Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Top 20 Dramas: Part 2, #11-15

My Top 20 Dramas (continued)

Most of my favorite movies are dramas. It’s largely because important stories told in a serious way tend to be dramas. Acting is generally better and the story means something.

It’s incredibly difficult to rank films. Much depends on mood or which ones you have seen recently. The order constantly changes and new titles are added as I see titles for the first time.

With that in mind, here’s #11-15 in my favorite genre:

15. As Good as It Gets (1997)
Directed by James L. Brooks
Starring Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear

Nicholson and Hunt both won Oscars for their unconventional romance. It’s a good example of the type of humor I like as it is sprinkled among serious dramatic scenes. The main duo, ably supported by Kinnear, all did great work. Nicholson possesses excellent comic timing and all three characters were convincing in their roles. The story is touching, involving and very funny in places. It’s capable of making you laugh and cry and that’s a rare thing.

14. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Directed by Milos Forman
Starring Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif and Danny DeVito

More Nicholson and further evidence of his natural instinct for comic timing. It’s a thought-provoking film set in a mental institution, mixing humor and drama. Some scenes are uplifting, but others are extremely sad. What is freedom? What are the most important things in life? It also features good early performances from Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd and Brad Dourif (who was nominated for an Oscar). I don’t think I’ll ever forget Will Sampson’s contribution as The Chief. Ah, Juicy Fruit.

13. Juno (2007)
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman and J.K. Simmons

Juno is another drama with plenty of funny moments. The acting is superb across the board and the chemistry between Page and Cera works well. One of my favorite scenes involves a talk between Juno and her father (Simmons) in which his gentle wisdom leads her to a key revelation about her feelings. The Oscar-winning screenplay from Diablo Cody feels authentic and captures the mind of a teen particularly well. I laughed and I was charmed by this gem. The story never gets too serious and the whimsical mood is perfectly enhanced by the choice of songs.

See my full review here.

12. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Directed by Isao Takahata
Starring the voices of Tsutomu Tatsumi and Ayano Shiraishi

Here’s an animated movie that wasn’t targeted at children. Most animated fare is light-hearted and full of humor, but Grave of the Fireflies is deadly serious. I’m usually crying three minutes into the film because of a beautiful scene where a boy’s spirit is reunited with his sister’s. The remainder of the story is told through flashbacks and shows how the two siblings died. It contains so many touching moments and is based on a true story in which a young boy was unable to save his little sister. It’s set during the Second World War, but never preaches about which side was right or wrong. It’s purely an observation of how war affects people’s lives. It’s easily the best serious animation I've ever seen.

11. Three Colors Red (1994)
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Starring Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Frédérique Feder

Krzysztof Kieslowski and Irène Jacob first worked together three years earlier in The Double Life of Veronique and it’s a pleasure to see them together again in Kieslowski’s final film. She plays Valentine, a young model who inadvertently meets a retired judge (Trintignant). She disapproves of his lifestyle and slowly influences him and inspires a change. I like it so much because Valentine is such a pure spirit and a source of goodness. The judge isn’t particularly likable at the outset, but I end up pitying him and then liking him. It’s a thought-provoking piece about how people can change. It also has deeper themes and some have speculated that the judge represents God. Released in the same year as Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction, Three Colors Red is the most powerful part of Kieslowski’s excellent trilogy.

See #16-20 on my list here.
See #6-10 on my list here.
See #1-5 on my list here.
I’ll reveal the next five films on my list tomorrow.

Feel free to let me know what you think about my selections, and what would make your Top 20.

Return to index of every review on the site.

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