Tom Wheeler has only been with the Iowa Film Office for a little more than three weeks, but already he has a big agenda. He envisions a fund or trust, probably a private-public partnership, that could be used to subsidize production costs for motion pictures shot or made in Iowa.
Like all good film festivals, one joy of the 10th Annual Hispanic Film Festival at Augustana College will be discovering a wonderful movie you haven't heard much (or anything) about. It also doubles as a sampler of world cinema, showing the breadth and quality of Hispanic movies, which rarely penetrate the American market but can nonetheless be fascinating as cultural studies and breathtaking examples of filmmaking outside of the dominating American studio system.

2003 in Movies

Among the year's seemingly endless spate of business-as-usual Hollywood product, with the remakes and sequels and - in the case of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines - a de facto remake of a sequel, I saw exactly one work in 2003 that, with absolutely no qualms, I would call a masterpiece, and it made its debut on HBO. (It was that kind of year.)

Documentaries BALSEROS In the summer of 1994, a team of public-television reporters filmed and interviewed seven Cubans and their families, beginning a few days before their risky venture of setting out to sea in homemade rafts to reach the coast of the United States.

Excepting a few quibbles - Where's Richard Gere? Where's Dennis Quaid? How did The Time Machine get nominated for anything?! - reactions to this year's Oscar nominations have been remarkably subdued, with a minimum of bitching.

2002 in Movies

So, just how good were the movies of 2002? By way of demonstrating, allow me to present, as a prelude to my 10 favorites, a few other lists of 10: My 10-best runners-up, in descending order of preference, are 13 Conversations About One Thing, Spider-Man, Igby Goes Down, Minority Report, 8 Mile, Changing Lanes, Auto Focus, Frailty, Solaris, and Sunshine State, films that in any other year might easily have ranked in the top 10.

Journey into Amazing Caves is a perfectly enjoyable IMAX movie, which is another way of saying that the medium triumphs over the work itself. If you've never seen an IMAX movie, it's a novel experience that showcases the multimedia power of large-format cinema.

With the Academy Awards a few weeks away - they're scheduled to air on ABC on Sunday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. - the nominees are currently basking in the publicity, visiting Entertainment Tonight and E! Television, making the requisite statements about how they feel lucky to be in the company of their fellow nominees, and how they feel undeserving of such an honor.

ALI (in theatres): Covering Muhammad Ali's personal and professional life from 1964 to 1974, Michael Mann's biopic has everything except what it can't live without: a reason for being. You really have no better understanding of Ali after seeing the film than you had before; director Mann, along with his topnotch cast and crew, has dedicated an enormous amount of time, money, and talent to a technically adept yet vacuous experience.

Compiling a cinematic Best of the Year list is always tricky business when the article is due before Christmas and you live outside of New York, L.A., and Chicago; while national critics are extolling the merits of Lord of the Rings, Ali, and Black Hawk Down, I find myself thinking, "Hmmm .

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