Happy New year from Mind Of A Suspicious Kind
In case you never heard of him, Bronson was imprisoned for armed robbery, his original sentence was supposed to be 7 years but because of his absurdly violent behaviour in prison- especially to the staff- he extended that stay to 34 years. All of this without killing a single person and for the majority of that stint being placed in solitary confinement.
I guess calling this movie art would be like calling a movie like 'A Clockwork Orange' art. They are both violent, nihilistic and rebellious- yet they both share an artful side that makes them singular art. Nicholas Winding Refn has made something that cannot help but grab your attention for its fist bloody 92 minutes. & what to make of Tom Hardy's incredible performance as notorious British prisoner Charles Bronson, this is the kind of performance inspired by Daniel Day Lewis' in There Will Be Blood- It's intense and incredibly cinematic in its unblinking harshness.
His performance is a classification of the 'Theatre of The Absurd' which doesn't at all undermine its prowess. Although many critics and bloggers -including myself- will call this movie such names as "intense", "intolerable", "violent" & " bloody", it is first and foremost a goofy -albeit violent- form of theatre -such as it is presented- with centerpiece after centerpiece and a very much episodic structure. In other words, it is the work of a filmmaker that frankly does not give a damn about how the movie translates to the mainstream, just as long as his vision stays intact with the finished product.
Looking at the recently released Film Comment and IndieWire critics polls, notice a movie that you've probably never heard of called The Headless Woman. Its roots reside in Argentina- which is director Lucrecia Martel's home country. His new film demands to be payed attention to, there is attention to detail like not other I've seen in a while.
Maria Onetta plays the titular character & she has just had a car accident. She stops her car for a second, looks back and see far away a dog lying motionless in the street. She continues driving and -at least based on this viewer's assumption- gets a kind of Amnesia that puts us in the same position as herself, not knowing exactly who is who. Not just that but she believes she might have struck a person in that very same accident.
If you think it's complicated, it's much more than you think. There isn't much story here, it's all about character and the social status of Argentina and The headless woman's guilt and isolation to come to peace with has just happened to her. The smallest details to reveal anything or everything come and go in the blink of an eye and I was awestruck at how such simplicity that can be so engrossing, especially on a tiring night such as when I saw it.
I remember thinking "man there's so much stuff to take here" & that's the kind of feeling this might have of many. Although it is told in such simplified terms, it is far from being simple. It asks -make that demands- for you to pay attention to its serene beauty and Onetta's incredible performance, which suffice to say is so good it will likely get ignored come Oscar time.
I'm about to wholeheartedly recommend this movie but be forewarned it is as artsy as anything around and will definitely not be as adored by everybody. It's a certain kind of film for certain kind of people, I guess I just was one of those certainties.
I would rather not go into detail and instead say I was sadly struck with the news of her death. Watch her as Eminem's love interest in 8 Mile or in Robert Rodriguez's Sin City or even the misbegotten Spun and you will catch the fearlessness and infitie possiblities that were vanished away today.
George Clooney`s character in Up In The Air fires people for a living.
He doesn`t seen to mind it and has a real charm when doing it, which says a lot about his performance given our hard times with the economic structure and the countless layoffs happening everywhere. Not only does Clooney succeed in capturing his character but he does it in such a loose, Cary Grant like feel.
Jason Reitman -the director of this movie- has made a relevant film for our times, dealing with many themes and emotions. It helps Reitman has a stellar cast including Vera Farmiga -as Clooney`s love interest- & Anna Kendrick as his assistant. This is a screenplay filled with good air and good vibes and looks like it was made by real pros that want to infuse as much heart.
Of course the performances are top notch but the real grabber is Reitman`s screenplay -second best to the Coens`A Serious Man this year- which grabbed my attention from start to finish. There are surprises that completely caught me off guard and will likely do the same to you.
Reitman mixes footage of emotional real life employees that lost their job, with a great montage of a wedding ceremony all the way to an exuberant surprising mix of revelations at its climactic end. It all seems out of place but it works and puts Up In The Air right up there with the best movies I`ve seen this year.
Watts and Harring go crazy love in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive
01. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
There is a dreaminess to Mulholland Drive-and come to think of it, to many of the movies on my list. It is a first rate example of what sound and image can convey in a limitless array of hypnotic sequences that -at first- seem out of place to one another but emerge as a togetherness that is quite unseen in some of Lynch's movies (Twin Peaks & Lost Highway). What I got from Mulholland Drive was that movies can be fearless & movies can challenge its audience in -oh my gosh- thinking. Its Heroine -or should I say Anti-Heroine- played by an incredible Naomi Watts gets lost in a nightmarish world filled with Sex and murder, a world only Lynch could come up with in his own brilliant lunacy. A world that is so dreamy, in fact too dreamy, that you can't help but think there is darkness and it is actually a nightmare. It is Lynch's best movie and the one that tops the decade.
02. There Will Be Blood (P.T Anderson) The first time I saw There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson's nearly 3 hour epic on Greed and Religion, I was pummeled by its narrative. One viewing wasn't enough to take in its brilliance and so now with a few viewings under my belt, I still haven't taken in everything. There is the brilliant -almost silent- sequence that opens the movie, there's the amazing oil rig explosion, the church baptism & of course the bowling alley finale. Daniel Day Lewis' -in a performance of incredible depth as Daniel Plainview- is a monster of cinema, a man that would use his own son to get what he wants and he does. The time and place being portrayed are the beginning's of capitalism and the beginning of money hungry greed and religious fanaticism. In other words, it is the end of innocence and the start of a revolution that still rules America.
03. History Of Violence (David Cronenberg)
Of all the nerve. How could Cronenberg make a movie condemning violence in our society and proceed in showing explicit violence? Because he is David Cronenberg and he can do whatever he wants to do. Not just that but -and this is a kicker- he is testing our limitations for violence and wants to piss us off. Viggo Mortensens' Tom Stall is a man that has had a violent past he'd rather forget but the violence inside him - and inside us- cannot let go of the its urges to be aggressive, to be sexual and to be violent. Cronenberg suggests it is in our DNA and always will be. Tom's wife has an itch for it too, she has perversely violent sexuality that turns him on and -oh just admit it- turns us on too. Especially that cheerleader dress. Cronenberg made the almost equally impressive Eastern Promises this decade but A History Of Violence is where he brings it home.
04. No Country For Old Men (Joel Coen) Of all the nerve, to end a movie when you least expect it with no resolution and so abrupt. That is what some people thought of the Coens' masterful No Country For Old Men. Let them talk, but for us it is essential Coen, a dive into humanity as a never better Josh Brolin is chased by evil incarnated in the form of Anton Chigurh (pronounced Sugar) played by Oscar winner Javier Bardem. It is a trip in hell and an unforgettable journey that focuses on evil and its many surprises. It reminded us of early Hitchcock, with its tightly nit suspense and its play on audience. It is storytelling that cannot be matched by anyone and a reminder that the Coens this decade -with O Brother Where Art Thou, The Man Who Wasn't There & A Serious Man- were up to serious business.
05. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson) To put all three movies together is to showcase just how imaginative and relentless Peter Jackson's movies were. They sent us back every year to see what would happen next and made us cautious as to not read any spoilers or read any reviews before actually watching it. It is THE best 10 hour movie this decade or any has ever produced. Its sound design, cinematography, music and costumes are first rate but its Jackson -an adventurous poet- that does the impossible by bringing intimacy and heartbreak to a movie with such an epic scale as Frodo and Sam try to put the ring out of evils reach. A movie as relevant for our times -especially in a decade ruled by evil fanaticism in the media. These movies are to be treasured and will be for many decades to come.
06. Memento (Christopher Nolan) This classic thriller directed by Christopher Nolan tells its narrative backwards. That's its grip and that's what makes repeated viewings so rewarding, especially given the fact that Nolan infuses every scene with an urgency that is rare in Hollywood or independent film. What Nolan made with this 2001 movie, is the most audacious and influential movie of the 2000's as Guy Pierce's amnesiac Leonard Shelby roams around looking for his wife's killer not noticing it is his bare hands that might have done the deed. Many directors -including Irreversible Gaspar Noe- tried to rehash the magic of Nolan's leap to original thought, but none have been able to create the thought and feeling of Leonard Shelby's voyage through hell. The Prestige & The Dark Knight were great but Memento is essential Nolan.
07. Cache/Hidden (Michael Haneke) Haneke had a bold vision and he put it up front on the screen for everybody to look at it. Just like almost every movie on my list, Cache plays with your head and rewards repeated viewings (and just like my other movies on this list, it is actually about violence). I love it because it plays with your head and makes you pay attention to every scene, trying to find clues and trying to deconstruct the puzzle. It is not just about violence but about voyeurism -a debated subject this decade. Haneke means to shock you and he does, it's a delicious setup for a finale that -as the American Beauty slogan once stated- demands you to Look Closer. I have looked closer and found things that bear such resemblance to our society and culture, it hurts and this is a great movie.
08. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
Having seen Spirited Away numerous times and seeing how it has translated over the years on DVD to its audiences only reinforces the fact that it is an animated classic. Creepier than The Wizard Of Oz & as an awe inspiring as any of Hayao Miyazaki's movies. The story is richly told and layered with enough beautiful hand drawn that animation freaks will giggle in excitement. My take on the movie? forget about the story and get immersed into a world you have never and will likely never adventure to again.
09. Children Of Men (Alfonso Cuarron)
Here's a movie miracle that grows on you and is the definition of great storytelling. Alfonso Cuaron -him again- made a sci fi movie for our times and a movie that can rival almost anything sci fi of the past 3 decades. It is a film that has built up an audience since its release in December 2006 and has become one of the crowning achievements of the decade. With its handheld camera and its long takes, Children Of Men -like many of the movies on the list- was a social message for a better future and a stop to the broken promises of our government and its people. It is about the last child on earth and the first child on earth, the first sign on optimism and the last. Here's to a better decade in society and to the movies that give us reason to think and act.
10. Dancer In The Dark (Lars Von Trier)
Another movie that ticked off a lot of people. Lars Von trier pummeled Bjork with her role as a going-blind steel worker that gets taken advantage of by everybody around her in jolly America. Talk about the American dream, this is what Von Trier thinks of it & it's a brutal, cross cultural nightmare. It is demanding, infuriating and not for the timid minded. Bjork vowed to never act again after this movie, claiming she'd rather please the ears than the eyes. To tell you the truth, watching this movie I understand why. It is a courageous, demanding high wire act that possibly took a lot out of her. It's our loss that she no longer acts but our gain that she at least made Dancer In The Dark. A bold, visionary masterpiece.
11. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuarron) Two horny teenagers convince a hottie adult to join them on a road trip to an invented beach called "Heaven's Mouth" -love that name- and in the process garner a new perspective on what sex is and what it should be like. The sexiest movie of the decade. Alfonso Cuarron's erotic road trip was the best foreign language movie because -well- it was fun, heartbreaking and thoughtful. The plot is simple and -on paper convulted- but Cuarron infuses movie magic in its every frame, he doesn't put down his characters. This is one of the most honest portrayal's of sex I have ever seen on film, a portrayal that I doubt Hollywood can ever have the guts or rebellious thoughts of producing. For Cuarron (Children Of Men), Y Tu Mama Tambien is where it all started and it all came together.
12. The Departed (Martin Scorsese) Martin Scorsese decided to go back to the gangster genre that made him with classics such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas & Casino. In doing so, he made a movie that was indisputably entertaining and provided some much needed Hollywood relief from the slack indie film was carrying. A never better Leonardo Dicaprio and Matt Damon, face off in a duel that switched identities, kills of almost everybody on screen and features Jack Nicholson holding a dildo at a movie theatre. what more do you want? Scorsese's decade also featured Gangs Of New York -another great movie- but The Departed was his classic as well a deserving Oscar winner for Best picture.
13. The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)
Mickey Rourke poured heart and soul to his role as The Wrestler. Don't mind the bragging from some people claiming that he was playing himself and it was an easy stretch. the emotions he brings are tantalizing as well as heartbreaking, for the facts given below. Sure he might be playing himself but sometimes it's harder to play yourself than somebody else, are you still with me? It does also help that surrounded bu a great cast, including Marissa Tomei as his stripper love interest and an immensely talents director called Darren Aronofsky, a man so talented I disliked his much overrated Requiem For A Dream this decade but couldn't wait to see his next project. Topping The Wrestler will be a hell of a challenge.
14. City Of God (Fernando Mereilles) Mereilles made this Brazilian Gangster classic on a thin stringed budget, who cares. He makes a crime movie that is as scary as it is a penetrating look inside kid gangsters. A movie influenced by Scorsese but with a style reinvented all its own. To watch a kid shooting another kid on the streets of Rio, is to think of the immense amount of violence happening around us that is unprinted and unheard. It is this kind of movie that brings social relevance to a story and a case that has been denied accessibility by the mainstream media in North America and Europe. There's already been numerous copies of City Of God but none better- as is always the case, first time was the charm.
15. Borat (Larry Charles) This is far and away the funniest movie I have seen the last 10 years. I remember going to an advanced screening and having as much fun hearing people's reaction to it than as watching the movie. Which isn't a bad thing, it's a social satire and hearing a reaction to it is very important. The thing that got me about this movie is how some of the people laughing were actually laughing at themselves and their bigotry without even knowing it. It was a film aimed at bigotry in our society and it came in the form of a Kazakhstani man dressed up in the cheapest suit you can find at the salvation army. It was also the most quoted movie I have witnessed in many years, Yagshemash & chinqwi will forever be ingraved in my head. I like !
16. Sideways (Alexander Payne) Paul Giammati is the best actor around to player a loser or a schlub. To some that would an insult, but I really do mean it as a compliment. The acting Giammati does here is magical and very much in vein French cinema- in its free styled substance and reality. In Alexander Payne's classic, two best friends- one about to get married and the other single- embark on a road trip that to wineries across California and end up going through a series of mishaps that are both hilarious and significant to their steps of growing in a far gone adult world. Payne is a master at these sort of movies, the men in his movies are scarred but real, funny but sad & Sideways is the best example of Payne at his finest. I cannot wait for his next middle aged schlub.
17. Old Boy (Chan Woo Pak) Here's a movie that got better in stature & featured THE best ending of any movie this decade. An ending that gave whiplash to its audience and disgusted them in the process with its main hero's relation to incest. It's another journey through hell that beings in an astonishing manner and ends in an astonishing matter. It's a classic of Asian cinema because of its highly stylized direction and its too cool for school plot that reveals no cartoonish relativity but immense human feeling.
18. Mystic River (Clin Eastwood) Of all the great Eastwood's this decade -Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino & Changeling- Mystic River stands above the rest because of its story that is relatable to almost anyone who has lost a loved one. It's a movie that tests the boundaries of friendship and family but also features Sean Penn's greatest performance -as a man overcome with grief by the loss of his daughter- and is a mesmerizing whodunit that had me guessing til the very end. Also memorable for Tim Robbins' turn as a pedophile and Kevin Bacon as a detective.
19. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton)
If there ever was an animated movie that was as socially important as WALL E, I haven't seen it. It's far from just a kiddie movie, its themes are dark and involving. Take for instance its plot, which has Earth practically left behind because of environmental breakdown and all of its population living in Space, binging on food and as overweight as we've ever been. In the middle of all this is a sweet love story between two robots, a love story that has the kind of heartbeat and reality that movies involving two human beings cannot come close to achieving.
20. The 25th Hour (Spike Lee) Just like all of the movies listed above, The 25th Hour is ambitious, messy and drunk on its own daring. It is the perfect example of the 21st century movie this decade and the reason why Spike Lee is still a relevant force in Cinema. Edward Norton's character has one day before he goes to prison -for who knows how long- and he spends it rekindling with friends, lovers and trying to find out who snitched him out to the police. It's a movie that gives you a lump in the throat by and -as Bruce Springsteen's The Fuse plays in the end credits- makes you believe you have seen something memorable and profound. Here's to more of these in the new decade.
23. Minority Report (Steven Spielberg)
24. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)
25. Lost In Translation (Sofia Coppola)
Coppola came out with an incredible movie about friendship and love in a foreign country. Critics celebrated her vision and -in turn- made expectations for her following films almost unreachable. That's how good this movie is. A never better Bill Murray falls for a beautiful Scarlet in the beautiful wonder of Japanese culture and amicability. Coppola makes us wonder what will happen, right up til its finale frame- which ends with a whisper that is never heard or revealed in the crowd.
26. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)
Ang Lee brought visual poetry to a movie that was as influential as any other this decade. The poetic martial arts he created had a key impact on the way martial arts was gonna be viewed for the following 10 years. Lee's picture is as much a landmark in that department as The Matrix was 1 year prior. A Classic of foreign cinema.
27. Bowling For Columbine (Michael Moore)
Moore took huis camera and went on a road trip to American manners as he interviewed gun nut after gun nut in this extraordinary documentary -his best- about America's passion about gun control. The result was incendiary as well as a new classic in the form. Moore has made bigger, more expensive docs but none more brave and entertaining than this dynamite movie. A classic that will likely get shown in High School & Colleges for years to come- most because this debate is only peaking and about to blow up even more. 28. Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) 29. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan) 30. O' Brother Where Art Thou (Joel Coen)
It's hard to imagine but I've seen more than 800 movies this past decade- So you can see my conflicted decision choosing just 20 in my list of the best this decade. Many will argue with this list but isn't that the point? I made it for -above all else- debate, because it is quite clear that we have been showered with great stuff this decade. Possibly the best decade since the 1970's- where stuff like The Godfather & A Clockwork Orange got released and influenced a whole new generation.
I chose the 20 movies with one question at hand, will they stand the test of time? My answer to all of these is a resounding yes, yes & -wait for it- yes. The reasoning was simple. They are rebellious and unlike anything you have seen before. i.e. Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood is a flawed movie but it is perhaps the most ambitious of the bunch & was solidified by its rebellious spirit and its no mercy filmmaking.
This was a decade in which we saw a new breed of filmmaking and -with that- the movies were not afraid to take risks because -more than ever- audiences warmed up to them and wanted to view something more than just a raunchy teen comedy or a past its prime action flick. It was the Decade in which we were introduced to Nolan, Cuaron, Aronofsky, Mereilles, Bird, Greengrass, Gondry, Coppola, Inarittu, Field & Stanton.
It was a hard decision but 20 was the proper number, any more and I'd be delving out of my goal for timelessness. The rankings could change over the next few years but for now this a definitive account of the movies that shaped, influenced and touched me over the past 10 years. It is a list driven by an artistic point of view and I hope you debate it to pieces cause -as you know- that can only be good for my ego. Here are the 30 classics of the decade & be forewarned for the occasional odd title here and there (that only means you got to rent it)
Paranormal Activity (B+) is a fun time @ the movies. No need to reveal this cheapie's secrets, just go and see it. Made for a measly 30,000$ budget, it captures the kind of imagination horror movies have been missing in recent years, sure it looks a bit like The Blair Witch Project but just like that former movie it has imagination to spare and doesn't rely on any special effects to creep its audience out. It's a breath of fresh air in an industry polluted by mindless and overdone product. I love how it plays with your imagination til the very end & how the filmmakers had the courage to stick to a non conventional style and go with it til the every end. This is definitely not Hostel or These Hills Have Eyes- It is not at the least bit gory and fries your nerves in eloquent sand surprising ways. That's right, I mentioned Hostel and Eloquent in the same sentence.
There's a stunning scene midway into Jim Sheridan's new opus Brothers (C+) in which a war veteran (Tobey Maguire) comes back from a scarring stint in Afghanistan, shattered and filled with blood in his hands. There is reckless danger in the bags under his eyes and he has lost an immense amount of weight. It all amounts to a breakdown of shattering intensity that ends with his pointing a gun to his wife, brother and -ultimately- to himself. It is THE scene of the movie as well as one of the most truthful and shattering accounts of what it is to come back home after having done bloody sin overseas. Brothers -sadly- cannot live up to the hypnotic intensity of this scene throughout its running time and sometimes feels maudlin & out of sync.
Before the aforementioned scene there is an abundance of by the books storytelling that only results in -for the most part- predictability and a sense of deja vu. Jake Gylennhall plays the brother of the war vet, who falls for his wife -Natalie Portman- while everybody believes the former has died. Are you still with me? Brothers was called the best movie of the past 20 years by David Letterman this week on Late Night- Hell, its not even the best movie released this week. Its cliches are too plenty to be accoladed on any sort of best of list & although there are powerful moments, it cannot fulfill the expectations that came before it and the starry cast and director involved in an ultimately forgettable project.
Nicolas Cage raises hell as a corrupt, drug using lieutenant in Werner Herzog's remake (B+) of the 1992 Abel Ferera masterpiece. I'd call it a slight remake, because apart from the title there aren't many similarities. Although just like its predecessor, its a hell dream made in the fiery furnaces- with a knockout performance by Cage (So good and risky, he won't get nominated for an Oscar at year's end). Watch Cage Rape a girl he stops for heroine possession, watch him hallucinate about Iguana's, watch him randomly blurt out obscenities & watch him -above all- give a hell raising performance in a movie that has plot as a secondary intention & over the top lunacy as its foremost.
Cage's Lieutenant is seen injuring his back at the movie's start- which leads to a hard addiction to painkillers, which eventually leads to other pills. The Lieutenant goes into a trip from hell there on in and becomes out of control with his actions & limitless assault on society. It's a comedy, one in which Cage walks around a torn down New Orleans in search of a soul and taking care of his hooker/girlfriend. This is not for everybody and be forewarned of the non linearity of Herzog's manners with the screenplay at his disposal. This the kind of stuff that rattle the most timid of souls but for the rest of us, it is a film worth seeking- as fiery, dangerous & rebellious as any out there right now.
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- Almodovar and his 'Broken Embraces'
- Dedicated to Mr. Fox
- Charles Bronson & The Art Of Violence
- Martel's The Headless Woman
- Brittany Murphy RIP
- An Image- Guess the film?
- Coen Brothers take on Jewish eccentricities
- 'Up In The Air'
- Twenty Best Movies of The Decade
- If it's still playing..
- "Brothers" & "Bad Lieutenant- Port of Call New Orl...
- ▼ December (13)