Why Crash Had a Lock on the Oscar

A former Angeleno reveals the real reason Crash took home the Best Picture Oscar, despite its shortcomings. It wasn't a backlash against the "too gay" Brokeback Mountain but a reason dear to every realtor's heart: location, location, location.

Catch Them If You Can

Grin without a Cat readers share their picks of movies they'll watch almost
any time, no matter that they can recite the dialogue along with the actors.
What movies "catch" you?

Rule #1: Never talk about Fight Club

Grin without a Cat breaks the rules to find out more about this fascinating film, and why it's worth a second, third and fourth look.

28 Days Later

Blood, gore and metaphors for what's wrong with human nature are all thick on the ground in this disjointed horror/sci-fi flick, which offers shocks but not enough real scares.

About Schmidt

Jack Nicholson successfully dulls himself down to play an ordinary guy, but the film around him is smug and mean-spirited. Kathy Bates brings a few honest laughs.

Alexander

Oliver Stone's overproduced mish-mash of history, myth and video game-style gore turns one of antiquity's most fascinating figures into a crashing bore. Stone tries to have it both ways with Alexander's bisexuality, stating it but refusing to show any real affection between Colin Farrell's Alexander and Jared Leto's Hephaistion. If the film had a sense of humor, Angelina Jolie's campy performance as Alexander's mother would have been funny, but here it's just bewildering.

Alfie

Jude Law sparkles as the ultimate Cockney Casanova transplated to NYC, with strong support from a cast including Marisa Tomei, Susan Sarandon and Nia Long. But heavy-handed direction from Charles Shyer drags Alfie down from a clever light comedy to a finger-waggling lecture on the evils of bed-hopping.

American Beauty

Suburban angst with several darkly comic twists from pre-"Six Feet Under" scribe Alan Ball.

American Mullet

A fond salute to the short-in-front, long-in-back hairstyle that's more than a Jerry Springer must-have.

American Pie

More (but not much more) than unlawful congress with a traditional baked good.

Being Julia

Annette Bening delivers a tour-de-force performance as a Star of the the-a-tuh who is almost done in by her passion for a younger man. Slow going in spots but with a happily campy bang-up ending, and you can't take your eyes off of Bening (nor should you).

Bowling for Columbine

Michael Moore (Roger & Me) takes a funny, sad, enraging look at America's amour fou with guns.

Camp

A hilarious look at a place where Sondheim's a deity, straight guys are a minority and "everything" is a song cue. Here's to the ladies who lunch!

Chicago

Miscasting mars the film adaptation of the stage musical, but some of its razzle-dazzle shines through nevertheless.

Closer

Striving for an incisive study of love, lust and (in)fidelity, Patrick Marber's screenplay is all talk--literally. Director Mike Nichols fails to sufficiently rethink this stage play for the screen, drowning good actors (Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen) in an ocean of words. Review includes an analysis of Nichols' directing career.

Cold Mountain

Hokey, entertaining melodrama with delusions of depth. Nicole Kidman and
Jude Law look fabulous as they suffer, but Minghella's square outlook makes
their romance sillier than it already is. Beautiful cinematography by John
Seale.

Color of Paradise

Beautifully made Iranian film about a blind son and his spiritually blind father.

Coming Apart

"Candid Camera" meets Andy Warhol-style long takes in one of the weirder films of 1969. Rip Torn's energy shines through.

Election

Scarily prescient (released pre-Florida 2000 and butterfly ballots), extremely funny high-school-as-hell satire. Pick Flick!

Elephant

Gus Van Sant's documentary-style exploration of a Columbine-type school
shooting is purposefully opaque and often dull, but somehow compelling
nonetheless. Click here to read an interview with Van Sant and Elephant Executive Producer Diane Keaton.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Yes, it's biased; yes, it's rude; yes, it traffics in some wild theories. But Fahrenheit 9/11 is more than a political tool--it's a brilliant dissection of power, both the filmmaker's and the politician's. Should be required viewing before stepping into the voting booth.

Far From Heaven

Todd Haynes' re-creation and rethinking of a 1950s-era "woman's picture"
works beautifully, sparked by its top-notch cast (Julianne Moore, Dennis
Quaid, Dennis Haysbert).

Galaxy Quest

Slow start but then more fun than a barrel of Tribbles, simultaneously skewering Trekkies and those who mock them.

Garden State

Actor-writer-director Zach Braff crafts a sharp, funny film from the pain of
family dysfunction. The film succeeds in large part due to a freshly felt
performance by Natalie Portman, rescued from the somnambulism of Star
Wars
.

Gosford Park

Country-house mystery has director Robert Altman in peak form, supported by a dream cast led by Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith.

Hotel Rwanda

Don Cheadle's standout performance as an unlikely real-life hero anchors this melodramatic but effective film about the horrors of the Rwandan genocide.

Japanese Story

A terrific, emotionally honest performance by Toni Collette makes this spare, fable-like story as compelling as many a blockbuster.

Jersey Guy

This boring, shapeless mess of a movie is the stinkweed of the Garden State.
It's more fun to be stuck behind an 18-wheeler on the Turnpike.

Kinsey

Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) creates a film that's a bit of a slog to sit through but makes for fascinating post-viewing conversation. The warts-and-all portrait of pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey tries to avoid bio-pic cliches and sometimes succeeds, especially when it focuses on the personal rather than the political. Liam Neeson, Laura Linney and Peter Sarsgaard shine in a strong cast.

Laurel Canyon

Frances McDormand makes middle age look great in Laurel Canyon, and the rest of the absurdly good-looking cast does fine as well.

The Man from Elysian Fields

Dark, funny satire of the publishing world trapped between the pages of an overwrought drama about selling your body and soul.

Manna From Heaven

Simplistic, saccharine story spiced with fine performances from cast of talented, too-little seen actors.

A Mighty Wind

Folk music mockumentary without enough mock, created by the Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman team. A priceless cast (led by Eugene Levy andCatherine O'Hara) provides some giggles.

Plunkett & Macleane

A dumb blonde of a movie: beautiful but with nary a thought in its pretty little head.

School of Rock

Jack Black hits all the right notes in a role tailored to his considerable comedic talents.

Secretary

Or, when the boss from hell turns out to be heaven-sent. Secretary is a twisted love story/fairy tale with a great performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Small Time Crooks

Lazy sitcom/farce from Woody Allen relieved by comedic gold of Tracey Ullman's and Elaine May's performances.

The Stepford Wives

Silly, spoofy and actually funny, this send-up of conformity and materialism has a light touch thanks to wisecracking screenwriter Paul Rudnick and director Frank Oz. Star Nicole Kidman works hard, but supporting actors Bette Midler, Roger Bart, Christopher Walken and the fabulous Glenn Close have the most fun.

Stevie

Difficult documentary focuses on one of life's casualties. Worthwhile, but
the filmmaker's guilt is ultimately frustrating and self-serving.

Storytelling

Todd Solondz dares the audience not to be disgusted--that would be
uncool!--by two equally repellent stories, "Fiction" and "Nonfiction".
Powerful filmmaking, but to what purpose?

Summer of Sam

Spike Lee's overstuffed phantasmagoria of fear and loathing in 1977 New York City makes you nostalgic for our home-grown variety of homicidal killer.

Sunshine State

Earnest John Sayles film is on the side of the angels; sharp performances liven scattershot storytelling.

Trick

Gay romantic comedy that's actually romantic and comedic, with appealing performances all around.

The Triplets of Belleville

A funny, freaky feature-length cartoon that recaptures some of the truly magical quality of animation: that seeing is believing, no matter how unbelievable the sights might be.

Up at the Villa

Want to see Florence, Italy but can't afford the trip? Rent this movie--the
ridiculous melodrama barely gets in the way of the scenery.

Vanity Fair

Great-looking adaptation of the classic novel gives Reese Witherspoon and a surfeit of wonderful British actors (Jim Broadbent, Bob Hoskins, Gabriel Byrne and especially Eileen Atkins) lots of room to play. But director Mira Nair muddies the emotional through-lines, making Vanity Fair coolly entertaining rather than totally involving.

The Woodsman

Disturbing film about a disturbing subject, pedophilia, is worth seeing for Kevin Bacon's honest performance. First-time director Nicole Kassell keeps hysteria at bay while not shying from the horror of sexual predators.

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