This year the land of the silver screen belongs to Benicio Del Toro, Dr Seuss and a few other superheroes. Words: Paul Dale

here is no point stopping at this

house there ain't no

soothsayers here. Pro-judging this year's films is a Sucker's game. it's like shooting fish in a barrel. So here is what we are gOing to do: we'll take a look at a few films that seen“. kind of interesting. but no promises. some of these babies may be turkeys but at this remove the studios that made them and the distribution companies that are handling them are pushing them hard enough to make them sound good. but that is their job.

Let‘s start with a film that the critics have seen and which is a bona fide classic and almost certain to be one of the films of the year. Alejandro Gonzalez

Inarritu's 21 Grams (5 Mar). Inarritu was the man who started the art house stampede for all things Latin American in 2000 with his feisty. bloody multi-layered tableaux Amores Perros. Three years later. lnarritu is again showing his peers and contemporaries the way to San Jose.

This time, he brings his frenzied. tricksy camera to rest on a character-driven drama that is structured in a logic of fracture and chaos. It is the story of two men and two women. Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is a sickly mathematiCian, lovelessly married to an English emigre (Charlotte Gainsb0urg). Christina Peck (Naomi Watts) is an upper-middle-class suburban housewife. happily married mother. and there is Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro). an ex-convict who has found thrOugh his Christian faith the strength to raise a family. These small towners' lives are changed forever when they are all brought together by a terrible accident. 27 Grams may SOund like some homespun piece of Deep 80th Americana that should really star JeSSica Tandy but it is anything but. It has all the Vicious cut and social grayitas of a John Sayles iCity of Hope. Sunshine State) film. while exhibiting a unique sense of style. tone and pace. ibis is probably going to be the film of the year come Oscar time. but that has never really been a particularly good recommendation. In the case of 27 Grams. however. miss it at yOur peril.

‘Goodbye grey skies. hello blue. there's nothing to hold me when I hold you.‘ Yes, as spring arrives our best friends from across the pond (no. not France. America) are going to treat us to an


Barbarian Invasions

adaptation of their most beloved children's book. Dr Seuss occupies the same nostalgia enclave for those soppy Yanks as the TV series Happy Days and The Monkees. Mike Myers' The Cat in the Hat i2 Apr) has been widely condemned by fans of the book and critics alike in the US. but that didn't stop it hogging some major box office time. By all acc0unts. Myers has put a bit of spite and modish slapstick Violence into the mix but let's face it. it's got to be better than The Grinch.

For world cinema heads there are a few delicate cellul0id slices to watch out fOr in 2004. From Iran is Samira Makliinalbaf's At Five in the Afternoon (16 Apr). Makhmalbaf is. you may remember. the yOung lady responsble for the Simple delights of The Apple and Blackboards. die cast hits amongst a certain type of right-on cinema snob. Again scripted by her filmmaker father Mohsen, At Five in the Afternoon proves again that this 23—year-old is still very

" i


much in 1 " h

training and her earlier films were perhaps taken a

little bit more seriously than they should have been. A better

Option, if you like this kind of thing is Osama. Siddiq Barmak's devastating look at life in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Winner of the Grand Prix FIPRESCI for best film of the year and the runner-up grand jury prize winner at the recent Cannes Film Festival. Uzak (28 May) is a miserablistic view of a caustic friendship that is also worth venturing out for.

Back in North America the Polish Brothers' Northtork (12 Mar) examines the last days of a Montana town that has been forced to relocate due to the need for a new dam. Set in 1955 with the solid cast of James Woods. Nick Nolte and Kyle McLachlan. the film looks set to be a haunting. gothic treat. From Canada. filmmaker Denys Arcand finally offers up his seguel to his superb 1986 film The Decline of the American Empire. Barbarian Invasions (20 Feb) has drawn plaudits wherever it has shown. At his best. Arcand is a subtle and damning satirist. so hopes are high.

Finally. it is going to be a great year f0r the Super heroes. Spider-Man 2 (16 Jul) finally shows up after what has allegedly been a slightly difficult production and. best of all. Guillermo Cronos del Toro's adaptation of Mike Mignola's brilliant comic Hellboy (16 Apr). Let us rejoice in the darkness for another year. That way the more socially inept film obsessive (which is just about all of us) will not have to talk to anyone ever again. Sing hallelujah to 2004!

8- 22 Jan 2004 THE LIST 15