'00-'09: Ten Performances (Actress)

Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive)
Naomi Watts (21 Grams)
Halle Berry (Monster's Ball)
Bjork (Dancer In The Dark)

Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me)
Diane Lane (Unfaithful)
Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind)
Maria Bello (History Of Violence)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky)

Continuing with my recap of the decade is another list. This time Actresses are featured and there wasn't an abundance to choose from. Once more-women were limited in original, exciting roles & instead were overshadowed by male leads. The fact that this is happening in Hollywood, especially to women over 40 is disturbing, especially given the fact that most great actresses seem to disappear from the overall consensus once they reach that age. That is a crying shame considering Laura Linney, Diane Lane, Maria Bello and Amy Ryan -all featured on my list- hit 40 this decade, yet still gave immensly powerful performances that will likely stand the test of time.

Actress of the decade? Naomi Watts- with two knockout performances in two drastically different movies. One playing a suicidal dreamer & the other playing a mother succumbed to grief. The most surprising performance would be Bjork with Dancer In The Dark- in which her blinded character is taken advantage of her livelihood at every turn and given a true perspective of the demonized side of America. Bjork & Naomi Watts had roles that most actresses could not find this decade- filled with rage, originality & sheer boldness.

'00-'09: Ten Performances (Actor)

Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs Of New York)

Javier Bardem
(No Country For Old Men)
Heath Ledger
(Brokeback Mountain)
Paul Gamatti
Sean Penn (
Mystic River)
Steve Buscemi (Ghost World)
Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Adrien Brody (The Pianist)
Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast)

Here's a list I was looking forward to making and in deciding which of the ten I would choose, I knew I wouldn't be able to rank them in any way shape or form. So here -immensely thought out might I add- is the ten best Male performances I have seen this decade. Notice the omission of Heath Ledger's Joker and instead the inclusion of his gay cowboy in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (overrated by the way). That's right, I chose the cowboy over the clown -which should not discount just how good he was in The Dark Knight- I prefered the risk & heartbreak he brought to the former rather than the latter. Chances are you might not have seen some of these acting landmarks, I reccomend you seek them out. Sometimes a performance is worth the watch alone. Notice Daniel Day Lewis occupying two spots on the list & they are very well merited if you've seen his performances as Bill The Butcher & Daniel Plainview. He IS the actor of the decade and has achieved the impossible by topping his incredible performances of the 90's (In The Name Of The Father, The Crucible). Notable Omissions that I hate leaving out; Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt, Forest Whitaker in The Last King Of Scotland & Thomas Haden Church in Sideways.

"Where The Wild Things Are"

And while I admit my disappointment with Spike Jonze's latest, I find that quite a few people are mixed on this movie also. It's a love/hate relationship that Where The Wild Things Are should be having with its audience (and critics too). Me? I was bored and disappointed by the talents behind this movie and the thinness that came out of it. I think it all comes down to why would Jonze-a directorial wizard if there ever was one- take a 12 sentence children's book and turn it into a 9 million dollar 90 minute movie? I was reminded numerous times as to no matter how talented Jonze might be, he needs a good script & in his first 2 movies (Being John Malkovich & Adaptation) he had a gimme with Charlie Kaufman scribing them both.

There are good intentions here and ambition that will likely not be seen in any other kids movie this year but its attempt to get into the psych of an 8 year old is far harder to achieve than Jonze might have initially thought. The scenes involving the 'Monsters' are hardly dramatic and more atmospheric in content- which to some is a great thing but what's the point? If there isn't much story here, how can you get dragged into the film's execution? I know maybe I'm stretching it a little bit and should think a little less of its context and let myself get swept away by the majesty that is supposed to happen on screen but even if I do that, I will likely still be utterly bored out of my bloody mind. For Jonze, this is a step back but don't count him out- he's still a genius to me.

McCarthy's universe in "The Road"

Author Cormac McCarthy has always had a very bleak view of our society. Yes Jordan, Please say something I don't know & multiply it by 100. I'm not sure what that means but suffice to say his novel -The Road- was hailed when released a few years back as one of the great American Novels and has garnered a wide following. If you don't know McCarthy, he's the brains behind No Country For Old Men, which in turn became a masterful Coen Brothers movie 2 years ago.

The Road (3.5/5) can only be described as Apocalyptic. Its subject is so vast and ambitious but its resonance is that of the love between father and son. The world has reached an Apocalyptic state and not many are left- Food is in very short supply, animals are completely extinct & those that are alive have become Cannibals, in search of next prey.

Viggo Mortenson is the father and newcomer Kodi-Smith Mcphee plays the son. Their bond is what sustains the movie and gives it its heart, without that bond this might as well be 2012. Not to even compare it to that film, this is a whole different monster and is the opposite of what a disaster movie usually brings in typical mainstream Hollywood. Not much goes on but everything does. It might as well have been divided into chapters, considering the numerous encounters Father and Son encounter while trying to survive, heck even Robert Duval shows up as a 90 year old wise man that comes in peace.

Although this is powerful and moving stuff, it never reaches the peak of its landmark novel. The hopeful ending doesn't feel right- especially after all the darkness that has come before it. But that's just the ending, the resonance Viggo brings is stellar and if there ever was an actor that could pull of a Tour De Force performance such as this one, it's him.

Precious: Based On The Novel "Push" By Sapphire

Sidibe as Precious Jones with Lenny Kravitz?

This movie will likely get nominated for many Oscars and possibly win a few in the process but is it that good? My answer would be no. Sometimes expectations rattle a movie before you watch it and this is a good case of it. No matter what people say, Precious is not worth the advance hype it is getting. Don't get me wrong, there are powerful scenes in it and an incredibly intense & scary performance by Monique -that's right Monique- but I'm not about to warm up to a movie that likes to push your buttons and demand you to immediately love it. That's what Precious is to me- A film so full of itself that it demands, no make that begs, for you to fall in its shocking traps.

Its story is that of immense trauma. Clarice 'Precious' is an obese black girl that gets verbally abused by her mother and raped by her father, in turn she ends up mothering his two kids & tries to get out of the place she most hates, home. There's a cameo by Mariah Carey- as a social worker- that cannot get passed the fact that you are watching Mariah try to act & there's also a kind of unusual focus on 'Higher Learning' as precious tries to cope with education and the hard knock life. It's staggering stuff & -at times- very powerful and real. The scenes of abuse are hypnotic because of how well staged they are by newcomer Lee Daniels, who's a natural with the camera and invokes flashbacks that have Precious dreaming of walking the runway one day as a beauty queen.

I can think of numerous critics participating in the backlash of the film- most notably Glenn Kenny, who's refusal to even see it, is a clear indicator of the intense debate that will likely rage on once Awards time comes along this January. Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe plays Precious and don't be surprised if she becomes the front runner for this year's Best Actress race -along with An Education's Carey Mulligan. It's her first movie role and -as much as it sounds cliched and repetitive- she was born to be Precious Jones. It's one thing to be on camera and expose yourself and all your flaws but what Sidibe does is play a role that is so demanding and crucial to the heart of this preciously flawed and relentlessly assaulting film.

Coffee & Cigarettes

I know, I know- smoking is terrible for you and can cause major damage to your health, but it's oh so awesome and cool, especially when seen on screen. Some would say that celluloid and smoke were a match made in heaven, especially for photographers who love to have it in the background as they shoot a scene.

David Stairharn in George Clooney's Good Night And Good Luck

No kidding then, that whenever a said cinematographer or director has a chance to shoot in black and white, they make sure smoke is in the air & is clearly seen. B &W goes along great with smoke, thus it is a rare sight to have a film noir from the 40's with no smoke whatsoever. Have you ever seen one without it? Name it and I shall pull my claim. Especially THE film noir of all film noirs Double Indemnity, which climax's with a wounded character getting one last smoke from a partner he betrayed.

One last smoke in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity

Even more extreme is Jim Jarmusch's rather ill fated Coffee & Cigarettes- which was an experimental pleasure when it appeared 5 years ago in theatres. The premise was simple- short stories, told in Black and White, which involve characters smoking and drinking coffee on screen, while having oddly uninvolved conversations about philosophy and life in general. Did it work? I don't think it did, in fact it was a real bore but it was rather beautifully shot and had scene after scene of glowing smoke mixed with the rust of drinking of a cup of coffee.

Renee French in Jim Jarmusch's Coffee And Cigarettes

What's the point of this post? Well, it's definitely not gonna win a Nobel Prize, nor will it live on as one of my better exercises in Film but look at at those pretty pictures with all the smoke in glorious Black and White- doesn't it make you want to grab one and just read a book with a nice cup of coffee? If the answer is yes, I rest my case. If the answer s no, you are very strong willed. Now on with the show.

Billy Bob Thornton in the Joel Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There

Best Of The Decade: 2000-2009: Foreign Film

Maribel Vardu in Alfonso Cuaron's mesmerizing Y Tu Mama Tambien

Not only was it a premiere decade for Foreign Language film but it also produced some of the best most exciting movies around. I'm thinking of Alfonso Cuarron who's Y Tu Mama Tambien -which tops my list- and Fernando Mereilles, an eagerly wanted director in Hollywood, who started off with a microscopic budget to make the gangster classic City Of God. Want More? Guillermo Del Toro -director of the upcoming Hobbit- bursting out his imagination to create visual miracles in -the miraculous- Pan's Labyrinth. Every single director on my list has been sought out by Hollywood to direct- most have agreed some have declined the offer and decided to stay in the independent system to fully enhance their own vision. Forget starting from the bottom and heading up to the top- here's the ten best Foreign Language movies from 1-20. A decade which was the best for Foreign cinema in close to three decades and featured the further education of Mainstream audiences to these fine films by building solid fan fare for art house cinema.

1) Y Tu Mama Tambien
2) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
3) Cache/Hidden
4) City Of God
5) Spirited Away
6) Amelie
7) Old Boy
8) Maria Full Of Grace
9) Pan's Labyrinth
10) Downfall & Un Conte De Noel
11) The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
12) Atanarjuat/The Fast Runner
13) L'Emplois Du Temps
14) Apocalypto
15) The Barbarian Invasions
16) Swimming Pool
17) Les Triplettes De Belleville
18) The Motorcycle Diaries
19) Tell No One
20) 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days

Anvil & its Oscar snub

Every year comes a time to bitch about the Oscars and their idiocies- this year bitching has started early with the announcement of the viably selected documentaries up for this year's Best Doc award. What's Missing? Anvil, a rock doc -about a down and out band- so good it is bound to end up on my ten best list by year's end. The fact that they have snubbed it proves how irrelevant their methods are and how unlikely they will actually honor the right movies when nomination time comes in January. Another unjustifiable snub is James Toback's Tyson-which just like Anvil, has the kind of rebellious spirit the Academy pussies out on.

Best Of The Decade 2000-2009: Animation

Robot love in Andrew Stanton's WALL E (2008)
Although this list will be updated if the critically acclaimed Fantastic Mr Fox is as good as some critics/audiences claim it is. This is THE list for now, which contains 5 Pixars and goes to show the dominance it has sustained throughout the decade in Animation. Only two -Monster Inc. & Up- do not make list & they are both highly recommended on my part. Although Pixar has had an amazing run, they did not produce the best animated movie I've witnessed in a theatre this decade- that honor goes to Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, which brought dark, original wit to an almost simply conventional story on paper. Notice I say on paper, because Miyazaki's masterpiece is far from simple- in fact it represents no conventionality shape or form to its competitors.

1) Spirited Away
2) Wall E
3) Ratatouille
4) The Fantastic Mr. Fox
5) Les Triplettes De Belleville
6) Waking Life
7) The Incredibles
8) Finding Nemo
9) Shrek
10) Chicken Run

'Badgers ? We don't want no stinkin' badgers'

As horribly as some blinded folks might think John Huston's Treasure Of The Sierra Madre has aged- there is one scene that is a real hoot but very creepy. It's a almost fancifully campy -notice I say almost- & establishes the fact that serious drama made in the 40's and 50's still had the kind of humor that completely lacks in the modern era of cinema. Case in point, the following clip- which features a fearless & paranoid Humphrey Bogart negotiating for his life with a dirty mexican (played with comic wit by Alfonso Bedoya)

Best Of The Decade 2000-2009: Non-Fiction

Here's the first of what will likely be a weekly segment as a sort of 'wrap up' to the past decade of cinema. I'm starting it off with documentaries & I probably wouldn't have done it if it were the 90's, mostly because Doc's came out booming this decade and made many Hollywood movies feel shameless and meaningless. Their bravura and rebellious spirit brought back a kind of rule breaking intensity that many movies have been missing and looking for.

Of course, THE prime boomer of this movement is Michael Moore -Whose Bowling For Columbine tops my list & whose first two movies this decade showcased what would be an influential take on the genre. I also cannot ever forget an extraordinary achievement called Capturing The Friedman's, which has not been seen by many, but those who have were left shaken by Andrew Jarecki's camera and instinctive drama. Ive suggested Capturing The Friedman's to a bunch of friends and they all had the same reaction afterwards- That of awe inspiring anger.

1) Bowling For Columbine
2) Capturing The Friedman's

3) Etre Et Avoir
4) Fahrenheit 9/11
5) Spellbound 

6) The Cove
7) Anvil: The Story Of Anvil
8) Grizzly Man
9) The Kid Stays In The Picture

10) Super Size Me

There ya go, 10 movies with 10 very different subject matters and all as relevant today as they were the week they got released. I'll be back next week with The best in Animation & boy was it an amazing decade for that also with some marvelous, original & incendiary stuff coming out from -of all places- Hollywood.

The Concordian- 'Antichrist'

Although I already wrote about it a few weeks back, here's my published review or Lars Von Trier's latest, a movie that i have mixed feelings for and that tries to push boundaries in all the wrong ways. The Concordian is published on a weekly basis and is the official paper for Concordia University. I'll be posting more stuff I've written in the weeks to come REVIEW

Rosebud this & Rosebud that

...And although it is the center image and theme of this fascinating & original movie- which I just finished watching on glorious Blu Ray in a paramount theatre- One image is as powerful and immensely moving as the image above. It is that of Charles Kane standing isolated, rejected and near the end of his sad/epic life. His eyes watered and ready to explode with tears that he's been keeping for 60 years of his life.

In which I half ass an assignment & come up with something genuine/ my first -and last- compliment to fox news

People’s dependence on newspapers is shrinking & there is the overall attitude that it is becoming less and less relevant to actually sit down and read a newspaper. What with the high influence of Online media -including blogging- that’s taking over & those very same newspapers going into this fad by opening up their very own website where you can -oh gosh- read the paper for free, online at the comfort of your own home. Not only are newspapers giving us free readings online, they are also going into the trend of blogging which gives their writers more independence to voice their opinions and share their thoughts on a breaking news story. The ifs and buts of the whole idea of online news seem to be shrinking and the attitude amongst our generation is that ‘hey if I can get it for free online’ why should I pay for it outside? - ahhh purists must be mad as hell and can't take it anymore.

Forget about what I just said for a moment and look at how closely but surely Contemporary News Media is starting to get shaped in the 21st century as an online induced hot bed of information. It's not just that independent news outlets -such as bloggers & alternative media sources- are gaining a bit more recognition because of people’s disgust towards biased information being perpetrated in mainstream outlets such as Fox News or -hell- the New York Post. Fact of the matter is at the end of the day people will want a different source of news and not just the biased, corporate based info they are getting through mainstream outlets. Furthermore, the rise of blogging has -more than ever- given people their own voice to shout out they ain't gonna take it anymore, it is a reassembling of cultures and ideas that come together to give a new perspective on what one might and should think in any given circumstance.

It is a refreshing perspective on where we have come from and the shambles that have angered many while watching a news program that -shall I say- never gives all the details necessary in spite of what has actually happened. Hey listen, it happens to the best of us- we are so concerned these days with getting the defining truth of an event that we sometimes forget that there never really is one truth to an argument & that an opinionated debate is always the way to go, of course a media source such as The New York Times or any other newspaper cannot really rely on debate and -sometimes- just have to give the news in a ‘straightforward’ fashion to us but that’s where the blogging comes and the infinite astonishment that ‘hey there’s someone out there that has opinion ! & there’s someone out there that sees this situation in a differentlight’ that’s where it all comes together and you start to realize why blogging is a universal and conceptually real argument for contemporary news media.

From all I have stated so far it is clear that I am wagging my finger at the media for its own downfall and I will not refrain from mentioning it again that I truly believe this to be the case, especially when you take all the arguments I have pointed out in here & when you look at the way news is reported. It is their own demise and their own falling traps that have given them a sort of wake up call to liven up and start being more relevant- or at least they are trying to do that. Compare what is happening now to 10 years ago when the internet wasn’t half the force it is today- it is a powerful medium that has changed our courses of actions, awaken us to the temptation that there actually is a lively voice out there for news and it’s not just the usual bullshit that has turned the medium into a zombie like force.

It turns out that that voice is the people and the people’s voice is a powerful thing, full of ideas and writings actually conceived by human hands- compared to the controlled hands of what we call the man -err- should I say the Mainstream. Blogging is -and has- always been an alternative to our own universe of simplified and dull information. It is a lively concept that has scared the be Jesus out of every media imaginable and in doing so has rewritten what we perceive as Contemporary news media. Because it is a person writing and because that person is writing about something that might have been deemed to harsh or risky by the contemporary mainstream media, makes it all the more relevant, no matter how biased the article might be- because listen I won’t lie, when you’re dealing with a blogger there will be a bias because it is his or her opinion.

Which will make me conclude in a -how shall I say this- risky manner & state that although it is biased and although it is a preposterous account of what the media should be like, the reason why a successful media outlet such as fox news is -shock- successful might be because of the opinions and alternative universe it gives to its viewers compared to the stale and utterly by the numbers one of something like CNN or MSNBC. Fox has been deemed biased, been deemed loud and has had controversy lying all over it because of its right wing and thoroughly controversial agenda. Know what? That’s how blogging is and for all of its flaws and all of its nihilistic points of view at least its got style & has something that most news outlets out there don’t have- Balls.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days

There's a mesmerizing scene midway through 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (4/5). An illegal abortion is about to be done but there is cringing and paranoiac disillusionment among the three people in the hotel room. You're on the edge of panic as you see 3 characters on the brink of killing a fetus and taking a chance for the sake of not having a kid. This is clearly not Juno, nor is it the Hollywood world of Knocked Up. It's real life and never has an abortion been this real and hard to watch on screen. Kudos to Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, working with handheld camera and giving his unflinching movie -winner of last year's Palme D'or at Cannes- an unforgettable feel. Talking about Juno and Knocked Up, I wasn't a big fan of their quirky melodramatic worlds, that had cartoon fabrications instead of real people and took the topic of female pregnancy as a kind of joke -mistakenly perceived by critics and audiences as mature portraits of the female psych. Mungiu's film doesn't fall inside that trap and instead of putting some light humor in his film, suffocates it with pulse pounding tension and seriousness.

Set in 1987 Romania, where Abortions are illegal to the communist regime. A friendship is tested as a 5 month pregnant girl wants an abortion and gets it through the help of a loyal friend that would almost do anything to assist her. The abortionist is a sleazy fella that gets paranoid by almost any movement or word said. the scene is as tense and revelatory as any in the film and is in fact the whole centerpiece that bring A and B together. Mungiu comes out as a singular director operating with no strings attached and evolving a master at his craft in more ways than one. You'd think that what is actually being watch is a documentary and not a fictitious movie. Mungiu pursues the virtues of what it is to live- love, happiness, death & panic, sheer and utter panic. That panic is the unsettling truth that reigns among this compulsively watchable movie's running time.

There is however one scene that is so absurd and so overdone that it almost ruins the film- but doesn't. It's a scene that has the main character sitting on a dinner table silently as the people around her jabber along and in the process annoy the viewer. It's a sort of experimental scene to try and convey a time and place and -suffice to say- suffocate the viewer with cringing suspense of what is the aftermath of a girl that is sitting alone in a hotel room, after having had a stressful abortion. It is almost impossible to describe Mungiu's film and its affects in a movie review, it is best to be watched and carefully constructed in a way that it lingers in your head long after its final scene has finished and you are left completely stunned and needing air, because you have just witnessed 100 minutes of pure and utter life on the screen. This is art.

My infamous editor- Part Deux

It's been a while I haven't written about him and now is I guess the best time, considering he's edited my new reviews for this week's The Concordian, which can be read HERE & HERE. First things first, this is a bit less enraging than what he did a month ago in a post I will refrain from posting again, due to my highly hidden anger. The only unholy edit I can think of this time around is putting the word Masterfully in my review of L'affaire Farewell, which is far from Masterful filmmaking and -in fact quite conventional in its storytelling. Given the tone of my review it is however solid stuff. Anywho, you can read my stuff in the links above- two interesting french movies that I reccomend if they every play in your area and that should be coming out in Montreal in the following week. Both featuring solid central performances and both quite different from each other- One slapstick/ One political thriller.

"Fish Tank"

Adolescence is at the heart of Andrea Arnold's Mesmerizing Fish Tank (4/5) - a British film that justly won the Jury Prize at Cannes this year and has been flooded with praise in the British Press since its release there in September. A release date is planned in early 2010 for the U.S and Canada and I suggest that despite its frankly original & curiously vague nature, you seek it out. At the heart of the movie is a central performance of incredible magnitude by newcomer Katie Jarvis, who plays Mia, a troubled & isolated teen in the slums of British property that everything and anything she touches turns into trouble. Mia lives with her already improper little sister and her sexually open mother. Their relationship is sparse and troubled in ways that I would call this family dysfunctional with a capital D. Trouble keeps coming when mom brings in a guy that Mia ends up having the hots for and -in turn- oh never mind, watch the movie.

The reason why such a simple movie is getting all its high praise -deservedly btw- is due to director Arnold springing surprises that keep you on interested for the movies whole 100 minutes, there are no missteps and every scene in perfectly fit in as to advance the characters and storyline. I was reminded of early Truffault with Antoine Doinel replaced by a female version of his and the mother as repulsive and real as that very movie. High props go to the entire cast for a movie that -as simple as it is- brought it in ways no other mainstream movie can. This is an original work of art, simple yet very refreshing. Fish Tank has been nominated for 8 British film awards- among the other nominess for Best Picture include Dunccan Jones' great Moon, Lone Scherfig's An Education & Armando Lanucci's satiric In The Loop.