Category Archives: 2001 Movie reviews

Gosford Park-2001

Gosford Park-2001

Director-Robert Altman

Starring-Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe

Top 100 Films-#68

60021796

Reviewed February 15, 2017

Grade: A

Somewhere between the brilliant PBS series of the 1970’s and the ultra modern cool of Downton Abbey (also PBS) lies the masterpiece that is Robert Altman’s 2001 gem, Gosford Park. Ironic, is that the creator, writer, and executive producer of Downtown Abbey, Julian Fellowes, wrote the screenplay of Gosford Park. No wonder, combined with Altman’s direction, they created genius.

The time period is 1932 and the wealthy, along with their servants, flock to the magnificent estate of Gosford Park, a grand English country home. The guests include both Americans and Brits and everyone is gathered for a shooting weekend- foreshadowing if ever there was. Following a dinner party, a murder occurs and the remainder of the film follows the subsequent police investigation, and the perspectives of the guests and the servants as a whodunit ensues. Many of the characters lives unravel as secrets are exposed.

Sir William, the murder victim, is a powerful industrialist. After he announces he will withdraw an investment, the ramifications effect many of the guests so that the set-up is spelled out for the audience. At the risk of seemingly nothing more than a plot device- it is so much more than that. During a pheasant shoot, Sir William receives a minor wound thanks to a stray birdshot- is this intentional or merely an accident? When Sir William meets his fate that evening, the potential suspects pile up.

If there are two compelling aspects to a great film, they are a good old fashioned whodunit and an enormous cast, all potential suspects. What makes Gosford Park exceptional is that every character is interesting in some way and all are written well. Secrets abound for miles in this film and are revealed in a delicious way. Torrid affairs, sexuality secrets, and blackmail abound as revelations make their way to the surface and Altman knows exactly how to cast doubt or suspicion on many of his characters.

The compelling relationship between American film producer Morris Weissman and his valet, Henry Denton (Ryan Phillipe), along with the domineering head housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren) are my favorite characters and dynamics. How clever that Maggie Smith would play similar roles as stuffy aristocrats in both Gosford Park and Downton Abbey. Rich in texture are the balancing between the haves and the have nots and how those characters mix with each other (sometimes in secret rendezvous!)

Typical of Altman films, the character dialogue commonly overlaps and the actors largely improvise the script. In addition to being an actors dream, this quality gives a realism to his films and Gosford Park is no exception. Since there are so many characters and so many plots and sub-plots going on at once, my recommendation is to watch the film at least twice to fully comprehend the layers of goings-ons. The film will become more and more appreciated.

Mulholland Dr.- 2001

Mulholland Dr.- 2001

Director-David Lynch

Starring-Naomi Watts, Justin Theroux

Top 100 Films-#14

60021646

Reviewed July 12, 2016

Grade: A

Mulholland Dr. is my favorite David Lynch film and as far as I am concerned, a pure masterpiece in experimental film making. Championed by many; hated by others for it’s non linear and very confusing storyline, to try and make sense of the mishmash of dreamlike plots is wasteful and undoubtedly headache inducing, as the film simply must be felt and appreciated for its creativity. My best analogy is Mulholland Dr. is to film what Pink Floyd is to music- it must be savored and experienced. It is a film to be interpreted and studied.

The main story, if one is attempting to summarize in a paragraph, goes something like this:

Part 1- aspiring actress Betty Elms (played by then unknown Naomi Watts) arrives in sunny Los Angeles, a perky, clean cut girl, and stays in her aunt’s gorgeous suburban apartment while, she herself an actress, is away on location shooting a film. Betty meets an amnesiac woman, the gorgeous Rita, who is hiding in the apartment. Prior to meeting Betty, we learn that Rita was involved in a car accident on Mulholland Dr. and is carrying a large sum of cash, but she does not know who she is or even her name, making up the name “Rita” from a poster of Rita Hayworth she sees on the wall while showering.

Part 2: Betty (now named Diane) and Rita (now Camilla) are lovers and Betty, no longer aspiring, now has become a neurotic, struggling actress with no work, and involved in a love triangle with Camilla and another man, who are both great successes and pity Diane. Diane and Camilla go to a club named Club Silencio, where a gorgeous singer brings them to tears with her singing only to collapse and be revealed a phony. The host warns that everything is an illusion.

Intersecting vignettes seemingly unrelated to the central part of the story- a young director forced to cast a woman after threats from the mafia, a terrified man who sees a demented man behind the dumpster of a burger joint, and a detective searching for the clues to the car accident involving Rita, all come together to relate to the main story.

Mixed in with all of these stories are recurring odd characters- the seemingly sweet elderly couple that Betty meets on the airplane, a strange cowboy who appears every so often, Coco, the landlord, played by legendary film actress Ann Miller, in her last film, Coco then doubles as a shrewish character in the alternate story, and finally, a mysterious blue key. How do all these facets of story and character add up? That is open to interpretation.

Some details support the theory that “Betty” is a figment of Diane’s imagination- she dreams of being fresh faced and ready to take on L.A., and that the woman that Betty and Rita find dead is really Diane. When the plot changes direction, the cowboy utters the line “Hey, pretty girl. Time to wake up.”, which seems to support this theory, though, as mentioned before, Mulholland Dr. is meant to be enjoyed not stressed over if the puzzle does not always come together.

Mulholland Dr. is a masterpiece pure and simple. An odd masterpiece with plots that can be discussed and dissected for ages…..and not understanding the film is not a bad thing.

Sexy Beast-2001

Sexy Beast-2001

Director-Jonathan Glazer

Starring-Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley

60020863

Reviewed November 13, 2015

Grade: B+

Sexy Beast is an interesting little indie gem that has garnered quite  a cult following, deservedly so,  since the year of its release- 2001 and that I have recently viewed for the first time. In large part, the film belongs to Ben Kingsley as he gives a bravura, and frightening,  performance as a crime lord attempting to convince a retired hit man, now sworn to the straight and narrow, to resurrect his career for one last heist. The other principle characters are wonderful in their own right, as the film successfully mixes elements of Quentin Tarantino with Ocean’s Eleven- bank heist meets quirkiness, with smart and witty dialogue sprinkled in.

Gary Dove is happily retired and living a life of contentment with his ex-porn star wife, Deedee, and best friends Aitch and Jackie.  Having all been involved in “the biz”, they are long since removed from their respective careers. They now enjoy evening parties of wine and martinis, and days relaxing by the pool in their Spanish villas.  One day, a former criminal associate, Don Logan (Kingsley), who is also a sociopath, arrives to disrupt their peaceful lives and coordinate a bank heist in London, in hopes of luring Gary into the game once again.

As Gary and company nervously decide to decline Don Logan’s offer to participate in his sinister plan, a wonderful and important scene occurs early in the film. The quartet sits around the dinner table at a swanky Spanish restaurant anticipating a scrumptious meal. Jackie reveals the news that Don has contacted her and the tone of the scene immediately changes to one of dread. It is evident that all of them both fear and despise Logan. They agonize over this sudden disruption to their lives and we, the audience, fear Don Logan before he ever appears on-screen. What fantastic story-telling.

Kingsley portrays a menacing character and brilliantly so. The character contains a frightening brutality bubbling beneath his normally calm demeanor, that it makes the viewer shudder when he appears on-screen. Lest we forget, Ian McShane also gives a nuanced performance as Teddy Bass, Logan’s right-hand man, and wise business man. The cat and mouse scene towards the end as Teddy and Gary have an important discussion in a car is both chilling and important to the plot of the film. As Teddy slowly figures out certain events I was left intensely anticipating his reactions.

The film introduces  an intriguing  sub-plot involving Don’s long ago fling with Jackie and subsequent love for her which adds layers to the plot and the dynamic and tension between Don and Gary.

Upon finishing the film, I loved the effect of foreshadowing that the film contains. I found myself rewinding the events in my mind, pleasurably so.  From the pool, to the young Hispanic kid, to the thunderous boulder- all of these elements were crucial to the conclusion and fit like a puzzle.

A dark comedy of sorts, I chuckled at the conclusion of the film as the final reveal involving a double-heart insignia and a pool that gives comeuppance to the villain and pleases the viewer.

Having alluded viewing Sexy Beast over the years, I am glad that I finally found the time to witness a darkly comical gem that, admittedly, may take repeated viewings to absorb and therefore fully “get”, and I look forward to doing just that.

Amelie-2001

Amelie-2001

Director-Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring-Audrey Tatou

60022048

Reviewed October 2, 2013

Grade: C+

Amelie was a major disappointment for me. Critically acclaimed and admired, I clearly did not get this movie at all. First the positives: this film is French, which gives it an edge for the beautiful language and the setting of France.

The cinematography, art direction, and set design are inventive and unique. The movie had a magical, whimsical feel to it which was appealing. The story, however, was an enormous drawback. The central character, a waif-like, sweet, waitress is lonely and feels unloved, yet avoids meeting the man of her dreams by playing a cat and mouse game of leaving silly notes and sending him on wild goose chases because she is afraid of happiness, yet she does everything she can to ensure others find happiness.

The story did not work for me at all, but I admired the creativeness of the film itself. Perhaps I should allow myself a second viewing as this film received much fanfare.