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Poor Planning Notwithstanding

I kind of stole my own thunder in already doing a year-end list that included most of my top ten picks for the fall. I kind of thought that would be the case, and I should probably work on rethinking that in the future. Well, anyway, here’s the list:

City of God

Gone Baby Gone

Lars and the Real Girl

No Country for Old Men

Blame it on Fidel

Requiem for a Dream

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Juno

Memento

Atonement

I’d been meaning to see City of God for some time. It is a story of drugs, murder and romance among a group of Brazilians who grow up together in the violent ghetto of Rio de Janeiro. One joins the criminal underworld while the other becomes a successful photographer for a large newspaper, but their fates remain intertwined. Told with incredible flair, energy and passion, this is a very impressive work that is well-worth seeing. I’m really looking forward to the follow-up that just came out: City of Men.

Blame it on Fidel is a thoroughly charming French movie about a little girl whose life is turned upside down when her wealthy parents suddenly become communists. Without even understanding what communism is, she is suddenly moved from a large mansion to a tiny apartment where strange-looking men with beards come and go at all hours of the day and night. All of these events are seen solely through young Anna’s eyes. For instance, when her parents take her on a protest march and a riot breaks out, we don’t know exactly what happened because Anna is too short to see over the crowd; a fun but poignant film that deserves a lot more attention than it’s gotten. Give it a look (available for instant watching on Netflix!).

Requiem for a Dream (along with maybe Gone Baby Gone) was among the most hard-hitting movies I sat through this fall. It’s about four very different people (a young man, his girlfriend, his best friend and his mother) and their terrifying descent into hellish private nightmares of drug addiction which costs them everything but (unfortunately) their lives. All four are sympathetic, understandable and believable and the director films the story in a way that comes as close as a movie can to making you experience what its characters are experiencing. It is horrifying and graphic and visceral, and I don’t know whether I could sit through it again, but there are probably many people who should be sitting through it at least once.

This is the second time I’ve seen Memento, although the first was quite some time ago. I liked it even better the second time around. It’s a twisty-turny noir-ish early effort by the guys behind The Prestige. The main character has a brain condition which doesn’t allow him to develop new memories. Consequently, every few minutes or so he forgets everything and is forced to refer to annotated photographs and tattoos on his body to jog his memory. Naturally, this makes his ongoing search for the man who raped and murdered his wife a bit complicated. His story is a fairly straightforward one, or at least it would be except every scene is in reverse chronological order. It’s a cerebral, slightly-disturbing movie that really makes you work to keep track of what’s going on.

Honorable Mention:

Fido

This is a hilarious cross between . . . I dunno, Pleasantville and Shaun of the Dead I guess. Something like that. Whatever. I watched it twice and loved it both times. It’s a dark comedy where the walking dead have become household servants in picturesque communities straight out of the 1950s. Funny, funny stuff.

Young Frankenstein

Everyone’s seen Mel Brooks’ send-up of the old Frankenstein flicks . . . but I hadn’t. I reiterate once again my ironclad principle of Mel Brooks movies: The man is extremely funny when he stays behind the camera. Gotta love that “Puttin’ on the Ritz” dance number. I’d kinda like to see the Broadway musical version now.

Edward Scissorhands

Wow, here’s another oddball take on the monster movie. I sense a theme. I really enjoyed Tim Burton’s sweet, enjoyable early masterpiece (which is pretty much the opposite of his other movie featuring Johnny Depp skillfully wielding sharp objects, see above). An eccentric inventor’s last creation sits alone and unfinished in the house on the hill, trimming marvelous hedge sculptures with the enormous scissors he has for hands. Then one day a friendly Avon lady takes him home to the suburbs below, and his adventures among the “normal” people begin.

Charlie Wilson’s War

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~ by Jared on January 6, 2008.

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