scaled-back 'Haneke lite' or at least lacking the threatening qualities of his earlier stuff that often antagonized his audiences. Or even worse, it could be an all around embarrassment, apparently done for a paycheck and studio credibility (like Cronenberg's heart-breaking and mind-numbing History of Violence). Fortunately, it turned out to be as good (or better) than anything he's ever done. It's a subtle puzzle of a mystery film that works with the full emotional force of a basic human drama. Characteristically ambiguous and ironic, I think it's getting the benefit of critics who think it's actually simpler than it is. More than an allegory or a revenge tale, it constantly maneuvers around the obvious answers regarding class, sexual relationships and personal responsibility. It also features some of his most sophisticated filmmaking and adds more to his already extensive ideas about viewership and violence. To borrow a metaphor from Terrence Rafferty, it's structured like a garrote and keeps circling around on themes, ideas, imagines, and emotions until it reaches a choke point.  

5. The Great Yokai War.

I feel like folks don't necessarily understand my love of Miike and think that maybe it has something to do with the extremeness of it all. Clearly, that's part of it; but by extremeness, I don't think of just severed feet and kiddie-pools full of excrement - if I just liked the gross-out or the camp I would also be into filmmakers like John Waters and Lloyd Kaufman and Russ Meyer. But I'm not. What I like is that this film features a gigantic and hilarious monster party (started by a garbled message passed amongst the spirits, telephone-style) above a city subsumed by terrifying mechanical beasties created by a demonic visionary. More than any working filmmaker, Miike is interested in pursuing the limits of his imagination - it gives this film, in particular, the type of wonder and fantastic fantasy associated with kids' films; even if once again (as in Zebraman) this probably isn't something to which children should be exposed. Nothing feels off limits here, no style, no joke, no tangent, no character, no plot twist, no violence, no lust, no set-piece, no sound, no image. Miike specializes in thinking of things you never thought of and making them seem perfectly suited to the genre at hand - the part of his work that is exciting is the part that holds on to the thoughts other people dismiss or forget or repress or never even have.

Actually, this film feels like talking to the funniest guy you ever met talk about his favorite story as a child - the story that held some obscure and perverse meaning for him. And he's drunk. Amazingly, Miike is a disciplined enough filmmaker that it never seems like too much of a mess or maybe any messiness is just part of the free-wheeling charm. He seems like a kindred spirit to Fassbinder, not just in terms of output, but in the propulsive force of ideas and the dissatisfaction with cliché that drives both of their films. In that sense, Yokai is Miike's Merchant of the Four Seasons, the time he slowed down and made only one film in a year; a film that equals his best work, crystallizes his past ideas and points to his future. As always, there are flaws and awkward moments and some bad special effects, but the overall reach of the film is someplace beyond where regular filmmakers even think to look. Because nobody's looking for them, this (and Kirin beer) are the only way to see Yokai.

6. Dear Wendy.

Here's one that caught me totally off guard. Neither Von Trier nor Vinterberg is a favorite of mine, so I wasn't looking to cut this film any slack. For the first 45 minutes or so, I sat there thinking "God, this movie can't be this bad, can it?" And then I had that Bitter Moon realization: these guys aren't idiots. This is an elaborate joke! Only, the joking is so deadpan and about subjects that Americans take so seriously that I have yet to read any critic explain it for what it was. Everyone can seem to sense that it is a bit of a "fuck you" to America, to our "Independent Cinema," gun violence, class prejudices, sexual tropes and race relations. After all, that's now Von Trier's exclusive shtick; but no one really seems to get just what Dear Wendy is.

And what it is, is a parody - not a satire, not a critique, not a dramatic examination. Its tactics have more in common with Airplane than dogville and it's fascinating to see a film so committed to a project that seems like it will inevitably be misunderstood (and have that misunderstanding used against it negatively). It takes the structure/trapping/mode of a genre/style and replaces its content with laughable or incongruous material. This film is a parody of all of those hyper-masculine filmmakers who use to their advantage the exhilaration of violence and chaotic stylistics: it's Tarantino and Fincher's songs with new lyrics by "Weird Al" Yankovic - it's no mistake that it spends ¾ of the film working up to a payoff for a joke that is Borscht-Belt style groaner: now is the time of the season for loving. And it's brilliant. It exposes the mechanisms (and hidden biases and thoughtless stereotypes) of these films by placing them in the forefront: it says "don't get caught up in the story because the story is silly and see how that doesn't matter!" By the time the final SWAT team shoot-out (over a bag of coffee!) comes around, you'll be stunned how the violence and quick-cutting and junk moralism work in spite of the story or "ideas" or other things in which filmmakers claim to place a premium. They knock the hot air out of a style that inexplicably persists in retaining its credibility.  

7. White Diamond.

Of the three films Herzog released this year, this one is the most quintessentially Herzog. It has the sardonic deadpan narration, the hostile jungle setting, the strange found footage clips, the seemingly scripted moments, the overtones about imperialism, the pure insanity of a lone figure driven to an impossible task. Certainly, it's not a classic, but it is a lot of fun for devotees. This seems to be nothing stopping him from churning out a new film like this every year and god bless him for doing so. Is there any filmmaker who's more inventive and mind-blowing when just spinning his wheels? It contains some absolutely priceless footage in the jungle to offset the requisite embarrassingly un-transcendent moment or two (break-dancing by the waterfall?) - it's the type of film that makes other filmmakers look bad: Herzog went to the jungle and flew in an experimental aircraft in dangerous conditions to make his film on a tiny budget, what did you do? CGI a giant ape? Good stuff all around, but as close to being a greatest hits album as it could be without being My Best Fiend.

8. Head-On.

To paraphrase Burroughs (the butler) in Sullivan's Travels, it seems most filmmakers think of depression in the negative, as the lack of happiness - just as poorness might be called a lack of riches. But it isn't. Depression is not the lack of anything, but a positive plague, virulent in itself, contagious as cholera, with filth, criminality, vice and despair as only a few of its symptoms. This is one of the few films that doesn't view happiness as the remedy for depression and it belongs in that category with Mike Leigh's Naked as painfully insightful about a subject serially dismissed and trivialized. All that aside, this is a low profile film full of amazing performances, great individual scenes, thoughtful writing, and appropriately bleak (but still gorgeous) cinematography. But don't get the wrong impression: this film moves at an alarming pace with a fevered (but somehow lucid) desperation. The two lead actors are the best actors you've never heard of and the director's track record contains nothing to indicate that he would make this brutally delicate film. I imagine some people would find it inescapably grim, but that's what it is: a minutely observed diagnosis of inescapable grimness rendered with a survivor's clarity. It's a film that feels crucial.

9. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

As the world's fourth or fifth biggest Shane Black fan, it's easy to imagine a scenario in which I would have been defending this film even if it weren't particularly good. But, honestly, this film is great. Normally, I would use the word "banter" derisively, but this movie has great banter and great banter is always the direct result of two things: great writing and great performances. His Girl Friday has great banter. The Lady Eve has great banter. And this movie is as much an heir to those films as it could be without aping them in some kind of neo-noir, post-modern yawn-er. It seems like Black was saving up some of his best gags for his directorial debut while biding his time in the screen-writing trenches and the result is a film that seems both fresh and also like its filmmaker has been dying to make it for years. Likable to a fault, you realize that the star system in Hollywood is falling apart because they have so much trouble making stars as effortlessly appealing as they are here - you genuinely leave the theater wanting more hi-jinks from Kilmer and Robert Jr. "Hi-jinks" and you don't even use it derisively! Ever leave the theater wanting more hi-jinks from Vin Diesel or James Marsden? Exactly.

10. My Beautiful Girl, Mari.

Easily the best film you never heard to come out in America this year: this gentle and imaginative Korean animation perfectly captures the feeling of the end of summer when you're 11 years old. The beautiful look of the film is half gorgeous hand-painted detail and half Waking Life-esque digital roto-scoping - and the two styles mesh better than you could imagine. I know kids' films trade in nostalgia and the wonders of imagination (and this film is definitely no exception) but there's something unmistakably adult in its approach: it looks back with a knowingness that's both sad and beautiful. It understands how alien your own memories of your youth can become and also the implications of the world around you that were invisible at the time. It's not a paean to the virtues of friendship, imagination and youth; but an elegy to the impermanence of those purported eternal truths.

11. Grizzly Man.

A little bit of a sell-out and certainly the least accomplished movie that Herzog produced out in 2005, Grizzly Man seems to be both an attempt to cash-in on the doc craze and a made for Discovery Channel programmer. And after Incident at Loch Ness, I have no illusions about Herzog's willingness to court something like the mainstream at the expense of his own credibility. Nevertheless, Grizzly Man is full of what you'd hope for from Herzog and, as a filmmaker, Herzog is incapable of being boring or predictable. The tension between his subject's perspective and his own makes for some of his most brilliantly cutting commentary to date: he wants to make sure we're not confused as to where he stands on the subject of Kodiak bears and their preservation. Even when it leans a little too heavily on the tragedy of the whole thing (basic human drama and its attendant emotions are not his strong suit), he still manages to see something beyond what everyone else involved is capable of understanding - the utter lunacy and silliness of the big cosmic picture. He's both attracted to and repulsed by Timothy Treadwell, fully aware of the similarities in their missions and how utterly foolish they can become. Treadwell is one ecstatic visionary who makes Herzog seem to want to call "bullshit" on the entire concept.


Bad News

History of Violence.

David Cronenberg, are you trying to break my heart? From the "monsters, daddy!" cut to kick things off, to the bully straight out of Teen Wolf, to surprisingly unsurprising plot (there's a twist coming up at some point, right?), to the extremely high "bad fake accent" quotient, to the lead-footed earnestness of it all, this is the worst movie of the year in a run-away. Even if it weren't made by one of my favorite directors (and, therefore, an even bigger disappointment), I can't imagine I would be able to cut this film an ounce of slack. As lifeless and stinky and bloated as a beached flounder, there are few movies as totally embarrassing on every level (performance, plot, script, direction) not made by Tarsem or Kaos or Pitof. If you had told me before I saw it that Maria Bello was the only reasonably good thing about this film, I would assumed you were insane. And wrong. William Hurt seems to be having a good time flying off the handle in an utterly ham-fisted performance. In a half-decent film, his ridiculous posturing would have ruined it; here it comes a relief that someone is enjoying themselves. Certainly, it's not the audience.

Romance and Cigarettes.

Kate Winslet is many things; among them, she is a great actress. She is also a performer who should be given credit for consistently pursuing challenging and non-standard material. What she is not, however, is conventionally attractive. Don't get me wrong, I think that she has a style and intelligence that makes her hot, but casting her as a sultry mega-babe in a tight red dress is just one of this film's many problems. Incidentally, the fact that she looks like a horse-faced transvestite in this movie is actually among the least of its problems. I saw this at Toronto with John Cribbs. It's John Turturro's second directorial offering and it seems to have sat on a shelf for a couple years. The logo in the credits was for UA, which doesn't even exist at this point.

Almost certainly, it got funding based on its cast (Susan Saradon, James Gandolfini, Mary Louise-Parker, Kate Winslet) a cast that would have been white hot. a couple years ago. Really, it's no wonder it's been buried and I'd be surprised if it ever sees the light of day, even on video. It's a cluttered, jarring and ultimately formless comedy based around the domestic foibles of James Gandolfini and wife Susan Saradon. It jumps right into the plot and never lets up, it veers wildly into profanity, it labors to make an ounce of sense out it's characters perfunctory relationships, and (worst of all) it features embarrassing stunt casting. Did I mention it's a musical? No? Don't worry, we get to hear popular favorites like "Take Another Piece of My Heart" belted out by good actors who should be ashamed of themselves. There's intentionally ramshackle choreography that's isn't awkward enough to be funny or creative enough to be legitimately interesting. It's the type of film that expects to get a laugh simply by having Eddie Izzard play a priest. There's no joke to go along with it, just winking self-satisfaction. I'm sure as we speak, Kate Winslet's agent is working to have the negative destroyed. I hope so, at any rate: I like to think of her as beautiful and talented.


Another collective project that stinks like shit. Only Wong Kar-Wai gets out alive and his film only reaches the level of "meh." Antonioni's entry leads me to believe that he's actually dead and that it was directed by an impostor. Or conversely, that he should die already because he's creeping everybody out with all of the naked ladies and ultra-pretentiousness. Soderbergh's entry leads me to believe that he is an asshole. Real "clever," dude. What happened to the man who made Schizopolis and Out of Sight? Oh right, he married Jules Asner and thinks Julia Roberts is the most talented living actress in America. How come good filmmakers can't make good short films? Does the omnibus format just not work? At any rate, stay away from this stinkbomb.

Batman Begins.

Could movies please, please, please stop asking me to consider the psychology of superheroes as though it's on the level with Kierkagaard and Sigue Sigue Sputnik? It actually made me look back at the Schumacher films fondly: those were at least trying to have fun. Even if they ended up being as fun as getting sucker-punched by Kimo Von Oelhoffen. Katie Holmes brings her two expressions (blank and sneering) to the most under-whelming love-story of the decade and Christian Bale's creepy, leering performance is justified by the fact that some bats scared him when he was a kid. I guess, ultimately, the problem isn't what this film tries to do or how it approaches its material, but that it's dumb, pretentious, and overlong. Full of the type of "mythic structures" non-sense popularized by George Lucas' equally lame-brained screenwriting, can you believe how seriously this shit takes itself? Why does it get a free-pass for having its action scenes filmed in the same blurry and illegible style as every other empty-headed action film? Also, the stuff with the ninjas in the mountains is extremely "gay." But not gay enough. Full of the type of moral equivocation found in a John Grisham novel and as pointedly obsequious to boot: this film pretends to ask tough questions (really, in a fucking Batman movie?) while desperately struggling to tell you what you want to hear.

9 Songs.

If the idea is that a relationship can be characterized by the sex in it, then these folks had a boring and awkward relationship. Conversely, if a film can be characterized be the sex in it, then this is a boring and awkward film. A couple good songs don't make up for the lazy, half-baked execution and cruddy, VHS-style camera work. Will Michael Winterbottom please stop masquerading as an interesting filmmaker and make movies that have descriptions that sound as stupid and bad as they actually are? I just know I'm going to see Tristam Shandy and that it's going to suck, but how can I miss a film starring Steve Coogan based on Sterne's Tristam Shandy?! It sounds fucking great! Just like a film focusing on a couple's sex and music life featuring some decent music and hardcore fucking sounds interesting. The girl is even pretty! Honestly, how do you screw that up? Even at 70 minutes it's too long.

The Island.

Of course this film is bad, I don't really need to go into the specifics: Sco-Jo, the director of Bad Boys 2, an eighteen hour running time, futro jumpsuits, etc. What I can't understand is how they can get away with ripping off Clonus so completely. If I made a movie called Snow White and the Eight Dwarves (that had the same plot as a similar film but with, you know, eight dwarves instead of seven), Disney would sue me so fast and so efficiently that my dog would be cleaning toilets for them by the end of the week. Seriously, this movie doesn't have a plot like the plot of Clonus, it has the same fucking plot as Clonus. Not that Clonus is good or anything. I'm not trying to stick up for Clonus. I'm just pointing it out.

Secuestro Express.

Misogyny in film form. Good see that unknown Venezuelan hacks can make micro-budgeted, shot on grainy-DV vanity projects. Apparently made as part of an audition to be the next Tony Scott, this movie stinks like piss in a gutter and I suspect its filmmakers of the worst intentions. Leers over rape, violence, and homosexuality like it was concocted by a 43 year-old janitor whose favorite movie is Delta Force. Don't worry, though, it turns out the lead thug (played by the director) has a heart of gold - even if it is buried beneath of a steaming pile of anti-hero nihilistic coolness. Barf.


I never had this happen to me before, where there's a book I love - not just love, but identify with in some way - and they make a movie out of it that misses the point so entirely that's it's as though somebody just heard about the plot and didn't read it, but decided to buy the rights and call it the same thing. It genuinely feels like someone is trying to kill something you love. It made me so depressed - really sad, actually - and as much as I wanted to laugh at the misplaced histrionics and the miscasting and the simplistic approach, I just couldn't. The problem is this: the filmmakers/actors/writers took a literal approach to material that is sly and sarcastic. The book is a demolition of the methodology of psychiatry/psychology, but the film seems to think it's a love story about repressed passion and the dangers of unquenchable desire. It's an embarrassment and a disgrace to an amazing novel.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

I think Paul Cooney actually hated this movie more than I did. Have you ever had that happen? You don't really hate a movie; but immediately after the screening the person you saw it with convinces you that you should've hated it (and really probably did) but were just too bored to notice. I think that's what happened here because the mere thought of this film makes me hoppin' mad like Yosemite Sam and I can barely remember anything about it. In most films I hate, I can remember tiny the details (the worst lines, the irritating plot convolutions, the futro jumpsuits). but all I can remember here is that Doug Liman is suddenly on the outs and that I will never watch an episode of "the O.C." because that kid has a small role.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Here's the recipe: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Gracia on a bed of Naked Spur seasoned with Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag. Garnish with Weekend at Bernie's. Tastes as good as it sounds. Bon appetite!

I guess this doesn't even count, but Beowulf and Grendel.


Everyone is Wrong?

These are the films that people went nuts for, but that are actually not very good. Few of them are out and out terrible (History of Violence being a glaring exception), but the gleeful to mind-blown receptions that they received were misguided at best. Every movie on this list is somebody's favorite movie. They are wrong.

History of Violence. Folks I normally respect like Amy Taubin and David Schwartz said this was the best film of the year and possibly Cronenberg's best film. Parallels to Iraq? Complex characters? Lean and efficient thriller? Maybe the cuts they showed at Toronto and Cannes were different because the movie I saw was fucking brain-dead.

Wedding Crashers. John Cribbs' predictions about the plot of this movie were eerie: you only needed to read those four or so sentences to know the soup to nuts on this one. Owen Wilson has a long and sordid history of saving (or, really, trying to save) worthless projects, but this was shockingly unfunny.

Kung Fu Hustle. How come every time someone steals a gag from Tex Avery they're credited with being original? I guess this dude is going to ride the "Jackie Chan meets Tex Avery" train to the final station, which is next to a rundown warehouse full of VHS copies of They Call Me Bruce. It's also exhibit A in the case of The People vs. Stupid-Looking Computer Graphics.

Match Point. Reaching the level of complete mediocrity isn't something most legends strive for, but I guess if you're a fan something like this is a relief.

L'Enfant. I don't really understand the reverence that so many likable and intelligent critics hold for the Dardenne's shaky-cam social realism. It seems like a dodge how their films are over-populated with completely inarticulate characters with supposedly "base" motivations. Everything about this film is rendered in an apocryphal short-hand that feels as false as it does immediate and grimy. Condescending, Liberal hand-wringing on celluloid.

Sin City. This was some silly, silly non-sense. They need to stop making movies from comic books, especially comix of the hard-boiled, adult, graphic novel kind - they're always so lame. Also, any movie with a stripper that doesn't get naked is junk. [sobs quietly].

Good Night and Good Luck. Another film with a black and white gimmick, this reminiscence about the highpoint of the tradition of liberal decency was about as interesting and morally complicated as a "Goofus and Gallant" strip. Granted, I like "Goofus and Gallant" (the stark design element and moral clarity are a revelation, aren't they?), so I found this movie mildly diverting; but mild really is the only way to describe this wispy throwaway. The charges of being self-congratulatory are true. Few filmmakers have the nerve to claim they're courting controversy when they're making a film about one of the few things everyone can agree on: McCarthy was a shithead. Up next: The Holocaust sucked. Doesn't he know this is Spielberg's job?

The Squid and the Whale. The formula is simple: handheld camera, raw (aka unshaven and/or ruddy) performances, a perfectly chosen sub-pop soundtrack that plays out over shots of stuff in slow-motion or someone running (preferably someone running in slow-mo), exactly three good one-liners (for use in the trailer), and a washed-up former Hollywood dude. Bonus points for ripping off a great, but virtually unknown better film (like say, Murmurs of the Heart. Or Killer of Sheep if you're David Gordon Green). Do inoffensive nostalgia pieces like this actually serve any function? Fuck that, for all its posturing, this movie's got no heart.

Munich. I actually have a lot of thoughts about this film and why it is the way it is, but for now I'll just say that its "why can't we all just get along" stuffing wrapped in a "hunter becomes the hunted" tortilla is as conventionally bland as a Taco Bell burrito. Incidentally, that sounds delicious. This movie is not.

Brokeback Mountain. If this movie had any guts I would've gotten to see at least one erect cock. Just one. Not even in a dude's mouth or anything - just something to let me know what all the fuss is about.



Well made films that worked. but were impossible to care about because they were so staid and inoffensive (even when their whole shtick was offensiveness). Just fine, maybe even enjoyable. but exactly what you'd expect and nothing more. Can a film be both entirely successful and utterly worthless?

Pride and Prejudice

The Constant Gardener


The Aristocrats

The Beat that My Heart Skipped

Me and You and Everyone We Know


Not necessarily disappointments

These films were either slightly better than I expected (but not great) or not as good as I had hoped. Still, I liked them all a good deal - they had their charms as much as their flaws. If anything, it's encouraging to see directors trying new things and making a mess. The list is a mix of filmmakers using the same tricks they always use (with diminishing returns) and filmmakers taking on tasks they're just barely not up for - they're either holding patterns by talented folks or mis-steps in the right direction. Most likely, I'll bet that some of them will actually age really well and look like great movies a couple years from now. Conversely, some will rot and seem just terrible in retrospect.

Wong Kar Wai's 2046

Richard Linklater's Bad News Bears

Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers

Andrew Niccoli's Lord of War

George Romero's Land of the Dead

Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle


Didn't need to see to know they're crap:

Fantastic Four


Guess Who?

9 Lives

Hustle & Flow

In Her Shoes

The Upside of Anger

The Merchant of Venice

Rumor Has It

Cheaper by the Dozen 2

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (but I did)

Capote (and yet, see it I did)


You won't sucker me a third time: Revenge of the Sith

The Nouvelle Vague's not dead, it just deserves to die: Rohmer's Triple Agent, Godard's Notre Music, Resnais' Not on the Lips.

Movies I didn't see, for which there are possible (even if unlikely) scenarios in which I can imagine they're actually good: The World, Keane, Saraband, A Tout de Suite, Shopgirl (Maybe not - Claire Danes?), Ballad of Jack and Rose (Probably not - Rebecca Miller w/ hubby Daniel Day?), Mysterious Skin (Greg Araki? I guess it's possible. For all I know he may someday specialize in charmingly goofy stoner comedies), Tell Them Who You Are

Movie I keep forgetting about, but really want to see: The Girl From Monday


Hollywood Movies with famous movie stars that I saw in an actual movie theater, but which you might not even remember existed (they all have forgettable titles, to boot):


Sound of Thunder



Local Hero award for the over-rated under-rated film of the year: Funny Ha-Ha


Better than they had any right to be:

The Matador

40 Year-old Virgin

Sky High

Wolf Creek

Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo


(continues on next page with The Advantages of Obscurity in 2005)

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