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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1997

Here we go with another list of my favorite films of a given year. This time we’re in 1997. The year when we found out that the Terminator movies weren’t accurate predictions of the future as Skynet didn’t take over on August 29. The year when “MMMBop” reigned supreme on the pop charts. The year when James Cameron released a little film that would go on to obliterate the cash registers at the box office. The year when Lady Di met an unfortunate end. And, of course, plenty of good movies.

As usual, this list only counts movies with a stated release year of 1997 according to IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Boogie Nights, The Fifth Element, Life is Beautiful, Suicide Kings, Titanic

10 – CUBE (Vincenzo Natali)

“No more talking. No more guessing. Don’t even think about nothing that’s not right in front of you. That’s the real challenge. You’ve got to save yourselves from yourselves.”

A group of people wake up in a maze consisting of cube-shaped rooms. Some of the rooms contain deadly traps. There. That’s an effective two-sentence summary of Cube’s premise. While there are scenes of gruesome deaths, the focus lies primarily on the characters and how they cope with each other as they try to figure out where they are, why they’re there, and how they can get out. With claustrophic tension to spare, this Canadian thriller is not one to miss.

9 – PERFECT BLUE (Satoshi Kon)

“You bad girl! You have to follow the script!”

Perfect Blue is a must-see for anyone who liked Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan as they deal with similar themes: uncertainty of what’s real, pressure to succeed, and the psychological effects of sex. Here we follow a young famous pop artist who decides to switch gears and become an actress, only to find herself stalked by an all-seeing obsessed fan who thinks her a traitor. At only 80 minutes, Perfect Blue is a very condensed psychological thriller that packs a heavy punch.

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Posted by on 19 April, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2001

Time to set the time machine to 2001, a year that like many others had a great deal of great films to offer. There’s a nice mix to be had with this list, I think. Sure, it leans slightly towards comedy as my lists tend do – although there’s nothing here that i’d classify strictly as a laugh-out-loud type of movie – but there is some international variety. USA, France, Spain and Norway are all represented in one way or another.

I don’t normally do honorable mentions for these lists, but I do need to give a shout-out to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The trilogy as a whole is a remarkably ambitious cinematic accomplishment which does such a great job of bringing the world of the novels to life. Both The Two Towers and The Return of the King barely missed out on spots on their respective year lists. The Fellowship of the Ring – my personal favorite of the three – was sitting at #9 on this list at first draft. Then along came a movie I hadn’t seen before (#7), and Fellowship got bumped down. And then I realized a teriffic film I thought belonged to 2000 was actually released in 2001 (#2), and just like that, Fellowship dropped off. So an honorable mention goes out to that film and, by extension, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

On to the list proper. As always, this is 2001 as listed on IMDB to avoid confusion with international release dates.

10 – HUMAN NATURE (Michel Gondry)

“Remember: when in doubt, don’t ever do what you really want to do.”

The most overlooked of the films written by Charlie Kaufman, Human Nature is a movie of many questions about – of course – human nature. What’s fun is the strange ways in which it goes about asking them. The central characters are a scientist (Tim Robbins) trying to teach mice to have a formal dinner, a man (Rhys Ifans) who grew up in the wilderness thinking himself to be an ape, and a woman (Patricia Arquette) who voluntarily abandoned civilization as an adult due to feeling out of place because of her thick body hair. This story proves to be a good fit for Michel Gondry, here making his feature film debut and immediately establishing his unique style – how many directors would go with a sudden Disney-esque song number in a film like this? Human Nature is both funny and thought-provoking, and it deserves more attention than it tends to get.

9 – A KNIGHT’S TALE (Brian Helgeland)

“Now that I got their attention, you go and win their hearts.”

Wikipedia describes this as an action-adventure film. This is false. A Knight’s Tale is very much a sports movie, with all the familiar story elements and tropes associated with the genre. It just so happens to take place in medieval times, with the sport in question being jousting. What makes the film stand out even more is the anachronistic music. Here we have a dance scene in at the royal court set to David Bowie’s “Golden Years”, and joust audiences clapping along to Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Heath Ledger makes for an effective protagonist, Shannyn Sossamon is as radiant as ever as his love interest, and Paul Bettany and Alan Tyduk as comedic sidekicks take turns to steal the movie. Often hilarious, always feel-good. A Knight’s Tale never fails to put a smile on my face.

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Posted by on 25 January, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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The remake conundrum: Open Your Eyes and Vanilla Sky

A few years ago, I watched Cameron Crowe‘s Vanilla Sky for the first time. It’s the favorite movie of a friend of mine, and he insisted I give it a go. So I did, and found it to be very much to my liking. It’s a very intriguing mystery of a film, dipping into various genres on its way to a surprising conclusion, all helped along by a number of great acting performances. Simply put, a really good watch.

At the time, I wasn’t aware that it was in fact a remake of the Spanish 1997 film Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos), directed by Alejandro Amenábar. Nowadays I generally try to watch the original first before seeing a remake. It seems more fair that way. The people involved with creating a movie from scratch deserve to have it seen by someone who knows nothing about the story, who experiences it the way they envisioned it. It also means that I’m able to recognize little nods and homages to it once I get around to seeing the remake. But this wasn’t how it turned out that time. The remake was seen first, and while I was interested in checking out the original, it never was very urgent for me.

Cruz and Noriega, Open Your Eyes

Today I did finally see Open Your Eyes, and it was a really strange experience, not quite like anything I’ve been through before in my film-watching. The movie was good. Really good. Great, actually. It’s a very slick and engaging movie, bringing along many of the same qualities that Vanilla Sky did. I could find nothing to complain about.

But I had already seen it. Except then it was called Vanilla Sky.

I already knew all the twists and turns. I knew who the characters were, what they were like and what they were going to do. I knew what was going to happen in any given scene. Yes, the movie was great, but the sense of discovery wasn’t there. I couldn’t make heads or tails of which one was the better film. It was really baffling. A rewatch of Vanilla Sky seemed in order so I could make some sense of it all. So I saw the story unfold once more (and on a whim, I turned on the audio commentary with Crowe and Nancy Wilson, who composed the score for the film).

(Mild SPOILER ALERT: I’ll go into plot developments of both films to some degree in the next few paragraphs. If you haven’t seen at least one of the movies yet, proceed at your own risk.)

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Posted by on 9 November, 2011 in Misc.

 

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