Greg Mottola’s hilarious and very personal mix of real life drama and comedy fuse together perfectly in Adventureland. Marketed as another Superbad, Adventureland quickly proved to be equally, if not more hilarious, and all together a much stronger film. Mottola said that much of the film is autobiographical and the movie truly feels it as Jesse Eisenberg deals with the troubles of adolescence ending and finding love in Kristen Stewart’s character. The film is backed by a wonderful mix of 80’s classics and real “rip your heart out” music like tracks from Lou Reed. One of the funniest and without being too flat, realistic teen films in the last decade.
9. Rachel Getting Married
Jonathan Demme returns to fiction once again, but this time in a totally different way. His previous films Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Truth About Charlie all benefited from a steady and almost ethereal quality. Rachel Getting Married offers Jonathan to show off the new skills he has gained as a documentary filmmaker after working on such projects as Jimmy Carter Man From the Plains and Neil Young Heart of Gold (both wonderful). Anne Hatheway gives a career performance best as a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. The whole picture is filmed in digital handheld to achieve a more immediate and “home-movie” quality, which works under the context of this film where other attempts may have failed. The film also benefits from many fascinating supporting characters, namely incredible and oscar worthy performances from Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, and my favorite part of the film Bill Wier as the father of Rachel and Kym. The films off the cuff style is not for everyone, but the performances alone stand out as great achievements.
Possibly one of the strangest yet most innocent films of the decade, or ever. The Polish Brothers’ third film based around a midwest city is a visual masterpiece, offering more and more upon each viewing. The film is centered around a town in Montana that is soon going to be turned into a massive lake once the Northfork dam is released. Nick Nolte plays a priest who is taking care of a dying boy who, as he experiences the last moments of his life switches back and forth between a world of pain and confusion (reality) to a surreal subplot in which he is a lost angel that a band of angels have been tracking to take home. James Woods and co-writer Mark Polish are part of a team of men whose task it is to evacuate the town before flooding, all so they get the deed to some lake front property. The film is a visual masterpiece filled with tender and surprisingly honest views on spirituality and a wonderful austere yet entrancing view of the Montana landscape.
7. Snow Angels
David Gordon Greens fourth feature film Snow Angels is a two part story of the struggles of relationships. One part involves the recently split up couple played by Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale in two of their best roles yet. The other is a pitch-perfect budding romance between high schoolers played by Michael Angarano and Olivia Thirlby, who are both the heart of the film and exhibit some of Green’s best work with characters. The movie takes a turn into a harsh and depressing reality when Rockwell and Beckinsale’s daughter goes missing. The film radiates with both joy and deep sorrow, largely due to Tim Orr’s fantastic cinematography (probably his best yet). Supporting roles held by Amy Sedaris, Griffin Dunne, Nicky Catt, and the puzzling yet heartbreakingly wonderous Tom Noonan all deepen the film even more as it descends into a dark and harsh ending.
6. Whale Rider
A beautifully filmed and convincingly acted masterpiece of Maori culture.
Whale Rider is the story of a 12 year old Maori girl who knows that she is born to the destiny her grandfather believes died with her stillborn twin brother. The story is about young Paikea, played incredibly by Keisha Castle Hughes, and the change that her culture must undergo in order to flourish as it has for so many years. She, by name and blood is in the direct line of the original Paikea, the Whale Rider. And the Maori must ride that “whale” as bravely as their mythological ancestor rode the whale from Havaiki (a satellite island of Tahiti, NOT Hawaii) to New Zealand. Not to destroy or denigrate their culture, but to ensure its vitality and continuity in the cultural matrix of the modern world.
A great lesson in true cultural diversity without preachy slogans or “politically correct” censorship. It should be shown in all the world’s classrooms. Keisha Castle-Hughes is unforgettable as the heroine, and richly deserved the Oscar for which she has been nominated.
Provided is a link to Roger Ebert’s highly positive review of Niki Caro’s film.
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