Saturday, June 4, 2011

10. There Will Be Blood - Convergence - Jonny Greenwood

One of my favorite films of the last decade was Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece There Will Be Blood. Jonny Greenwood's haunting score that accentuates the consuming nature of oil in Daniel Plainview's life. The most powerful scene is an accident involving an oil derrick explosion. Convergence is a chaotic track that works both as a singular piece of music and as a part of the film. Greenwood combines percussion instruments that increase in speed as the scene progresses. The sounds of whiny violins play sporadically only adding to the eeriness of the mayhem that is taking place on screen. Convergence is perfect for conveying the tragic nature of Plainview and his inability to truly care about anything other than money and oil.

Films Scores

Recently on a special podcast of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews a panel of experts were gathered to put together their lists of the ten greatest film scores of all time.

It was interesting to hear both classical musicians, a film critic, and a pop musician discuss their favorite songs from films ranging from Star Wars to The Magnificent Seven to Amélie. Eventually they narrowed it down to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws for the number one choice. Their top ten will be played live on June 10th by the BBC Philharmonic.

Personally I like the Jaws theme better, but this may be influenced by the fact that I love the movie Jaws and I don't care for Raiders so the song just does nothing for me.

I was inspired by the podcast to compile my own top ten list, which I will post, but I did notice that most of the films I chose were from my favorite films. Is it that I have a bias for the films that I like, or do I just have that great of taste in both movies and film scores?

Let's go with the latter.

What I believe makes the most sense is that a film score is just important an element of why a movie is good or not.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Back to Blogging

After taking a year off of this here blog, I've decided to jump back in and try to kick start it again. I don't quite know what format I'm going for, but it will consist of my crazy ramblings, film reviews, and updates of things I'm working on during the coming months. This past year has been interesting and I've gained new and interesting perspectives along the way. Hope to gather some followers so I will try to keep this updated as much as possible. Thanks for reading and tell your friends. If nothing else this might be funny.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Review of "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Rating: 4/4

Nicolas Cage has long been an actor I have been fascinated by. Only recently have I begun to truly appreciate what a talented actor he is. I try to ignore some of his failures such as the two National Treasure films and The Wicker Man. But even in his misadventures, Cage remains a viable force that Hollywood needs. His unorthodox persona and undeniable likability draws me in to each and every one of his performances.

I won't declare Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans his greatest role to date, but indoubtedly it is one of his best and bravest. Only he could play the role of Terrence McDonagh, a New Orleans police officer who is promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the first five minutes of the film. He also injures his back in an attempt to rescue a prisoner who is trapped in his flooded jail cell in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After this incident he begins an addiction to vicodin, cocaine, and crack among other drugs, although it is left unclear if he had these addictions before the injury occurred.

A brutal massacre of an African immigrant family takes place and McDonagh is the lead detective on the case. His dependence on coke becomes more evident as the movie progresses. One the greatest moments of the film comes when a police squad is surveiling a suspects house and McDonagh believes that two iguanas are sitting on the coffee table which turns out to be a hallucination. He becomes increasingly strung out after he threatens a client of his prostitute girlfriend, Frankie, played by Eva Mendes. In turn, Italian mobsters tell him he must repay a debt. He owes $5,000 in gambling debts which he keeps falling deeper into. Meanwhile he starts collaborating with the druglord (Xzibit) suspected perpetrating the murder that he is investiagting.

During this entire time, Cage manages to remain at a perfect level of intensity. He never goes over the top when it is unnecessary. Mostly he just grimmaces in pain, or scowls during the course of the movie. His outbursts of anger are rhythmically timed in the manner that Cage always performs. Towards the end of the film his behaviour becomes erratic due to the drug use.

But a lot of credit deserves to go to director Werner Herzog, who has long been one of my favorite directors. Herzog's cavalier style works well with the chaotic life of McDonagh which worstens when his life spirals out of control. Herzog's abilities kept this film from becoming a predictable cop drama. Instead it is an interesting character study of a man's dependence on drugs without falling the realms of a movie like Rush.

He builds incredible suspense in certain scenes The film's ending left me dumbfounded because it was something I did not expect, and something I liked despite wanting something different. The film's screenplay was written by William M. Finkelstein whose prior credits mostly consist of police procedural shows such as Law & Order and NYPD Blue. But this script was perfectly penned to create a great pace for the film.

This is truly one of the best films that I've seen this year. I'm convinced that Nicolas Cage deserves an Academy Award for his performance in Bad Lieutenant, and Werner Herzog should receive a nomination at least. Herzog hasn't made a great narrative film in many years; rather it has been his documentaries which have been far more impressive. This truly deserves recognition of other great Herzog trimumphs like Aguirre, The Wrath of God or Fitzcarraldo. All of the supporting characters such as Val Kilmer, Mendes, Jennifer Coolidge, and Xzibit do solid jobs as well. Werner Herzog's kinetic film style combined with Cage's make this a film well worth seeing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Top 100 Films of the 2000s: 80-71

Since the inception of the list, I've had to do some editing. The new Coen Brothers' film, A Serious Man, has gotten serious consideration for the list. I made sure to leave a couple of open spots just in case I saw something that could break in. There are a few films that I'm anticipating for this winter. Clint Eastwood's Invictus, Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant, and Jason Reitman's Up in the Air--all look like Oscar contenders--will have chances to make it on to the list. Without further ado, here is part III of the series: 80-71.

80. Sugar (2008) - Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck - United States
One of the best sports films of the decade was Sugar, a Spanish language film from the U.S. It tells the story of Miguel "Sugar" Santos, a Dominican baseball player who gets called up by an American farm team to pitch. He journey starts in Iowa where he begins pitching for a Single A team. The film chronicles his struggles as a semi-pro pitcher in a country where he doesn't speak the native language. It's a fascinating look into the life of a foreign player who gets caught up in the system that takes baseball players from every corner of the world and often leaves them high and dry. Algenis Perez Soto gives a cerebral performance as Sugar, displaying great humanity and range.

79. The Bank Job (2008) - Director: Roger Donaldson - United Kingdom
Based on true events, The Bank Job is a thrilling heist story with a real-life basis. Jason Statham plays an ex-criminal who owns a car garage. Strapped for cash he takes up a big job: robbing the safety deposit boxes of a bank. Unknown to Statham and his team of petty criminals, the real reason for the heist is to recover compromising photos of Princess Margaret owned by radical Muslim, Michael X. Shrouded by mysterious and gag orders, The Bank Jobputs an exciting twist on the Baker Street Robbery. Statham plays it straig
ht, giving his best performance to date.

78. Superbad (2007) - Director: Greg Mattola - United States
After all of the horrendous American Pie series, Superbad sets the bar high for the teenage sex-comedy. The film was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg while they were teenagers. Jonah Hill and Michael Cera play their onscreen counterparts as two high school seniors trying to get booze and chicks before they leave for college. I guess you could call this the most mature teen movie with dick jokes. It also spawned the career of Christopher Mintz-Plasse, still better known as McLovin.

77. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) - Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris - United States
Family dysfunction has been portrayed on the big screen numerous times, but Little Miss Sunshine is the funniest of the bunch. The family includes a failed motivational speaker father (Greg Kinnear), the overworked mother (Toni Collette), a silent Nietzsche reading son (Paul Dano), a drug addict grandfather (Alan Arkin), an overweight daughter (Abigail Breslin), and a gay suicidal uncle (Steve Carrell). Put them all in a VW bus on a road trip and you have some of the funniest scenes that I've ever seen.

76. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) - Director: Judd Apatow - United States
Judd Apatow's directorial debut came after a decade of writing and producing. He never quite made a hit during that time, but he struck comedy gold with this first film. Steve Carrell--in his breakout role--plays a man who is just what the title says. Filled with all of the one liners that we've gotten used to from Apatow films, its also an interesting look at love in the sex obsessed culture that we live in. We were also formally introduced the talents of Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and briefly Jonah Hill.

75. Walk the Line (2005) - Director: James Mangold - United States
During this decade we've seen a good many music biopics. The Academy loves 'em and fans of the musicians love 'em. The one that stood out was Walk the Line, based on the early life of country music star, Johnny Cash. It draws from all of the usual cliches of the music biopic: troubled childhood, bad relationship with parents, a new sound that no one has heard, drug addiction, recovery, and a happy ending. Joaquin Phoenix truly embodied the aloof Cash whose baritone voice changed the sound of rock-and-roll. Reese Witherspoon also stands out as his wife June Carter Cash.

74. Finding Nemo (2003) - Directors: Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich - United States
During the past two decades, Pixar has created a monopoly over the animation film industry. After the success of the first two Toy Story films, they put out my favorite of this decade, Finding Nemo. It combines the great Pixar animation with an old fashioned Disney adventure story. After a clown fish's son is abducted by a diver, he begins a journey to find him. On the way he meets colorful characters and picks up a friend name Dory. Ellen DeGeneres really shines in her voice role as Dory. The colorful animation is visually stimulating and meticulously detailed.

73. The Departed (2006) - Director: Martin Scorsese - United States
Was this decade the best for Martin Scorsese? Not by a long shot. But his first Best Director Oscar came from The Departed. The large cast features Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg. Damon plays a Boston city cop who secretly is a rat, while DiCaprio is an undercover cop trying to foil the Irish mob. Like previous Scorsese films, The Departed deals with issues of morality, masculinity, violence, and redemption. The film falls apart in the last act in which several characters--who will remain nameless--die within minutes, which left me feeling cheated. Still, it's with the all star cast and Scorsese, it's a must see.

72. Knocked Up (2007) - Director: Judd Apatow - United States
Apatow's second feature film improved ever so slightly, deciding to make a star out of the stoner/slacker, Seth Rogen. I fear that Rogen may have become slightly typecast, but he was born to play that character. But when he impregnates a up-and-coming E! reporter, his life become much more complicated. The reporter--played by Katherine Heigl--is often sickened by Rogen's boorish behavior, but sticks with him because of the baby. Filled with Apatow regulars, this movie was even more funny than The 40-Year-Old Virgin, though not quite as original.

71. A Beautiful Mind (2001) - Director: Ron Howard - United States
Some films that are "based on true events" take liberties with the facts. A Beautiful Mind could be called a work of fiction. It is Ron Howard's take on John F. Nash's debilitating schizophrenia. Russell Crowe gives one the best performances of his career as the troubled Nash, who goes from math genius to clinically insane conspiracy theorist. While plagued with
his disease, he wins the Nobel Prize for mathematics. Jennifer Connelly gives a strong performance as Nash's wife and Ed Harris also adds his support as a character in Nash's delusions.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Top 100 Films of the 2000s: 90-81

I'm continuing my list of the top 100 films of the 2000s. Compiling this list was not as difficult as I thought it would be. There were many great films in this decade; unfortunately some very good films didn't make the cut. So here we go...

90. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) - Director: Larry Charles - United States/United Kingdom
Say what you want about Sascha Baron Cohen, he is fearless. He will put his life in certain danger to get a laugh from the audience. His best character from his HBO series, Da Ali G Show, is the title character in this film, Borat, a Kazakh reporter in America making a documentary. Cohen really pushes the boundaries on his journey to find Pamela Anderson. He takes shots at everyone imaginable and takes no prisoners. It doesn't quite hold up after multiple viewings since the majority of the film is purely shock value, but it's well worth your time.

89. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) - Director: Danny Boyle - United Kingdom
No film in this decade benefited from word of mouth more than Slumdog Millionaire. It was the little indie film that could. The Bollywood-inspired movie is Danny Boyle's best film of the decade. A young Indian man wins the grand prize on India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Although the film doesn't really have a plausible plot, Boyle's visual style is enough of a reason to make the list.

88. The Orphanage (2007) - Director: Juan Antonio Bayona - Spain/Mexico
One of the best horror films of the decade was The Orphanage; a spooky Spanish import about a couple whose adoptive son disappears. Laura (Belén Rueda) believes that he was taken by a ghost of the orphanage that the house used to be. Bayona craftily builds suspense while scaring the audience along the way. He doesn't go for cheap tricks or pull from the bag of horror movie cliches. It's a smart thriller that will have you guessing until the very end.

87. Into the Wild (2007) - Director: Sean Penn - United States
Based on the critically acclaimed novel by John Krakauer, Into the Wild is the tale of Chris McCandless, a young college graduate who embarked on a journey into the American west. He travels across the desert and eventually makes it to Alaska where he attempts to live on the land. Emile Hirsch plays McCandless as a charismatic figure whose disillusion with society and idealism of the natural world drive him on his journey. He plays the character in an often maddening way, if not perverse. Along the way he meets characters played by Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart, Vince Vaughn, and Hal Holbrook who gives the best supporting performance of the bunch. His parents and sister are played nicely by William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, and Jena Malone respectively. My only complaint is that director Penn paints him as a Messianic figure rather than as a disillusioned, yet foolish youth. But Penn's cinematography is beautiful; using the natural canvas of the American wilderness.

86. The Class (2008) - Director: Laurent Cantet - France
François Bégaudeau plays himself in this semi-autobiographical film about his experience as an inner-city teacher in Paris, an often difficult job. Bégaudeau is extremely convincing as a teacher having to deal with problem children in contemporary France. The film touches on the issue of race relations in post-colonial France. Many people of former French colonies now inhabit the country while trying to maintain their own heritage, which often causes conflicts with native French citizens and immigrants from other countries. All of the child actors are spot on as students of the class. The Class is extraordinarily authentic in its portrayal of modern education; something rarely seen.

85. Burn After Reading (2008) - Director: Joel and Ethan Coen - United States
After their dark thriller, No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers went in a 180 with Burn After Reading. Featuring an ensemble cast of John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, and Tilda Swinton, the film is a darkly comedic look into the world of espionage. The absurdity of the characters is what drive the film. Each is played in a peculiar characature. Although not the best effort of the Coens, or the funniest for that matter, this is still far funnier than the majority of comedies in this decade.

84. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - Director: Michael Gondry - United States
Jim Carey gives one of his best performances in this complex tale of love in a world where people can erase memories. Carey plays Joel, a man in love with Clementine--as in O' My Darlin'--portrayed in an equally impressive role by Kate Winslet. Slowly is their relationship dissected in a series of occurrences and flashbacks that continue to gather meaning. Clementine's memory is erased so Joel decides to so as well. It's an interesting look into the complexities of the brain and our ideas of love.

83. Inland Empire (2006) - Director: David Lynch - United States/Poland
As David Lynch has progressed as a filmmaker, his films have become increasingly bizarre to the point where you ask the question: Does he care about making a coherent plot anymore? Maybe he never did. His latest adventure into the surreal is Inland Empire. Laura Dern stars as an aging actress trying to land a roll in a film. The rest of the plot is almost indescribable, but yet somehow I was fascinated while watching it. Unlike a train wreck film, this is just to well made to be bad, but not concrete enough to be Lynch's best film. Still, it's just too damn fascinating not to recommend.

82. Waltz With Bashir (2008) - Director: Ari Folman - Israel
Animated films are typically in the same realm of children's' films, but Ari Folman's pseudo-documentary is anything but. Waltz With Bashir is based on interviews with people associated to Folman in his attempt to remember the Israeli-Lebanon Conflict. Slowly he pieces back repressed memories of the war. Although it's an anti-war film, it's refreshing coming from people closely associated with war that Americans aren't accustomed to. Israel has perpetually been involved with some sort of conflict since its birth. The animation is perfectly crafted to suit the story.

81. Tell No One (2006) - Director: Guillaume Canet - France
A French pediatrician receives an email showing video footage that his wife, who is presumed dead, is still alive. The email warns him to "tell no one." Simultaneously he is implicated in several murders, including that of his wife. He attempts to clear his name and solve the shrouded mystery of his wife's death. Tell No One is a taut thriller that evokes memories of the underrated The Fugitive. François Cluzet gives a strong performance in the lead role. Director Canet keeps the film within as certain plausibility even though it has several plot twists. He keeps you hooked until the very last detail is unraveled leaving myself unable to figure out the ending before it happened. This is one murder mystery worth seeing.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Top 100 Films of the 2000s: 100-91

I'm kicking of my countdown of the best 100 films of the decade. Since the beginning of the new millennium there have been some great films made. In each post I will list 10 films with a brief synopsis and explanation of why it deserves to be on this list. Let's get started!

100. The Edukators (2004) - Director: Hans Weingartner - Germany
Three idealistic German youths represent a new generation of anti-Capitalist activists. Two roommates, Jan (Daniel Brühl) and Peter (Stipe Erceg), break into the homes of wealthy citizens of Berlin, rearrange the furniture, and leave a note that says, "Your days of plenty are numbered." But how far would they go to support their cause. It's an interesting look into the world of radical socialism and great performances by the best young actors Germany has to offer.

99. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) - Director: George Lucas - United States
George Lucas's final film of the Star Wars prequel trilogy is by far the best, and I will go as far as to say that it's the second best of the series behind Episode V. Immersed in the growing Clone Wars, the Republic is slowly breaking apart. We watch the unraveling of the Jedi and the birth of the First Galactic Empire and Anakin Skywalker goes to the dark side. This film was by far the most mature of any of the Star Wars films with themes of corruption, dictatorship, and oppression. This episode doesn't rely solely on special effects, rather it has rich character development and an interesting plot bridge to A New Hope.

98. Sin City (2005) - Directors: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino - United States
This stylish adaptation of the Frank Miller's graphic novel series is a demonic vision of a film noir world. The large ensemble cast includes Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Benicio Del Toro, and Brittany Murphy, among others. The black-and-white photography is haunting, and a reflection of the world of Sin City. It is black and white.

97. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) - Director: Paul Thomas Anderson - United States
This film is the breakout role of Adam Sandler, who had repeatingly been making terrible movies like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, etc. Sandler plays a mild mannered person who breaks out in sudden outbursts of violent anger. He paired up with the great young filmmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson. This is not Anderson's best film, certainly not his most serious work, but his script allows for Adam Sandler to let loose.

96. Snow Angels (2007) - Director: David Gordon Green - United States
Kate Beckinsale stars as a single mother whose mentally disturbed ex-husband tries to renew their dead relationship. The husband--played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell--is a born-again Christian who at one point tried to commit suicide due to his alcoholism. Michael Angarano and Olivia Thirlby counterbalance the formers relationship in a refreshing tale of teenage love. Green, one of the best young filmmakers of the decade, manages to keep the film from entering melodrama and offers us a shocking look into the destruction of a marriage.

95. The Visitor (2008) - Director: Thomas McCarthy - United States
An aging professor (Richard Jenkins) returns to his New York apartment to find two young immigrants inhabiting his apartment. He eventually befriends Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and the two form an unlikely bond. Jenkins has spent the past decade as a character actor in dozens of films. He shines as the star of this film, an intimate look at the issues of globalism, immigration, and racism in post-9/11 America.

94. Rescue Dawn (2007) - Director: Werner Herzog - United States
Herzog adapted his 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, in this Vietnam War drama based on the true story of Dieter Dengler. Dengler (Christian Bale) is captured by the Vietcong after his plane is shot down in the early days of the Vietnam War. Bale and Steve Zahn brilliantly portray prisoners of war who attempt to escape out of fear that they will never be rescued. Although Rescue doesn't have quite the power of Little Dieter, it serves as a vital companion to one of the best documentaries ever made.

93. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) - Director: Wes Anderson - United States
In this decade, we have seen some great animated films. Often overlooked are stop-motion animation films. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a film adaptation of Rohald Dahl's children's novel. The great voice cast including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman. Anderson combines a unique look to create a world of woodland critters who wear clothes and talk along with farms of angry Brits. Anderson provides his usual ironic humor to create one of the most lovable films of the decade.

92. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) - Director: Nicholas Stoller - United States
Out of all the Apatow produced comedies in this decade, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is simply one of the best. Jason Segel--who wrtoe the film--plays a sad sack composer whose girlfriend dumped him for a British rocker. He spends the rest of the film trying to get over her despite the fact that they are vacationing on the same resort. Segel has great comedic timing and is supported by Apatow regulars: Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, and Bill Hader. Russell Brand provides some of the biggest laughs as a British musician, and has earned a spin-off film set to be released in 2010.

91. The Last King of Scotland (2006) - Director: Kevin Macdonald - United Kingdom
Forest Whitaker provides one of the best performances of the decade in this fictional tale of Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin. James McAvoy stars as a Scottish doctor who becomes the personal physician of Amin. My only complaint about this film is that McAvoy's character is rather uninteresting compared to Amin. Whitaker's performance just takes up the whole screen leaving McAvoy seeming out of his league. Nevertheless, The Last King of Scotland is an interesting look into one of the most oppressive regimes of the 20th century.