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Paul Jensen

Gold Winners: 91-100

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HAPPY TOGETHER (1997) 5 stars

A bold and passionate portrait of two men in love. Flawless performances, a beautiful soundtrack and an emotional resonance that transcends your traditional love story. Heartrendingly romantic. It's also universal and funny. Instead of relying heavily on plot, Kar-wai gives us a series of simple, honest, and painful moments that ring true and create a mosaic of what it's like getting over a destructive relationship. What's wonderfully fresh about this film is how the gay relationship is not really the point. Anyone who has ever loved and lost and then tried to move on, can totally relate to this film. Certain shots say so much with just a little punctuation and music. The subtext is constantly there, always treating the viewer with utmost respect. It goes without saying that the cinematography is astonishing. Godard's influence is felt and the overall emotional feeling the movie leaves you with is one of complete and utter acceptance, ironic wisdom, and blissful hope. Perfect cathartic filmmaking.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Wong Kar-wai

 

EYES WIDE SHUT (1999) 5 stars

Definitive Kubrick. Eerie, unsettling, hypnotic and completely original. Still, years ahead of film today. As Kubrick explores relationships, illusions and fear, we are treated to some of the most captivating imagery and sound design around. In typical Kubrick fashion, it takes a couple of viewings to fully digest. It's provocative with an interesting blend of being both cinematic and theatrical. Much like Nicholson & Duvall's unsettling casting in The Shining, Cruise & Kidman fit their respective rolls perfectly. Their vacant, striving & pained performances suit the theme of the film. Kubrick himself reportedly felt it was among his best work. Who am I to disagree?

Genre: Drama
Director: Stanley Kubrick

 

THE INSIDER (1999) 5 stars

How can one be a true hero in our contemporary times? It's truly remarkable how riveting this film is. It's confident filmmaking with a concise and sophisticated story. The score is beautiful and the message is inspiring. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, it might have come across slightly dull. Right off the bat, it's the emotional attachment we feel for the characters that keeps us engaged. The obstacles become insanely difficult for both Pacino and Crowe, that we can not help but marvel at their dedication and integrity. Incredible consummate filmmaking. Simply put: Michael Mann at his best and Russell Crowe delivers the performance of his career (even his body language is pitch-perfect.) Lisa Gerrard contributes nicely as well. It's an incredibly accomplished film that manages to make us truly care.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Michael Mann

 

CITY LIGHTS (1931) 5 stars

Chaplin's ultimate love story. Charming, simple, yet poignant. With the classic open-ending that tugs at the heart (and what a boxing match!) If I was to select one movie out of the first forty years of cinema, this would be it. As our heroine says at the end, "Yes, I can see now." The subtext is both for the power of movies sending a universal message through visual storytelling (Chaplin was holding onto silent cinema a bit longer) but more importantly, it's a movie made during the depression. Yes, we can see now, that even a "Tramp" is worthy of the greatest human trait - love and sacrifice. Funny, heart-warming and emotionally devastating. A masterpiece.

Genre:Comedy
Director: Charlie Chaplin

 

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (2007) 

A film about hero worship and obsessed fanaticism. A revisionist western as profound as Altman's McCabe. The exquisite beauty of the cinematography and score moved me to tears. The cast is impeccable (in particular, the painfully awkward and brilliant performance by Casey Affleck). The voice-over recalls Malick and the languid story structure is free from cliches and utterly poetic. This is a true underrated modern masterpiece. It's reflective, visually sumptuous and thought-provoking; this period piece is actually extremely relevant today amidst our celebrity worship. (I can’t wait to see the rumored 4 hour director’s cut).

 

Genre: Western
Director: Andrew Dominik 5 stars

 

I'M NOT THERE (2007) 5 stars

Breaking the formulaic structure of traditional biopics, this mosaic of the 'many lives' of Bob Dylan does the one-of-a-kind artist justice. Haynes' many influences range from the French New Wave to Girard's Glenn Gould portrait. Its myriad complexities capture not just one artist but all artist's constant search for re-invention, growth and enlightenment. Weaving together yesterday, today and tomorrow in a statement that reaches for something as profound as Citizen Kane. After all, one does not recall one's life in chronological order. Rather, the past, present, yesterday and today all interweave. The end result is as compelling and enigmatic as Dylan himself. The poetry of image and song is where Todd Haynes shines the most and the performances are stellar. In particular, Cate Blanchett's voice impersonation is uncanny. The ghostly image of Dylan at the end captures the essence of this elusive portrait perfectly.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Todd Haynes

 

BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) 5 stars

A Powell & Pressburger masterpiece. Bold sexuality, luscious color photography, an operatic and daring story. What impresses me the most about this highly original film is how passionate their storytelling skills are. Every sequence has a hyper-real quality that embraces the best that cinema has to offer. For kids growing up in the 40s, this was their horror film. Nuns being tempted by sexual impulse! Cardiff's cinematography is mind-blowing. He was one of the first to really understand the potential of technicolor. The film is also daring, creepy, filled with mood and atmosphere. Remarkably, it was all shot in a studio and performed with the musical score playing on the set. Undoubtedly, one for the library.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

 

DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978) 5 stars

It's insane how confident Malick's style had become by his second film. Cinematographer's Guild voted this the fourth greatest use of cinematography in film history. Easy to see why. Malick's underrated talent as a writer is evident throughout. He focuses on moments of silence, hesitation and glances between characters. The drama intensifying completely through visual storytelling. I particularly love the way Malick focuses so much attention on animals and nature - a true Buddhist. In the end the film is about how we are all human - flaws and all. Devils and angels. We would have to wait twenty years for another film from Malick.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Terrence Malick

 

RED RIVER (1948) 5 stars

A classic western dealing with the archetypal Father and Son story. Masterful. A great performance from John Wayne too.

 

Genre: Western
Director: Howard Hawks

 

A STAR IS BORN (1954) 5 stars

An unforgettable and vicious portrait of Hollywood. During the end of the golden age, this movie hits extremely close to home for many show business types. There is such great subtext in Judy Garland's performance. What James Mason's character was going through, Garland was going through in real life. She bears her soul and the result is outstanding. It's the performance of her life and somehow Cukor manages to draw this gut-wrenching and astonishing performance out of her. It's film imitating life and Garland has never been more sincere. Also, the disintegration of Mason's character is profoundly touching and at times painful to watch. Such honesty, boldness and searing critique on everything Hollywood. I love her, him, the story, the songs, the direction, everything. Out of all the versions that have been made it's this 50s version that is the most gutsy, dark and critical on Hollywood.

 

Genre: Musical
Director: George Cukor

 

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