Posts Tagged ‘Rian Johnson’

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Top 50 Films of the Decade: Pt. 2 (40-31)

December 27, 2009

The next ten in the list of the films I thoroughly enjoyed this past decade.

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40. CORALINE (2008) – An intricate stop-motion animated film that is dark, sly and astounding. A modern-day Grimm fairy tale filled with eccentric characters and a plucky young heroine. Just thinking about how many puppets it took to create the jumping mice circus blows me away.

39. AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000) – Christian Bale once again plays it to the hilt as the narcissistic serial killer, Patrick Bateman, whose paranoia starts to damage his mannered calm. Coming so soon after Fight Club may have diminished the film’s 3rd Act twist, but it doesn’t keep this film from having an impact. Who can forget the scene where he prepares to dismember a victim to Huey Lewis and the News, or his obsession over a rival’s business card?

38. THE WRESTLER (2008) – The most amazing special effect in this film is Mickey Rourke’s beefy body. His casting comes with an eerie resonance since it’s about a past-his-prime performer trying to stay relevant. I can overlook Rachel Evan Wood’s thankless underwritten role mainly because of his astounding and heartbreaking performance. His self-punishment is intense, visceral and compounded by his desire to relive the glory of his younger days. Devastating.

37. BRICK (2005) – Rian Johnson’s first film is dense with vernacular and mannered camera work that recalls the Coen Brothers earliest films. This is the kind of movie my film school would have frowned upon but that’s not the only reason why I hold it in such high regard. Joseph Gordon Levitt sheds his goofy tv persona to become a film actor.

36. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006) – Breathtaking single-take action sequences punctuate Alfonso Cuaron’s distopian view of the near-future where infertility has numbered the days of humanity — until Clive Owen’s character is tasked to care for the last pregnant woman. Nearly perfect until the last shot hits the nail on the head to bluntly, it’s still a thrilling film to watch.

35. MATCH POINT (2005) – Woody Allen finds a new muse (Scarlett Johanssan) and films in a different country (England) and creates a controlled, suspenseful, thriller that actually has you rooting for Jonathan Rhys-Meyers despite his infidelity and manipulative nature. It’s the least Woody Allen film that still deals with Woody Allen themes. With this one film he almost manages to make me forgive him for dreck like Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

34. SEXY BEAST (2001) – Speaking of astounding performances, I must be a sucker for ham because Ben Kingsley turns it upside down as the sociopathic gangster Don Logan. This film defies the “one more heist” gangster genre and presents a middle-aged man past his prime and willing to do what it takes to maintain his retired lifestyle.

33. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: DIRECTOR’S CUT (2005) – Ridley Scott’s misunderstood epic was neutered for its theatrical release. Thank god for DVD — many scenes fleshing out characters and a very important suplot involving Eva Green and her son are restored, explaining her diminished presence in the third act. Far more satisfying than Gladiator.

32. HEIST (2001) – No one does sleight of hand better than Mamet, and this is his most accomplished film to date. Still mannered and obsessed with creating its own vernacular, and yet it still manages to elevate the con genre. “Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it ‘Money’!”

31. IRON MAN (2008) – This was a surprise and a joy to watch. Jon Favreau takes the Batman Begins approach and gets beneath the armor to give us Tony Stark, played with utter command and dashing derring-do by Robert Downey Jr. One of the best casting choices alongside Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. And while the movie’s third act grinds down into good-guy/bad-guy rock ’em sock ’em CGI robot clash, it’s still one of the best super-hero movies ever.

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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.