Split Decisions: the Critics Speak


How They Learned to Drive

Mulholland Drive‘s love story is the perfect distillation of cinema’s greatest female pairings—from Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann in Persona. —Melissa Anderson

As someone who didn’t really like Blue Velvet that much, I was relieved to see Lynch dispense with the Dennis Hopper/Robert Blake male-id monster figure (dropping him meaninglessly behind the trash compactor at the diner) and focusing on flawed heroines. The use of La Llorona, a Mexican folktale about a woman who murdered her children, as translated by Roy Orbison, is one of the best meditations on bicultural Los Angeles since Venice stood in for a Mexican border town in Touch of Evil. —Ed Morales

The audition scene gave Naomi her lead-performance Wattage; playing her seasoned, lecherous line-feeder was Chad Everett, star of the ’70s series Medical Center. He’s also the lifelong object of obsession for Ronnie Simonson, one of the five disabled adults traveling cross-country in Arthur Bradford’s doc How’s Your News?, which had a run at the Screening Room in October. If Mulholland was Lynchs acid valentine to Hollywood, Simonson (who has cerebral palsy and who loves everyone, according to his mother) provided a sweet, serendipitous footnote—displaying the photos the actor sent him, asking everyone he meets if they remember him, kneeling to kiss Everett’s Hollywood star. Simonson proudly quotes a letter from Everett kindly calling him his “spiritual brother”: It’s a sunny counterpoint to Naomi and Laura’s dreamy doppelgänging, for any who care to read meaning into the stars. —Ed Park

Mulholland Drive remains a fragmentary freak, overrun with clichés that Lynch has long since made his own: blond/brunette doubling, stagy non sequiturs, carnival gargoyles, crushed all-American innocence. Has he let a single film go by without tracking his camera into a small, shadowy, symbolic cavern? At this stage, Lynch’s visions are hardly sui generis; the difference here is the accumulation of pathos. Sure, it’s one of this dreary year’s best, but let’s not get carried away: For all of the movie’s mirrored mysteries, both Little Otik and Pootie Tang had a surer grip on post-Godard meta-ness. —Michael Atkinson

Naomi Watts gets two mentions in the Mulholland Drive credits. Does this mean I can vote for her twice? —Mark Peranson

Betty and Rita fall in love, have sex, and go to Silencio, in roughly that order, and so the dizzying sensations that attend any besotted couple’s first postcoital encounter with the outside world—stunned joy, shared secrecy, the effulgent strangeness of familiar surroundings—are reflected through the fun-house mirror of some sub-Brechtian nightmare palace. Silencio’s mantra is No hay banda, and it sends Betty into convulsions: Her dream jolts her out of her dream. As the song goes, she hears a symphony; but there is no symphony. Rapture so pure, so undiscovered, must be a deception, a delusion, a trick—which is to say, only a movie. The only sound might be Betty’s heart breaking; the film and the performance tear open with it.

One measure of Naomi Watts’s astonishing accomplishment is the number of viewers who walk out unsure whether naive, perky Betty and abject, crazed Diane are the same person. The physical difference comes down to sallow skin and stringy hair; the confusion truly stems from the inside out. As Diane, the stars in her eyes shoot and fall, that can-do jaw juts out bitterly—her face stiffens into a scar-tissue mask of pain and betrayal. With a hunch of the shoulders and a defensive twist of the neck, the bird-boned sylph shrivels into a junkie wastrel. And yet, each woman is two women. Diane lurks in Betty, most overtly during the blindsiding audition scene (unnerving not least because, admit it, we don’t know what caliber of actress Watts is up to that point, either). Flashes of Betty survive in Diane, too. En route to her own engagement party, Camilla takes Diane by the hand and fixes her with that counterfeit rapt gaze, and Diane ducks her head bashfully, smiles what she thinks is a knowing smile. For a moment, she looks like Betty after she nailed her tryout.

Camilla is leading lambs to the slaughter—the last half-hour of Mulholland Drive transpires under a white-heat L.A. glare of rage and humiliation, both embodied and suffered by Diane. She hallucinates Camilla in her kitchen, and a rash of deranged emotion swarms over her face like a vicious infection: surprise, ecstasy, hope, confusion, fear, and finally, unbearable sorrow. This scene evokes Laura Palmer at the end of Fire Walk With Me, seated in some way station of the afterlife, hysterically laughing and crying before a divine vision (though we can’t hear her—more silencio). Diane’s wish-fulfilling fever dream is also a version of heaven, of course. But while Laura’s hereafter was assembled from Lynchian fixations (red rooms, seraphic ladies, Kyle MacLachlan), here Lynch at once indulges his borderline craven obsession with martyred blonds and amends it—he puts the doomed celestial fantasy into the hands of the fallen angel herself. In so doing, he also handed an extraordinary unknown actress the chance to deliver the performance of two lifetimes. —Jessica Winter

Intelligence Report

2001 was a year of befores and afters, fractured ego trips and pulsating id riffs. Identity confusion in the form of journeys into divided minds is the latest stage in American cinema’s psychic development; to highlight one of many trends, 2001 is when the Dream Factory went off the Deep End. Jettisoning realism for surrealism is the last stage, perhaps, in succumbing to a virtual reality-hyperindustrialized “first world” culture. Mulholland Drive (two films, one mind) and A.I. (one film, two minds) would be the familiar twin peaks of internal divisions—one bearing the psychic scars of Hollywood rejection, the other the psychosis of the formative years. —Mark Peranson

Assuming for the moment that the director of 2001 had indeed invited the director of Close Encounters to take control of his dream project, what could Stanley Kubrick have hoped to gain in the bargain? Would the satisfaction of exposing Steven Spielberg as a narrow-minded peddler of conservative mythology have been enough? Maybe: After all, A.I. is a damn funny movie, albeit unintentionally so. Given that Schindler’s List had frustrated the reclusive perfectionist into canceling his own long-planned Holocaust epic, Kubrick fans might like to imagine that his “gift” of A.I. was actually a vengeful ploy to reveal the artificial intelligence of one Steven Spielberg. Alas, Kubrick—as usual—isn’t talking. —Rob Nelson

Help the unaged! Aside from the usual Spielberg hatred, critics are denying prizes to Haley Joel Osment because no one respects child actors. But Spielberg has always been a superb director of children, and he gets unexpected delicacy and heart out of Osment, who reveals depth beneath a placid countenance. —Armond White

This is the image in A.I. that to me sums up the team of Spielberg and Kubrick: The fugitive mechas escape to Smut Island or whatever it’s called, which looks like the Food Court at a 1970s shopping mall, and Gigolo Joe, the Kubrick figure, is happily pointing out the sights—”Here’s where I ply my sleazily robotic trade!”—which would be totally perverted if the sex talk weren’t sailing right over the head of little RoboBoy, Steven, who’s going, “My mommy told me to look for the Blue Fairy! I love my mommy!” —Justine Elias

Is there a single moment of warmth in A.I. (or Imitation of Life 2001) that isn’t undercut by a truly sinister edge? To become human, the ending says, is to commit desperately selfish and solipsistic acts, to expect technology to satisfy one’s emotional needs, to play God just to preserve the illusion of normalcy. What could be more chilling than a synthetic boy begging for a synthetic replica of the perfect Spielberg suburban household—needy child, doting mom, no dad—which will disappear the second the lights go out? The house and “humans” are fake; only the darkness is real. —Jim Ridley

Top 20 Countdown

The private thrills and tacit codes of role-play galvanized the year’s two headiest love stories: Betty and Rita’s dazed, embryonic ardor in Mulholland Drive and the slo-mo tango of denial between In the Mood for Love‘s Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow. In both cases, delicate layers of illusion served only to emphasize the core of implacable sadness—the intrusion of the reality principle was a foregone conclusion. Passion was also linked to performance in Intimacy, which bulldozed its carnal acrobatics to their emotional terminus in a basement repertory theater (and, as an encore, threw in an acting-workshop discombobulation). The year’s most visceral mating ritual was even called Audition. Speaking of which, Mulholland‘s sensational tryout scene was notable not only for the first of Naomi Watts’s staggering about-faces but for the director’s gnomic recommendation: “Don’t play it for real . . . until it gets real.” Even before the girls’ visit to Diane’s apartment (let alone Club Silencio), his words hinted at the terror lying in wait. In a more literal sense, they also summed up the heartbroken discretion of In the Mood‘s would-be lovers, tremulously rehearsing last goodbyes in a desolate back alley. —Dennis Lim

Truth be told, I’m kind of tired of In the Mood for Love. Then again, I have seen it six times. —Mark Peranson

If Sartre had been a filmmaker, he could have made Memento. The monomaniacal protagonist, bereft of short-term memory, inhabits a world without time—in other words, No Exit‘s version of hell—where character and audience alike are left to helplessly contemplate what has already happened. Maybe Jean-Paul would have sewn up some of those plot holes, but they only collapse the narrative if you assume that this definitively unreliable narrator doesn’t have a few gaps in his story himself. —Jessica Winter

Memento was this year’s film equivalent of The Corrections, or maybe the Strokes. By the time you got to it, the hype was so overwhelming (or was the popular response so positive?) that you had to hate it—and ended up coming off as an elitist in the process. —Mark Peranson

The Emperor’s New Clothes Award: to Memento, in which the hero, who can’t remember anything before the previous 15 minutes, keeps informing people of his “condition.” That’s sure what I call backward plot construction: ass-backward. —Charles Taylor

Forget Sturges, Salinger, and Welles for a second. Why has nobody pointed out that Wes Anderson makes male weepies? Each character in The Royal Tenenbaums has his or her own little box, from each child’s precious room all the way up and down to Royal’s elevator. If Douglas Sirk had a better sense of humor, he might have made this movie. —Mark Peranson

I object to the Upper East Side noblesse oblige racial superiority of The Royal Tenenbaums. Until he proves otherwise, Wes Anderson is simply a more visually gifted Whit Stillman. —Patrick McGavin

What can you say about a year when the best and worst pictures, In the Bedroom and The Shipping News, not only were about the same things—grief, family, and renewal—but also shared the same schizophrenic distributor, Miramax. The next Celebrity Death Match should feature Harvey Weinstein versus himself, wielding a pair of scissors. —Andy Bailey

Is it only a movie? The end-of-the-year mass hysteria for In the Bedroom ought to scare folks. Maybe it’s the post-9-11 vigilante urge that explains why middle-class and middlebrow reviewers felt the need to endorse that Sundance paean to white suburban vengeance. But even before 9-11 there was a subliminal, privileged anger in American film culture, most notably in the insipid Memento, a noir for hip thugs who think murder ain’t no thang—not even worth remembering. —Armond White

At a time in film history when actual celluloid stands as endangered as original music in a musical, Moulin Rouge‘s corporate-jukebox aesthetic bodes well for the fully digital cinema of the future. When beleaguered celebs like Nicole Kidman would rather not drive to the set to make their movies, they’ll be stored on the hard drives of superconductors such as Rupert Murdoch, and double-clicked to duet with other virtual stars for a song. —Rob Nelson

Lukas Moodysson took some heat from more radicalized quarters for zeroing in on Together‘s desperately utopian commune right at the moment of their unraveling. But wasn’t it obvious he was after something bigger-hearted? Tenderness attends to each abandonment of principle—veganism, free love, postcoital Marxist critiques—and the revolution ends not in cynicism, but the gentlest snow-frosted epiphany of the year. Really, what chance did these people ever have against ABBA? —Joshua Rothkopf

The ashes-and-velvet cinematography of Werckmeister Harmonies was palpable and Béla Tarr’s hypnotic camera movements surged to Vig Mihaly’s mournful, unforgettable score. It seemed to rise up from out of ground zero. —Armond White

My favorite movie moment of the year was when, sitting in the shiny opulence of the Union Square 14 (built on the site of the old Village Voice offices, where mice ran rampant), and waiting for the dull and dour Hannibal to begin, I saw a bilingual trailer for Amores Perros. Funky Mexico City was finally deposited in the lap of indifferent New York, and at least a few hundred people would be transported to the nightmarish fruit of a world made safe for free trade. —Ed Morales

Films like Memento, Mulholland Drive, Donnie Darko, Waking Life, Audition, Cure, Shallow Hal, et al., represent a new developmental phase: They don’t trick the audience into living an illusion (the “first stage/all is dream” films, like this year’s champs, The Others and Vanilla Sky), but invite the viewer to participate, placing them in the position (or is it the Gaze?) of the obsessed, the paranoid, the sick. —Mark Peranson

Negative Space

The most depressing thing about Hollywood 2001 was exemplified by Apocalypse Now Redux. Coppola’s enlarged epic was just as incoherent, pretentious, and unwieldy as it was the first time around—and it still shamed this year’s big-studio output for sheer moviemaking excitement. —Robert Horton

The cinematic outrage of the year was the destruction of the original negative of Apocalypse Now, by its own director, Francis Coppola. —F.X. Feeney

The worst films of the year buffed out the blemishes of historical record. The Majestic would have us believe that small-town America was against the HUAC hearings at the height of the Red Scare, Behind Enemy Lines assails NATO diplomacy for keeping our one-man armies from tidying up the former Yugoslavia, and Pearl Harbor (a/k/a Triumph of the Will: The Beer Commercial) was, in spite of appearances, “the dawn of a nation’s greatest glory.” —Scott Tobias

I came away from the movie Pearl Harbor with great respect for the Japanese, if only because they had far better music cues (scary percussion!), excellent hat plumage, and kickass war dioramas at their military briefings (held outdoors, which must have been good for morale). The wading pool with model boats, and a guy in the water maneuvering the boats with a long stick—that was outstanding diorama work, people!

The United States, according to the Michael Bay-Jerry Bruckheimer reading of history, was sadly unprepared for its diorama presentations. Whenever a general needed an update, he was always stumbling into some dimly lit basement room with maybe a chalkboard and two disheveled guys shuffling badly folded paper maps around. And then one would go, “Yes, sir, I’ll show you where all the enemy battleships are located. Ummmm . . . Who had the chalk?” Pathetic! And where was the plumage on his hat? Was he even wearing a hat? —Justine Elias

Bully is the first time since Natural Born Killers that I wanted a filmmaker jailed. Larry Clark is the anti-Renoir, i.e., the Antichrist of movies. He has a way of turning gritty realism into grisly venerealism—he rapes his subjects. To think that Harmony Korine was a humanizing influence. —David Edelstein

Most mystifying critical judgment of 2001: Shrek over Monsters, Inc. The fitfully funny Shrek seems to delight people who complain that computer animation, and animation in general, isn’t enough like live action. I hate to be a grouch, but an aimless montage set to Smash Mouth is lame enough in live action; in computer animation, it’s a waste of resources akin to putting the Easter Island statues through a rock tumbler. And don’t get me started on the supposedly hip pop-culture gags about The Matrix and, oh my sides, Riverdance. The lamest comedy writing in movies today, from Shrek to Scary Movie 2 to Not Another Teen Movie, congratulates viewers just for ticking off references. Plus you’ve gotta love Shrek‘s message: Don’t judge people by appearances—unless they’re short. —Jim Ridley

Shrek isn’t the first film in which Eddie Murphy, voice of Donkey, has made an ass of himself. But let’s hope (against hope) that his jive-talkin’ character represents the last example of a kiddie cartoon animal drawn to signify blackness and scripted to play second fiddle to the non-black—in this case, green—protagonist (voiced by Mike Myers). Sorry to be so literal about it, but really: Would DreamWorks have risked funding this blockbuster if Myers had been the jackass bending over backward to help Murphy’s ogre through his identity issues? —Rob Nelson

Back when I was writing for the Voice and speaking up for people like Karen Finley and Todd Haynes, I never dreamed the day would come that I’d be panning a gory, anal-expulsive comedy like Freddy Got Fingered while my New York Times counterpart would be defending the honor of the transgressive artist. The new Times regime is one of the few good things to happen to mainstream criticism in the last decade. But I still think Freddy Got Fingered is a piece of shit. —David Edelstein

If readers are wondering why weekly publications like the Voice sometimes end up reviewing a studio film a week or two late, it’s because the studios are often less than thrilled that their movies get reviewed at all. Spearheading a media movement, Paramount officially decided this year that no publication will publish a review of their films even a minute before opening day—which leaves the out-on-Wednesday Voice uninvited to the prom. It remains something of a wonder that the studios allow even half of their product—brainless action films, hollow star vehicles, goofball teen comedies, etc.—to be reviewed at all, but Paramount, with a docket dominated this year by Tomb Raider, Domestic Disturbance, Down to Earth, Enemy at the Gates, Rat Race, and Vanilla Sky, has serious reason to keep its cards close. Any review beyond a David Manning-style blurb can only beat horses already butchered for dog food. The studio’s major triumph over unlikeliness—Pootie Tang—suffered the scantest marketing and least trumpeted press screening of the year. —Michael Atkinson

Diamonds in the Rough

Best Mess: Pootie Tang! Packaged as a movie within a talk-show plug for the movie within the movie! Photographed by the DP of Masculin-Feminin! Padded with a music video, needless graphics, and about a dozen “transitional” shots of Wanda Sykes’s seismic shimmy—and it’s still only 70 minutes! If you replaced the TV-pilot section of Mulholland Drive with Pootie Tang, between the pillow shot and the wake-up call, would it really make that much difference? Don’t know—that’s why God made DVDs. —Jim Ridley

As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty: Hour three is amazing. Maybe it was hour four. I forget. —Mark Peranson

Though one critic I respect has called Millennium Mambo something like “Hou Hsiao-hsien’s most boring film,” I can’t but fall into its narcotic rhythms and repetitions and its sudden bursts of beauty. A friend turned to me after a festival screening and thanked me for asking her to see it: “I’m glad I was bored. I had time to think about why I was bored, and then snow started to fall.” —Ray Pride

Say what you will about the lowbrow shenanigans in How High, but no comedy this year approaches the anarchic height of Method Man and Redman rolling a fatty from the unearthed remains of John Quincy Adams. The five or six runners-up are all in Freddy Got Fingered, but “height” isn’t the right word and I’m still not convinced that “comedy” is, either. —Scott Tobias

Twenty-five years after Car Wash, some critics still haven’t cleaned up their act. Where Variety‘s dubiously worded rave in 1976 noted that director Michael Schultz’s portrait of black employees at a white-owned business “uses gritty humor to polish clean the souls of a lot of likable street people” (!), a recent review by Bruce Westbook in the Houston Chronicle regarded the DJ Pooh-directed remake as “a dark, dirty comedy” with “a general attitude of selfish, callous contemptuousness.” Just what was Westbook reviewing? Certainly not The Wash—which, to its credit, works not as a symbolic sudser so much as a mellow ode to getting paid while doing the least-possible work for The Man (Lions Gate execs included). —Rob Nelson

I Lost It at the Movies

Some theaters exude doom; the UA at First and 85th has looked like a ruin since we’ve been in the neighborhood. (The words American Psycho on its marquee were as scary as any movie could hope to be.) We finally paid a visit, to catch a late showing of Mulholland; pre-previews, I wandered into the ladies’ room, bewildered by the lack of signage. In the theater, acoustical patches the texture of hay hung on the walls; as the lights dimmed, sounds of employee conversation and the clatter of equipment issued from some back room or hidden aerie. But by the time we arrived at Silencio, I realized the surroundings were perfect, as the clack of projection seeped into a scene predicated on the balance between the real and the recorded. The movie’s ability to warp perception would be chemical regardless, but how much better it was feeling like there was no border—that the venue itself had been cobbled together by Lynch, a structure for maximum vertigo. We walked through deserted blocks at one in the morning as through a district enriched by nightmare. —Ed Park

Josie and the Pussycats‘ view of an ultra-consumerist, ad-saturated America is damn close to social realism, even if it condescends to teenagers. On a 10-minute walk home from the theater, I saw at least as many logos as in the film. The raspberries received by Josie suggest that the notion of critiquing pop culture from within—à la Frank Tashlin, Joe Dante, and Paul Verhoeven—is pretty disreputable these days. Bridging the gap between TRL and No Logo might be an impossible task, but it strikes me as a necessary one. —Steve Erickson

I saw Zoolander twice in a row at the Union Square theater in September and laughed hysterically—and I mean “hysterically” in an unusually literal sense. —Ed Halter

September 11, 2001

Lost amidst all the hubbub over its veracity a few weeks back was the likelihood that the Osama bin Laden videotape was, for most American viewers, probably their first experience watching something with subtitles. (It looked like it might have been the Department of Defense’s first brush with subtitling too; the herky-jerky translation didn’t crawl across the bottom of the screen so much as stall outright, making it every bit as distracting to read as having to consult a printed paper synopsis at Anthology Film Archives.) But it was more than just the strange-sounding words and the dusty Afghanistan locale that made watching the OBL tape a true foreign-film experience; the use of non-actors (old hat to anyone familiar with the work of, say, Bresson or Makhmalbaf), the stationary camera setup (reminiscent of Ozu), the fuzzy video stock (a staple of so much recent Godard), and the allegedly sloppy translation (a hallmark of Hong Kong action films) all marked the tape as a product of world cinema, to say nothing of the proceedings being talkier than Va Savoir and possessing more dream-within-a-dream narrative pretzels than anything by Raúl Ruiz. —Mike Rubin

September 12 began, for many in Toronto, with a screening of Godard’s Éloge de l’Amour, and a film with a couple of jokes against Americans all of a sudden became an anti-American tract in deep need of a collective spanking. Whoever thought film criticism ever had the potential to be objective should have been in that room. —Mark Peranson

One can easily pretend A.I. was directed by John Doe from a story by Joe Blow and still be moved by its dreamlike power—especially that ghostly, magnificent cityscape half-rising out of the ocean. The incidental glimpse we get of the twin towers, figments of how the future looked prior to September 11, have a heartbreaking poignancy now: double reminders of the 2001 that actually was. —F.X. Feeney

The hard sell—now more than ever! In the last few months, distributors with merchandise to hawk struggled to find a sensitive, respectful tone for their sales pitches. Miramax, naturally, led the way, emblazoning Serendipity ads with the come-on ” ‘Just the kind of movie we need more of now!’ —Rex Reed.” (The phrase is, down to every last syllable, stupefying.) The company’s November release Amélie, meanwhile, was promoted for its unguent properties (Boy did we need this!Newsweek). But the tackiest post-attack PR maneuver belonged to Paramount Classics, which in September shelved Edward Burns’s latest monument to himself, Sidewalks of New York, for the handful of scenes that featured the writer-director-star suggestively juxtaposed with the twin towers. Realizing that the very sight of the buildings was eliciting ovations in movies from Don’t Say a Word to Glitter, Paramount did a 180, rushing Sidewalks into theaters and enlisting the Manhattan skyline as a key design element in its print ads. Desperate times, desperate measures. Call it the new opportunism. —Dennis Lim

A pre-September 11 movie that felt like a post-September 11 movie: Richard Dutcher’s underrated Brigham City, about a serial killer at large in a Mormon community. At first, this explicitly religious, thoroughly Middle American film looks like PaxNet fodder, tailor-made for family-values tub-thumpers. But it goes on to address the perils of isolationism, the danger of confusing ignorance with innocence, and the results of turning a blind eye to evil, and it does so with dogged conviction and a heavy heart—as if The Andy Griffith Show had morphed into L’Humanité. —Jim Ridley

For me, as I am a cliché, the year came down to two weeks. I flew back from France to see a French movie, among other reasons: Band of Outsiders, which I had only seen in lousy video format. There’s no call to praise the movie more, but it made every movie I saw this year look like a toy. It’s a movie I had seen before, made when I was almost two, but I walked out of the theater transfigured, certain again that making art was worth doing and that people could do it, including me. It was just like seeing a first punk-rock show. It was September 8.

Thirteen days later I walked from the end of an antiwar march on the recruiting station in Times Square into the E-Walk, for the opening of Glitter. It’s sort of genius how it’s designed so that Mariah can seem to be the “star” without having to talk much. Otherwise, boy does that movie suck. But sitting there with a bunch of spirited Mariah Carey fans (“We love you, Mariah!” someone shouted when her huge image botched a line reading), well, it was as much a truth of my moviegoing life as Godard. There’s something peculiar to trashy pop films in filled theaters, something about the audience’s jovial, against-all-odds communality in response to the movie, neither cowed nor contemptuous, a real kind of being-with. Often I don’t like the movies I see, but I always like sitting there in the dark. —Jane Dark

The most memorable cinematic experiences of 2001 conjured up the most indelible images and incredible reality of 2001. The Manhattan skyline, once a serene establishing shot, metamorphosed into a ticking time bomb in NYC-set cinema after September 11. Whether looming defiantly in Don’t Say a Word or callously amputated in Zoolander, the painful presence or structured absence of the twin towers elicited gasps and grimaces from spectators suddenly wrenched out of the text and back onto ground zero. Fluffy concoctions like Serendipity and Sidewalks of New York were transformed into tense, unwitting suspense films. Like lost limbs still sending back signals to the brain, the spectacle always hit a raw nerve. —Thomas Doherty