Monday, February 16, 2009

Here we go number ten!

Fittingly, on this Presidents Day holiday, we begin with a movie about a man who thought he was our president!

10. W
Of course, Dubya was never my president and never legitimately President at all, but his father George Sr is in this film, too, so there is at least one president in there. When I first heard Oliver Stone was next tackling George Dubya I felt so happy inside. All I have asked over the past eight years is that you people (er...I mean, we the people, of course) do just a tiny bit of critical thinking, but that appears to have been too much for, among others, about 50% of the populace and 99% of the mass media. Because a tiny bit of critical thinking would have led to outrage about the war in Iraq back in 2003 when I was outraged by it and it would have led to the election of anyone but Dubya Kerry in 2004. A tiny bit of any thinking, critical or otherwise, and we could have had some outrage in 2000 when all this nonsense started and the Supreme Court selected Dubya to go to the White House. Instead, we got an eight-year nightmare which all too many were willing to endure, lying down and rolling over and taking all the crap given by the Bush Administration. And you know what? It IS totally satisfying to watch this film depict the story of this guy who should never have left baseball but instead changed the world for the worse, and it's satisfying partly because it's totally understated and not strident and gives me more sympathy than I've ever had for him and it STILL SHOWS how wrong anyone was to ever listen to anything he or any of his maniacal cronies said or did. I am so smug about what I've always known about Bush and not afraid to admit it. Oliver Stone is not so smug in this flick, so go watch it. With the exception of Thandie Newton as Condoleezza, who is just caricature, each character is perfectly done. Hurrah!

9. Revolutionary Road
So I think all this "bleak, depressing" talk is from people who are in denial of their own feelings about that "hopeless emptiness" discussed in the film. I love films that are smart and thoughtful and intense and just talk to you on and on about how messed up everyone is. These people do not listen to one another, and they lie to themselves and to their mates, and they all screw up their lives, and the crazy guy is the only one who offers the sane, shrewd analysis, and it's all just harsh and fantastic. Loved it!

8. The Visitor
This brings a little tear. I relate to a lot of this film, as it reminds me of the last year or two of my life: New York, subways, Union Square, Queens, and immigration law. But I do not relate to the sad story of Tariq, who did nothing wrong but is unfortunate enough to encounter our justice system anyway. Everyone is so likable and it's so realistic about what happens. Richard Jenkins is astounding in a subtle performance as the professor who needs to be jolted awake; he nails it. A true little gem, this one.

7. Tropic Thunder
It's not only Robert Downey Jr who is excellent, although he is and he completely deserves his Oscar nomination. What if he ties with Heath? Won't that be ten kinds of awesome? Tropic Thunder has so much to say, and I'm sure a lot of it will be lost on a bunch of people. From the fake previews to the agent's response to "Amanda"/a panda, from the repeated oh-so-dramatic shots of the choppers soaring over the jungle to the twigman Oscar, it is all pure genius, and it satires Hollywood brilliantly. I love Jack Black. I love the stunt guy! I pretty much love every second of this film. Oh my I forgot to say I love Nick Nolte. See? Every second.

6. Frozen River
It's so hard to make a top ten list. (Kudos to Dave Letterman eh!) (joke) Anyway, while I do agree with Roger Ebert that trying to make a list of 1-20, with each movie ranked just above the next, is in some ways a ridiculous endeavor and nobody watches and enjoys movies that way, I also do enjoy the challenge of it. Furthermore, when I think about if I had to send you out to rent just one movie tonight (or, preferably, to add just one movie to your Netflix queue tonight) (which is of course in itself nonsensical, unless your queue is full as mine so often is, but let's just pretend you could add only one for the sake of my hypothetical, OK?) (this is what we do in law school: play with hypotheticals all day) ... catch your breath after all those parentheses ... and I had to choose between Tropic Thunder and Frozen River, I would probably sigh and tell you to see Frozen River, and that is why it places just above Tropic Thunder. This film is beautiful. It features at least two wondrous performances, from Melissa Leo (nominated!) and Charlie McDermott, as her son. It features a meditation on justice. It is entertaining, suspenseful, dramatic, small, and powerful. If you live under an Oscar-nominations-lacking rock, you may not know that it, too, ponders immigration as Melissa Leo's struggling-to-pay-the-bills dollar-store employee in upstate New York somehow comes to be driving aliens across the border from Canada. But there is oh-so-much more going on here. Parenting, policing, economic struggles, apologies, the tribal council: all of these are considered in the film and you just might walk away with a new perspective on what you thought you knew about the rules. But before that you will be totally engrossed.

Ready for the top five tomorrow?

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