Best 100 Honorable Mention


  1. petespedale
  2. Pete

Just off the best 100 movies list.

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1
The Fugitive 1993,  PG-13)
2
Being John Malkovich 1999,  R)
3
Django Unchained 2012,  R)
Django Unchained
Revisionist history is a term that get's thrown around a lot, especially in the media. Quentin Tarantino uses those words as a challenge. Similar to what he did with WWII in Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino rethinks the era of slavery with Django Unchained. Using the motif of a Western, the director craves a revenge fantasy of a slave named Django (Jaime Foxx) turned bounty hunter. The straightforward story allows Tarantino to plunge head on into the part of America's past we choose to forget.

Django is freed by Dr. King Schulz (Christoph Waltz), a German bounty hunter who parades as a dentist to confuse his prey: ruthless men who have rewards on their head, dead or alive. Schulz is not a fan of slavery, and takes Django under his wing and the two prove to be great partners. They strike a deal where Django will help Schulz identify some "rewards" in exchange for Schulz helping Django find his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Their search brings them to one of the largest plantations in Mississippi and its caretaker, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Django Unchained is brutal but realistic in its depiction of the depths of slavery. The Invisible Man comes to mind in some of the most visceral scenes. The N word is commonplace (which ironically takes away some of its power); and African-American inferiority is scientifically "proven" in one scene. The best choice Tarantino makes is that these reprehensible people are not divided by race, but moreso by power and fear of the unknown. Now, since most people in power are white at the time of Django, most of the white race is shown in all its horrific display; however, the top of the power chain each have friendships of the opposite race. Calvin Candie has an African-American informant (Samuel L. Jackson) and Dr. Schulz has Django. These interracial relationships keep Django Unchained from becoming too preachy.

The story of Django Unchained is more straightforward than some of his earlier efforts, though it is not without its fun elements. The first half is a Western type story of the wily vet (Dr. Schulz) and the upstart (Django). There is a showdown, a tavern, a tense dinner, and a campfire confession, all done very uniquely by Tarantino. The second half is a tense war of wits between Candie and the pair in their rescue of Broomhilda. The dialogue is fun, but Django drags the most during this part of the story. Tarantino's best success involves how he chooses to end the story, building to an inevitable climax that involves the protege learning from his master to get to where he is destined to be.

The acting is solid across the board. Jaime Foxx gives Django a no-nonsense drive and determination with a deceptive wit. His best work is when he has to balance his anger with Candie while playing nice at the same time to make the sale of Broomhilda legal. Christoph Waltz proved he can play this role in Basterds, and is very charismatic and smart for the good guys this time. Leo DiCaprio is usually the good guy, but there's not a lot to like here; his role in a lesser actor's hand would be one note, but DiCaprio gives Candie some nuance. Sam Jackson gets some juicy stuff as Candie's confidant; I found myself more frightened of Jackson than DiCaprio. Other familiar character actors and stars show up. Tarantino gives himself another memorable moment in a movie, but Don Johnson and Jonah Hill get the best cameos during a meeting of the klan.

Django Unchained is another solid addition to Quentin Tarantino's resume as an ambitious filmmaker who is willing to take on any controversial project. He managed to take on darker aspects of America's past and come out relatively unscathed. I hope he has similar panache as he chooses in the future; in the meantime, it is almost certain for me that a Tarantino movie will fall on my year end must-see list, and Django Unchained is no exception. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is extremely entertaining and a strong reminder of the horrors of racial injustice.
4
Life Is Beautiful (La Vita bella) 1997,  PG-13)
5
Braveheart 1995,  R)
6
Bull Durham 1988,  R)
7
Cloud Atlas 2012,  R)
Cloud Atlas
Watching Cloud Atlas feels like watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. In its time, 2001 was panned by audiences and critics alike; after a few generations, it is now considered a modern classic. Time has only helped 2001's reputation. Cloud Atlas I think will develop a similar backlash, which is too bad, because there is so much to digest in the movie that Cloud Atlas begs for multiple viewings and university classes built around it. Along with Prometheus, Cloud Atlas proves that thought-provoking, challenging big-budget movies are not a thing of the past and have a place in today's society.

Let's sum up the 6 simultaneous plots (it is a 3 hour movie after all) from past to future:

1. Circa 1850, Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) gets sick on a boat and is being "helped" by Dr. Henry Goose (Tom Hanks); in the meantime, Ewing helps protect Autua (David Gyasi), a formerly enslaved Moriori tribesman.

2. In 1931 Belgium, young composer Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) attempts to extract one last great symphony out of Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent) told through letters to his gay lover, Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy).

3. In California 1975, an older Sixsmith (D'Arcy), a nuclear physicist/whistleblower, gives his information to Luisa Rey (Halle Berry), a journalist whom he shares an apartment complex with.

4. In 2012 England, publicist Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent), flees some clients and winds up trapped in a retirment home from which he cannot escape.

5. In Nea So Seoul in the future, Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae), a fabricant (clone) who works in a fast food restuarant is interviewed before her execution because of a rebellion she caused.

6. On an island after an Apocalypse-type event, Zachry ( Hanks), a primitive tribesman, is visited by Meronym (Berry), a member of the last techonologically advanced society in existence.

Cloud Atlas is a game-changer in the movie-watching world. In order to receive the most out of Cloud Atlas possible, prior knowledge of the story is almost a requisite to keep yourself from juggling looking for themes, faces, plot twists, etc. This could do wonders for movies based on books in that the books could now be required reading before watching a movie. Cloud Atlas also uses story, time AND generic human forms to express multiple themes. Most movies use either time (Looper) or human forms (Dark City) to make one set of points. Cloud Atlas upps the movie themes to the third dimension.

It's amazing the movie is as comprehensible as it is. Credit goes to the Wachowskis and Tom Twyker for structuring each part to coincide with the generic storytelling technique of exposition, plot, climax, denoument. As complicated and interesting keeping the characters and themes is, the stories themselves each have either seamless stopping points or interweaving voiceovers that make the storytelling side easy to understand.

The reason Cloud Atlas will be picked apart by generations of viewers is the layers of themes that is showcases. Each story has its own theme that all people learn be it love, fear, truth, etc. From there, these themes can be followed through time (such as bravery in the Hanks story) or through character (deception from Hugo Weaving). Layering core themes over three levels means Cloud Atlas makes themes themselves one of the moving parts of a story.

Cloud Atlas's biggest failing is the varying interest levels of all of these stories. The Wachowskis and Twyker balance humor and drama well, but not all the stories warrant the same amount of screen time. The two future stories need the most setup since they are societies we have never seen before, leaving the other 4 to try to grab the attention of the viewer with an interesting plot. Story 3 earns its screen time, but stories 1,2, and 4 do not generate enough of a movie plotline to be as interesting as the other three. They are still necessary to show connections, but the weaker stories cause Cloud Atlas to lag in the middle sections.

The actors deserve lots of credit since most of them play one character line each. It is hard to single out one over another, because they are all very strong. The two biggest surprises are some of the willing costume turns of Hugh Grant's characters, and Doona Bae's work as Sonmi-451. Regardless, playing ID with each new character is one of the unique delights of Cloud Atlas compared to other movies.

Cloud Atlas was supposed to be unfilmable. The Wachowskis and Tom Twyker took that as a challenge and crafted what could be a masterpiece to a future generation. Cloud Atlas is a pioneering piece of filmmaking that caused lots of movie-major underclassmen to drool in awe at what they were witnessing. Not bad for two bullied kids from the South Side of Chicago.
8
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2009,  R)
9
Matchstick Men 2003,  PG-13)
10
Men in Black 1997,  PG-13)
11
The Sandlot 1993,  PG)
12
Contagion 2011,  PG-13)
13
Where the Wild Things Are 2009,  PG)
14
A Few Good Men 1992,  R)
15
Slumdog Millionaire 2008,  R)
16
How to Train Your Dragon 2010,  PG)
17
The Breakfast Club 1985,  R)
18
Contact 1997,  PG)
19
Iron Man 2008,  PG-13)
20
The Hangover 2009,  R)

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