Chilly Scenes


Ten To Cheer

Affliction Paul Schrader’s tough-skinned, queasy version of the Russell Banks novel opens the wound of the American family once more, and with an unsharpened blade. Nick Nolte is the classic upcountry American doomed to fail everyone around him, including himself; in a fit of brilliant casting, James Coburn is his tyrannical dad. December 30

Babe: Pig In The City Not to be confused with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, or Friday the 13th, Part VIII— Jason Takes Manhattan. Why do sequels so often migrate to New York? Talking animals beside your favorite landmarks: run, don’t walk. November 25

A Civil Action Steven Zaillian directs this potentially rousing social-issue drama, based on fact, about a lawsuit brought against a company accused of toxic-waste dumping and inadvertent deaths. Robert Redford exec-produced, and John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Tony Shalhoub, William H. Macy, and John Lithgow star. December 25

Hilary And Jackie High-strung psychological shouter in which Emily Watson plays famous cellist Jacqueline du Pré, and Rachel Griffiths plays her estranged, less talented sister with whom she reconciles after going terminal. December 25

In Dreams Looks like it might be terrifying: A Bruce Robinson­Neil Jordan script directed by Jordan about portentous nightmares and a real killer. Starring Annette Bening, Aidan Quinn, Robert Downey Jr., and Stephen Rea. January 22

Little Voice Jane Horrocks reinvents her theatrical triumph as a cloistered Brit girl who
communicates only via her dead-on imitations of Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, etc., and who is beset upon by her blowsy mother’s new talent- agent boyfriend (Michael Caine). Ewan McGregor costars as a shy pigeon-keeper. December 4

My Name Is Joe Ken Loach clocks in with another scabby, breathtakingly naturalistic working-class tale, involving a Scottish alcoholic trying to keep his threadbare life from unraveling altogether. Star Peter Mullan won at Cannes. January 23

Psycho The rumor mill has been just busy enough to suggest that this might not be the stupidest studio undertaking in memory after all; director Gus Van Sant may well have a few distinguishing twists up his sleeve. And even if this turns out to be a scene-for-scene copy, at least it’s certifiably loony D.P. Chris Doyle who’s doing the copying. December 4

A Simple Plan Scott Smith’s riveting, believable novel about small-town brothers discovering a crashed plane full of stolen loot could easily be ruined by Sam Raimi’s vertiginous approach and the out-there styles of Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, but then again, we might all get lucky. The advance word is good. December 4

The Thin Red Line Could Terence Malick ever live up to his hype, his first two films, his mysterious 20-year silence? We all want to find out, and so the lines will be long, at least initially, for this big-balls version of James Jones’s Guadalcanal opus, and the all-star cast doesn’t hurt: Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, John Cusack, Bill Pullman, John Savage, Lukas Haas, Ben Chaplin, and newcomer Adrien Brody in the lead. December 25

Ten To Fear

Celebrity More rancid than Deconstructing Harry and even less funny, the Woodman’s latest has some pretty facile things to say about The Ironies of Fame. Kenneth Branagh’s Woody impersonation is frighteningly spot-on, not to mention acutely embarrassing. Along for the all-too-familiar ride are Judy Davis, Winona Ryder, Joe Mantegna, and Famke Janssen— all of whom have more screen time than either by-default star attraction Leonardo DiCaprio or Vanity Fair nipple-flasher Gretchen Mol. November 20

Enemy Of The State Source of one of the year’s most confusing trailers, this wrong-man technothriller has Will Smith framed for murder and running for his life from a vast conspiracy. Gene Hackman provides the exposition and Tony Scott the supervision. November 20

Jack Frost A devoted daddy dies and comes back to life as a snowman to watch over his son. (We hope his son lives in northern Canada.) Hollywood’s paternal anxiety and son-love may have finally edged into the realm of madness. Michael Keaton is the unlucky star. December 18

Patch Adams Another messiah-doctor story, about some factual med-school misfit whose “unconventional” approach frustrates the authorities and endears him to patients, and you know without being told any more that Robin Williams is the star. Heartfelt grimaces, booming cue music, tearful healing— enough to make you want to become a Christian Scientist. Williams’s sidekicks include Monica Potter, Irma P. Hall, and Harve Presnell. December 25

Psycho On the other hand, why bother? Vince Vaughn should make for a rather threatening Norman Bates (especially in a dress), but Julianne Moore will certainly be wasted, as was Vera Miles, on the investigating sister role. Killing off the original star, Janet Leigh, 40 minutes in was radical; what’s killing off Anne Heche gonna get you? December 4

Shakespeare In Love Joseph Fiennes plays Bill S. amid romances of his own, the writing of Romeo and Juliet, and intrigues in the court of Elizabeth I, played by who-else Judi Dench. Gwyneth Paltrow dallies once again in the land of bustles and pince-nez. Dench reunites with her Mrs. Brown director John Madden. Watch out (in trepidation) for Ben Affleck’s cameo. December 11

Stepmom Dig this: Susan Sarandon is dying of cancer (is Christmastime the cancer season?), so she must teach Julia Roberts, as the nitwitted girlfriend of her ex-husband, to be a good mom to her mouthy daughter. Of course, everyone ends up hugging. Chris Columbus is responsible. December 25

The Theory Of Flight Diseases and infirmaries are very hot; here, Kenneth Branagh attempts to overcome his monstrous narcissism by playing a shy man (convincing!) in love with a wheelchair-bound victim of neuro-muscular disease (Helena Bonham Carter). With any luck, it’ll end up better than when the two romanced in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and HBC got her head torn off and then sloppily sewn back on. December 23

Virus It’s not Sphere or Deep Rising, but it is a movie about being stuck on a big, storm-buffeted ship that is otherwise occupied by human-consuming aliens. This time, we’re the “virus” to be expunged— get it? Or at least, Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, and Donald Sutherland are, and who’s arguing? Been on the Universal shelf most of the year. January 15

You’ve Got Mail A cyber-remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner, Nora Ephron’s latest saccharine bid for box office was cowritten by both Ephron sisters and Wendy Wasserstein. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan will jump through the same old hoops. December 18

Everything in Between
(in chronological order)

Storefront Hitchcock Robyn Hitchcock plays a downtown space in this perf doc, directed by the only person who can do them right, Jonathan Demme. November 18

Central Station Walter Salles directed this Brazilian entry into the Kolya sweepstakes: antisocial mail clerk woman helps a motherless boy find his father. Grabbed a couple of awards at Berlin. November 20

Hallelujah! Ron Athey: A Story Of Deliverance This year’s Sick? The doc follows Athey, a performance artist who confronts pain and taboos, as he stages work in Zagreb, Croatia, and Mexico City. November 20

The Rugrats Movie Everyone’s fave cadre of preschool self-starters hits the screen. Count on crude animation and knife-sharp jokes. November 20

Savior Dennis Quaid and Nastassja Kinski continue to give mouth-to-mouth to their fading careers in this Oliver Stone­produced maxi-indie about a Serb-hired mercenary finding redemption in Bosnia by protecting a Croatian newborn. November 20

Sue Amos Kollek is self-distributing this modest New York romance, wherein Anna Thomson (the slashed whore in Unforgiven) struggles to survive after losing her job and her lease. November 20

Waking Ned Devine In good old Ealing style, a winning lottery ticket with a dead owner has the inhabitants of a sleepy Irish village in a tizzy. Twinkle-toed as a case of Lucky Charms, this harmless Full Monty wannabe is a load of blarney, peopled by characters who drink so constantly it’s a wonder they’re not all reeking, brawl-pocked, and incontinent. November 20

Cracking Up An award winner at the New York Underground Film Festival, writer-director-star Matt Mitler’s movie is about a Lower East Side performance artist with self-destructive tendencies. Featuring Camryn Manheim and Antz screenwriter Todd Alcott before they were names. November 23

A Bug’s Life Disney and the Pixar boys try to pick up the scraps left behind by Antz; it’s bound to be wittier than its competition, but we can’t remember anyone ever asking the unmusical question, did we need two digital, celebrity-voiced cartoons about underdog ants saving the day clogging up screens in the same season? With vocal stylings by Kevin Spacey, Dave Foley, Phyllis Diller, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Denis Leary. November 25

Ringmaster Jerry Springer stars in this fictional take on the behind-the-scenes world of a highly controversial talk show. November 25

Steam: The Turkish Bath Here’s an Istanbul-set story involving an inherited Turkish bath and homoerotic desires. Need we say it: hot, hot, hot. November 25

Home Fries A romantic comedy in which Drew Barrymore plays a pregnant waitress whose married lover dies mysteriously. Screenwriter Vince Gilligan is an X-Files vet. November 25

Very Bad Things Actor Peter Berg wrote and directed this worst-day-in-the-life farce, about a bachelor party in Vegas that goes horribly awry. A black comedy with horns; Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz, Jon Favreau, Daniel Stern, and Jeremy Piven all line up with cleavers. November 25

Port Djema Echoes of Welcome to Sarajevo: In an imaginary country in East Africa, a Parisian surgeon tries to fulfill a promise made to his friend, a humanitarian-aid worker who has just been killed there, and searches for a child his friend had taken in. November 27

Vietnam Long Time Coming Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams) coproduced this documentary about a 16-day bicycle ride in Vietnam taken by American and Vietnamese veterans. November 27

African Violet and The Land Is White, The Seed Is Black

Two sober meditations on apartheid and its legacy by South African filmmaker Koto Bolofo. December 2

The Last Emperor How about The Longest Emperor? Here’s the director’s cut, all 219 indispensable minutes of it. December 4

The Mirror Jafar Panahi’s acutely self-reflexive follow-up to The White Balloon, in which the child actress of the first film, playing herself, storms off a film set. December 4

Shattered Image Raul Ruiz keeps rapping them out, and this time he takes on La Femme Nikita. Anne Parrillaud is a honeymooner who dreams she’s an assassin, or an assassin who dreams she’s a honeymooner. Raul keeps the balls in the air. December 4

Divorce Iranian Style This doc takes a look at the difficult process by which an Iranian woman can divorce her husband— the other way around is apparently no problem. December 9

God Said Ha! Making the most of her Miramax-via­Quentin Tarantino connection, Julia Sweeney gets a film of her stage monologue about cervical cancer onto the screen.
December 11

The Ogre In Volker Schlondorff’s dark fable, John Malkovich stars as a naive man who unwittingly becomes a key recruiter for the Hitler Youth. December 11

Star Trek: Insurrection The ninth Star Trek movie, with Patrick Stewart’s Picard searching à la Kirk for the Spock-like Data. Those who will go, you know who you are. December 11

Playing By Heart Mega-casted Love American-Style ensemble portmanteau about romance in L.A., with Sean Connery, Madeleine Stowe, Dennis Quaid, Ellen Burstyn, Ryan Phillippe, Angelina Jolie, Gillian Anderson, Gena Rowlands, Anthony Edwards, and Jon Stewart. December 18

The General John Boorman seems to want to catch up with Neil Jordan and The Butcher Boy with this prosaic comedy about Martin Cahill, a Robin Hood­style Dublin gangster who beat the cops for years until the IRA got him first. Nothing new, and an addition to the serious dip Boorman’s undulating career is stuck in. With an understated Brendan Gleeson and Jon Voight managing an Irish-op brogue. December 18

Prince Of Egypt Spielberg and DreamWorks fulfill what may have seemed to be a Hollywood obligation and remake De Mille’s The Ten Commandments, and by gosh, the Pharaoh even looks like Yul Brynner. Will Nefretiri sound like Anne Baxter? Voices by Val Kilmer, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Helen Mirren, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ralph Fiennes, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, and Patrick Stewart. December 18

The Swindle As prolific as he’s ever been, Claude Chabrol revisits the international thriller terrain of the ’60s with Isabelle Huppert and Michel Serrault as two petty grifters caught up in a big transcontinental to-do revolving around a briefcase full of cash. December 23

Zakir And His Friends A documentary about international percussionists and rhythm makers. December 23

Down In The Delta In Maya Angelou’s directorial debut, Alfre Woodard brings her drug-addled daughter back to Mississippi. December 25

The Faculty Another teen-horror Kevin Williamson script, this time brought to life by Robert Rodriguez, so at least we know that before they’re eviscerated, the fabulous-looking teen stars will do a lot of flying through the air and stuff. Elijah Wood, Shawn Hatosy, Summer Phoenix, and Jordana Brewster are some of the kids; Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, and Jon Stewart (nice new agent, Jon!) are the adults. December 25

Hurlyburly David Rabe’s scabrous play finally makes it to the screen, and with a cool cast of frustrated-with-Hollywood actors: Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Meg Ryan, and Anna Paquin. December 25

Mighty Joe Young Yes, but where’s Robert Armstrong? Another stop-animated big-beast movie of the past gets retrofitted for the present. Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron are stuck gazing up at the digital gorilla-to-be-added-later. December 25

Overture The plot is questionable— a baby abandoned on a boat at the turn of the century grows up to be a musical genius. Tim Roth and Laurence Fishburne may save the ship. December 25

Tea With Mussolini Zeffirelli’s semiautobiographical tale— a bittersweet comedy set against
Fascist Italy— looks to go up against Life Is Beautiful come Oscar time. Cher plays an American adventuress and Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, and Judi Dench a trio of eccentric British expatriates. December 25

The Hi-Lo Country Stephen Frears, whose mixed bag includes The Grifters and Mary Reilly, directs this story about two men who fall in love with the same woman in post­WW II Mexico. Starring Woody Harrelson, Patricia Arquette, Sam Elliott, and Billy Crudup. December 30

Fantastic Planet Rene Laloux’s lurid and lysergic 1973 sci-fi cartoon, cowritten with Roland Topor, gets a swinging rerelease, coupled with a short the two made eight years before, Les Escargots. January

Jeanne And The Perfect Guy Or make that le garçon formidable, which the lovely, lanky Virginie Ledoyen searches for from bed to Parisian bed, dancing through sweet, Jacques Demy­esque musical numbers the entire way. Her journey eventually ends with Mathieu Demy (Jacques’s son), who is gay and has AIDS. Directed and written with a warm sense of homage by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau. January

Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Anymore Sarah Jacobson’s touring, low-budget film is about a repressed teenager’s sexual awakening. January

Rock The Boat A documentary by Bobby Houston that traces the trans-Pacific voyage of HIV-positive sailors. January

Analyze This A Harold Ramis comedy in which Mafia don Robert De Niro gets his nervous shrink (Billy Crystal) involved with mob business. Written by a committee made up of people who have all presumably seen Grosse Pointe Blank. January

Office Space Mike Judge’s primary talent seemed to be handling the voices for both Beavis and Butt-Head, certainly not comedy writing or directorial panache. We’ll see how far he can stretch with this live-action debut, in which Jennifer Aniston and other youngish wastrels try to deal with ’90s corporate culture. January

Payback Brian Helgeland, who somehow managed to cowrite the screenplays for both L.A. Confidential and The Postman, makes his directorial debut with this Mel Gibson thriller, based on the novel that inspired John Boorman’s 1967 Point Blank. Maria Bello and James Coburn costar. January

The 24-Hour Woman Nancy Savoca is back with this acidic semicomedy about a hot TV producer (Rosie Perez) whose carefully balanced life is turned upside down by the birth of her first baby. Savoca hasn’t struck out yet; where’s she been? Patti LuPone takes a rare movie role. January

Kiss Me Deadly A restored print of Robert Aldrich’s strange and inspired adaptation of a Mickey Spillane novel. At Film Forum. January 1­14

Private Confessions Ingmar Bergman must have a closet of unfilmed scripts based on his parents’ marriage, and here’s the latest, after The Best Intentions and Sunday’s Children, farmed out this time to Liv Ullmann for direction. January 6

A Little Bit Of Soul Geoffrey Rush and Frances O’Connor star in this Australian comedy about an antiaging treatment. January 8

Arlington Road A glossy thriller about average schmo Jeff Bridges beginning to suspect that his new neighbors, Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, are… conservatives! Actually, they’re ultra-con militia terrorists with a penchant for blowing up municipal buildings. Let’s hope the families of the Oklahoma City dead appreciate the mileage Hollywood is getting out of the scenario. January 15

Blood, Guts, Bullets & Octane Another dirt-cheap indie (costing about as much as a decent Yamaha) about losers on the road getting mixed up with the FBI and murders and comic noir fatalism. January 15

Barrabas A restoration of Louis Feuillade’s 12-part 1919 serial. At the Museum of Modern Art. January 19­21

The Winners A documentary about four musicians who won the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels between 1955 and 1976. January 20

Another Day In Paradise Larry Clark’s downbeat outlaw tale is being touted as a film counterpart to Tulsa. Starring James Woods, Melanie Griffith, and Natasha Gregson Wagner. January 22

The Children Of Heaven Yet another Iranian film with children; this time they are a little too noble and well behaved to be believed. January 22

It Happened Here and Winstanley Two early films by film historian Kevin Brownlow. January 22

Dry Cleaning Anne Fontaine’s film involves a French couple who visit a gay nightclub to spice up their lives. January 29

Mighty Peking Man The notorious 1977 Hong Kong giant-ape epic Hsing Hsing Wang gets an overdue psychotronic release here. Proof if you need it that we have just scratched the surface of HK pulp cinema. January 29

Peeping Tom A new print of Michael Powell’s classic. January 29

She’s All That A romantic comedy about a guy (Freddie Prinze Jr.) who tries to turn a shy artist (Rachael Leigh Cook) into the prom queen. January 29

Spanish Fly Daphna Kastner writes, directs, and stars in this Spain-set comedy about machismo. Also featuring Martin Donovan, Marianne Sagebrecht, and Rossy de Palma. January 29

Fever Pitch Hot Brit author Nick Hornby writes the kinds of books that take place almost entirely in their protagonists’ sorry skulls, and so filmic translation is dodgy at best. Colin Firth stars in the first, a romantic comedy about a soccer fanatic’s relationship woes. Late January

Series Business

“Cinema Novo And Beyond” At the Museum of Modern Art. November 13­January 21

René Clair retro At the Museum of Modern Art. November 20­December 13

John Cassavetes retro At the anthology. November 27­December 18

“The Lodz Film School Of Poland: 50 Years” At the Museum of Modern Art. December 18­January 10

“Spanish Film Now” At the Walter Reade. December 4­31

“Marcello Mastroianni And The Italian Cinema” At the Walter Reade. January 1­16

“The 8th Annual Jewish Film Festival” At the Walter Reade. January 16­28

Robert Bresson retro At the Museum of Modern Art. January 22­February 7

One of five articles in our Film supplement.