Fall is here, and with it comes the hope for some great fourth-quarter movies. This time of year I always think back to when I was a rookie reviewer in the amazing fall of 1999. In a few short months' time we were treated to the likes of American Beauty, Three Kings, The Limey, Fight Club, The Straight Story, Bringing Out the Dead, Being John Malkovich, The Insider, American Movie, All About My Mother, Dogma, Sleepy Hollow, Sweet and Lowdown, The Green Mile, The War Zone, Magnolia, Topsy-Turvy, Mr. Death, Flowers of Shanghai, and more. It felt like some kind of pre-millennial renaissance.
That was a combined experience, one that I realized over time, but singular experiences in this job are much more rare. We go to work in the screening room almost every day, hoping that this next thing will be the one, the movie that will quietly change our lives. The movie that makes us realize what it must have been like for our predecessors to review Citizen Kane, or 2001: A Space Odyssey when they were new.
OK. I know that, for many, Lost in Translation is not that big of a deal. But for me, on that September day in 2003, I felt like a movie spoke to me, and got through to my soul. Bill Murray's funny, bittersweet performance felt as powerful as something Charlie Chaplin might have done, but he was only one facet of an impossibly delicate movie. It weaves a spell so fragile that I remember almost daring not to breathe, for fear that it would suddenly break apart and tumble downhill. Many complained about the movie's misrepresentation of Japan, saying that it's all comical weirdos, blinking lights and twittering gadgets. But they forget that this is only Bob's (Murray's) point of view, that of a jetlagged, sleep-deprived, sad American. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) has her own, less frenzied, slightly more wondrous view of the country.
But when they're together, these elements combine and calm down into something more elementally human; they're lost together, and hence, somewhat found...