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A Masterpiece For All Generations
Casablanca is one of the most fascinating movies I've ever seen. Clearly a movie of its time, with its undeniable patriotism filling each scene against Nazi Germany, today its brilliant performances, directing and witty screenplay still make it an amazing experience.
The cinematography in this movie really hooked me - I think modern cinema lost a lot when it stopped doing black and white movies; the tricks they could do with light and shadows was truly amazing.
The characters were just fascinating too - my personal favourite being Captain Renault, who sarcasm and wit was spot-on, but the chemistry between Bogart and Bergman also worked. And it's always nice to see Peter Lorre in his too brief role.
The Shining (1980)
The Only Genuine Horror Movie Ever Made
It's obvious it's not the only - after all, I can't overlook The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, The Silence Of The Lambs, Jaws, etc. - but The Shining is the only horror movie that has truly disturbed me to this day; after I watched I was afraid of being alone in my house, I didn't even want to go into the bathroom thinking there would be something behind the shower curtain.
The Exorcist might have a better screenplay, more engaging characters - Father Karras is indeed brilliant - but Kubrick's take on horror is just unprecedented and I think no one will ever match this movie in its ability to disturb the viewer.
Using the classic conventions of horror - a haunted house - Kubrick produces some of the finest imagery ever put in a movie: from the chasing scene in a labyrinth, to Jack Torrance's conversations with ghosts, to the twins, the freaky elevator bursting with blood... it's just too much.
And the sound - and sometimes the lack of - add an amazing atmosphere to this movie.
For anyone who really wants to be scared, a 10 out of 10.
The Crying Game (1992)
It's Not Just The Twist That'll Hook You
Neil Jordan's masterpiece is one of the most fascinating thrillers I've ever seen, which effortlessly combines a strong love story, deep characterisation, a rich plot, and what might be one of the most bizarre love relationships in the history of cinema, between Fergus (Stephen Rea) and Dil (Jaye Davidson)
Fergus is an IRA soldier who's beginning to doubt whether he's got what it takes to fight in the war against the British; the weird friendship that blossoms between him and Jody, a kidnapped British soldier (brilliantly played by Forrest Whitaker) casts even more doubts, and when Jody dies Fergus decides to visit Jody's girlfriend, Dil, for whom he falls in love... and this is where the story achieves brilliance.
What follows next is a complex drama about identity, gender issues and sexuality, emphasized by the recurring theme in the movie of images as means to hide reality, deception, and human nature as an inherent condition that can't be changed. Despite Fergus' attempts to 'reform' Dil, she's what she is and doesn't know how else to live.
One of my favourite scenes would be when Dil is singing 'The Crying Game' at 'The Metro' put, and Fergus walks in. Still nothing beats Dil's outburst of rage towards the end when she finds out Fergus is partially responsible for Jody's death, and then we're given to see just how complex and weird Dil really is in her love (obsession?) for Jody.
Truly a movie not to be missed, a perfect 10 out of 10.
An Excellent Way To End A Good Year For Movies
During 2003 a lot of very good movies came out - Finding Nemo, Mystic River, Lost In Translation, 21 Grams, In America, Pirates Of The Caribbean - but The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King is the real event of the year, the movie movie fans all over the world will remember in decades to come.
Heavier on action than its predecessors, The Return Of The King is also the most emotional and affecting of the trilogy: all relationships are stressed to the maximum: Frodo and Sam's; Pip and Merry's; Aragorn and Arwen's; Gimli and Legolas'. But it's Sam who shines out in this movie - he's really the heart and soul of the trilogy, never a more hopeful character has ever been portrayed in a movie, and without him I believe this movie wouldn't have been a tenth as good. His speech at the end of The Two Towers brought me tears, and his dedication to Frodo in this movie was heart-breaking.
The visual effects are brilliant, of course - the battle at the fields of Pelennor was truly epic, the sets were breath-taking - The White City didn't look like a good miniature set, my eyes and heart believed in it: it was real! And Gollum... he's the best animated character ever brought to life, and Andy Serkis sure gives him a disturbing life as a murderous creature. Some of my favourite moments were - the Ride of the Rohirrim, Pip's song, Sam carrying Sam on his shoulders to get to the top of Mount Doom, the ride of Faramir, which brought me to tears.
However, no matter how 'cool' the special effects and action were, what really sets a movie like this apart from other sfx-driven movies like Armaggedon and The Matrix Revolutions, are its characters. Fortunately, there's a lot of attention given to the characters and I felt I knew them all as real people when the movie ended - I cried when characters died and cheered when others succeeded. Seeing Good win in such a fashion was really an amazing experience for the spirit. Some people might say this movie is childish in its simplification of Good vs. Evil... of course it is, it's playing with archetypal ideas where the good are virtuous and perfect and the bad are ugly and corrupted. There was never a doubt about the outcome of Frodo's journey, but truly the journey was far more interesting than the destination for once.
The ending - all its endings, which many have said are way too many - is beautiful, it sets everything up neatly and leaves you with a tear in the eyes when 'Into The West' starts playing and you know an era in cinema has passed and one of the greatest sagas ever put on the screen has reached its satisfying conclusion. I was never so affected by a movie before, and I think that's all I've got to say about its quality.
A 10 is never enough rate The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.
Cidade de Deus (2002)
The Best Movie Of 2002
That's right! This violent masterpiece about crime in the slums of Brazil was definitely the best movie of 2003, superior to The Pianist, The Two Towers or Chicago.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD:
City Of God chronicles the rise and fall of a teenager crime boss who rules the slums of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil - Zé Pequeno/Lil'Ze. But to tell his story we must not only go back in time but also watch parallel stories to his to get the full story of this character; and that's where the brilliant editing begins.
Sometimes Lil'Ze is relegated to a supporting character, others he just disappears from the picture, but his presence is always felt as every short story revolves around him. We'll learn about his childhood, then we'll see him affirming himself as a crime boss; next we see his enemies or rivals. Nothing is left to chance, it all comes back in the denouement to close all narratives in a bloody gang war.
Although Lil'Ze is the main character, Buscapé/Rocket is the narrator who tells his story; both couldn't be more different! Rocket is a young man who wants out of the slums to become a journalist, not spend his life as a drug dealer like Lil'Ze.
As the story unfolds, the viewer is shown horrible images of violence: Lil'Ze persuading a young kid to kill a preteen.
Beautiful images of passion, loyalty and friendship: Lil'Ze's best/only friend quitting his criminal life for a girl and telling his pal he just couldn't carry on with that life.
And just pure realistic images: teens having fun on the beach, partying in discos, or just discussing their virginity, like common teenagers, not overblown stereotypes.
All seen through amazing cinematography.
But the screenplay is the biggest strenght of City Of God. Each character is fully fleshed out, not just through words - and because these are slums kids, there are lots of curse words - but because of their actions that define them as real human beings. Even though it's not a linear narrative, there's not a single scene in the movie that isn't necessary for the sake of the plot. It's as tight as Pulp Fiction's or Chinatown's, just as good too in terms of plot and foreshadowing. If there's an Oscar it deserves to win, it's for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Overall, Fernando Meirelles accomplished nothing short of a masterpiece.
10 out of a well-deserved 10, because I can't give more.
Angel Heart (1987)
Just An Interesting Idea!
Angel Heart picks an interesting idea for a movie, but Alan Parker fails to develop it fully to create a genuinely good movie... ... in better hands, it could have been a memorable horror movie, as Angel Heart is full with original concepts and twists... ... as it is, only Mickey Rourke's top notch acting saves the movie, giving the main character a gritty feel that seems taken straight from fil moir genre... ... in fact, the '50's settings gives this movie a nice feel to it, and a the ending will haunt you for a few nights... ... watch it for curiosity and if you're a diehard horror fan... ... 7 out of 10.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Funny and Emotional
Monsters, Inc. is the mix of groundbreaking CGI with on of the most emotional stories i've ever seen, capturing some of the old inocent feelings of animated pictures that modern ones don't have. Unlike Shrek, the laughs don't come from pop culture or in-jokes about everything, but from a genuinely heartwarming little story about 'monsters' and a little girl.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
Mike and Sully are two monsters working for Monsters, Inc., a power company that uses children's screams to power Monstropolis; when they unwilingly set loose a child - toxic and lethal to monsters - in their city, all hell breaks lose and it's a parade of jokes until the end.
But at its core, Monsters, Inc. is a story about overcoming one's fears, friendship and emotions: some scenes made me cry...
John Goodman and Billy Crystal give voices to the main couple of monsters, and i can just imagine Goodman as the tall and furry Sully, and Crystal is just great and the short, green-eyed best friend. But most incredible was Mary Gibbs who made Boo sound like a real child.
Coupled with amazing visuals that transcend Shrek, Monsters, Inc. captures the old feel of Disney movies for a modern audience...
10 out of 10 for this incredible little movie.
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
The Definitive Romantic Epic
David Lean has directed one of the greatest love stories in movie history, which is found in the background of a much greater story: the Russian Revolution.
Omar Shariff plays Yury, a poet and a doctor, who, by an interesting turn of events, falls in love for Lara (Julie Christie) but their lives aren't meant to be so simple, as the Revolution continues to get in their way to get together...
Doctor Zhivago accomplishes to portray the Revolution realistically: it goes from the peaceful Bolshevik protests, to the WWI where the Bolsheviks find in unhappy men who die of starvation and cold on the front, the men who will make the Revolution.
Poets like Yuri, who are rich to boot, suffer the Revolution more than anyone else - as his poems are considered enemies of the Party, and all his belongings are confiscated, forcing him to leave to the countryside, where war is being fought.
From that point on, the real story starts to develop until reaching an incredible climax.
From the early optimism of the Revolution to the bleak reality afterwards, Lean always keeps an objective mind, but i can only say i'm glad i was born in a free country, after watching the horrors of a Revolution that was supposedly meant to bring freedom to everyone...
10 out of 10 to one of the greatest movies of all times
The Pianist (2002)
The Definitive Holocaust Movie
Roman Polanski has created a masterpiece for the 21st century with this personal, emotional and disturbing movie of a man's struggle to survive the horrors of the Holocaust...
Adrian Brody plays the pianist Spilzman, a jew in Warsaw whose life during the WWII is nothing more than a daily struggle to stay alive; whether from the cold, from starvation or from Nazi soldiers...
Revealing a side of the Holocaust Schindler's List didn't show, Polanski focus as much on Spilzman as on the city of Warsaw, its ruins, streets, buildings and survirors...
There's an incredible cinematography in this movie, whether it's Spilzman walking along a street of destroyed buildings, or the people in the Ghetto, it's always beautiful to watch, as disturbing as the scene may be... how Road To Perdition won Best Cinematography at the Academy is beyond me...
For the best movie of 2003, i give The Pianist 10 out 10
Wo hu cang long (2000)
Beautiful and Sad
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of the greatest movies i've ever seen - its complex fight scenes are groundbreaking with incredible coreography in plain air to the point some of the actors resemble flying at some points...
But beyond the intelligent fight scenes there's also a powerful story of emotions: love, loyalty, treason, duty and revenge... it's quite possible one of the best love stories i've ever seen too...
Its cinematography is poetic and vividly rich and colorful, and Ang Lee managed to bring to life an ancient period in History that's rarely so well depicted: the wardrobe, settings, architecture, objetcts... were all perfect...
But what's interesting are the ideas explored in the movie - it's deeply rooted in the Eastern philosophy, so the characters have different points of view to life than Westerners are used to; it's emotional and honest at the same time, not fearing someone might find the dialogue too romantic for an 'action movie' but that's what Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is at its core: a love story; two, actually, and both with surprising climaxes...
For the best movie of 2000, i give this 10 out of 10