As per request, my thoughts on the last few films I have found myself in front of. I must say, I’ve had a streak of really fantastic films and I recommend all on this list, some, of course, a lot more than others.

Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006
Probably one of the best fantasy movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s like an r-rated mishmash of Alice in Wonderland, The Dark Crystal, and Legend with a pinch of Miyazaki. It is fantastic! Pan’s combines the innocent imagination of a child with the horrors of the darkest parts of humanity. The special effects, which could have overly dominated a weaker plot, only help enrich this beautifully told fairy tale. This one should not be missed! Highly recommended!

Volver, 2006
I did the international DVD packaging for this movie a few weeks ago. I found the plot summary strange and had yet to see an Almodovar flick. So, I was naturally curious and excited to go see it. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how well I was overtaken by these people’s lives and situations. In Volver, Almodovar transported me into his world of vivid colors and such real, tangible people that I couldn’t help but care deeply about. And when it was over, I came to miss.

Letters from Iwo Jima, 2006
One of the best war movies I’ve ever seen, second only to Catch 22. This movie is filled with such amazingly beautiful photography and a soundtrack that will blow you away — you would be doing yourselves a great disfavor not seeing this in the cinema. Ken Watanabe is frankly spectacular and is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Now, it’s difficult to sympathize with such a brutal enemy as the Japanese were in WWII. And I’m sure this is why Eastwood decided to focus on the humanity of the hapless soldiers who didn’t care much for the war. And it works. Throughout the movie, he creates very honorable and likable characters that you end up forgetting history for a while and immersing yourself in their roles. A strange dichotomy appears as you want these characters to survive even after a scene where they just gunned down a bunch of Americans. Afterward, I found myself cold and alone thinking how the times we live in define us. What if I found myself pulled out of my life, given a gun, and told to kill perfect strangers for my country? It’s a haunting picture. See it. See it now!

Lady in the Water, 2006
First, let me state I love Paul Giamatti. Watching him unravel the mystery of this fable is spellbinding. But even without that, this movie is magical and hilarious. Although, it is inherently flawed. This film is about writing and the writing process as much as it is about a random sea lady living in a pool. Shyamalan plays with his audience by poking fun at film critics, Hollywood, and especially himself. It was fun to see a modern take on mythology and fables, but the story was convoluted and shy on character development. I have mixed feelings on this one. I enjoyed it immensely, but altogether feel it was a hodgepodge of ideas that never truly fit. Not to mention, there weren’t enough of those angry tree monkeys with mohawks.

Naked Lunch, 1991
Wow. Where do I start? This was by far the strangest, insightful, and interesting film I think I’ve ever seen. It’s positively oozing with symbolism. There is no possible way to understand the entirety of this film in one viewing. I ended my repeated viewings in a daze that still, weeks later, hasn’t fully faded. Almost daily, quotes and scenes from the film randomly pop into my head. Back-to-back viewings, the latter being with the commentary on, are not just highly recommended but almost a necessity if you are to grasp a tenth of what this movie has to offer. This is not a film, it is an experience.

Inconvenient Truth, 2006
You owe it to yourselves to see this movie. It also made me proud to have voted for the guy. And if you only watch one movie on this list…well, that would be silly. But definitely see this one!

Kinsey, 2004
This film captures the political and social climate of fear and repression of its time. It shows us the life of one man who helped open our eyes and redefine what is to be considered normal sexual behavior. Kinsey is a great vessel to travel back and witness how utterly different and how disturbingly similar societies’ views on the subject of sex were barely 50 years ago. It is brilliantly acted, yet kind of slow and stale. Now, I’m not saying it’s terrible by any means, but the storytelling was so clinical I felt put off. I found it similar to a Beautiful Mind, wherein that movie I felt I was inside Nash’s head, instead here I was witnessing Kinsey’s life through a microscope.

Art School Confidential, 2006
I absolutely loved the depiction of art school in this film. I laughed out loud at many of the true-to-form art critique scenes along with the outrageous classmates and their astute yet ridiculous observations. For, I too was once an 18-year-old art student who desired nothing more than to be a great artist someday. So the film brought back some great memories of finding my way and the trials that followed. And this is exactly what works about the film. The scenes where Jerome is finding himself through the interactions with the other characters in the movie are perfect and I found myself wanting more of them. Then they sort of mess it up by interweaving in a subplot of a serial killer that takes away from what could have been a rival to director Zwigoff’s far superior Ghost World.

Capturing the Friedmans, 2003
Everyone in this film is dysfunctional. It seemed that everyone is lying to some extent, the Friedman’s, neighbors, the cops, the media, and the attorneys. There is no safe haven in this film, it’s harsh and matter-of-fact. The most disturbing for me was a voyeuristic look through candid home footage of a family destroying itself. It’s a haunting movie that will stay with you, leaving you with many unanswered questions. I’m still not sure whether I despise or pity the Friedman’s. Perhaps a little bit of both.

All About My Mother, 1999
As I watched my second Almodovar flick in a week, I found I really enjoyed his tone. His movies are fun, serious, hilarious, and heartbreaking. His characters are some of the most alive and true I’ve ever witnessed on screen. This film is about family and how bonds formed between people can either destroy us or complete us. I found this the perfect antidote to the Friedmans. Also, for any Tennessee Williams fan, it’s truly a must-see.


Current mood: sleepy
Currently listening: It’s Time by Michael Bublé


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