“Mississippi Burning” 1988 Dir. Alan Parker

With Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Stephen Tobolowsky, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Kevin Dunn and Michael Rooker

“You know, [baseball] it’s the only time when a black man can wave a stick at a white man and not start a riot”

    “Mississippi Burning” is an agenda movie. Plain and simple. The film is made by Alan Parker, who also directed the liberal guilt ridden film, “The Life of David Gale” which made an extremely strong case against the death penalty. Here, Parker unapologetically shines a light on America’s worst trait – racism.

    Taking place in Mississippi in the 1960’s, the most fertile landscape for birth of America’s decline as a Great Society, Parker fictionalizes the true story of three civil rights activists, two white and one black, who are killed by the KKK. Two FBI men are sent in, Willem Dafoe as the by the book bleeding heart liberal, and the realist played by Gene Hackman.

    The two men turn the small southern town upside-down, trying to find the three “missing” men. They both use different tactics. Dafoe, being the “outsider” calls in a slew of FBI and naval reserves to comb the rural landscape for any clues to the men’s disappearance. All the while Hackman uses a much different and more successful tactic, brute intimidation.

    The band of Klansmen are made up of a plethora of great character actors, stemming from Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey, Stephen Tobolowsky, Pruitt Taylor Vince to the scariest of all of them, Michael Rooker. Each actor paints a cliché yet realistic portrait of the American bigot.

    Gene Hackman turns in a career highlight of a performance as a former Mississippi sheriff turned G-man who has a complete understanding of the racial issues that plague the American south. His performance is a more heroic turn of Popeye Doyle from “The French Connection”, the performance that earned him his first Oscar, and also set the typecast and tone for the rest of his career.

    “Mississippi Burning” is an agenda film, but that doesn’t take anything away from the powerful and moving story about the American Experience fused with the good cop/bad cop genre movie. Alan Parker is an incredibly talented filmmaker who is able to construct multiple bodies of work, consisting of the “liberal guilt” films, music films (“Pink Floyd’s The Wall”, “The Commitments”, “Evita” ) and the very dark portraits of humanity (“Angel Heart” and “Midnight Express”). “Mississippi Burning” is a film that still holds up true to this day.

“Mississippi Burning” is available to watch on Netflix Instant.

Rating: 8.5/10

Top Ten (currently working) Actors

Thanks to Heather over at Movie Mobsters has devised a list of who she thinks are the top ten currently working actors. After a day of debate on her blog, I thought I’d create my ultimate list so I could have controversy over on my blog. Enjoy dear readers.

10. Willem Dafoe

Career Highlights: The Last Temptation of Christ, Shadow of a Vampire, Platoon, Born of the 4th of July, Spider-Man, eXistenZ, Affliction, Auto-Focus, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, The Clearing, The English Patient, Clear and Present Danger, Wild at Heart, Daybreakers, American Psycho, Antichrist, Off Limits, Mississippi Burning, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Finding Nemo

Willem Dafoe is a champion of his craft. He’s never been afraid to take on challenging roles that other actors wouldn’t dare to touch. Dafoe has made a career of showing his in-depth range and sheer talent as a performer. He’s remarkable in almost everything he’s shown us. I will see anything that has Willem Dafoe in it.

9. George Clooney

Career Highlights: “ER”, Burn After Reading, Up in the Air, Good Night Good Luck, Solaris, Syriana, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Fail Safe, The Thin Red Line, Out of Sight, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, From Dusk Till Dawn

George Clooney has completely transformed himself from a TV actor, to a superstar heartthrob to a Warren Beatty-esq Hollywood tycoon. His performances have become deep and extremely complex and he is the embodiment of a silver screen icon much like Rock Hudson, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. His charisma and sex appeal often has me questioning my sexuality. George Clooney is a fucking man.

8. Harvey Keitel

Career Highlights: Bad Lieutenant, Mean Streets, Dangerous Game, Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Fingers, Bugsy, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Piano, Smoke, Clockers, From Dusk Till Dawn, Cop Land, Shadrach, Taking Sides, Fail Safe

To me, Keitel is the cinematic basass that is reminiscent of Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum and William Holden. He takes roles that no other actor would ever, ever, ever think of taking (aside from maybe Dafoe and Cage). He’s an absolute dynamo when it comes to his performances in Bad Lieutenant, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and Dangerous Game. I would not want to fuck with Harvey Keitel.

7. Robert DeNiro

Career Highlights: Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino, Cape Fear, Jackie Brown, Once Upon a Time in America, Wag the Dog, The Good Shepherd, Heat, The Godfather Part II, A Bronx Tale, Midnight Run, The Mission, Ronin, This Boy’s Life, Frankenstein, Backdraft, Guilt By Suspicion, Awakenings, Jacknife, The King of Comedy, True Confessions, Falling in Love, The Untouchables, The Deer Hunter

We all know that Robert DeNiro is an amazing actor. His range as an actor is magnificent. He would have made it a lot higher on my list if he hadn’t been working for paychecks the past fifteen years. Yikes…

6. Christian Bale

Career Highlights: American Psycho, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Public Enemies, The Machinist, I’m Not There, The New World, Rescue Dawn

Christian Bale is the best young method actor out there. He invests himself so deeply into his roles it reminds me of Daniel Day-Lewis. Most people will often think of Batman when they think of Bale – I on the other hand will always think of Patrick Bateman.

5. Al Pacino

Career Highlights: The Godfather, The Godfather Pt II, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Scarface, Insomnia, Any Given Sunday, Heat, The Insider, Looking for Richard, Glengarry Glen Ross, Dick Tracy, Carlito’s Way, …And Justice for All, Scarecrow, Panic in Needle Park, “Angels in America”, “You Don’t Know Jack”

To me Pacino almost, just almost falls under the DeNiro category since he has pretty much worked for a paycheck the past decade and a half but what saves him is Insomnia and his amazing performance in the Barry Levinson directed HBO film “You Don’t Know Jack”. Pacino is a lion of cinema and remains to be one of the greatest actors in cinema history. The incredible range he shows as Michael in Godfather and then the Michael in Godfather Part II is just incredible.

4. William Hurt

Career Highlights: Body Heat, Gorky Park, Altered States, The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist, Into the Wild, The Good Shepherd, Syriana, The Village, Rare Birds, Master Spy, Smoke, Dark City, One True Thing, Children of a Lesser God, A History of Violence, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Broadcast News, The Incredible Hulk, “Damages”, “Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King – segment Battleground”

William Hurt is a pompous actor. He thinks he’s awesome, and well, he is. He remains to be one of my favorite actors, and the roles he’s selected have always touched me. His characters have pulled on my heart strings and have brought deep emotions out of me. I love William Hurt.

3. Jeff Bridges

Career Highlights: The Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart, The Contender, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Last Picture Show, The Fisher King, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Jagged Edge, Iron Man, Starman, Fearless, The Muse, The Door in the Floor, TRON, Heaven’s Gate, Seabiscuit, Masked and Anonymous

Jeff Bridges remains to be the biggest influence of my life – even more so than Roger Waters (which I NEVER thought I’d say). His philosophies and his art have really transformed me into someone new. I used to be somebody/Now I am somebody else. With his performances he brings emotions out of me that I never knew I had.

Thank you Mr. Bridges.

2. Peter O’Toole

Career Highlights: Lawrence of Arabia, The Ruling Class, Venus, Bright Young Things, My Favorite Year, The Last Emperor, The Stunt Man, Caligula, Man of La Mancha, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Lion in Winter, The Night of the Generals, Lord Jim, Becket

How the fuck Peter O’Toole never won an Oscar is far beyond me. This man is an icon and a master at his craft. Sure he’s made bucket loads of shit – but he was fucking Lawrence of Arabia! He was King Henry II! He was Don Quixote! This man is a legend – better yet – a world treasure.

On asked why he didn’t win an Oscar for Lawrence of Arabia: “Because somebody else did.”

1. Daniel Day-Lewis

Career Highlights: Gangs of New York, My Left Foot, The Boxer, In the Name of the Father, Nine, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Last of the Mohicans, The Crucible, There Will Be Blood, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, A Room with a View, The Age of Innocence, My Beautiful Laundrette

I have never seen in my life a performer whose total work is so amazing. Whenever I see him in a film, I don’t see Daniel Day-Lewis, I see his character. I’ve seen actors do that before, but not with ever single role they play. Greatest actor ever. Hands down.

Honorable Mentions: Michael Caine, Tom Cruise, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Plummer, Robert Downey, Jr., Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Sean Penn

Note – I know I’m going to catch shit from all of you, but I don’t think Russell Crowe is that great of an actor. He plays the same character with the exception of The Insider which I think is a remarkable performance.

“Daybreakers” – 2010. Dir. The Spierig Brothers

With Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Isabel Lucas and Sam Neill

“Living in a world where vampires are the dominant species is about as safe as bare-backing a five dollar whore.”

  • Elvis (Willem Dafoe)

The year is 2019 and humans are an endangered species and vampires have become the dominant members of society. They now track and capture humans to harvest them for their blood. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a scientist for the “corporation” and has been working day and night on an alternative to human blood; looking for a substitute so the vampires won’t die off.

Things are becoming complicated, there isn’t enough blood left in the world for the vampires to survive (doesn’t that sound like oil to you?) – they begin rioting and feeding off one another and by doing so they become these mutated human-bat hybrids. They’re pretty freaky. Edward (you think they would have changed the characters name) has a resentment for vampires, and feels sympathetic towards the humans considering he used to be one.

The head of the corporation, Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), is watching Edward carefully. He has a feeling that Edward is not dedicated to his work. As where Edward wants to find a cure for everyone being vampires he also wants to keep humanity alive – Bromley wants to prolong the vampire existence and he doesn’t give a fuck about the humans. Bromley believes they are blessed with immortality – that it is divine intervention.

Edward gets into a car accident on his way home from Bromley’s office. The other car is filled with humans who are scared and want to kill Edward. He talks them down and says he wants to help them. He helps them escape and the next day he is contacted by one of the humans he saved. She gives him a map to a location where Edward is supposed to meet them at noon.

Edward then travels the next day at noon to meet them. And who does he meet? Willem fucking Dafoe. Awesome. Dafoe (named Elvis in the movie – HOT!) was once a human turned vampire then back to human through this accident that seems to be a miracle. Together Edward and Elvis try and save the human race.

The production value is excellent. It’s a very film noirish feel and look. Every man is walking around in a fedora and a trench coat; all the women mainly have their hair up in a bun and have dresses on. Everyone is walking around smoking and drinking coffee. It’s a lot like “Blade Runner” or even more so – “Dark City”.

The area in which Edward lives are nostalgic of the “cookie cutter” homes built during the economic boom of the late 1940’s to the 1950’s. It’s just an excellent way to establish the rebuilding of the vampire society.

I’ve never really been a huge fan of Ethan Hawke, and this film doesn’t really thrill me with him either – I’m just slightly indifferent towards him. Where I am really pulled into the film is not only the great production value – but with the addition of Dafoe and Neill who are two of the most underrated actors out there.

Neill is perfect in the film; he has this thick and gravely American accent that reminds me of John Huston. The contacts that they have over the actors eyes, showing us that they are vampires just adds to the creepiness of Neill, he’s always holding a big cigar and is dressed like Warren Beatty. Neill is the highlight of the film.

Willem Dafoe is just amazing, the roles this guy chooses is amazing. I’ve never really seen him fluff (although “Speed 2” was pretty shitty but he was alright in it, everyone works for a paycheck from time to time; unless you’re Daniel Day-Lewis). He is great as Elvis, wielding a shotgun/crossbow. There is just something about him that brings our attention directly to him. His face is odd looking, his voice is distinctive – he’s just amazing.

The film is just so creative – showing how vampires drive during the day – they have thick tints over their windows and a 360 degree camera on top of their car that feeds a video image into the interior of the car. That’s pretty slick.

Bottom line this is a pretty good film that is dealing with a genre that is being beaten to fucking death these days. There are some things in the film that don’t make a lot sense, and some of the acting is pretty weak. I think that the blood symbolizing our dependence on foreign oil was really creative and smart – but it was a little much at times. The weak parts of the film are very much outweighed by Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe.

I’ve always liked the “post apocalyptic” themed films and films that deal with vampires and this film is extremely smart with the way it brought the vampire genre to a new level. I still want to see a film that deals with the rebuilding of society after the apocalypse happens, I think that’s why I like “28 Weeks Later” so much.

Can someone answer me this: why is Willem Dafoe just so fucking awesome?

Review: 8/10

“Affliction” – 1997. Dir. Paul Schrader.

“Affliction” – 1997. Dir. Paul Schrader. With Nick Nolte, Willem Dafoe, Sissy Spacek, Mary Beth Hurt, Holmes Osborne and James Coburn.

“This is the story of my older brother’s strange criminal behavior and disappearance. We who loved him no longer speak of Wade. It’s as if he never existed.” – Willem Dafoe’s opening narration.

The title of the film, “Affliction” is one of the most suiting titles for any film that I have ever seen. The title sums up the entire film, and along with the cover art you know you are in for one dark and disturbing trip to the dark side of humanity.

The film doesn’t even start off innocent as you think it would. The film is grainy and the original musical score by Michael Brook (who did the score for “Deadwood” and “Into the Wild”) makes the film eerie right from the start. What adds to the grainy film and the score is Willem Dafoe’s voiceover that opens up the film. Grab onto your ankles.

Nick Nolte plays Wade Whitehouse, a small town police officer who begins to lose control of everything.

The film begins with Wade having a tooth ache and a Halloween party where he has his daughter with him, he’s trying to convince her to have fun and go play with children that she doesn’t even know. Wade steps out for a cigarette and comes back to find his daughter sitting by a pay phone where she called his ex-wife to come and pick her up.

This is the first event that sends Wade closer and closer to the deep end. He gets irate, gets upset with his daughter and leaves, he goes for a burn cruise with his deputy and comes back to find his ex-wife and new husband taking his daughter away. He gets into an argument with his ex, and ends up aggressively pushing her new husband.

Wade is convinced that the reason his daughter doesn’t want to spend time with him is because of all the awful things his ex-wife is telling her about him. He decides he is going to call a lawyer and go to court over custody of his daughter. We then see Wade the next morning in a bar where his girlfriend Sissy Spacek works. A fellow patron is telling the story of when Wade and his brother Rolfe (Dafoe) were little, their father (James Coburn) made them go out in the dead of winter to get wood from their wood pile that was covered in snow and ice.

We enter into a flashback as Wade listens to the story. The flashbacks are brutally haunting, they are filmed with a handheld camera, and it feels like a home movie filmed on Super 8 by a child. The first time we see Coburn his hair is jet black (it’s a semi poor attempt to make him look younger, but you get over it very quickly). Papa Whitehouse is herding his boys outside with shovels so they can dig up wood from the pile, he begins to yell at them to work harder, move quicker, not to give up. The children get verbally abused extremely hard, they run inside to their mother and Coburn laughs and mocks them and follows them inside. Once inside Coburn pours himself a drink and yells at himself about how his sons are quitters. His wife than cautiously enters the kitchen to try and talk to Coburn. She’s scared to death of him.

Coburn than begins to patronize her, telling her what a “good woman” she is. She pleads with him to stop and as Coburn winds up to hit his wife, little Wade runs to her defense and pushes Coburn away. Big mistake. Coburn looks down at his son, and tells him what a big man he is, and then he hits him, knocking him down to the ground.

The day of the flashback Nolte and Spacek travel to his parent’s house to see them. They get there and the house looks dilapidated and unkempt. Once they enter the home its ice cold and the kitchen is filled with empty cans, and boxes and other debris. In the family room Coburn sits in long underwear and is watching TV. Wade is cautious around his father, walking on egg shells. He asks his father where his mother is, and Coburn says she’s sleeping upstairs.

Nolte, Coburn and Dafoe in "Affliction".

Coburn stands up and walks over into the kitchen, his hands are twisted and mangled from his arthritis and it just adds to the evilness of his character. Nolte asks again about his mother, and Coburn says he’ll go wake her. As Coburn leaves, Spacek begins to clean and tells Nolte to check the furnace and get some wood for the burner. Nolte neurotically begins to consume salt to help ale his tooth ache. Coburn comes back down and says that Nolte’s mother is getting ready.

They continue with an awkward conversation until Nolte goes upstairs to see what his mother is doing. He goes to his parent’s room and his mother is dead. She’s been dead for weeks just laying in the master bed. Add his mother’s death to his flashbacks from his father, a tooth ache, his problems with his daughter and ex-wife and his drinking. One more thing: a hunting accident with his deputy and a rich financial tycoon who is under a cloud of suspicion with the mob and the unions over a land deal gone awry.

The report of the accident was that the tycoon accidentally shot himself. Wade moves in with his father, and his paranoia grows to an extreme. His brother’s suspicion about the death of the tycoon, Wade’s drinking and his father’s “affliction” sends Wade over the deep end. This film includes one of the most stomach turning scenes ever, it made me look away from the screen the first time I saw it.

What really makes this film work to near perfection are the performances. Nolte gives the performance of his career. It’s painful to watch Nolte spin out of control. Willem Dafoe is our only grasp of sanity in the film. He’s the only character who is semi normal. He’s this way because he fled the small town after high school; he left and never came back. What does bring Dafoe back is the death of his mother, and to try and help his brother Wade.

I know I’ve spoken a lot about “tour de force” performances, but James Coburn is perfect. Coburn gives an absolutely haunting performance as the boy’s father. Actually, he gives the most haunting performance I have ever seen. He is one of the most evil characters ever depicted on screen. What makes his character so brutally haunting is that you find yourself almost sympathizing with him, he anger and sadness sinks into you. You want to help him – but you just can’t. I know the Academy has gotten a lot of awards wrong, but giving Coburn the Best Supporting Actor Oscar was one of the best things they ever did.

James Coburn is one of the only actors that can make Nick Nolte cower. Nolte’s characters are always men that won’t bend or break for anyone. It’s hard to believe anyone to be able to scare Nolte, but Coburn is absolutely perfect. He’s much like Jack Palance in “Batman”. Who else could have believably played Jack Nicholson’s boss? Same goes for Coburn. He’s one of the only actors that could believably play Nolte’s domineering afflicting father.

This is one of the roughest movies I have ever seen. I mean this is written for screen and directed by the guy who wrote two drafts of “Taxi Driver” in one week! Viewer be advised.

Review: 9/10

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”.

“Antichrist” Dir. Lars von Trier. With Willem Dafoe and Charolette Gainsbourg.

Once in a very great while comes a film that’s so challenging, so beautiful, so controversial – “Antichrist” is one of those films.  This film goes beyond any NC-17 or “unrated” film I have ever seen.  Director Lars von Trier brings us this beautifully terrifying story of a psychiatrist and his wife dealing with the death of their small child while the two make love.  The opening scene is the most beautiful opening scene I have ever seen, Dafoe and Gainsbourg are in the shower, looking at each other, about to make love.  The entire prologue of the film is shot in black and white and in slow motion, and it is silent aside from the beautiful “Lascia ch’io pianga” from ‘Rinaldo’.  The two engage in a heated sexual escapade while their son breaks out of his crib and begins to wander towards the bedroom where his parents are having sex.  Snowflakes start to make their way in from an open window.  The boy is curious and begins to walk towards the window clutching his teddy bear.  In front of the open window is a desk and a chair in front of it.  As the boy mounts the chair and climbs on the desk he knocks over three statue solders each with a label on the bottom of them (“Grief”, “Pain”, and “Despair” which are also the three chapters the film is broken down into).  The film cuts masterfully back and forth between the boys journey to the window and his parents having sex.  As the boy reaches the window he drops his teddy bear out the window.  He then watches it and jumps after it.  As the boy falls in slow motion, it cuts to a close up o f Gainsbourg’s face as she climaxes, and then to Dafoe’s face as he climaxes.  The prologue ends with a wide shot of the boy hitting the snow covered parking lot, followed by his teddy bear.

Charolette Gainsbourg as She, and Willem Dafoe as He.

The first chapter of the film is entitled “Grief” and a haunting title card is displayed to show us the chapter and it’s title.  It opens with a close up (in color) of a small casket being pulled on a buggy.  It cuts to Gainsbourg walking like a zombie behind it and Dafoe is emotionally wrecked as he staggers behind holding his hand out to his dead son and sobbing silently.  This scene made me actually cry.  All we can hear is the sound of the wheels from the wagon roll against the brick road.  Gainsbourg silently collapses and everyone rushes to her.  Before we know it we see her in her hospitable bed and Dafoe walks in.  The first lines of dialogue are heard for the first time.  She is incredibly ridden with guilt for what happened to their son, and Dafoe is essentially emotionless from this point on.  Trying to help his wife cope with the horrible atrocity that happened.  Dafoe eventually brings his wife home early, and makes her stop taking her antidepressants.  He begins to treat his wife, even though he knows he shouldn’t.  He asks her what/where she fears most, and she tells him Eden, the forest where they have a cabin, where She and their son spent a lot of time together.

Once they get to the cabin, horrible, violent, sadistic, masochistic, vicious, harmonious things happen.  Essentially a “chaos reigns”.  This film is packed so tightly with religious symbolism that it’s nearly impossible to digest in five viewings, let along one.  There are three animals, a crow, fox and a deer that are a major part of the film, and a major part of Eden.  They are all introduced to us by either killing their offspring, or their offspring dying.  The deer is the first one we see.  As She takes a nap on their way to the cabin, He wanders off to see the beauty of the woods.  He sees a doe, and she’s eating.  She looks at him and then starts to run away, as she turns and runs we see a still born calf dangling from her

The "Three Beggers".

behind.  As He walks backwards in shock, a baby crow falls from it’s nest in a tree into an any pile and begins to get picked at by ants until a hawk swoops down and brings it to a perch to devour it.  Dafoe then hears a noise and wanders towards it, he finds a fox laying in the tall grass eating at it’s stomach, pulling out it’s intestines and eating the fetus, it looks at Dafoe and then says, “chaos reigns”.

This films then gets into very gruesome imagery and very hard emotional pain on the viewer.  Some scenes will make you look away, others will make you cover your ears.  This is a film I don’t understand fully, and it’s as if I don’t want too.  The cinematography on this film is absolutely flawless (and the only other film I’ve said that about is “Ed Wood”).  von Trier said that he was suffering from depression while shooting this film, and you can certainly tell.  This is a story about men and women.  About inherent evil and how we perceive things, and how we don’t.  This is a film that should be studied frame by frame, and should be studied in college film, psychology, and philosophy classes.  This film is important on so many different levels, it’s pure raw art that is very rare anymore.

The acting in this film is beyond perfecting.  Gainsbourg won Best Actress at Cannes for it, and she certainly deserved it.  Too bad the Academy doesn’t have the brass to even consider nominating her, or any other aspect of the film.  Dafoe delivers as usual, but this time it’s different.  This actually may be Dafoe’s best performance.  And for Lars von Trier, who’s works I continue to study and admire, this is his masterpiece.

This is a film that is so important it must be treasured and kept safe.  It’s an unbelievable feat for anyone to stick with this film and watch it.  Like I said earlier, it’s beyond any NC-17 film I have ever seen, and if you’re offended easily or have a slightly weak stomach, I wouldn’t recommend it to you – but then again, I would.  The epilogue of the film ends in a similar fashion to the opening, in slow motion black and white with ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from ‘Rinaldo’ playing, but it’s just down right frightening and fucking scary.

Review:  10/10.

Note:  I have uploaded the Prologue, it encases a graphic sex scene.  View be advised.

Male Performances of the Year…Thus Far.

I still have yet to see some films that I need to make full judgment on what the best lead and supporting performances of the year are.  But with what I’ve seen, here is my list.  Expect this post, and my Top Ten of Year for films to be updated.

Lead Actor

Colin Firth as George in “A Single Man”.

Willem Dafoe as He in “Antichrist”.

Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart”.

George Clooney as Ryan Bingham in “Up in the Air”.

Nicholas Cage as Lt. Terrance McDonagh in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”.

Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in “Inglorious Basterds”.

Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet in “Crazy Heart”.

Mathew Goode as Jim in “A Single Man”.

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine in “Inglorious Basterds”.

Val Kilmer as Stevie Pruit in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”.

Stanley Tucci as Paul Child in “Julie and Julia”