This page just lists movies I liked very much. See Movies for the rest.
Volver (2006). Penelope Cruz and the other female actors are an absolute pleasure to watch.
Me And You And Everyone We Know (2005). Hilarious! The small kid talking about the poop moving from butt-hole to butt-hole. Forever. (!) The crazy woman, shy, and not shy, the crazy dad: “I want to be swept off my feet, you know? I want my children to have magical powers. I am prepared for amazing things to happen. I can handle it.” (2006-03-02 Movies)
Twilight Samurai (2002) – wonderful Samurai movie with very little fighting but with admirable Samurai spirit.
Atanarjuat (2001) – An Inuit film about love, betrayal, murder, evil spirits, snow, sleds, dogs, furs, the sun and the people. Wonderful.
Le Fate Ignoranti (2001) shows the widow discovering her husband had an affair with a man – for seven years! She wants to know more and discovers the sad and wonderful life of a number of weirdoes in the middle of Rome.
Spirited Away (2001), by Hayao Miyazaki – A fantastic story filled with the fantasy visions I might have had as a fourteen old boy, brought to life in exquisite detail. Shadow ghosts, a bath of the gods, a train in the ocean, an evil twin… And all that without the usual goofy comic relief characters – in this anime the comic relief characters play a simpler role, without any words; without drawing together all the threads in the end and explaining it all. Many things need no explanation. As Tolkien said in one of the letters, if I remember correctly, there always need to be unexplainable things in a good story. And so it is.
Yi-Yi (2000) – nice family film.
In The Mood For Love (2000) – great atmosphere. In The Mood For Love is by Wong Kar-wai. It plays in the sixties in Hongkong and shows us two neighbours discovering that their husband and wive are having an affair. Slowly they are drawn to each other, but being shy, they enjoy the tender closeness without actually having an affair. The mood for love is captured in slow motion scenes, smoke drifting across the lights, unanswered phone calls, and a few short moments of hands touching. I also saw his Chunking Express (1994). Interesting camera, colors, rythm. I love it. It seems that Fallen Angels (1995) is an extension to Chunking Express. All movies I saw by Wong Kar-wai illustrate aspects of failed relationsships -- they are prevented by job relationships, social conventions, hanging on to old relationships. All of the movies have sensational tempo and colours, music and dialogues. Ashes of Time (1994) is very similar, in that colors, moods, faces, tempo, and failed relationships play a very important role. When you get this movie, watch out: The subtitles on the DVD cannot be removed and are on a black strip that actually covers at least 20% of the screen area! Try the VHS instead… I also saw Days Of Being Wild (1991) recently, and loved it.
Wonderboys (2000), reminded me of Dead Poets’ Society, but with a twist. It’s about a teacher, a student, writing, growing up, the meaning of life, smoking grass, loving somebody else’s wife. Helps you deal with your own life: Problems pile up, it is full of shit, but then again, it’s fun, there are things to do, friends to be had.
Memento (2000), an outstanding example of “show, don’t tell”. The main character has no short-term memory. Due to this, he cannot form new long-term memories. In order to survive, he takes pictures of things, scribbles notes on the pictures, and tatoos the most important things on his body. You will feel just like the main character in the movie. No memories. Only some pictures and the tatoos to help you figure it out. The movie tells the story starting from the end. There is a murder in a house. Next scene: Two people enter the house. Next scene: Cars arrive in front of the house. Amazing.
Star Wars, by George Lucas – all of them, they are cult eventhough the story is usually lame. Star Wars Episode 1 (1999): I saw it about five times with the same two friends while we attended a conference in Florida. When we left we were always quoting from the movie: “You assume too much!” – “You will be piuunished!” We didn’t care wether the movie was good or not. It was cult! Every line true wisdom. Every movement to be copied. It was hilarious. “Jedi Mind tricks don’t work on me!”
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), absolutely brilliant – a descent into the madness of drugs when the grand illusion of the hippies turned into puke and brain damage, a wild drunken dance with the absurdity of the American Dream in the world of hotels, stars, casinos, cars, and the police.
Fucking Åmål (1998), by Lukas Moodysson.
Festen (1998), a Danish Dogma movie, the only one I really liked. English title: The Celebration. The story of the son coming to his father’s birthday to finally accusse him of child abuse within the family, the first reactions of the remaining guests, the slow turning of the tide, the cook’s friendship, the slow dawning of the truth. A great movie about a terrible thing. Entirely without showing anything cruel. The crime is never shown, the movie doesn’t reopen old wounds. It shows the victim dealing with the crime, shows society dealing with the crime.
Mononoke Hime (1997). The first Anime with a truly interesting story to tell. Sure, there are things like Pokémon, Akira or Tenchi. But none as good as this one. Maybe Ghost In A Shell approaches Princess Mononoke. But Ghost In A Shell has a confusing story. The Comic is even worse: Interesting read, but confusing. Sometimes I like confusion. I like 12 Monkeys (see below). I like the William Gibson books such as Neuromancer. But somehow it is not the same. Some confusion creates atmosphere. Some confusion creates emptiness. Princess Mononoke has none of it. It is beautiful, mysterious, action-packed. And the quality is great.
Romeo+Juliet (1996) transposed the play into a Mexican town where guns are used instead of blades, neon lights, colorful dresses. The scenes are fast cut, there is a great soundtrack by Craig Armstrong (he played with Massive Attack, too). And beyond all that Shakespeare’s verse. Guns and fast talking Shakespeare!
12 Monkeys (1995), weird like Brazil (see below), but without the oppressive Orwellian paranoia. Both movies by Terry Gilliam. Brazil has weirder visuals and more paranoia, 12 Monkeys has more Cyberpunk like qualities: A dark future and time travel. Don’t start to debate the time travel paradoxes of 12 Monkeys, that will spoil all the fun. Enjoy the colors, the flow, the confusion.
La cité des enfants perdus (1995) by Marc Caro et Jean-Pierre Jeunet. English title: The City Of The Lost Children. Caro and Jeunet also did Delikatessen, which I did not like as much.
Nightmare before Christmas (1993) by Tim Burton. Amazing story, the puppets are well done, the music is fun, the voices are great, in short: Eventhough I liked Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit movies, Nightmare before Christmas is much better. The story is weirder, the sound is better.
Brazil (1985) by Terry Gilliam. Fantastic scenery, Orwellian feeling. You really get the feeling that most people enganged in the tyrrany mean well. Only occasionally is somebody truly evil (Jack), since he tortures people, but even he is distracted, loves his kids, has bad taste, plays along. It’s not the evil genius of a terrible dictator. It is small people’s evil. The scary thing is how similar it is to 1984 by George Orwell, and how similar it is to current US rhetorics: “Ministry of Information Retrieval” vs. “Ministry of Homeland Security” – terrorists everywhere, repression and violence used against invisible foes, everyday people like you and me suffering the most for it.
Seven Samurai (1954), by Akira Kurosawa, a classical western story set in Japan, a great black and white movie, superb points of view, cuts, great rhythm.