Everything Is Illuminated

The Critics Speak

Don't know why anyone was looking for rom-com chemistry in a Kafkaesque waking-dream like Punch-Drunk Love—essentially a 4D map of the depressive mind. Barry's blue suit is a hard insect casing. The tire blowout, a serotonin sunspot. The harmonium, scoffing possibility. The soundtrack, a migraine. His sisters, a swarm. The story has nothing to do with pudding and everything to do with the impossibility of returning to the womb—and the charitable sweetness that has to compensate. —LAURA SINAGRA

Zacharias Kunuk kicked off his icefield epic, The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat), with an appropriately Homeric invocation that doubled as a challenge to the non-Inuit among us: I can only sing this song to someone who will understand it. Capturing—hunting—the preliterate tale with postfilm technology, Atanarjuat at once defies time and raises the threshold of the seeable, and months later the viewer recalls a searing white canvas, soaked with myth and endlessly renewable. —ED PARK

Y Tu Mamá También + Weekend at Bernie's = Talk to Her. Is it just me, or does that film beg to be remade by Cameron Crowe with Tom and Penélope? —MARK PERANSON

What a carve-up: Diaz and Day-Lewis (#2 performance) in Gangs of New York (#11 film)
photo: Mario Tursi
What a carve-up: Diaz and Day-Lewis (#2 performance) in Gangs of New York (#11 film)

Exactly when did it become apparent that Jack Nicholson is the reincarnation of Ben Turpin? —MICHAEL ATKINSON

What I learned from watching About Schmidt: that anyone who ever ate at a Tony Roma's restaurant is a fucking idiot. And oh yeah, ordering a Blizzard from Dairy Queen makes you a pretty big putz, too. —JASON ANDERSON

If Jack wins an Oscar, will he give back the one he got for As Good As It Gets? —MARK PERANSON

Evoking a sort of double nostalgia (for the city before skyscrapers, for the cinema before computers), Gangs of New York is its maker's only slightly premature lament for the passing of cinema. —ROB NELSON

Gangs of New York has the year's most haunting metaphor: the metal in the eye of Daniel Day-Lewis's Butcher, stamped in the shape of an American eagle, projecting the film's memories of medieval Manhattan into the uneasy here and now. —ED PARK

A special "Oh, the Humanity" award for most species combined in one breathing organism goes to Gangs of New York, the best Western since Unforgiven, the best Dickensian Western, well, ever, and an achievement it aspires to quite consciously with its capping shot of the Twin Towers: The Last Picture of the 20th Century. After a while I stopped trying to catch the reference points—e.g., after the first Gone With the Wind pullback, the fireworks from Leos Carax's Les Amants du Pont Neuf, the set-ups from Once Upon a Time in America, Lean's Oliver Twist and The Warriors, Vermeer's View of Delft, the reveal from The Ladies Man, Captain Blood, blood and more blood! —MARK PERANSON

This year, Spielberg's output is like nothing I've seen since Godard made Two or Three Things I Know About Her and La Chinoise in the same year. Both Spielberg's films are challenging, personal, and spectacular. He has done for the commercial movie what Godard did for the art movie—made it a form of surprise, innovation, and truly moving ethics. I know this is heresy at the Voice where the staff seemingly swears to oppose anything with Spielberg's name on it, but come on guys. Remember why you started loving movies in the first place. Those reasons are all in Catch Me If You Can and Minority Report. —ARMOND WHITE

Why didn't a larger audience embrace Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale? Yeah, OK, sure: it's an exploration of destiny and divided nature, a witty deconstruction of the film-noir bad girl (and suspense moviemaking in general), and a fever dream of awakening conscience and redemption. But it has naked women! High-tech heists at the Cannes Film Festival! A jewel switcheroo disguised as a lesbian make-out session! You'd think that alone would entice the Skinemax crowd—but the idea that sex sells to mainstream audiences has always been overestimated. Video killed celluloid porn because people could watch it without fear of being seen—or more to the point, of being noticed. De Palma's mid-career erotic thrillers made audiences uncomfortable because he toyed so openly with our secret voyeuristic wants and desires. His are the movies that watch us. —JIM RIDLEY

Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People was the first movie structured like a DVD bonus feature. And I mean that in a good way. The hilariously self-deprecating spectacle of Steve Coogan providing first-person running commentary as he fast-forwarded through the good bits of Tony Wilson's career seems perfectly suited for the target audience: collector-obsessed info-dweebs weaned on liner notes. —ED HALTER

Were My Big Fat Greek Wedding about a Jewish family, I suspect it would be accused of anti-Semitism—hell, the subplots about the Costanza family in Seinfeld were far more nuanced. Late Marriage was its antidote: a painfully funny examination of an oppressive family that doesn't offer any comfortable way out, either by bringing everyone together for a happy ending or pretending that you can snap your fingers and escape patriarchy. —STEVE ERICKSON

The overwhelming sentiment for Bowling for Columbine seems to me a matter of wish-fulfillment (getting the movie you want to see confused with the one you actually do see), the worst kind of bullying self-promotion (Moore actually wrote himself a rave review on his Web site, and equated not liking his movie with going neo-con), and a general lowering of expectations (like: hey, he can shout just as loud as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter). Good political stance, lousy movie. —KENT JONES

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