Posts Tagged ‘Gilliam’


Top 50 Films of the Decade: Pt. 1 (50-41)

December 21, 2009

I will attempt to list my favorite top 50 films of the past 10 years. Be assured that this list is not an attempt at snobbery — these are my personal favorites of the films I’ve seen.

However, I have certainly skipped over many notable critically acclaimed films (I should absolutely expand my current movie-watching tastes to include more indie and international films), and if I should see something that would make me reassess this list, then so I shall.

Anyway, in the next five days I will countdown my list until I reach my numero uno on Christmas Eve. Until then, we start with the first ten — 50-41.

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50. LOST IN LA MANCHA (2002) – A documentary every filmmaker must see. Everything that can go wrong on a film set goes wrong thus lending credence to the idea that Terry Gilliam is either cursed or this is just normal for any film shoot or both.

49. BEFORE SUNSET (2004) – I was not a fan of Before Sunrise so this really floored me. Both actors are excellent and the ending reaches for the sublime.

48. GRIZZLY MAN (2005) – A heart-rending cautionary tale explored by the warmest eccentric that you’d love to have as your Uncle or be the guy to pull you out of a car wreck, Werner Herzog. The restraint and responsibility he shows to the subject is as fascinating as the subject himself.

47. THE NEW WORLD (2005) – Practically ignored both times it was released (long artsy cut and shorter artsy cut) this lyrical take on the conquest of the Americas and its natives is not short of beauty and emotion. One of Colin Farrell’s best performances (alongside In Bruges).

46. UNITED 93 (2006) – Harrowing and haunting. I only needed to see it once to know it would end up on a list like this. It’s realistic and straight-forward depiction of the events aboard this flight belies Hollywood fakery and melodrama and creates the best memorial for those that died.

45. EASTERN PROMISES (2007) – Scorcese has DiCaprio, Scott has Crowe, and Cronenberg has Mortenson. While most will cite A History of Violence on their list, I found this film to be more consistent in tone. It clearly shows a master at the peak of his craft as he continues exploring the theme of two worlds colliding. The fight scene in the Russian bath house is a stand out and ranks as one of the best fight scenes alongside the hallway fight in Oldboy.

44. RESCUE DAWN (2006) – Herzog dramatizes his previous doc Little Dieter Needs To Fly about a downed American pilot who is captured in Laos and eventually plots his escape with the aid of other POWs. The character’s optimism and daring in the face of desperate odds says much about the human will to survive, but the main selling point is the incredible cast. Christian Bale plays against type as the optimistic Dieter (a bit like Dignan from Bottle Rocket); he is joined by Steve Zahn (also playing against type) and the always fun-to-watch Jeremy Davies (playing to type, but that’s what I want).

43. GERRY (2002) – Forsaking Hollywood to reinvent himself, Gus Van Sant strips away everything — narrative, dramatic artifice — to give us two character who get lost in a desert. Never has two people wandering and mumbling to themselves been so thrilling. The best of his “Death” trilogy.

42. THE BROTHERS BLOOM (2008) – Rian Johnson’s sophomore effort dazzles with verve, style and wit. Mark Ruffalo and Adrian Brody play the title characters, both con artists out for the last big score that involves an eccentric rich woman (Rachel Weisz). The editing and visual storytelling are thrilling, reminiscent of Wes Anderson. And that is a good thing.

41. PLANET TERROR / MACHETE (2007) – Robert Rodriguez makes the zombie film John Carpenter should have made. Thrilling, self-referential and gooey, this film — and its companion trailer for Machete — pays off its set-up ten times over. It has the best third-act edit ever and the yummy Marley Shelton.

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Agree? Disagree? Let me know! I also welcome any guesses as to my Top 10.


The Brothers Grimm Are Delightful Company

November 5, 2008

d. Terry Gilliam 

Terry Gilliam once again proves to be a director of such a strong singular vision that you can immediately tell when you’re watching one of his films. This time he is ably assisted by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the title characters.

The film tells the story of the Brothers Grimm and how they traverse French-occupied Germany (ho ho!) bamboozling superstitious peasants by pretending to exorcise supernatural witches and beastie that haunt their villages.

It isn’t until they are captured by the French (Jonathan Pryce) and forced to investigate the disappearance of several children do they come across the real deal — an ages old queen (the voluptuous Monica Belucci, playing evil deliciously) who, in a bid for immortality, got the extended lifespan but not the beauty; she therefore has a werewolf kidnap the children for their blood.

The Brothers Grimm, initially in over their heads, rise to the occasion with the help of an exiled huntress (a gorgeous Lena Headey) who discovers a familial bond with the Queen’s lycanthropic servant.

The movie plays to the strengths of Terry Gilliam’s cynical dark humour and displays the typical attention to minutiae in the sets and costumes that he is known for. He gets great performances from both Damon and Ledger, acknowledging in his commentary that they played parts against type. Ledger is especially fun to watch as he plays the more shy and introverted Jake to Damon’s bullying and slick Will.

The supporting cast also gets some great actors. Jonathan Pryce is always fun to watch, and Peter Stormare as an Italian torturer gets some good bits as well.

He also does a great job conflating several folktale characters to create new but recognizable archetypes — Belucci’s queen collapses elements of The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, et al.; we also see a young girl with a Red Riding Cape (har har!), two of the village children are Hansel and Greta, etc. He makes a fun way of acknowledging the source material, while twisting it for his own needs, all the while chortling with mischief.

Perhaps my only complaint is that Lena Headey is way too gorgeous to be believable as a woodsperson, but whatever.

So while this is good Terry Gilliam, it’s not great Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys), but I’ll take it. *** stars.