Scenes I Love: “There Will Be Blood” – the Baptism.

This is one of the most powerful scenes ever.  This is one of the many reasons why I put Day-Lewis’ performance in “There Will Be Blood” as my top performance of a decade, and one of the hundreds of reasons I think he is the greatest actor that ever lived.


Top 25 1/2 Performances of the Decade

I intended on making a list of Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress (I did start with Supporting Actor). But I thought it would be better to lump them all into one solid and concrete list. I’m sure there is going to be much disagreement. So, let me know what you guys think.

25. – Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in “Chicago”

I honestly think Gere gets a bad rap – he’s an extremely talented actor who began the second act of his career with “Chicago”. They found the most unbelievable actor to sing and dance – and he knocked it out of the park. Gere supports this film on his shoulders and completely holds it together. His performances in this film paved the way for his roles in “The Hoax”, “I’m Not There”, and “Brooklyn’s Finest”. And what’s with “rom-coms”? Can people stop fucking saying that? It’s so annoying.

24. – Anne Hathaway as Kym in “Rachel Getting Married”

I didn’t see this film until about a couple of months ago. I don’t know why I strayed away from it for so long. I’ve always had this love for Jonathan Demme (even though I think “Silence of the Lambs” is grossly overrated and “Manhunter” is a far superior film). The way Hathaway breaks out of her typecast and breaks our hearts is wonderfully painful to watch. A quick note: I love the movie a lot, but the part I find most distracting (no, it’s not the wedding montage, I liked that part) is the actor who plays the best man of the wedding is like this shitty hybrid of George Clooney and Kevin Spacey. Weird.

23. – Ray Liotta as Henry Oak in “Narc”

Ray Liotta has made a whirlwind of shit. He’s always enjoyable for me, even if he is walking through his role in “Wild Hogs”. I can’t help but always be captivated by him, I think he’s an incredible actor and has this way of commanding your attention. His performance in “Narc” is just fantastic. He plays the clichéd rage induced cop who’s seeking the killer of his partner. Liotta gained about 40 pounds for his role – and what adds to the gaining of weight, is the realism of the flashback sequences where Liotta’s character appears fit and trim. If you haven’t seen this film, do so soon.

22. – Robert Downey, Jr. as Paul Avery in “Zodiac”

This seems like an easy sell, Downey, Jr. playing an alcoholic, drug addicted and charming beat reporter. But this was really the first role that he got to sink his teeth into since he’s troubled past. With his past experience with drugs and alcohol I feel as if Downey, Jr. could really play this character that spirals out of control to full authenticity.

21. – Mickey Rourke as Randy the Ram in “The Wrestler”

This is one of the best performances I have ever seen. What keeps this from getting higher on my list is the fact that I’m not sure how much actual “acting” Rourke does. I think he took elements of his personal life and mimicked them to Randy the Ram’s life. I know some people disagree, but I think that Penn’s winning his second Oscar for “Milk” was the correct performance to reward. Without “The Wrestler” Rourke would have fallen back to Eric Roberts land.

20. – Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb in “Requiem for a Dream”

The fact that Burstyn lost to Julia Roberts makes me sick. I like Julia Roberts, she’s cute, funny, and has an amazing sparkle in her eye. That being said: she’s not an Oscar winning actress (although more so than Bullock or Berry). Ellen Burstyn gives the performance of her career in this film. This film may be the roughy of all roughies – and due to her performance this film will stay in my mind forever.

19. – Daniel Day-Lewis as Jack Slavin in “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”

Day-Lewis gives a remarkable performance in his most flawed film. He balances inner rage and compassionate love for his daughter Rose. You find yourself loathing his character due to his selfishness and incest riddled relationship with his daughter – yet you find it in your heart to forgive him, and to understand his true love for Rose.

18. – Paul Newman as Jack Rooney in “Road to Perdition”

Newman should have won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in this film. I felt that Cooper winning was his make-up Oscar for not even being nominated for “American Beauty”. I feel that Newman gives one of his most subtle performances in this film. He’s the loving father figure to Tom Hanks, but has to chose between his own son (Daniel Craig) and Tom Hanks. One of the most heartbreaking scenes ever filmed is when Tom Hanks finally catches up with Newman.

17. – Daniel Craig as James Bond in “Casino Royal”

This is how you reboot a franchise! I am a James Bond super freak and I own them all. I’ve had a liking for each individual Bond (even George Lazenby). I’ve felt that the producers have always gotten it right for 007. I remember being pissed when they signed Craig, I was a strong supporter of Clive Owen (who I still think would have been a great Bond – check out ANY BMW Films add on Youtube and you’ll see my point). Daniel Craig gives us the perfect James Bond. He’s a stone cold killer. The way James Bond should be.

16. – Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”

I want to be Patrick Bateman (well…not the homicidal serial killer part). But deep down inside, don’t we all have an element of ourselves that is Patrick Bateman? Don’t we all from time to time get filled with disgust and greed? Or is it just me?

15. – Cate Blanchett as Sheba Hart in “Notes of a Scandal”

Blanchett is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, and she’s one of the greatest ACTORS ever. She’s just remarkable in everything she’s in (well…maybe not that last Indiana Jones movie). As Sheba Hart she engages into an inappropriate relationship with a 14 year old student of hers, which is both erotic and haunting. What she’s doing is wrong, but what gets done to her by Judi Dench is ten times worse.

14. – Alec Baldwin as Juan Tripp in “The Aviator”

Baldwin is remarkable in the way he’s rebuilt his career over the past decade. The guy went from being a tabloids wet dream. His personal life took a tremendous toll on his profession career, but with an Oscar nominated turn in “The Cooler” it spring boarded him into working with Scorsese, Robert DeNiro and his staple, “30 Rock”. As Juan Tripp he’s one of the most menacing corporate villains, standing second only to Gordon Gekko.

13. – Sean Penn as Paul Rivers in “21 Grams”

This is one of the most heartbreaking performances ever. How he won for “Mystic River” over “21 Grams” is bullshit. Probably because it was a Clint Eastwood film.

12. – Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “the Butcher” Cutting in “Gangs of New York”.

Day-Lewis single handily saves this film from the utter nightmare it could have been. If he wasn’t in this film to counteract the terrible performance of Cameron Diaz and the miscasting of the decade of Leonardo DiCaprio – this film would have been a sheer train wreck of a great director’s most personal project. How he lost to Adrian Brody for “The Pianist”, I’ll never understand.

11. – Ted Levine as The Warden in “Shutter Island”

Levine was only in three scenes in this film. He had only one scene that last about ten minutes with dialogue. This is the perfect example of less is more; by showing us everything about this character without telling us one thing about him. Levine is absolutely jaw dropping in this role. He shows us what a great, great actor he really is. This film should pave the way for meatier roles on the horizon for Levine.

10. – David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night, Good Luck”

I think there is always hesitation when an actor takes on the role of an icon like Murrow. David Strathairn has always been one of my favorite character actors – from his roles in “Eight Men Out”, “The River Wild” and “LA Confidential”. In “Good Night, Good Luck” he finally becomes the leading man that he deserves to be. He’s absolutely amazing as Murrow and gives the performance of his career.

9. – Heath Ledger as The Joker in “The Dark Knight” and Enis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain”

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about his performance as the Joker. I guess the SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar said all that there could be said. And for “Brokeback”, he was overshadowed by PSH for “Capote”. What a shame, a real shame. It’s hard for me to pick which performance of his is better? Sometimes I lean towards The Joker, and other times I lean towards Enis. Face it, they’re both perfect.

8 ½. – Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido Contini in “Nine”

Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest actor I have ever seen. I will challenge anyone who claims that someone is better. Sure, you can throw around Bogart or Brando or DeNiro. But I will stack his performance in “My Left Foot” and “There Will Be Blood” against any Brando or DeNiro performance. In “Nine” Day-Lewis talks with a genuine Italian accent, and sings (though he’s no Dean Martin) in an Italian accent. He is brilliant in this film, just fucking brilliant.

8. – TIE: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep in “Doubt”

This is truly a team effort. The entire film is a battle of showmanship between Streep and Hoffman. The way they fight each other is as epic as Luke Skywalker battling Darth Vader. The display of their acting craft is monumental, and will bring anyone to their knees. Watch this if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s amazing to watch.

7. – George Clooney as Bob Barnes in “Syrianna”

Clooney completely broke his typecast in this role – more like fucking shattered it. He became an artist that year, actor, producer, director and writer. He’s a marvelous talent. This film is truly an ensemble piece that doesn’t have a lead actor – oil is the main focus and character of the film. But George Clooney brings the house down in his final scene. It floods me with overwhelming emotion every single time I see it.

6. – William Hurt as Richie Cussak in “A History of Violence”

This is the biggest example of less is more. The little screen time that Hurt is given, he uses it to the extreme. He’s absolutely unbelievable, and I think his character is much like that of Col. Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now”, he’s the final trial of the main character’s journey to return home to his family. His performance is burned into my brain. There are very few actors with raw talent like William Hurt.

5. – TIE: Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in “Inglorious Basterds” and Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men”

This is much like Ledger’s role in “The Dark Knight”. There’s nothing more I can say about their PERFECT performance. There is a reason both of them swept critics awards, won the SAG, Golden Globes, BAFTA and Oscar. This was their major introduction to American audiences. That’s one helluva break through! To be honest, I do have to give the edge to Waltz. He’s amazing.

4. – Julianne Moore as Charlie in “A Single Man” and for Cathy Whitaker in “Far From Heaven”

Academy, please give her an Oscar already! I don’t care if it’s for a lifetime achievement award! Just someone, do something! She’s absolutely brilliant. ‘Nough said!

3. – Colin Firth as George in “A Single Man”.

Colin Firth gave a performance like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’ve never see a performance that is so…empty. He’s unbelievably touching and gives a beautiful performance that brings me to my knees each time I see it. We need to see more Colin Firth. Now.

2. – Jeff Bridges as Ted Cole in “The Door in the Floor”

This is hands down Jeff Bridges finest performance. If you ever want to see an excellent, perfect, mind boggling performance, try and seek out Tod Williams’ “The Door in the Floor”. Bridges is heartbreaking, just plain heartbreaking. Ted Cole will stay in your heart forever.

1. – Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood”

This is the biggest tour-de-force performance ever on screen.

Finally My Top Ten Films of the Decade

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?”

“No idea.”

“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?”

See my gushing review of “Antichrist” by clicking this.

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”.

10 Absolute 10s!

I haven’t recently posted in a while.  My apologies to the the five people who frequent my blog.  I have been watching a lot of films lately and have come up with a list of films that I have give a 10 of 10 too.  I get into arguments with my friend Peyton about giving films a ten, I tend to give slightly more 10s out then he does, but I am constructing a cohesive list of ten films that have the equivalent rating.  So far this year, I’ve only given out two 10s, one to “Antichrist” and the other to “A Single Man”.  Enjoy…

“Apocalypse Now” – 1979.  Dir. Francis Ford Coppola.  With Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburn, Harrison Ford, Fredirc Forest, Sam Bottoms, Bill Grahm, Albert Hall, Scott Glenn and G.D. Spradin.

This is film is truly an unstoppable force.  It grabs you and pulls you in for the full 153 minutes (202 min for “Redux”).  This is my favorite war film, but then again it really isn’t a war film.  It’s a story of Willard, brilliantly played by Martin Sheen, a man who is lost in the jungle, who is lost in horrors of war.  It’s about his journey through life as he navigates his way through beaches, and through rivers, and meeting eccentric and psychopathic people – it’s his journey to The End, to Col. Kurtz, to Marlon Brando.  It’s Martin Sheen as Odysseus in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Odyssey”.

The making of this film is a story that is as, if not more, fascinating then the film itself.  The trials and tribulations that Coppola had to deal with and concur as he was forced to shut down production, forced to deal with Brando’s bad behavior, forced to deal with Sheen having a heart attack while filming.  A documentary titled: “Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” by Coppola’s wife featuring interviews with the cast and crew during filming and then contemporary interviews (circa 1992) is almost as good as the film itself.

The ensemble cast that is shown in this film is an unbelievable abundance of talent.  All the unknown faces and known faces play together in a perfect mesh to show the utter horrors that war and that life have in store for us.  Everyone excels, from Sheen to Brando, from Hopper to Ford, from Hall to Glenn, from Spradin to Duvall.  This is a film that cannot ever, ever be remade or even reworked.  The filming was to chaotic, and too filled with it’s own horrors that it couldn’t have been made without the horror of film making itself.

“Brokeback Mountain” – 2007. Dir. Ang Lee.  With Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllehaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams and Randy Quaid.

Ang Lee’s epic saga about the pain and joy we all feel from love is one of the most emotionally draining films I have ever seen.  It even matches the emotional pull and despair I feel from “The Deer Hunter”.  The homophobic backlash this film endured is beyond belief appalling and it shows us how our society isn’t near as tolerant as we should be toward gays.  But I’ll get off my liberal soap box.  This is a love story that transcends gender.  It’s a story about a love we have all felt, about a love that we can’t let go of.  It’s about a love that is just so beautiful and painful and full of joy that we can’t let go of it.  We just can’t.  Heath Ledger gives the best performance of his very brief and short career as Enis Del Mar, who is a heterosexual man who falls in love with a gay man played by Jake Gyllenhaal.  The despair, the pain, the love, the affection are all too real in the film.  We can take this period piece love story and parallel it to our lives.

Ang Lee proves himself as a master of his craft.  The way he molded Larry McMurtry and Annie Proulx’s words to the screen is a monumental feat that many can’t achieve.  The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is flawless and the heartbreaking score by Gustavo Santaolalla is pitch perfect.  This film continues to break my heart each time I watch it.  I live for films like “Brokeback Mountain”.

“The Deer Hunter” – 1978. Dir. Michael Cimino. With Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, George Dzundza, Michael Savage and John Cazale.

“The Deer Hunter” is a film that I put in once a year and it’s a landmark event if I can find the strength within myself to watch it all the way through.  I gladly make it through the beginning, where all the characters are happy.  Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep are getting married.  When the boys go deer hunting before they embark on their own personal hell in Vietnam.  The first 45 minutes or so, I’m good.  Once we reach Vietnam and see the characters forced into playing  Russian Roulette by their Vietcong captors, I start to break.  The actual scene that breaks me isn’t the end (which I’ve only made it too about five times over my twenty attempts), it’s the scene when they are DeNiro arrives back from Vietnam and they go deer hunting.  DeNiro is stalking a beautiful buck through the woods for what seems like hours upon hours.  He finally gets his “one shot” – but doesn’t take it.

Another emotional factor for me is knowing that while the crew and actors were filming this film they knew that John Cazale (best known as Al Pacino’s acting partner and as Fredo from “The Godfather”) was dying of a rare form of cancer, that this film was going to be his swan song.  Cazale and Streep were engaged during the filming of “The Deer Hunter”.  This film also isn’t purely a war film, even though the backdrop of the film is Vietnam.  I believe the film is more about the power of love and friendship.  Would you travel across the world in a fleeting moment to save a friend who refuses to be saved.  Would you try?

“Five Easy Pieces” – 1970.  Dir. Bob Rafelson.  With Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Billy Green Bush.

Jack Nicholson’s finest work came from his filmmaking partner Bob Rafelson.  In “Five Easy Pieces” Nicholson gives his best performance as Robert Erocia Dupea, a piano prodigy who left a life of wealth and prosperity to make it on his own, to live his own dilapidated life.  This film defines an era of rebels and individuals and is about the last of a dying breed.  Nicholson gives a powerful performance as a man who’s life is falling apart.  He quits his dead end oil drilling job after his best friend gets arrested, and then travels back home to see his dying father.

Dupea never stops running, and he never will.  He was born to run, to Run Like Hell.  This film is so powerful and raw that it defined Nicholson as an icon, as a Hollywood and American legend.  It’s just a shame that Nicholson couldn’t produce films like these his entire career.  The ending to this film has to be one of the most powerful endings to any film I have ever seen.

“Blue Velvet” – 1986.  Dir. David Lynch.  With Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern and Dean Stockwell.

David Lynch is one of the most original and unique film artists in cinema.  While Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Coppola, and Tarantino are just as gifted, if not more then Lynch, they all show homages to the greats who made them who they are in their films.  The only artist David Lynch shows homage to is David Lynch.

I have never seen a film that blends two genres so well together.  A mellow-dramatic horror film.  Only David Lynch could do this.  The film transcends time, it has an ambiguous time frame, it’s a period piece mellow drama, yet once Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper who gives the best performance of his impressive career) enters the film, it’s turned upside down into a contemporary horror/thriller.  It’s a hard film to put a label on, but if I had too I would call this film a love story.

I cannot even begin to comprehend how David Lynch thinks.  I won’t even try.  It’s too perplexing to me how he does it.  He’s truly the most unique and impressive filmmaker I have ever seen.  Now I understand why Mel Brooks called Lynch “Jimmy Stewart from Mars”.

“Bad Lieutenant” – 1992.  Dir. Abel Ferrara.  With Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo and Frankie Thorn.

This is one of the rawest, and most stomach turning films I have ever seen.  The story is a simple: a cop who’s fallen from grace.  It’s a simple and generic story but the way it’s shot, and the elements it involves goes way beyond all other films like it.  This is as raw, and as gritty as filmmaking gets.  Harvey Keitel gives undoubtedly his best performance as the Bad Lieutenant.  He bares his body, his heart, and his soul on camera until he has nothing left.  The story is about a man who has fallen so far from grace, it takes the brutal raping of a nun to get him on the path to redemption.  This is a film that comes along once in a great while.  This film is the “Antichrist” of the 90s.  If you actually do come across this film, or are interested in seeing it, don’t waste your time with the R rated version, the NC-17 cut of the film is the only one that is true to the film.

“There Will Be Blood” – 2008.  Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson.  With Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano.

This is a film that is the closest thing I have ever seen to “Citizen Kane”.  One man, Daniel Plainview, whose obsession with greed and power destroys absolutely everything in his path, whether it be the towns he claims, or his son, nothing will remain standing in the rubble.  Nothing at all can stop Plainview’s lust for power.  He is truly an unstoppable force, he’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  Day-Lewis gives the biggest tour-de-force performance out of anyone’s career.  The amount of anxiety the fills you while watching this monster tear through everything, slash and burn it is truly incredible and shows the great gift PTA and DDL have in the world of film.  All I know is it scares me that I have a little bit of Daniel Plainview inside of me, but then again.  Who doesn’t?

“The Natural” – 1984.  Dir. Barry Levinson.  With Robert Redford, Wilford Brimley, Darrin McGavin, Glenn Glose, Kim Basinger, Joe Don Baker, Michael Madsen, Richard Farnsworth and Robert Duvall.

I can’t think of a movie that has filled me with more inspiration than “The Natural”.  It is hands down the best film that deals with baseball and sports, and all that comes with it.  For all the people who say you can’t do it, you’re too old, you’re too fat, you’re too skinny, you’re not strong enough, fast enough – watch “The Natural”.  Robert Redford is truly a marvel in this film, and yet again this film isn’t just about baseball – it’s about one man’s odyssey through life, through all the bumps in the road Roy Hobbs chooses to never give up, he chooses to travel the path he was meant to take.  It may take him 10, 15, 20 years to get there, but he finally does, and it’s beautiful.  This movie fills me with pride about myself, because maybe one day, someone some where will say, “There goes Frank Mengarelli, the best there has ever been, the best there ever will be.”

“2001: A Space Odyssey” – 1968.  Dir. Stanley Kubrick.  With Keir Dullea.

What could I possibly have to say about this film or Stanley Kubrick that hasn’t already been said.  I wouldn’t be able to do either justice.

“Taxi Driver” – 1976.  Dir. Martin Scorsese.  With Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel.

This film is one of Scorsese’s masterpieces.  It’s one of the roughest films I’ve ever watched.  I’d say I can only watch this film about once a year and I almost loath every moment of it.  It’s too painful to watch, to hard to watch – to real.  Your just thrown into this world of absolute filth and disgust and the punchline of it is, Robert DeNiro is the character you relate to, the most sympathetic and has the most redeeming qualities to him.  What a sick joke that is!  This world where Travis Bickle becomes the antihero is just to bizarre and so strange.  I’ve never truly seen a film like this before, it’s 100% true and 100% genuine to it’s medium and too the world.  The one thing that I pride myself on is the final shot of the film I don’t think most people understand, but I think I do.  Lets talk.

Thank you for reading and I hope you disagree with me so we can argue and battle to the death about these films.  These aren’t the only 10’s I’ve ever seen, but it’s a good grouping of them.