From Castaway to Lord of the Rings, Annette Willis reflects on the filmic journey she shared with readers in the last year while Jill Jones takes a look at the best goss in 2001.
Well, the definition of best does vary -“ one queen’s gorgeous is another dyke’s shockin’ -“ and Jill and I are no exceptions here. My best gongs include Requiem For A Dream, Amelie, Lantana, The Lord Of The Rings, Hedwig And The Angry Inch, Tigerland, Sexy Beast, The Taste Of Others and The Man Who Wasn’t There. Of course, Rififi and Apocalypse Now Redux are classics but are not new films as such. Jill also liked Requiem For A Dream, Lantana, and The Lord Of The Rings but, being the queen of quirk and a party girl to boot, she also went for Almost Famous, Bread And Tulips, Amores Perros, Shadow Of The Vampire, Moulin Rouge, Quills and Best In Show.
This was a relatively bumper year for mainstream queer films featuring both gay and lesbian characters and themes. Not all of them were masterpieces but nearly all were entertaining. Films with a queer bent shown on the big screen this year were Before Night Falls, Our Lady Of The Assassins, Songcatcher, What’s Cookin’?, The Monkey’s Mask, Best In Show, The Iron Ladies, The Broken Hearts Club, The Closet and Hedwig And The Angry Inch. We copped flack from some male readers because, try as we might, we could not force ourselves to like the vapid and shallow The Broken Hearts Club and felt it was insulting to gay men. The Closet was also a somewhat ordinary French twist on a coming out theme. But the best queer films were also boy films, so there! I went for Hedwig while Jill loved Before Night Falls, which appealed to the poet in her. That same poet unfortunately found The Monkey’s Mask, the film of Dorothy Porter’s verse novel, a slightly flawed production.
Queer Screen gave us opportunities to see features, shorts and documentaries made by or about members of the queer community. Chutney Popcorn, about Indian dykes wanting to have babies in New York, and the wonderfully politically incorrect animated adventures of Rick And Steve were some of many we enjoyed. The Sydney Film Festival also had some good queer films, including Southern Comfort, an award-winning doco about transsexuals, and the Australian premiere of Before Night Falls. The Women On Women film festival screened some gems including Gaudi Afternoon, which featured Judy Davis as a lesbian detective.
As usual, there are no shortages of nominations in this category -“ and that’s not even including the eye candy films! Some of my favourites this year include Nurse Betty, Miss Congeniality, The Fast And The Furious, The Princess Diaries and The Mummy Returns (splendid Egyptian kung fu!). Oh, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
My awards go to Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, our Nicole and the children in The Others, the gorgeous Kerry Armstrong in Lantana, the amazing Ellen Burstyn in Requiem For A Dream, John Cameron Mitchell in Hedwig and new French sensation, Audrey Tatou, in Amelie. Jill’s votes include Emilio Echevarria’s commanding performance in Amores Perros, Willem Dafoe in Shadow Of The Vampire, and Joan Allen and an almost unrecognisable Gary Oldman in The Contender. She also liked Cate Blanchett in her small role as Galadriel in The Lord Of The Rings -“ although her lines were naff, her presence was gracefully awesome.
Australian Feature Films
Although this was one of the leaner years for Australian films, some great and quirky works graced our screens. Without a doubt, Ray Lawrence’s Lantana, his first film in 16 years, swept all before it. The film even had a gay twist. Other memorable films include Silent Partner, La Spagnola, One Night The Moon, The Goddess Of 1967, The Monkey’s Mask, Mullet and The Bank.
This year saw films made in such diverse places as Kurdistan (A Time For Drunken Horses) and Thailand (The Iron Ladies). Other great films which sometimes required careful scrutiny of the subtitles included Amores Perros, Anatomie, The Vertical Ray Of The Sun, One Hundred Steps, Our Lady Of The Assassins, Divided We Fall and Monsoon Wedding. It was a great year for the French, including the creepy Harry He Is Here To Help, The Crimson Rivers, A Taste Of Others, and the fabulously quirky Amelie.
Re-released and Revamped Films
This year saw the re-release of some films that were classics when first seen and still endure over time. The best of the films in this category included the awe-inspiring Apocalypse Now Redux, Rififi, 2001: A Space Odyssey, In The Realm Of The Senses and A Hard Day’s Night. The award for the director’s cut we really didn’t need goes to The Exorcist. There is a reason why films have editors and this version illustrated that perfectly. The Chauvel in Paddington is to be congratulated for screening new prints of classic films and making them accessible to new audiences. Not only did we get to see some classic Marilyn Monroe, we also got some hardcore cinema buff stuff screened in Cin?th?e. The Andrei Tarkovsky festival in September was an absolute stand-out and drew sell-out crowds.
Sci Fi and Fantasy
The Lord Of The Rings, at three hours, is leader of the pack for sublime cinematography and special effects that take you to the edge of darkness. It gives epic a new lease of life. Who could forget Ring and Ring 2? I’m sure the fans are waiting for the prequel even if others scratch their heads and wonder at the popularity of these Japanese cult films. Then there was Final Fantasy, where so much effort went into the hair blowing in the wind. A.I. also won over audiences with its underwater views of Manhattan if not for its performances and script. The Harry Potter film was a bit of a disappointment, a lesson in how to waste the talents of half a dozen very fruity British thesps.
Stinkers of the Year
I’m sure all of you have your own lists in this category and I admit to having tried to avoid the truly obvious dogs when writing reviews for the discerning Star readership. If you think this gig is always a breeze, think again. We saw and reviewed one hundred plus films this year and there were way more than that released and plenty of those you’d think twice about watching on video, let alone in a darkened room with strangers. My stinker awards go to Original Sin, Riding In Cars With Boys, Joe Dirt, The Watcher, The Emperor’s New Groove and Vanilla Sky.
Worst Performances of the Year
Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas in Original Sin led the category by miles. I haven’t seen such Mills and Boon performances as these for years. Some of the worst performances of the year are not restricted to the stinkers category either and include most of Keanu Reeves’s outings, except in The Gift where he showed he can still act, and Johnny Depp as one too many gypsies in one too many films.
And what about off-screen? That is Jill’s department.
The Gossip Story of the Year was, you guessed it, that divorce which has led to the Makeover of the Year -“ our Nicole as the strong independent all-singing, all-dancing woman, not just the taller half of the perfect movie couple. Who’d-a thunk it in 2000? People would’ve said you were saying something stupid.
Gal gossip was a bit thin on the ground with the usual suspects being a bit quiet. Still, there was news of Australian actor, Portia de Rossi, and Francesca Gregorini, stepdaughter of former Beatle Ringo Starr, spotted doing some serious tonsil hockey in a Hollywood restaurant, shocking other patrons (like who, one wonders).
The Literary Announcement of the Year would have to be Liz Taylor’s upcoming book, Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewellery. With its catchy title and 100 full-colour photographs of jewellery, especially chosen by Taylor, I’ll definitely be lining up at the head of queue for my copy.
Sadly, and I mean this, the Life Imitates Art Award has to go to the September catastrophe in New York. How many people you’ve spoken to said, I was watching it on TV and at first I thought it was a Hollywood disaster movie? The immense speed with which Hollywood producers moved to diminish or remove any references to terrorism or twin towers in film projects for the weeks following was an awesome feat in itself. It makes you consider the extent to which the moving image reaches into our psyches. On that note, we are looking forward to the 2002 instalments of the dream factory coming to a cinema near you.