The Parama Chaudhury Movie Awards for 2001
by Parama Chaudhury
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First, a confession: I only see movies that I think have some chance of being decent. I chicken out of reviewing most teen movies or anything with Reese Witherspoon in it, both because I dread sitting there for one and a half banging my head on the seat in front of me, and I have no idea how to suppress the urge to write a very brief review along the lines of “Shoot the director!.” The problem with this attitude is that I sometimes overlook a sleeper. For example, I gave The Others a miss this year, given my memory of What Lies Beneath, possibly the worst horror movie ever made. I went to a couple of “luck of the draw” movies this year, but not nearly enough to have a decent best/worst list. I also spend most of my movie-watching hours trying to read subtitles, in dingy little indie theaters, or admiring Jimmy Dean (as in the film icon, not the sausage guy). So instead of the requisite ten, I categorized the more significant movies I’ve seen this year into six award categories:
1. The Best Movie (I’ve seen this year) Award: The Closet
2. The Almost-Perfect Award: The Man Who Wasn’t There and In the Bedroom
In the Bedroom should probably belong in a Best First Film category. Its shortcomings are the unsure first steps of a fledgling director, while its disquieting beauty is the mark of someone who has vision. This movie is in the tradition of Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, but falls a little short in making the impact of tragedy seem as real. An excellent turn by Tom Wilkinson of The Full Monty fame, and exquisite use of a naturally beautiful backdrop to heighten the sense of loss, makes you think that if the director, Todd Field, builds a little more confidence and a little more commitment to his vision, we can look forward to future masterpieces from him.
3. The I-Love-The-Movies Award: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Amelie
I did write a lukewarm review for Harry Potter, but only because I was reviewing from a die-hard fan’s point of view. If this had been my first exposure to Hagrid flying in on his motorcycle, or wizard’s chess, I would have had a ball. And I did actually have a pretty good time, in spite of all the chaos around me in the theater.
Amelie too had a light and airy touch to it, which made the whole trip to the movies fun. Stylish cut-and-paste cinematography, a cute story that is for the most part not too cute, and a acute sense of humor which I couldn’t get enough of: all of these resulted in a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Oh, and the reason that I preferred The Closet to Amelie is that scene where Amelie melts away because she is disappointed. Really, did we need to cross the line into “too cute”?
4. The Messing-With-Your-Mind Award: Mulholland Drive and Memento
Memento, though not quite as successful, does a pretty good job in breaking the beginning-middle-end mold, too. The premise of short-term memory loss distorting the truth is promising raw material, and for the most part, the director makes good on that promise. Unlike so many films that never quite make the leap from script to visual entity, this one uses photographs as well as video footage from various perspectives to underline the difference between this visual medium and any other way of telling a story. The director places the objectivity of truth under the microscope, but his unimpressed style—perhaps meant to give the film an ultra-cool ambience—leaves you feeling like the movie somehow outsmarted itself.
On second thought, maybe these movies should get The Emperor’s New Clothes award. Hmmm… Jury’s still out on that one.
5. The Unexpected Gem Award: Sexy Beast
6. The Worst Movie Award: A.I.
Parama Chaudhury is a graduate student, an ex-writing instructor and a budding freelance writer, based in New York City.
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