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Paul Jensen

Silver Winners: 21-30

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CLOSE UP (1990) 5 stars

A one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Iranian films floored audiences in the 90s and Kiarostami was at the forefront of that movement. Close-up is his most subversive and layered picture. It blows my mind.

 

Genre: Foreign
Director: Abbas Kiarostami

 

STAR TREK (2009) 5 stars

JJ Abrams nailed it. What is it with this generation of filmmakers rejuvenating old franchises? From Batman to James Bond and now Star Trek, these prequels have all gotten it RIGHT. Their attention to story and character is what's most impressive. Star Trek has the perfect blend of both action and drama. The actors perfectly pay tribute to their well-known classic characters and fittingly Kirk and Spock are the two that shine the strongest. Never mind the impeccable special effects and stirring new score, this film had me in tears within the first ten minutes. And I'm not even a Trekkie! There are so many wonderful lines throughout the script and the tension never lets up for a second. Plus, the film has countless self-reverential moments that never seem to come across contrived. They work totally organic to the story. This Trek film is also, hands down, the most action packed of the series. Lastly, what's most impressive is how the writers managed to come up with not just a prequel but an actual sequel to the original series. Instead of just trying to re-start the franchise by ignoring everything that's come before; they've continued the series in a new direction, while enhancing what's come before. Truly brilliant.

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: JJ Abrams

 

BRAZIL (1985) 5 stars

Gilliam's masterpiece. A bizarre science-fiction film that is the epitome of dystopia. Borrowing from Orwell's 1984, Gilliam's ambitious and challenging magnum opus was torture to make. He famously fought with the studio to get his vision across. The art direction and visuals are stupendous. The story is disturbing, gruesome, yet truly brilliant and hilarious. Think Monty Python meets Blade Runner. Brazil has become one the most influential sci-fi films ever made and its quirky and dark sense of humor can be seen on many, including the Coens. Gilliam has never made such a visually impressive masterwork with such an uncompromising vision. Bravo!

 

Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Terry Gilliam

 

SHORT CUTS (1993) 5 stars

If you want to see where Magnolia got a lot of its inspiration, then look no further. Altman's epic film brings together multiple lives in LA and shows just how unstable we all are. Brave performances across the board make this one unforgettable and disturbing movie. This was undoubtedly Altman's comeback, as well as the beginning of a new renaissance in independent filmmaking. The genius of the film lies in the way the multiple stories intertwine. There's no real conclusion and that's the point - life goes on. It's also a wonderful love poem to the blues. Lovesick jazz comes across like a Greek chorus and both comedy and horror manage to co-exist. And any film with Tom Waits has got to be awesome!

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Robert Altman

 

KOYANNISQATSI (1983) 5 stars

A remarkable journey through sight and sound. A timeless and exhilarating experience. Phillip Glass' music is minimalism at its most mind-blowing. The sequels are also spell-binding.

 

Genre: Documentary
Director: Godfrey Reggio

 

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001) 5 stars

Had there really been a medieval fantasy film this good before? Jackson and his amazing team made us believe that Middle Earth exists. They took Tolkien's work seriously and delivered a masterpiece. Most astonishing is how good they made everything look with the relatively small budget they had. Considering what major blockbusters cost, this was like an independent blockbuster at half the price. Yet, that didn't stop them from making everything look authentic and gorgeous.

From the wizard battle, to the Cave Troll & Balrog sequence, everything feels epic and convincing. Smart choice to have the forest skirmish and Borimor sacrifice at the end of the film (as opposed to the beginning of Two Towers, like in the book). Naturally, it helped that they had a cast full of stellar actors bringing such passion to the roles. The extended cut is superior thanks to more fleshing out of the characters and Howard Shore's score is exemplary. Well done, Jackson & co. It would only get better.

 

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Peter Jackson

 

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1996) 5 stars

My favorite animated film of all time. Incredibly bold of Disney studios to attempt Victor Hugo's novel. They would never get this dark and mature since. For years, Disney was the only studio keeping the musical alive. Starting with Beauty and the Beast, the studio made a strong effort to appeal to adults.  It escalated with The Lion King and Pocahontas. With each film they pushed the envelope, that is until Hunchback.  That’s when they received plenty of letters from angry parents complaining that the film was too dark and sexual.  Sadly, this made Disney retreat to more kid-friendly stories and they stopped taking risks.  Not coincidentally, their box office also dropped, ending with them shutting down the 2-D department.  It would take Pixar to make animated films in Hollywood mature again.

 

Genre: Animation
Director: Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise

 

BREAKING THE WAVES (1996) 5 stars

Cassavetes for the 90s. Lars VonTrier creates his religious masterpiece that foreshadows the Dogma movement to come. Each chapter headings adds a cinematic and spiritual addition to this already brilliant achievement. It's heart-wrenching, truthful and most of all, Von Trier has got balls. Emily Watson gives the performance of the 90s and Katrin Cartlidge is stunningly gifted. Occasionally, Watson breaks the fourth wall and the results are private and beautifully intimate. Even the rock songs throughout are perfectly placed. The European cut has a few additional shots of male nudity but another interesting side note is, originally Bowie's Life on Mars was supposed to be in place of Elton John's Your Song. Try it out yourself - it perfectly suits The Funeral.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: Lars Von Trier

 

DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975) 5 stars

This film should be put into a time capsule and sent off into outer-space. Alien life forms can learn so much about American culture from this masterpiece. Impeccably directed by Sidney Lumet - his finest hour. It's no coincidence that Al Pacino has also never been better, you can barely take your eyes off him. American cinema has never been so good as in the 70s. It's films like these that illustrate that.

 

Genre: Crime
Director: Sidney Lumet

 

BROADCAST NEWS (1987) 5 stars

A perfect blend of comedy and drama. It's the characters and dialogue that make this gem so endearing. It helps when you have such a stellar cast. Hurt, Hunter and Brooks know their roles so well. My heart goes out to all three of their characters. James L. Brooks hasn't topped this film since. Surprisingly, unlike many 80’s comedies, this film holds up well. These characters endure and don't feel dated. Plus, the entire metaphor of slowly lowering your standards in relationships/television is more relevant now thanks to the internet.

 

Genre: Drama
Director: James L. Brooks

 

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