Friday, February 24, 2006

My Top 5 movies of the year

Maggie says:
Thinking movies tonight... again. Oscar season is heating up and I'm itching for March 5. There are going to be some tough choices that night; it makes me nervous just thinking about it. (While it's on my mind, check out this great article on the Supporting Actress category if you're a movie nut, too.)

I really love and respect lots of the nominated movies this time around. For the first time in a long time, I feel like the Academy finally nailed this year's nominations (I still cringe when I recall that Gladiator actually won Best Picture in 2000). Every category is stacked with incredible films and incredible performances, and I feel truly lucky to be a moviegoer this year. If only every year were like this!

That said, here are the films that I personally liked the best this year, the ones that affected me personally and touched me on the level that movies really should.

  • Brokeback Mountain. It's almost cliche to include this film because it's on everyone's list this year and is almost certain to win Best Picture. But it's gotta be on my list, because it was so beautiful and powerful and poignant, and quietly so. This movie captures love, longing, repression, duty, and appearances so damn well. It has the quietest moments in it, moments of such beauty and intensity that in a dark theater I felt like I couldn't breathe as I watched them happen. A movie that takes your breath away just by the look in someone's eyes is a remarkable accomplishment.
  • The Squid and the Whale - Loved this one for so many reasons. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are amazing. The kids blow me away. It's about what it means to be a parent, a spouse, a child, a sibling, and a friend. How do you manage all that when you imagine yourself brilliant (or purposefully not) and there are books to read and write and tennis matches to play? How do we act out what we can't talk about? What is the moment when we begin to see through someone for the first time? What about when we first see through ourselves? "My brotha" and "philistine" are used geniously here. And the soundtrack and the pure '80s intelligencia of it are perfect.
  • Hustle & Flow - On Charlie Rose, Terence Howard explained that the director of the film, Craig Brewer, kept hounding him to take the role, but Howard wanted nothing to do with a hustler pimp. Brewer finally got him to read the script with this line: "If there's a lie on one page, you never have to talk to me again." And that's exactly why this film is so good. It defies every single easy stereotype you might imagine a film about a pimp would exploit. It's honest. It reeks of this absolutely Southern thang, this Memphis spirit and feel, without being "A Southern Movie." It couldn't have been made anywhere else and feel this way. It's true. And Terence Howard is just amazing to watch here, with a supporting cast that never stops.
  • Junebug - This movie just touches me. I wrote earlier that watching it was the first time I've ever heard a real Eastern NC accent on film (don't even get me started on the intricacies of the Eastern NC accent!), which is portrayed by the elusive artist who's the cause of the movie's family reunion. But this movie is waaaaay more than that. It's a secret snapshot of a family with problems it won't confront, brothers torn apart by potential, what it means to leave home and become an outsider, the differences between our public bravado and private insecurities, and how elusive trust can sometimes be. Amy Adams is incredible, incredible, incredible in her role. She's this force of a girl who's pregnant and cheery and excited by newness and beside herself with her enthusiasm for her new sister-in-law with the most truthful breath of fresh air I think I've ever seen. She nails what it is to be a cheerful person yet to struggle internally with doubt, to love your in-laws with the same force they brush you aside with, to believe in your husband despite all evidence you should not, to force yourself to be excited about a happy future and only cry about the past a little bit, at night, when you're alone. Oh, man. See this.
  • The Constant Gardener - The funny thing about this movie is that the first time I watched it, it lost me about halfway through. It just wasn't the right time, or mood, or something. But I watched the end of it the next day and immediately rewatched the entire thing, in shock that I wasn't completely captivated from the start. The great things about this movie are the marriage of Justin and Tessa, the politics at the root of the story, Rachel Weisz, and director Fernando Meirelles. In the commentary, it's noted that Justin is a man who "accidentally married his conscience." That line nails it. This is a man steeped in caution and incrementalism, yet Tessa is a force of nature, an activist who respects Justin's careful nature as much as she refuses to budge from her passionate stance on life. That balance is remarkable to watch, as is the structure of the movie that really allows us to fall in love with Tessa as Justin discovers just who he married. Rachel Weisz is really remarkable here, she just is. And as a lesson in the ugly world of pharmaceutical industries using poor countries as testing grounds, it's devastating. To me, no one could bring this together more than Fernando Meirelles, who also directed City of God. I think it takes someone from a poor country himself, from a place routinely used and abused by foreign powers and corporate entities to see this picture as a whole. Where other directors would see poverty, Meirelles sees vibrancy. Where other directors would see faceless residents in shacks, Meirelles sees communities of strength. Where other directors would see Africa as sand and darkness, Meirelles sees it with the most vibrant colors you can imagine. This movie becomes an absolutely riveting story of a relationship born again in its destruction, a global horror story told in the smallest, most personal of ways.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

did you read the piece about rachel weisz in sunday's nytimes?

"She fought to get the part, flying at her own expense to London to meet with the director, Fernando Meirelles, and then writing him long personal letters during the five months of casting. "I was passionate about this project," said Weisz, who was perhaps best known in films for playing the brainy, beautiful archaeologist love interest in "The Mummy." "Parts like Tessa don't come along very often. It was agony waiting to hear because it meant so much to me."

3:55 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

On 'Charlie Rose' she said that the main reason she thinks Meirelles finally cast her was because in real life she was acting so much like Tessa, the woman she wanted to play, in her quest to get the role.

4:24 PM  
Blogger mjae said...

The marketing on Constant Gardener made me NOT see it. The previews made it look like just another "gotta rescue my girl" quest for some sappy, testosterone-hopped-up adrenaline junky husband. The way it was presented, I was shocked Harrison Ford didn't get the role.

But everything I've heard AFTERward makes me think I really missed out. Why didn't they play up the corporate corruption angle? The great director angle?

Sometimes Hollywood really pisses me off. Cutting off MY nose to spite their face.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Tessa is murdered in the opening scene of the movie. No saving her there...

Marketing choices are really strange sometimes. This plot is fairly complicated so I bet the decision to not get into it that much was made for that reason. Maybe they couldn't figure out which way to go with it...

Anyway, you should rent it!

11:54 AM  

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