oscar run vii: house of flying daggers
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oscar run viii: spider-man 2

Back in the day, it was a real question whether Peter Jackson or Sam Raimi was the better filmmaker. By 1993, Jackson had made his splatter-film classics while Raimi had completed his Evil Dead trilogy, and I'd hate to have to pick the better movie between Evil Dead II and Braindead. But then Raimi went on to make a bunch of movies I didn't care about, while Jackson made the transcendent Heavenly Creatures and then made himself famous with a trilogy of his own.

Spider-Man 2 is supposed to be even better than the first one, but I can't remember the first one enough to make the comparison, and even though I just finished watching #2, I suspect I won't remember it in two years, either. The special-effects that got the film three Oscar nominations run hot and cold ... Doc Ock's extra arms are amazing, but Spider-Man still looks fake when he's flying. The cast is full of people we like from other works ... Bruce Campbell gets a cameo (and there's a tip of the cap to Evil Dead 2 in a brief scene with a chainsaw), Hal Sparks, who plays a comicbook creator on Queer As Folk, rides an elevator with Spidey, and there's J.K. Simmons (the white supremacist Schillinger from Oz), James Franco (Freaks and Geeks), Bill Nunn (Radio Raheem has grey hair? time sure flies!), Mageina Tovah (Joan of Arcadia), and Daniel Dae Kim (Lost). It's a superhero movie that takes time for character development, and it has an uncondescending attitude towards the material.

Yet it's not very impressive. It's hard to believe this is the same director who so gleefully poured on the gory nonsense in the Evil Dead films. Those movies were inspired by Hong Kong fantasy films ... the Spider-Man movies are inspired by ... what? I can't tell. And I can't put my finger on it ... they're exemplary in so many ways, yet they're ultimately forgettable.

Perhaps the best comparison is to Tim Burton's two Batman films. I have my problems with those movies, but you won't forget them once you've seen them ... the first one had dark fascism and Jack Nicholson, the second was downright creepy and depressing. Spider-Man 2 is angsty, but not involving ... you're better off watching an old episode of My So-Called Life.

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