Jan. 22 – Dirty Pretty Things. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a remarkably understated performance in director Stephen Frears's offbeat and gripping drama about a Nigerian man who gets mixed up in a transplants-for-sale scheme in London. Here we see, for once, the dark side of globalization. "Frears and his writer, Steve Knight, use the power of the thriller and avoid the weaknesses in giving us, really, two movies for the price of one." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.
Jan. 29 – Whale Rider. A mythic Maori tale set in contemporary New Zealand that also provides a heart-warming story of female empowerment. "A true crowd-pleaser that never panders to achieve its effects.”-- Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune.
Feb. 5 – American Splendor. One of the most innovative films of the year (and a big hit at Sundance and Cannes), this combination fiction film/documentary examines the life of obsessed comicbook writer Harvey Pekar, who is played by Paul Giamatti (though the real-life Harvey Pekar also shows up to comment on the film from time to time). "It's a profound tribute to lives lived on the fringes of society -- to the introspective loners who are the most observant chroniclers of our times." -- Scott Foundas, Variety.
Feb. 12 – Tupac: Resurrection. "Everybody's past," Tupac Shakur says, "is what made their future." This film documents his relationship to his own past as it changed during his life, but even more to the point, as his past became mythic, and his life a legend that now has everything and precious little to do with the person he may have been. Black History Month. “By the time you've heard the gunshot that signals his 1996 death, you will feel that this world lost a very important voice."--Desson Thomson, Washington Post.
Feb. 19 – Sylvia. This stirring biopic about American poet Sylvia Plath and her British husband Ted Hughes stars Gwyneth Paltrow in a startling, under-appreciated performance. As is well-known, the story ends badly, but it’s very powerful getting there. "Offers a wondrously illuminating artistic experience for its ideal audience -- people like me who know a little but not much about the explosive Plath-Hughes fusion of unbridled poetic temperaments in a tauntingly prosaic world."--Andrew Sarris, New York Observer. Feb. 26 – Shattered Glass.An entertaining, insightful film by first-time director Billy Ray which tells the true-life adventures of Stephen Glass (played by Hayden Christensen, of Star Wars fame), the journalist who faked more than 40 stories while working for the venerable New Republic magazine. "More than being a smart and accurate look at magazine journalism--no small matter--Shattered Glass is also a compelling portrait of a psychosis at work."--Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times.
March 4 – Pieces of April. A funny, heartwarming, low-budget comedy starring TV’s Katie Holmes and Patricia Clarkson that was a huge hit at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Centered on its two female leads, it’s our choice for Women’s History Month. "A Thanksgiving family reunion comedy that sparkles with acerbic wit, original characters and genuine heart."--David Rooney, Variety.
March 18 – My Architect.An excellent, moving documentary about the brilliant mid-century American architect Louis Kahn. What’s most interesting about it is that it was made by Kahn’s illegitimate son Nathaniel, who, neglected by his father when the architect was still alive, ends up searching for him among his buildings. “A bracing, bittersweet testament of filial love mixed with pain and compassion."--Leslie Camhi, Village Voice.
March 25 – 21 Grams. An exceptionally powerful story of grief and redemption, by the director of 2001’s Mexican hit Amores Perros, which showcases the brilliant performances of Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benicio del Toro. "It's a startlingly crafted movie, with several extraordinary performances." --Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly. "It grips us, moves us, astonishes us."--Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times. April 1 – In America. This autobiographical tale by Irish director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot) is a tear-jerker that earns its tears. "Thanks to Jim Sheridan's graceful, scrupulously sincere direction and the dry intelligence of his cast, In America is likely to pierce the defenses of all but the most dogmatically cynical viewers."--A. O. Scott, New York Times.
April 8 – The English Patient. The classic adaptation by Anthony Minghella of Michael Ondaatje’s prizewinning novel, this film won 9 major Oscars in 1997, including the one for Best Picture. Presented in conjunction with the Text and Community Project of the English Department. "An aerobic workout for the tear ducts."--Mike Clark, USA Today April 15 – Better Luck Tomorrow. A widely-praised film by first-time Asian-American director Justin Lin about a group of over-achieving Asian-American high school seniors who enjoy a power trip when they dip into extra-curricular criminal activities. "There is a moral ambiguity to the film that could disturb some viewers, but the film's clever plotting and intriguing characters will stay with you well after leaving the theater."-- Claudia Puig, USA Today. April 22 – The Station Agent. One of my favorite films of the year, this Sundance hit is a touching story of a dwarf (an amazing newcomer and major talent named Peter Dinklage) who makes some unlikely friends. The script is tight and unsentimental (and very, very funny) and it surprises you from beginning to end. "A movie with an intellectual existence both on and off the screen, as well as an emotional resonance that is difficult to shake."-- John Anderson, Newsday.
April 29 – Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Volume One of the already beloved adaptation of Tolkien’s great trilogy. (Parts 2 and 3, The Two Towers and Return of the King, will be shown on Friday and Saturday, respectively.)
May 6 – House of Sand and Fog. A moody, sensitive story about an ethical dilemma that has no clear-cut good guys and bad guys. The film features two of the standout performances of the year: Jennifer Connelly as a recovering drug addict who loses the beach house inherited from her working-class father, and Ben Kingsley as an exiled colonel in the Iranian Air Force who buys the house at an auction to redeem his life in America. "Like great fiction, House of Sand and Fog sees into the hearts of its characters, and loves and pities them."--Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.