Monday, May 7, 2007

Top Picks

As you may have noticed, my sidebar continuously displays the ten movies I've viewed most recently. I decided to look back at the titles of those I've watched since starting to record them here (109 since approximately the end of last summer) and pick the ten I would especially recommend.

I at first tried to rank them*, but soon gave up in favor of just listing them most recently viewed first (release date: director; comment in parentheses):
  1. The Last King of Scotland (2006: Kevin Macdonald; Forest Whitaker is just too likable to play Idi Amin)
  2. The Good Shepherd (2006: Robert De Niro; Matt Damon has surely never had a part that required him to say so little...through dialogue)
  3. Keeping Mum (2005: Niall Johnson; beautiful example of compact, economical plotting, very funny, with murder and mayhem as well! Maggie Smith always a treat)
  4. Running with Scissors (2006: Ryan Murphy; hard to believe that the quirky characters portrayed are from a memoir of actual lives—Augusten Burroughs's of the same title)
  5. The World's Fastest Indian (2005: Roger Donaldson; I agree with Sir Anthony Hopkins, who said of his performance that it might be his best)
  6. The Devil Wears Prada (2006: David Frankel; in my book, Meryl Streep's best performance—at least, most enjoyed by myself—and Anne Hathaway is glorious, Stanley Tucci endearing)
  7. Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005: Stephen Frears; the music is wonderful and Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins perfect as usual)
  8. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006: Clint Eastwood; spellbinding, even if in black and white with subtitles for the Japanese)
  9. Oscar and Lucinda (1997: Gillian Armstrong; Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett!—twenty minutes into watching it, I'd already decided it had to be one of my favorite movies)
  10. A Prairie Home Companion (2006: Robert Altman; much better even than I expected, so sad that it was Robert Altman's last movie, Kevin Kline a master of physical comedy)
You can look them up on the Internet Movie Database.
* I did, however, enjoy these the most: The World's Fastest Indian, The Devil Wears Prada, Keeping Mum, and Oscar and Lucinda. And I didn't actually "enjoy" Letters from Iwo Jima or The Last King of Scotland—their subject matters (war and bloody dictatorship, respectively) were just too brutal for enjoyment. But they are terrific works of cinematic art, and I do recommend them.


  1. Hey, where is that sidebar? I don't see it. Upon reading your post, I had to see if you had seen The Queen (surprisingly touching) and Other People's Lives. You would rank them highly, I suspect, as I did.

    I, too, loved the World's Fastest Indian. Did you see the other Eastwood movie, Flags of Our Fathers? Very well done, but they say Letters is better. I've seen Flags, not Letters.

  2. Tom, I suspect that you are using Internet Explorer? Since Microsoft's attempts
    at a satisfactory web browser have so far been failures, you have to scroll to
    the very bottom of my displayed blog to see my sidebar. Or, alternatively, try Mozilla Firefox.

    You'll then see, for example, that I HAVE seen "The Queen" and "Flags..." I agree with "they": "Letters" is better. I haven't seen "Other People's Lives," however. Thanks for the tip. As much as I love (and have long loved) Helen Mirren, "The Queen" just didn't make my cut.

  3. I loved the human aspect of "The Queen," the interplay between Helen & Tony Blair, and how both of them came to shift positions.

    I believe I will post about it in time with regard to another point. You will disagree, of course, as we do on almost everything. But I'll alert you anyhow.


    "Other People's Lives" will make your cut. I almost guarantee it.

    Oh yeah! There's your list at the bottom of the page. Looky here! You saw "I, Robot!"

    An interesting story in connection with that film. A youngster I worked with once. Oddly, I can't recall her name. Was it Tracy? At any rate, she loved science fiction.

    I mentioned the movie to her. "Oh God, it's terrible!" she declared. A strong statement! So imagine my surprise when subsequent conversation revealed she had never seen it. I asked her.

    It was becasue she knew her Isaac Asimov. And she knew the movie only loosely followed the book. And that, to her, was the worst blasphemy.

  4. <blush> I didn't watch all of "I, Robot" myself. I listed it because I watched enough to get a feel for it and my wife watched all of it and gave me a synopsis of the second half. I don't care for science fiction and have hardly read any (and no Isaac Asimov at all). I just couldn't watch all of those CGI action scenes, which I find extremely boring.

    I'm familiar with the disappointment of a movie's failing to live up to the book. Another movie that I listed although I couldn't watch all of it again (I'd seen it years earlier, before reading the book, and at that time liked it) was "The Little Drummer Girl." The movie was such a travesty of John Le Carré's book, it made me feel very uneasy to try to watch it. Literally painful (esthetically).

    Lest you get the idea that I list many movies without having watched them in their entirety, these might be the only two so listed....

    I'm not finding "Other People's Lives" at Is that really the title?

  5. Oops. Sorry. It is The Lives of Others.

    When I was a teenager, I thought Isaac Asimov was the greatest author ever. When I revisited him as an adult, I was amazed he was ever allowed to own a typewriter.

    The change in appreciation? Asimov was a master at ingenious plots, and his science fiction settings naturally appealed to teenage males. (Me, anyway)

    But he had absolutely no ability to convincingly sketch characters. And it is characters that make fiction interesting.

  6. Ah, "The Lives of Others"! Thanks. So, it's the German film "Das Leben der Anderen," then? (Released in 2006, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck?) I'll be sure to watch it.

    And I highly recommend the film we watched last night: "Déjà Vu" (directed by Tony Scott, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and starring Denzel Washington, with Paula Patton).

    I'm so high on it that I've already started to write a short review. The film fits in uncannily well with my recent reflections on the "seminal paradox in the heart of creation." In the minutes after watching it (and while watching it's plot unfold), I had that most glorious of all movie experiences, a sort of almost "sacred awe" (to quote Nikos Kazantsakis's character Zorba the Greek) at the beauty of this cinematic creation.