Now in theaters: Talk to Her, City of God, The Recruit and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Talk to Her — Talk to Her (Hable con Ella), from Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, is the year's best-reviewed foreign film — and it doesn't qualify for the foreign film Oscar. Why?
Films have to be chosen by their country's official film board for Oscar consideration. That's just nuts. Can you imagine an author or artist needing government approval to be nominated for a Pulitzer or a Nobel Prize?
It's time for a change, Oscar, and this year the rules keep three of the best-reviewed foreign films from being nominated: Talk to Her, Y Tu Mama Tambien from Mexico and the deliriously wonderful Monsoon Wedding from India.
Talk To Her is Oscar-worthy. Seek it out. Almodovar masterfully intertwines the story of a bullfighter and a writer who falls in love with another story, of a dancer and a young man who spies on her every step. You never know where Talk To Her is going to take you. Every step is a surprise. Grade: A.
City of God — With Talk To Her out of the running for best foreign film, I think City of God (Cidade de Deus) will take home an Academy Award. This Brazilian film, based on a true story, takes us into a housing project in Rio de Janeiro's biggest slum.
There's no plumbing, no electricity and no public transportation. This hell on earth is called "City of God," and it's run by young kids with big guns. Many of the actors really grew up under these wretched conditions, and this film takes us into their lives. The violence is breathtaking because it's real. Grade: A-.
The Recruit — "Nothing is what it seems," Al Pacino, as CIA recruiter Walter Burke, tells us, and he's right.
The film seems like a spy thriller. It isn't. It's one thing to keep the identity of the bad guy a top secret until the end of the movie. The Recruit keeps the plot a top secret till the end of the movie. And by that time, it's way too late.
I love to watch Pacino's good cop/bad cop, frayed-at-the-edges Columbo. And the highly touted Colin Farrell is a star waiting to shine. But he's going to have to wait a little longer. Grade: C+.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind — George Clooney's directorial debut is fun, funny, and filled with surprises, just like Julia Roberts and his buddies Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, who appear in split-second cameos.
Sam Rockwell plays Chuck Barris, the man who created The Dating Game and The Gong Show, and nobody's going to gong his performance.
The movie is based on Barris' autobiography. In it, he claims that while he was one of TV's most successful producers, he was a secretly a CIA hit man who murdered 33 people.
Is it true? I've met Chuck Barris more than once and I can still safely say he's either written a brilliant satire on life in the TV business — or he's completely out of his mind. Either way, the film is so much fun to watch. Grade: B+.