Via Chicago
— Errata Movie Podcast —
March 2003
Lilja 4-Ever
2002, Sweden
director: Lukas Moodysson
Like Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, this movie, despite its merits, seems primarily interested in crushing before our eyes an idealized feminine waif. Its young protagonists are nearly empty vessels for the movie to pour tragedy upon tragedy into. Oksana Akinshina's beautiful smile functions repeatedly as the setup for a cynical anecdote whose resolution is the destruction of whatever she was smiling about. Despite the contrivances, the movie does have its virtues: effective use of both dilapidated and antiseptic settings to depict isolation, an aggressive soundtrack, tender conversations between the two main characters (until the conversations become fantasies), and a moment of poetry near the end in which Lilya imagines reversing certain decisions she's made, to be less callous or less naive. I count this moment among the movie's virtues because it upsets the rhythm of bleakness, but I do so reluctantly, not only because it comes across as somewhat didactic but also because it could be seen as yet another tragedy that we watch Lilya endure: that of blaming herself. I do like the minor theme of being blinded to those around you by a desire to escape — Lilya eventually recognizes that she has left a number of broken people in her wake — but evil all alone, whether seen from the point of view of the perpetrator or, as in this movie, the victim, makes for monotonous histrionics.
Posted by davis | Link
2002, U.S.
director: Mark Moskowitz

The first third of Stone Reader accomplishes something very rare in movies: it makes you want to go home and read a book. And not a particular book, but any book. Documentarian Mark Moskowitz's love of books is contagious. Stone Reader documents his search for the author of a long forgotten book, the only book its author wrote. Moskowitz poses lots of questions and possible answers to why an author would write one great book and then vanish. It's not uncommon, he finds.

The movie loses its way when Moskowitz tries hard to emulate other movies without quite pulling it off. It's a detective story, and the way Moskowitz jumps here and there, driving from interview to interview, mirrors his approach to books, but we need to feel the momentum that he says he feels as he gets closer to the elusive author. At one point he seems finally to have the man's address, but instead of going there directly, he stops off to talk to some other folks. Although that may have been the order in which the actual investigation took place, his fuzzy motivations and loose narrative squander the genuine curiosity built up early on. The way his investigation was actually conducted and the way Moskowitz wants to present it increasingly butt heads. Strangely, his interview style often relies on surprising the interviewee with information about the book or his quest, but the effect is undercut when the interviewee obviously feigns surprise ("What's that you have there?"). He uses ambush techniques where they are hardly warranted, marching into a university library with cameras rolling when the library is more than happy to let him see the archives. The attempt at suspense via inappropriate techniques is most unfortunate when he seems more interested in scoring a coup — getting the book back into print — than he is in learning much about the author. After all, Errol Morris got Randall Adams off of death row with The Thin Blue Line. (He also made a great movie.) Not only does Moskowitz press the man's former agent fruitlessly, but he also appears to lose interest in talking to the author and wants instead to rummage around in his basement looking for contracts that can help him with the coup. But I'm probably being too hard on a mostly well-intentioned ode to a good read.

Posted by davis | Link
We previously suggested that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should give the emaciated but spry Peter Lorre a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his portrayal of the Gollum in the second Lord of the Rings movie, and we lauded the producers for an inspired bit of deathbed casting that rivaled the hiring of Jason Robards for P. T. Anderson's Magnolia. We've since learned that Lorre passed away in 1964 and therefore did not play the Gollum in the Rings picture. We've also learned that Tolkien wrote the movie in the 1950s, which calls into question our suggestion that Lorre drew inspiration from the Rings script for his 1931 breakthrough performance as a man battling inner demons in Fritz Lang's M. For these errors, we wish to apologize to Mr. Lorre, Mr. Lang, and Rich Little, or whatever Lorre impersonator played the Gollum character so effectively and, still we say, deserves nomination.
Posted by editor | Link | Other Corrections