Monday, March 14, 2005

Unlikely assertions...

I got a pretty big chuckle out of a cover headline on the March 2005 issue of Premiere magazine: “THE HOT 100 / Critics Vote on the Year’s [2004] Best Films.” I don’t think I’m alone in suspecting that it’s been quite a while, if ever, since Hollywood produced in one year a hundred films even remotely worthy of a ‘best’ designation. Pretty much by default, wouldn’t that end up being a list of 100 films that were better than SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2?
In the end, this wasn’t an article; it was a two-page table weighting the respective zero to four-star ratings awarded each of 100 films by fifteen major print critics. Admittedly, the cover blurb doesn’t put the words 100’ and ‘best’ together, but were Catwoman (#100, with two one-star reviews and 9 zero-star ones) or Alexander (#99, one two-star, seven one-stars and seven zero stars) even remotely ‘hot’, either? By the way, that latter rating seems to somewhat undercut Oliver Stone and Colin Farrell’ constantly reiterated assertion that audiences stayed away because so many Americans are fundamentalist homophobes.

Of course, then there are simply matters of taste. Was Lars Van Trier’s agitprop epic Dogville, a film so didactic and braying that even Roger Ebert memorably ripped it a new one, really better (#72) than Ocean’s 12 (#73), a movie that might not have lived up to its predecessor but was still a fun little trifle? And while I didn’t see either film, was Denzel Washington’s Man on Fire (#89) really just microscopically better than the almost universally panned The Day After Tomorrow (#90)?

[On a side note, Dogville is meant to be the first chapter of a planned trilogy. Humorously, it just so happens that star Nicole Kidman has had to drop out of the second film, supposedly due to schedule conflicts. A less painful way to have fun at Van Trier’s expense is to watch the documentary The Five Obstructions, in which the neurotic director attempts to screw up a more linier filmmaker by dictating ‘obstructions’ the fellow must work under. As the guy continues to make marvelous little films, Van Trier practically melts down.]

One odd note is that filmmakers and critics still feel a warm, fuzzy nostalgia for totalitarian regimes and murderers, at least as long as they were communist one. Or so I infer from the high, back-to-back position of The Motorcycle Diaries (#28, a romantic yarn about the young Che Guevara) and Goodbye, Lenin! (#29, comic farce about a son frantically attempting to hide the end of the Cold War from his lovable, hardcore communist West German mother).


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