Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Decade List: Awards (2000)

Here's what I've got so far:

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV - dir. Lloyd Kaufman
Dancer in the Dark - dir. Lars von Trier
George Washington - dir. David Gordon Green
Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes [Water Drops on Burning Rocks] - dir. François Ozon
Presque rien [Come Undone / Almost Nothing] - dir. Sébastien Lifshitz
Sånger från andra våningen [Songs from the Second Floor] - dir. Roy Andersson
Sous le sable [Under the Sand] - dir. François Ozon

And, as I've stated many times before, I'm going to continue to revisit/watch/write about more films from the year 2000 throughout the year. The ones I'm working on now: Andrzej Żuławski's La fidélité, Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, Michael Haneke's Code Unknown [Code inconnu]. The ones I still have yet to see (which means they may, or may not, be written about in the future): Edward Yang's Yiyi, Im Kwon-taek's Chunhyang, Jia Zhang-ke's Platform, Terence Davies' House of Mirth, Olivier Assayas' Les destinées sentimentales, Volker Schlöndorff's Die Stille nach dem Schuß [The Legend of Rita] and Béla Tarr's Werckmeister harmóniák [Werckmeister Harmonies], among a few others.

Additionally, here is a run-down of the major award shows/festivals from the year (or at least the ones corresponding to the films released during that year). Keep in mind though that a number of the films below were "officially" released in 1999.


Palme d'Or: Dancer in the Dark - dir. Lars von Trier
Grand Prix: Devils on the Doorstep - dir. Jiang Wen
Jury Prize: (tie) Sånger från andra våningen [Songs from the Second Floor] - dir. Roy Andersson; Blackboards - dir. Samira Makhmalbaf
Director: Edward Yang - Yiyi
Actor: Tony Leung - In the Mood for Love
Actress: Björk - Dancer in the Dark
Screenplay: James Flamberg, John C. Richards - Nurse Betty
Camera d'Or: (tie) Djomeh - dir. Hassan Yektapanah; Time for Drunken Horses - dir. Bahman Ghobadi


Golden Lion: The Circle - dir. Jafar Panahi
Grand Special Jury Prize: Before Night Falls - dir. Julian Schnabel
Actor: Javier Bardem - Before Night Falls
Actress: Rose Byrne - The Goddess of 1967


People's Choice Award: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - dir. Ang Lee
Discovery Award: 101 Reykjavík - dir. Baltasar Kormákur; George Washington - dir. David Gordon Green; The Day I Became a Woman - dir. Marzieh Makhmalbaf; The Iron Ladies - dir. Youngyooth Thongkonthun
Best Canadian Feature: Waydowntown - dir. Gary Burns


Golden Bear: Magnolia - dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Director: Miloš Forman - Man on the Moon
Actor: Denzel Washington - The Hurricane
Actress: Bibiana Beglau, Nadja Uhl - Die Stille nach dem Schuß [The Legend of Rita]
Jury Grand Prix: The Road Home - dir. Zhang Yimou
Jury Prize: The Million Dollar Hotel - dir. Wim Wenders


Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic): (tie) Girlfight - dir. Karyn Kusama; You Can Count on Me - dir. Kenneth Lonergan
Grand Jury Prize (Documentary): Long Night's Journey Into Day - dir. Frances Reid, Deborah Hoffmann
Director (Dramatic): Karyn Kusama - Girlfight
Director (Documentary): Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman - Paragraph 175
Special Jury Prize (Dramatic): Songcatcher, for outstanding ensemble performance; The Tao of Steve, for Donal Logue's outstanding performance
Special Jury Prize (Documentary): Aiyana Elliott - The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack, for artistic achievement; Daniel McCabe, Paul Stekler, Steve Fayer - George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire, for writing a documentary
Cinematography (Dramatic): Tom Krueger - Committed
Cinematography (Documentary): (tie) Andrew Young - Americanos: Latino Life in the United States; Marc Singer - Dark Days
Audience Award (Dramatic): Two Family House - dir. Raymond De Felitta
Audience Award (Documentary): Dark Days - dir. Marc Singer
Audience Award (World Cinema): Saving Grace - dir. Nigel Cole


Picture: Gladiator - dir. Ridley Scott
Director: Steven Soderbergh - Traffic
Actor: Russell Crowe - Gladiator
Actress: Julia Roberts - Erin Brockovich
Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro - Traffic
Supporting Actress: Marcia Gay Harden - Pollock
Original Screenplay: Cameron Crowe - Almost Famous
Adapted Screenplay: Stephen Gaghan - Traffic
Cinematography: Peter Pau - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Documentary: Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport - dir. Mark Jonathan Harris, Deborah Oppenheimer
Foreign Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - dir. Ang Lee


Film: Gladiator - dir. Ridley Scott
Director: Ang Lee - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Film Not in the English Language: In the Mood for Love - dir. Wong Kar-wai
British Film: Billy Elliot - dir. Stephen Daldry
Actor: Jamie Bell - Billy Elliot
Actress: Julia Roberts - Erin Brockovich
Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro - Traffic
Supporting Actress: Julie Walters - Billy Elliot
Original Screenplay: Cameron Crowe - Almost Famous
Adapted Screenplay: Stephen Gaghan - Traffic
Cinematography: John Mathieson - Gladiator

European Film Awards

Film: Dancer in the Dark - dir. Lars von Trier
Actor: Sergi López - Harry un ami qui vous veut du bien [With a Friend Like Harry]
Actress: Björk - Dancer in the Dark
Cinematography: Vittorio Storaro - Goya en Burdeos [Goya in Bordeaux]
Screenplay: Agnès Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri - Le goût des autres [The Taste of Others]
Documentary: Les glaneurs et la glaneuse [The Gleaners & I] - dir. Agnès Varda
Discovery: Laurent Cantet - Ressources humaines [Human Resources]
Screen International: Wong Kar-wai - In the Mood for Love
Audience Award (Actor): Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson - Englar alheimsins [Angels of the Universe]
Audience Award (Actress): Björk - Dancer in the Dark
Audience Award (Director): Lars von Trier - Dancer in the Dark

Independent Spirit

Feature: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - dir. Ang Lee
First Feature: You Can Count on Me - dir. Kenneth Lonergan
Feature Under $500,000: Chuck & Buck - dir. Miguel Arteta
Director: Ang Lee - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Male Lead: Javier Bardem - Before Night Falls
Female Lead: Ellen Burstyn - Requiem for a Dream
Supporting Male: Willem Dafoe - Shadow of the Vampire
Supporting Female: Zhang Ziyi - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Debut Performance: Michelle Rodriguez - Girlfight
Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan - You Can Count on Me
First Screenplay: Gina Prince-Bythewood - Love and Basketball
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique - Requiem for a Dream
Documentary: Dark Days - dir. Marc Singer
Foreign Film: Dancer in the Dark - dir. Lars von Trier

Golden Globes

Picture (Drama): Gladiator - dir. Ridley Scott
Picture (Comedy/Musical): Almost Famous - dir. Cameron Crowe
Director: Ang Lee - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Actor (D): Tom Hanks - Cast Away
Actress (D): Julia Roberts - Erin Brockovich
Actor (M/C): George Clooney - O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Actress (M/C): Renée Zellweger - Nurse Betty
Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro - Traffic
Supporting Actress: Kate Hudson - Almost Famous
Screenplay: Stephen Gaghan - Traffic
Foreign Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - dir. Ang Lee


Best French Film: Le goût des autres [The Taste of Others] - dir. Agnès Jaoui
Director: Dominik Moll - Harry un ami qui vous veut du bien [With a Friend Like Harry]
Actor: Sergi López - Harry un ami qui vous veut du bien
Actress: Dominique Blanc - Stand-by
Supporting Actor: Gérard Lanvin - Le goût des autres
Supporting Actress: Anna Alvaro - Le goût des autres
Promising Actor: Jalil Lespert - Resources humaines [Human Resources]
Promising Actress: Sylvie Testud - Les blessures assassines [Murderous Maids]
Screenplay: Agnès Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri - Le goût des autres
Cinematography: Agnès Godard - Beau travail
Foreign Film: In the Mood for Love - dir. Wong Kar-wai
Best First Film: Ressources humaines - dir. Laurent Cantet


Worst Film: Battlefield Earth - dir. Roger Christian
Worst Director: Roger Christian - Battlefield Earth
Worst Actor: John Travolta - Battlefield Earth, Lucky Numbers
Worst Actress: Madonna - The Next Best Thing
Worst Supporting Actor: Barry Pepper - Battlefield Earth
Worst Supporting Actress: Kelly Preston - Battlefield Earth
Worst Screenplay: Corey Mandell, J.D. Shapiro - Battlefield Earth
Worst Remake/Sequel: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 - dir. Bill Carraro

The Decade List: (Some of) The Worst Films (2000)

Though I don't wish to devote time writing about the following films, I have made a shortlist of some of the significantly awful films from 2000 that I had the displeasure of seeing:

- Baise-moi - dir. Virginie Despentes, Coralie Trinh Thi - France
- Battle Royale - dir. Kinji Fukasaku - Japan
- Battlefield Earth - dir. Roger Christian - USA
- Big Momma's House - dir. Raja Gosnell - USA
- Boys and Girls - dir. Robert Iscove - USA
- The Crow: Salvation - dir. Bharat Nalluri - USA/Germany
- Dr. T & the Women - dir. Robert Altman - USA/Germany
- Groove - dir. Greg Harrison - USA
- Hollow Man - dir. Paul Verhoeven - USA/Germany
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas - dir. Ron Howard - USA/Germany
- The Iron Ladies - dir. Youngyooth Thongkonthun - Thailand
- Km. 0 - dir. Yolanda García Serrano, Juan Luis Iborra - Spain
- Malèna - dir. Giuseppe Tornatore - Italy/USA
- Mission: Impossible 2 - dir. John Woo - USA/Germany
- Mission to Mars - dir. Brian De Palma - USA
- Pay It Forward - dir. Mimi Leder - USA
- The Smokers - dir. Kat Slater - USA
- Stardom - dir. Denys Arcand - Canada/France
- Vulgar - dir. Bryan Johnson - USA

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pervasive Language

So apparently Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno has been rated NC-17 by the MPAA, and if anyone wonders why the NC-17 is still taboo, the media sure doesn't help change this. Using verbs like "slapped" and "hit" by an NC-17 rating just aids the notion that the rating is a bad thing. Of course, the studio will adjust the film to get its desired under-17 crowd; I just wish online "journalists" could update their vocabulary.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Decade List: Albums/Singles (2000)

"Broad" is not usually the word I'd use to describe my taste in music. Though I have a shame-free, and most importantly discerning, fascination with pop music, the bulk of my musical interests isn't terribly surprising. As the year 2000 proved to be the most difficult to narrow down in terms of cinema, music proved just as taxing, as I'd like to think I've advanced myself beyond my high school years. I haven't. And that isn't such a bad thing, I suppose. Below you'll find sixteen notable/significant/worthy albums from the year 2000, loosely organized in order of preference or at least how often I find myself listening to them now. A music critic, I ain't. In collecting the "Assorted Jams of 2000," I stuck by my rules for film and only included tracks off albums that were released during the year as opposed to the single's release date (if it fact it was a single). So, alas, some choice "jams" were left off.

PJ Harvey - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
Check It: "This Mess We're In" (featuring Thom Yorke on lead vocals)

Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
Check It: "Everyday"

Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain
Check It: "Horse Tears"

Shellac - 1000 Hurts
Check It: "Prayer to God"

Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica
Check It: "Lives"

Antony and the Johnsons - Antony and the Johnsons
Check It: "Atrocities"

Piano Magic - Artists' Rifles
Check It: "The Index"

Mojave 3 - Excuses for Travellers
Check It: "Trying to Reach You"

Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R
Check It: "Auto Pilot"

The Black Heart Procession - Three
Check It: "Waterfront (The Sinking Road)"

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

Duster - Contemporary Movement
Check It: "Get the Dutch"

Doves - Lost Souls
Check It: "Rise"

At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command
Check It: "One-Armed Scissor"

The Czars - Before... But Longer
Check It: "Dave's Dream"

Radiohead - Kid A
Check It: "Everything in Its Right Place"

Assorted Jams from the Year 2000:

Kylie Minogue - "Spinning Around" (from Light Years)
Outkast - "Ms. Jackson" (from Stankonia)
Étienne Daho - "Ouverture" (from Corps et armes)
Elliott Smith - "Son of Sam" (from Figure 8)
Björk - "Cvalda" (from Selmasongs) [Also check out my piece on Dancer in the Dark]
Aaliyah featuring Timbaland - "Try Again" (from the Romeo Must Die OST)

Broadcast - "Come On Let's Go" (from The Noise Made by People)
Mirwais - "I Can't Wait" (from Production)
Cat Power - "Sea of Love" (from The Covers Record)
Saint Etienne - "Heart Failed (In the Back of a Taxi)" (from Sound of Water)
Coldplay - "Trouble" (from Parachutes)

Primal Scream - "Kill All Hippies" (from Xtrmntr)
Smog - "Dress Sexy at My Funeral" (from Dongs of Sevotion)
Mystikal - "Shake Ya Ass" (from Let's Get Ready)
Goldfrapp - "Human" (from Felt Mountain)
Travis - "Luv" (from The Man Who)

Erykah Badu - "Bag Lady" (from Mama's Gun) [The video is fan-tastic]
Destiny's Child - "Independent Woman, Part 1" (from the Charlie's Angels OST)
Peaches - "Diddle My Skittle" (from The Teaches of Peaches) [yes the link takes you to that video]
Air - "Playground Love" (from The Virgin Suicides OST)
Ryan Adams - "Come Pick Me Up" (from Heartbreaker)

Common featuring Erykah Badu - "The Light" (from Like Water for Chocolate)
Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue - "Kids" (from Sing When You're Winning) [also of note, though the song isn't especially good, is the video for "Rock DJ"]
Aimee Mann - "Nothing Is Good Enough" (from The Bachelor No. 2 (Or, The Last Remains of the Dodo))
Nelly Furtado - "Turn Off the Light" (from Whoa, Nelly!)
The Dandy Warhols - "Godless" (from Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia)

Do Make Say Think - "When Day Chokes the Night" (from Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord Is Dead)
Mya - "The Best of Me" (from Fear of Flying)
The Hives - "Hate to Say I Told You So" (from Veni Vidi Vicious)
Poe - "Haunted" (from Haunted)
Modest Mouse - "The Perfect Disguise" (from The Moon & Antarctica)
Björk featuring Thom Yorke - "I've Seen It All" (from Selmasongs)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Forward March

So March will be coming to a close in three days, and obviously I haven't hit all the films I would have liked to for the year 2000. I don't know how I underestimated the task of revisiting all these films and writing about them, but on the 31st I'll do somewhat of a round-up for the year 2000, highlighting other notable films and (maybe) mentioning the films I have yet to get to. I say "maybe" because it might promise some things I can't keep, and it might lessen the "surprises," I suppose. In other words, the beginning of each month will sort of be like the cutting of the ribbon for each ascending year... building toward something I'm still unsure of. Either way, suggestions/tips are always welcome.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Decade List: Presque rien (2000)

Presque rien [Come Undone / Almost Nothing] - dir. Sébastien Lifshitz

Few films have succeeded in capturing what Sébastien Lifshitz's feature debut Presque rien (literally Almost Nothing, re-titled Come Undone in the U.S.) accomplishes in capturing clinical depression in all its ambiguousness. To grasp what Lifshitz captures can be a challenging endeavor, one which alluded me in early viewings of the film. Presque rien is not, by any means, a romantic summer love story between a pair of good-looking, scantilly-clad teenage boys, Mathieu (Jérémie Elkaïm) and Cédric (Stéphane Rideau), nor is it a love story at all. The central romance is fueled by displaced emotions and void-fillers for both boys. It's alienation, and not of the obvious gay breed, that brings them together and, ultimately, places them further way from what they truly yearn for. This is Presque rien's greatest deception.

Weaving three periods of Mathieu's life alongside one another, his disorder becomes apparent quickly, aligning his failed suicide attempt with the earliest moments of his fateful summer vacation. The vacation itself is just as facetious as the boys' romance. Instead of a typical relaxing holiday, the vacation for Mathieu and his irritable sister (Laetitia Legrix) is just a guise for getting their ailing mother (Dominique Reymond) away from Paris (and perhaps from her absent husband as well). Through the mother's suffering, an unnamable malady that sprung after she gave birth to a child riddled with cancer, the genetic disposition for Mathieu's depression is drawn out. He claims to not truly understand his mother's illness when mentioning it to Cédric, but a shot of Mathieu crying on the balcony suggests otherwise. His tears may come from the neglect that has resulted in his mother's condition, or more likely because he knows all-too-well what she's going through.

Lifshitz's construction of Presque rien evades the narrative details of what leads Mathieu to attempt suicide, but his deterioration seeps through the carefully selected moments during that summer. He consistently fools himself in his relationship with Cédric, as Lifshitz never gives them common ground to justify their affair as being anything more than a distraction from their own longing. With the summer hours passing, Mathieu loses the spark in their relationship, as Cédric's past flings start to present themselves and as his sex drive begins to diminish.

All of Presque rien's narrative answers happen offscreen, leaving the audience with the aftermath. Suggestions to what drove the final wedge between the boys are given, but in the same way Mathieu attributes his mother's illness with the death of her baby son, this only provides the basest of reasoning for Mathieu's state of mind. Cédric admits a lapse in fidelity, which may or may not have been what pushed Mathieu to try to kill himself, but that could only been seen as the superficial catalyst. His sense of hopelessness was briefly diluted by his summer fling, but his inability to curb his depression with Cédric opened the void even further.

In many ways, Presque rien is the unmasking of fantasies. Its depiction of first love, depression and suicide are unglamorous and rid of inevitably sour nostalgia. Even for its characters, their attempts at evading truths about themselves foil in the end. Lifshitz, whom I've called the most criminally overlooked (or under-appreciated) filmmaker of the past decade, paints an unforgettable portrait of mental disorder, one that effectively gives no easy resolution. Presque rien is one of the few shining examples of astute post-New Queer Cinema film art and, without a doubt in my mind, one of the finest films of the past ten years.

With: Jérémie Elkaïm, Stéphane Rideau, Dominique Reymond, Marie Matheron, Laetitia Legrix, Nils Ohlund, Réjane Kerdaffrec, Guy Houssier
Screenplay: Stéphane Bouquet, Sébastien Lifshitz
Cinematography: Pascal Poucet
Music: Perry Blake
Country of Origin: France/Belgium
US Distributor: Picture This!

Premiere: 7 June 2000 (France)
US Premiere: October 2000 (Chicago International Film Festival)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Tribute to Dr.Peter Oberlander

Yesterday I was honoured to be invited to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for an 'evening of tribute' to Dr. Peter Oberlander who passed away last December at the age of 86. Peter was a remarkable man, and I decided to write this post in the hope that it will inspire others to achieve as much as he did over his career. And what a career!

Peter Oberlander was an architect, planner, educator, politician, author, public servant, Citizenship Court judge, and much, much more. He operated on the local, national, and international stages...whether stopping an expressway or serving as Chair of the School Board in Vancouver , creating Canada's intergovernmental policy on cities and urban affairs, or organizing the World Urban Forum with the United Nations.

He was also deeply involved with Vancouver's Jewish Community, helping to start Congregation Temple Shalom and the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, just to name two accomplishments.

I first met Peter in 1972 when I was a junior architect/planner with Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and he was Secretary (Deputy Minister) of the recently formed Ministry of State for Urban Affairs. He had already graduated in architecture from McGill, earned a masters and doctorate from Harvard in planning, practiced architecture and planning, and started Canada's first planning school at UBC. David Crinion offered me my government job. Peter was offered his by Trudeau!Our paths crossed many times over subsequent years at Granville Island/False Creek, Harbourfront Toronto, the World Urban Forum 3, at meetings of Lambda Alpha International, and so many more venues.

I also got to know two of his family members; Cornelia, the world renowned landscape architect, and his daughter Judy, who has to be one of the most decent, caring people in the world. As the Director of the SFU City Program, she helped create one of the best urban education programs in Western Canada.

At the Tribute, people talked about Peter's role in helping to establish the first regional planning board in the Lower Mainland, the accomplishments of the UBC Planning School, his architectural and planning achievements all over the world, and his tireless efforts on behalf of the public. He received many honours for his accomplishments, including being named a Freeman of the City at the last meeting of the outgoing Vancouver City Council. It was one of the few unanimous votes!

I particularly admired the fact that Peter kept working well into his eighties without any thought of retirement. But my favourite Oberlander story...the day he told me, with a tear in his eye, that he had just been appointed a Citizenship Court judge. The reason it was so special was that 56 years earlier, it had been a real challenge for him, an Austrian Jew, to be allowed to enter into Canada.

He was a remarkable fellow, and I was proud to be able to play a small part in his evening of tribute.