15. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Andrew Dominik’s subtle and thoroughly engrossing western is a pitch perfect ensemble film lead also by its haunting score by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave, wonderful writing, great direction by Andrew Dominik, and perhaps its crowning gem, the magnificent cinematography by one of my favorites Roger Deakins. Mali Finn (RIP) the casting director always seems to put together groups of people who always flourish and hit back when they are thrown a curveball (see also North Country, Undertow, All the Real Girls, The Green Mile, Manic…). The film is led by Casey Affleck, a somewhat loveable but pathetic man, Robert Ford the eventual assasin of the iconic American outlaw Jesse James, no surprise there. The surprises come in the form of incredible performances around the board from Paul Schneider, Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, Garret Dillahaunt, Mary Louise Parker, Pat Healy, Zooey Deschanel, and wonderful little cameo-esque roles from Nick Cave and James Carville.
Junebug remains one of the most influential films as a future hopeful director. This film offers so much insight into its characters and is a completely different experience than I have ever undergone with a film. Amy Adams gives the performance of her career as a bright, bubbly, and truly optimistic person, even under the many stresses she undergoes throughout the film. Phil Morrison expertly weaves through the many layers of the story bouncing from bizarre and bright comedy to somber and very real and deep emotion regarding family and relationships. Truly one of the most underrated films of the decade.
Everything brilliant Alex Proyas has done as a filmmaker has come into this expertly crafted and mindblowingly misunderstood sci-fi picture. Nic Cage and Rose Byrne navigate through the destruction beautifully and Alex Proyas proves that in my opinion he is the king of science fiction filmmaking with such credits as The Crow, Dark City, Spirits of the Air Gremlins of the Clouds, and his weakest picture I Robot. The doubters of the film will not be silenced, but despite the backlash I stand firm in my support of this film. I do know a few who will back me up, namely Andy Ferguson, Karl Leschinsky, my sister, and Roger Ebert.
12. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may very well be the most hilarious film I have or will ever have seen. That aside, this crafty and visually stunning sci-fi/comedy is a wonderful adaptation of the classic Douglas Adams books. With a screenplay by Adams the film radiates with his quick and ridiculous humor transporting the viewer to anywhere and everywhere he sees fit. The hilarious cast is headed by the brilliant Martin Freeman as the loveable outsider who just wants a little bit more understanding of the world he lives in and how he can achieve what he wants, mainly the love of Trillian played by Zooey Deschanel in the role that made me truly fall in love with her. Other zany roles are played wonderfully by Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, and John Malkovich. Also included is a joint role from Warwick Davies and Alan Rickman and the voices of Stephen Fry and Helen Mirren. This remains one of my all-time favorite films.
11. Into the Wild
The last film before the top ten is Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book based of the life of Christopher Johnson McCandless a.k.a Alexander Supertramp. Penn’s Into the Wild is masterfully shot, edited, acted, and the music is on a level of its own featuring original songs from Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook and two pieces from Kaki King. Emile Hirsch tramps across America, living the dream of many young transcendentalists and rebels. I my self share many of the same ideals as Chris and though my choices in life will lead me elsewhere, I respect Christopher as being a true idealist and for having the follow through to achieve something that did and does indeed transcend the outcome. Supporing roles from Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, first time actor Brian Dierker, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Zach Galifianakis, and of course Hal Holbrook all help bring the story of the Christopher McCandless to a visual and poetic reality.
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