Crouching Pussycats, Hidden Gems

Moviegoers Avoid Big-Budget Pitfalls

The Day I Became a Woman
Marziyeh Meshkini, with a script cowritten with hubby Mohsen Mahkmalbaf, essays the societal cloud hanging over women in Iran, by way of three stories of three women at three ages. Could be preachy, but given the family and the buzz, we're there. APRIL 6

The Circle
Depicting the daily lives of women in Iran as an inescapable chamber of horrors, Jafar Panahi uses a fruitfully schematic framework to assemble a piece of raw, bracing social realism. Propelled by fatalist dread, the film is nonetheless a keening battle cry. APRIL 13

Freddy Got Fingered
Fledgling auteur Tom Green, in some danger of being upstaged by the Jackass boys, stages a father-son power struggle wherein his 30-year-old jobless slacker comes into conflict with fed-up dad Rip Torn. As oedipal domestic dramas go, could rival Chris Elliott's TV landmark Get a Life. APRIL 20

Guy Pearce and Carrie-Ann Moss in Memento
photo: Danny Rothenberg
Guy Pearce and Carrie-Ann Moss in Memento

The Low Down
Twentysomething vacillation done right (and with more than a soupçon of nouvelle vague) by Brit first-timer Jamie Thraves. Fresh, loose-limbed, and determinedly off-the-cuff, but as a portrait of paralyzing indecision, it's painfully resonant. APRIL 20

Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story
One of Andy Warhol's most memorable and antiglamorous stars receives the E! treatment; it'll be a keeper if it's half as car-wreck fascinating as her fun-with-hypodermics turn in Chelsea Girls. APRIL 25

Eureka
At 217 minutes, Japanese director Shinji Aoyama's daringly patient road movie about the aftermath of a murderous bus hijacking is monumental in every sense of the word. As a profoundly empathic study of grief and reckoning, it belongs beside The Searchers, and its final scene is one of the most viscerally cathartic in memory. MAY 4

Under the Sand
François Ozon's ghost story of sorts, about a middle-aged woman who cannot accept the loss of her husband, is not only a tribute in close-ups to leading lady Charlotte Rampling's face but a beautifully detailed and psychologically acute departure—suggestive and sober where Ozon's previous films were emphatically unhinged. MAY

Ghost World
The most anticipated teen flick of the year. What better director to take on Daniel Clowes's cult serialized comic than Crumb's Terry Zwigoff (making his fiction-feature debut)? Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch play best friends navigating post-high-school turmoil. SPRING


MARCH

The Gleaners & I
Along with overlooked nouvelle-vague queen Agnès Varda's overdue career retro at Film Forum comes this new gonzo doc, in which she examines the current state of contemporary French poverty and scavenging, from the inside out. Premiered at the New York Film Festival. MARCH 7

The Dish
Aussie quirkfest from Rob Sitch, who directed the snide Disneyfied Ealing farce The Castle. This time, a Down Under town somehow gets involved in the Apollo 11 mission. MARCH 9

15 Minutes
More serial-killer hokum, unlikely to be elevated by disingenuous media-bashing or the pairing of homicide cop Robert De Niro and fire marshall Ed Burns. MARCH 9

Hit and Runway
A playwright and screenwriter team up in this gay/straight odd-couple movie, a genre that was dead even before Kiss Me Guido. MARCH 9

Joe Dirt
David Spade tracks down his birth parents, and discovers they're the whitest and trashiest of white trash. The one-liners will fly like badminton birdies. Christopher Walken and Dennis Miller provide support; Gary Busey and Joe Don Baker live out their stereotyped autumn years. MARCH 9

So Close to Paradise
Country boys in the big city fall for the same chanteuse. Director Wang Xiaoshuai shot the film in '95; this is the cut that made it past Chinese censors. MARCH 9

When Brendan Met Trudy
Roddy Doyle tries his hand again at the screenwriting trade—for the first time not adapting one of his own novels—with a romantic comedy about the courtship between a teacher (Brendan) and a thief (Trudy). MARCH 9

Exit Wounds
Newly defrosted Steven Seagal, as a trigger-happy detective, meets Tom Arnold in anger-management class (based on a true story, we guess) and they dismantle a cocaine ring with extreme prejudice. The War on Drugs was not won by Traffic, by God! MARCH 16

One Night at McCool's
Wreckage-trailing bombshell Liv Tyler prompts diverging Rashomon-ish recollections from Matt Dillon, John Goodman, and Paul Reiser. MARCH 16

Sordid Lives
Del Shores's forgotten play about a multigenerational family afflicted with theatrical quirks is now a soon-to-be-forgotten movie directed by Del Shores. We suppose Delta Burke, Bonnie Bedelia, and Beau Bridges didn't have anything better to do; we know for sure Olivia Newton-John didn't. MARCH 16

Town & Country
Warren Beatty mocks/self-appreciates his own reputation again; Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling, and Charlton Heston round out the shuffleboard match. Speculating on the cast's total number of facelifts (Hawn counts for two, at least) could make the time pass. MARCH 16

Soul Survivors
The next teen-horror splotch, about surviving car wrecks and experiencing semi-supernatural portents thereafter. Casey Affleck, Luke Wilson, and American Beauty's Wes Bentley pay their rent. MARCH 16

Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale
Tobias Schneebaum, 1950s painter-turned-anthropologist, spent a year with the Amarakaire (partaking in a cannibalistic ritual and taking tribesmen as his lovers). Now, almost 50 years after he returned to New York, filmmakers David and Laurie Shapiro profile him as he lectures to cruise tourists ogling New Guinea natives. MARCH 16

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