Saturday, February 17, 2007

6 Additional Outstanding Films

The New World (2005): From "Badlands" to "Days of Heaven" and "The Thin Red Line," Terrence Malick is a sure bet. This movie, deceptively named The "New" World, chronicles the world that pre-existed colonial America. I was a bit worried about Colin Farrell being cast as Captain Smith, but he actually did an impressive job. This film's mood is a mixture of "The Thin Red Line" and "Aguirre: Wrath of God," and really put me in a type of trance. The directing and writing are sparse, quiet, and make the viewer fully aware that the grand landscape surrounding the characters is just as much a part of the story.

Children of Men (2006): If you can get past the somewhat hokey way in which the film was marketed—women are no longer infertile and the world has gone insane—this movie is quite an achievement. The one thing you must do is accept the premise and let the director take control. Alfonso Cuaron’s film is a mix between a documentary, Julie Taymor’s rendition of “Titus,” and a tamer version of "Mad Max." Julianne Moore seemed a bit out of place here, but Clive Owen, who I only really remember from a film called “Gosford Park,” more than made up for it. Cuaron’s mix of documentary-style camera work, amazing set design, and mind-boggling 9 minute one-take action sequences make this film a technical achievement in and of itself.

Bubble (2005): Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble" is an experiment on many levels. It was released in theatres and on Mark Cuban's cable station HDNet at the same time. And it was also released on DVD a few days later. The film was boycotted by a number of theatres because they were afraid that simultaneous release on broadcast and DVD media would cut into their profits. It's a shame this film didn't get a wider release because it is quite good. There are no trained actors that I can discern, just people from the town in which the movie was filmed. The film is quite eerie; it takes place in a doll factory and the story takes quite some time to unfold. But the lead performance by Dustin James Ashley is fascinating because its effortless. The film is shot in HD, which although looks grainy and washed out, is a welcome change. However, someone needs to tell Soderbergh that he should shell out for some boom mics because the sound is quite muffled at times.

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006): A companion piece to "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006), this film unflinchingly captures the battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. This film does not reinvent a genre in the way "Saving Private Ryan" did. This flm was simple and quite straightforward. At a few points the movie lacked clarity, and I think it had something to do with the screenplay itself. I also question the soundtrack a bit; it could have used some Asian music instead of the decidedly American/European sounding piano. Nonetheless, Eastwood is the American master and to see him at the top of his game at this age is something to cherish. He is easily more gifted than Scorsese, and is perhaps second only to Kubrick.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005): This movie completely surprised me with its unique cinematography, pacing, and very clever dialogue. The movie, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, unfolded slowly, but buit up momentum and kept me captivated. The story was deceptively simple: Tommy Lee Jones' character is a rancher and befriends a cowboy, an illegal alien, who is needlessly killed by a Border Patrolman, played by Barry Pepper. Tommy Lee Jones abducts the officer and both go on a journey across the border to bury this man in his home town in Mexico. This movie felt like it was a David Lynch film.

Apocalypto (2006): So what if Mel Gibson is insane? Gibson knows how to tell a story and to make a movie so engrossing that your heartrate escalates as the tension builds. Gibson is quite underrated as a film maker and this film is no exception to Gibson's fascination with graphic violence. This movie was a huge gamble--about a culture that most people don't know about, with actors nobody knows, and in a language nobody understands. But we quickly understand out that the movie isn't as foreign as we might think. It's about survival, courage, endurance, and family. The most lasting impression this high-octane film had on me was that it successfully created an entire tangible, textured, and amazingly grand world without relying on too many gaudy special effects.


Anonymous said...

i can't stand colin ferell, but he was alright in the new world. i don't think i understood that movie.

i love the great movie list by the way, how long did it take you to create that?

Anonymous said...

the scene in children of men were the army was attacking that building was insane. there wasn't one ridiculous explosion like they always have in the movies. things just exploded with ashy smoke, not fire. made it much more believable. great blog, what's the movie list the last person was talking about? how do i get that?

A.H. Rajani said...

anonymous and jarod,

I created the movie list in high school when I started going through the AFI's top 100 films. I figured I'd just keep it going and make a list of films that I really enjoyed. It's at about 530 movies now.

At home I have one of these lists printed out and I also have a few blank pages attached to it where if i hear the name of a good movie or something is recommended to me, i jot it down so that i remember what to see when i get some free time. it's like my own personal netflix queue.

You can find a link to the list on my homepage on the top right side. let me know if you can't find it.