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Top Five, 2002: Far From Heaven, Gangs Of New York, The Kid Stays In The Picture, LOTR:TTT, and Punch-Drunk Love. Enjoy my diary!

January 11, 2002 • The Royal Tenenbaums • Kendall Square Cinema
A delightfully baroque portrait of the ultimate upper-class New York intellectual family. Gene Hackman, who does comedy better than another 1970s icon (Robert De Niro), hardly ever plays a father in the movies: the last time he played someone's father was in Class Action (1991).

January 20, 2002 • Ocean's Eleven • Digital Projection • Showcase Cinemas Randolph
First movie I saw in digital projection. Very cool.

January 25, 2002 • The Count Of Monte Cristo • Danvers
Not to be confused with the Dutchess Of Tuna Melt. Guy Pearce has to decline movies like this and The Time Machine if he wants to avoid the B-list. Hard to believe this is the same guy who made Memento and L.A. Confidential.

Historical Note: Thanks to my friend (and Danvers resident) N P B, January 25, 2002 was the first time I had seen a movie in Danvers, MA, in over a decade. During my childhood on the North Shore, the three theaters my family attended the most frequently were the following multiplexes:
  • Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers (three screens)
  • Showcase Cinemas Danvers (on the far side of Rt. 128, six screens+)
  • The multiplex next to the North Shore Shopping Center atop the hill in Peabody (four screens?)
Once my family moved to Somerville in 1989 and I moved to Boston in 1991, I didn't have a reason to head north to go to the movies. In the intervening decade, a new multiplex was built inside the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, and the adjacent three screen theater was torn down. The old Showcase Cinemas across the highway is still in operation (as a 'Hollywood Hits' theater), and I think the theaters next to the NSSS are still there too. The vast majority of the movies I saw as a kid were at one of these three multiplexes. Here is a list of a small handful of the movies I remember seeing at each theater.
Liberty Tree Mall
  • Airplane II: The Sequel (for my 11th birthday in 1983)
  • Dick Tracy
  • Batman (1989)
  • The Godfather, Part III
  • Showcase Danvers
  • Silverado
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
  • Arachnophobia
  • Shanghai Surprise
  • North Shore Shopping Center
  • Ghostbusters II
  • Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
  • Romancing The Stone

  • February 10, 2002 • Gosford Park • Loews Church St, Harvard Sq.
    Overrated. I figured out the plot "twists" waaaaayyy earlier than I was "supposed" to. Also, I knew from the very first scene that I should have waited for the DVD- the accents were impenetrable.

    March 25, 2002 • E.T. The Extra Terrestrial • Showcase Cinemas Randolph
    This new revision mucks about with my childhood nostalgia.

    March 29, 2002 • Ice Age
    Ice Age is a Disney movie for the 21st century- even if itís not a Disney movie. Ice Age takes the conventions, story, and characters from the Disney playbook and gives them a tweak, thanks to Blue Sky, a computer animation studio (via Fox animation).

    While the new generation of animated films like Shrek and Monsters, Inc. differ from old-school Disney movies in their form (computer animation) and content (irony, pop culture), Ice Age feels like a Disney movie without looking like one.

    The three lead voices are all comedians who have gone Hollywood. Ray Romano, comedy king of suburban television (now that Home Improvement is off the air), plays Manfred the mammoth as a grumpy, overburdened soccer dad after a long trip in the minivan with too many bratty kids. John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge!), the spastic, twitchy, eccentric, diminutive NY comic, plays the chatterbox sloth Sid with a heart of gold and a bad accent- the characterís teeth clearly inhibit some vocal sounds. Denis Leary, the chain smoking, anti-PC, counter-establishment comic, plays the carnivorous saber-tooth tiger Diego, with a low-octave rumble only unfiltered Luckies can produce.

    The film is an odd-couple road trip, as this threesome are forced together to return a lost infant to its family. They trek across an almost monchrome snowscape (nicely rendered by Blue Sky- the snowflakes look as good as the Himalayas sequence in Monsters, Inc.), and take a roller-coaster slide through a glacier, reminiscent of Aladdin's magic carpet ride and Indiana Jones's escape from the Temple of Doom. Just imagine a wooly mammoth sliding down an ice chute, and you can understand why I almost choked to death on my popcorn.

    The story doesn't break any new ground. The conflict is familiar, and the characters develop in safe and comfortable ways. We know everyone has a backstory, and while the kids may not see them coming, the adults will be able to safely predict the turns of the plot.

    Most computer generated films deal with bugs or toys, with organic characters as supporting roles only. In contrast, Ice Ageís principal characters are all covered in fur. The film feels like it was created with watercolors and charcoal rather than plastic. Blue Sky has taken the step PDI-DreamWorks and Pixar havenít taken yet- challenging the medium. Creating plastics, bugs, and monsters are easy in CGI- the surfaces are easy to create, when compared to fur and skin.

    Ice Age is a pleasant, amusing movie for parents and kids to enjoy. Computer-animated films will not truly compete with ink-and cel animation until they successfully trancend the limitations of the medium. Ice Age pushes those limitations in its form, if not its content.

    May 6, 2002 • Spider-Man • Showcase Cinemas Randolph
    Very well done. Nothing wrong with this movie, but it did not engage me the way the Burton Batman movies did. Part of the problem: I never believed I was seeing Tobey Maguire when he would fly through the air. It always looked like a stuntman, or a CGI effect.

    Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones • May 18, 2002 • May 23, 2002 (Digital Projection)
    Bad dialogue and stiff acting. It makes me sad to think Lucas has only one more chance to make a good prequel.

    May 24, 2002 • Insomnia • Showcase Cinemas Randolph
    Al Pacino, a wasted shell of a policeman, under investigation by Internal Affairs, heads north to hunt a killer (Robin Williams). Pacino's insomnia in the land of the midnight sun is a metaphor for his crumbling psyche as he accidentally shoots and kills his partner (Martin Donovan). The problem is, he has a motive for wanting his partner dead, so he must cover up the shooting because no one will believe it was an accident. One gaping plot hole- Pacino's character visits an Alaskan town so far north, the sun never sets in the summertime. Why don't the hotel rooms come with "blackout" curtains, like, for example, Las Vegas hotels?

    June 13, 2002 • About A Boy • Showcase Cinemas Randolph
    Very good, but a simplified 'Hollywood' ending.

    June 21, 2002 • Ferris Bueller's Day Off • Coolidge Corner Theater Midnight Show
    John Hughes's Best Film.

    June 23, 2002 • Minority Report
    Great detective thriller- Spielberg shows his dark side. Try not to think about the predestination paradoxes!

    July 3, 2002 • Men In Black II • Showcase Revere
    The shame of 2002. All the goodwill and potential of the original was squandered here. The premise has a million possibilities, but they chose to remake the original, but with no new jokes. The reshot ending feels tacked-on. The worst type of cash-in sequel.

    July 15, 2002 • The Bourne Identity • Showcase Cinemas Randolph
    Lots of potential, but doesn't quite follow through. Stripped away all the cool aspects of the novel.

    July 21, 2002 • Reign Of Fire • Showcase Cinemas Randolph
    Too much McConaughey, not enough dragons.

    July 22, 2002 • The Killers • Brattle Theater
    Great film noir.

    The "Clean Slate" List • In the age of hyper-marketing, it seems like you cannot avoid awareness of upcoming films. It has become all to easy ofr a movie buff to learn too much about a movie they haven't seen yet. Wouldn't it be nice to go into a theater with zero expectations, no foreknowledge, and be totally surprised by a movie? It doesn't happen very often. I went through my own Movie Diary and made a list:
    January 1991 • The Godfather, Part III
    I was aware, of course, of what The Godfather was, but I had not seen either part 1 or part 2 yet. I was only 19 at the time, and I only saw G3 'cause all my friends were going. I haven't seen it all the way through since, but I think G3 is better if you don't know how good parts 1 and 2 were.

    January 18, 1995 • The Last Seduction
    This movie is the reason I made this list. I had read about a different thriller with a similar name, and got the titles mixed up. I figured out pretty quickly that I was in the wrong theater. I appreciated the unflinching noir tone of the film, and I enjoyed a movie with a irredeemable female protagonist.

    April 20, 1995 • Vanya On 42nd Street
    I was expecting something totally different. I was not expecting a bunch of very talented actors sitting in a circle reading the script.
    July 16, 2001 • Sullivan's Travels
    The second half of a double feature with It Happened One Night, I left halfway through. I don't appreciate "wrongly imprisoned" films.
    July 22, 2002 • The Killers
    All I knew about this was the blurb in the Brattle Theater schedule. That was enough to lure me to the screening.
    January 19, 2004 • The Barefoot Contessa
    I was in a movie-going mood, and the Brattle Theater's blurb sounded interesting.
    February 26, 2004 • The Station Agent
    All I knew about this was that there was a midget in the movie, and Patricia Clarkson too. What else did I need to know?

    April 3, 2004 • The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
    All I knew about TUoC was "It's a French movie, and there's no dialog. It's all-singing".
    July 31, 2002 • Austin Powers in Goldmember • Burlington
    More of the same, but cruder. Opening sequence is hilarious, Beyonce Knowles is a delight, but Myers stretches himself too thin. This movie suffers from "Lethal Weapon"-itis, where every character from the previous film(s) returns for the sequels, until no one gets any screen time. Austin is practically a supporting player.

    August 2, 2002 • Road To Perdition
    Paul Newman and Tom Hanks save it. Jude Law's not bad either. Lots of weird inconsistencies, like the time of year. In the last third of the film, it seems to change from winter to spring overnight. Sloppy plotting, too- did the director really think we would forget that Jude Law's character was still lurking about? Hanks's demise seemed painfully obvious from miles off.

    August 3, 2002 • Signs • Showcase Cinemas Randolph
    I feel my experience with this movie was tainted by a full house crowd in a weird mood- they kept laughing at odd times. I found the movie scary and exciting, although the ending was kind of unsatisfying.

    August 4, 2002 • Full Frontal • Loews Church St, Harvard Sq.
    Like a summer camp for movie stars. Written by Coleman Hough, one of my fellow alumni, Emerson College Class of 1994. Never heard of her before...

    August 9, 2002 • Lťon: The Professional • Coolidge Corner Theater Midnight Show
    Gotta love Gary Oldman on a tear.

    August 11, 2002 • The Kid Stays In The Picture • Kendall Square Cinema
    Funny, engaging, innovative documentary. Robert Evans wrote an autobiography, and recorded his own book-on-tape. The book-on-tape, in which Evans delightfully reads his gravelly patter, became a Hollywood cult obsession. I listened to it circa 1995, and really enjoyed it. The movie was inspired by the book-on-tape, and the narration for the movie is taken directly from it.

    August 12, 2002 • Sunset Blvd. • Brattle Theater
    Dark and creepy.

    August 13, 2002 • The Player • Brattle Theater
    Now more than ever!

    August 16, 2002 • The Fifth Element • Coolidge Corner Theater Midnight Show
    A Day-Glo carnival ride. Everyone chews scenery (Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Chris Tucker) except Bruce Willis. At the Coolidge Corner theater, which left one of the reels out of the print- I assume by oversight?

    August 18, 2002 • Repo Man • Brattle Theater
    Silly and punk. Lots of fun on no budget. My favorite moment is when Estevez repos his first car, spots the Virgin Mary statuette on the dash, and throws it out the window.

    August 19, 2002 • Bound • Brattle Theater
    Smart, taut, Hitchcockian thriller. The Wachowski brothers honed their cinematographic tricks before tackling The Matrix. Did I mention the hot lesbians?

    August 24, 2002 •  They Live • Coolidge Corner Theater Midnight Show
    Best movie fight scene of all time. Really not enough plot for a feature film- would have been better-suited for a Twilight Zone episode.

    August 25, 2002 • Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars • Brattle Theater
    D.A. Pennebaker's live concert film, recorded July 3, 1973. My friend Michelle and I spent half the movie discussing how Bowie kept his bits & pieces from slipping out of his one-legged skintight costume.

    September 7, 2002 • Gigantic: A Tale Of Two Johns • Museum Of Fine Arts Boston Premiere
    They Might Be Giants documentary- for fans only.

    Woody Allen Film Series at the Brattle Theater
    September 26, 2002 • Take The Money and Run • Mildly funny series of jokes stuck into a fugitive genre movie.
    October 3, 2002 • Bananas • Mildly funny series of jokes stuck into a Latin American revolution movie.
    October 17, 2002 • Sleeper • More than mildly funny movie in the "contemporary man sent into the future" genre.
    October 17, 2002 • Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask) • Gene Wilder is wonderful. When his patient tells him he is in love with a sheep, I had another of my classic "I'm the only one laughing in the theater" moments.
    October 4, 2002 • My Big Fat Greek Wedding • Kendall Square Cinema
    Would be funnier if I were less WASPy and more 'ethnic'? This movie would make a great musical. When you watch this film, you can easily imagine where you'd put songs into the story.

    October 5, 2002 • The Third Man • Brattle Theater
    Emily and Nathaniel's First Date!

    October 10, 2002 • I Am Trying To Break Your Heart • Somerville Theater
    Emily and Nathaniel's second(?) date.

    October 19, 2002 • Punch-Drunk Love • Framingham Premium Cinema
    Who knew Adam Sandler had it in him to make a great movie. Who knows when he'll do it again?

    October 24, 2002 • A Hard Day's Night • Regent Theater Arlington
    [George has been mistaken for a teen model]
    Simon: We'd like you to give us your opinion on some clothes for teenagers.
    George: Oh, by all means. I'd be quite prepared for that eventuality.
    Simon: Well, not your REAL opinion, obviously. It'll be written out for you. Can you read?
    George: Of course.
    Simon: I mean lines, ducky, can you handle lines?
    George: Well, I'll have a bash.
    Simon: Good. Get him whatever it is they drink, uh, coke-a-rama? [gives George some shirts] Now you'll like these. You'll really "dig" them. They're "fab," and all the other pimply hyperboles...
    George: I wouldn't be seen dead in them. They're dead grotty.
    Simon: Grotty?
    George: Yeah, grotesque.
    Simon: Make a note of that word and give it to Susan. It's quite touching, really. Here's this kid, giving me his utterly valueless opinion, when I now for a fact that within a month he'll be suffering from a violent inferiority complex and loss of status because he isn't wearing one of these nasty things! Of course they're grotty you wretched nit, that's why they were designed! But that's what you'll want.
    George: No, I won't.
    Simon: You can be replaced, chickie baby.
    George: I don't care.
    Simon: If you don't cooperate you won't get to meet Susan.
    George: And who's this Susan when she's at home?
    Simon: Only Susan Canby, our resident teenager.
    George: Oh! You mean that posh bird who gets everything wrong?
    Simon: Excuse me?
    George: Oh, yeah. The lads frequently sit around the telly and watch her for a giggle. One time we actually sat down and wrote these letters saying how gear she was in all that rubbish.
    Simon: She's a trendsetter. It's her profession.
    George: She's a drag. A well known drag. We turn the sound down on her and say rude things.
    Simon: Get him out of here! He's knocking the program's image!
    George: Have I said something amiss?
    Simon: Get him out!
    George: Sorry about the shirts!

    November 4, 2002 • Comedian • AMC Fenway
    Documentary about Jerry Seinfeld, writing all-new material after retiring his old stuff. Thoughtful insight into the work of stand-up comedy. Funniest trailer of the year.

    November 14, 2002 • Don't Look Back • Brattle Theater
    Bob Dylan on the defensive.

    November 22, 2002 • Standing In The Shadows Of Motown • Kendall Square Cinema
    Electrifying and fascinating.

    November 29, 2002 • Solaris • Jersey Gardens, Elizabeth, NJ
    The first in our nearly-annual Thanksgiving movies, Solaris is a fascinating, and thought-provoking mind trip, in the mold of 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2001 uses the unknowable cosmos as a platform to ask: Who are we on the galactic scale of things? What's the next step in the evolution of Mankind? Solaris uses a mysterious celestial object as the catalyst to ask: Who are we but a sum of our experiences? Do our memories make us who we are?

    While a scientific crew orbits Solaris, (which resembles the star gate from 2001, but in slo-mo), Solaris populates their ship with incarnate memories from their dreams. They're not human or alien, they seem to only be a physical manifestation of their subconscious. Understandably, the mission falls apart, and the space agency sends Chris Kelvin (George Clooney), a shrink with a slowly-emerging backstory, to save what's left. The sequence where Kelvin first falls asleep and dreams of his wife (Natascha McElhone), who then becomes incarnate onboard, is spellbinding and scary. Director Steven Soderbergh (who also photographed and edited, and exec produced the film, and adapted the Stanislaw Lem novel for the screen), reveals the story slowly, just slow enough to let the viewer put the pieces together on their own, but not too slow to be boring. It's almost as good on TV as it was on the big screen, but be sure to turn off all the lights, turn up the volume, and let the movie wash over you. I especially enjoyed the Cliff Martinez score, and Philip Messina's understated production design.

    December 3, 2002 • Better Off Dead... • Brattle Theater
    My second-favorite John Cusack film with an ellipsis in the title, after Say Anything...
    Roy Stalin (pictured): You'd make a fine little helper. What's your name?
    Charles: Charles De Mar.
    Roy Stalin: Shut up, geek.

    December 9, 2002 • Some Like It Hot • Brattle Theater
    Still my all-time third-funniest movie, after Young Frankenstein and A Fish Called Wanda.

    Jerry, talking about Sugar Kane: Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It's like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something. I tell you, it's a whole different sex!

    December 10, 2002 • The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles • Brattle Theater
    The Breakfast Club may still speak to teenagers, but from my 30-year-old's perspective, the kids seem Whiny and self-absorbed. It frightens me that John Hughes made this movie at age 34.
    Anthony Michael Hall is a comedic genius. He makes Sixteen Candles his own, and he is hilarious is Breakfast Club too.

    December 19th & 22nd, 2002 • Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers • Loews Boston Common
    Great movie, although we were in 5th row for the 12/19 show. The stunt where Legolas swings himself up onto Aragorn's horse from the ground, make me yell "whooo hoooo!". Or was it "WOW!"? I don't recall. On 12/21, we sat in back.

    December 20, 2002 • Singin' In The Rain • Regent Theater Arlington
    Brilliant restoration of one of my Top Ten All-Time.

    December 21, 2002 • Adaptation. • Showcase Cinemas Randolph
    I didn't love this movie the first time, but I bet I'll like it better on second viewing. If only it were Streep's ass and not Chris Cooper's we get to see!

    December 29, 2002 • Gangs Of New York • AMC Fenway
    My vote for Best Picture of 2002.

    Movie Diary 2002 previous • next

    This Movie Diary has migrated to Blogspot. Visit Stub Hubby for current reviews!