Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Films well worth the time they'll take from your life. (or at least mine)

 I am somewhat of a movie buff, having rediscovered my love for great cinema in part through today's big budget Hollywood blockbusters, and the other factor being HBO. While 5-6 years ago I was not so discriminating in the movies I watched, the internet has proven monumental in changing that mindset. Whereas before I had only three requirements needed to be met for what I consider good movies (I am now terribly ashamed to share what those 3 were), now I thankfully have a greater understanding in the intricacies of this unequaled art form.

 Here now, in no particular order or rank, is a list of my favorite films by far, each followed with a short review/insight that do no justice whatsoever to the enjoyment I've had in watching them. And no, almost none of the films I liked when I was 15 made it here.

INCEPTION- Definitely the best film of 2010 (for me, at least). A remarkable feat in originality, editing and direction. You will never think of sleep in the same way again. Unforgettable performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard and Cillian Murphy. Quite possibly director Christopher Nolan's magnus opus.

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS- This by far is Quentin Tarantino at his best, finally delivering the missing element that I felt was lacking in his other brilliant films.  What that is, I cannot say nor explain. I can simply sum it up like this; it feels complete and solidly put together, something I cannot say with absolute confidence about Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (although both are superb as well.) Oh and yes, Christoph Waltz delivers a cinematic performance that in all probability would never be equaled nor  re-created. Hans Landa ranks high up there in cinema's long line of unforgettable antagonists.

AVATAR- Though much criticized for it's heavy borrowing of themes and premises, I feel that Avatar still has enough depth to be appreciated beyond its stunning and near-overwhelming beauty. Think of it this way; an overbearing storyline would have detracted much from the magnificent visual experience it delivers. And in that experience, words fall short to describe it. I pity those who have not been able to watch it in theaters, and applaud those who did--in 3D; proving that said format is more than just a gimmick to charge higher ticket prices. In a nut-shell, Avatar showed how 3D SHOULD be done, and did so in a bar-setting way that it is likely to be topped only by it's much-awaited sequel.

THE DEPARTED-  I confess not being much of a fan of Martin Scorsese's early works. However, it is important to remember that he started waaaay early, and that his films were reflections of society during those times. One film that I can easily say I have thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish is this 2006 masterpiece. Brilliant performances from its lead stars give unparalleled intensity in its story's nail-biting, and ultimately shocking unfolding. A must-watch for anyone who loves police/crime dramas laced with varying degrees of moral gray areas and dilemmas.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE- Stanley Kubrick, while not one of my favorite directors, is undeniably talented. His 1971 film features a bleak look at a futuristic, totalitarian Britain. Its protagonist, (or technically anti-hero) the sociopath Alex, is just about every generation's worst fears about youth realized. The amazing themes implied on human freedom, it's nature, and government "protection" make this film great fodder for sociology conversations, (whether they be professional or not; drunk or sober).

REQUIEM FOR A DREAM- As far as anti-drug PSA's put on film are concerned, no other film I can recall cautions its viewers quite like this one. Darren Aronofsky's manic directorial style, coupled with the (infamously) haunting soundtrack provides a morbid, yet not totally unrealistic view about human addictions-- and it's nasty consequences. Topped off with insanely believable performances from its lead cast, this is a film you will not soon forget--nor watch again too soon.

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND- While it starts off slowly and mundanely, the masterful flow and direction soon all make sense in its intense and unforgettable climax. The inter-twining of the character's lives, along with the revelations made along the way, are believable and engaging, despite the technology described being not. This is one of those films that provides a weird, unexplainable, but not unpleasant feeling after the credits roll. This is how love stories should be made, not the sappy, trying-too-hard crap we usually get today.    

MEMENTO- Christopher Nolan's 2000 film shows glimmers of the director's budding brilliance, managing to achieve what most films do not-- and that is telling a story backwards while being engaging and making sense. While not perfectly paced, nor logical in its premise (spoiler alert: how does one with anterograde amnesia remember that he HAS anterograde amnesia?) it is nonetheless attention worthy and thought-provoking. The big reveals and unpredictable chain of events make this a story unlike any other.

CITIZEN KANE- Ah yes, the grand daddy. The kingpin. The gold standard. No greatest movie list is complete without this film popping up, and any self-respecting movie buff knows why. For starters, this movie was made nearly 70 years ago. The amazing thing is, it still holds up well to today's lofty, albeit dumbed-down standards. The story-telling is that good. The dialogue is majestic poetry on screen. The performances, while a tad different from what we're used to (it was a different time) is nothing to be scoffed at. Truly, a classic work is timeless, and this film has proved it time and time again to each succeeding generation of film lovers.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK- While some have gone so far as to call David Fincher's 2010 drama film as the "Citizen Kane" of our generation, I would say that it is not totally undeserved. This film is a triumph in traditional film-making, despite it's new-age, modern setting. I say so because to make a movie this good with nothing but great writing, spot-on delivery, tweaked realism and uncluttered, focused direction work provides hope for the next generation of filmmakers; it's that a good movie need not have explosions, fake-looking CGI and cringe-worthy performances to entertain. Jesse Eisenberg surprises with an iconic performance I never imagined he was capable off. Think of it as Michael Cera on awkwardness-inducing steroids with a good dash of Bill Gates thrown it. His character is that unique.  

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION- An often under-remembered film in a year of great cinema (it competed against two other memorable films; namely Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction) it is, in my opinion the best of the three. While Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction have since become iconic films frequently referred to in pop culture, Shawshank Redemption's tale of keeping hope alive in a hopelessly dire situation is one best remembered in times of personal conflicts, and thus, holds a special place in the hearts of anyone who has watched it. While it is criticized for indeliberately romanticising prison culture, it still has its dark, completely plausible moments, all of which make its final redemptive closure all the more spectacular and unforgettably inspiring. A stunning victory for inspirational films, it deserves just as much attention as the others it has competed with in the 94' Oscars.

Well, this is it for now. I have too many great movies to list in one post, so expect to see more of my favorite films in succeeding entries. I sincerely hope you get to watch all of films mentioned above, as I assure you, time spent watching them is time utterly well-spent.

Bye for now.

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