Archive for August 2009

Top Ten Films of 2002

14/08/2009

vlcsnap-14903663#10 Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes)

Would have ended up higher if it weren’t for this rather stellar year in film.  A 1950s period piece extraordinaire that gently, and with Haynes’ indelible signature, tells the story of a mixed race couple that cuts across prejudice against any “out of the ordinary” romance.

25th#9 25th Hour (Spike Lee)

Plodding at times, but riveting all the same, Spike Lee’s post 9/11 tale of drug dealer Monty Brogan’s (Ed Norton) last day before incarceration.  Sustained tension highlights Lee’s love letter to the town, in need of redemption, that made him.

onehourphoto#8 One Hour Photo (Mark Romanek)

Music video director Romanek delivers a surprisingly good and gorgeously shot yarn involving a very lonely man (Robin Williams) that takes “an interest” in a family who happens to be a his customer at the film development department of a WalMart clone.  Williams is brilliant.

waking#7 Waking Life (Richard Linklater)

A digitally enhanced live action rotoscoped film from Richard Linklater.  An existential cartoon that takes place in a very familiar Austin, Texas.

minority#6 Minority Report (Steven Speilberg)

Part two of Speilberg’s fantastic ‘three-fer’ of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report and Catch Me if You Can – other than Jaws, my favorite films of his.  Catch Me narrowly missed this list.  Oh, and Tom Cruise is great!  Are there any more Phillip K. Dick screenplays out there?  I hope so.

insom#5 Insomnia (Christopher Nolan)

Nolan’s follow up to the classic Memento and a remake of the Norwegian film of the same name.  Love the acting in this film especially Hilary Swank in the role of a Nancy Drew local Alaskan police detective – I never liked her as much before nor after and what a year for Robin Williams!  I also love how Nolan captures what 24 hour daylight can do to a human psychologically.

darko#4 Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly)

A cult classic by now and Kelly should have never released his far less superior “director’s cut.”  If you haven’t seen it rent it now.  I can’t say much else about it – you just gotta experience it.

in_the_bedroom_2001_685x385#3 In the Bedroom (Todd Field)

Fresh off his acting in Eyes Wide Shut, new auteur Field delivers this devastating New England tragedy with superb acting by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson.  Stanley Kubrick obviously contributed to this guy having some real directing chops.  Expect to lose some sleep after a viewing.

ararat#2 Ararat (Atom Egoyan)

Egoyan’s oeuvre is a favorite of mine.  Of Armenian descent, he determined he could only tell the true story of the Armenian Genocide (by the Ottoman Empire during and after World War I) as a film within a film because the content was too personally devastating for him to tackle directly.  However, this fits into the director’s technique of telling stories using various media as a device for doing so.  Its a controversial film that had mixed critical reception and has been seen by few but its such a rewarding experience if you give it a chance.  Christopher Plummer should have received an Oscar nomination for his role as a custom’s official.

punchdrunk#1 Punch Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson)

A hypnotic and mesmerizing one of kind film.  On first viewing I didn’t get it but all subsequent viewings affirmed this as Anderson’s great accomplissement.  Adam Sandler has a film that his children’s children will be able to look back and say, “grandpa was a genius!”

Hotel Rwanda (Terry George, 2004)

12/08/2009

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Director Terry George (In the Name of the Father, Reservation Road) tries to cram way too much content and detail into this account of such horrible events.  By doing so, and by plugging in way too many scenes with a not up for the task Sophie Okonedo (as Tatiana Rusesabagina), the enormity of the disaster is lost to melodrama.  And what a ridiculous turn by Nick Nolte – I didn’t buy that at all.  This is meant to be the Schindler’s List of the Rwandan genocide but it lacks both the technical and emotional achievement of Spielberg’s film.  Don Cheadle (Paul Rusesabagina) should have been given more of a chance to deliver the Oscar-worthy performance he is surely capable of.

* 1/2  /  *****

Top 10 films of 2003

11/08/2009

#10 – Mystic River (Clint Eastwood)

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#9 – 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle)

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#8 Old School (Todd Philips)

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#7 House of Sand and Fog (Vadim Perelman)

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#6 A Mighty Wind (Christopher Guest)

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#5 Matchstick Men (Ridley Scott)

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#4 Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino)

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#3 Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir)

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#2 Elephant (Gus Van Sant)

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#1 Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)

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Entourage (2008 – 5.11, 5.12)

09/08/2009

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Familiarity breed’s contempt?  Not in the case of the seasons finale (s) of Season 5, Episode 11: Play’n with Fire and Episode 12: Return to Queens Blvd.

Amazing how Wahlberg, Ellin, Levinson, and Weinstein, etal deliver in this series beyond what even The Sopranos did at the same point in their series history.  Play’n with Fire is as brilliant as anything ever done in this series with Stellan Skarsgård as the maniacal director Verner Vollstedt behind Vince’s lead comeback in the laughingly titled “Smoke Jumpers.”  5.11, which serves as the climactic episode, has opening pyrotechnic scenes that are observed by the four main protagonists and the audience that put to shame any film about a film about Hollywood ever put forth by Robert Altman.

This sets off a tour de force scene between actor, agent, manager, director, studio head and CEO which conveys absolutely kinetic acting (as always) by Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold).  Old female characters (Sloan, Emmanuelle Chriqui) and new (Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler) pull our boys in various directions but the producers, actors and everyone else involved deliver the best climactic scenes of this series yet and push us into Season 6.