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Miller’s Crossing

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****

All in all not a bad guy – if looks, brains and personality don’t count.

Great dialogue.  Almost too great, like David Mamet.  Still, the movies recycles lines in a fashion that the Coen Brothers also used in The Big Lebowski, but less subtly here.  I think that Gabriel Byrne’s look (not in the undershirt) strongly influenced his look in The Usual Suspects.  I wonder if I’ll like this movie even more the next time I see it.

 

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My Top 10 Films from 1985-1989

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1. The Killer
2. Tampopo
3. The Princess Bride
4. Glory
5. A Better Tomorrow II
6. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
7. Ran
8. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad
9. Akira
10. Platoon

Honorable Mentions: The Last Temptation of Christ, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Manhunter, Die Hard, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Back to the Future.

The foreign films–1,2,5,7 & 9.  That’s half of the movies!  The Killer is the best John Woo film.  Chow Yun Fat and Danny Lee.  Too good.  Tampopo is the single greatest Japanese noodle western EVER MADE.  It’s an interesting reversal on the Western tradition of taking Samurai movies and turning them into Westerns.  A Better Tomorrow II also stars Chow Yun Fat and provided the idea of dressing up in formal wear before mass carnage ensues (which Tarrantino loves).  Ran is beautiful (Kurasawa’s version of King Lear).  And Akira was the first anime I ever watched.  I’m hard pressed to think of a more influential film than the one that exposed the US to the genre.

As for the rest, I think it was a very good period for blending comedy with a genre picture to make something better The Princess Bride (romance + comedy), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (animation + noir + comedy), and The Naked Gun (comedy + more comedy).

That just leaves two war movies about the poor grunts who fought it unfortunate circumstances.

Point Break

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***½

Special agent Utah! This is not some job, flipping burgers at the local drive-in! Yes! – your surf board bothers me! Yes! – your approach to this whole damn case bothers me! And yes! – YOU BOTHER ME!

This movie was much better than I expected.  Patrick Swayze does a really, really good job in this.  Gary Busey does a really good job.  Keanu Reeves does a good job.  John C. McGinley does an early version of himself (awesome).  And Kathryn Bigelow got better performances from them than one might expect.  Movies that delve into a world are hard to pull off, and this movie does an average job presenting the world of 1980’s surfing.  I now see why Hot Fuzz referenced this film.

Best of 2002

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2002:
1. Irreversible
2. The Twilight Samurai
3. Narc
4. City of G-d
5. Comedian
6. Infernal Affairs
7. Adaptation
8. The Quiet American
9. Hero
10. The Bourne Identity

Somehow this list did not make it with the rest of the 2000’s.  An amazing year.  The f’n Bourne Identity barely cracked the Top 10 and Infernal Affairs the original The Departed only ranks #6 (vs. #4 of 2006).  I understand that people might strongly disagree with #1, 5, 7 & 8.  Lastly, if anyone tells you that Hero is better than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, tell him to put down the opium pipe.

Top 10 Movies of the 1990’s

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1. Before the Rain
2. The Usual Suspects
3. One Day in September
4. Croupier
5. Ghost in the Shell
6. Barton Fink
7. Unforgiven
8. Schindler’s List
9. Braveheart
10. L.A. Confidential

1. I have not seen Before the Rain in six years, but I will put it up against any film from the 1990’s.  Try it.  It’s a Balkan film that introduced me to Rade Scherbajia.
2. The Usual Suspects is a movie I’ve seen at least 14 times.  And it still works, badda boom badda bing bang boom.
3. One Day in September – I gave  Munich 5 stars.  This is more powerful.
4. When I saw Croupier I wondered why its lead, Clive Owen, was not a star.  Unsurprisingly, now he is one.
5. Ghost in the Shell has one main flaw, that it is not a mini-series, or an hour longer.  A great movie leaves you wanting more, as this one does.
6. Barton Fink is a better movie than the Big Lebowski, but not by much.  I do not think that many people need convincing of that one, so (re-)watch Barton Fink instead.
7. Unforgiven is the best western of the 1990’s, that’s why it won the Oscar for Best Picture.  Way to get one right, Academy.
8. I have not rewatched Schindler’s List since the late 90’s, but what a powerful film.
9. Mel Gibson is a putz who thinks that he is Jesus.
10. I do not know if The Usual Suspects qualifies as a noir, but L.A. Confidential certainly does.  Having read the book, I understand why this won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay.  Perfect casting, especially going with two Australians and an Englishman.  This film is why The Black Dahlia might have been the most disappointing film of the 2000’s.

Moulin Rouge!

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***½

There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy…

I tried to watch this movie in 2002, but brought a prejudiced view to it.  Stepping away from that, this movie has a few flaws–lack of clarity in the story & unfortunate melodramatic moments.  That said, the editing in this film was amazing.  I have no idea how Baz Luhrman knew what to film, much less how to cut it all together.  75% of the music works very well, which is a higher percentage than I expected, and makes me want to listen to the soundtrack.  In the end I am torn between highlighting Jim Broadbent’s growth as a character from villain to morally neutral and how, from a certain perspective, all four main male characters all use Nicole Kidman’s Satine.  Ewan McGregor’s Christian needs a woman to love, or else his beliefs are hollow.  While he falls in love immediately, he portrays it as a genuine love, which he hates to lose.  Still, he acts like a petulant child near the end.  Not that either conception makes this a bad film, on the contrary.  I could go on about the layers of presentation–a film starting with a song about a boy, the boy is writing/narrating the story, that boy joins a play, the play get performed and parallels the plot of the movie/story.  Very interesting stuff.

Seraphim Falls

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****½

Let him bleed.

I cannot believe how little I had heard about this film.  It has a great start to break the peace, which sets this unique tone of a chronic disease.  You know that it will kill both of the men, but that while it surely moves towards that unavoidable end that it might not be for minutes, hours, days, etc… Nothing is safe.  It juxtaposes a frenzied escape with a deliberate chase.  Pierce Brosnan is great.  Liam Neeson comes across as very professional & very competent, like someone out of a Michael Mann film.  However, that steely demeanor hides something underneath.  By the time when you learn why Neeson is chasing Brosnan, you would probably be willing to pay money to find out why.  Not that it is particularly original, but it works.  That scene features Angie Harmon, which highlights how several surprisingly good actors took bit parts in this film.   It is true that there are some slowly delivered walk-off lines, like “Ain’t no G-d out here. There’s just words.”  It’s a little over the top.  On the other hand, the craziness of the world takes on a life of its own reappearing occasionally just to offer our stalwart leads something new to which to react.  By the end it reminded me of everything from the diner scene in Heat between DeNiro and Pacino and the end of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  I had never heard of the director, David Von Ancken, before this film, but I will keep my ears open for his name in the future.

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