About Me

Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Little Movies I've Loved, part 4

126. The Band’s Visit (Members of an Egyptian police band find themselves lost in Israel – and manage to make connections with a few of the locals and make peace with each other. Melancholy with little bits of hope. Wonderfully and naturally acted.)
127. The Visitor (Written and directed by the guy who gave us “The Station Agent,” this is another lovely story about lonely people. Richard Jenkins is subtly amazing in the lead role of a man who is emotionally dead until he finds squatters – illegal aliens – living in his rarely used NY apartment. A sweet tale of the transformative power of friendships and finding love where you least expect it.)
128. Young @ Heart (Documentary about senior citizens – several of them sick and dying – who rehearse and perform songs by much younger musicians. David Bowie’s “Golden Years” has new meaning when sung by octogenarians. A flawed movie – we have no idea what made the chorus founder/director Bob Cilman devote his life to this elderly bunch – but such a wonderful story.
129. Jellyfish (Beautifully shot Israeli movie that gives us a snapshot of three lonely women as their paths intersect. Some elements of magical realism – is the little girl who emerges from the ocean real or imagined? – and performances so real that these women don’t even seem like actresses.
130. The Rape of Europa (Joan Allen-narrated documentary about more “innocent victims” (as someone in the film calls them) of WWII – priceless works of art looted by the Nazis.
131. Boy A (A Scottish movie filmed in bleak, washed-out tones that tells the story of a young man just released from a juvenile detention center who is trying to rebuild a life that never fully got started. We learn his back story, including the story of the crime that landed him in jail, in flashbacks. His relationships with his empathetic social worker and his first-ever girlfriend will make you smile. But, his transition back to the real world may ultimately prove to be impossible …)
132. JCVD (Jean Claude Van Damme stars as himself in a movie that pokes fun of our obsession with celebrity and humanizes the much-maligned action hero. JCVD winds up in the wrong place – a bank – at the wrong time – during a robbery in which hostages are taken. The public and cops have reason to suspect HE is the perp of the robbery, and his fans who gather outside the bank want their hero released – even if he is guilty of armed robbery.)
133. Tell No One This multilayered French thriller plays out a little like “The Fugitive,” as more and more people grow suspicious that our protagonist, a gentle pediatrician, murdered his wife eight years ago. But, there’s more than that ongoing chase. The pediatrician begins getting e-mails with real-time video that seem to point to his wife being alive. He’s got to get to the bottom of that mystery – and before he is framed for an eight-year-old murder as well as a more recent murder (yet another subplot!) or is killed himself. Subtitled.
134. Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days A feature film with the gritty look and extended camera shots more common to a documentary. Set in bleak, communist Romania in the late 1980s, the film focuses on a college girl “in trouble” at a time when abortion was illegal. The real star of the film is the clueless girl’s friend and roommate, who is almost a Christ figure in the lengths she goes to in order to help. You feel as if you’re not watching acting – but watching a real life drama unfold before your eyes. Subtitled.
135. Happy-Go-Lucky Mike Leigh wrote and directed this treatise on the art (and pitfalls) of being eternally happy. The protagonist is oblivious that her insistence on staying happy may be misread by others. She is unable to convert her misanthropic driving instructor to her happy-go-lucky ways. And, in fact, meeting her may have made him more miserable.

Little Movies I've Loved, part 3

101. Real Women Have Curves (a Mexican-American mother and daughter at odds over education, life – and the daughter’s weight.)
102. Y Tu Mama Tambien (translates as “And Your Mama, Too.” Coming of age story with lots and lots of s-x that is actually necessary to the plot. Surprising life lessons learned on a road trip.)
103. Winged Migration (Documentary about the magnificence of birds in flight.)
104. The Taste of Others (In French, with English subtitles. 2001 Oscar nominee for best foreign language film … about good taste and bad taste, wanting to acquire a taste for the arts and how we can never really know the desires and motivations of others, even those closest to us.)
105. Shattered Glass (Hayden Christiansen stars as the compulsive liar/wunderkind who fabricates stories at The New Republic.)
106. Touching the Void (Docudrama about two mountain-climbing friends in the Andes tethered together, when one breaks his leg – in the middle of a white-out – and the other must decide if he can possibly save himself and his friend. A nearly unbelievable story about survival instinct and the will to live.)
107. Buffalo Soldiers (Saw this story about unsavory, amoral U.S. soldiers at the same time the photos of abuses in the Iraqi prisons came to light, which gave it even more weight. Joaquin Phoenix is a bored (but not boring), intriguing, loathsome, yet watchable character on a U.S. base in Germany during peacetime.)
108. Blood Simple (early Coen brothers, with adultery, murder-for-hire and lots of plot twists.)
109. Osama (What could be worse than being a girl in Al Quada-run Afghanistan?)
110. The Fog of War (Robert McNamara reflects on his tenure as Secretary of Defense during Vietnam.)
111. Bad Education (Gael Garcia Bernal stars in a Pedro Almodovar gender-bending film noire.)
112. The Machinist (Christian Bale lost a scary 60 lbs. to play the sleep-deprived, skeletal factory worker who’s haunted by something – but what?)
113. Vera Drake (A kindly woman in 1950s London “helps young girls out” – and she and her family pay a price.)
114. The Sea Inside (Javier Bardem deserved – but didn’t get – an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Ramon Sampredro, a quadriplegic who fought for the right to die with dignity. Based on a true story.)
115. Melinda and Melinda (Woody Allen tells the same story from a tragic and comic perspective. As always, Manhattan looks gorgeous!)
116. Dear Frankie (Sweet story of a mother who stays on the move to protect her son – you find out late in the film why – and the sailor/adventurer father she forges letters from to keep her boy happy.)
117. Paperclips (Documentary about middle schoolers in a white-bread Tennessee community who study the Holocaust as a way to understand the dangers of prejudice. When they can’t comprehend the number 6 million (the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust), they decide to collect 6 million paperclips. Wonderful.)
118. The Edukators (German with subtitles. Two twentysomethings want to get under the skin of the upper class. The break into their plush homes, rearrange the furniture and leave notes with messages such as, “Your days of plenty are numbered.” Then, a young woman – the girlfriend of one – wants in on the fun. And, it all unravels …)
119. Water (An 8-year-old widow in India is forced to live out her days in a home for widows. Touching, sad and ultimately uplifting.)
120. Match Point (Woody Allen muses on the nature of luck. Even the irritating Scarlett Johnasson couldn’t ruin a film this good.)
121. Why We Fight (A documentary that makes the case that the U.S. – thanks to the military/industrial complex Eisenhower warned about – cannot afford NOT to fight.)
122. Tsotsi (A young hoodlum in the South African slums steals a baby – by mistake – during a carjacking and discovers his own humanity.)
123. House of Sand (NOT to be confused with “House of Sand and Fog.” This Brazilian movie is about so many things: familial ties, acceptance of fate, making something out of nothing/creating a sense of community where there is none, the meaning of ‘home.’ Slow in parts, but with a HUGE payoff.)
124. No End in Sight (And, indeed there is no end in sight to the Iraq War we started. If you don’t already think W is the biggest dolt to ever “lead” our country, this documentary will make you believe. We destroyed an entire country – eradicated their history, emasculated their men and stood by and watched it all happen. Shame on us.)
125. A Man Named Pearl (As feel-good as “No End in Sight” is feel-bad. A documentary about a man who simply wanted to win “Yard of the Month” in his neighborhood and ended up, quite possibly, saving his town. Even horticulture experts are at a loss to explain why some of the plants are able to thrive in a climate they should die in. Pearl Fryars would probably tell you it’s just God’s will.)

Little Movies I've Loved, part 2

52. Girlfight
53. Dancer in the Dark
54. Best in Show
55. This is Spinal Tap
56. Waiting for Guffman
57. Lovers of the Arctic Circle (The paths of a couple who first meet and fall in love during childhood keep crossing … will they ever live happily ever after?)
58. East is East
59. Hard Eight
60. Broken Hearts Club
61. Felicia’s Journey
62. State and Main
63. Like Water for Chocolate
64. Manchurian Candidate (Original version with Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra.)
65. Requiem for a Dream
66. Traffic (OK, not such a little movie …)
67. The Five Senses
68. Bring It On
69. The House of Mirth
70. The Dish (delightful … feel-good … Neil Armstrong lands on the moon, and the people in Parkes, Australia go gaga over their role in this historic event.)
71. The Castle (as in, “A man’s home is his …” – even if it’s a lean-to by the airport …by the same writer/director as The Dish … very funny.)
72. House of Games (Who can you trust? Virtually no one in David Mamet’s world.)
73. With a Friend like Harry
74. The Anniversary Party
75. Sexy Beast
76. Truly Madly Deeply (Like “Ghost,” but so much better, b/c Alan Rickman rocks.)
77. Under the Sand (Charlotte Rampling, crazy with grief, cannot let go of her no-longer-there husband. Did he commit suicide? Did he leave her, without a trace? Was he kidnapped? She remains convinced that he is still very much with her, and shuns her friends and a suitor who want her to forget.)
78. The Deep End (How far would you go to protect your child?)
79. Faithless (Ingmar Bergman script; Directed by Liv Ullman – An old director conjures up a woman from his past ... a woman discovers the horrible repercussions of her infidelity. As hard to watch as a war movie.)
80. The King is Alive (People hopelessly stranded in African desert slowly go mad as they rehearse and perform King Lear.)
81. In the Bedroom
82. Iris
83. Following (first movie by Christopher Nolan, who directed Memento)
84. Monsoon Wedding
85. Panic (William H. Macy wants out of the family business. His father, Donald Sutherland, can’t quite let him do that – because they’re in the murder-for-hire business. Dark, yet funny in places.)
86. Frailty (Bill Paxton directs and stars. Eerie tale with a Sixth Sense-like ending.)
87. Lantana (Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey and an ensemble cast of Australians … about marriage, infidelity, death and its aftermath for survivors. Four plot lines going at the same time, and none seem connected until the death brings all plots and characters together. Easy to follow, unlike some complicated stories. Most everyone is flawed, but not in the way you think. Full of surprises.)
88. Nine Queens (Buenos Aires setting for a Mametesque con game tale.)
89. Late Marriage (Israeli film about a 31-year-old ne’er-do-well who won’t take any of the brides his parents keep finding for him b/c he’s happily having an affair with a 34-year-old divorcee with a child. When his parents find out, they’ll have none of it …)
90. My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding
91. Kissing Jessica Stein (The scene where Jessica’s mother subtly lets her know that her new lifestyle choice is OK is one of my favorites in any movie, ever.)
92. Shallow Grave (Early Ewan McGregor … scary!)
93. Proof (early Russell Crowe … a blind photographer alienates everyone he encounters b/c he insists on proof that people are trustworthy.)
94. The Princess & The Warrior (Tom Tykwer – director of Run, Lola, Run – directs this haunting story about fate and longing. Much of the action takes place inside a mental hospital. Eerie and wonderful, and a great soundtrack, to boot.)
95. Freeway (Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland in a twisted, redneck take on “Little Red Riding Hood.” I still laugh about the “Well, look who got hit by the ugly stick” scene.)
96. The Quiet American
97. The Last Kiss (Italian. Almost 30-something men who don’t want to grow up and the women who put up with them.)
98. In the Mood for Love (Chinese. Gorgeous music, gorgeous lead actress. Perfectly paced, melancholy tale of two people who love each other but can’t be together.)
99. The Grey Zone (Holocaust drama – but the first to show prisoners to be flawed characters.)
100. A Mighty Wind (“Never did no wand’rin’ …” Skewers the folk music movement … by the geniuses who gave the world “Spinal Tap,” “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show.”)

Little Movies I've Loved, part 1

1. The Sweet Hereafter
2. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (documentary)
3. In the Company of Men
4. Kiss or Kill
5. Two Girls and a Guy (Robert Downey, Jr. gets caught two-timing.)
6. Sunday
7. Wings of the Dove
8. Love & Death on Long Island
9. Breaking the Waves
10. When We Were Kings (documentary: Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle)
11. Daytrippers (Parker Posey, Hope Davis, Liev Schreiber, Ann Meara …)
12. Microcosmos (Who knew insects were this fascinating?)
13. Shall We Dance? (Please note: The ORIGINAL Japanese version, not the J. Lo remake.)
14. Jackie Brown
15. Ma Vie en Rose
16. Déjà vu * (A couple keeps barely missing each other …)
17. Spanish Prisoner (Plot twists and turns from David Mamet)
18. The Opposite of Sex
19. Smoke Signals
20. Next Stop: Wonderland
21. Whatever
22. Without Limits
23. Prefontaine
24. The Governess
25. Happiness
26. Gods & Monsters (Ian McKellan and Lynn Redgrave both ROBBED of Oscars …)
27. Affliction
28. Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels
29. Hilary & Jackie
30. Little Voice
31. October Sky
32. Rushmore
33. Waking Ned Devine
34. 20 Dates
35. Election
36. Go *
37. My Son the Fanatic
38. Limbo (John Sayles directs … Kris Kristofferson, M.E. Mastrantonio, David Straitharn)
39. Run, Lola, Run
40. Buena Vista Social Club (documentary: Cuban musicians)
41. Cinema Paradiso (** all-time fave **)
42. Babette’s Feast
43. Bend
44. Twin Falls, Idaho
45. The Big Tease (International hairdressing championship – ‘nuff said)
46. The Big Kahuna (Kevin Spacey)
47. Flawless
48. The Winslow Boy
49. Croupier
50. Eyes of Tammy Faye
51. Insomnia (The original version!)