Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Top 100 - part 6

Top Tier – the Classics
Adaptation (2002) What might have originally been a movie about The Orchid Thief becomes a meditation on adaptation, screenwriting and movies. Hilarious, touching, and thought-provoking.

Almost Famous (2000) One of the most heart-felt coming-of-age stories ever committed to celluloid – in part because it was loosely based on Cameron Crowe’s own experiences. It also captures the fervor and spirit of rock disciples. Ah, to be kidnapped by rock stars.

American Psycho (2000) A tour-de-force performance film. It is darkly hysterical and its take on vacuous consumerism is brilliant. The glossy sheen of the art direction keeps perfectly with the movies themes.

Angels in America (2003) Ok - it's not technically a movie, but it's too brilliant to leave off. One of the finest pieces of art ever made (as a book, play, or miniseries).

Assassination of Jesse James (2007) Stunning cinematography, and a mournful, wistful take on the Western genre. One of the best acting ensembles of the decade.

Bright Star (2009) Jane Campion returns to film with this gorgeous, lush presentation of the love story between Fanny Brawne and her neighbor John Keats, who died at the age of 25. Moody and dreamy, it unfolds like a Keats poem.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) Such an incredibly beautiful film, from the story and writing to the cinematography. There are lots of stories of love conquering all, but few as poignant and truthful of love surpassing all else.

Children of Men (2006) An amazing picture of a dystopian future, where humans have stopped being able to reproduce. Fantastic performances, a remarkable eye for detail, and some of the most astounding camera work around form one of the most overlooked films of the decade.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Charlie Kaufman, the most brilliant screenwriter around, tops himself in an incredibly crazy, poignant take on relationships.

The Fall (2008) The most beautiful film of the decade. Hands down. It was filmed in 28 countries over 4 years and contains no computer imagery, even though that’s hard to believe on a first viewing. An injured stunt man tells stories to a little girl in a hospital and we follow her imagination.

Gosford Park (2001) My favorite Altman. A spin on upstairs/downstairs and the weekend party murder mystery, featuring a stunning assemblage of actors.

Hurt Locker (2009) The best word I can think of to describe this film is immersive. Tense, surprisingly funny, with incredible acting from every person who shows up on screen (hey, was that Guy Pearce? And Ralph Fiennes? And Evangeline Lily?) At heart though, it is an incredible portrait of a soldier who thrives in the dangers of war. Completely brilliant.

In the Bedroom (2001) God, I love this movie. I remember when it was the tiny film that somehow was included in the Best Picture race alongside behemoths like Fellowship of the Ring and Moulin Rouge. At the time, I had zero idea what it was about, although I guessed there was some marital tension between Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek, given the fact that she broke a plate in the ads. I know now that this had to be one of the hardest films ever to market (and not because it wasn’t completely radiant and with marvelous acting from a remarkable cast). Rather, it’s impossible to describe the plot without spoiling the film for new viewers. Suffice to say, the acting is first rate. Go see it based on that knowledge alone.

Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003) What? They’re basically one big film… A story this epic couldn’t be told in less than six hours. Every detail of each of these films was perfectly realized. Never has another world been so wholly created.

Moulin Rouge (2001) Heart-breaking, lush, and with dazzling visuals, Baz Luhrmann updates musicals. The frenetic editing and eye-popping visuals fuse with an aching story of forbidden love for one of the great modern romances.

The New World (2005) A dreamy, impressionistic take on the colonization of America. To me, this movie captures visually one of my favorite pieces of writing ever, from the final pages of the Great Gatsby; “gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”

Pan’s Labyrinth (2007) A young girl escapes the brutality of the Spanish civil war in a fantasy quest. The makeup and effects are terrific, and the story heart-wrenching.

V for Vendetta (2005) As my mother put it, you can’t watch this film and not want to jump up and storm the Bastille afterwards. One of the best graphic novel adaptations ever done, the film drew upon the political paranoia of the Bush years and channeled it into a rousing action film with tremendous performances all around.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2007) A deserving Palme D’Or winner, it paints a devastating portrait of the moral ambiguity of war – in this case, the war of Irish Independence. Brilliant through and through.

Zodiac (2007) Never has a police procedural felt so real. The movie works through the dead-end leads, the slog of phone tips, and the obsession of the trackers and never once loses the urgency of tracking down one of the most notorious serial killers of all time.

(Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. A full list - sans descriptions - coming next)

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