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My most favourite film. Perfect in every way, shape, and form. Beautiful, powerful, mesmerizing, haunting, exceptional, enjoyable, wonderful, intelligent, uplifting, moving - there aren't enough words in the English language to describe how amazing this film really is. From top to bottom, Frank Darabont, the writer/director, achieved success. The performances are wonderful - has Morgan Freeman ever done a better voice over narration? The cinematography is perfectly suited for the story. The camera work is terrific, but never distracting. The music by Thomas Newman is one of the very best of musical scores. And of course, Darabont himself - debuted with this film, deserved the Oscar he never got, and wrote probably the most literate, thought-provoking, and awe inspiring screenplay film has ever seen. I read an email where 50 priests, pastors, and other religious figures listed their favourite films, and 38 out of those 50 all said Shawshank. It's well deserved. If ever there was a film to change someone's life (as this movie as for me - I attribute 90% of my success with Alycia, my lovely girlfriend, to this movie), than this would be the flick. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Heck, now I wanna go watch it again for the 1000th time.
My second favourite flick of all time. Alongside Raging Bull and above all, Shawshank Redemption, these movies are as perfect and wonderful as film can be. It's Hitchcock's best film; yes, no scene is as iconic or important to film history as Psycho's shower scene, but it's a more mature, focused, and personal film all around. Hitchcock wore it all on his sleeve for this picture - the obsessive, controlling love for a blonde, the unattainable dream that is more important in chasing than achieving, the hypnotic desire for murder and murderous notions...all these themes and more are addressed in the film, and all of them describe Hitch better than any autobiography has. The movie isn't just his normal suspense/thriller, although there are moments that are creepier than anything else he's done, excepting Psycho of course (like the nun's voice in the end, coupled with the scream - gives me terrifying goosebumps just thinking about it). It's also a romance/drama, with intensity not expected of Jimmy Stewart (the controlling madness he exudes in the last act is frightening). There are some scenes that stick with you and never let you go - the suicide, the nightmare, the Scene D' Amour, the climax. It's a haunting, mesmerizing, evocative, disturbing flick, no question. But it's also dramatically powerful, which isn't something I say often about movies before 1960ish. Oh, I almost forgot to mention Bernard Herrmann's wonderful score, that enhances every scene it plays under. Great, great, great film. A true masterpiece.
To anyone who doesn't like this movie - your loss. Raging Bull is quite simply the third of a top 3 echelon of movies that can be labelled as being "perfect", meaning without any flaws to my own eyes. There is not a frame I would change on Raging Bull (along with the other two perfect films, Shawshank Redemption and Vertigo). It's hard to describe to someone who hasn't seen it (or even some that have, Alycia :D) why this film is so haunting, so evocative, so powerful. Because when one asks you to describe the movie, it sounds as dull as dishwater. Narratively speaking, this is a straightforward movie - violent and mentally unstable boxer has huge ups and huge downs both in and out the ring. Essentially, yeah, that is the barebones plot of the film. But that's like saying the plot of The Wizard of Oz is a young girl gets lost and eventually comes back home. There is more to this film than meets the eye, and take repeat viewings to fully see the poetry being used. Some scenes have twisting dialogue - De Niro, in his best and most psychotic performance, always circles around people, suspicious, trying to bust them for sins they may not even have done. The boxing scenes are shattering in their brutal violence. The cinematography and music displays true, unendurable sadness, a tragedy which sometimes we don't see yet. He's just dancing around the ring - why the Shakespearan music? Because Scorsese, who makes the best film of his stellar career here, damn well knows what he's doing. If the film was made today, it would be softened for audience comprehension - La Motta would be a tragic figure who's fate was imposed upon him, with friends and family who loves him, who tries his best but fails, and maybe even some voice overs to explain what's going on in his head. None of that is in this picture. Scorsese doesn't let up - we barely sympathize with this monster, even when we wanna beat him as hard as he beats his wife. He desires redemption, but is too weak and unstable to ever try for it. And we never see what's ticking in his head - the closest reveal to his true emotions we see is when he's in prison, having just lost everything, and begins punching the walls screaming "Why? Why? Why?" It's the most powerful scene in an incredibly powerful film, which never ceases to haunt me and get under my skin. Brilliance from start to finish, and don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise :)
For a film with such a seemingly simple plot, 12 Angry Men is very emotionally complex. Every time I watch it, I find something new to be intrigued, excited, and moved by. Like all great movies, 12 Angry Men doesn't bang you over the head with its brilliance - the greatness of the film quietly sneaks up on you, then grabs hold. First time I saw it, I was impressed enough to give it 4 stars, but by the next day, I couldn't wait to watch it again. I just never grew tired of rewatching the flick, and now, maybe 5 months and 8 viewings later, I must concede that this is truly one of the smartest, strongest, and greatest films ever made.
The key to 12 Angry Men's power is it's universality. I can't imagine how difficult it must've been for the filmmakers and actors to create 12 people with such distinct personalities and yet contain human elements every one of us can identify with. There are no villians in this movie, simply miguided individuals whose opinions and prejudices all can change and evolve over the course of the movie. There's not a single person I can't see a little bit of myself here. There's the man who takes light of everything with inappropriate jokes. The discriminated against, and the discriminators. The man trying to keep everything organized, and the other guy too shy to speak up. The fellow who just wants to wrap everything up so he can see the ball game. The hero. The bully. There's a little bit of all of us here, and that is vital to the movie's appeal.
The film is as perfectly acted as an ensemble piece can be. Every actor, from the big names like Henry Fonda to the old, nameless man (who keeps getting oddly unsettling close ups in the picture), play their parts with no flaw. On first viewing, you may only be able to barely discern all the men, but after 3 or 4 viewings, you can recognize all of them as well as your own family members. The dialogue is exacting in the way that it shuffles between who the personalities of the men are and going over the actual details of the murder case in question (which is always, by far, the most interesting element of the flick). Often the writers will find a way to mix the trail with those personalities, such as the man only disliking the accused because he's racist (which race the accused was, is never mentioned, because it's not important). But it's in this subtle mix that the flick surpasses how simplistic the one-setting plot could have been, and 12 Angry Men becomes, in a different kind of way, as complex as a political thriller.
Sidney Lumet directed, who's in his late 80's now and still going strong (his 2007 film Before the Devil Knows Your Dead was one of the best flicks of that year). This, however, was his ultimate masterpiece, where he utilizes lighting, camera angles, long takes and the use of the focal length (grows smaller as the film progresses in order to make it feel more claustrophobic) to create suspense, drama, and tension out of what could have been a very dull scenario. And it's not a film wrapped in a tidy bow - the resolution to the murder case, and how eventually all the men other than Fonda grow to change their opinions, is thought provoking in that they could've been wrong, and maybe the accused actually was the murderer. Ultimately, though, it's the strength of the characters, and how they all become better people over the course of 90 minutes, that makes this film so involving, powerful, and damn near perfect. Sick of Transformers blockbusters raining on your parade and dulling your mind? Go rent 12 Angry Men and see how movies USED to be made.
What's left to say about The Godfather? What many consider to be the perfect movie (except maybe Peter Griffin...and my girlfriend), this is an exceptional piece of work that is just....sublime. As gay as that sounds, it really is. Strange, how a movie that's almost all talking manages to be the "ultimate guy movie". Great, great stuff.
Not to be confused with Gus Van Sant's masturbatory remake. This is Hitchcock's second greatest film - surely his most popular and iconic, and probably the greatest thriller ever made. Yes, the shower scene, in the appropriate setting with chuckling friends and popcorn, can be laughably dated. But watch it with the lights off and no one in the house with the sound cranked, and trust me, it'll still get you.
A wonderful, wonderful film. People say it's neo-noir, but I can't imagine how it could be considered anything but the quintessential film noir. Mystery, murder, wide-brimmed hats, femme fatales...this movie's got it all. Very complicated and hard to follow at first, but after 4 or 5 viewings you'll be mesmerized.
No matter how great and nearly perfect this film is, it's almost impossible to say you "enjoy" it. Up there with Requeim for a Dream for being the most disturbing and saddest film ever made, this is definately Spielberg's finest achievement and not one that's ever completely forgotten. Great flick.
It's very difficult to describe the experience of watching Baraka without sounding ridiculous. Certainly, it's hard to talk about the movie to people who haven't seen it without making it sound like the most boring flick ever made. One has to describe it like this - a 90 minute long documentary with no words or talking, mostly focused on nature, life, death, human suffering and the world's beauty. It doesn't sound thrilling - that's probably why I avoided watching it for so long. But let me assure you that words about the film are just as useless as words in the film. It's one of the most breathtaking, beautiful, eye-popping, stunning movie-going experiences you'll ever have. I thought my top 20 movies of all time was completely untouchable - I haven't added a new movie there in years. As soon as Baraka was finished, it made it on there. That's really saying something; hell, Dark Knight didn't even bust my top 20.
So yes, Baraka is a documentary. Yes, it has no dialogue. No, it is not silent, and no, it is not ever remotely boring. There isn't a minute of this movie that goes by where I'm not endlessly fascinated, stunned, overwhelmed, overpowered. Even when the film becomes, momentarily, creepy and disturbing and endlessly sad, it's still impossible to look away, to break your eyes from the beauty on screen. Cause yes, as lame as it sounds, this is truly a beautiful movie, maybe the most beautiful I've ever seen. The first half hour alone is enough to make you not only feel spiritually uplifted, but to actually think this crazy-ass world of ours is not so bad afterall.
Of course, after that first half hour, the movie turns away from showcasing beautiful landscapes, gorgeous nature scenery/footage, and bizarre yet incredible tribal chants, dances, and ceremonies. The middle section of the film focuses on humans, and mostly not the good stuff either. There's a ten minute sequence that is almost completely time-lapse photography of a large Asian city, and it's impossible to watch it without your jaw hitting the floor (I'm not so jaded as to not mention I've now seen this film twice stoned, and this part never fails to make me gasp :P). How they managed to get such slow, fluid camera movements during the time lapse is something I don't know, and don't really want to know. Let's keep the mystery. The movie also begins to focus on the human tragedies, such as homelessness, poverty, and even the Holocaust (this is where the movie becomes a little too creepy and tedious; one of it's very few flaws). But the last half hour goes back to focusing on ancient ruins, more tribal customs, and even more gorgeous nature scenery, and ends with a scene of almost transcendant quality.
I know that the movie was filmed by a crew of only 3 people, taking 14 months to shoot in over 25 countries. The footage they brought back is not what you'd expect, and that's why it's so stunning. The camera work is simply some of the best I've ever seen, in any film. It almost always moves, in such a smooth and flowing manner, gliding around or into some of the most intersting things I think this world has to offer. There's no standard shaky-cam documentary work going on here. The editing is more invisible than the cinematography, but just as important. It holds on shots for a long enough time that we can encompass all the wonderful things within the frame, but not so long that it loses our attention. Special attention must be paid to the music, which is simply one of the best film scores I've ever heard. I can't think of any other example where music and visuals were so indeliably linked in a movie. Mute this film, and you won't enjoy it. Half the experience is in the music, which is so weird, so unexplainable, yet so unmistakably beautiful and haunting and relaxing and enlightening. Very little of the film is played without music, and that's a good thing - the scenes without music wind up becoming slightly more tedious than the others.
I haven't done a good job at explaining the film. Well, maybe I've explained the content, but not the impact it has on the viewer. Many of you will be bored to death by the movie - that's fair, I guess. I showed it to three other film school friends last night, and two of them were so relaxed it put them to sleep. But I can't get enough of it. I'm not really sure what it all means, or what the special significance is behind the shots and why they were put together in the order they were. All I know is - this is not your ordinary, every day documentary, nor your ordinary every day movie. It's better than that. There's no voice over narrations telling you about the cultures we see. There's no subtitles on the bottom explaining what country we're in. There's no boring behind-the-scenes stuff explaining how the camera crew worked and what it all means. There's simply the visuals, and the music, and there they are, and here we are. Yes, the movie gets a little too creepy, and yes, it runs for a little too long (in my opinion, they should've cut out that entire disturbing sequence of the film, which sort of spoils the epic-beauty groove of the flick). But even with these flaws, it's one of the most powerful films I've ever seen. I love it to death. Go see it.
Yeah, Tarantino's a dick. But that dick's got some holyballing style, man. This movie's great fun from start to finish. Perfect dialogue, some distrubing and horrific violence to go with the laughs, and probably the most iconic storyline in modern cinema. My only complaint is that it's a little too long - Tarantino, like all his movies, could've cut it a bit more. But it's a minor quibble to a terrific film.
A Clockwork Orange is a brilliant, devious, disturbing masterpiece; a film that is unlike any other, and love it or hate it, you will never forget it. It's not a movie for everyone - indeed, it's a film few will ever have the courage to watch, and even fewer will like. But watching it remains one of the great movie-going experiences I have ever endured. The first hour is nearly perfect, and if it wasn't for a middling and muddled second act, this movie would be top 10 of all time, easily - perhaps even top 5. But even so, with all it's flaws (and for a 5 star movie, it has many), this is still a top 20 films of all time movie, and it's fantastic viewing.
Clockwork Orange is one of the most popular and beloved post-modern films of all time. The best way I can describe it is that Stanley Kubrick, the writer/director genius, goes for feeling more than actual logic. The whole is more than the sum of it's parts in this film. There are shots and scenes that seem to go on way longer than they should. Passages of dialogue are so strange and dreamlike, you wonder if this whole movie is just a nightmare of a certain character (this is heightened with the made-up language used by the futuristic gangmembers). People, for the most part, do not act or react in ways we would normally see in real life. But this is the point Kubrick was trying to make. In this film, all the characters are clockwork oranges, and all are only facades of what real, decent human beings should be. This amplifies the movie's haunting, nightmarish quality, and makes it all the more disturbing.
What I love most about the movie is it's synergy with visuals and music. Has any other movie been more successful primarily due to this relationship between the shots and the score? Kubrick rotates between a dsiturbingly electronic score by Wendy/Walter Carlos and, more popularily, classical music by Beethoven, Mozart, etc. What this does is make the movie more powerful than it otherwise would be. The subject matter itself is strange, yes, and frightening - but not overly original. We've seen apocalyptic, futuristic, dystopian sci-fi flicks before (even when the movie was first released in the 70's, this wasn't anything new). But what the film is about doesn't make it great (although it helps) - it's HOW Kubrick presents it that makes this flick a masterpiece. In the first hour alone, Kubrick gives us more classic, wonderful, amazing, and deeply unsettling scenes as almost any other movie - the opening shots, the fight with another gang, the group rape/beating made famous for the main character bellowing Singin' in the Rain, the attack by the waterfront, the threesome in fast motion, the attack on the cat-lady. So many amazing scenes, made more amazing by Kubrick's innovative use of melding classical music, montage editing, bizarre camera set ups, and other tricks. Indeed, some of these scenes, like the orgy sped up in super-fast-motion with the "Charge!" music playing in the background, are mostly just Kubrick showing off. But thank God that someone, ever, had the balls to show off as much as he did, as intensely as he did.
One of the ballsiest things Kubrick did with this film was to make us, the audience, complicit with a maniacal, raging, raping, murdering psychopath. The main character of this film is Alex, played brilliantly and horrifically by Malcom McDowell, and he is one of the greatest villians in film history. The things he does in this film are absolutely despicable. But we are eventually made to sympathize with him as the experiments the government does to him to make him "normal" and "good" are almost as monstorous as his own crimes. By making the lead character such a loathsome individual, only to eventually show him as much a victim as a perpertrator, Kubrick makes us feel almost unclean by the end of the movie. It's completely effective in shaking us to the very core. This is enhanced by showing the entire film through Alex's perspective, often by filming in long angle lenses to distort those around Alex. He's never a good guy in this movie, but he is always completely interesting and intriguing.
I mentioned before that the film is flawed. That it is. As much as I adore this film, there are definitely aspects I wish I could change. One is the pacing. Make no doubt about it - this is often a tough film to sit through. But most of this comes from the second act. The first hour, as I mentioned, is perfect. The last hour, while not without it's momentum problems, is haunting, powerful, mesmerizing, and thought provoking, as everything from Alex's past comes up to bite him on his now-weakling ass. But the twenty minutes in between are pretty rough. Almost all of the prison scenes go on for way longer than they should, and are ultimately kinda boring - if Kubrick had cut out 10-15 minutes overall from this film, most of those minutes being from this middle segment, it would be a much stronger motion picture. But this is a relatively minor quibble, when you see how great the rest of the flick is.
As I said before, this isn't a movie for everyone. It's infamous for it's sexual and grotesque violence, but what you should realize is that this movie isn't actually as violent as it's reputation suggests. Oh, it's disturbing all right. But if violence means blood and gore, then there's very little of that here. The violence this movie does contain is of a sexual nature, with several rapes, the most famous being the Singin' In the Rain one. These scenes are incredibly disturbing, and not just because they show (but never explicitly) women being raped. I mean, lets be honest - when every CSI and Law & Order episode in existence is about a woman being raped and killed, we've almost become desensitized to that sort of thing. But those episodes do not show rape the way Kubrick shows rape, with distorted camera angles and bizarre lighting and classical music blaring. The effect is incredibly unsettling. This is what makes the film both disturbing to watch and unforgettable to experience. I mean it when I say this movie is more of an experience than an actual film to watch, which may explain why I forgive it's many flaws and simply take it all in. As agonizing as the violence is, Kubrick's direction and McDowell's acting elevates it to, quite simply, art (yes, I know that sounds pretentious, but fuck it, this is a pretentious movie). The film also has a lot of political and sociopolitical things to say. I won't try and bluff my way to pretending that I know what the movie is talking about. Clearly, the issue of free will is definitely being defended and offended in this film - is brainwashing the psychopathic Alex into becoming sick at the mere thought of violence beneficial to himself and society, or even more demonic than his own sins? The movie never really comes out and says. And the ending requires much thought, as the government seems to make an agreement with Alex to continue his reign of terror so long as they save face and appear to be the good guys. Honestly, I'm not exactly sure what this film's message is. But to be honest, I don't care. I'm from the Phenomenological school of film analysis, which places the experience and feeling and emotions of film watching higher than the actual interpreting of it's meanings. So even though Clockwork Orange is very intellectually stimulating, it is even more important from an emotional point of view.
Anyways, I gotta wrap this up. I love this movie. It's a darkly comic, savagely violent, brilliantly directed masterpiece. But it's not for everyone. It took me years to build up the courage to show my girlfriend this film, primarily because I knew once she saw it and surely hated it, she wouldn't get intimate with me for days afterward (which really did happen). Yes, she hated it, as many have and always will. But that's the kind of flick it is. It pulls no punches, and every one of those punches hits you right in the gut. It's an amazing work of art, and without its mediocre second act, it would be very nearly perfect.
What an enjoyable film this is. I wish more people I know have seen it, because it's just so darn fun to watch. Orson Welles gives my favourite performance in this strange sort of pseudo-thriller, and of course, there's Anton Karas score performed on the zither. If you don't know what a zither is, you haven't heard the score, and if you haven't heard the score, you haven't seen the film.
Watching this movie again, I was reminded of how important it is. Not just in terms of it's highly influential movie-making style (this was the first widely seen Scorsese movie, and he hit it right out of the park), but as a scathing social commentary on how we as a people view and treat violence. Yes, leasha - it IS clever in that regard. In terms of an actual film, it's Marty's second best and one of the top 15 films I've ever seen. The first time I saw it, admittedly, I was disappointed - I expected Punisher-style revenge ultra-violence, when really that doesn't come until the final 10 minutes. The movie is mostly the preperation for that massacre as you watch a racist, slow-thinking, horribly motivated psycho gradually slip into madness and violence. When the massacre finally does arrive, it doesn't disappoint and results in one of the most horrifically violent scenes ever filmed. Now onto the social commentary. First time I saw it, I didn't get it. I took the last couple scenes at face value - could've been a dream, could've not, but at either rate, I thought the morals of the film were questionable. Now I understand that they were taking a satirical jab at how we see violence in that the violence itself doesn't bother us - it's the context it's in. If Travis Bickle had pulled out his gun a second sooner at Palantine, he would've killed a "good guy" and been labelled a terrorist. But he missed him, then went to kill "bad guys", and therefore was labelled a hero. It's still killing, but we don't care - I mean, when people go to war they still kill people. Why is that Ok but shooting a man on the street is not? These are questions most revenge pics don't make us ask, but this one does. A brilliant, disturbing masterpiece.
Is there any movie out there more emotionally exhausting and painful to watch than Requeim for a Dream? Even Schindler's List gave us a smidgeon of hope. Requiem for a Dream gives us no hope, no respite, no escape. It's one of the most brilliant, harrowing, powerful, forceful, haunting, and exceptionally depressing films I've ever seen. To my lovely girlfriend who I finally forced to watch this movie and is now probably traumatized and disturbed for life - think how I felt, the first time I watched it, being a mere 14 years old. It rocked my world. I remember sitting in my basement one fine Sunday morning, ready for a morning movie, having taped this the night before off IFC because of a couple good reviews I read. And when it was over, I was literally shaking. Hell, this was one of the first R rated movies I had ever seen, and what a way to start. I sat through the whole end credits, my mouth still agape, hardly even blinking. In fact, now that I think about it, I believe this is the first film that truly opened my eyes to the power of film, and how a movie can be so much more than just a movie. Indeed, Requiem isn't just a movie - it's an experience, a lesson, a message to all addicts of anything to wake the hell up. I showed this to a close friend a couple weeks after my first experience with the film, the same time he was experimenting with drugs. When it was over, he said "I'm not even gonna take Advil anymore". And he didn't, for quite a while. When was the last time a movie could literally change your life? As great as Pi was, and as wonderful as The Fountain is, this film is Darren Aronofsky's finest achievement, and many years later I still believe it deserves a place in my top 10 movies of all time. The experience of watching it is simply like no other. It moves you to tears while making you shake in disturbance. The flick follows the lives of 4 people - three drug addicts by choice, the fourth by accident. I do not know which story is the most painful, the most resonant, the most heartbreaking. I think it would have to be Ellen Burstyn's portrayal of the elderly mom in the movie who gives the film it's most potent power. In one of the best performances I've ever seen, she gives us a character who's alone, unhappy, dealing with a drug addicted son, then recieves a glimmer of hope that she'll be on television. But before she reaches the cameras, she wants to lose weight to make her son proud, and after dieting fails, she moves on to diet pills. Now, I don't know if the television aspect is a hoax or not. But what's important is that her blind hope in something better happening in her life results in her becoming addicted to pills that are a lot worse than normal diet pills, and her life spirals out of control. In fact, every character in this movie from the very first shot is on a constant downhill spiral. That's what makes this movie so difficult to watch and rewatch - as brilliantly made as it is, it's the most depressing and despairing thing you'll ever see. Unlike Shawshank Redemption, which told us that hope is what keeps us alive, Requiem tells us that hope is indeed good, but we fuck up to much to ever achieve it through various addictions and obsessions. The key to the movie is that it's not just about drug addiction. It's about how something as powerful as drug addiction can replace our natural addictions to everything else in life, such as hope, dreams, love, sex, what have you. Every character in the movie is brilliantly portrayed in this fashion. You see early on that they can all escape their inevitable decline into Hell, but they refuse. They need their fix, more than anything else. And when Jennifer Connelly's character begins to prostitute herself for heroin, your gut will be churning. And when Burstyn's character becomes completely batshit crazy, you suddenly understand all those dressed up wacko's on buses and park benches, screaming out and flailing their arms around. As grim, bleak, and unsettling as the film is, it is completely valuable to everyone who not only wants to learn a damn important lesson about life and it's addictions, but also to anyone willing to see filmmaking at the highest order possible. Aronofsky is a brilliant director, showcased here more than ever. Is there any other film out there that more accurately and astutely presents the world seen through the eyes of a drug addict? Aronofsky uses rapid fire cuts, hazy lighting, fantastic camera angles, fast motion and slow motion, and a hundred other tricks to show us how these people see the world. It's effectivity is astounding, and disturbing. Like I said, the story is about a downhill spiral. But what makes it so haunting and unforgettable is that it's a downhill spiral to FOUR individuals, some of whom deserve their comuppance, others who don't. Drugs and the addictions to it destroy the lives of every character in this film, and your heart literally will break while watching it. Technically speaking, the film is a marvel. The music by Clint Mansell is some of the best ever composed. The cinematography is effective, the editing is fantastic, the performances are all splendid, and the screenplay is perfect in giving us everything we need with absolutely no fat. There's not too many long monolouge's in the film, because it wouldn't be appropriate to these people (although Burstyn does have one, in the middle of the film, about becoming old and lonely that will make even the coldest person get misty). And if you think the first two acts of the film are disturbing, you ain't seen nothing yet - the finale of the movie, where Aronofsky cuts back and forth between every character as they reach their horrible destinations, will rock your socks off. Requiem for a Dream, in short, is a masterpiece, one of the greatest films of all time. It's also one of the most difficult viewing experiences you'll ever endure. If you're brave enough, or if you have an asshole boyfriend who doesn't care if he ruins your day (sorry again leasha :P), then watch this movie and be just as astounded as the rest of the world.
The little film that could. I don't think anyone was really expecting this movie to be as dark, disturbing, brilliant, dramatic, and wickedly funny as it is. I'm not a big Coen brothers fan, but it would be hard for this movie to ever leave my top 20. Great performances from McDormand, Macy, and especially Buscemi, who never gets enough credit for crafting such a wonderfully real villian.
If there was ever a movie that I would call "hypnotic", then this would be it. There's an endless fascination for me to watch The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman's greatest triumph), because I still have no idea why it is so powerful to me. Like another masterpiece, Gates of Heaven, this movie exists in it's own little world, touching down upon us lowly humans if we're only so lucky. The Seventh Seal is an undeniable masterpiece - a flick so evocative, involving, powerful, and really just bizarre that watching it almost becomes trance-like - you don't know why it's getting to you so much, but it is. The film's been getting flack lately, it seems, because it's so blunt, so un-subtle, and dare I say - so dated. Well, yeah. That's part of it's charm. Bergman made this before film's had to avoid mentioning the Jesus word, before Christianity could only be referenced as a controversial topic, and before God became a serial killer (Final Destination and The Reaping anyone?). His characters openly question God, religion, the Catholic Church - just about all the things that people dare not mention in films anymore, which is a shame. For me, what it does is emphasize how important and how strong this flick is - it wears it's heart on it's sleeve and it's balls in it's pockets, for everyone to see. Many scenes stand out in people's memories, like the huge crowd self-flagellating themselves, or the confession in the church to Death, or the witch burning, or the final and strangely both sad and uplifting Dance to Death. And, of course, the popular and rightly famous chess scene with Death on the beach (although the main character plays chess with Death on more than one occasion, and once even tries to cheat - see, we humans always try to cheat Death! Subtle, ain't it :D). The thing many people lambast or praise this movie for is that they consider it to be Bergman simply questioning God's existence yet again, but I think that's oversimplifying it. To me, Bergman would make a church not for the followers, but for the company. With this film, he's asking all of us to join him in questioning - he wants the reassurance of a wide audience that we understand his inner turmoils and torments. Well, at the very least, I sure do. And with this evocative, mysterious, beautiful, lyrical, poetic (yes I know I sound incredibly snotty), wonderful, epic, audacious, masterful film, I can't see how there will ever be a healthy and inquisitive world without it.
It's hard to explain in words exactly how, and why, I love Polar Express so much. It's not the kind of movie you'll find on many aspiring 20 year old male filmmakers top 20 of all time list. It's my favourite hardcore Christmas movie (because while technically It's a Wonderful Life is better, it also only has about 15 minutes to do with Christmas). It's my favourite animated film. It's one of the best movies period I've ever seen. A lot of people throughout my life have had trouble believing that, because admittedly, it does seem like an odd choice. But I can't lie about my feelings, and there isn't an atom of my being that doesn't want to hug Pol-Ex every time I watch it. Even just thinking about it, I get goosebumps and tingles all over, and there are several moments in the flick that still make me misty.
Again, it's difficult to describe. This is one of those movies that haunts you in a good way - it gets under your skin, in your mind, and just melts your cold little heart. I felt like the Grinch post-Christmas the first time I watched it...I could practically feel my heart growing three sizes that day. I remember only seeing it because I wanted to impress a girl I liked. I remember being alone in the theatre when it started. And I remember giggling and laughing like a little kid the whole damn way through. Easily the best theatre experience I've ever had (and I didn't even get to see it in 3D, like so many other lucky bastards did). All of my friends and family (except the girl of course, who I'm still dating now), didn't believe me. When the movie was released on DVD a year later, I finally convinced all of them to watch it with me, if only to shut me up. And they were all floored - I still remember their faces of disbelief when I told them it's actually an action/adventure film, and then how stunned and entertained they were when it turned out I was right (I think this is how it worked with audiences too - if memory serves, the movie opened at #5 at the box office and disappointed financially, but then the strangest thing happened; the movie stayed there. Week after week, it never left the top 5 at the B.O, and that's not something that happens, ever, considering it stayed there for about a month. Of course, after Christmas, it dropped out of the top 10 immediately - but the word of mouth was quite clearly a powerhouse).
The Polar Express is a masterful entertainment; powerful, moving, action packed, mysterious, incredibly Christmas-y, and a rollar coaster ride of fun. I'm stunned that so many people dislike the movie, considering I've yet to meet anyone personally who doesn't love it. Yes, the film is a little creepy - the characters, because of the motion capture CGI used, do seem a little ethereal and otherworldy, and there are a couple scenes (like the ones with the screaming puppets), that could be unsettling to really younger viewers. But that's what makes this movie so special. It doesn't regurgitate the usual blah Christmas cheer in every kid movie. It tells a dramatic, operatic story, filled with danger and creepiness, and when the train skids off the tracks, a kid almost falls off to her death. The very best children movies over the years have all realized how important this level of seriousness is, and Pol-Ex shines with it.
I watch it every Christmas, usually several times, and it never fails to give me a warm, tingly glow inside afterwards, where the Christmas spirit really sticks right into me. This is the kind of movie that the term "warm fuzzy feelings" was made for. Some dislike how it's all about Santa and presents and therefore, they think it must be about the cold commercialism of Christmas. Wrong. The film is about faith, and believing in things you can't see or touch or hear. In a way, can't this supplant to Christianity, or Judaism, or even Scientology? The flick is the perfect allegory of religious belief - indeed, even Santa Claus himself in the film admits that he is only a "symbol" of the true spirit of Christmas. But I'm probably scaring off people by talking theologically about a kid's movie (when was the last time a children's animated film made you think?). Pol-Ex, as I mentioned before, is an action/adventure film of startling excitement and energy. The first half is admittedly much better than the last half, where magical and suspenseful action scenes come one right after the other, where the Hero Boy must race on the skii's of a ghost on the top of the train, to the train zooming down steep angles without a brake, to racing along breaking ice to get to the other side of the lake before they drown. These scenes are expertly filmed and paced, and still manage to get my blood pumping.
The last half is dominated by the North Pole itself, where the elves have a New York accent and seem a little gruff and unpleasant, and where Santa himself is a less jolly, more business-like version of what we're used to. The special effects, by the way, still hold up to this day (yes, I know it's only 5 years old, but often special effects don't look good for very long - try watching the original Spider-Man today and you'll see what I mean). The motion capture gives everything a slightly unreal or "off" element to it, but even then, we accept this in the terms of the world and the story we're watching. And still, we can see a warmth and humanity to the character's expressions (especially Hero Boy's), that are usually lacking in CGI films. The main reason I think Zemekis chose this route, though, is because of the freedom it gives him with his camera. He zooms the camera everywhere, flying through walls and out across the sky, showing us angles and movements that would be completely impossible in live action (plus, can you imagine how chintzy this movie would look if the characters were real actors surrounded by greenscreen environments? It'd look like Attack of the Clones). There's a long take early in the film where Zemekis follows a golden ticket blown away by the wind, showing it's journey across the countryside until it magically arrives back in the train car it left, and the sequence is nothing short of amazing - and would've been impossible without the animation technology used.
Lets see, what else can I gush about. The screenplay, while essentially just a Go There-Come Back journey, is exciting, dense, and surprisingly literate, with some really great lines tossed in for good measure (my favourite being, "That's the thing about trains. Doesn't matter where they're going - what matters is deciding wether or not to get on"). The music, by Alan Silvestri, is some of the best of recent years, juggling haunting themes and a wonderful Christmas type theme that blasts you back in your seat whenever it's often played. I dunno, I guess technically speaking, the flick has some flaws. I might've liked to see Santa a little jollier. The Know It All Kid and pansy Billy kid kinda get on my nerves. The story starts treading it's wheels after a while, like I mentioned earlier - the stuff in the North Pole, for the most part, isn't as interesting as the journey there. But pish posh it all to hell, this flick is great. Damn rights, it's a bloody masterpiece, and anyone who doesn't realize this is a fool - or at least, to be more fair, a Scrooge.
Final note: avoid the 3D DVD at all costs. I was so super-pumped to finally be able to see it in 3D that buying the DVD was like an early, unexpected Christmas. But alas, it's the worst 3D presentation I've ever seen. Nothing pops, it's all incredibly dark and muddy, and worst of all, it's like you're watching the movie drunk, with everything having awful double vision. I couldn't even watch five minutes of it before returning the DVD to the store. A sad chapter in an otherwise lovely and wonderful experience.
The best movie I've ever seen in theatres. Gorgeous, breath taking, wonderful, amazing, eye popping, mind boggling. To me, it was like listening to a great symphony orchestra - you can't nitpick the details (who ever says "they used B sharp twice in that one stanza"?), but you take it in as a cohesive, immersive whole. It spoke to me, it touched me. As well as my girlfiend - we were so stunned after seeing it (as was the whole audience, who said through almost the entire end credits without budging), that we went and saw it 2 more times. Hugely underrated, this is a true masterpiece and top 15 films I've ever seen.
Every once in a long while, a movie will come out of nowhere with no expectations or anticipations, and make you fall in love with it. How To Train Your Dragon is that kind of movie. Its taken everyone by surprise - an animated feature that isn't Disney or Pixar, and yet here it is, with a shockingly impossible 98% on rottentomatoes, and audiences are spilling their guts about how great the movie is. Here's the craziest part - all that hype STILL doesn't live up to the actual experience of Dragon. It's the most magical, wonderful, gorgeous, breathtaking, and awesome film I've seen in years. It's even better than Avatar, and that was my favourite movie of 2009 (it's just as visually stunning, but unlike Avatar, you don't cringe every time someone talks).
It's tough to write a review like this and not sound like a gushing fanboy, or to use a retarded amount of hyperbole. But I'm afraid that's what I gotta do. Not only does is this movie a glorious return to the classic animations of yesteryear, it's a legitemately good fantasy/adventure story, deserving comparison with E.T (Dragon is better, by the way). The animation is sharper and more detailed than possibly any other cartoon - the scales of the dragons, the ripples in the water, the hairs on people's heads and especially Gerard Butler's beard...I mean, they look so good they're almost lifelike, and this is just supposed to be a silly kid's cartoon, right?
That's what the advertising had us to believe. The trailers made this movie look like the kind of zany, wacky kids stuff that we've been having to deal with for years. Now, I like those kind of movies, when done well (Dreamworks, actually, has always done them the best - Over the Hedge and Shrek are way better than almost every Pixar film). My favourite cartoon of last year, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, was the definition of zany, wacky fun. But they aren't the animations I grew up with, and loved the most. See, Dragon is made more for people my age than anyone else - those that grew up in the second Golden Age of Disney, where animated films like Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Mulan weren't the exception, they were the norm. They took their stories seriously back then - sure, there were cuddly creatures and comic relief, but the films were nevertheless epic, audacious, operatic, dramatic, and often very sad and moving. Since then, what have we got? Not much. Cartoons forgot how to be serious - even the best Pixar films, like WALL-E and Up, often neglect their mature stories for over-the-top action sequences or stupid cartoony characters (can you tell I still find Pixar highly overrated?). Apparently, we needed filmmakers from the old days to remind us of this - Dragon was created by the guys responsible for Beauty and the Beast, and you can tell.
The story is touching. The characters are believable, and while not always loveable, certainly rootable. You'll be surprised at where the story goes - I thought I had it all figured out many times, but there were small instances (like the "love interest" hating his guts for a long time, or the father really wanting his kid to succeed, or the fact that the dragon actually gets into serious, legitimate trouble), that surprised me. For the first time in a long while, I didn't know if everyone would survive at the end of the movie. The relationship between Hiccup and the dragon Toothless is just as moving as that of Henry and E.T. There are sequences here, like the dancing/drawing between boy and dragon, or the test drive across the water, or the romantic flight amongst the clouds, that are so beautiful and perfect I honestly got a little misty on more than one occasion.
I kept expecting the movie to step wrong; to go too far or not far enough, but it never did. It remained a stunning, gorgeous adventure film from beginning to end, satisfying not only all of my hopes that classic Disney could return (although I really didn't expect that to be in the form of their main competitor company), but also all my childhood dreams and fantasies of something magical like this happening. The action is eye popping. The 3D is just as immersive and powerful as Avatar's. The comic relief scenes are, thank God, not just pop culture references but genuinely funny moments that emerge organically from the story. And the music by John Powell is everything I've been dying to hear for years in a film score - gloriously thematic, fully orchestral, heroic and fantastical and amazing from beginning to end. I've been saying for a long time that Dreamworks is better than Pixar - after being moderately impressed with WALL-E and very impressed with Up, I changed that status. Now, I'm changing it back again. How To Train Your Dragon transports you to another world and never stops being as epic and involving as a live-action film. That's something Pixar has never done, and if there were musical numbers here, you would swear you were watching classic Disney. This is honestly the best film I've seen since Dark Knight, and possibly even better than that. Go see it, RIGHT NOW! You won't be disappointed.
Final note: Am I the only one infuriated that this movie is being completely fucked over at the box office in favour of Tim Burton's shit-tastic Alice in Wonderland? This film is literally the antithesis of that one - where Timmy's fantasy vision was grubby, grungy, dark, and cliched in every single way, Dragon is bright, magical, beautiful, exciting, action packed, and glorious to behold in 3D. And it probably won't even make half as much money as Alice. There is no justice in this world.
The problem writing about as great, influential, and popular a film as Goodfellas is that it's almost impossible for me to say anything about it that hasn't already been said. But watching this film again last night for probably the 15th time, I was reminded of just how stellar, how wonderful, how powerful and how joyous the film is. It's not Scorsese's best, but it's damn close, and the style of it's direction is more the now "typical" Scorsese style than any other of his films. In fact, I realized that my own style of filmmaking is more influenced and inspired by this film than any other, which is strange since it's only barely in my top 20 (considering what a masterpiece it is, I think it's pretty clear how hard it is for any movie to make that top 20). Scorsese imbues this film with so much energy, so much exuberance, so much passion both for the story and the sheer act of making movies, that it's impossible to turn this movie off once started. I've become notorious to myself the past couple of years for rarely ever being able to sit through a movie on DVD all at once, without any breaks, but last night I sat and watched Goodfellas almost straight through. It proves how amazing this film is to watch, and how it sucks you into the violent and exciting world of these gangsters. The storytelling is masterful in a sneaky sort of way, because Goodfellas really doesn't have much of a plot. It's about characters and the world they inhabit, and Marty-boy shows us this with all the highs and lows accompanied. The camerawork, editing, and pacing of the film is pure Scorsese - this film showed us how a soundtrack and careful song selection can increase the greatness of any scene, and the frenetic pace of the final scenes get us right into the mind of the drugged out Ray Liotta. The acting, from top to bottom, is superlative. De Niro is as great as always, Ray Liotta is grounded and lets us empathize with the least bad of the bad guys, Lorraine Bracco is always believeable as a woman who should really get her shit together. Even the background performers who are only in a couple scenes are fresh and always real. Then, there's Joe Pesci, who gives one of the best performances I've ever seen, and is frightening as the psychotic villian of the flick. Then there's the violence. Paying close attention to it last night, it's actually not as violent a film as it's reputation would have you believe. It always gives the feel of violence, the sense of impending violence, but when the wrath actually takes place, it seems almost quaint by today's Saw-like standards. When someone is shot with a gun, for instance, rarely does blood spray out everywhere, covering the camera (I know, obviosuly, there are some exceptions, but just hear me out). But often, like when Spider is shot, we don't see the impact. Scorsese cuts too much - we see brief shots of violence occuring, but it's obscured, and the aftermath is just some red patches of blood on Spider's shirt. Scorsese understands, unlike most directors these days, that the aftermath of violence is what makes it disturbing, not the actual event. Having said that, the film's gore is indeed brutal, swift, and unexpected. The Layla sequence, where several bodies are discovered and eventually ending in Pesci's payoff, is such a wonderful sequence, so well timed, with an ending that is both just and horrifyingly unexpected. It's a perfect scene in a movie littered with them. There's the classic "What's so funny about me?" scene, where the camera never shows off or tries to bring more intimidation and fear into the scene - what's happening is damn well both freaky and funny enough. There's the scene where Ray Liotta's world unravels before his eyes and culminates with his arrest. There's the intriguing scene where the amount of onions in a homemade sauce is given more time and attention by the characters than any of the murders and mayhem surrounding them. There's the ending, which on first viewing seems anti-climactic (being a gangster film, we're kinda expecting a bloodbath of some kind), but is actually ingenious in it's development and realism (plus, Scorsese really shows off by having the voice over become an out-over, for lack of a better term). And throughout the film, we always have the sense of Scorsese's love of the cinema, always in the mood to interest and entertain us. This flick is a masterpiece - audacious, influential, shocking, and terrific fun. If you're one of the 10 people on this planet who haven't seen it yet, what're you waiting for?
Yes, 5 stars. There's no denying it - this is a great movie. Screw everyone who says differently! Ok, not really. Cause they would have a point. My dad thought this movie was dumb as bricks, and it's a fair enough statement to make. But if "guilty pleasure" is defined as you just loving a movie to death when many people don't, then this would be one of my highest guilty pleasures. Along with Batman Begins, it's the best pure action flick I've ever seen. Pundits be damned - just try and watch this movie and not laugh out loud at the fun of it all. But maybe that's why I like it so much - it's not just excessive action from start to finish (although it has some of the best and most entertaining action setpieces of any film). It has a brain in it's head, a twisty-turny plot, some well defined characters, a deliciously evil villian, and some scenes that are more dramatic than they have any right to be. A great, great movie (also, if anyone out there like me is thrashed for loving this film, remind them that it came out the same year as Titanic and was MORE critically acclaimed. It's true).
One of Hitch's seminal classics. Enjoyable from start to finish, this is just the kind of movie that's impossible not to like. It's got laughs, and it's got some terrific suspense - and, above all, it's got Jimmy Stewart in one of his best performances.
Anyone who's gazed at my Favourite Movies list knows I don't give 5 stars out easily, to any movie. As it stands, there's only been 36 movies awarded with the highest star rating from me - not very many, when you consider I've seen probably close to 700 films. I couldn't even give this movie 5 stars first time around, awarding it 4.5 and moving on with my life. Then I couldn't stop thinking about it. Not 3 minutes went by in my whole day that the words "Synecdoche New York" didn't pop up in my mind. So, not 15 hours after watching it the first time, I watched it again. Now I can completely understand one thing (if not the plot itself) - this is a brilliant, maddening, audacious, beautiful, wonderful, depressing, disturbing, haunting, glorious mess of a movie. Has any film better and more accurately described itself than with this dialogue exchange between the two main characters - "You're so perfect." "I'm a mess".
Yes, this movie is a perfect mess, much like how Watchmen was a perfectly flawed mess. There's no film going experience like Synecdoche New York. Love it or hate it, there will never be another movie like it. Maybe that's the way it should be. I can't imagine too many other filmmakers actually wanting to plumb this deep into our souls - because, oh yes, that's what the movie does. It shows us life, it shows us death, it shows us our lives, it shows us our deaths. Charlie Kaufman, the writer/director (who I'm honestly this close to beating up with a fork, I'm so jealous of his talents), is trying to present to us what life is really like. He just happened to choose the medium of film - someone like Dostoevsky chose novels, well, that was his own medium. I'm not at all ashamed, by the way, of comparing this wonderful movie to Dostoevsky. Eat it.
It'll be too much for many of you. It happens. When a critic (and there was many) called this movie "pretentious", he actually wasn't wrong. I hate most pretentious flicks, but this one actually DESERVED to be pretentious. It's weird, it's off putting, it's completely bizarre and often hard to follow. Kaufman condensces timelines with this movie like no other film director has - one shot, it's the present day, next shot, it's a year from now, and the next shot after that, it's 17 years later. Amazing. What balls on this man. But you have to wonder - has that much time actually, really passed? Is the main character dead? Is he dreaming? Is he (my own theory), God? I don't know. I'm not even going to begin trying to analyze or explain or theoreticize the film. I'm not smart enough. Most of us aren't. The experience of watching this movie, however, wasn't as intellectual of one as I expected, given the poor box office and wildly mixed reviews. I compare this movie to my first viewing of The Fountain, the best movie of 2006. The first time I saw it, I had no idea what was going on (now I do, of course - maybe after many viewings of Synecdoche, I'll understand it better too). But I likened it to a great piece of music - it all works together into such a beautiful, mesmerizing whole, that it would almost be a shame to go back and scrutinize or pick apart individual bars or stanzas. Just enjoy the music.
I mentioned how Charlie Kaufman is trying to show us the reality of our lives with this movie. That I do know. It really does go by in a big, blurred, too-fast moment. In one of the many perfectly written monologues in the film, Philip Seymour Hoffman's character tells his huge cast that we are all going to die, yet secretely believing we won't. It may seem like a long lifetime, but to the view of the Earth, it's but a fraction of a second. See, this is the kind of movie that'll make you think of stuff like this. And it is, really, kind of a mess, a clusterfuck. I don't care. What an epic, audacious film it is. The screenplay is magnificent. The acting is superb from top to bottom. Kaufman, in his directorial debut, shows fantastic restraint and a great visual eye. The sets, including of course the impossibly massive warehouse the play is taking place in, are eye popping. And the music, by Jon Brion, is so beautiful within the film, it's surprising to find that a solo listen on CD is obtrusive and incredibly annoying.
I guess I'm not really describing the movie very well. I haven't mentioned the plot at all. But I don't wanna spoil it for everyone. Suffice it to say, you very well might hate this movie with every atom of your being. You also might think it's absolutely brilliant. To me, it's one of the greatest films of the decade. I became so emotionally involved with Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, which is not something I expected, considering how quickly through time he moves and how much of a lonely dick he often is. But I felt for his loneliness. The movie painfully spoke to me, as it will for many others, even if they don't wanna hear it. Basically, it's the film that I was hoping Benjamin Button would be. Go see it right away, even if you know it'll crush your gentle spirit (sorry leasha :P). Then see it again. And again.....
Final Note: I'm going to take this opportunity to express how incredibly annoyed I get when a film critic uses the word "self-indulgent". You probably read it in just about every review for this flick. Here's what's so annoying about it - the paradox of the word destroys the entire point of your review, every time, because it simultaneously can't apply to any film, and applies to every film. Here's what I mean - critics always use the word "self-indulgent" when describing an epic, ballsy, out-there movie they don't like. Basically what they're saying is "The filmmaker tried too hard for me to like it, and I didn't like it, so fuck you". But how can a movie be self-indulgent, when all the filmmaker wants to do is tell a great, original, interesting story? And simultaneously, EVERY film is self-indulgent in some way, because every film director, wether it's for Synecdoche New York or Meet Dave, wants to be well liked, well respected, and highly praised for his efforts. So if you read a review and it calls a movie "self-indulgent", take the rest with a huge grain of salt.
Spielberg's most underrated film is actually my second favourite of all his works. It's got everything - mystery, science fiction, suspense, drama, and superb action. Special effects and music are terrific too. It all boils down to a movie where time travel actually is done realistically and few plot holes abound. Plus, it's got a great Tom Cruise performance. Yes, those exist.
As much as everyone believes, this is not a "gay" movie. It's a beautiful and haunting and tragically sad story about two people in love - isn't that more important than what kind of genitals they have? Yes, the gay aspect gives is a dangerous resonance that wouldn't exist without it, and if the characters weren't gay, then the moving and poignant last act wouldn't have occured. Still, this movie should be seen by everyone, pro-gay or anti-gay, who want to see a great story told brilliantly.
Ah, I love this flick. Haters be damned - this warms the cockles of my heart. Crowe gives the Oscar worthy performance he should've had in Gladiator, Connelly is as great and hot as always, and of course Ed Harris blows everyone out of the water. A magical drama that'll definately stand the test of time.
No Country for Old Men makes so many perfect choices and takes so few wrong steps that when you think it actually, finally does take a wrong step, you still have to question yourself - did it actually do something wrong, or do I just need to watch it again? It's a testament to the greatness of this film that it was as flawless as it was for as long as it was. The last twenty minutes of the film I have a problem with, and by that, I mean I think I have a problem with it. I'm really not sure. But I'll discuss my reservations over the ending later, after I've finished gushing about the stellar, haunting, beautiful, suspenseful, horrifying, wonderful flick that is No Country For Old Men. I've always stated that the Coens need to focus more on their violent dramatic thrillers than their comedies, because really - who thinks Intolerable Cruetly is a better movie than Fargo or Miller's Crossing? Here, the Coen's nearly out-do themselves, and I mean it when I say the first three quarters of the flick are even better than anything in Fargo. Every shot, every scene, every line of dialogue rings so true, never takes a wrong step, that I nearly hugged the screen in joy. The movie opens with a brilliant monologue from Tommy Lee Jones, who can play a weathered man beaten down by life better than anyone. Roger Deakins, the cinematographer, shows off his beautiful compositions, and within the first two minutes of screen time we realize this film is going to be more about the consequences of death and of people's choices more than the actual events themselves. The whole movie leads up to this realization. After this monologue, we are introduced to Anton Chigurh, brilliantly played by Javier Bardem (who will win an Oscar for sure). He's the most frightening man I've ever seen in a theatre (because I have never seen Hannibal Lecter in the theatre, and he's the only villian in cinema that scares me more). He strangles a cop ruthlessly, blood pouring from the victim's neck as he stares up at the ceiling, a smile creeping around his lips, his eyes bugging out and his horrible black hair cut sprawling out over the ground. Minutes later, he escapes, pulls over a man, and kills him with decompressed air. It's one of the best introductions to one of the best characters I've seen in modern films. In the cinema, I was worried. We were sitting directly behind a group of teenagers who smelled like pot and whiskey. The entire theatre was packed - and I mean, literally, no available seat anywhere. I was scared they would talk throughout, be bored by a slow beginning, and ruin it for me. This scene gripped them immediately, and just like the rest of us, the film never let go. In fact, it's easily one of the most gripping suspense thrillers I've ever witnessed (so much hyperbole in this review, I know, but I can't help it). More than once - nay, more than 10 times - I was gripping the edges of my seat, scared shitless, watching Anton approach his next victims with his huge shotgun or decompressed air. In several scenes, such as the first showdown in the hotel and the second shoot-out/chase in another hotel and city streets, the Coens clearly are taking some pages from Hitchcock himself in building tension to an almost unbearable level. Of course, the movie is more violent than any Hitchcock film, but even then, it shows restraint. We know, for instance, that almost every time Anton leaves a character in a scene, that character is dead. We don't always need to see the actual murder, and the Coens know this. We'll see him washing chicken feathers out of a farmer's truck, or checking his boots for blood, or asking someone "what's the most you've ever lost in a coin toss"? The performance, script, and direction all combine to make Anton Chigurh a character that'll haunt your nightmares for years to come. Having said all this, the other characters in the movie are no push-overs. Josh Broilin's "hero", as we'll call him, is excellent throughout. He's tough as nails, but we can hear the fear in his voice slowly crawl up the more he gets to know who exactly is chasing him. Tommy Lee Jones is cool and collected as always, and especially in the final scenes, is brilliant. Roger Deakins manages to pull off a very neat trick, by being the cinematographer in the two best shot films of the year (this one and Assassination of Jesse James). The music by Carter Burwell is interesting because I never heard any music at all until the final credits - and I'm usually purposefully listening for it; so either Burwell hardly composed any musical score, or the movie had me gripped so much I didn't even notice. Considering that this is a violent chase movie, far more action packed than any other Coen brother's film I've seen, they still manage to give us some of their very best dialogue. In fact, this is one of the first things me and my girlfriend mentioned after the film was over, how good the dialogue was. The Coens have a wonderful knack for writing dialogue that never sounds like anyone you've heard, but yet you always believe 100% that the character you're looking at really would say that. It's lyrical and yet very sparse at the same time, and always with a hint of black comedy. Many times I found myself chuckling at the dialogue and then immediately horrified by the actions soon following, and even though this is apparently very faithful to the book it's based on, I believe the majority of this credit belongs squarely to the writer/director team. Just wait until the coin-toss scene arrives between a gas station attendant and Chigurh. Every line, every shot, every glance from both actors is so pitch-perfect that I nearly creamed myself when it was over. As if the actual suspense scenes aren't intense enough - the Coens managed to make simple talking-head shots unbearably tense. Now, onto the ending, which I will try and discuss without revealing anything (still, though, if you haven't seen it you should stop reading now). I felt a vague sense of dissatisfaction when it was all said and done. There's a major surprise about 20 minutes before the ending, which I kinda saw coming but not in the fashion it was shown in. The Coens love to pull the rug out from under viewers, and this is no different. However, I feel they may have taken a small mis-step. Not letting a major, expected payoff happening is one thing, but to deny us seeing why it didn't happen is confusing and hard to take. A major off-screen death like this would be murder for lesser filmmakers, but even though I felt slightly disappointed, I still nodded my head sagely and understood what they were getting at. The final scene I also had slight problems with - I felt the final shots of Chigurh should've ended the film, and then when the actual final scene ended, it's poignancy was ruined by the audience giving it a bad laugh. And I didn't really blame them, because ending on such a note and having the credits pop up so quickly made it feel kinda like a joke, and a lot of people responded with laughter. Still, though, these are minor quibbles (even though I have a bad feeling they're what's stopping me from giving this film 5 stars). If you don't have a problem with open-ended conclusions, you're likely to wet yourself from how great this movie is. I might've wanted the final 20 minutes to go a different way, but that can't stop me from seeing how brilliant and near-perfect the rest of the production is. Go see this film immediately, and witness one of the best suspense/thrillers of the decade.
The story of There Will Be Blood begins and ends, essentially, with a liquid getting on someone's boot. Funny, how Paul Thomas Anderson can make a moment so small and subtle be so important. Many people won't catch this, and truth be told, many people won't understand much of the film. That's not me bragging about my own intelligence, it's me applauding PTA, the brilliant writer/director of this and other masterpieces like Magnolia and Boogie Nights. Even with as seemingly broad a movie as this, he can make it so subtle, so haunting, so intense, that it gets right under your skin and stays there. TWBB is not as great or as perfect as I foolishly hoped it would be, but that doesn't detract from the fact that this is a masterpiece, and PTA deserves all the accolades he's been getting. At the center of the attention is Daniel Day Lewis, who as you well know by now, delivers a powerhouse performance. It really is a show-stopper. His character of Daniel might seem one-dimensional to some, but he is in fact very complex, and DDL shows us this without ever telling us this. With a twitch of the eye, or the faintest hint of a smile, we gradually see what's going on in Daniel Plainview's head, and it's not pleasant. Really - how ballsy is it, to make a big epic film where the main character is a despicable louse? Plainview doesn't always seem to be such an asshole, but by the end he's a snivering, selfish, monstorous bully, and we get to watch that degrading with building unease. Watching this character is like seeing a train wreck in slow-motion. It's a fascinating character we don't often see in films, and made even more fascinating by DDL's pitch perfect performance. The other performances in the film are good as well - Paul Dano was rather unnerving, and I thought the young child who played DDL's son was really good. Speaking of Paul Dano, I felt what was a flaw in the film was having him also play Eli's twin brother. The movie never really explains this, and while I eventually figured it out, I could feel the confusion in the audience and I thought things would be far better if a different actor played this character (then again, it does make the ending even more poignant, and even gives the possibility of them being the same person...). As I've said many times before, Paul Thomas Anderson is a God among insects, and this film further proves that. It's one of the most well-shot flicks I've seen in a long time. PTA is the Master of the tracking shots, and in this movie, every shot was perfectly composed, perfectly lined up, always moved and panned and tracked in ways I didn't expect but were absolutely stunning. There's one scene where an oil derrick blows up, and not only is it a catalyst for the emotional dissolving of Daniel's character, but it's one of the most well directed scenes you'll ever see. The way the camera moves, the lighting, the intensity, the danger, the suspense, the music...it all combines into something that'll blow you away. So his direction (and the cinematography), is amazing. The music has also been the subject of much appraisal. I'm not as in love with it as many people are - on solo listen, it's rather painful, but during the movie it does add a definite sense of constant unease, tension, and is just plain bizarre (although there were times it was too close to the music in The Shining, and took me out a bit). The screenplay, as expected, is wonderful, but also is the result of one of my biggest problems with the film. The first hour and a half are just about perfect. PTA has a knack for writing lyrical, beautiful dialogue that nevertheless sounds completely realistic. But then I felt the focus was lost, a little. The conflict between Eli and Daniel, which is by far the most interesting aspect of the story, is neglected as Daniel is met with his long-lost brother. The scenes they share allow him to confide his hatred in people and we really get to see inside Daniel's psyche more, but there were times I was starting to feel antsy, and wished the movie would go back to Eli and Daniel's relationship. However, the storyline with his brother has a startling end, and it makes the audience gasp even though it's actually to be expected. I thought this would signal the return of Eli, and indeed the baptismal scene which follows immediately after is a masterwork of over-the-top yet still subtle acting - watch DDL's face as he both mocks what's going on and is being torn up inside. But then Eli disappears again, replaced by DDL's son returning (he had sent him away because he couldn't deal with his new-found handicap), and they don't really meet again until the last scene of the film. I dunno....I felt this last half of the second act was a little disjointed and not focused as strongly in the right places as it should be. Nevertheless, we are then led into act 3, which is a source of frustration with many people. Me - I loved it, and it's what makes this movie go from 4 stars to 4.5. What an audacious, ballsy, innovative way to end the film. I'll try not to reveal too much, but let me say that after watching this man slowly descend into madness and wealth for 2 hours, it all culminates in secrets revealed, revelations made, and violent punishing of sins. If I told you that the confrontational last scene in this huge, beautifully shot period piece epic took place in a make-shift bowling alley, would you be surprised, confused, disappointed? I rejoiced. How wonderful that a filmmaker can dare to go where we least expect, and maybe don't even want. DDL's final speech is both comical and poignant, and I was reminded of the ending of Aguirre, where things start to become loose from reality and enter this poetic realm of horror. The final scenes probably aren't perfect, and surprisingly this points to Daniel Day Lewis himself, who I thought went too far in his depiction in these final scenes and especially his old-man walk is about as convincing as ten year old's pretending to be an old man in a school play. But it was audacious, it was strangely beautiful, it was shocking, and it was the best way possible to end this story. All in all, There Will Be Blood is a wonderful film, one that will stick with you and won't ever be forgotten. It's not the best film PTA has done; actually, it's not even the second best film he's done. But taking this movie into account with Magnolia and Boogie Nights, I don't think it's hard to say that when Scorsese and Spielberg die, our world will have a new Filmmaking Master.
A great little film that's an inspiration to aspiring filmmakers everywhere. Aronofsky created this wonderful little sci-fi suspense flick with a budget of like 60 thousand and a black and white camera. The shots, editing, lighting, all of it combine to make one helluva ride. Plus, it gave my dad a headache, so I guess it must be great.
A modern masterpiece that is just as dazzling the 5th or 10th or 20th time you see it as it was the first. Roger Ebert makes a dubious claim on the front of the cover - "One of the best films you'll ever see" - but it's actually true. This flick really is amazing and eye-popping in every sense of the word. It's compared to Goodfellas a lot, but in fact - it's better than Goodfellas. The story is tighter, there's much more of an actual plot, and I would even dare to say that it's even more visually inventive than Scorsese's masterpiece. At any rate, this is a great film that would be even more popular if the majority of filmgoers weren't so scared off by subtitles. City of God is an exuberant dance of a film, celebrating the making of movies as much as the story itself. It opens with a fury of
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