- Mulholland Dr.
- The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
- Children Underground
- Murder On A Sunday Morning
- Black Hawk Down
- Gosford Park
- No Man’s Land
- The Son’s Room
- The Piano Teacher
- The Royal Tenenbaums
His second Oscar win in 1992 preceded a decade of bad action movies where he played the angry mentor to a young punk (it’s the Al Pacino school of lucrative aging), but Gene Hackman redeemed himself fully with his hilariously wry performance in Wes Anderson’s brilliant The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s all about the delivery, as Hackman’s dry, unapologetic disinterest in the lives of his messed-up kids has all to do with how little he tries to overdo every single line. It’s the late-life peak for a great actor, and no surprise has not been followed by anything to match it.
There’s a spoilage of superb selection this year: between Naomi Watts, Tilda Swinton, Judi Dench as Iris Murdoch and even the Oscar-winning Halle Berry, it’s impossible to keep your head from spinning. Still, can any of them compare with a great French actress’s ability to cut her vagina and make it superbly compelling? Isabelle Huppert gives a performance so sterling in Michael Haneke’s disturbing The Piano Teacher that the Cannes jury had no choice but to hand her the Best Actress prize by unanimous vote. It isn’t just for the nutty grand guignol tricks that she pulls off, either; her intense gaze, looking at her student Benoit Magimel with an equal level of sexual desire and self-reflexive disgust, is a pleasure that the viewer can ingest for hours without getting bored.
Just about every award went to Jim Broadbent for his portrayal as novelist Iris Murdoch’s faithful husband John Bayley in the heartbreaking Iris, and no other choice would have been more appropriate. It’s not easy to be the straight man in a movie about someone falling apart from mental illness, but Broadbent matches Dench moment for moment in charisma, intensity and sympathy. Watching his heart break as the woman he has loved and admired for so long becomes childlike and feeble is just about the most emotionally cathartic experience you could possibly have in front of a movie screen.
Growing up to become Judi Dench is every actor’s dream, which Kate Winslet gets to live as the young Iris Murdoch in Iris. It isn’t just a filler performance as the younger version of the older, showier role, as Winslet lets us into Murdoch’s world as a burgeoning author and gives us a very clear idea as to why Bayley (and we as readers) loved her to begin with. Her announcing to her future husband that perhaps it is time that they made love for the first time is a call very few men would be able to resist. Winslet also managed to be the best aspect of Michael Apted’s otherwise forgettable Enigma; Saffron Burrows may be the skinny, pretty lead in the film, but Winslet (hidden behind bad sweaters and thick glasses) gives the film its richest reserves of emotion and conflict.
BIL’S BEST DIRECTOR
If you watch it enough times, you’ll eventually figure the whole thing out; but have you ever noticed that even people who don’t understand Mulholland Drive are crazy in love with it? That has a lot to do with the enigmatic pull that David Lynch has over his audience in his best film since Blue Velvet. It’s got all the mad stylistics that have populated his films since his debut, but add to it the emotional pull of themes such as the destructive nature of Hollywood ambition and the compelling relationship between stars Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring and you have a fascinating masterpiece. It’s not a film you’ll be content to watch just once.