Thursday, June 23, 2016

2000s Oscars!!!

I am really just in shock that I have finished, so I apologize if this isn't particularly well articulated.  I know it seems a bit silly getting emotional just because I finished a movie list, but it really feels like a huge deal.  Obviously I love films, but honestly, right now that feels like a very small part of it.  I have probably mentioned this before, but I make my extremely tiny salary through writing and editing.  Looking at my earlier entries, there is a definitive jump in quality, which I owe to this blog, as writing over a thousand posts certainly counts as progress.  I am still no Virginia Woolf but hey, at least I'm improving (and, you know, haven't drowned myself yet).  I also have connected with some great people and have been lucky enough to keep up a correspondence with a few of you.  I want to take this time to thank my frequent commentator Ray (can I call you a friend at this point or is that too forward?).  I hope to one day speak about films with the same level of intelligence and humor that you do.  I hope you feel better soon.

I also want to thank all of my readers, even if you are just a creepy lurker who never leaves a comment (no offense).  I'm flattered that you would take time out of your days to read my blog.  I will stop there before I give you all horrifying Sally Field flashbacks.

Currently I think the combined lists from all the editions contain 1157 movies.  As my next project, I will be reviewing the remaining titles, in no particular order.  It won't be at the alarming frequency that we have all become accustomed to, but I do promise to keep up with this blog fairly regularly.  After that, who knows?  I will probably find another list to tackle and I hope you will join me again.  If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

And now, my Oscar picks!  Enjoy and let me know what you think!

BEST PICTURE: Little Miss Sunshine
Nominees: The Lord of the Rings
                  The Departed
                  No Country for Old Men
                  Once
                  Moulin Rouge!
                  Sideways
                  Pan's Labyrinth
                  Kill Bill
                  Downfall
WORST PICTURE: Irreversible
Nominees: Meet the Parents
                  Passion of the Christ
                  Borat
                  Uzak
BEST ACTRESS: Nicole Kidman
Nominees: Uma Thurman
                  Abigail Breslin
                  Toni Collette
                  Ivana Baquero
BEST ACTOR: Javier Bardem
Nominees: James McAvoy
                  Daniel Day Lewis
                  Steve Carell
                  Javier Camara
BEST DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
Nominees: Alexander Payne
                  Quentin Tarantino
                  Martin Scorsese
                  Jonathan Dayton
                  Valerie Faris
BEST LINE: "Okay, everybody just pretend to be normal, okay?"
Nominees: "When you decide to be something, you can be it.  That's what they don't tell you in the     church.  When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals.  Today, what I'm saying to you is this: when you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?"
"Even the smallest person can change the course of the future."
"Revenge is never a straight line.  It's a forest, and like a forest it's easy to lose your way...to get lost...to forget where you came in."
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return."
BEST SONG: "Come What May"
Nominees: "Falling Slowly"
                  "Elephant Love Medley"
                  "Your Song"
               
             

1001. Atonement

Atonement
2007
Directed by Joe Wright









Well, this is it!  I should really give Atonement the attention it deserves and leave my thoughts about ending this journey on my Oscar post.  But it's hard, as I have been working on this for five years (which, being a young thing, is about a quarter of my life).  Anyway, I did enjoy Atonement, so I will do my best.

In 1935, Briony Tallis, a thirteen year old who dreams of being a famous writer, sees Cecilia, her older sister, and Robbie, a servant's son, have a moment of serious sexten (sexual tension to the uninformed). Not truly understanding what she saw, Briony is further confused when Robbie gives her a sexually explicit letter to deliver to Cecilia.  After Briony witnesses Robbie and Cecilia having sex in the library, she believes Robbie is a sexual deviant.  When Briony's cousin, Lola, is raped in the woods, Briony accuses Robbie of the crime, ruining many lives (including her own).

I hate to be this guy, but the book was better.  Briony was much more sympathetic in the book.  This is a rather frustrating story and my annoyance with Briony threatened to ruin my enjoyment more than once.  Still, Kiera Knightley is one of my favorite actresses and James McAvoy was fantastic as eye candy.

Well, I suppose that's a wrap.  God this feels weird.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Saoirse Ronan received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for this film at the age of 13.

1000. There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood
2007
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson








1000.  This is thousandth movie review.  How insane is that?  I know, no one asked for a speech, but damn.  I just recently went out with a guy and when I told him I was nearly finished with this List he said, "Wow, that's a lot of time" with an almost pitying look as if I had just revealed what a loser I was. Still, I am pleased with this accomplishment, even if it makes me kind of a geek.

Daniel Plainview is a ruthless oil prospector who is willing to do just about anything in his pursuit of wealth.  His son, H.W., becomes his "business partner" until an accident renders him deaf.  Plainview sends H.W. to a school for the deaf and continues his manic quest for power.

Sorry if that summary was too vague, but I thought a lot of the excitement from this film came from marveling at the decisions Plainview makes, so I don't want to spoil anything.  I know I have complained about Daniel Day Lewis in the past, but he truly delivers a brilliant performance here.  I actually didn't feel as though he expected applause every five seconds, which was refreshing.  I was also quite impressed with Paul Dano, who I had forgotten was in this.  I really want to see more of his work, but he doesn't seem to crop up that often.

I do think the film could have used some trimming, but it was ultimately entertaining and looked great.  Sorry if I am rushing, but I am ready to get my last review written and peace out of this bitch.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

First film of Paul Thomas Anderson's to not feature Philip Seymour Hoffman.


999. Into the Wild

Into the Wild
2007
Directed by Sean Penn










I didn't expect to enjoy this one.  Christopher McCandless, in my opinion, doesn't deserve his nearly mythical status.  I think his actions were fairly selfish, arrogant, and possibly suicidal.  I can't even imagine putting my family through the ordeal that he forced on them.  I also have never really romanticized the beatnik lifestyle, having found On The Road to be self indulgent.  Fortunately, this was more entertaining than I expected.

In 1990, McCandless graduated college with high honors.  He decides to abandon his family, destroy all of his credit cards and identification documents, and donate all his savings to Oxfam.  He hits the road, meeting many memorable characters along the way.  He finally ends up in the Alaskan wilderness and um...well, you know the rest.

It's the supporting characters that really make this film memorable, as I couldn't stand McCandless himself.  I also wasn't a huge fan of Penn's direction, which was wonky at best.  Still, there is no denying that this film looked beautiful.  Most importantly, 999!!!!

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

No stunt doubles were used for Emile Hirsch.

998. No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men
2007
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen








With only four more movies to go, it is hard to keep my focus on the remaining titles.  Still, I will do my best to give each film the attention it deserves.  Just know internally I am freaking out (but what else is new?).

While hunting in West Texas, Llewelyn Moss stumbles across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong.   He finds one wounded man who is begging for water, several dead bodies, and two million dollars in a case.  Moss takes the money, and surprisingly enough, his theft doesn't go unnoticed.   He is pursued by Mexican drug dealers and Anton Chigurh, a hired sociopath with the world's dorkiest hair cut (and I thought I had secured that title when I got bangs in ninth grade).  Sheriff Bell is hired to investigate, but he laments that he is too old for this shit.  Well, I paraphrased.

I always gush over Coen Brothers films, and this entry will be no exception.  This was a very exciting movie that featured one of the best movie villains in recent memory.  Javier Bardem did such a good job of portraying someone who was truly soulless that I might be frightened to meet him in real life.  The visuals were stunning and I thought the ending was absolutely brilliant.

This is going on my reading list.  Soon I will have more free time...

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Anton Chigurh's weapon, a captive bolt pistol, is commonly used to kill cows to minimize risk of flying bullets.

Body count of 22.

997. La Vie en Rose

La Vie en Rose
2007
Directed by Olivier Dahan






I remember having to watch this for my high school French class.  Even now it still feels like a homework assignment.

The film recounts the life of Edith Piaf, from her unusual upbringing in a Parisian brothel, to her early death brought on by her morphine and alcohol addictions.  The most interesting part of the film for me was Edith's romance with the married Marcel Cerdan, a famous boxer.

It's been awhile since I criticized a film for being too boring, but damn, this was boring.  It was two and a half hours of watching this woman self destruct, which was both tedious and frustrating.  I don't think Edith Piaf was a particularly admirable person and really didn't want to spend so long dissecting her life.  I am not saying the subjects of biopics have to perfect, but their flaws should be unique or intriguing enough that going on a cinematic journey with them feels worthwhile.

The music was still great and Cotillard delivered a fantastic performance.  But I would recommend skipping this, unless you are a huge Piaf fan.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Marion Cotillard shaved back her hairline and shaved off her eyebrows in preparation for her role.

The producers of this film wanted Audrey Tautou to play the lead, but Olivier Dahan insisted on casting Cotillard.

996. Le scaphandre et le papillon

Le scaphandre et le papillon
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
2007
Directed by Julian Schnabel







It's strange that the handicapped person/caretaker romance has become its own genre.  It's usually a female caretaker and male patient (except in the very creepy film Talk to Her but I would hardly call that a romance).  The only male nurse I ever had insisted that I call him "Hollywood" so uh...I can't say I have experienced anything in way of promising love interests who bring me applesauce.  Not that this is a romance in the strictest sense.

The movie tells the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, an editor at Elle who suffers a massive stroke which leaves him paralyzed from the neck down, but mentally normal.  He is only able to control his left eye and is able to communicate by blinking.  He works with a speech therapist who reads him a list of letters, blinking his left eye when she hits upon the letter he is thinking of.  He eventually decides to write a book on his experience, using his painfully slow method of dictation.

Writing is hard enough, but writing like that?  I can't even imagine going through what Bauby did and still producing something beautiful.  I am definitely going to have read his book.  Anyway, it's a touching story and wonderfully acted.

Sorry if this was a bit rushed, but we are at 996 people!  I am getting overly excited.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Julian Schnabel learned to speak French to make this film.

995. Gwoemul

Gwoemul
The Host
2006
Directed by Bong Joon-ho








We really haven't had a decent horror film on this List since The Blair Witch Project.  While I would hardly classify this is as scary, it was nice to get a taste of the genre again.  I have been really scraping the bottom of the barrel with Netflix Horror lately.

An American military pathologist orders his Korean assistant to dump 200 bottles of formaldehyde into the Han River.  Naturally, this creates a giant hell beast that begins attacking people.  Park Gang-du is delivering food from a snack bar owned by him and his father when the monster attacks, carrying away his young daughter, Hyun-seo.  The South Korean government and the American military quarantine the survivors of the attack, claiming that the monster is the host of some terrible disease.  When Gang-du and his family learn that his daughter is still alive, the family resolves to escape from the quarantine and save Hyun-seo.

I am not sure that I could justify calling this special or a must see.  It was certainly entertaining and tense, and the creature looked great.  Still, I must admit there is nothing truly remarkable about this film.  I suppose it makes an interesting political statement about the general shittiness of US foreign policies and environmental disasters.  But does that mean it deserves a place on this List?  I'm not sure.

In any case, I have to give it four stars for pure enjoyability.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Highest grossing South Korean film of all time.


994. The Queen

The Queen
2006
Directed by Stephen Frears







I miss England terribly and watching films like this just makes it harder.  I don't remember the aftermath of Diana's death, but I do recall some of the royalty related hysteria when I visited London just before Prince William and Kate Middleton's marriage.  Man, they love those royals.

After the death of Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II struggles in the aftermath of a tragedy that no one could have predicted.  While the Queen believes that the royal family's grief should be a private affair handled away from the mourning public, Tony Blair and Prince Charles think that the nation deserves a more public expression of grief.

I expected to love this movie, but I didn't end up finding it as riveting as I initially hoped.  I felt as thought the filmmakers kept hinting at more interesting events taking place off screen, while the audience was stuck watching everyone try to dislodge the stick up the Queen's ass.  Ahem.  Clearly, I am not royalty material yet.

In any case, Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen did fantastic jobs and I still managed to find the politics of this one rather interesting.  Biopics just aren't for me.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Cherie Blair's dislike of the royal family has been widely reported.

Helen Mirren discovered while researching the role that the Queen has OCD.  It was her idea to use this element of her personality in the film.

993. Once

Once
2006
Directed by John Carney







Well, that was definitely one of the most charming things I have ever seen.  Even our resident hater of musicals, Ray, might have to praise this one.

An unnamed busker performs his original songs on Grafton Street, attracting the attention of a young Czech flower seller.  After learning that he repairs vacuum cleaners for a living, she promises to return the next day with her broken hoover.  They quickly develop a friendship and begin playing and recording songs together.  Our male lead is clearly attracted to her, but is still nursing a broken heart from his previous relationship.

I just can't get over the song "Falling Slowly" which has been playing in my head since I watched this. It is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.  I want to share it with my sister, but she is such a wuss that she would probably declare it "too sad" and turn it off after five seconds.  But I encourage others to listen to it as soon as possible (I'll post the video at the bottom).

I realized fairly quickly that this wasn't going to be the typical movie romance that ends with sprints through an airport and kisses in the rain.  Still, I loved these characters and was completely invested in their happiness.

Overall, I was very impressed with this film, particularly because it was shot on a shoestring budget.  I guess this proves that musicals don't always have to be Baz Luhrrman-level spectacles.  All you really need is great music and a camera.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Steven Spielberg and Bob Dylan are both major fans of this film.

The Dublin street scenes were shot without permits, so many bystanders didn't know they were on camera.

From YouTube:


992. Das Leben der Anderen

Das Leben der Anderen
The Lives of Others
2006
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck








It was interesting to see this after just watching Goodbye, Lenin.  While the two films are obviously starkly different in both tone and style, I would highly recommend watching them together as the pair complement each other beautifully.

The movie takes place in 1984 East Germany.  Stasi official Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler is assigned to spy on Georg Dreyman, a playwright, and Christa-Maria Sieland, his beautiful girlfriend who is addicted to prescription medication.  It doesn't take long for Wiesler to figure out that Dreyman has been placed under surveillance simply because the Minister of Culture wants Dreyman's girlfriend and hopes to eliminate his romantic rival.  After weeks of observing the couple, Wiesler finds himself forming a strong attachment to the couple.

I'm paraphrasing, but I think the Book said this was a Kafka-esque twist on The Conversation.  I think that comparison sums it up brilliantly.  I was continuously surprised at the directions the plot took.  The opening of this film led me to believe that Wiesler was going to be a sadistic, Christoph Waltz-like villain.  I guess I shouldn't reveal any spoiler, but I will say that the film is very successful in subverting expectations.

9 more to go...

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The actors agreed to work for 20% of their usual salaries.


991. Borat: The Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Borat: The Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
2006
Directed by Larry Charles











It's my own fault for getting cocky.  I was starting to think it was going to be hard to pick a Worst Picture for the 00s set.  Well, this just made things a little simpler.

Kazakh reporter Borat is sent to the USA to report on "the greatest country in the world."  When he arrives in New York, Borat sees an episode of Baywatch and desires to make Pamela Anderson his wife.  Hijinks ensue for eighty four insufferable minutes.

Look, I get the concept.  Sacha Baron Cohen acts like a racist, anti semitic, sexist asshole which encourages the real people he interviews to reveal their own prejudices.  Of course, I am sure that the majority of high school aged males aren't laughing at the exposed hypocrisy and ignorance.  Maybe for my own peace of mind I will pretend that everyone understands this is a satire.

No one is safe from Cohen's insults and disgusting jokes, so in the end it is only offensive to people with good taste.  Still, I found this to be incredibly dull and painful to sit through.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

The police were called on Sacha Baron Cohen 92 times during filming.


990. El Laberinto del Fauno

El Laberinto del Fauno
Pan's Labyrinth
2006
Directed by Guillermo del Toro








Before we begin, let's all agree that the creature pictured above is the freakiest thing to ever be shown on screen.   Apparently it even had Stephen King squirming in his seat.  Now that I have given you all nightmare fuel, I can move on to the rest of the film.

In Post Civil War Spain, eleven year old Ofelia travels to a village in Spain with her pregnant mother to meet her new stepfather, Captain Vidal.  Vidal is a cruel man who is obsessed with hunting down rebels.  A large insect/weird fairy thing leads Ofelia into an ancient labyrinth.  There, she meets a faun who tells her that she must complete three tasks in order to acquire immortality.

This is one of the best and most creative fantasy films I have ever seen.  Creatures in Hollywood fantasy movies all tend to look the same.  You have the ogres, the dragons, the fairies, etc.  However, the filmmakers here manage to create monsters that are entirely unique to this story: strange, yet whimsical; dark, yet intriguing.

I thought the fantasy and war genres were pretty incompatible (although I did end up enjoying Night of the Shooting Stars) but I thought the end result felt brilliantly cohesive.  Another five star film.  Don't worry, Borat is next so a rant is forthcoming.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Guillermo del Toro was offered twice the budget for the film if he made it in English.  He declined, saying that he wouldn't compromise the story to suit market needs.

For the fairy eating scene, Doug Jones had to bite into condoms filled with blood.


989. The Departed

The Departed
2006
Directed by Martin Scorsese









I would have never thought that the early 2000s are my favorite era of film, but I am passing out five star ratings like there is no tomorrow.  This is probably my favorite Scorsese movie (a big statement, I know) and, according to the man himself, the only one of his films that has a plot.

What that plot is, though, is hard to describe succinctly.  Basically, Frank Costello, an Irish mob boss, plants Colin Sullivan as a mole in the Boston police department.  At the same time, the police department sends Billy Costigan to go undercover to infiltrate Costello's crew.  While both sides are aware of the other mole's existence, their identities remain a secret.  Sullivan and Costigan both find themselves falling for the police psychiatrist, Madolyn Madden.  Damon and DiCaprio?  She is just being greedy.

For once in a Scorsese film we had someone to cheer for.  Usually every character is fairly revolting.  Here we have flawed characters that still manage to be likable.  There was also a lot of humor in this film, particularly in the scenes with Baldwin and Wahlberg.  Who would have guessed the pair of them would have been funnier than Martin and Lewis?  I suppose that is not too high of a bar.

Anyway, I was sold on this film as soon as I knew the cast list.  I mean, Baldwin, Damon, DiCaprio, Nicholson, and Farmiga?  Truly, the film would have had to be horrendous to screw that up.  Farmiga is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses; I saw her in the Conjuring 2 recently and she was brilliant.

I really have to get around to watching the original.  A strong contender for my Best Picture choice.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Originally was meant to star Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.

Body count of 22.

Martin Scorsese joked that Mark Wahlberg's Boston accent was so thick he need subtitles.

988. Apocalypto

Apocalypto
2006
Directed by Mel Gibson








I have to hand it to Gibson, he rarely makes a boring film.  Still, that doesn't change the fact that he is an asshole, which is made abundantly clear in this movie.  I am no Mayan expert, but I know enough to know that their depiction in this film is inaccurate, mean-spirited, and ignorant.  Apparently Gibson doesn't believe in political correctness...or any kind of correctness at all.

Jaguar Paw's village is raided by a group of Mayans led by Zero Wolf.  Jaguar Paw's father is killed and his pregnant wife and child are left trapped in pit cave that is slowly filling with water.  Jaguar Paw is captured, along with the rest of the adults in the village.  The captives are taken to the city, where the women are sold into slavery and the men are to be offered as sacrifices.  Wasn't it the Aztecs that were into mass human sacrifice?  Fifth grade social studies seems like a very long time ago.  Anyway, the film follows Jaguar Paw's attempts to escape and reunite with his family.

Just like in Passion of the Christ, Gibson believes that having the characters speak in non English tongues is all that is needed to tell a historically accurate story.  I am not saying that everything he does has to be based on well documented facts, but this was just offensive.  And I thought Dances With Wolves was annoying.

Still, like I said, this certainly wasn't a dull film.  Gibson did a good job of building tension and the visuals were fairly stunning (and gross).  At the very least, I enjoyed this a lot more than Passion of the Christ.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

In the film's teaser trailer the entire cast was different.

Body count of 114.

987. Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine
2006
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris








This is one of my favorite films, having never failed to improve my mood after a shitty day.  Also, Olive is just about the cutest kid on the planet.  So prepare for some very disorganized gushing as I try to explain why this movie warms my cold, shriveled heart.

I suppose the best way to describe this movie is by giving a brief run down on all of our main characters.  Sheryl Hoover is an overworked mother who wants the best for everyone in her family; she is just not entirely sure what that is.  Personally, I fell in love with this character when she was serving fried chicken for dinner and insisted that everyone have "a little salad."  It felt so real to me and Toni Collette definitely goes down as the best movie mom of all time.  Her brother Frank is a gay Proust scholar who is temporarily living with Sheryl's family after he tried to kill himself.  Sheryl is married to Richard, who is trying to make it as a motivational speaker using his nine step program which includes gems like "No Hocus Pocus, Just Focus."  Richard's foulmouthed father is currently living with the Hoover family after getting kicked out of a retirement home for snorting heroine.  Dwayne is Sheryl's son from a previous marriage, who has taken a vow of silence until he can become a test pilot.  Finally, Olive is the daughter of Richard and Sheryl and dreams of becoming a beauty queen.  When Olive learns that she has qualified for the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California, the entire family must take a 800 mile road trip in their yellow Volkswagen bus.

The film begins by showing us brief clips of each of our main characters.  Each clip only lasted for about fifteen seconds, but I instantly fell in love with every person.  Either I am just an easy audience, or that is some powerful filmmaking.  But what I truly loved about this movie was how nothing really ends up resolved at the end.  The characters are just as dysfunctional as they were at the beginning of the film and their lives haven't improved in the slightest.  Still, their affection for each other is stronger than any of the blows they receive during the movie.

I could keep rambling about this film, but I suppose I should wrap it up.  "Should" being the operative word.  Honestly, how fucked up are beauty pageants?  Every adult involved in these things should be locked up and studied.  Okay, now I'll wrap it up.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Production made sure that Abigail Breslin was actually listening to music during the scene when her grandpa goes on a profanity laced rant.  That's adorable.

Breslin wore a fat suit during production.

986. Tsotsi

Tsotsi
2005
Directed by Gavin Hood






So my goal is to finish this by Thursday.  It's quite an ambitious goal, but what am I if not ambitious (do me a favor and don't respond to that question in the comments)?  I have been working on this project for five years and am ready to finally complete the List.

Tsotsi is the leader of a Johannesburg street gang.  During a mugging on the Subway, Tsotsi's gang kills an old man.  Boston, one of the gang members, is sick after the killing and asks Tsotsi how he can be so inhuman.  Tsotsi badly beats Boston and leaves.  He then goes on to carjack a young mother, shoot her, and drive away with a baby in the backseat.  What a prince, huh?  Tsotsi's first instinct is to abandon the child but he ultimately decides to do what he can to take of him.

There's definitely a strong stench of cheese coming from this plot.  I mean a street thug becomes a better person after spending some time with a child.  Come to think of it, he doesn't actually spend that much  time with the kid, only enough time to get some "significant look while the music swells" moments.  Okay, I am being kind of harsh.  It actually wasn't that bad, just a bit too sentimental for my tastes.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

"Tsotsi" loosely translates into "thug" in Johannesburg slang.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

985. Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain
2005
Directed by Ang Lee








I know everyone has to say it, but I can't believe this didn't win Best Picture.  Well, I guess it's not so unbelievable, as the people who decide these things are stuffy old white men.  But this is clearly the superior film and I am still going to bitch about it anyway.

In 1963, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist are hired by Joe Aguirre to herd his sheep during the summer.  The pair fall in love, with Jack wanting to be more open about their relationship while Ennis is afraid of coming out.   Both end up living virtually separate lives that only overlap with the occasional fishing trip.  Still, their love is strong enough that it becomes noticeable to the people around them.

I was rage reading about the controversy surrounding this film, particularly how certain theaters wouldn't even play it.  There are so many horrible things happening in the world every single minute, but these people choose to take their stand against love.  It's so sickening.

Well, that went off the rails a bit.  Ahem...back to the movie.  The performances were incredibly inspired; I have never been too impressed with Anne Hathaway before but thankfully her cowgirl accent isn't as scary as her British one.  It's truly a touching romance, particularly since Heath Ledger passed away.  What an artist that man was.

Definitely one of the better romance films out there.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Heath Ledger nearly broke Jake Gyllenhaal's nose when they filmed a kissing scene.

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams met and fell in love on set.

984. Paradise Now

Paradise Now
2005
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad









I was dreading writing this review, as it seems almost impossible to write about a movie like this without accompanying it with a well researched political thesis.  I don't particularly feel like writing a term paper or sharing my views on this platform.  So I will try to keep my comments concentrated on the film, even though the point of this movie is clearly to get people to think of the larger issues.

Said and Khaled are Palestinian childhood friends who have been recruited for suicide attacks in Tel Aviv.  They are both fitted with bombs that can only be removed with special keys that their handlers have.  They are both assured that they will be hailed as heroes and find paradise is the next life.  However, their mission goes slightly awry and Said gets separated from the group, which convinces the others that he is a traitor.  Both men brood over what the right thing to do is and surprisingly enough, the answer isn't clear to either of them.

I found this film fascinating, although I didn't sympathize with the main leads as much as I was expecting to.  That is not to say I was expecting to be on the side of the suicide bombers, but I went in thinking the entire point of the film was going to be to make us sympathize with our main characters.  I spent the entire movie being disgusted by Khaled and Said, who each seemed to possess their own special cowardice.

So upsetting, but interesting and I guess I will end it there.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

First Palestinian film to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

983. Va, Vis, et Deviens

Va, Vis, et Deviens
Live and Become
2005
Directed by Radu Mihaileanu








It took me around three days and five separate sittings to finish this film.  I enjoyed it, but I did feel like I was watching the story that wouldn't end.  I even cheered when it was finally over, which, if you have watched the final scene in this film, is beyond inappropriate.

Shlomo is a Christian boy who is disguised as an Ethiopian Jew by his mother in order to be sent to Israel during Operation Moses.  His mother believes that Israel is a magical place, free from famine and torment.  Schlomo leaves his sickly mother and pretends to an orphan.  Schlomo is adopted by two loving parents, but remains haunted by his secrets.

Maybe I have read too many Dickens novels, but I was shocked that Schlomo's new family was kind and gentle.  The most touching scenes in this film came from Schlomo and his adopted mother, like when she licked his face in the middle of the schoolyard to show that Schlomo was healthy and loved.  Gross, but nevertheless touching.

The narrative definitely threw me.  I was expecting a Europa Europa-esque tension, where Shlomo's secret was in constant danger of being revealed.  Instead, the filmmakers just seemed content to tell a simple story about love and family.

I do think about forty minutes could have been shaved off this film.  I think the story faltered a bit when Shlomo became an adult.  Man, they really didn't care about making any of the Schlomos look alike, did they?

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Won awards at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals.

982. Fahrenheit 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11
2004
Directed by Michael Moore








I have been too depressed to discuss politics lately, given the current climate in the US right now.  However, I will briefly break my cranky silence and talk about Fahrenheit 9/11.

Basically, Michael Moore does his best to convince us in two hours that the Bush administration exploited the 9/11 tragedy in order to push forward their own corrupt agenda.   Moore alleges that the events like the signing of the Patriot Act or the footage of the US abuse towards prisoners are all evidence of an unlawful system.

So this is a rather scary film and skillfully presented that it is hard to visualize the other side of the argument.  I always take Moore's films with a grain of salt, but this truthfully shook me to my chore.  I have ranted so many times in the past week that I have no more rant to give.  But sometimes the fact that I am a US citizen scares me.

Easily Moore's most upsetting documentary yet.  And I thought Columbine would be unbeatable.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

First documentary to debut at number one at the box office.

Banned in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Monday, June 20, 2016

981. Sideways

Sideways
2004
Directed by Alexander Payne







This is a favorite of mine and one that I have been looking forward to for a long time.  I find the character of Miles extremely relatable (probably not a good thing) and the dialogue in this film absolutely brilliant.

Miles is taking is old college roommate Jack on a wine tour to celebrate Jack's upcoming nuptials.  Miles is failed divorced author whose wine obsession is clearly more than just a hobby, while Jack is a washed up actor.  Much to Miles' dismay, Jack informs him that he plans on getting laid on the trip and will do everything he can to make sure Miles has sex too.  Jack finds what he is looking for in a sexy wine pourer and Miles becomes interested in her friend Maya.

In lesser hands, this would have been a fairly disgusting bromance movie, where the two leads form an unlikely bond while having gross sexual misadventures.  Fortunately, Payne never condescends to the viewer and delivers a very real story about two flawed friends.  No one plays a down and out loser better than Paul Giamatti.  The scene between Maya and Miles when they discuss their love of wine is truly beautiful and always makes me feel guilty that I avoid red wine completely.  The humor in this film comes from very genuine human foibles and awkwardness, which is something we can all relate to.  If this were a typical Hollywood comedy, there probably would have  been some misunderstanding involving a prostitute.

Another strong contender for the Best Picture Oscar of the 00s (one of the most coveted awards in recent history).

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

The food that Miles, Jack, and Miles' mother ate together gave all of the actors food poisoning.

Most of the wine the actors' drank was non alcoholic.

Paul Giamatti doesn't like wine.

980. Der Untergang

Der Untergang
Downfall
2004
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel








By now I have seen quite a few World War II films for the List.  It is quite rare to see a movie from a Nazi perspective, let alone Hitler's.  While most of the children in this film were fairly reprehensible, it was interesting to see a few glimpses of humanity and love from the one of the most evil political organizations in history.

Based on the diary of Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary, Downfall tells the story of the last ten days of Hitler's life.  It was strange seeing this part of a war.  Usually we get to see significant battles and only read about the surrender in a few lines of onscreen text.

I was worried that this film would be so eager to portray Hitler as a human being that it would either overcompensate by dismissing the atrocities he committed or just come across as annoyingly preachy.  Thankfully, I was wrong.  I didn't feel emotionally blackmailed in the slightest; the scenes where Hitler was shown to be affectionate felt very natural.  We still got to see the insane, hate fueled Hitler, but we also saw that he was capable of love.  I knew I liked Bruno Ganz before this, but I am now convinced he is one of the greatest actors of our time.

I also liked that the movie primarily takes place in the bunker.  Bunkers are obviously claustrophobic places and the film was effective in making me feel a similar tension.  Highly recommended.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Many of Hitler's lines were historically accurate, although they were said at earlier dates.


979. Crash

Crash
2004
Directed by Paul Haggis









I will try to get past my disgust that this won Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain long enough to write this review.  I mean, Chicago and then this??  Okay, I'm done.

Crash tells several interconnecting stories, some of which are more effective than others.  Among the more interesting characters are a wealthy African American couple who are humiliated by a racist police officer and a Middle Eastern store owner who fears for his family's safety.

A lot of films dealing with racism oversimplify matters to the point of absurdity, which I talked about a little in my Do The Right Thing review.  While there are definitely moments of oversimplification (particularly with Farhad) overall I think the filmmakers did a good job of depicting the more subtle moments of racism that occur in a day to day lives.  For example, when Jean, the white wife of the district attorney, walks in a different direction when she sees two black men.

Obviously, police racism and brutality are still very relevant issues.  Still, the film is somewhat bogged down by a few unnecessary characters that were seemingly there to fill out the race bingo card.  A good forty five minutes of this film could have been cut out, which would have cleaned things up considerably.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Lowest grossing Best Picture winner since The Last Emperor.

Paul Haggis himself has said that this film did not deserve to win Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain.

Friday, June 17, 2016

978. Passion of the Christ

Passion of the Christ
2004
Directed by Mel Gibson









I am not Christian, which might make the following post a bit awkward for some people.  I gave a similar disclaimer before my Rapture post and thankfully, no one got annoyed with me (or if they did they kept it to themselves).  Hopefully I can get through this without offending anybody too severely.

Basically, this film depicts the last twelve hours of Jesus' life before his crucifixion.  Interesting side note, someone on my music blog recently compared me to the people who crucified Jesus for giving a negative review to a Gary Numan album.  A little harsh, in my opinion.

We all know Mel Gibson is fairly anti Semitic, so I feared the worst going into this film.  It is a very ugly movie that seems to revel in its gore and sadism.  It seems to strange to me that crew members converted to Catholicism after filming wrapped (if that's even true).  What was divine about this movie?  You don't really get to see much of Jesus' life or teachings.  It's pretty much two hours of Caviezel getting the shit beaten out of him.  Gibson filmed this movie as if it belonged in the horror genre.  Some of these scenes definitely venture into torture porn territory.  I suppose his forgiveness at the end is what people find inspirational.  I didn't and I resented the Book for making me sit through two hours of religious propaganda.

Anyway, I heard there is a Passion of the Christ 2 in the works.  Wasn't Jesus himself the sequel?  If we are sticking with the horror themes, it will probably be a zombie film.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Jim Caviezel has said that he was struck by lightning when he was filming the Sermon on the Mount scene.

Macaulay Culkin was the first choice to play Jesus.

977. Bin-jip

Bin-jip
3-Iron
2004
Directed by Kim Ki-duk







Twenty four more movies to go and I am really starting to get burnt out.  I guess you can't write about 332 movies in the course of the six months without getting a tad worn out by the end.  Still, I am so close that I can't stand to take a break now.  Onward!

Tae-suk is a silent loner who lives in apartments while their owners are away on vacation.  Often times, he will fix appliances or do laundry for the owners, so you know, he pays it forward I guess.   One day, he breaks into a large home, unaware that he is being watched by Sun-hwa, an abused housewife.  He finally notices Sun-hwa and leaves, but returns shortly afterward.  He witnesses Sun-hwa being abused by her husband and proceeds to hit golf balls at her attacker.  The couple then begins an entirely silent relationship.

My favorite thing about most films is the dialogue, so I obviously wasn't going to be a huge fan of this movie.  I can enjoy silence in films when it has some understandable purpose.  Perhaps Ki-duk chose not to have the two main characters speak because they are the people in our society that don't have strong voices (i.e. a drifter and an abused woman).  Of course, the more interesting thing to do would be to give these silent groups a voice, but maybe giving them a story was enough.

In any case, it was visually stunning and certainly unique enough that it warrants an inclusion on The List.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Filmed in 16 days.

976. Gegen die Wand

Gegen did Wand
Head-On
2004
Directed by Fatih Akin









We had a quick break from sexually disturbing movies, but don't worry, they have returned with gusto.  By my calculations, we should be able to fit at least twenty more sexual assaults in before the end of this journey.  Man, things have really taken a turn for the upsetting lately.  But I digress.

Cahit, an alcoholic Turkish German widower, tries to commit suicide by driving his car head-on into a wall.  He survives, and is subsequently sent to a psychiatric clinic.  While there, he meets Sibel, another Turkish German who has tried to commit suicide.  She convinces Cahit to marry her in order to help her get away from her parents.  She promises him that they will still both be able to live separate sex lives.  If you don't think they will fall in love, you most likely haven't seen a movie before.

The plot sounds really conventional; in fact, I could probably name about ten romantic comedies that use the marriage of convenience trope (I would cite examples but I don't want you people to know that I've seen movies like The Proposal).  Of course, since this isn't Hollywood, the movie is freer to take some risks with unexpected and darker twists.  I found the experience rather frustrating.  With rom coms, you have to get used to characters being their own worst enemies.  At least at the end, you are rewarded with the knowledge that awkwardness and misunderstandings won't stand in the way of true love.  You don't really get that feeling at the conclusion of this film.  This is probably be a good thing, but I was still left feeling very unsatisfied.

I don't think bitterness and depression fit into the romantic comedy framework very well.  It's like adding rhubarb to a cupcake recipe.  If I was a better cook I could probably come up with a more logical reference.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The lead actress spent the money she made off this movie on a nose job.

Sibel Kekilli was discovered at a mall.

975. Good Bye Lenin!

Good Bye Lenin!
2003
Directed by Wolfgang Becker









I wasn't alive when the Berlin Wall came down (I'm young stuff) so this film didn't have the emotional impact that it did with other people who can remember the event.  I still found this to be an intriguing film with a fascinating premise.

In 1990, Alex Kerner attempts to keep his frail mother from finding out that East Germany no longer exists, as the shock could kill her.  Alex engages in a series of ruses to keep up the charade, with help from his sister Ariane and his girlfriend Lara.

As soon as I read the description, I knew I would like this.  It is an odd, Wes Anderson-esque blend of comedy and drama.  Not only were the filmmakers successful in creating a smart political statement but a moving family drama as well.  Alex's fabrication of events didn't seem any more fictitious than the bullshit politicians spew on a regular basis.

Can't go all the way, but still we are on quite the streak!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

CGI was used to de-Westernize Berlin.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

974. Kill Bill: Volume One

Kill Bill: Volume One
2003
Directed by Quentin Tarantino








Since we keep mashing together film series to make them count as one entry, why don't we combine Volume One and Two?  After all, it was meant to be seen as one movie; it was split up because of the long running time.  Did you hear that Giordana?  Films can be split up.

Four years ago, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad massacred The Bride's wedding party, leaving her for dead with a bullet in the brain.  Now, four years later, the bride has woken up with a desire for vengeance.  Her plan?  First, take care of the hospital worker who has been raping in while she was unconscious (a common theme lately).  She then plans on tracking down and killing the members of the Squad.  Finally, she plans on murdering Bill, the leader of the Deadly Vipers and the man whose child she was carrying before the attack.

Really, what's not to like about this film?  It almost plays out like a video game, with the "bosses" increasing in complexity each round.  I love martial arts movies, so I fell for this movie pretty quickly.  If the kung fu genre isn't your thing, there are still elements that you might find enjoyable.  I particularly loved the soundtrack and the animation sequence.  I know he borrowed that idea from another film, but I still thought it was absolutely brilliant.

The 2000s Oscars are going to be insane.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

All the music from Kill Bill is from other movies, as Tarantino used his soundtrack collection to score his film.

Body count of 95.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

973. Oldboy

Oldboy
2003
Directed by Park Chan-wook








I have loved revenge stories ever since I read Count of Monte Cristo in high school.  Now we have this and Kill Bill coming up!  My blood lust should be sufficiently satisfied between these two films.

A lot of the brilliance of this movie comes from its innovative twists that would make M. Night Shyamalan himself tight in the pants.  Therefore, I will keep the summary short and vague.  In 1988, Oh Dae-su is arrested for public drunkenness, which causes him to miss his daughter's fourth birthday.  His friend Joo-hwan picks him up from the police station and the pair go to a phone booth to call home.    While Joo-hwan is on the phone, Dae-su is kidnapped and held in a sealed hotel room.  From the television set he learns that his wife was murdered and that he is the prime suspect.  Aside from that information, Dae-su has no idea who is holding him hostage or why.

I feel like many Hollywood action films take are rather condescending to their audiences.  I suppose this makes sense, as the appeal of the genre is often its' mindlessness.  But this is actually a smart movie; I particularly enjoyed the parallels between this and a certain Greek tragedy that shall remain nameless for anti spoiler purposes.

The octopus scene was fairly disgusting, although I have a theory about its purpose.  Unfortunately, I can't reveal what my theory is, as it would constitute another spoiler.  Good review right?

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Four live octopodes were eaten for the scene at the sushi bar.  Gross.

Body count of 7 (onscreen).

972. La meglio gioventu

La meglio gioventu
The Best of Youth
2003
Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana






The most notable (and frightening) thing about this film seems to be that it is seven hours long.  I suppose when you consider the fact that it was originally meant to be shown on television, it doesn't seem too excessive.  Still, I think seven hours is a long time to spend with one family, even my own (just kidding, Mom).

The Best of Youth follows the lives of two brothers from the 1960s to present day.  Matteo is hot headed, while Nicola is more grounded.  Any further description is definitely above my pay grade (which, let's just say, is low enough that I am not required to pay taxes).

Italian family sagas have never been my thing, but this is probably the best of the batch (the batch being Rocco and his Brothers and Novecento).  Maybe I haven't taken to them because I never find the characters particularly relatable or admirable.  Not that likable characters are necessary for a good film, but it does make the hundreds of hours needed to watch these movies more bearable.

In any case, I am getting slightly burned out, so I will end there (did I use enough parentheses in this post?).

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Originally developed as a miniseries.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

971. Irreversible

Irreversible
2002
Directed by Gaspar Noe








Honestly, I didn't even know if I could write a review for this film.  We all know by now I hate rape scenes in movies, and this film contains one of the most drawn out, disgusting rapes in cinematic history.  It is also extremely homophobic, and given the recent events in Orlando, I don't even want to think about this movie.  I guess I will give this shot, but I might end rather abruptly if I get too emotional.

Our story is told in reverse chronological order.  I believe this was done to give the movie some semblance of artistic integrity, but Roger Ebert said it was done so that we would be forced to confront the act of revenge first, and thus see its consequences more clearly.  In any case, Alex is brutally raped in a ten minute scene and her boyfriend and friend attempt to get revenge on the rapist.

I have no respect for filmmakers whose purpose is to make their audience members ill (see Interesting Facts section).  Shocking and disturbing audiences is easy.  Creating something beautiful and moving is obviously the more difficult task.  Why are we praising this guy?  I read that he was scared that people would think he was homophobic (gee, I wonder why?) so he filmed a cameo of himself masturbating in the gay club.  I am not even sure what to say about that one.

This isn't even a fun movie to rant about and I am so disgusted I have to stop there.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

The first 30 minutes of the film has a background noise with a frequency of 28 Hz, which causes nausea and vertigo in humans.

970. Hable con ella

Hable con ella
Talk to Her
2002
Directed by Pedro Almodovar








Continuing our streak of depressing, rape-y films, we come to Talk to Her.  I have to give this movie credit, it was incredibly disturbing in a very unique way.  Credit is the correct word, right?

Alicia Roncero is a beautiful dance student who is comatose after being hit by a car.  She is "cared for" by Benigno, a male nurse who has an unhealthy obsession with her.  Lydia Gonzalez is a famous matador who becomes comatose after being gored by a bull.  She is frequently visited by Marco, a sensitive journalist who had only recently become her lover.  Benigno and Marco form a special bond, as they are both in love with unconscious women.

I think I was supposed to feel more sympathy than I did for Benigno (although I certainly felt for Marco).  By showing us his lonely life in detail, we are evidently supposed to feel sorry for him and ultimately forgive his actions, or, at the very least, understand them.  But the more I watched the film, the more disgusted I was with this man.  He was basically just using Alicia as a toy.  He should have just gotten an inflatable doll, but I suppose his selfishness stopped that from happening.  Marco must have seen something in Benigno that I did not.  Marco's presence actually saved the film for me; otherwise, I might have had to cover the screen with my hands.  By the end of the movie, I was half in love with Marco already.  What woman doesn't want a guy who cries at the ballet?

Ultimately, it was a compelling film with complex characters.  But I did feel the need to take about twenty showers after watching it.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The bulls' bloodiness is real although Pedro Almodovar says he had permission from the bulls' owner to kill them.

Monday, June 13, 2016

969. Cidade de Deus

Cidade de Deus
City of God
2002
Directed by Katia Lund and Fernando Meirelles








The Book calls this a horror movie of the first order, which is fairly accurate.  Surprisingly, I prefer my horror films to be less disturbing.  This is one of those movies that is really not enjoyable to watch, but I still feel slightly obligated to recommend it.

The film depicts the rise of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro.  Mostly, the film follows the extremely violent Li'l Ze and his childhood friend Bene who keeps him in check.  Li'l Ze runs a successful drug empire by ruthlessly wiping out his competition.  Rocket, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with the violence and dreams of getting out of the slums and becoming a successful photographer.

So like I said, this is an upsetting film.  I was so enjoying our streak of movies without rape.  I guess it was too good to be true.  And we have Irreversible coming up...but I digress.  The directors were certainly influenced Tarantino and Scorsese, although the subject matter was a lot more disturbing than anything either of those men have ever come up with.  Well, most of what they have come up with.

Still worth watching, especially if you have a stronger stomach than me (which is very likely).

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The film was not shut in the Cidade de Deus, as the area is too dangerous.

Leandro Firmino had no acting experience and only went to the audition to keep his friend company.  He was later cast as Ze Pequeno.

968. Rabbit-Proof Fence

Rabbit-Proof Fence
2002
Directed by Phillip Noyce








I haven't been the biggest fan of Australian cinema, but this film blew me away.  Perhaps its not Australian movies I have a problem with, perhaps it's just Peter Weir.  According to the Book, the two are interchangeable.

In 1931, two sisters, Molly and Daisy, and their cousin Gracie live in Jigalong.  The town lies along Australia's rabbit-proof fence, which runs for several thousand of miles.  A.O. Neville, the official Protector of Western Australian Aborigines, sends the girls to a reeducation camp.  He plans to have the girls become domestic servants and eventually marry white men, in hopes of breeding out Aborigine blood.  The girls decide to escape, using the fence as a guide to get back home.

Amazingly, this film was based on a true story, although there is some doubt about the accuracy about the movie.  Some seem to claim that Aborigines were treated better than what was portrayed, others seem to think the film didn't even scratch the surface of what these people went through.  In any case, you have to admit that the girls' courage and determination is truly inspiring.  Frequent readers may know that I have a sister I would follow to the edge of the earth as well, so I felt this film particularly touching.

So a moving story that is beautifully told.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Everlyn Sampi ran away twice during filming.

The world premiere of this film was held in Jigalong.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

967. The Pianist

The Pianist
2002
Directed by Roman Polanski







I know we are supposed to separate the man from the artist, but it is hard for me to get on board with that theory, especially considering the fact that the Academy gave a known rapist a Best Director Oscar.  I guess we can just discuss the film, but I am going on record saying I feel a tad gross about it.

Basically, Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jewish pianist, struggles to survive during World War II.  His family is forced from their home into the Warsaw Ghetto, where Szpilman witnesses unfathomable suffering.  In August of 1942, his family is transported to the Treblinka extermination camp.

Essentially, this is the European Schindler's List and, as you can probably guess, it is upsetting as hell.  It even horrified me enough to do additional research on Treblinka.  If you look up the camp, I would advise having a tab open containing images of baby sloths so you don't drown in your own tears.  I have to, of course, fawn over Adrien Brody.   His performance was truly brilliant and deeply moving.

Obliviously an extremely difficult film to watch, but it is ultimately rewarding.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Roman Polanski's parents were sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust.  His father survived, but his mother did not.  During filming Polanski met a man who helped the Polanski family during the war.

Adrien Brody learned how to play the piano for the film.

966. Uzak

Uzak
2002
Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan







This was an extraordinarily dull film.  I suppose the dullness was intentional.  I think we were supposed to observe the characters' dreary existences and isolation from society and feel some sort of kinship that is hopefully worth the two hour running time.  I can achieve the same goal by simply driving to the local Sheetz (which would only take ten minutes).

Mahmut is a wealthy photographer who lives a pretty aimless life of loneliness and pretension.  His relative, Yusuf, comes to stay with him after losing his job at a factory.  Yusuf is Mahmut's intellectual counterpart and the two do not get along.  And um...that's pretty much it.

Okay, perhaps that wasn't an entirely fair assessment, but man, was I bored.  I am trying to think of some positive insights to share.  I suppose the filmmakers were effective in creating a very distinct environment and mood.  Unfortunately, it just wasn't very compelling.  Maybe it's because I am toward the end of my journey but I seem to be losing patience.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The film Mahmut was watching on television was Tarkovsky's Stalker.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

965. Lantana

Lantana
2001
Directed by Ray Lawrence






I only have about eight movies left that I haven't seen for the Book.  I am kind of getting to the point where I expect all of the remaining films I haven't watched to be terrible, because, otherwise, wouldn't I have been motivated to see them already?  This was actually quite spectacular and I am shocked that I haven't heard anyone mention it before.

The film opens on an unknown woman's body caught in a lantana bush with her shoe missing.  The police officer in charge of the case, Leon, is cheating on his wife, Sonja.  She suspects he is having an affair and frequently visits a therapist, Valerie, to discuss her husband.  Valerie is experiencing marital problems herself after the murder of her only daughter.  She is also having issues with one of her patients, Patrick, who is having an affair with a married man.

Despite hating Magnolia with a preoccupying passion, I do enjoy movies with ensemble casts and interconnecting narratives.  This might be the best I have seen of the batch.  Short Cuts almost had too many characters and too many themes.  This film seemed incredibly focused, exploring the concepts of love and trust without getting too big for its britches.

The ending was a tad unsatisfying, but I suppose it was the best choice.  Barbara Hershey is seriously underutilized.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Antony LaPaglia had to work with a dialect coach to regain his Australian accent, as he had lost it after working on so many American films.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

964. The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings
2001, 2002, 2003
Directed by Peter Jackson








As you could probably tell from previous posts, I am a bit of a nerd.  Consequently, I love the Lord of the Rings.  I even have a map of Middle Earth in my bedroom, which, I assure you, is quite the man magnet.  I also own my own Evenstar Pendant.  You know what, I should probably stop sharing.

The Powers That Be have condensed the trilogy into one entry on the List.  One entry to rule them all...Okay, that one even made me groan.  Regardless, I think this is cheating a bit, as I think Jackson did a brilliant job of making each movie a self contained adventure.  In any case, it is a bit difficult to summarize twelve hours worth of excitement in a short paragraph.  Let's just say even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

So basically, these films (and books) are the best that the fantasy world has to offer.  Obviously the special effects and battle sequences are absolutely spectacular, but I loved the less flashy scenes in this series just as much.  The friendship between the characters is incredibly powerful and I am pretty sure my Best Line Oscar nominations for the 2000s will consist solely of quotes from this film.  I also thought the acting was spectacular but that might just be because I'm in love with half of the cast.

I could go on and on about this series, but I suppose I will end it here by saying that the Lord of the Rings is pretty much perfect.  Also, apparently Viggo Mortensen is a talented swordsman in real life which is...interesting to all of us.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Andy Serkis drank "Gollum juice" (honey, lemon, and ginger) to keep his throat lubricated for his vocal performance.

Gimli's armor weighed 66 pounds.

Kate Winslet was offered the role of Eowyn.

963. The Royal Tenenbaums

The Royal Tenenbaums
2001
Directed by Wes Anderson








If there was one way to guarantee that I will like a movie, it's to include Nico in the soundtrack.  I'm convinced Nico could elevate any crappy film.  Maybe I will play Chelsea Girl over whatever shitty movie the List comes up with next.

I suppose the easiest way of describing this plot is by giving a short rundown on each of the colorful members of the Tenenbaum family.  Royal is the patriarch whose insensitivity and basic awfulness is the main reason that the family is so dysfunctional.  Royal's estranged wife, Etheline, is a successful archaeologist who falls for her accountant.  Royal and Etheline have three children, all of whom were children prodigies who are stalling in their adult life.  The oldest son, Chas is a genius in international finance who is obsessed with his two sons' safety after his wife died in plane crash.  Margot is a wunderkind playwright whose status as "the adopted one" was constantly thrown in her face by her father during her childhood.  Now she is in a seemingly loveless marriage.  Finally, Richie is a tennis prodigy who suffered a nervous breakdown that ended his career.  The family is reunited when Royal gets sick.

I've changed my mind.  That was quite lengthy and there probably was a better way of describing the plot.  Anyway, the film is based on a non existent book that is narrated by Alec Baldwin.  I think this is brilliant; the characters are so rich and detailed that it truly feels as though they have a literary source. Rushmore hinted that Wilson and Anderson possessed comedic brilliance and this film certainly delivered.

So a beautiful film with a kick ass soundtrack.  Definitely deserving of its place on the List.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

The original hawk that was used to play Mordecai was kidnapped and held for ransom during shooting.

Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, and Danny Glover all turned roles in Ocean's Eleven to be in this film.

Monday, June 6, 2016

962. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi

Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Spirited Away
2001
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki








It is currently quite difficult to write, as I have an adorable cat lying on my chest.  I don't have the heart to move her, so I suppose I will try to write this post on my laptop by depending on my typing skills, as I can't really see through the black fur.  I apologize if parts of this entry are unreadable; just know that I sacrificed quality for cuteness, and I don't regret it.

Speaking of cuteness, let's talk about Spirited Away.  Ten year old Chihiro is upset that her family is moving to the suburbs.  On the way to their new home, her parents take a wrong turn and end up in the spirit world.  Her parents eat the food at an abandoned restaurant stall, which transforms them into pigs.  Chihiro meets a boy, Haku, who tells her to ask for a job at the bathhouse.  Is anyone else suspicious?

I sensed something dark about the "bathhouse" but I thought I might just be being paranoid. However,  I did some research and apparently there are hints about prostitution all over the place.  For example, the name of the witch who runs the bathhouse is "Yubaba" which is the word for "madam" in Japanese.  Chihiro is also forced to change her name, which is common in brothels.  So perhaps Chihiro was really kidnapped and sold into prostitution and merely imagined the spirit world as some sort of coping mechanism.  And people think animation is just for children.

Anyway, this is a very beautifully done film.  I thought Princess Mononoke was a bit too "video game-y" to be enjoyed by a large audience, but I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this.  At the very least, the Sootballs are delightful enough to make this film worth your while.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

First anime film to be nominated for (and win) an Academy Award.

961. No Man's Land

No Man's Land
2001
Directed by Danis Tanovic













This is one of the more obscure films on the List.  I couldn't even find a screenshot to use for the post, and I'm not promising that the interesting facts section today will be entirely interesting.  In any case, how often do you get to watch a Bosnian film?  While I was excited to watch a film from a rather underrepresented area, the Bosnian War is one of the most upsetting conflicts to study.  Not to worry.  The Pianist is coming up and will probably lighten the mood.

A group of Bosnian soldiers gets lost in enemy territory.  The group is attacked by Bosnian Serbs, leaving only Ciki and Cera wounded but alive.  Two soldiers from the Serb front check out the trench where their enemy has fallen.  They accidentally activate a bouncing mine, but prevent it from going off by placing Cera's wounded body on the mine.  Now if Cera moves they will all die.  Ciki manages to kill one of the soldiers but only wounds the other Serb, Nino.

The premise sounds more interesting that the actual film.  It almost sounds like it would be similar to Wages of Fear, where you are on the edge of your seat for the entire movie.  Unfortunately, the film loses steam about halfway through.  I wish we could have kept the cast small; this premise actually has the potential to be a pretty decent play.  Once the UN got involved in the story, I felt as though the tension was gone.  It became less of a character study and more of a political statement.  Which is fine, I suppose, but I definitely enjoyed the first half more.

So in the end, one that I am glad to have seen but probably will never watch again.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Won Best Foreign Film Oscar.

960. Safar e Ghandehar

Safar e Ghandehar
Kandahar
2001
Directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf










Well, as you can probably tell from the above photo, this film isn't exactly a bucket of laughs.  Between this and Moulin Rouge I might have to start inserting pictures of puppies to cheer things up around here.

Nafas is a successful reporter who was born in Afghanistan but fled to Canada when she was young.  Her sister, who still lives in Afghanistan, writes her a letter that says she plans to kill herself during the next eclipse.  Nafas tries to get to Kandahar before that happens, but um...Afghanistan isn't exactly a dream location for a female driven road movie.

So this movie is basically a simulation of my worst nightmare.  Sister in peril, oppressive regime, people fighting over artificial limbs...The way women are treated in this film is absolutely horrifying.  Although perhaps the most horrifying thing was that the behavior didn't shock me in the slightest.

The people that need to see a film like this probably never will, so it is up to us poor list schmucks to watch women be terrorized and oppressed.  Almost at the finish line...

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Hassan Tantai played the role of Tabib Sahid.  Tantai killed an Iranian diplomat in 1980 and it is still wanted in the United States.