10. “Gangs of New York” – 2002 . Dir. Martin Scorsese. With Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, John C. Reilly, Brendan Gleeson and Liam Neeson.
“I took the father, now I’ll take the son.”
I consider “Gangs” to be one of Martin Scorsese’s masterpieces. It is a tremendously flawed film with DiCaprio miscast (I have always said Colin Farrell would have been perfect in the role) and a horrid performance by Diaz. What saves this film from the utter nightmare it could have been is Daniel Day-Lewis who gives a performance that competes with his portrayal of Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood”. The fact that Day-Lewis lost to Adrian Brody for “The Pianist” still befuddles me. Day-Lewis carries this entire film, and the way he relentlessly delivers his lines of dialogue is perfect. Some of the lines Bill the Butcher Cutting says have stuck with me since I saw the film the day it was released (Christmas ’02).
The opening battle on the streets of New York is a remarkable display of Scorsese’s vision. The bulk of the battle was shot at 12fps which created this jarringly unsettling view. Peter Gabriel’s “Signal to Noise” is playing during this scene, and it screeches and tears your eardrums apart while you hear the clashing of rusty weapons and blood curdling screams.
Scorsese had been trying to make this film since the 1970’s and it’s apparent when the script was written. The film deals with racism and the opposition of war (Vietnam). The opposition of the draft, and the rage and contempt that Bill the Butcher holds against the “blackies” or “darkies” deals with the racial challenges America still has today.
This is a very personal project of Scorsese’s (much unlike his latest “Shutter Island”). I feel that this is his most personal work in recent years, and his follow-ups “The Departed” and “Shutter Island” lack the authenticity and personal feel that he is so respected for. “Aviator” came extremely close, but at times it feels like Scorsese is trying a little too hard.
The performances the supporting cast gives is phenomenal. Brendan Gleeson and Liam Neeson deliver solidly as usual. John C. Reilly (who was in three best picture nominees that year, “Gangs”, “The Hours” and “Chicago” and was nominated for Best Supporting for “Chicago”) gives his last good performance. I understand that he’s riding the gravy train right now with “Dewy Cox” and “Step Brothers”, but I hope that he gets back to his acting roots like he displayed in PT Anderson films.
Martin Scorsese is the greatest living director, and one of the best directors who have ever sat behind the camera. His personal films are touching and heartfelt, and they are films that I cannot live without. I absolutely love “Gangs of New York” and defend its flawed honor for the rest of my life.
9. “A History of Violence” – 2005. Dir. David Cronenberg. With Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt.
“You were always a problem for me Joey. When Mom brought you home from the hospital – I tried to strangle you in your crib – she wacked the daylights out of me.”
After seeing this film in theaters, I was rendered speechless. I was so taken by the film. This film is David Cronenberg’s masterpiece. The film is broken up into amazing segments with great transitions. The film starts off with chaotic violence, and transitions to a peaceful homestead of the Stalls. It’s a melodramatic feel as we see Tom Stall (Mortienson) run his small diner. It isn’t until the bad men from the opening wander into Stall’s Diner and are about to kill everyone in there – then Tom Stall springs to action in a heroic yet over the top execution of the two men.
What strikes me about this film is that what Cronenberg is trying to tell us is that you can never change who you actually are. You can mask it, hide it, keep it in remission but you cannot change your primal urges, and for Tom Stall (Joey Cussak) it is to kill. Tom/Joey started a new life, got married and had a family, and it was only a matter of time before his deep soaked past caught up with him.
William Hurt gives the second best performance of his career and one of the best performances of the decade as Tom/Joey’s older brother Richie. He is the final trial that Tom/Joey has to overcome before he can try and return home, and pick up the pieces of his shattered life. Hurt is sadistically evil in the film, and the way Cronenberg shoots the scene is phenomenal. The eye light that Hurt’s character displays gives him this menacing sparkle and his delivery of lines are monumental. He is the triumph of the film, and I equate his part of the film to that of Martin Sheen finally meeting Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now”. This film is remarkable and flawless.
8. “A Serious Man” – 2009. Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen. With Michael Stuhlbarg, Fred Melamed and Richard Kind.
“I’m a serious man, Larry.”
This is one of the most mind boggling films I have ever seen. It affected me as deeply as “Antichrist” did with the films themes and symbolism that I still have a hard time grasping. I have watched the film a couple of times since I had originally seen it, and one thing is for certain, it is the Coen’s masterpiece. What they display and what they try and achieve in this film is so mind bending that I can’t get the film out of my head.
The film has a basic plot. Larry is a simple man who is a teacher, husband and father trying to raise his family according to his Jewish faith. His wife then leaves him for his best friend, his doctor has urgent news for him, his jobless brother is wanted by the police, his son is a pot head, and his daughter wants a nose job. This all sounds funny, and it is. It’s hysterical in a very dark and disturbing manor. Everything that will go wrong in Larry’s life does – triple fold.
I also like the way this film snuck its way into the main stream. The film was made after “Burn After Reading” and before their upcoming “True Grit”. It’s an extremely small and personal film by the Coen’s and you won’t recognize any actors in the film aside from Richard Kind. It is a generic and faceless template that the Coen’s lay for us – just so they can flip the universe on top of us, and make us think. This is one of the most challenging films I have ever seen.
7. “The Door in the Floor” – 2005. Dir. Tod Williams. With Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger and Jon Foster.
“Turn off the light Eddie, the story is much better in the dark.”
“The Door in the Floor” deliverers a tour-de-force of dramatic power and is filled with rich and heartbroken characters. Jeff Bridges gives the BEST performance of his career. I know everyone loves “Crazy Heart”, but see this film. Jeff Bridges rivals my personal favorite performances of Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot”, “Gangs of New York” and “There Will Be Blood” and Roy Scheider in “All That Jazz”. This is a film that will seep into your soul and will never let you go.
It is a remarkable feat to create a film of this magnitude and still keep the audience from walking out. It is one of the most underappreciated films ever made, and the absolute raw power and beauty it holds is mind blowing.
It is an emotionally draining film, but with the delivery of Bridges and Basinger, the blows are lighter and lighter.
You don’t have a soul if “The Door in the Floor” doesn’t break your heart. Watching this film overwhelms me with so much emotion that it is hard for me to take. After watching this film, I consume myself with writing, and it allows me to channel my inner emotions that I have repressed, and allows them to flourish onto paper. Anyone who is important to me in my life, I share this film with.
6. “In the Mood for Love” – 2000. Dir. Kar Wai Wong. With Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung.
“In the old days, if someone had a secret they didn’t want to share… you know what they did?”
“They went up a mountain, found a tree, carved a hole in it, and whispered the secret into the hole. Then they covered it with mud. And leave the secret there forever.”
This is the most beautiful and romantic film to come from world cinema this past decade. It is a film that transcends language and culture and brings the raw pain and beauty of love to our attention. This film hits on all cylinders with its writing, directing, acting, cinematography and editing. The narrative is linear yet non linear. The entire film is a beautiful showboat of love. The film dazzles you until the remarkable ending that leaves your floored.
This film inspires me each time that I see it. The music in this film is the best usage of music in film that I have ever seen. This entire film captivates you, and holds you in its grasp so tightly that you cannot escape, you cannot turn your head away because the film commands your attention. This film is truly beautiful and you need to see it as soon as you can.
Out of all the 10’s that I have given to films, this film breaks the grading scale and is an 11.
5. “American Psycho” – 2000. Dir. Mary Harron. With Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Samantha Morton, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon and Willem Dafoe.
“I feel as if my mask of sanity is about to slip.”
This is one of the best adaptations of any novel I have ever seen. The novel is a fantastic story of an apathetic character that has no identifiable human emotions aside from disgust and greed. The film excels in its faithful adaptation of bringing one of the richest characters in fictional history to life. Christian Bale gives the performance of his career as Patrick Bateman, a self sufficient Wall Street executive that has a deep rooted blood lust. His character has no emotion but slides his mask on and completely blends into the crowd of elites he has embedded himself in.
The film greatly portrayals how self consumed we all are with money and materialistic items. Patrick Bateman is the embodiment of the American Dream, he is what our society of capitalism and MTV has constructed. There has been much speculation upon the ending of the film. Was Patrick Bateman really a killer – or did he make it all up, or was it just a dream? *SPOILER* If you do not want me to ruin it for you, skip to the next film. The producers force Harron to make the ending more ambiguous, because the fact of the matter is that Patrick Bateman did do all those terrible things that we saw him do, and hear him talk about. The punch line of the entire film is that no one cared. Everyone was so consumed with themselves that they could care less about Paul Allen, or the prostitutes that he tortures. The only thing that they cared about was themselves. Except for Detective Kimble (Willem Dafoe), who knows who Patrick Bateman is all along…
4. “Antichrist” – 2009. Dir. Lars von Trier. With Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg
“What do you think is supposed to happen in the woods?”
3. “Brokeback Mountain” – 2005. Dir. Ang Lee. With Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway and Randy Quaid.
“You don’t know nothin’ about that!”
Can we get past the homophobic aura around this film? Thanks. This is a near perfect film. The cinematography is the best I had ever seen until the wham bam of “A
Single Man” and “Antichrist”
. Heath Ledger gives his best performance, and one of the best performances I have ever seen. I understand he was great as the Joker, but as Enis Delmar he was perfect. There wasn’t a thing he could have changed about his character.
This is one of the greatest love stories that I have ever seen. It’s trying and intimate film that I will hold dear to my heart forever. It is truly one of the best films I have ever seen. It’s a film about true love, and how love has zero boundaries. Love can transcend gender, race, religion – every obstacle that is thrown at us can be overcome by love. It is a vital part of our existence, and we need to hold onto it and cherish it. This is the pinnacle of art, and its beauty. This film is a landmark of perfection in cinema. If the ending doesn’t tear your heart out and bring you to your knees, you are one cold and bitter motherfucker.
2. “There Will Be Blood” – 2008. Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. With Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano.
“I want you to tell me you are a false prophet and God is a superstation.”
“Drainage Eli! Drrrraaaaaiiiinnnnaaaaggggeeee!” This film is the masterpiece of all masterpieces – ranking up there with “Citizen Kane” and “The Wild Bunch”. Paul Thomas Anderson does an unbelievable feat: directing Daniel Day-Lewis for over two and a half hours. This is the biggest tour-de-force performance that I have ever seen. Day-Lewis is in every single scene of the film (accept one or two) and he draws your attention, he grabs you and won’t let you go. Period.
The character he plays is the most evil character I have ever seen. He’s much like Patrick Bateman, but worse. Plainview would stand and watch the world burn just to insure that no one is better then him. His ambition for greed overwhelms you and it frightens you with every breath he takes.
What adds to DDL’s command performance is the shrilling original score by Radio Head’s Johnny Greenwood. The sounds of these ambient noises that are clashed together makes you jump and squirm in your seat as you watch Plainview slash and burn everything and everyone in his path.
This is the greatest performance I have ever seen. The entire film is stacked upon his shoulders. There is no way out but in, and once the gargantuan climax is over with the scream of “I’m finished!” So are we. Thank goodness.
“A Single Man” – 2009. Dir. Tom Ford. Colin Firth, Julianne Moore and Mathew Goode.
“Just get through the goddamn day.”
This film is the “Citizen Kane” of our generation. It wasn’t acknowledged at all by the Academy, aside for a Best Actor nomination for Colin Firth (who should have won, I’m sorry Mr. Bridges!). This is an extremely personal film for fashion tycoon Tom Ford. The camera movements, the flow of the film – editing, the pace – is as if it is a beautiful song that soaks up your emotions and displays them on screen.
This film has such a deep personal meaning to me – words cannot describe. Putting my bias aside, this film will become a staple of our generation. It is a true triumph of filmmaking and it is the pure essence of beauty. Tom Ford had no experience in filmmaking prior to making this film, and it is as if he’s channeling Stanley Kubrick in the way he paces the film, the way he shoots the film, the color scheme.
This film is deeply moving and thought provoking. This is the best thing that I have ever seen on film. I am truly in awe of Tom Ford and of his beautiful film.
Honorable Mentions: “No Country for Old Men”, “The Devil’s Rejects”, “The Contender”, “Sideways”, “Watchmen”, “Insomnia” and “The Dark Knight”.