Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982) = 4/5
Here's a film that is as intimidating to watch as it is to pronounce. The subject matter itself is not intimidating, but rather the approach. There is no dialogue or conventional plot in Koyaanisqatsi. We are given a series of beautifully shot sequences accompanied by some music. Thankfully, I was mostly pleased with what I saw and heard. It is a dizzying montage of images that reminds us how vast our world is, and that it owes us absolutely nothing. As for the title, it is a word from the Hopi language that refers to a state of life in turmoil.
Fargo (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, 1996) = 2.5/5
You must be gasping at my low rating for this film. Don't worry, I was surprised at how much I hated it, too. Actually, I don't think I hated Fargo. 'Apathy' is the right word. I can't call it a bad film. It is just sorely uninteresting. I think the main problem is that the Coens try too hard to create a melting pot of genres. It's an uneasy mix of black comedy, crime, and drama (and thriller, according to IMDb). I did not care for these characters in the slightest (not even Frances McDormand's Marge Gunderson, who is a good character that deserves a more coherent film). It was only my third Coen brothers film, but I'm yet to see anything by them that I've loved.
Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, 2010) = 2/5
The first two words that come to mind when I think of Somewhere are 'slow' and 'boring'. Slowness usually isn't an issue for me, but when a film insists on being this dull, it becomes a problem. I was very disappointed by this one, having loved Coppola's Lost in Translation (in my top 10 of all time) and The Virgin Suicides. I think the film's title refers to the story's potential. It's out there...somewhere, meandering...but not here. It demands a level of emotional investment that just isn't warranted.
Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981) = 3.5/5
It becomes ludicrous towards the end, but it is extremely well-acted, wonderfully shot, and delightfully bizarre. I can't really compare it to anything else I've ever seen. On a side note, I guarantee you will fall in love with actress Isabelle Adjani (pictured above). Those eyes...my god...those eyes. After seeing this film, though, you may not want to get too close to her.
I Heart Huckabees (David O. Russell, 2004) = 3/5
I can imagine David O. Russell going to cocktail parties months before this film was released, regaling guests with news of his upcoming film about a pair of "existential detectives". He would wear a smug grin on his face, while the guests would fake a smile and nod slowly. OK...maybe I'm being a little harsh on Mr. Russell. His film's premise is certainly a noble one to aspire to, and I think the final product is a solid effort. Unfortunately, the characters just don't ring true, and the plot becomes almost incomprehensible by the third act. I think this material would have worked wonderfully as a novel. Oh, and you may be wondering what a 'huckabee' is. Don't worry; it's not important.
3 Women (Robert Altman, 1977) = 4/5
So, I finally checked out a Robert Altman film! And hey, it was pretty darn good. The idea for this film came to Altman in a dream, and indeed it has a hypnotic dreamlike quality. Bergman's Persona is a very prominent influence here. This film also made me appreciate Shelley Duvall as an actress. Everyone knows her as Wendy Torrance in The Shining, and I don't think her performance here is given enough credit.
Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993) = 3.5/5
It didn't make a lasting impression on me, but it feels very authentic and manages to be both funny and touching. The most delightful thing about this film is seeing actors such as Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and Milla Jovovich before they were stars.
8½ (Federico Fellini, 1963) = 3.5/5
This is the film that every film buff is supposed to adore. It is the ultimate movie about making movies. While I can certainly respect it, I must say I didn't always enjoy it. On a technical level, it's marvelous. However, I am left scratching my head about the meaning of it all. It's a bit too self-indulgent for my liking. I should also mention that this is the first Fellini film I have ever seen.
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999) = 5/5
I was lucky enough to watch this haunting film on the big screen last month. It's my fifth favourite movie of all time. There was no way I was going to miss this opportunity. Each viewing feels like the first. I compare these repeat viewings to going on an epic roller coaster multiple times. You know where the sharp bends and steep inclines are, but that doesn't eradicate the thrill you experience each time. It gets under your skin and unashamedly keeps its secrets. The music, the lighting, the mounting suspense, the set decoration...just everything about this film wins my heart. It is not the erotic thriller the trailer would have you believe. It can almost be viewed as a work of psychological horror. It was Kubrick's parting gift to cinema, and the world is richer for it.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998) = 3/5
Too weird to love, but too unique to hate. Think of it as an experience rather than as a film. I've never been high, so I don't know what it feels like, but I imagine it would be akin to watching this film. Remind me to check out the novel. I hear it's much, much better than this adaptation.
Another Woman (Woody Allen, 1988) = 3/5
A lot of Woody Allen fans call this one of his strongest films, but I disagree. It's actually one of the weaker Allen efforts I've seen. It failed to hold my attention because I just didn't care about these characters' problems. It bored me, and it has one of the dullest colour palettes I've seen in any film. Someone on the IMDb message board for this film called it "the tweedest film ever made". I wholeheartedly agree. So, what's good about it? The performances, and that's pretty much it. (Damn, I trashed this film and it still got a 3!)
Like Water for Chocolate (Alfonso Arau, 1992) = 4/5
It explores love not as an emotion, but as a life force, and it boasts a very strong screenplay. My only criticism would be that it is a bit dated.
Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012) = 4.5/5
My third Wes Anderson film, and easily my favourite so far. This was such a joy to watch, like having a storybook come to life. It's an evocative marriage of style and substance. Anderson's utopia will make you regress into a state of childlike wonder. It's boosted by a stellar cast, and I was especially astounded by young newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward (pictured above). There is so much orgasmic cinematography on show.
Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974) = 4/5
This film disappointed me, but only because I set my expectations too high. I can't really say I enjoyed it, as it's a very cerebral film that requires your undivided attention for its entire 130 minutes. I also found it difficult to connect with the characters, and nothing in the film touched me on an emotional level. Alas, I couldn't help but admire this as a very well-directed film. Polanski is so skilled with his camera, and it's always a pleasure to see an artist at the peak of his game (although Rosemary's Baby will always be my favourite of his).
The Sure Thing (Rob Reiner, 1985) = 3.5/5
Why had I not heard of this movie until a few weeks ago? Why don't more people talk about this movie as a must-see 80s teen comedy? This is the film Rob Reiner made just before Stand By Me, and if you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know how much I cherish that film and what it means to me. I didn't expect this to be as good as Stand By Me, and it wasn't, but it's still very much worth a watch. It's very predictable, but that's a given with the genre. There's an undeniable sweetness here. John Cusack is an absolute joy to watch.
Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1961) = 4.5/5
An arresting chamber film where psychotic delusions intersect with delusions of faith. Extremely well-acted with stunning camerawork from Sven Nykvist. It astounds me how effortless this film looks, and I mean that as a compliment. The setup is so simple, and yet Bergman creates a work of phenomenal passion and sadness. I would recommend this as a good film to start with if you want to delve into Bergman's filmography.
In Summary - The Must-See Films (4.5 or 5 Stars)
* Eyes Wide Shut
* Moonrise Kingdom
* Through a Glass Darkly