My Top Films of the Year so Far (Jan thru July)

10) Enduring Love (2004, dir. Roger Michell)

enduring love
Based on the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan, Enduring Love is the story of Joe (Daniel Craig) who witnesses a horrific accident while out in the English countryside with his girlfriend. A group of men are caught up in the circumstances of this death and one of them, Jed (Rhys Ifans) believe that he and Joe were brought together by fate. Its a very twisted film and ponders over the idea that love is simply an illusion we force ourselves to believe in.

9) Undertow (2004, David Gordon Green)

undertow
From the director of the visually lush George Washington, comes this film about betryal in the deep south. A sort of hybrid of Flannery O'Conner short stories and Shakespearan tragedy. It follows two sets of brothers: Deel (Josh Lucas) and John (Dermot Mulroney) and John's sons, Chris (Jamie Bell) and Tim (Devon Allen). The two sets of brothers are played off each other as the story of hidden gold pieces and an old betrayal come to light. Green does an excellent job displaying the thick heavy heat of the South and the dank poverty of many of the regions.

8) Heights (2004, dir. Chris Terrio)

heights
Isabel (Elizabeth Banks) is getting ready to marry Jonathan (James Marsden). Her mother, the famous actress and director of a Broadway Macbeth revival, Diana (Glenn Close) is very much against the marriage. Diana is painfully aware of her husband's infedelities and has become attracted to an actor, Alec (Jesse Bradford) who has auditioned for her. Taking place over the course of one day these people's lives become tangled into a destructive mess and we learn some very big secrets that will change things forever.

7) Brokeback Mountain (2005, dir. Ang Lee)

brokeback mountains
Don't have to say much about this one. Its just plain good.

6) Raging Bull (1980, dir. Martin Scorsese)

brokeback mountain
Wow. Last year I saw Taxi Driver and Goodfellas for the first time and found that they far exceeded their hype. Raging Bull is right up there. Its the story of real life boxer Jake LaMotta (DeNiro) and his rise to the top of the boxing world and tragic downfall. LaMotta is not a man of any type of reason, he's a pure animal. He's unable to think things through and can only express himself through violence. This is the key to tragic end. There was no way this film could have been in color. Scorsese makes use of this visually rich palette to bring us some amazing cinematography.

5) Oldboy (2003, dir. Chan-wook Park)

oldboy
Classic tragedy. After taking English Renaissance I found that so many of the plays from that period had sex and violence and especially creative revenge to rival today's R-rated movies. Oldboy follows in this tradition. Its the story of Dae-su, a Korean businessman who is kidnapped one night, locked in a room for 15 years and then inexplicably released. He learns on release that his wife and daughter were murdered shortly after his kidnapping and sets out to uncover the identity of his tormentor. He ends up stumbling onto one of the most twisted and shocking revenge plots ever put to film. By the end of the film he is willing to sacrifice his own tongue (and does!) to keep his tormentor from revealing to other parties the extent of the revenge! Amazing cinematography and a Tarantino-esque level of sick humor.

4) The Proposition (2005, dir. John Hilcoat)

proposition
Pop singer/cult author Nick Cave turned in this beautiful Australian take on the American western. Hilcoat delivers stunning visuals to this story of one outlaw who must sacrifice one brother to save another. Its stars Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, John Hurt, and Danny Huston in what is a breakout role for this actor. He inspires a sense of animalistic fear I haven't seen on film in a long time. The music, provided by Cave lends itself to the nightmarish nature of this story. Pretty much a film with perfect elements that come together to make one of the best Westerns since Unforgiven.

3) The Last Picture Show (1971, dir. Peter Bogdanovich)

Last Picture Show
The story of Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) who is in his senior year at a high school in Anarene, Texas. His friend Duane (Jeff Bridges) and Jacy (Cybil Shepherd) endure a final year of change and upheaval. The camerawork is flawless and its another black and white film that makes the film a timeless piece of beauty. The film generates a palpable sense of that longing to break free of the constrainsts of youth and that all too familiar feeling of feeling stuck where you are.

2) Sexy Beast (2000, dir. Jonathan Glazer)

Sexy Beast
From the minute you hear his name, Don Logan (Benjamin Kingsley) is a figure who strikes fear into your heart. Gale (Ray Winstone) is a retired British safecracker, starting his life over in Spain. Then he receives a call from Logan who wants him to come back for a major break-in of a bank in London. Gale refuses and this is where the fun sets in. Kingsley gives us one of the most insane and socially-maladusted villains ever. Logan is persistent and will not take anything less than a yes. Glazer, a director of music videos for bands like Radiohead and Blur, knows exactly how to match music to visuals and ends up with such a visually rich film. I've been able to watch this one multiple times and enjoying seeing those stark images again and again.

1) The New World (2005, dir. Terence Malick)

new world
There's a reason Malick makes a film every decade or so. He is a master of his craft and is up there with Kubrick on my list as a man who know how to use a camera. With The New World he tells us the story of Pocahontas played by the astounding newcomer Q'Orianka Kilcher. In the hands of another director (Ron Howard, Ridley Scott, any number of big budget directors) they would have given us a very straightforward slick looking film about John Smith and Pocahontas. Malick does what no one else could and and creates a visual poem. The characters in this film rarely speak to each other, instead we get beautiful internal monologues and some of the best camerawork in any film in a decade. You are totally convinced as to how John Smith could fall in love with the Native American princess and as the film goes on you quickly learn this is not his story, but hers. Malick creates a parallel between the discovery of the New World and Pocahontas' discovery of true love. The film that should have been nominated for many more Oscars and should have won Best Picture!

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~ by Seth on June 18, 2006.

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