Click through for the next installment.
40. United 93 (2006)
It takes guts to make a movie about the four terrorists that took over United Flight 93 and plagued us Americans with a day we won’t ever forget. No doubt that Paul Greengrass would have to climb an uphill battle to get this movie the way he wanted it to look but he does the film justice, more importantly the victims on this flight get supreme recognition. He makes it impossible for us to take our eyes off of the screen. The camera style throws us unto the plane of the teary eyed, enraged passengers whose emotions are unexplainable. Its heart-wrenching seeing the passengers come as one and do what they have to do, risking their lives to save the lives of thousands of others. The final scene hits you like a ton of bricks.
39. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Would it be fair to spoil an 8-year-old’s surprise birthday party? Would it be right to deny an avid scientist his first look at Haley’s Comet? If you have a human heart you would’ve answered “no” to both of the questions. Don’t rob yourself the opportunity to see yet another Clint Eastwood classic at its fullest potential, without knowing anything about it. Giving anything away that would spoil the movie would be ruining a one of a kind experience. Let’s just say that boxing is on the under-card here as a church-going-maniac and gym owner Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) has always had questions to face throughout his entire life. Enter a poor waitress, Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) a boxer who not only has big dreams of becoming a good women’s boxer but more importantly to become something in life. She has high hopes that Frankie, who lives high on not training girls, will train her. Most of the movies that Eastwood directs find themselves amidst dark, cavernous shadows. Melancholy struggles and madness find their way to enter Eastwood’s shadowy world and set-up home. Once there their presence overwhelms the atmosphere and something unique emerges, something you never thought can make its way into a movie does so just fittingly. We marvel at some of the greatest film directors in the history of cinema such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder. Little do we know that we have in our presence a man that can top the list of greatest directors; the man with no name.
38. City of God (2002)
The title can be confusing because we tend to envision the City of God as a beautiful and exotic place; instead it’s a slum where gangsters of all ages replace the cockroaches that come up from under the floors. This location is 15 miles away from the outmost beautiful and exotic place; Rio de Janeiro. The City of God is a land full of young outcasts that perform crime as an everyday necessity in order to survive in life. Fernando Meirelles delivers a movie that’s fueled by the hatred that encompasses a town that’s ravaged by youthful evilness. Memorable performances and characters are formed here, most notably Rocket (Alexandre Rodriguez) and Lil Ze (Leandro Firmino). Rocket gets a hold of a camera and makes deals with the local newspaper -which is afraid to get close to the rebel gangs to get any sort of information- and the rebels themselves. Police have no rule in this city. A city that can be summed up as so: A vicious circle that goes on forever. Implements of Scorsese’s Goodfellas can be found here.
37. L’Enfant (2005)
L’Enfant is not sensationalized but more grounded in the humanistic turmoil of everydayness. The Dardenne brothers make their films only in social-realistic atmospheres where the individual in questioning strives to do whatever it takes to overcome his environment or situation. The Dardenne world harbors opposites and contradictions to the individual; making them confused and not knowing where to go. The self is rarely unified with the conscious. Bruno, a young twenty-year old father of a new born baby is a drug addict ready to sell anything in order to satisfy his fix. When he gets the idea of selling his child away to an underground group of criminals in order to preserve his happiness not only does he lose the child but also the trust of his girlfriend who loves him to death. L’Enfant shows the depths one man is willing to plunge into only to secure his own comfort.
36. Mystic River (2003)
An intense Dennis Lehane novel is given the special treatment by Clint Eastwood who puts a refined touch on such a harsh issue that it explodes like dynamite. Just like two opposites, Mystic River generates as much firepower that’s needed to get across a point that has a colossal impact on its audience: the meaning of truths and lies. A major incident happens during the film to three children and how it stays with them their entire lives and the effects it has on others around them is astounding. What’s created is a movie that has every single kind of emotion running on all cylinders non-stop that’s mainly due because of the acting, which is nothing less than stellar. Sean Penn (putting on an acting clinic here) and Tim Robbins make history as they win Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, the Academy acknowledged this feat only 3 times before Mystic River, respectively for their portrayals of childhood friends turned enemies due to a murder. Hot on their trail is Massachusetts state police detective Kevin Bacon, also part of their childhood friendship, as he tries to figure out what it is really that’s lurking under the radar. As we try to do the same, Eastwood knocks us out with concealed secrets and earth-shattering revelations. The movie only provides us with more evidence that Mr. Eastwood is one of the greatest filmmakers living today.
35. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
No movie should be able to accomplish what Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind sets out to do. Director Michel Gondry and unique screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who delighted us with Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, create a world that can only be discovered in one's dreams. A gutsy, rebellious, and mind-bending decision to create, let alone film a movie like this, while everybody else in Hollywood is sticking to the overwrought original formula, is truly blissful. The sole thought that dominates the movie is the fact that any specific memory we retain can be deleted if we're pleased to go along with the procedure. If you want a movie that really hasn't seen the light of day before in any shape, way, or form, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind whips up an irreplaceable plot and serves it up without us caring if we like it or not. Like a great chef who knows he's good at what he does serves up a dish so rare, at first could be scary, that when we taste it it's unlike anything we've ever eaten. So we keep going back to the restaurant to get that exquisite dish. In Eternal Sunshine Gondry and Kaufman are the chefs as they guide two lovers, Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey, through their extravagant dreams, harsh realities, and divine memories of what they want to get rid of, only before one realizes he can't live without them. As powerful as science and technology is, love is stronger. We're the customers and after watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind we realize we witnessed a masterpiece and we have no problem going back and watching it again.
34. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Nothing stops Guillermo Del Toro from giving us such a powerful film that shows us the harsh world that we live in and the fairy tale worlds that we read and dream about. This is a cinematic fantasy that needs to be called nothing less than a masterpiece. Taking place after the Spanish Civil War in 1944 we come to know a ruthless captain named Vidal (Sergio Lopez) who is out for only himself. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) stumbles upon a labyrinth and she witnesses mystical and creepy creatures. She’s given three tasks to perform in order to get into the underworld, which is the place of happiness. Most of the times this is a dark and evil fairy tale with such people that will leave a lasting impressions on you and that’s a good thing. Del Toro does something here: he makes both worlds (real and mystical) the exact same treatment. He blends both fantasy and the real world so effortlessly.
33. Babel (2006)
Inarritu’s films such as 21 Grams, Amos Perros, and now Babel all move you in ways beyond explanation. Here, “Babel” throws us many emotions that you want them to keep on coming. When a movie moves like this, it makes you think about the film for weeks and even months after the initial viewing. It’s about interlocking stories of four different kinds of people in four countries each with their own language. Brad Pitt, Cate Blancett, Adrianna Barraza, and Rinko Kikuchi all shine as they experience loneliness and earth shattering problems that prove to be way over their heads. Babel is a movie that you can’t shake no matter how hard you try. To top it off the score by Gustavo Sanatolla is haunting and strikes emotions that you never thought existed.
No other movie this year hooks you from the very beginning like Sweeney Todd does. Its opening credits hypnotize its audience as blood flows through the cracks of houses, the streets, and eventually to the sewer lines of a town that has gone astray. A town that’s so remorseless that it’s only fitting to see the population eat human meat pies without even knowing it. Man devouring man. Burton does one of the best directing jobs this year, if not the best, in creating a world where even Anton Chigurgh would feel uneasy. Revenge, adultery, greed, and even a strange kind of love make up this town of London in the 19th century. These traits, you can say, tend to be the town’s only tourist attractions, along with Mrs. Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter) meat pies. The songs sung by Johnny Depp, the demon barber, are music to the ears. He’ll do whatever it takes to get his family back, which was taken away from him by the town’s remorseless judge (Alan Rickman). The melodies and lyrics by great composer Stephen Sondheim never get old nor do the slashings of innocent bystanders’ necks. Never have I seen a musical as evil and ruthless as Sweeney Todd.
31. Yi yi: A One and a Two (2000)
Take a while. Let it absorb. Your senses should then tell you that you have just witnessed, for nearly 3 hours, a film that charts all of the qualities that life possesses; the ups and downs, the joys, the struggles and the sadness, all in which are infested within the world. Director Edward Yang’s magnum opus (he passed away in 2007) is a voyeuristic film that hints at the different degrees of love at all ages, economic struggles and religious upheavals. Also, the film is an ode to the old generation that gives way to the new generation. It’s only fitting for a movie containing this ideology to start with a wedding and conclude with a funeral. In between are haunting portraits of the daily routine everyone goes through. The only difference is that we see it through the eyes of a Taipei family, the Jainan’s, throughout the course of a year.
Be sure to check back all this week for the rest of the list!