Everything Is Illuminated

The Critics Speak

As Hollywood's lust for instantaneous distribution threatens to turn 35mm film into a relic, who wants to bet that the mad slashers of metathrillers in the all-digital era won't be out-of-work negative cutters and disgruntled union projectionists? In the meantime, we have Robin Williams's Seymour Parrish (how's that for a name that spells the death of film?)—the lonely, celluloid-obsessed customer-care specialist in a suburban discount-store photo department. The new medium is the message: Go digital or die. Indeed, no one seeing One Hour Photo will continue to consider 35mm to be a safe choice for the family. It's a full-service movie. —ROB NELSON

Will someone please wake me when the DV revolution is over? I can only hope that a decade from now, technology will improve so dramatically that eyesores like Tadpole will seem amusingly quaint, like coming across that Deep Purple eight-track in the back of your closet. At least Jean-Luc Godard (In Praise of Love) and Steven Soderbergh (Full Frontal) showed enough contempt for the format to make its limitations seem expressive. —SCOTT TOBIAS

In a year for teeming, obsessively detailed worlds—Scorsese's (and Spike Lee's) New York, Peter Jackson's Middle Earth, Spielberg's futuristic (M)etropolis, Curtis Hanson's Detroit—only one marked its maker, George Lucas, as the most obsessive miniaturist in movie history. He's like a guy who woke up to a voice one day telling him to build France out of toothpicks. Watching When Clones Attack, with its vast model-train environments that swarm with massed pixels, I couldn't wait for the next establishing shot—something I don't think I've done since Barry Lyndon. But as the scope gets larger, the characters become pinpoints in a landscape—even (or especially) when they're at full-frame center. As Lucas's digitized imagery gets warmer and more accessible, his human characters grow increasingly remote and mechanical. It may be that those are the emperor's wishes—the ultimate blurring of man and machine, a fusion of pixel and molecule. —JIM RIDLEY

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)

Starlet Divas

"Joy-eeen me or di-eee!" might not have quite the same ring as "Geef me that Coparah chewel!," but Jack Smith would have been thrilled by the late Aaliyah's final performance as the title character in Queen of the Damned. More golden than (one of Smith's trademark words) moldy, Aaliyah gleefully provides the kind of looks-that-kill rarely—if ever—seen on the screen today. Fiery instead of just venomous, her Queen adds fatally immortal intelligence to the ecstatic narcissism of Maria Montez's Cobra Woman. To paraphrase Smith himself, Aaliyah was remarkable for the gracefulness of her gestures and movement. Don't slander her beautiful womanliness—or whatever in her turned cheap CGI sets to beauty. —JOHNNY RAY HUSTON

Most vapid diva trip: Enough. It takes true huckster zeal to use the ads for a battered-wife melodrama to plug your latest recording, but that's just what "J to tha L-O" did with this piece of SH to the I-T. Regarding the pack of dangerous lies this movie peddled to abuse victims, how did this ever get greenlighted in good conscience? I see some Hollywood chowderhead watching Frederick Wiseman's Domestic Violence and saying, "Y'know, Fred, why don't these babes just contact their absentee millionaire fathers, hire identical look-alikes, acquire ninja skills, buy and master a zillion bucks' worth of surveillance equipment, and get a personal trainer for a month?" —JIM RIDLEY

Scoffed at sight unseen for being based on a video game (yeah, I'm talking to you), then derided for being too gory and braindead for a zombie movie, Resident Evil couldn't catch a break. What gives? Relentless, sexy, and utterly synthetic, this may have been the year's only film to score perfect marks on its own terms, the purest sci-fi trash art since Alien. The soul of the beautiful machine was Milla Jovovich, delivering a knockout performance of few words and tremendous stoicism that actually merits comparison to Buster Keaton. Milla kicked crazy zombie ass and looked fabulous doing it; is this not what the movies were invented for? Writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson obviously needs a name change. Might I suggest Takashi Miike? He'd get better reviews. —JOSHUA ROTHKOPF

Resident Evil realistically addresses some of the big issues of our time, such as safety in the workplace, biological research run amok, and everyone's obligation to keep America zombie-free. This was also an unapologetically educational film. Before we saw Milla Jovovich kick the shit out of the zombie dog, most of us probably believed that only a bullet to the brain could kill the Undead. Now we know better. What this movie was saying just then was "If a firearm isn't handy, don't be afraid to kick a zombie dog in the head—and don't be afraid to do it while wearing a really sexy red dress." —JUSTINE ELIAS

Mix tapes were such an integral device in Alan Warner's original novel that I was overjoyed Lynne Ramsay deployed it equally well. After seeing Morvern Callar, Can's "I Want More" replaced Kylie's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" as the song I wanted to hear every morning. Come to think of it, I look forward to a movie that finds an appropriate use for the Kylie track, too—maybe something with a lot of sexy robots. —JASON ANDERSON

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