Tag Archives: 2000’s

Bloody Sunday (2002)

ImageBloody Sunday (2002)

Director: Paul Greengrass

Writer: Paul Greengrass

Starring: James Nesbitt, Allan Gildea, Tim Pigott-Smith

Runtime: 107 minutes

Rating: 92%

Views: 1st Viewing

Paul Greengrass’ television film was perhaps the directors first landmark film, and an incredibly important one at that. The film is set in a small Northern Ireland town called Derry on January 30, 1972, the day now known to many as “Bloody Sunday”.  The movie of the same name accurately portrays the tragic events that took place that afternoon, where thirteen (later fourteen) people marching for the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association were killed by the British Army, with many others being injured.  The events in the film are shown with incredible realism in a gritty documentary style.

The documentary style of Bloody Sunday works incredibly well, especially since it captures both sides of the story.  Both the British Army and members of the NICRA are given almost equal sceen-time, and it gives the audience a real sense of what was going through the minds of both sides.  Not everything about the events on January 30th are known even forty years later, but Greengrass’ film seems to do an incredibly accurate job of portraying the facts.  Since there are no central characters in the film other than James Nesbitt’s Ivan Cooper (the leader of the NICRA), there isn’t opportunity for the audience to attach themselves to characters in the film.  Instead, the cold hard facts are laid out in front of the viewer over the 100 minute runtime.  The last half of the film is incredibly tense, violent and heart-wrenching, showing exactly how important this film really is because of its portrayal of the Bloody Sunday events.  One of the films biggest flaws is the style of editing used throughout the entire movie, constantly cutting between sides and between characters, giving no sense of location or time, and making it very difficult to follow at times.  The editing is crude and raw, and really distracts viewers from the events that are unfolding.  This style of editing and the disassociation with any characters in the film leave me respecting the film more than actually enjoying it.  I recommend it to those interested in a gritty, raw portrayal of British and Irish history.  7.5/10.

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United 93 (2006)

ImageUnited 93 (2006)

Director: Paul Greengrass

Writer: Paul Greengrass

Starring: J.J. Johnson, David Alan Basche, Liza Colon-Zayas

Runtime: 111 minutes

Rating: 91%

Paul Greengrass’ Academy Award nominated United 93 certainly isn’t a film for the faint of heart, nor is it a film that pulls any punches.  Released on the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, United 93 depicts the events that took place aboard the plane of the same name.  United Flight 93 was to be the fourth plane used in a series of deadly terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.  Two of the hijacked planes hit the famed World Trade Center, with the third hitting a section of the Pentagon in Washington.  The first half of the film takes place in flight control centres around the country as the terror attacks and hijackings are happening, and the second act takes place as United 93 is in mid-air.  The passengers aboard the plane decide to take action against the four men who have taken control of the flight.

Anybody reading this post right now certainly doesn’t need a history lesson about what took place on that fateful day.  Greengrass’ film assumes that the audience knows everything they need to know going into the film, and that was most definitely the best possible choice for the director.  From the very beginning United 93 is a procedural of sorts, not focusing on any specific characters or locations, instead jumping between numerous flight control centres as the events of the morning are unfolding.  They must face the reality that three planes in the air have been hijacked and are heading towards their targets, and that is handled with incredible care and maturity.  This act of the film uses real news/archival footage from September 11th, and it works incredibly well to set up the atmosphere for what is to come in the second act of the film.

The second half of the film is where United 93 /really/ shines.  The cast is entirely made up of non-professional/unknown actors, and it definitely works to the films benefit.  Nobody on flight United 93 is made out to be some kind of superhuman hero.  These are real, desperate people in the most desperate of situations, and they provide for some of the best scenes put to film in the 2000’s, which is a huge compliment.  Both sides of the cast (the hijackers and the passengers) do an amazing job here, both having brilliant moments throughout.   United 93 is the furthest thing from an exploitation of 9/11.  Paul Greengrass earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Director in 2006 due to his incredibly subtle, caring, sensitive and yet incredibly reality-based direction, and really deserved to be beside names like Martin Scorsese (who took the award home), Clint Eastwood, and Stephen Frears that year.  This is how every film depicting ugly moments in our history should be.

The fact that the audience watching the film knows exactly what is going to happen no matter how far the passengers get only makes this tale more tragic.  United 93 is a brilliant portrait of a very unfortunate day in American history.  It is handled with incredible care by a talented writer/director, and by an incredible ensemble cast.  It’s definitely one of the greatest treasures of mid-2000’s cinema, even though it isn’t necessarily an easy watch.  If you, like me, were turned off by the thought of the film being overly-patriotic or insensitive, have no fear!  United 93 is a film the likes of which I’ve never seen before.  9.5/10.

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Munich (2005)

ImageMunich (2005)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Tony Kushner, Eric Roth

Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush

Runtime: 164 minutes

Rating: 78% Fresh

Steven Spielberg’s 2005 effort Munich revolves around the events that took place at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany.  During the events, a Palestinian terror cell known as Black September took eleven Israeli athletes hostage, eventually killing them as well as a German police officer.  This is where our main character Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana) comes into play.  He is hand-picked as the leader of an elite assassination squad whose mission is simple: Track down and kill those responsible for the Black September killings.

Spielberg’s 160+ minute film seems like more of a passion project for the legendary director than some of his latest efforts, and it really benefits the film.  This is a Spielberg the likes of which we’ve never seen before.  Munich is dark, violent, bleak, and gives the audience very little to chew on in the way of clear-cut answers.  Looking at Spielberg’s filmography up to this point, there’s almost literally nothing one can compare Munich to, which is part of what makes this film so special.  There’s a scene in the film where the crew raids a compound where three of the targets are hidden.  The scene is incredibly to the point, and easily one of the bloodiest and most gruesome scenes ever to be found in a Steven Spielberg film.  Tony Kushner’s incredible script and John Williams’ noticeably darker score only adds to the atmosphere, really stressing the bleakness of the film.

The cast includes of host of familiar faces, including Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, and Geoffrey Rush which sounds like the most unlikely cast ever assembled, but they /really/ work effective in this case.  Bana in particular shines in the lead role, and is never painted as some sort of hero, because he simply isn’t one.  One of the coolest parts of this film is that the crew uses an assortment of inventive execution methods, which all have varying results.  These weapons only further the fact that these men aren’t heroes, rather a team simply doing their job the best they can.  The atmosphere in the film is incredible, using songs from the 1960’s and early 70’s and costumes of the era to make it really feel like 1972, something that can make or break a period piece.

There /were/ things that simply didn’t work within the film, however.  At one point, Bana’s assassination attempt on one of the targets is accidentally thwarted by a group of drunk American’s.  This had absolutely no place in a dark film like Munich, and really takes the audience out of the moment.  It doesn’t do anything to add to the suspense of the film, because the suspense is already there.  There’s also a moment where Bana is on the phone with his infant daughter, and both the direction and score start to feel more like a conventional Spielberg-ian film.  This certainly wasn’t a bad or even distracting scene, but it’s one that doesn’t have a place in this film.  Overall, I think I can safely say that Munich is easily one of the best Spielberg films I’ve ever seen (this coming from a fan of his work), and one of the best films of the 2000’s.  I highly recommend that everybody see Munich9.5/10.

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Top 10 Blindspots (2000’s Edition)

As you read this blog, you’ll probably notice that I love making lists, especially lists about films.  In fact, sometimes I get so carried away with them that I enjoy making the lists more than I enjoy watching the actual films!  If you have any suggestions for top 5 or top 10 or top 100 or top 1,000,000 lists, feel free to comment and recommend some topics!

A “Blindspot” in the film world is a film that you’re ashamed of never having seen, every film enthusiast has these, no matter how big or small they may be.  It’s nearly impossible to see every single well-regarded film from every single director or actor or movement in film or genre.  Since I’ve been going through a bit of a 2000’s phase lately, these are my top 10 blindspots of the 2000’s (2000-2009):

MV5BMTg1NzI5ODgxM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTcxMjk3NA@@._V1_SX214_10. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Starring: Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna

Runtime: 106 minutes

Rating: 91% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: This Academy Award nominee for Best Original Screenplay welcomed a new name in director Alfonso Cuaron, who would later go on to direct Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, and the upcoming Gravity.  It is almost universally beloved, with many people calling it the greatest (and sexiest) road trip film of all-time.

9. Hunger (2008)MV5BMTc4NTQwNjIzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTg0NjQwMw@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_

Director: Steve McQueen

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Brian Milligan, Liam McMahon

Runtime: 96 minutes

Rating: 90% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: Praised by critics for being its gritty portrayal prison conditions, as well as being one of the most moving and claustrophobic films of that year.  Not only did it mark the directorial debut of British director Steve McQueen, but also introduced Michael Fassbender to a wide audience.  I think the reason I haven’t yet seen it is because McQueen’s 2011 follow-up Shame was so emotionally draining that I’m afraid of going through that again with this film.

MV5BMTIxNDMwNTQ3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMDU4MzQ5._V1_SX214_8. Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Director: Lars von Trier

Starring: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare

Runtime: 140 minutes

Rating: 68% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: Bjork’s performance in von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark is praised as being one of the greatest performances of the year, winning the Cannes award for Best Actress, and being robbed of any nomination at all by the Academy.  von Trier’s film is said to pack a gut-punch even harder than Requiem for a Dream, which like Hunger, is probably one of the main reasons I haven’t braved this film yet.  Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves was an incredible viewing experience, and I can’t wait to see this and compare the two films.

7. V for Vendetta (2006)V-for-Vendetta-poster-2006-4

Director: James McTeigue

Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea

Runtime: 132 minutes

Rating: 73% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: V for Vendetta seems to be a very divisive film among movie-goers, but one thing is for certain here: Those who love it /really/ love it.  It’s one of the internets favorite films of the 2000’s, and the reaction you get from telling somebody that you haven’t yet seen it is like telling somebody that you can’t stand looking at kittens.  V for Vendetta is definitely more of a hit with audiences than critics, but that certainly isn’t the reason I haven’t seen it yet.  I think that at the moment I’m more interested in reading the graphic novel beforehand.

MV5BMTYzNjQzNzQ2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjg2MTgyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR2,0,214,317_6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Director: Ang Lee

Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang

Runtime: 120 minutes

Rating: 97% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: Ang Lee’s masterfully directed kung-fu epic garnered /ten/ Academy Awards nominations, including ones for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing.  It won four of those ten awards, and was almost universally acclaimed among audiences and critics, specifically Ang Lee’s direction and the performance of Michelle Yeoh.  This is one I’ve been meaning to catch up with for years now.

5. Brick (2006)brick_movie_poster_painted_by_jam_bad

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss

Runtime: 110 minutes

Rating: 80% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: Rian Johnson’s feature-length debut was celebrated by critics for being a great send-up of the film noir genre, and a perfectly executed high school film.  Johnson would go on to direct The Brothers Bloom, which had its moments, and 2012’s acclaimed sci-fi film Looper.

MV5BMjA3MTkzMzI3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzYwMzQ4MQ@@._V1_SX214_4. Memento (2000)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

Runtime: 113 minutes

Rating: 92% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: Christopher Nolan’s sophomore effort used incredibly original story-telling and editing methods, again playing with the tropes and themes of a film noir.  It was nominated for Best Writing and Best Editing at the Academy Awards, and is beloved by any Nolan fan, often regarded as his best film to date.  I think my lukewarm reaction to Nolan’s Inception (despite loving his previous films) kind of turned me off from Memento for a little while.

3. Amelie (2001)amelie_ver1

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz

Runtime: 122 minutes

Rating: 90% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: Amelie is perhaps the most well-known film of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children) career, featuring a celebrated performance by Audrey Tautou, and expert direction by Jeunet.  It’s celebrated for being a charming, original, and just generally feel-good film, and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Writing, Best Foreign Film, and Best Cinematography.  I’ve seen part of this, but lost interest mid-way through for reasons that had nothing to do with the actual film.

MV5BMTMwMTY0Nzk3M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjQwMTMzMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_2. Mulholland Drive (2001)

Director: David Lynch

Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Ann Miller

Runtime: 147 minutes

Rating: 81% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is perhaps his most loved and most successful film to date, being nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, and winning the same prize at the Cannes film festival.  Naomi Watts’ performance is said to be incredible, and the film a very atmospheric and confusing ride.  It placed rather high on the recent Sight & Sound list, being one of the only inclusions from the past decade to make the list.  That alone makes it a must-see film.

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mind_ver1

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Director: Michel Gondry

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, David Cross, Kirsten Dunst

Runtime: 108 minutes

Rating: 93% Fresh

Why is it a blindspot?: Yeah, I really have no excuse for never having seen this film.  It’s one that has always eluded me for one reason or another.  Eternal Sunshine won Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards for Charlie Kaufman‘s incredible script, and Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Actress for the film!  On most lists I’ve seen around the internet, Eternal Sunshine is more often than not the #1 film of the list.  Luckily, I recently picked it up on blu-ray and plan on watching it very soon!

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24 Hour Party People (2002)

Image24 Hour Party People (2002)

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Steve Coogan, John Thomson, Lennie James, Paddy Considine, Shirley Henderson

Runtime: 117 minutes

Michael Winterbottom isn’t a name I hear very often, but I am very familiar with his two most popular films A Cock and Bull Story (which I haven’t yet had the chance to see) and 2011’s The Trip, which was one of my favorite films of that year.  I had always heard that Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People is one of the most underrated films of the 2000’s, and I must say that I was fairly disappointed when the credits rolled, especially after adoring The Trip.

24 Hour Party people is about legendary head of Factory Records, Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan), a punk rock/new wave music label in 1980’s and 90’s Manchester.  Along the way, he signs artists like Joy Division (later New Order), A Certain Ratio, and Happy Mondays, and many ups and downs with all parties, including the suicide of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis.  Tony Wilson and company experience success with the rise in popularity of punk rock and rave culture, and eventually the group opens a club of sorts.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the film lived up to its true potential for quite a few reasons: The supporting cast was muddled, with many characters coming and going as the script saw fit, and Steve Coogan, while being a very versatile leading man, just didn’t have a whole lot to work with in the film, especially comedically.  He manages to carry many of the films darker and more serious scenes, but one actor alone couldn’t make 24 Hour Party People live up to the hype for me.  I understand that his character is meant to be more of a spectator to the events going on around him (“I’m a minor character in my own story”), but it really detracts from the film and makes it feel like there is no weight to any of the dark situations he’s encountering.  Giving the film a central character with some sort of real development or maturity would have greatly benefitted it in the end.

The music in the film is terrific, as is the atmosphere of 1980’s Manchester.  Everything felt accurate and believable in this respect, even though I don’t have a lot of knowledge of the time period, and specifically of the punk rock movement in the city.  Despite sometimes being slightly confusing, the supporting cast did feature a host of familiar faces, including Andy Serkis, Rob Brydon, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, and Peter Kay.  The film was often very funny, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a full-blown comedy because of the various dark situations Tony Wilson and Factory Records deal with and live through.  I felt at times that the heavy stylization of the film’s editing often worked against the film, almost to the point of distraction.  The effects and editing techniques used here simply don’t seem to have aged well, and it was a huge turn off to me.  Though there were a lot of things about 24 Hour Party People that didn’t work for me, I still had a lot of fun while viewing this, and I’m glad that I finally got around to seeing it.  If it had been a more polished and consistent film, it could have been phenomenal.  7/10.

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Angels in America (2003)

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Angels in America (2003)

Directed: Mike Nichols

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Justin Kirk, Ben Shankman

Runtime: 352 minutes

Ah, my very first review for Matt’s Life in Film…No pressure or anything, of course!

I remember as a child watching Canada’s “The Movie Network” day and night, taking in any and all films that looked even remotely interesting to me.  I vividly remember seeing advertisements for HBO’s new mini-series, Angels in America.  Based on the previews, it looked like something a boy my age might enjoy (there were Angels, cool looking special effects, and a lot of drama.  What else do you need!?), but unfortunately Angels always played for too late for a 12-year-old boy to watch.  In many ways, I’m glad that this week marked my first viewing of the series.  As much as I may have enjoy parts of it as a kid, there’s no way I would have been able to grasp most of what the film challenges its audience with, or appreciate some of the great performances and moments within Angels in America.

The year is 1985, and the AIDS epidemic is in full-swing.  We follow Mormon and Republican law clerk, Joe Pitt (Patrick Wilson), his boss, the much maligned Roy Cohn (played brilliantly by Al Pacino), and Joe’s Valium addicted wife, Harper (Mary-Louise Parker) on one side of the story.  We come to find out early in the story that Roy Cohn has been infected with the AIDS virus, though he lies about it to his colleagues in order to preserve his position of power in the United States Department of Justice.  Joe and Harper Pitt are living in a loveless, sexless marriage, and both parties are unhappy with where their lives have led them.  Harper is made anxious by affection and many other everyday activities, and relies heavily on Valium to lift her spirits, and Joe is in the closet due to his religious views.

On the other side of things are Prior (Justin Kirk) and his lover Louis (Ben Shankman).  Prior has also been infected by the virus, and is quickly abandoned by his long-time partner because Louis is simply unable to handle it.  As Prior is slowly dying in the hospital, Louis is ravaged by feelings of guilt and confusion.  Prior is visited in dreams by an angel (Emma Thompson), who commands him to choose death and become a prophet in the afterlife.  Joe Pitt’s mother Hannah (Meryl Streep) and Prior’s former lover Belize (Jeffrey Wright) help Prior to decide between life or death, and Louis soon becomes involved with Joe Pitt.

Even after all of that is said and done, there’s a lot more to Angels in America than one person can describe with words.  As cliched as it sounds, this mini-series is something that has to be experienced to be believed.  It’s a beautiful period-piece, and captures its time period a  lot more accurately than I expected it to.  Playwright Tony Kushner (Academy Award nominated writer of 2012’s “Lincoln”) penned the amazing and intricate script for Angels, lending it immediate credibility.  Though AiA runs for six hours, there are very few parts of the story that drag or don’t work in the context of the film, and I was never bored or confused by what was going on within this world.  It was completely believable, and incredibly well-acted by most of the cast, including amazing performances by the legendary Al Pacino, newcomer Patrick Wilson, and Ben Shankman.  The one performance that just didn’t work for me, and the biggest flaw of the film in my eyes, was that of Mary-Louis Parker, who played Hannah Pitt.  While she is competent in some of her pivotal scenes, her line delivery never seems believable, making her monologues a bit of a chore to get through.  Not only does Angels in America feature an amazing writer and cast, but it was also directed by Mike Nichols, director of films like “The Graduate” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, who definitely does the film justice with his years of directing experience.

This is a beautifully made film in every respect, and one that I’m glad I finally caught up with.  I highly recommend it to anybody with the patience to sit through six-hours of incredible dialogue,  moments that will stick with you long after the film ends, and incredible acting, writing, and direction.  9/10.

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