This is the modern day Citizen Kane , not only in terms of technical brilliance and ingenuity but thematically as well. This is the reality of the American dream, where there is prosperity and opportunity there is also blood. This is classical film-making at its best. Paul Thomas Anderson 's careful and controlled direction is felt in every frame. He isn't alone in creating this epic. It is the powerful performances by Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano that bring this film to perfection. This is one of the greatest films of all time in my book.
Cormac McCarthy 's brilliant book is turned into a brilliant movie headed by Joel and Ethan Coen . I would call No Country for Old Men a perfect movie, stylistically, technically, artistically perfect. It's also a more accessible movie which is why it won the Oscar against There Will Be Blood . The story is straightforward, it's about a man who finds a lot of heroin and money then is pursued by a gun for hire but underlying this is a film about existential angst in a changing, yet never changing world full of violence and greed.
Pan's Labyrinth is a dark and beautiful film. Guillermo del Toro has proven himself to be a master of storytelling and mise en scène. It is gorgeously shot with meticulous attention to detail. There are a lot of visual motifs throughout the film which are their own poetic language and, when understood, provide new and powerful support for the main themes. This is a dark fairy tale through which the allegory of war and horror is told but what are the real horrors, the monsters in her fantasies or that which is committed in reality?
First off, Alfonso Cuarón pulls off a technical masterpiece as far as the actual filmmaking goes. Some of the shots only Emmanuel Lubezki could pull off; just astounding. There are a lot of long single takes including action sequences; the ‘driving backwards in a car action scene’ being one of the best and most memorable. One of the things that struck me the most throughout the film is that Clive Owen's character never picks up a gun. He would be justified, the audience wants him to and he is given the opportunity several times yet he never does.
Das Leben der Anderen follows an agent of the secret police in East Berlin as he spies on, and gets increasingly involved with, his subjects. This is a film about voyeurism, humanity and life during the socialist state that was the GDR. First time writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck weaves a precise and intelligent narrative which is engaging and thrilling. Sincere thanks must be given to the excellent cast whose performances make this movie magnificent. This is one of the few depictions of life under the GDR, it should not be missed.
Cidade de Deus is a powerful and haunting story of life in poverty in the favela's of Rio de Janeiro and the only way out of the slums is a violent life of crime. This film is as vibrant as the city it is set in, the colors, the energy, everything builds up the momentum and intensity that feels like it could burst at any moment. Every actor offers a compelling performance and the film does not let go of your attention for a second. It is emotional, disturbing, and provocative; forcing the viewer to take a deep look into poverty and the gamble that is life.
Hayao Miyazaki excels at reminding the viewer of the magic and wonder of childhood where anything is possible. Spirited Away is a wonder of filmmaking with gorgeous animation and imaginative world-building and storytelling. Each character is unique and memorable with an important part to play, even the villains are fleshed out with motives and arcs. Our protagonist, Chihiro, is a fearless and adventurous girl who through determination can accomplish anything. A beautiful film that is an essential and rewarding experience.
One of the most cerebral and interesting films of the decade, Richard Lanklater explores philosophy, society and dreams in this unique and truly wonderful film. You may or not be in love with the rotoscope technique, I thought it added to the dream-like state the film is trying to convey however many of the pieces you could just listen to and be inspired by. This is an exploratory piece without narrative which asks the questions we do "what am I supposed to do with my life?" Whatever the answer, Waking Life is worth the time and effort to ponder and experience.
This film takes place 9 years after Before Sunrise (1995) in both real and diegetic time. I watched Before Sunrise about a year and a half ago. I think it’s good to put distance between the two films so you can think about the characters, I reflected back on that film often wondering what became of them, watching this the day after would have spoiled the magic of this film. I enjoyed Before Sunset a lot more but I think that is due to how I have changed in the last 18 months, not necessarily the sequel itself being better.
Alfonso Cuarón has an amazing and varied body of work. Y Tu Mama Tambien (literally: and your mother too!), is a fantastic film about friendship, love, sexuality and social constructs. In a generation without father figures and role-models, all young-men have to look to are cultural icons and social constructs/taboos, this story focuses on how two friends learn about themselves and relationships during a road-trip with a desperate woman. Intelligent, sincere and provocative, this is arguably one of the years and decades best.