The Top Five for 2002

Monster’s Ball

Spider-Man

Y Tu Mamá Tambien

8 Women 

Frida 

Honorable mention: Star Wars, Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

 

This is my third year, and I look forward to writing this email all year. A few things to remember about this list: first, they’re movies that I saw this year. Even if it was last year’s movie (like Monster’s Ball), I didn’t see it until this year, so it makes this year’s list. And second, these are my fave movies, not necessarily the best movies I’ve seen. Big diff. And last, they’re not in any particular order.

 

*Monster’s Ball*

Anyone who thinks Halle Berry didn’t deserve the Oscar needs to talk with me. I thought her last few, silent minutes in that movie were some of the greatest movie acting ever! And Billy Bob is so underappreciated. He may have done a few clunkers, but he’s so great in every movie I’ve seen him in.

*Spider-Man*

This was probably my most eagerly-anticipated movie of the year, and boy, did it come through for me. All the performances were great, and Sam Raimi is a brilliant director, a bold choice for this movie, and the right one. Great special effects, great script, and boy, does Tobey Maguire have a hot bod, or what?

*Y Tu Mamá Tambien*

My friend Fern says it’s nothing but porn, but I disagree. Sure there’s lots and lots of sex in this movie (not a whole lot of nudity, though, when it comes right down to it), and that’s what impressed me the first time I saw it. But I had a feeling there was something more to it, and sure enough, on a second viewing, it’s a very deeply felt movie with lots of high-octane issues under the surface.

*8 Women*

I first read about this movie in the *NY Times*, in a bit by two of the fashion editors, going on and on about the clothes, the makeup, the hair, and the jiggling bosoms in this movie. I ran to the theater the second it opened! It’s French, and too delicious by half, one of the most delightful movies I’ve seen in a long time. It stars (you guessed it) eight women, and only those eight women. It’s set in the 50s, it’s a murder mystery, with that great old conceit of having the characters snowbound in their house. And what women! Four A-list French actresses - - Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Hupert, Fanny Ardant, and Emanuelle Béart - - and four other gals, two young, one 50-ish, and one 70-ish. As if that’s not enough camp for you, each of these gals, at some point in the movie, sings a song, a few of them elaborately staged - - and they all do their own singing. I can’t wait to buy it, I’m sure I’ll see it about a hundred times before I take my dirt nap.

 

*Frida*

This was another of those eagerly anticipated movies for me, and it was amazing. It was directed by Julie Taymor, the woman who designed and directed The Lion King on Broadway. Her only other movie is Titus, adapted from the Shakespeare play, and if you’re ever in the mood for a seriously screwy movie, that’s the one. When I heard she was doing a movie about Frida Kahlo, I knew it was going to be a winner. She is a real visionary, does some extraordinary things to bring Kahlo’s paintings to life. And Salma Hayek shows what a great actor she is, I bet she’ll never have another role this great.

 

Honorable mention:

*Star Wars Episode Five: Attack of the Clones*

Yes, you read that right, it’s on my top five list, and I’m sticking with it. And yes, *The Phantom Dentist* was total crap. But this one was so much fun! Sure, the script got a little clunky now and then, but let’s all send George Lucas a thank you note for working with another screenwriter on this one. AND for giving Jar-Jar such a small part (do you suppose in the next movie he’ll get to say, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies, Miss Amidala!”?). There were so many fabulous action sequences, but my fave is the car chase at the beginning of the movie. And Samuel L. Jackson is simply the coolest guy on the planet (or any other planet).

 

HOPES FOR THE OSCAR NOMS

 

They’re all supporting actresses this year. First and foremost, Tovah Feldshuh in *Kissing Jessica Stein.* She’s mostly your mail-order pushy Jewish mother, but in one scene she’s beyond belief! So understated, so deeply felt, so extraordinary! She knocked me right on my wide Dutch ass. And Scott and I have a joke about her name - - we think maybe her real name is Lisa Smith, and her agent said, “We need to come up with something REALLY Jewish…”

Jennifer Ehle in *Possession.* Gorgeous movie, it was my honorable mention on this list until I saw *Frida,* which demoted Star Wars. Jennifer Ehle is the bomb, and so great in this movie.

 

Ashley Judd in *Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.* She played the younger version of Ellen Burstyn’s character, Sandra Bullock’s mom. You can fill in the rest. She’s a marvelous actor, and she’s never been nominated.

Joanna Lumley for *The Cat’s Meow.* Fun little movie about William Randolph Hearst shooting someone on his boat. I don’t remember who Lumley played, but she was fantastic. Sure, a lot of her character is the clothes and makeup, but she tells a story at one point and it’s the most hypnotic five minutes of film in the whole year.

Best Cameo

This year the award goes to Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, and Danny De Vito for the opening credits of *Goldmember.* The opening credits were actually the opening credits to a movie about Austin Powers (so postmodern), with Cruise as Austin, Paltrow as the babe, Dixie Normous, Spacey as Dr. Evil, and De Vito as Mini Me. It was one of about six laughs in whole the movie. To be fair, that was one more than the latest Woody Allen movie.

Movie From the Past That I Saw Again This year, and Now I Have a New Appreciation For it (soon to be known as Remembrance of Movies Past)

I need to come up with a shorter title for this category. This is a movie, at least 25 years old, that I saw again this year, and had a new appreciation for it. Last year it was *Night of the Living Dead.* This year it’s *Judgement at Nuremberg.* I had seen this in high school, during my Marlene Dietrich phase (I haven’t quite gotten out of that phase), and liked it a lot, but it packed a lot more punch at 34 than it did at 17. It’s about the trial of German Nazi judges made in 1961, directed by Stanley Kramer, with a fab all-star cast: Spencer Tracy as the head judge, Burt Lancaster as one of the Nazi judges on trial, Dietrich as the widow of a Nazi officer, Maximillian Schell in an Oscar-winning performance as the head lawyer for the defense, and Montgomery Clift and Judy Garland as two of the witnesses. It’s the performances that struck me when I was 17, but this time it was the movie itself. Of all the WW II movies out there (and I’ve seen a lot of ‘em), this one most convincingly shows both sides of the story, the Allies side and the German side. That’s a pretty extraordinary achievement for a big Hollywood movie, especially one that was made as soon after the war as 1961. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

 

My favorite moment of the movie concerns (of course) Dietrich - - she and Tracy are walking down a street at night, and they pass a bar where people are singing “Lili Marlene”, and she explains to him that the original German lyrics are much sadder than the English translation. The irony is that the song was written for her, and was a big hit on both sides of the war.

 

New Category: Movie That Needs To Be Made

I like to add a new category to this email every year, and this year it’s Move That Needs To Be Made. For years there were two movies on this list:

 

The Gilligan’s Island Movie

Jim Carrey as Gilligan

Charles Durning as The Skipper (or Brian Dennehy, if Durning isn’t available)

Julianne Moore as Ginger

Courtney Cox as Maryann

Walter Matthau as Thurston Howell

Debbie Reynolds as Lovey Howell

Kevin Costner as The Professor (I’m particularly proud of that choice)

 

Grumpy Old Broads

Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Ann-Margaret, and Sophia Loren again, with Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur as their new neighbors, a dyke couple who encourage the wives fight back to their whiny husbands.

 

Both these pitches got the axe when Matthau died, and since Lemmon died, fahgetaboutit. So here’s my new idea:

 

Edie

A movie about Edie Sedgwick, a member of the Warhol crowd of the 60s. She came from old New England money, she led a fabulously trashy life, had loads of style, was pretty screwed up, and died young (I think she wasn’t quite 30). Petite, blonde, delish. Who better to play this gal than Anne Heche? I feel so strongly about this, I might even write her a letter.

 

ONE LAST THING BEFORE I SIGN OFF

 

I went to see 8 Women at a movie theater in the Lincoln Center neighborhood in Manhattan, and who do you think was standing in front of me in line to buy her ticket? Marlo Thomas. I was tempted to gush all over her (and was armed with a few napkins), but she felt me looking down at her (she’s only five foot nothing) and gave me a smile that clearly said, “Please don’t talk to me, I’m not up for it tonight.”

 

LOVE,

Chris

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