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Spring '01 in Review

Opening Commentary: For those unacquainted with the Hollywood system, there are unwritten rules about the season.  Winter/Fall is where studios release most of their award worthy films (usually dramas), Summer is the time for big budget high-grossing films (usually action/adventures), and Spring is the dumping point for the films that are unreleasable in the other months (usually comedies).  There are exceptions to the rules of course (Wonder Boys was out in the Spring last year; Little Nicky made its bow in the Winter) but for the most part, the studios follow these rules.

Lessons from the 2001 Spring:  steer clear of American comedies and embrace every foreign film. In the body of this week's column, I shall analyze the season by genre as well as my own personal awards for the season. Then in the closing section, I shall order the 32 films that I saw between 1 January to 30 April in order of worth.



Action/Adventure

Anyone that has had a conversation with me on Memento or has delved into my review of the film knows how torn I am on this film.  It's so depressing to love a film with the exception of its ending.  It deserves some credit: it is really one of the finest experiments in cinema I have seen since Run Lola Run, I just wish it had a different ending.

I have placed the Christopher Nolan film down in the action/adventure genre simply because it does not really fit well in any of the others.   Like, say, Guy Madden's recent short The Heart of the World, where genre placement is kind of hard.  The closest Memento is, in my mind, film noir, but I do not have a section devoted to that.  So, because of this, Memento has the chance to lead the pack for its ordained genre.

Like most of the other genres, the action/adventure films do not really have a wide variety of fine films, but a massive assortment of bad ones.   Nevertheless, I can look back on Spy Kids as fun and Enemy at the Gates as visual impressive (though the story was lacking).  Hey, how else am I to forget the pain of Series 7: The Contenders, Along Came a Spider, and Driven?

Best: Memento followed by Spy Kids
Worst: Series 7: The Contenders edging out Driven


Drama

The dark seriocomedy Panic stands as the best drama of 2001 so far -- thanks in part to the fact that distributors failed to release the film in 2000 when it recieved a great deal of kudos from those who saw it at various film festivals.  Like the second best, Sean Penn's The Pledge (which was poorly distributed by Warner Bros. back in January), very few have had a chance to catch this independent masterpiece.  When these two films finally make it out for video releaes, I plead that everyone rent them.

There is only one other of note: Pawel Pawlikowski's Last Resort, which is not absolutely terrific, but much better than some other dramas this season.  Though there are only two more to speak of, neither are of much note.   Ted Demme's Blow proved that even true stories can be unconvincing as human drama and Ridley Scott's Hannibal was, well, just horrible.

Best: Panic followed by The Pledge
Worst: Hannibal edging out Blow


Documentary

My lack of any documentaries so far this year is not the fault of skipping a couple, but the fact that only one (Benjamin Smoke) came near me and I was completely unable to see it.  Hopefully I can catch up in the Summer.

Best: None


Foreign Language Film

This is definately one of the best single Spring seasons for foreign language films in recent memory.  Now, this is not including the 2000 releases that I did not get a chance to see until the early year (including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Yi Yi), but based solely on the fine 2001 releases so far.  Of the four that I saw this Spring, three are in my top five for the year so far.  And, as an added attraction, they all come from different areas with different filmmaking styles.  The stillness of France's The Widow of Saint-Pierre, the moodiness of Hong Kong's In the Mood for Love, and the sulleness of Sweden's Faithless all make for engrossing cinematic events.  And I haven't even had a chance to catch the beloved Amores Perros!

Best: Faithless followed by The Widow of Saint-Pierre

Worst: Chunhyang


Comedy

England sufficiently made a mockery of America's comedies, the two best comedies so far this year are decidedly British (Bridget Jones's Diary and When Brendan Met Trudy).  This is always a bad season for American comedies, so the lack of anything to speak of beyond Heartbreakers is actually no surprise.  Some people might say that my lack of any big comedies to write about is based on my skipping some films like Joe Dirt and Freddy Got Fingered, but considering the reviews that those films received, I do not think that i missed anything that would sway my opinion on the genre for the season.

Now, I can name quite a few bad comedies for the season that I did see.  Take your pick of the subgenres: the bad satire (Series 7: The Contenders), the bad indie comedy (Too Much Sleep), the bad gross-out comedy (Say It Isn't So), the bad buddy comedy (Double Take), the bad romantic comedy (Someone Like You), the bad surealist comedy (Monkeybone), the bad road comedy (The Mexican), the bad sex comedy (Town & Country), or the bad teen comedy (Josie and the Pussycats).  It's a cornucopia of crap.

Best: When Brendan Met Trudy followed by Bridget Jones's Diary

Worst: Say It Isn't So edging out Down to Earth



Accolades

I'm simply going to reuse the categories from the annual Golden Brando awards while adding a worse category for each (hence no Ed Wood Humanitarian award this time around).

Best Comedic Score: Heartbreakers (John Debney and Danny Elfman)
Worst: Double Take
Best Dramatic Score: Panic (Brian Tyler)
Worst: 15 Minutes
Best Original Song: "Floop's Song (Cruel World)" (Spy Kids)
Worst: "Bang a Gong (Get it On)" (Someone Like You)
Best Sound: In the Mood for Love
Worst: Series 7: The Contenders
Best Sound Effects Editing: Enemy at the Gates
Worst: Say It Isn't So
Best Visual Effects: Enemy at the Gates
Worst: 15 Minutes
Best Makeup: Hannibal
Worst: Say It Isn't So
Best Costume Design: In the Mood for Love
Worst: Down to Earth
Best Art Direction: In the Mood for Love
Worst: Down to Earth
Best Film Editing: In the Mood for Love
Worst: Series 7: The Contenders
Best Cinematography: In the Mood for Love (Christopher Doyle)
Worst: Series 7: The Contenders
Best Supporting Actor: Hugh Grant (Bridget Jones's Diary)
Worst: Eddie Cibrian (Say It Isn't So)
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Griffiths (Blow)
Worst: Vera Farmiga (15 Minutes)
Best Actor: William H. Macy (Panic)
Worst: Ed Burns (15 Minutes)
Best Actress: Lena Endre (Faithless)
Worst: Monica Potter (Along Came a Spider)
Best Comedic Acting Ensemble: Bridget Jones's Diary
Worst: Say It Isn't So
Best Dramatic Acting Ensemble: Faithless
Worst: 15 Minutes
Best Original Screenplay: Faithless (Ingmar Bergman)
Worst: Say It Isn't So
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Pledge (Jerry and Mary-Olson Kromolowski)
Worst: Down to Earth
Best Director: Wong Kar-Wai (In the Mood for Love)
Worst: Daniel Minahan (Series 7: The Contenders)
Best Picture: Faithless
Worst: Series 7: The Contenders



Blatant Opinion: As the dust clears, 32 2001 films were seen for the first time between 1 January and 30 April.  So here it is, the complete listing of 2001 Spring films with ratings:

1. Faithless ( A / **** )
2. Panic ( A- / ***1/2 )
3. Pledge, The ( B+ / ***1/2 )
4. The Widow of Saint-Pierre ( B+ / ***1/2 )

5. In the Mood for Love ( B+ / ***1/2 )
6. Memento ( B / *** )

7. When Brendan Met Trudy ( B / *** )
8. Bridget Jones's Diary ( B / *** )

9. Heartbreakers ( B / *** )
10. Last Resort ( B / *** )
11. Spy Kids ( B / *** )
12. Enemy at the Gates ( B / *** )

13. The Caveman's Valentine ( B- / *** )

-------END OF RECOMMENDED FILMS-------

14. Chunhyang ( C / ** )
15. Too Much Sleep ( C / ** )
16. Josie and the Pussycats ( C- / ** )

17. Monkeybone ( C- / ** )
18. Someone Like You ( C- / ** )
19. Mexican, The ( C- / ** )
20. Blow ( C- / ** )
21. Antitrust ( C- / ** )
22. Town & Country ( D+ / *1/2 )

23. Valentine ( D+ / *1/2 )
24. Along Came a Spider ( D+ / *1/2 )
25. Driven ( D+ / *1/2 )

26. Snatch ( D+ / *1/2 )
27. Double Take ( D / * )
28. Hannibal ( D / * )
29. Down to Earth ( D / * )
30. Say It Isn't So ( D / * )
31. 15 Minutes ( D / * )

32.
Series 7: The Contenders ( D- / 1/2 )


Analysis by:
David Perry
2001, Cinema-Scene.com

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