The following are some of the movies I’ve enjoyed over the past decade.
“Magnolia” is a great, joyous leap into melodrama and coincidence, with ragged emotions, crimes and punishments, deathbed scenes, romantic dreams, generational turmoil and celestial intervention, all scored to insistent music. It is not a timid film.”
This is a story about right and wrong, the bondage we and others put us in in life, and how we can try to escape. This isn’t a film for everyone, but it resonated with me more than any other I’ve seen to date.
The film repeatedly references the Bible verse Exodus 8:2 – “And if thou refuse to let them go, I will smite all thy borders…” Also note the soundtrack by Aimee Mann with poignant songs such as “Save Me” and “Wise Up,” where she sings “It’s not going to stop ’til you wise up…so just give up.”
Eve’s Bayou (1997)
“Memory is a selection of images, some elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old.” So begins Eve’s Bayou, narrated by the titular Southern child who, to her detriment, overhears her father’s flirtation with a married woman. A powerful film that reminds us that the lies that sometimes bind can also tear us apart.”
This was a stunningly spellbinding film, as I found myself wrapped up in its extraordinary beauty and atmosphere. The only film on this list that was perfect all around. The best movie nobody saw.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
“Lyrical retelling of James Jones’ novel about the bloody 1942 battle for Guadalcanal. Fighting to hold a key-positioned airfield, a company of soldiers becomes a tight-knit group as the battle rages around them. The actors in “The Thin Red Line” are making one movie, and the director is making another. This leads to an almost hallucinatory sense of displacement, as the actors struggle for realism, and the movie’s point of view hovers above them like a high school kid all filled with big questions.”
The war movie recast as a blood-soaked poem. Gorgeously cinematic. Don’t look for a conventional plot — its rhyme is its story.
“Director Spike Lee copies from Mel Brooks’ oeuvre with this story about a producer whose show is so bad that audiences can’t get enough. TV producer Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) becomes frustrated when network brass reject his sitcom idea. Hoping to get fired, Delacroix pitches the worst idea he can think of: a minstrel show. Incredibly, the network airs it; more incredibly, it’s a hit!”
This film is a rare one that indulges both sides of my personality. Its thoughtful reflection on past minstrel acts arouses sadness and rage, but the raunchy, present-day reenactments of minstrel shows had me on the floor laughing. I’ve seen this film with several people of other races who were too uncomfortable with the stereotypes to laugh. Too bad they missed out.
A. I. (2001)
“A.I. propels you into a futuristic world where humans share every aspect of their lives with sophisticated companion robots called Mechas. When an advanced prototype robot child named David is programmed to show unconditional love, his human family isn’t prepared for the consequences. David soon embarks on a spectacular quest to discover the startling secret of his own identity.”
Not since Powder (1995) has a movie about identity left me wrapped up for days in my own thoughts. One issue though: the story should have ended when David was trapped underwater. Spielberg characteristically opted for a sentimental, happy ending over what would have been a sad yet profound one: a journey frozen in time, a yearning unfulfilled.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
“From the idyllic shire of the Hobbits to the smoking chasms of Mordor, Frodo Baggins embarks on an epic quest to destroy the one true ring.”
George Lucas wishes he could make an epic as great as this one. This groundbreaking film explores a whole new world in fantasy, the way The Matrix redefined sci-fi. The beginning of this movie is better than any I’ve ever seen, and storytelling and cinematic quality of the film as a whole is far better than The Two Towers (or any Star Wars prequel).
Donnie Darko (2001)
“Donnie Darko is an edgy, psychological thriller about a suburban teen coming face-to-face with his dark destiny. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a delusional high-school student visited by a demonic rabbit with eerie visions of the past, and deadly predictions for the future.”
Another solid movie that few people saw. If you’re thinking about renting Pi, see this instead. The film has a haunting beauty about it; it’s bright and vivid, yet darkly ominous at the same time. An intelligent, multi-dimensional film that, aside from the main plot, depicts a web of empathy that develops among individuals who reject the dogma of simple-minded townspeople.
Other movies I enjoyed…