'White Noise' Kicks off 2005 on a Sour Note

Now in theaters: "White Noise," "Hotel Rwanda," "Million Dollar Baby," "A Very Long Engagement" and "The Sea Inside."

Hotel Rwanda

"Hotel Rwanda" is simply told and straightforward, just the way it should be. The story is so powerful it doesn't need any embellishment. It's one of the best films of the year.

In 1994, more than a million people died in Rwanda. Not because of any natural disaster. They were murdered in a bloody civil war.

Based on a true story, "Hotel Rwanda" stars Don Cheadle in an unforgettable performance as a hotel manager who saved the lives of 1,200 refugees. Why? Because he could. Because he had to. I'm not sure whether Cheadle deserves an Oscar or a Nobel Prize. Grade: B+

Million Dollar Baby
Oscar voters, if you don't nominate Hilary Swank for best actress of the year, you'd better be careful. She's got a heck of a left and you'll be giving her reason to throw it. When Clint Eastwood trains her, she wins most of her fights in the first round, I think, because he doesn't want to show us the sweat and carnage. That's not what this movie's about. What it is about will knock you for a loop. And Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood rank with Hepburn and Tracy as one of the great screen couples of all time. Grade: A

A Very Long Engagement

Audrey Tautou just might be nominated for a best actress Oscar for "A Very Long Engagement." The French refused to select it to compete as their choice in the foreign language category (each country submits one film as a potential nominee) because it's not French enough, and that's just one reason to like this film. It's the story of a star-crossed couple, separated by war, the sort of movie "Cold Mountain" wanted to be. Grade B+

The Sea Inside

This film is Spanish enough for Spain. "The Sea Inside" is a certain best foreign language film Oscar nominee, and Javier Bardem just might be nominated for best actor in one of the year's very best films. It's the true story of a man who asks the Spanish government for the right to die. But everything about this film is about life.

White Noise

"White Noise" is the first major film release of 2005, and if this is any indication of what's in store, oh, it's going to be a long, long year.

In "White Noise," Michael Keaton actually believes his dead wife is trying to talk to him on TV when nothing is on. This is, believe it or not, at least half of the movie. Michael Keaton watches nothing on television. Then, just to keep you guessing, he watches nothing on a different television. Then, he watches nothing with someone else.

What kind of hooey is this? This was the first draft of M. Night Shyamalan's "Sixth Sense," with the working title, "I Don't See Dead People!"

There was one scare. Halfway through, I was afraid the film was going to break and they were going to start the movie all over from the beginning. Grade: D