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      Edward Johnson-Ott

      Edward Johnson-Ott

      Tomatometer-approved critic

      In 1989, Ed Johnson-Ott began reviewing films for the Bob and Tom Show, the popular radio program based in Indianapolis and syndicated throughout the United States. He left the show in 1992 to host a weekly pop culture radio program. Johnson-Ott started covering films for NUVO Newsweekly in '92, and became the paper's senior critic in 1996. In 1998 he was named film editor for the paper. He also reviews films for WZPL in Indianapolis. In addition to NUVO, Ed Johnson-Ott's reviews now appear in alternative weeklies across America.


      THE TEN BEST AND TEN MOST ANNOYING FILMS OF 2001 By Ed Johnson-Ott, NUVO Newsweekly E-mail: Archive film reviews at To receive reviews by e-mail, send a note with the word "subscribe" in the subject line to Before launching into the year's list of best movies, I need to make a few qualifying remarks. Every year, the studios release a few films for one week only in New York and Los Angeles so that they will qualify for the Academy Awards. I was lucky enough to be able to screen most of those titles, but did not see several potential winners such as Ridley Scott's Bosnian war film "Black Hawk Down," "I Am Sam," featuring Sean Penn as a mentally retarded single father, the highly acclaimed Billy Bob Thornton/Halle Barry romantic drama, "Monster's Ball" and writer/director Wes Anderson's first film since "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums." Two more notes: Although it played here for several weeks, I managed to miss David Lynch's TV pilot turned feature film, "Mullholland Drive," which many friends told me I would have loved. Finally, although it certainly was a clever piece of work, I left "Shrek" off the list in part just to be ornery, but also because I find the insertion of cynicism into children's films disturbing. BEST MOVIES OF 2001 1. A Beautiful Mind In presenting the biography of John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius stricken with schizophrenia, director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman leave out some significant facts about his life, including his bisexuality and the son he fathered and discarded prior to meeting the love of his life. Still, the production had three things going for it: a simple, but clever story device that pulls viewers into Nash's state of mind, a breakout turn by Jennifer Connelly, who fleshes out a severely underwritten role, and yet another astounding performance from the remarkable Russell Crowe. 2. Bully Based on a "true crime" book by Jim Schutze, the film, from "Kids" director Larry Clark, shows how a group of Florida teens come to murder one of their own. It does so by creating an atmosphere so achingly real that you feel as if you're watching some hellish documentary. "Bully" is obscene. It is a slap in the face, an insult and a challenge. It very well may also be one of those movies that secretly celebrates all it purports to condemn, but that doesn't matter. What matters is how you react to it. Adventurous filmgoers will see the film and learn a little bit more about themselves. 3. Ocean's Eleven After making a big splash on the independent film scene with "sex, lies and videotape," director Stephen Soderbergh spent years making solid little movies before hitting the mainstream in a major way with "Erin Brockovich" and "Traffic." This year, he offers the caper thriller "Ocean's Eleven," taking only the title and basic premise of the lame '60s "Rat Pack" movie and investing it with vim, vigor and humor. The all-star cast, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts, does terrific ensemble work, with many of the biggest names taking the smallest, least showy roles. Standouts? Clooney and Pitt make a great team, Julia Roberts sizzles despite her scant screen time, Carl Reiner is rock solid as a seasoned vet with failing health and Elliott Gould proves a riot as he saunters by the young male sex symbols with his big old belly defiantly bobbing in front of him. "Ocean's Eleven" is a reminder of how good "light entertainment" can be in the right hands. 4. Memento In this presented-in-reverse mind blower, Guy Pearce, the straight arrow cop from "L.A. Confidental," plays Leonard Shelby, a desperate figure out to find the man who raped and murdered his wife. Unfortunately, Leonard suffered brain damage in the attack and now has no short-term memory. Although his long-term memories are intact, he can't remember any recent events. Leonard copes by using annotated Polaroids as a memory substitute and tattooing vital information onto his body. Like "The Sixth Sense" and "The Matrix," "Memento" is a strongly acted and neatly constructed puzzle movie, but the comparison ends there. Whether viewed as an existential exercise or just a snappy thriller, this is a true original. 5. The Tailor of Panama When a British Secret Agent (Pierce Brosnan) is exiled to Panama City, he approaches one of his countrymen, an unctuous tailor (Geoffrey Rush), and offers money in exchange for secrets the tailor has learned from his elite clientele. The gents soon find themselves in the middle of a very dangerous web of lies, with lives hanging in the balance. Brosnan and Rush are excellent, as is the supporting cast, and director John Boorman's adroit use of the Panama City setting helps to establish and maintain a delicious sense of dread. 6. The Fluffer What a nice surprise. This low-budget film from co-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash West starts off as a clever little comedy about the world of pornographic moviemaking, but turns into a gripping study of codependency. Sean (Michael Cunio), a newcomer to L.A., becomes obsessed with hyper-masculine gay porn star Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney), eventually securing a job as cameraman with the company that produces his movies. He gets to hook up with his idol, but not in the way he hoped. Turns out that Johnny is straight, a gay-for-pay performer, and Sean ends up as his fluffer - the term for the person that provides oral stimulation to get the star erect for his next scene. The film garners laughs from bad porno acting and the horrible puns in porno titles, but moves into deeper territory as it examines the personalities of Sean, Johnny and Johnny's stripper girlfriend, Babylon (Roxanne Day). Heterosexuals should not dismiss this as just a "gay movie." With its arresting imagery and strong acting, "The Fluffer" is for all adventurous filmgoers. 7. (tie) The Deep End/With a Friend like Harry Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of these erudite thrillers. "The Deep End," introduces a protective mother (Tilda Swinton) whose son is carrying on an affair with Darby, a sleazy fellow 12 years his senior. Margaret doesn't trust the guy and proposes that he leave. He agrees, but for a price of $5,000. Complications ensue, leading to a dead body, a mysterious blackmailer (Goran Visnjic) and lots of smart, beautifully delivered dialogue. "With a Friend like Harry" follows Michel and Claire, a young couple traveling with their three girls in a stifling heat wave, who encounter Harry, a wealthy eccentric who knew Michel in school. Harry attaches himself to the family, bestowing gifts and loads of attention, but something about the situation is terribly wrong. While less credible than "The Deep End," "Harry" works by presenting many of its most shocking moments in a disturbingly matter-of-fact fashion. 8. Waking Life A 97-minute dream journey from "Slacker" director Richard Linklater. For the duration of the film, various actors discuss philosophical issues. The images of said performers, initially shot on digital film, are then turned into animation by artists working over the rotoscoped images. The end result is akin to watching a group of cartoon characters having a feature-length late night coffeehouse chat. Take it as an experiment or a challenge. Or just pretty pictures with a lot of chatter. For those receptive to innovative cinema, this is transcendent. 8 and a half. (tie) Hedwig & the Angry Inch/Moulin Rogue Musicals that dare to be different. "Hedwig" is a terrific gender-bending glam rock musical. Stylistically, the hook-laden tunes are reminiscent of "Ziggy Stardust" era David Bowie, "Bat Out of Hell" era Meatloaf and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," without ever seeming like imitations. Writer-director John Cameron Mitchell is outstanding as the transsexual diva Hedwig, doing a bang-up job adapting his off-Broadway musical for the big screen. In "Moulin Rogue," Australian director Baz Luhrmann fills the heads of viewers with unique camerawork, opulent imagery, vibrant performances from Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent and company, and songs ranging from "The Sound of Music" to "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Sumptuous and beautiful, vulgar and overdone, "Moulin Rogue" travels through the looking glass while an ethereal stereo loaded with 50 years worth of CDs operates on the "random" setting. 9. In the Bedroom Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson are devastating in Todd Field's study of grief and its effect on an aging middle class couple in a small Maine town. The battered, but unyielding atmosphere of the burg mirrors that of the couple, who must deal with a tragedy in the family. While the dialogue is dead-on, the punch of the film comes from the spaces between the words, from the things left unspoken. And not enough can be said about the stunning performances of Spacek and Wilkinson. 9 and a half. A.I. - Artificial Intelligence Fractured, but dazzling futuristic tale of a robot boy (Osment) who can think, love and hurt. Directed by Steven Spielberg, who collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on the project until the late director passed the project completely over to Spielberg. Misleadingly advertised as a fairy tale, "A.I." is a dark, often cruel story of obsession and intolerance. Flawed though it may be, the 145-minute epic still stands head and shoulders above most films. Packed with freaky, haunting and generally amazing images, the production is accented by one of John Williams' better scores. Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law are terrific, and the film offers a cornucopia of intriguing concepts. 10. Gosford Park Look, it's "Upstairs Downstairs" with a murder mystery lobbed into the middle, as directed by the inimitable Robert Altman. Dialogue overlaps all over the place as the camera glides between the upper class and t


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