Film reviews November 2001

The films are rated on a 4 star scale. Any comments should be addressed to Mike Weston at

Amélie (3 stars, 2001, seen 11/29/2001, 2:00, rated R, in French with subtitles):

This film's story is of a young girl who grew up in an unusual family, is now a waitress in Paris, and decides to become an anonymous “do-gooder” for others and possibly for herself. It is also a romantic comedy, but not in the form you would expect from Hollywood.

It is extremely stylish to look at, with great cinematography, a few special effects (most of which you have already seen if you've seen the previews), a few great crane shots, and generally very energetic editing.

But expectations can be a tricky thing. Mine were very high for this film since it won the audience awards at Toronto and Edinburgh. But I found it dragged through the middle, and I didn't find myself caring that much about most of the characters. The performances were good, especially by the lead actress (Audrey Tautou), but they all seemed to be more cartoons than real people. Many of the moments were utterly delightful, but I didn't find myself in love with the whole. I would definitely recommend it, but it was just not as good as I had hoped.

Tape (3.5 stars, 2001, seen 11/25/2001, 1:26, rated R):

The story here involves three people from the same high school getting together and hashing over some old issues. One, played by Robert Sean Leonard, is a film director who is in town because his film is playing in the local film festival. Another is his less (much less) accomplished friend, played by Ethan Hawke. And the third is played by Uma Thurman, who is the primary issue being rehashed.

This is not a Dogme95 film, but the effect is quite similar, with the digital video, realistic looking setting, no background music (almost), and a reliance not on a big budget but on the script and the acting, which thankfully do not disappoint. All three actors are excellent. The director is Richard Linklater, none of whose other films I have seen, but his Waking Life is one that I plan to see very soon. Note that this film is not entertainment in the same sense that mainstream movies are, but it is very good.

Djomeh (3 stars, 2000, seen 11/24/2001, 1:34, unrated, in Farsi with subtitles):

The main character in this Iranian film is from Afghanistan and has left his family after a disagreement. He works, if you can call it that, along with an older relative for a man who runs a milk business in the area. The story is one of friendship, romance, and optimism.

The camera shots are mostly static, which contributes to the overall slow feeling, but the film is well worth watching. The film shared the Caméra d'Or (best first film) at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, but will not be widely distributed until 2002.

Go Tigers! (3 stars, 2001, seen 11/18/2001, 1:43, rated R):

This is a low-budget documentary about a small town in Ohio that is mostly obsessed with their high school football team. It gives a fairly balanced view, so football fans can get excited about the game footage while others can see the social commentary. Unfortunately it does miss the opportunity to explore in any depth the members of the community who are not caught up in the frenzy.

I'm not generally a fan of documentaries [or, more accurately, wasn't at the time], especially after very little sleep (this was the morning after the Leonid meteor shower), but this one generally kept my interest. I saw it at the Camera Cinema Club.

Man Who Wasn't There, The (3 stars, 2001, seen 11/2001, 1:56, rated R):

This film is about a barber, played by Billy Bob Thornton, in his dead end life in Santa Rosa, California. He shakes things up with one or two surprisingly daring moves (especially daring for him), and the film takes us on a very deliberate (read: slow) but generally entertaining journey.

The black and white cinematography is beautiful to watch. This film is the latest from the Coen brothers (Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou?).

Monsters, Inc. (4 stars, 2001, seen 11/2/2001, 1:32, rated G):

This is just a wonderful movie. You probably know all about it already so I won't bore you with a plot rehash. The story is great, and Pixar's computer animation just keeps getting better. They are four for four (Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, and now this one).

Before the film there was a short, For the Birds, which was also very good—hopefully it will be on the DVD.

External filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database.

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Copyright © 2001-2003 by Michael S. Weston. All rights reserved.