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DVD of the Week (26/8)

20 Great Scenes from 20 Great Movies

One might be surprised to discover that my two favourite scenes of all time from movies are both from films directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. About two months ago, I revealed my favourite scene of all time and promised to try and work on a list of great scenes. Well now I’ve finished compiling the list, and here it is, unleashed. They’re in no particular order, as it would be too hard to rank them, but I’ll start off with my second favourite scene of all time.

1: The Drug Deal Scene, Boogie Nights (1997)

Everything in this scene is pitch perfect. The tension works brilliantly, with the firecrackers and nervous tics. And the soundtrack… unbelieveable. You’ve got to hand it to P.T.A., he can pick the right music for any movie and it suits perfectly. There’s also a 45-second closeup of Mark Wahlberg (6:30-7:15) that is perhaps my favourite shot in the movie. Not because I like Mark Wahlberg, but just because it’s a perfect little piece of Anderson, and it reveals so much about Dirk Diggler without saying a word. Fantastic.

2: The Goy’s Teeth, A Serious Man (2009)

A perfect example of what makes the Coen brothers so unique. They can have a long, rambling, incredibly interesting monologue with virtually no meaning and it makes sense. The scene is both fun to watch and full of anticipation. Sure, it might be a let down to discover there’s no point in the whole thing, but it’s part of life. A lot of what we go through is long, tedious and has no real affect or reason, and yet, we live through it. The truth is, some questions weren’t made to be answered, and this scene sums it up perfectly.

3: The Street Shootout, Heat (1995)

Michael Mann’s visually daring 1995 heist movie features one of my personal favourite sequences of extended violence and warfare. Imagine a gritty shootout between many men, placed in the middle of a bustling street. Might not sound like the most original idea now, but back in 1995, it sizzled.

4: The Briefcase, The Killing (1956)

Though I sadly cannot find a video for this fantastic final scene to Stanley Kubrick’s heist movie, I can assure you it is brilliant. When two thieves are getting on to a plane escaping with millions in a briefcase, the unexpected happens, the briefcase opens, and all Hell breaks loose. A visually stunning shot, that in some ways anticipated Kubrick’s whole career.

5: Gutterballs, The Big Lebowski (1998)

A perfect combination of stylistic music and sexual innuendo combined with the Dude’s love of bowling, this priceless sequence makes the entire movie worth watching and symbolises (like #2) the uniqueness of the Coen brothers. No other director/s could have pulled this off.

6: “Hello, Dimitri?”, Dr. Strangelove (1964)

If there was a top prize for awkward, subtle humour in film, Dr. Strangelove would be a definite contender for top spot, and this scene explains exactly why. It makes me laugh every single time I watch it, and the first time I saw it, I was in tears by the time it ended. Fantastic. If you like to think you have anything resembling a sense of humour, you must see this movie.

7: Alice’s Monologue, Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

This is not actually the whole scene, but it’s enough of it to get the point across. Nicole Kidman is absolutely fucking fantastic in this scene, spitting out each line perfectly in character and in a manner that almost puts the viewer into the same drug-induced trance as her. A fantastic look at the effects of marriage and human relationships, this is definitely the film’s highlight.

8: Mr. Blonde, Reservoir Dogs (1992)

There are a lot of scenes which deserve a spot on here from QT’s breakthrough debut and it was really tough making a decision, but no other scene has the raw impact and masochistic beauty of this brilliantly filmed violence overblow. QT laughs in our faces and left me gaping when Mr. Blonde exited the warehouse and everything changed for those brief few seconds. He’s a genius, and this scene is a testament to his ability.

9: The German Girl, Paths of Glory (1957)

I hope you have a box of Kleenex, because you may be about to cry. The following is technically two scenes, one in which Kirk Douglas tells his boss where to stick his promotion (my favourite line in the film occurs at 0:59, listen for that one), and in the second part, in a scene that really is a testament to the heartlessness and cruelty of war, a German girl is forced to sing by a bunch of rowdy, drunken, ogling American soldiers, but the unexpected happens. Seriously, this scene… I cannot express my love for it enough, and it is one of the main reasons it’s placed so high among my favourite movies of all time. The best scene Kubrick ever directed. Ever.

10: Perfect Day, Trainspotting (1996)

Apparently, embedding is disabled so you can watch it here if it doesn’t work. What follows is an example of Danny Boyle’s great talent. He hear combines a scene where we see the protagonist Renton (Ewan MacGregor) take a “final” hit of heroin, and uses the best possible music to ironically describe the hellish levels to which he has sunk. Spectacularly depressing.

11: The End, Dogville (2003)

I warn you now, do NOT watch this scene if you have not already seen the movie. It contains spoilers that should NEVER be spoiled. It is the almost perfect, sadistic ending to Lars von Trier’s amazing stage-play filmed Dogville. It’s definitely in my Top 5 for jaw-dropping scenes. You will be stunned.

12: The Club Silencio, Mulholland Dr. (2001)

A beautiful, artistic, memorable scene from David Lynch’s amazing movie, this is a really well-done look at the thin line between dreams and reality, and how easily we can be tricked.

13: Don’t Leave, Magnolia (1999)

I know I’ve mentioned and shown this scene all over Southern Vision a few times, but if you haven’t seen it, it really is worth it. In general, I dislike Tom Cruise as an actor. But in this scene… wow, he really packs a punch that’s difficult to shake. Amazing portrayal of grief and loss.

14: Plastic Bag in the Wind, American Beauty (1999)

The scene has such emotion, and beauty, that there’s really nothing much left to say that Wes Bentley doesn’t say himself. Great background score from Thomas Newman, one of my favourite musical score composers of all time.

15: The Pool Scene, Let the Right One In (2008)

Almost poetic in its use of strewn body parts, sudden deaths, and great audio, this scene forces the audience to use their imagination which produces much more horrific results than any scary imagery. A beautiful, terrifying scene.

16: The Boardwalk Scene, A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The perfect combination of sickening violence and amazing classical music, Stanley Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece features countless great scenes of amazing direction, but this one tops them all.

17: Standing In Line for a Movie, Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen’s famous comedy works more like a series of hilarious sketches, and it’s difficult to pick just one, but when I watched it the first time, this scene really struck me as very funny, and has been parodied often in pop culture.

18: Lovefool, Hot Fuzz (2007)

This list would go uncomplete without a reference to the funniest of all the hilarious scenes in this Edgar Wright classic. The look on Simon Pegg’s face is hysterical.

19: The Copacabana Shot, Goodfellas (1991)

You’ll have to skip to two minutes before the actual shot starts, but it is a brilliant one. One of the most famous and influential tracking shots in all of cinema, this really pumps up the class in this Scorsese classic and is one of the many reasons it is as brilliant as it is.

20: Dreams, No Country for Old Men (2007)

A fitting way to finish off this list is with the disquieting, eerie, brilliant final scene that tops off an amazingly fantastic movie. Tommy Lee Jones leads the Coen brothers’ western-style classic to an awesome conclusion.

There, that’s my list. There’s plenty more I could add, but this is enough for now. So, what do you think? Anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment below.

25 Very Short Film Reviews

I love writing reviews. I love it a lot. And I like it when reviews turn people onto movies they wouldn’t normally watch, as they have for me on many occasions. But sometimes people don’t have the time to read a full review, and just want people to get to the point. To satisfy these impatient but forgivable men and women, here is a list of twenty-five films, reviewed within one paragraph. They range from the completely terrible to the utterly brilliant. This of course, is all based on opinion, which is what makes the process of leaving a comment so integral. So make sure you do that. Anywhere, here they are, in a completely random order:

1: Freeway (1996)

It’s hardcore dark humor that is difficult to appreciate combined with the complete impossibility to sympathise with either of its main characters might normally make this a bad movie. But in some strange way, it has a charm, which obviously appealed to Executive Producer Oliver Stone. 7/10.

2: Short Cuts (1993)

Robert Altman knows a lot about people, as this mammoth 3-hour film proves. Back in ’75, he did it with Nashville, and retaining some of the jazzy musical flair, he returns to weave a complex web of a range of emotions that was a nice follow-up to The Player and a major influence on Paul Thomas Anderson. 9/10.

3: Fear and Desire (1955)

Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film was a disappointing one; so much so that he went as far as to withdraw all copies from distribution. It can still be found on the internet, but Kubrick was right when he said it was his worst film. 4/10.

4: Wild at Heart (1991)

My least favourite David Lynch film (and I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE Lynch) is a twisted romantic thriller with all the familiar Lynchian character types and plenty of Lynch’s snazzy retro styles but seemingly devoid of emotion. The highlight is easily the ugly Willem Dafoe character, but he only barely manages to save this wreck. 5/10.

5: The Green Mile (1999)

Seeing this at age 14, I felt a poignant sense of love for a film in a manner which was new to me. If, at that age, I had compiled a list of my favourite films, it would probably be number one. Growing up, I realized my fickle naivety at loving this Darabont gem so much, but it still retains power. 8/10.

6: Somewhere (2010)

Though Coppola’s take on an age-old plot is rather inaccessible, it is undoubtedly original, and her solid directing and some very touching cinematography make this so wickedly awesome to look at. Plus, the boozy relativity of Stephen Dorff and the contrasting charm of Elle Fanning make this an underrated treasure. 8/10.

7: See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1987)

Of the Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor pairings, this is certainly not the most well-received, glamorous or best, but seeing it at age twelve I could NOT stop laughing. They play the respective roles of a deaf and blind man in such a hilarious manner that it’s impossible not to. But at the end of the day, this is them doing what they’ve already done, in many ways. 6/10.

8: Liar, Liar (1997)

I saw this in theatres with my Dad when it came out and we had such fun. Turning ever slightly into a more bearable personality with each film, Carrey seems to hold up the role of a flabbergastingly talkative lawyer with ease, slipping in dozens of clever, witty one liners and winning the audience one chuckle at a time, despite its flaws. 7/10.

9: A Serious Man (2009)

It took more than one viewing to fully appreciate what Joel and Ethan Coen were trying to convey with this deceivingly simple story of a Jewish man’s struggle in middle-class society as everything he touches breaks (metaphorically) and he is subject to blackmail, deceit and countless unlucky circumstance. Honest about life and a real eye opener, it proves that the Coens will perhaps forever retain that undeniable charm. 9/10.

10: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

With a bit of a mind flip, you’re into the time slip, and nothing will ever be the same. Though I certainly never went as far as to dress up and gather props, watching this cult classic gives you an appreciation for its intelligence about comedy and its beautiful tributes to science fiction and exploitation hits alike. 7/10.

11: Casino (1998)

I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but watching Scorsese’s Casino felt like a three hour trip around a rollercoaster of emotions that encircle the pretty-on-the-outside city. De Niro’s stony appearance and Pesci’s familiar disturbing intolerance as well as general greed and sin are an unattractive portrait of a moment in time where no one was safe from corruption. 8/10.

12: Gigli (2003)

I had suspected something stinky early on, but when Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez started their pathetic argument about penises and vaginas, I began to feel really sick. What makes it even worse is the presence of Martin Brest as director and screenwriter. How can a person so quickly move from things like Midnight Run and Scent of a Woman to this? 3/10.

13: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

For a fleeting second in this superb adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel, whilst watching the DVD, I grabbed for the remote to pause it but found myself unable to. I realized when it had finished that that flash of a second was me deciding this was the best film I’d ever seen, but within moments, that exaggeration was gone. It isn’t the best one. But it’s a f*cking good one. 10/10.

14: The Brown Bunny (2003)

From its famed disastrous Cannes screening to the nightmarish controversy which followed, Vincent Gallo’s second directorial film was always going to garner the wrong sort of attention, but I think it is vastly underrated. It took me more than one viewing to even begin to like this movie, but now that I’ve had time to think about it, I realize what Gallo was trying to achieve and I respect him even more. Read my full review here. 7/10.

15: The Killing (1956)

Probably the first “great” film Kubrick released, this tense, pacing heist flick is full of brilliant scenes and the early stages of what would soon famously become the “Kubrick” cinematography style, and a final end scene completely coated in excellence. Impossible to hate, it is a must-see for all heist movie fans. 8/10.

16: Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

When compared with the films that preceded it, Paul Thomas Anderson’s quiet little drama might seem a little disappointing, but it’s arguably an excellent work of art, full of Anderson and the emotion he’s so talented at conveying. It also features cinematography and a use of light that is, in a word, stunning, and quite unexpected, much like the notable performance from a frustrated Adam Sandler. 8/10.

17: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

A beautiful movie that makes you feel quite triumphant, this magnificent true story about a paralysed man who communicated and “typed” his entire autobiography to a typist by blinking (and doing only that) is not a frightening vision of a rare but dangerous affliction but rather, a tale of succeeding, when the rest of your body was telling you to fail. 8/10.

18: Rain Man (1988)

Dustin Hoffman’s remarkable performance as the Autistic Raymond would be enough to turn any self-indulgent prick like Tom Cruise’s character into a more emotionally respectable person, and as if that weren’t enough, his love for K-Mart, fresh underwear and Who’s On First make him instantly likeable. 7/10.

19: City of Ember (2008)

While babysitting my sister’s kids, we (meaning they) decided it would be awesome to watch this futuristic drama. Though the presence of Tim Robbins and Bill Murray is enough to stir the eyes of any adult in bland interest, neither of them are trying anything comedic here and while the premise is interesting, it is ultimately disappointing. 5/10.

20: October Sky (1997)

I feel sorry for a lot of people for this movie, Chris Cooper most of all, because when accepting this role he probably thought it would be the only time he would have to play a self-indulgent prick of a father. Then along came American Beauty, and self-indulgent prick was an instant typecast. Anyway, this movie is a bland but fair true story about some kids who build rockets, but it’s more for kids. 6/10.

21: Being John Malkovich (1999)

Hello, Kaufman. Hello, Jonze. Hello again, instantly despicable but strangely appealing John Malkovich. Hello, good movie. The interesting premise of this comic drama follows through nicely, retaining a lot of originality and pacing itself neatly enough. The only disappointing scene is one that also seems to be strangely witty, involving a chimpanzee flashback. 8/10.

22: Dogville (2003)

Lars von Trier is a director who I don’t think has ever (or will ever) make a really accessible movie. Dogville is no exception to this rule, but it is also Trier’s best. The use of setting the whole thing as a stage play makes it seem smaller, down to Earth, and a whole lot easier to follow, and the acting performances by a collective group of great actors playing members of a small town is equally impressive. 8/10. Heck, maybe 9 considering the fantastic ending.

23: A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Revealing some unpleasant truths about relations between Brits and Americans, this absolutely f*cking HILARIOUS movie is flat out funny, all the way through, with Pythonesque jokes, and a thought-provoking analysis of the system of slapstick crime movies, this continues to delight and impress with each viewing. Sooo funny! 8/10.

24: Bruno (2008)

What may be so appealing about Sacha Baron Cohen is his disregard for social convention and love of all things outrageous. His follow-up to Borat, goes further than its predecessor, into the realms of homophobia and stereotypes, but still managing to come up clean on the other side, though some scenes might be excessive. 7/10.

25: Amores Perros (2000)

Spanish (or Mexican, whichever you consider to be most applicable) cinema is one of the most intriguingly relevant of foreign cinemas today. Celebrated director Alejandro Gonzales Iñàrritu creates tense sequences and stories of life in Mexico that are full of raw, uncensored emotion, particularly some heartbreaking sequences in the last half. Surprisingly brilliant. 9/10.

That’s my opinion, now what’s yours? You know the drill. Do you agree/disagree with what I’ve said about movies above? Leave a comment with some very short reviews of your own. It can be from any movie at all.

Thanks for reading.

10 Movies You MUST Watch More Than Once

I am a heavy believer in the power of ‘rewatching’ movies. I do it all the time, and with most of the good movies I’ve ever seen. Sometimes it changes nothing, but more often than not you are looking at the film from a different angle and you can pull things out of it that completely flew over your head the first time. Here are ten examples of films that completely changed for me when I watched them a second (or 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc.) time:

The Brown Bunny

I thought I’d start out with this one first because it was really the inspiration for this post. Back in December when I first watched this, I gave it 4/10. Now it’s 7/10, edging on 8. Knowing the final end twist, the atmosphere of the film is completely different and scarily dark the second time round. Read my review here.

Inland Empire

Of all the films I’ve rewatched, I’ve never gained so much from each respective viewing as I have from David Lynch’s Inland Empire. If you can make it through the whole three hours, it’s definitely worth it. One of the greatest acting performances of the decade, as well as sweeping direction and a scary mood that is unbeatable. First Viewing Rating: 7/10. Second Viewing Rating: 10/10

Caché

Just like David Lynch, all of Michael Haneke’s movies deserved to be seen more than once, but none moreso than this Cannes smash-hit, which is one of the creepiest and most shocking movies I’ve ever seen. You will not believe how good Haneke is with a camera. He does it to the point where you’re unsure whether what you’re watching is an actual scene or taped footage. First Time Rating: 9/10. Second Time Rating: 10/10

Eyes Wide Shut

The problem most people face with this film is the same as The Brown Bunny issue. They find it boring, the sex gratuitous and unneccessary, and the plot going nowhere. It’s very prejudicial and insulting to bring it down to those levels. This is a highly intelligent, scarily accurate and shockingly referential film. First Time Rating: 8/10. Second Time Rating: 10/10

2001: A Space Odyssey

Like Lynch and Haneke, all of Kubrick’s films deserve a good rewatch, but none moreso than the above one and this, a stunningly beautiful, futuristically accurate (well, almost) and unbelievably brilliant motion picture. This is one of the lucky few pictures where everything is perfect, but of course that comes at a price: its complete inaccessibility to the average moviegoer. However, that’s nothing a rewatch can’t fix! First Time Rating: 9/10. Second Time: 10/10

A Serious Man

I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of this movie at the theatre when it came out, and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. Then a friend told me I needed to see it again, so I bought the DVD and rewatched it and wow, just like with The Brown Bunny, that second watch has made all the difference. A spectacular film on a level of greatness halfway between insanity and truth. First Time Rating: 6/10. Second Time Rating: 9/10

This was the scene in A Serious Man when I finally realized, whilst watching it a second time, that I had completely underestimated it the first time:

The Godfather: Part II

This is a personal one for me, because when I first saw it, the night after watching its predecessor, I thought it was very good, but nowhere near Part I. I bought the DVD and chucked it on the shelf, knowing one day I’d have to rewatch it. The second time round, something happened. Something clicked, and it’s now one of my favourite motion pictures ever. Have you ever felt the click? It’s a marvellous thing. First Time Rating: 8/10. Second Time Rating: 10/10

Dr. Strangelove

(Spoiler Alert) The great thing about rewatching this movie is that, when you see it the first time, you’re not as focused on the humour but more on how they’re going to stop their planes from bombing Russia. The second time, you know they’re going to fail so you focus more on them, rather than their situation. It makes the subtle humour much more visible and highly enhances the laugh factor. First Time Rating: 8/10. Second Time: 10/10

Memento

Like with the above, knowing the end twist beforehand makes it easier to focus on the filming and the style, which is something very well done, indeed. Mind you, this is a film you don’t really have any other choice but to rewatch as it’s so goddamn confusing. First Time Rating: 8/10. Second Time: 9/10

Any of the films of Edgar Wright

It’s hard just to pick one, so I’m going to class his entire filmography as one big movie, just this once. There is so much humour happening so quickly that it’s easy to miss some of the tiny jokes and even some of the great movie tributes that inspired them. SOTD View Count: 5. Hot Fuzz View Count: 6 Scott Pilgrim View Count: 3

So… what films changed for you the second time round? What films do you want to watch a second time? What did you think of my choices? Leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading.

A Life In Movies

This is a post where I’m going to give a film for every year of my life. I got the idea from Red at Anomalous Material (read his post here), who in turn got it from Fandango Groovers. Let’s get started!

1987: Full Metal Jacket

Stanley Kubrick’s penultimate film is undoubtedly one of the best and most well-created war movies in film history. Lee Ermey, Vincent D’Onofrio and Adam Baldwin give the best performances of their career in this fantastic film.

1988: Spoorloos (The Vanishing)

George Sluizer’s flawless adaptation of Tim Krabbe’s fantastic novel The Golden Egg is also one of the most engaging films about kidnapping and the human mind and its reaction to grief. How much would you risk just to find out what happened to that inexplicably missing person, even if you couldn’t change their fate? A shocking ending left me breathless.

1989: Sex, Lies and Videotape

One of the most impressive and shocking debuts from a director is a champion of independant cinema and a film which deeply surprised me and shocked me with its brutally honest treatment of human emotion and relationships. James Spader is fantastic.

1990: Goodfellas

What else could I choose? Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece of gangster cinema is high up on the list of best films of the 90s decade, let alone the year. There’s not much more to say that hasn’t already been said about this Scorsese classic.

1991: The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme is a filmmaker who doesn’t get nearly enough respect as he should. I very rarely hear people talk about him, despite the fact he directed two of the greatest films ever made: Philadelphia and this. The definitive cat-and-mouse cop vs. criminal thriller, it crossed all boundaries into an area of its own.

1992: Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino’s first film is probably, all things considered, my favourite heist movie ever made. The dialogue is snappy and excellent, the plot structure is quick and perfectly paced and the acting is stunning, as well as a usual Tarantino soundtrack that is difficult to beat. What’s not to love?

1993: Short Cuts

Simultaneously my introduction to Robert Altman, the first Criterion DVD I ever owned and the beginning of an unending and continuous love of films with multiple storylines (see also, 1999 below), there were so many exciting and engaging elements to this great film.

1994: Three Colours: Red

Because this is such a tricky and expectant year, I thought I’d pick a film that no one else would pick. Kieslowski’s final film, and the conclusion to his fantastic Three Colours trilogy, this brilliant analysis of human behaviour, curiosity and relationships is simply stunning. And let’s not forget the astonishing ending. Watch the whole trilogy. Now. Please.

1995: Se7en

One of the first true thrillers I ever really loved, David Fincher’s famous cop vs. crim psychiatric thriller is gritty, ugly, but brilliant. Great writing, splendid acting and fantastic cinematography (Darius Khondji, we salute you), all lead up to a snappy and shocking ending which in itself demands required viewing.

1996: Fargo

“I guess that was your accomplice, in the woodchipper.” This was the first R-rated film I ever saw, and it has had a huge impact on the way I view films (especially thrillers). The amazing, subtle comedy and witty observations of Minnesotan attitude (“Minnesota Nice”) are key factors in the enjoyability of this clever movie.

1997: Boogie Nights

Paul Thomas Anderson catapulted himself to “big, bright shining star” fame with this two and a half hour long analysis of a rapidly changing industry, the key players involved and the little nuances of a changing time as the seventies became the eighties and everything changed. That’s right.

1998: The Big Lebowski

The second but not the last Coen brothers movie on this list, this endearing, funny story of mistakes, money, White Russians, Shomer Shabbas, Walter Sobchak, The Dude, The Jesus, floor-carpet urination and its unintended consequences, rich men and Mozart’s Requiem, Logjammin’, and of course, bowling is one of the cleverest films in terms of humour, ever made.

1999: Magnolia

If you’ve read my blog, 1999’s spot should be no question. A three hour masterpiece of interconnected storylines held together by stunning writing, flawless direction, a sweeping camera, great acting, epic music, and an ending of biblical proportions, it’s no question why this is my favourite movie of all time.

2000: Dancer in the Dark

Björk is fantastic in her acting debut as Selma, a near-blind woman saving up to save her son from the same hereditary fate. Lars von Trier, ever ready with a tool belt of DV cameras, a colourful imagination and swingin’ tunes, paints a touching, beautiful portrait of a life for the lesser fortunate, and a series of bad accidents which can lead to disaster. Warning, bring your hanky, this will make even the strongest of men cry.

2001: Mulholland Dr.

If someone asked me what the most accessible inaccessible movie ever made, I would complement them on the imagination of their question, and reply quickly with Mulholland Dr. It’s a simple enough storyline of a budding actress who moves to Hollywood and becomes caught up with a woman who can’t remember her past. The story moves along nicely, introducing more characters, and leading up to a finale which completely tricks you and beats any Christopher Nolan ending. Ever.

2002: Irreversible

Following his excellent film I Stand Alone, Gaspar Noe made another risky move, but turned the risk factor up to eleven. Graphic and extended rape and an equally graphic revenge sequence are part of the decoration of this Memento-like masterpiece which concludes with an uneventful but hugely emotional final scene on the grass in the park which is one of my favourite scenes of all time. Le Temps Detruit Tout: Time Destroys Everything.

2003: Oldboy

Quick action, a blindingly clever plot, and live squid consumption are just three of the many exciting and alluring things to be found in this excellent Korean thriller.

2004: Shaun of the Dead

A refreshing comedic break from the seriousness of this decade’s previous choices, Edgar Wright’s clever, observational ode to British humour and lifestyle, not to mention countless Romero zombie movies, is a smart and surprisingly hilarious film. The quick pace and delivery of the dialogue is a typical trait of British comedies (the early films of Guy Ritchie, particularly Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, are brought to mind) and is one of the various clever things which tie this rom-zom-com together.

2005: Caché

One of the strongest, most gripping, shocking and evocative thrillers ever created, Michael Haneke’s Caché is his masterpiece. It is the consequence of a career full of films examining secrets, violence and human behaviour. This film knocks all three out of the park with its spectacular observations of human jealousy and secrecy. Haneke’s directing is stunning, also, with countless stationary shots which continuously trick and deceive the viewer as well as a simple but thought-provoking ending.

2006: Babel

Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu wins us over yet again with the third and final in a trilogy of excellent films examining human behaviour through the usage of multiple storylines. Proceeded by the equally excellent Amores Perros and 21 Grams, it is a beautiful and emotional conclusion to a series of films which have skilfully examined racism and hatred, among other things. Those two are the main focus of this film, which is riveting for the entire run time of 130-ish minutes.

2007: There Will Be Blood

Undeniably and beyond a shadow of a doubt the best film of the decade, all things considered, Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic tale of greed and self-destruction is portrayed through the innocent eyes of Daniel Day-Lewis, whose eyes turn scarily guilty as he plays a man whose inevitable path to pure hatred and selfishness is simultaneously shocking, riveting and absolutely breathtaking. Kudos also goes to Robert Elswit, whose Oscar-winning cinematography is a mighty and deserving feat indeed. I’m finished.

2008: The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky strikes back after a softer turn with 2006’s The Fountain and reconnects yet again with that inner cycle of human emotion. This time he conveys it through the usage of an awesome Mickey Rourke, whose portrayal of an ageing wrestler is heartbreaking, sympathetic and distancing, all at the same time. Thanks also, Darren A, for the perfect Bruce Springsteen song played in the end credits.

2009: A Serious Man

A film that grows on me even more with each viewing, the Coen brothers’ much-awaited film about Jewish life, existence, meaning and feeling is their most realistic one yet. Each Coen film exists in a warped universe of its own, but this is the first to really be… earthly, for lack of a better word. We look at this film and see the world around us, in a way none of us were expecting. Forget plot, forget excitment, forget fast-pace. This is a film about humanity and the imperfections we all possess, and how, in the end, it never really matters in consideration of the bigger things yet to come.

2010: Black Swan

If The Wrestler was about the inner truths and frustrations of the male psyche, Black Swan deals with the female one. Sense is senseless and sanity is moot in this brutal, explicit tale of jealousy, greed, anger and personality. It’s something Aronofsky does well, and it’s a shame he didn’t get the Oscar. Portman gives her career-best performance, haunted by mirrors wherever she goes and shadowed by a fractured personality. Excellent.

So there it is. A film for each year of my life. Whew. I wonder what 2011’s will be. That remains to be seen, but I think it’s safe to say each of these films is, in my opinion, the best of its respective year. But opinions change, and everyone’s is different. Leave a comment below with what you thought of my choices, and let me know what some of yours are.

Thanks for reading.

Ten Movies That Define Me

The following list is ten movies that ‘define me.’ These are movies that changed the way I looked at cinema, and helped to craft my perspective on film in general. These are not necessarily my Top Ten favourite films, but one or two from that ten will be present.

In no particular order:

There Will Be Blood

From the moment I first saw Daniel Day-Lewis in In The Name of the Father, I knew I was looking at one talented man. Then I saw this movie, and I was blown away. This is one of the few movies that actually caused my jaw to drop at its aching perfectness. A masterpiece.

Citizen Kane

Proclaimed repetitively the best movie of all time, Citizen Kane may not be that, but it is breathtaking in its painfully honest portrayal of greed and heartlessness, the carelessness and ignorance of the human soul. It was the first film ever to touch upon issues such as this in the manner which it did, and coming from a twenty-something man, that was something rare indeed.

A Serious Man

Admittedly not my favourite Coen brothers movie, A Serious Man is nevertheless a vitally important reason why they are so great. Though I’m not a Jew, this movie spoke to my inner emotions and frustrations. I think of myself as a very different man to Larry Gopnik, though his distraught plight and repressed dislike of his own selfish situation is brutally honest and without mercy.

Dancer in the Dark

From its unique opening of various collaborations of beautiful art pieces as a fantastic score plays in the opening, to the depressing ending which I’m not ashamed to say is the ONLY film ending that has ever made me cry, Lars von Trier’s dogme-influenced musical masterpiece is a unique event that manages to capture something more than a camera could convey.

Magnolia

You probably know that this is my favourite film of all time. It’s an achingly hard decision to make, but all things considered, I’ve NEVER felt the way I felt while watching this movie. Every single tiny aspect of the way it was made was life-changing for me, and helped to confirm the suspicion that I was destined to watch and love movies.

Persona

A lot of movies have changed the way I look at films, but Persona changed the way I looked at “cinema.” There is a difference. Bergman reminds us we’re watching a film, and the film itself features some stunning acting and breathtaking cinematography, all thanks to Bergman, Sven Nykvist, Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson, as well as everyone else involved. No one had the brains of Bergman, and it’s due to his creative vision that films are made like they are today.

Eyes Wide Shut

An often ignored and hated Kubrick film, Eyes Wide Shut is actually a feast for the senses, and contains important messages about society, living, marriage, jealousy, hatred and discovery. Whether its Nicole Kidman’s brilliant (no, fantastic) adulterous monologue or Gyorgy Ligeti’s creepy piano theme whose notes play with a striking tune like a slap in the face, this slow-paced masterpiece which seems to go nowhere is actually a film to be re-examined and thought about.

Mulholland Dr.

Lynch’s most famous and probably his best film, this strangely scary and atmospherically surreal 150-minute masterwork is a strange, puzzling riddle with disturbing thematic echoes of the heartless mouth of Hollywood, rejection, sexuality and emotion. It’s a real ride.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Often mistakenly filed away as ‘long’ and ‘boring,’ Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi is in reality a beautiful analysis of human evolution, the creation and existence of life, and possibilities for the daunting spectre of the future, as well as alien existence and extraterrestrial intelligence. Embrace your inner Star Child.

Paths of Glory

If I had to pick a war movie that ‘defined me,’ I would scan through all the possibilites, but they all lead to Paths of Glory. It is a moving, determined and no holds barred awesomely truthful analysis of war and the tumultuous toll it has on its survivors, as well as the people who watch and run it all. Very powerful.

There you go. Ten Movies that Define Me. Some interesting picks there, I’m sure you’re thinking. Please, leave a comment with your thoughts and tell me what your ‘defining’ movies are.

Thanks for reading.

The 10 Best Films of the Decade (2000-2009)

Before I begin this list, I would like to quickly note that most people consider the last “decade” to include 2010 (well, a large number of my friends do). This is correct, except when you consider that, technically looking at the Gregorian calendar, the “decade” began on January 1, 2001. Most people struggle to accept this and include 2000. Because I don’t want to confuse people, I’m including the year 2000, too, but 2010 movies don’t count. That’s a different list entirely. So anyway, let’s count them down, the Ten Best Films of the Decade.

10: Hot Fuzz (2007)

 

Edgar Wright’s follow-up to the smash-hit Shaun of the Dead has since become known as one of the best cop movies ever made. In my opinion, the best. Simon Pegg is hilarious as Sgt. Nicholas Angle Angel, a tough, experienced cop who we can easily see is good at his job, from his determined strut in the first take to guns blazing in the final half hour. He is good at his job. Too good. So good, he’s making everyone else on the force look bad, so he’s being transfered to the countryside before he can say “still a bit stiff.” In the town of Sanford, things seem to be uneventful and normal, but in reality there is trouble brewing. He is teamed up with Danny (Nick Frost), an obese but determined police officer who despite his poor fence jumping skills nonetheless enjoys his job and dreams of the action he sees in Michael Bay movies. As usual, Edgar Wright hits the mark, employing the same tactics he used in his previous film, and expanding his imagination in ways we could never have thought possible. Well done!

9: A Serious Man (2009)

One of the most honest, true and… well, serious movies of the decade is one of the Coen brothers’ best, even better than their Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men. Revealing the true way of life of many people, and discussing life’s problems and how we deal with them in an interesting way, the Coens provide a thought-provoking analysis of suburban existence, like a Jewish American Beauty, whilst still staying flat, grounded, and keeping the humour dry. Witty acting performances from a cast of mostly unknowns as well as superb cinematography, music and overall presentation are all factors in the undeniable greatness of this modern classic, which must be viewed more than once. Stuhlbarg is excellent in his leading role and the Coens prove that even after twenty-five years of filmmaking, they still have the golden touch for originality, subtle humour and truthful observations of real humanity.

8: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

A controversial choice for some, but there is no way I could exclude this masterpiece from Darren Aronofsky. It’s a dodgy film with my friends: some like it, some hate it, some love it, some despise it. I am one of those who love it, and its not just for the way it tells its terrific story. Well, actually, it is. I’ve written an article about the music used in this movie, but I’ll sum it up by saying it works amazingly. The cinematography by skilled Oscar-nominated Matthew Libatique is top-class. Aronofsky knows how to set the mood, too, and this is another category where the music comes in. The film might seem a little too fast-paced for some, but the fast pace works effectively because these people are on drugs which make their lives fast-paced. There are so many ways in which Aronofsky communicates to the viewer what it feels like to be on drugs. At first, everything is fine, but quickly, things begin to go awfully wrong. I can’t easily think of anything scarier than the penultimate ‘meltdown’ scene, with God only knows how many cuts and music so awfully terrifying that we feel like we are in the Hell that drug abuse must be. And the final scene, oh! What a work of art! If ever a movie scene has made you cry, this has to be it. Requiem is a terrifically depressing film, but it must be seen.

7: Amelie (2001)

It has gained an enormous following and earned great fame, and rightly so. Jeunet’s La fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain (did I get that right?) is a masterpiece. It is a very funny film, and almost all the laughs are just observations of contemporary life and how disturbingly easy it is to shake things up. That’s what the eponymous Amelie (Audrey Tatou) does. She sees the people around her, all with their own separate, different lives, and decides to change them. The results are arguably some of the most amusing consequences we could’ve hoped for. Amelie herself is searching for love, a love that when found, she is reluctant to accept. She is an intriguing character and Tatou plays her with grace, skill and knowledge. Whether she is helping or hindering the situations of her acquaintances, she is either way changing their lives, in some cases forever. Jeunet is clever, and inserts his vision into this engaging, thought-provoking film.

6: Amores Perros (2000)

A fatal car crash is the one intersection between three completely different, but thematically harmonious lives in this amazing, beautiful film from Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel). His two later films (just mentioned) also share some of the emotions and the general message that different people can affect the lives of others. 21 Grams featured a car crash, too, and Babel dealt with racism in a visceral, ugly way which stems from this original film. The three stories told all involve dogs (the title translates roughly to “Love’s a Bitch”) and they play key characters in the lives of the characters. A man enters his mutt into dangerous illegal dogfights to save up money and run away with his girlfriend. A vain supermodel is put in a wheelchair and cannot save her small dog who is trapped under the apartment. A strange, loitering man walks with many dogs across the street, observing. But via a car crash, all three lives change. The story is brutal, but brilliant. It is filled with emotion, and left me on the verge of tears at its end. This movie must be seen. The best foreign film of the decade.

5: American Psycho (2000)

“Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you f**king stupid bastard!” So screams Christian Bale’s chilling, unforgettable serial killer in the first half of this sick, twisted, brilliant thriller. He is talking to Paul Allen (Jared Leto), a business rival, as he murders him brutally with an axe in a darkly comic, disturbing scene. Patrick Bateman has since become a well-known name in the annals of movie psychopaths, and is in my opinion, equivalent to Hannibal Lecter or Darth Vader… in fact, perhaps even scarier. Bateman speaks bluntly and hatefully of the people around him, and indulges in violence, sex and drugs often. Murder is his way of releasing energy, and he does it in various sickening ways, such as his “rampage” toward the end. He says earlier on that he believes his “mask of sanity is about to slip,” and slip is what it does. He murders, both creatively and plain disgustingly, as we are frequently introduced to a darker, scarier side of the shark-in-a-suit image we’re so often greeted with in movies. The business card scene is a funny and interesting scene in which Bateman and his colleagues compare business cards, and Bateman is angered when he is intimidated by those of his acquaintences. Everything in this movie is something that can set off Bateman into a killing spree. We are shown a true glimpse into the mind, body and soul of a serial killer. And it is marvellous.

4: INLAND EMPIRE (2006)

I’ve already reviewed this film here, but I’ll say a couple of sentences: Laura Dern is brilliant in her role as a disorientated and confused actress plagued by the curse of a film in which she is starring. A magnificent, epic masterpiece, but not for everyone.

3: Caché (2004)

 

Michael Haneke has always been one of my favourite directors. From Benny’s Video to Funny Games to The Piano Teacher and now, to this, a film which betters all its predecessors and completely changes the way we look at surveillance in movies and surveillance in general. The English title of this Cannes smash-hit is Hidden, which refers to various things in the film, most perceptively the concept of the hidden camera which films the outdoor surroundings of a wealthy family’s apartment. The camera sits stationary, filming their house as various people pass by in cars and on cycles, and as the family man (Daniel Auteuil) leaves and comes home from work. He is disturbed by the tapes, as is his wife (Juliette Binoche), but he believes that he knows who is responsible. The film is slow-paced and uneventful, but these tactics work brilliantly in making the movie the masterpiece that it is. There are some shots in which barely anything happen (the opening and closing shots come to mind), but these shots are pivotal to watch carefully and think about afterwards. The film asks a barrage of questions and will leave the viewer thinking for days afterwards. Any film that can do this (yes, Inception counts) is worthy of my favouritism (usually), and this film towers above the rest. A must-see.

2: Mulholland Dr. (2001)

I’ve already reviewed this film here, but I’ll say a couple of short sentences: Mulholland Dr. is David Lynch’s masterpiece. The director has made so many great films (including Lost Highway, which I’m proud to announce I finally get!) but MD really sums them all up: dreams. It’s about dreams. It’s clever, manipulative, thought-provoking and engaging, everything a Lynch film should be, and more. The scene where Rebekah Del Rio sings Roy Orbison’s Crying in Spanish is forever engrained in my memory for so many reasons.

1: There Will Be Blood (2007)

“If you have a milkshake, and I have a straw…” I think you know where this is going. Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is, simply put, the greatest film of the decade. He tells a breathtaking epic of a tale in which a great oil tyrant, to put it lightly (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to rob his friends and enemies and turn everyone away from him. He descends on a power-hungry trip of madness, murder and sick glee. He is terrifying and brilliant. Meanwhile, Anderson stands behind the screen examining and telling a tale he’s really been waiting his whole career to tell. I’m probably overusing the hyperboles, and this probably isn’t my favourite Anderson movie (if you’ve read my posts, you should know what that is), but the film is worthy of the excitement I hope I’m giving you about it. I was careful about watching this because it was a long movie about oil, but boy! Was I proven wrong! All the films on this list need to be seen, but There Will Be Blood is undoubtedly and arguably the best.

Honourable Mentions (in no particular order): No Country for Old Men, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Shutter Island, Memento, Irreversible, The Departed, Shaun of the Dead, Donnie Darko, Traffic, Dancer in the Dark, Borat, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The White Ribbon, Inglourious Basterds, and countless others.

Thanks for reading.