Bill Raymond

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What Alice Found Review


Excellent
Alice is a teenage checker in a New Hampshire supermarket (played by 25-year old debuting Emily Grace) and what she found was a wad of dough that didn't belong to her. She's also an adopted child and a malcontent in her adoptive mother's house. Yearning for an opportunity to break free, she appropriates the money, packs up her belongings, and takes off in a decrepit car for Florida and a reunion with her closest friend who has gone there to college. On this journey she will find a great deal more than someone else's money.

If her thievery doesn't endear her to us, a couple of redneck dudes who make tasteless gestures at her out on the highway causes us to be concerned about her safety. Some miles further down the road, she parks at a rest stop for snacks and a phone call to her friend. She pulls a few bills out of her money envelope and returns it to its hiding place under the front seat. When she returns to her car, a woman comes up to her and tells her of a man who looked inside her car and took off.

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A Hole In One Review


Weak
Quirky to the point of irritation, Richard Ledes' A Hole in One trades in inventive oddities at the expense of dealing with human emotion. A surrealistic period piece about humanity's hunger for quick-fix solutions to its complex problems, this romantic fable about insanity and brain incisions knows a thing or two about mood. From its title sequence of disembodied skulls, penetrating lances, and scraggly tree silhouettes to its non-linear narrative and ethereal dream imagery, Ledes creates an atmosphere of contemplative, quixotic fantasy. The problem, however, is one of forced weirdness. Its deliberate artificiality a cold and remote pose, and its characters archetypal cardboard cut-outs rather than fully fleshed-out people, the film is a strained attempt at eccentricity that ultimately reveals itself to be a dramatic non-starter.

Anna (Michelle Williams) is the vacuous, borderline-underage girlfriend of mobster Billy (Meat Loaf), and the deleterious effect of watching her criminal lover murder a restaurateur (Louis Zorich) - coupled with the recent death of her G.I. brother Dan (Wendell Pierce), who perished after post-WWII electro-shock treatments administered at the request of their nasty parents - has left the girl a psychological mess. Fortunately, frightening Dr. Harold Ashton (Bill Raymond) has just arrived in town promoting a newfangled cure-all that strikes Anna's easily swayed fancy: the transorbital lobotomy, which the neurologist claims will eradicate everything from anxiety and insomnia to alcoholism. The "ice-pick lobotomy" - a popular procedure apparently based on historical fact, and so nicknamed because of the primary instrument used - is immediately appealing to Anna, who sees it as the easiest method of coping with her traumatic life. Will she go through with the dangerous operation, thus choosing to forget, rather than confront, her painful memories? Will the town's new resident Tom (Tim Guinee), an honest Korean War vet being blackmailed by Billy, succeed in convincing Anna that lobotomies are a less-than-reasonable therapeutic solution to one's problems? Will Ledes create something coherent out of his symbolism-saturated story?

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Dogville Review


Grim

Lars von Trier's peculiar compulsion to humiliate his heroines (and by extension the actresses who play them) has finally crescendoed to a deafening din of indiscriminate, exasperating martyrdom in "Dogville," a daring experiment in heightened performance and minimalist filmmaking that is fatally undermined by the Danish writer-director's conceit as a narrator.

His last four movies ("Breaking the Waves," "The Idiots," "Dancer in the Dark" and now "Dogville") have all dealt largely with the psychological (and sometimes physical) torture of vulnerable female protagonists. While his storytelling and cinematic style are almost always compelling, he's never seemed so arbitrary in his sadism than in this allegory of a beautiful, 1930s flapper fugitive hiding from the mob in a ragged, remote, austere Colorado mountain hamlet, where the tiny populace goes from distrustful to accepting to maliciously cruel on little more than von Trier's say-so.

Played with discernible dedication by Nicole Kidman, Grace is a porcelain enigma of self-flagellation so determined to escape some kind of shadowy past that, in exchange for the skeptical township's shelter, she agrees to indentured servitude -- doing handy work, favors and manual labor one hour a day in each of the seven households. She gradually comes earn the friendship of all -- even those most reluctant to accept her.

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