2000 GRAHAMMY AWARDS (FILM
Dear Valued Subscribers,
I'd Like To Continue Onto Part II, Thank You Very Much...
Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years, rockin' my
peers and puttin' suckers to tears. But after the dubiously mixed
fanfare created by the release of The Grahammy's 90/90 ("Kinda
like MTV 1515 on Mad Dog 20/20 but not really"), I went into
a self-imposed exile. In retrospect, releasing somewhere in the
neighborhood of 8,464 words on your friends in just under a
fortnight may have been a tad bit excessive. So rather than being
ex-communicated from your inboxes (Lord knows how many of you
have already "blocked sender" on me), I spent sometime
flying below the pop culture radar. I rather enjoyed my time...I
picked up needlepoint, learned how to hang glide, and shoveled my
parents' driveway a handful of times. I also read the complete
works of Anthony "Tony" Robbins (effectively waking my
giant within), brushed up on my Pig Latin, and wrote the script
for "If These Walls Could Talk 2." Additional time was
spent surfing EBay looking for re-runs of "Little Wonder"
on DVD, learning how to draw Pikachu, and being a roadie for Alan
Keyes. Among other things, of course. But with all the movie buzz
being generated by yesterday's release of the 2000 Academy Award
nominations, I figured now was as good a time as any to un-retire.
So without further ado, I not-so-humbly present to you the 2000
Grahammy Film Awards...
Top Ten Films of
Close but no Cuban: Alexander Payne's "Election" was deliciously subversive and satirical,
led by a superb performance by Reese Witherspoon (which was of
course overlooked by Oscar); "Three Kings" (David O. Russell) deftly combined popcorn
thrills and a strong political POV; "Notting Hill" (Roger Michell) restored my faith in the
romantic comedy (shrewd Grahammy observers will note that I
nicked this quote from an old-skool review of the Tim Robbins/Meg
Ryan vehicle "I.Q."); the pulse-pounding pace and Tom
Twyker's hyper direction of "Run Lola Run" made me feel vibrantly alive.
Movie" (directed by
Chris Smith) - A late-breaking entry (this film just hit MI this
week). Tells the story of a Wisconsin filmmaker named Mark
Borchardt, whose life and work combines the madcap enthusiasm (not
to mention lack of talent) of Ed Wood with the passion and
determination of an Aldous Huxley character. The film's key to
success is that it avoids the all-too-easy temptation to make the
audience solely laugh AT the foibles and faults of these
characters; instead we empathize with their challenges and
respect the intimate and unbreakable bond of friendship between
Mike and Mark.
Laid Plans" (Mike
Barker) - A serious darkhorse. I doubt if more than one other
person on this distribution list even saw this movie. I think the
best way to describe this movie is to imagine a Southwestern neo-noir
thriller like "Red Rock West" directed by someone
British like Danny Boyle. Starring Reese Witherspoon and
Allesandro Nivola (best remembered as Pollux Troy from "Face/Off")
as young lovers on the lam, "Best Laid Plans"
oscillates between a moral dilemna of love and friendship and a
heist-gone-awry flick. Stylish and subtle at the same time.
Matrix" (The Wachowski
Brothers) - The ad campaign challenged the public with the
question, "What is the Matrix?" America answered
resoundingly, "BEST EVER!" The Wachowski Brothers built
upon the promise they showed in their feature debut "Bound"
and then some with this wildly inventive mish-mash of sci-fi,
Kung Fu, and stoner philosophy. Though the movie's plot gets
tired with repeated viewings, the action scenes (esp. when Neo
and Trinity go to rescue Morpheus) just get better and better.
Soderbergh) - Steven Soderbergh is the very definition of "en
fuego." He gets his swerve on in a major way with his follow-up
to last year's bravura "Out of Sight." Terence Stamp's
Wilson is The Limey referred to in the title, an English "fish
out of water" in LA. The plot revolves around Wilson's
attempts to reconstruct the shady chain of events that led to the
untimely death of his daughter. But the movie's dynamics are more
about Wilson coming to terms with his own faults as a father than
exacting revenge on the slippery California music producer (played
by Peter Fonda) he feels is responsible for his daughter's death.
Soderbergh's maturation as a director has taught him how to blend
style with substance; present are the loopy-time structure he
utilized in "Out of Sight" and "The Underneath",
his patented unorthodox editing style, and the bleached out
cinematography. Also features sterling supporting performances
from Luis Guzman and Lesley Ann Warren.
Straight Story" (David
Lynch) - The uniquely Lynchian true story of an 80-year old man
who rides 400 miles across Iowa into Wisconsin to visit his
ailing estranged brother. Uh, did I mention he makes this voyage
ON HIS LAWNMOWER? Whoops. Up to this point, David Lynch's finest
moments revolved around peering beneath the underbelly of
suburbia and exposing the cancers hidden from public consumption.
This film exposes Lynch as a director richly capable of mining
the subtleties of human behaviour and familial relationships. The
cinematography is simply majestic, the performances are
phenomenal (esp. Richard Farnsworth & Sissy Spacek), and best
of all, Big Ed Hurley himself (fans of "Twin Peaks"
will know who I'm talkin' bout) makes a cameo. Lynch's best work
since the pilot of "Twin Peaks."
Insider" (Michael Mann)
- What does it mean to be a man? Other films ("Glengarry
Glen Ross" and "Falling Down" are two that
immediately come to mind) and other directors (notably Abel
Ferrara) have explored this subject matter, but Michael Mann has
the whole masculinity subject cornered (if this sounds familiar,
it's because I'm paraphrasing myself from The Grahammy's 90/90 -
"Kinda like MTV 1515 on Mad Dog 20/20 but not really").
A blistering performance by Russell Crowe (as the whistle-blower
Jeffrey Wigand) steals the spotlight from heavyweight talents
like Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer (whose portrayal of 60
Minutes anchor Mike Wallace was Oscar's greatest oversight) in
this tale of the high stakes risks of taking on Big Tobacco. The
kind of movie that makes you unconsciously clench your fists and
grind your teeth.
Beauty" (Sam Mendes) -
When I first saw this, I thought for sure it was the Film To Beat
for the 2000 Grahammy Awards. But then the last four months of
1999 saw the release of a baker's dozen (at least!) of incredible
films and, honestly, this film got kinda lost in the shuffle (not
deservedly). For this film is to the `90s what "Wall Street"
was to the `80s...a kick in the ass that reminds us that all that
glitters is not necessarily gold. It's a coda to the decade where
the last of the Boomers turned 40 and realized that suburban life
ain't all it's cracked up to be. There is nary a performance in
the film that is less than excellent; especially magical are
Ricky's (Wes Bentley) relationships with his father (Chris Cooper)
and the Burnham's daughter Jane (Thora Birch). But this is Kevin
Spacey's movie through and through; his Lester Burnham is the
Everyman who is sacrificed for the sins of his generation.
3) "Magnolia" (PT Anderson) - "The book says 'You
may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with you".
So says Ricky Jay's omniscent narrator in the bizarro opening
segment to PT Anderson's magnificently flawed opus about love,
redemption and forgiveness called "Magnolia." This
movie is big and bold, audacious and ambitious, but as I said
just one sentence ago, it is also flawed. That's not to take
anything away from what PT has accomplished here; you have got to
give props to the man for making this big ship sail so
majestically. But a second viewing reveals that Anderson lays on
the foreshadowing a little thick with the whole Exodus 8:2 angle,
and the whole Quiz Kid Donnie Smith sub-plot becomes almost
unbearable. PT also has a tendency to make his women characters a
little one-dimensional (see Julianne Moore and Melora Walters).
Outside of those things, however, this film goes places no other
film would dare. The leading male performances from John C.
Reilly, Jason Robards, Tom Cruise and Philip Seymour Hoffman are
spot-on. The camera work is dizzying and great. And in shades of
"Being John Malkovich", Luis Guzman has a cameo playing
himself. And what other director could pull off a scene where the
entire cast sings along to an Aimee Mann song (which btw was my
favorite scene in any movie this year)? The answer is no one. PT
Anderson is a national treasure and this film needs and deserves
John Malkovich" (Spike
Jonze) - Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich. Go back in time to
January 8, 1998, when the 1998 Grahammy Music Awards were
announced. If you haven't saved your Grahammy's, I'll do you the
favor of patting my own back and refer you to the following
"Best Videos of 1997 - Chemical Brothers, "Elektrobank"-Sofia
Coppola does her best Kerri Strug impression in another Spike
Jonze masterpiece. When is Hollywood going to let him direct
Well just over two years later, my wish came true. Hollywood
finally let Spike direct a movie (although not until after they
pushed him around when he tried to get "Harold and The
Purple Crayon" made), and we were all rewarded with the most
inventive and daring movie since Kubrick's "2001" (or
maybe even Salvador Dali's "Un Chien Andalou"). I mean
c'mon. We're talking dance interpretations of Emily Dickinson's
"The Belles of Amherst" as performed by a 60-FOOT TALL
MARIONETTE! We're talking a movie where, arguably, the only
heroic character is Cameron Diaz's pet chimp! We're talking a
movie whose entire premise (radically simplified, of course)
revolves around what it means to fuck with the mind (sometimes
literally) of John Malkovich! What else could you possibly ask
for? Well, if you're in the mood for laughs, this film's only
rival for comedic supremacy is "American Movie" - the
career-saving cameo by Charlie Sheen alone is good enough for
hours upon hours of hearty laughter. If you're in the mood for
some serious psychoanalytical debate, try thinking about and
dissecting the relationship square between Cusack/Diaz/Keener/Malkovich.
This is the kind of movie that is endlessly watchable; sure to go
down as one of the all-time classics, this film ushered cinema
into the new millennium.
Club" (David Fincher) -
I've said it before and I'll say it again. This film is
Kubrickian in the fact that it's at least five years ahead of its
time. It will take years for America to catch up and realize that
this film is the cinematic equivalent of era-defining novels such
as Douglas Coupland's "Generation X: Tales Of An Accelerated
Culture" and JD Salinger's "Catcher In The Rye".
Its portrayal of America's emasculated twenty to thirtysomething
white males raised on television who have no war to define
themselves against is a masterpiece (as Tyler Durden says, "Our
generation has had no Great Depression, no Great War. Our war is
spiritual. Our depression is our lives"). Even though the
ending is kind of wack, it's a triumph of visual style and
storytelling prowess. Edward Norton's Narrator and Brad Pitt's
Tyler Durden are characters for the ages. The Dust Brothers'
techno/trance-y score perfectly compliments and enhances what you
perceive visually. Fincher's directorial skills are top notch and
his ability to savagely steer into taboo topics (such as all of
the cancer jokes and Bob's "man tits") is unmatched.
And a film that implicity states that "You have to be
prepared for the possibility that God does not like you" (another
Tyler Durden-ism) is a film that doesn't shy away from asking the
tough questions. It ultimately demands the viewer to answer the
question of who exactly you are as a person. Best.