Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ranking The Best Pictures: Films #4-7

In case you've missed it, here's quick links to my first two Movietox write-ups:

Without further ado, here w'go.....

7. True Grit

Let me preface the breakdown of the film that many would consider to be the best of the crop, by saying the Coen Brothers are my favorite directors. The Big Lebowski and No Country For Old Men would make my Top 10 movies of all time, and would most likely crack the Top 5. Barton Fink and Fargo would both get Top 20 consideration. No other director(s) could come close to matching the resume of these two brohams. I thought True Grit was good, but not great, which is an accomplishment because of the expectations I hold Coen Brothers' movies to.

However, the public seemed to eat this movie up. Here's my theory on why. People know that the Coens are highly respected and renowned amongst movie folk, but they don't make films that are easy on the brain. They like to challenge their viewers. So the bros finally made a movie that connected commercially, which caused a sort of universal overreaction by drawing in the common moviegoer. Now the mainstreamers feel ok about claiming themselves as Coen Brothers fans, and now I feel slightly perturbed because I have one more thing in common with the rest of society, which hurts my perception of this movie. All this said, it was good, and I liked it.

IMDB Nugget: The first Coen Brothers film to gross over $100 million in the United States.

6. The Fighter

This was the most surprising movie of all to me (although it suffered from a late fall from 4 to 6 - three films that are all neck-and-neck), because I did not expect to like this one. The crazy part about this movie was that it centered on Micky Ward, who I knew as a boxer (the epic Ward-Gatti threequel), yet  I never made the connection between this flick and the fighter. However, I am a big fan of movies that portray true stories where I'm unaware of the outcome (even though I was, I wasn't cognizant of at the time).

The heart of the movie was the relationship between Ward (Marky Mark) and his brother (Christian Bale). It's not just their direct relationship though, but indirectly, as well, by how their relationship affects everyone else in their lives. It's Bale who really carries the movie, providing comic relief while doubling as both the antagonist and the inspiration to the protagonist. He shall be rewarded this year. My only problem with the movie was Ward's knockout of Alfonso Sanchez, which seemed poorly executed (my dislike of it lessened after watching the real clip of it at about the 1:25 mark of this video...)

IMDB Nugget: Q: Did HBO make a documentary about Dicky Eklund? A: An HBO documentary film crew did follow the real Dicky Eklund. While the title of the documentary in the film is Crack in America the real title was High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell (1995).

IMDB Double Dose: Darren Aronofsky was previously attached to direct but left the production to work on Black Swan (2010).

5. 127 Hours

After the introduction is shot in a fast-paced city setting, Aron Rolston finds himself trapped under that fateful rock about 20 minutes into the movie. After that happened, I sort of thought to myself, "If he's reserved to being under this rock, what could possibly fill the rest of this movie?" Well, that's the beauty of this film. Through creative flashbacks and hallucinations (I'll never look at Scooby Doo the same) you are told the background of the main character, played awesomely by (my boy) James Franco (Freaks and Geeks 4 Life), who I'm eagerly anticipating as host of this year's Oscars.

You get a peek into the mind of Rolston through a narrative video diary he keeps along the way. I believe it's designed to show him experiencing the 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. It was fascinating to see what parts of his life, and which people, resonated through his mind as time went on because at that point, there's simply no lying to yourself. It all crescendos with the scene that everybody paid for (and if you're squeamish, you will pay for it), which doesn't disappoint one bit.

IMDB Nugget: Aron Ralston: "You know, I've been thinking. Everything is... just comes together. It's me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock... this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It's entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It's been waiting, to come here. Right, right here. I've been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born, every breath that I've taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the out surface."

4. Winter's Bone

This is the kind of movie that benefits from expanding the Best Picture category to 10 films (instead of 5), earning an otherwise unknown indie some recognition. This movie was just the latest reminder to me to avoid Ozark Country in Missouri (the Hansbrough's were enough of a reason). This slow and subtle peek into backwoods life, where everybody may or may not be related and anybody may or may not be out to get you, sets an excellent tone with drabness painted all over the set. At no point, is this a place you'd ever want to find yourself, and yet these people are real, just like you and I.

The heart of the movie is the ever-present theme of the wild, which these characters are more sensical to than us city folk. Visuals of the surrounding animals and trees are consistently displayed between scenes of dialogue (including a harrowing black-and-white squirrel sequence). The movie climaxes with a spine-tingling scene that goes above and beyond the way-more-hyped scene in 127 Hours. It's haunting enough to stay with you for more than a few days. This is probably the most under-the-radar film of the 10 nominations, but if you can handle the unsettling nature of it, you're sure to pop a Winter's Boner.

IMDB Nugget: References: Boyz n the Hood (1991) - Porch convo in final scene. It's basically a scene-for-scene replica of Boys n the Hood actually.

Only 3 movies left, see which W.H. Dirkness selects as his favorite movie of the year between Black Swan, Inception, and The Social Network.

William H. Dirkness

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