Monday, June 24, 2002

Strangers on a Train / **** (1951)

Bruno is the kind of guy who just can't take a hint. He persists like an obnoxious adolescent with undeniable charm, pouncing at seemingly perfect moments but failing to distinguish importance from irrelevance in most of his actions. When he takes those qualities with him aboard a train and meets up with a famed tennis player, he diligently swings things in his direction. He provokes conversation, milks information out of his victim, suggests wild and lurid ideas, and carefully acquires items that will keep him linked to the prey throughout the inevitable ordeal. Wild and crazy he may be, but stupid he is not.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Minority Report / ***1/2 (2002)

Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report" is a critical essay lurched underneath Hollywood tradition, a visionary and thought-provoking story that could have easily been one of the greatest pictures ever made had it not caved in to movie formula during the crucial final scenes. For a rock-solid two hours, the director of some of cinema's biggest masterpieces sends us headfirst into a nightmarish, unforgettable landscape that is clotted by elaborate technology, cutting edge law enforcement, elite government officials and fragmented personal identities. During that space of time, there is even a point when we ask ourselves if Spielberg has finally mastered a genre that he has so often tested himself in over the years (first with "E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," later with "A.I. - Artificial Intelligence"). Those hopes, unfortunately, are blind-sighted when the film takes its last steps onto a familiar piece of moviemaking ground, which insists that completely explained endings in science fiction are better suited for audiences than ones which leave a lot of the details up to speculation. Literal translation: the filmmakers can't trust an audience with evidence, even when there's enough of it to support their own individual interpretations.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Science Fiction's greatest honored in the OFCS's first top 100 movies list

June 10, 2002

I have usually considered myself a less-than-cooperative participant in the past to vote-ins associated with lists like the "100 best or worst of the century," but when it came to my attention that the Online Film Critics Society, a gathering of more than a hundred professional (and influential) film critics which I happen to be part of, was putting together a list of the greatest Science Fiction movies ever made, something in the darkest corner of my mind jump-started an engine of enthusiasm. Each of us group members were asked to submit a list of our favorite 25 sci-fi endeavors, all of which would be tallied and combined to a final list of 100. A simple request like this might have easily gone over the head of a busy critic, but the society's governing committee persisted in getting everyone's contributions, sending out e-mail reminders at a pace that would only add weight to the importance of participation. For the society as a whole, everyone's involvement would have sent a message about how deeply everyone cared about the group they were affiliated with. But coming through on these requests was only partly about participating as a team; for some of us, like myself, it was more about the opportunity to connect with a specific division of cinema that is often the gateway for the biggest and brightest imaginations.

Friday, June 7, 2002

Summer 2002: A Look Ahead

June 7, 2002

The June-to-August period is usually the busiest of the year at the local multiplex, but long lines and sold-out showings began popping up in during the first weeks of May as studios decided to jump-start the season of movie blockbusters by unleashing their endeavors before anyone else had a chance to. This year, that theory expanded to include the last weeks of April as well—Universal's "The Scorpion King" triggered a new wave of enthusiasm at theaters that has only strengthened turnouts since. In fact, this last May was the biggest record-breaker on history; in addition to groundbreaking profits racked up by major blockbusters like "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars Episode II - Attack of the Clones," the month also saw the biggest overall turnout in history, in which the top ten films at the box office ranked in over $200 million a Friday-to-Sunday period, the most ever for one weekend.