Sean Gullette

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Requiem for a Dream Review


Terrible
[As a preface to Jeremiah's review of what will certainly become the most talked-about and overrated film of the year, I'd like to reiterate the extremely graphic and nauseating imagery -- to the point where many audience members find themselves physically sick -- that Requiem for a Dream relies on to tell its story. Jeremiah is absolutely right in his analysis that ultimately, the film has absolutely no message to give. It's all right there in the title: this is simply a 102-minute eulogy, mourning the death of a dream -- or rather four dreams -- of people trying to make something out of themselves and failing miserably at it. Aronofsky has style, but he's left it to the viewer to fill in the substance. That may be the kind of movie you want to see (unlike, say, Trainspotting), but you'll have to figure that out on your own. You'll also need to decide if nausea is an appropriate response to take away from any film. This critic gives Aronofsky points for sheer guts, but there's no excuse for avoiding a story. -Ed.]

Imagine Trainspotting without any trace of humor and you're on the right track. Picture Pasolini's Salo: 120 Days of Sodom shot by some MTV music video kid interested in the novelty of his new camera. Darren Aronofsky (Pi) stacks one degrading sight atop another without implicating the viewer, nor providing any framework or reference for his visual rape of his audience - all smoke and mirrors disguising a great, vapid emptiness.

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Pi Review


Extraordinary
"Personal Note: When I was a kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun, so when I was six, I did. The doctor's didn't know if my eyes would ever heal. I was scared, alone in that darkness, but slowly, light began to creep through the bandages. But something in me changed that day. That day I had my first headache."Thus begins Darren Aronofsky's 1998 independent trek into the surreal Pi, an incredibly complex and ambiguous film filled with both incredible style and substance. To get an idea of the director in case you have never seen him before, imagine the cinematography originality of Jim Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise mixed with the perfect dialogue of Kevin Smith's Clerks and the bizarre and cryptic storyline of David Lynch's Eraserhead. Any surprise that all three of the aforementioned films are black and white? It shouldn't be. Pi uses an 8mm for the majority of its duration and film in a grainy black and white, giving the impression that you are watching a nightmare.The first large challenge of reviewing this thoroughly intriguing movie is describing its plot. Max Cohen (Sean Guilette) is a brilliant number theorist. He has three assumptions about the universe, one of which is that all things have an underlying pattern, an order. The hypothesis that he creates out of this is that he can predict anything, given enough variables and knowing the underlying pattern. His place to test this hypothesis: the stock market. In his search for answers in the stock market, he discovers a 216-digit number that seems to be the key to it all: it predicts Black Monday. Jewish mystics (Ben Shenkman) believe it to be the real name of God. Market manipulators (Pamela Hart) believe it to be the key to a fortune. A brilliant mathematician (Sol (Mark Margolis)) believes it to be a bug caused when a computer becomes conscious in the instants before it dies. Max is quickly launched into a world so paranoid it makes the Orwellian works of Andrew Niccol look safe.Max is also plagued by headaches. These headaches, strong enough to force him unconscious at regular intervals, have him taking a cocktail of painkillers in order to subdue. As he creeps closer and closer to the answer, the headaches increase in their intensity.I think the best way to interpret this massively cryptic film would be as a single man's search for peace. Through the movie, Max is gripped by a violent obsession with numbers and a complete phobia of social interaction. He constantly shuns the advances of his neighbor Devi (Samai Shoaib). He finds himself unable to take a break from anything and, as a consequence, finds himself inside of a complete nightmare. The only way to get away from this nightmare is to give up the one thing that has been his lifelong passion: numbers. The suspense of the film is helped along with an electric score by Clint Mansell, a soundtrack that keeps you on the edge with its razor-sharp notes. Also helping is the cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who gives us an infectious feeling of paranoia with the black and white film and the constant use of an unsteady camera to show the fast movement of Max.The film, although making numerous references to number theory, is fairly easy to understand with no mathematical knowledge: not to say that it doesn't help to know how to add and subtract. What is difficult is to view this film without a mind seeking to be intrigued, because, if you don't want intrigue, you shouldn't be watching Pi.Also known as p and Pi: Faith in Chaos.

Happy Accidents Review


Good
My filmcritic.com colleague Norm Schrager nailed Session 9, Brad Anderson's throwback to spooky horror films from the 70's. It worked as an eerie homage without being self-referential or smugly postmodern. Genre aficionados will acknowledge the similarities in tone to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and George Romero's Dawn of the Dead without being taken out of the engrossing narrative (i.e., a psychologically addled waste management team clears out an abandoned lunatic asylum; unspeakable dread ensues). In a double-whammy for 2001, Anderson shoots and (mostly) scores again with his eclectic riff on time-travel episodes from The Twilight Zone, appropriately titled Happy Accidents.

Much like Session 9, the cards are played very close to the vest here. Is boyish, eccentric "Sam Deed from Dubuque, Iowa" a futuristic voyager from the year 2470 or just your run-of-the-mill psychologically disturbed nutcase let loose on the present-day streets of NYC? As played by wonderful character actor Vincent D'Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket), it's up in the air whether or not we should accept his detailed monologues about life after the polar ice caps have melted. The question proves to be moot, at least for a time. Even if the whole thing proves to be a creative delusion, one agrees with the character judgment passed down on him by his new girlfriend, Ruby (Marisa Tomei): "He's a freak, but he sure tells a good story!"

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Requiem For A Dream Review


Good

Forget every movie you've ever seen about the downward spiral of drug addiction. "Drugstore Cowboy," "Sid and Nancy," "Trainspotting," "Permanent Midnight," and more recently "Jesus' Son" -- these films are almost as innocuous as "Alice in Wonderland" compared to "Requiem for a Dream."

Director Darren Aronofsky's follow-up to the uniquely mind-bending mathematical-theological thriller "Pi," this adaptation of a 1978 novel by Hubert Selby Jr. is a soul-rattling, cerebral and cinematically ingenious runaway train of gruesome overindulgence.

Set against the forlorn backdrop of a deteriorating Coney Island, "Requiem" stars a rail-thin Jared Leto ("Fight Club," "Girl, Interrupted") as Harry, a minor-league heroin dealer who has already copped a bad habit for his own product. As the movie opens he's broken into his mother's apartment to steal her TV -- which is chained to the wall because it's not the first time this has happened -- so he can pawn it to pay for a hit.

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Happy Accidents Review


Weak

Recovering co-dependent Ruby Weaver has such bad luck with men that she and her girlfriends keep a shoebox of photos called "The Ex Files."

In the beginning of "Happy Accidents," writer-director Brad Anderson ("Next Stop Wonderland," "Session 9") shows us a comical montage of progressively eccentric examples: The Bad Actor, the Artist, the Fetishist, the Frenchman, the Junkie and the Abductee, who thought he'd been kidnapped by aliens.

Ruby (Marisa Tomei in an amusingly harried performance) hopes she's seen the worst of this trend and is, with the help of her intrusive therapist (the wonderfully wry Holland Taylor), beginning to curb her pathological urge to try to fix men that are beyond repair.

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