Monday, June 6, 2011

My Top 20 Dramas: Part 3, #6-10

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 #6-10 in my favorite genre:

10. Jackie Brown (1997)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster and Robert De Niro

Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, Jackie Brown still feels like a Tarantino movie. At 154 minutes it never feels long. Tarantino takes the time he needs to properly introduce the characters and we know them well by the end of the movie. It’s essentially a heist movie with a little romance thrown in. It’s shunned by some because it appears to feature older actors and may be intended for a different demographic than his first two movies. I love every minute and enjoy seeing everything unfold. Jackson is always good when he works with Tarantino, but Forster and Grier have never been better. If you have avoided this due to bad reviews and like Tarantino’s style, check it out. Chances are you’ll end up appreciating it.

9. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent

This time Tarantino gives us his version of a war movie, but it’s not like any war movie you’ve ever seen. The opening 20-minute scene is about as tense as it gets and is reminiscent of Hitchcock. The film is driven by dialogue in four different languages, so subtitles are used frequently. Waltz won an Oscar as Hans Landa, the Jew Hunter. The film is typical Tarantino fare with plenty of dark humor, violence, references to film, chapters and outrageous scenes. As always, the music fits the action perfectly. The screenplay was Oscar-worthy and the acting strong throughout. The 153 minutes race by and Tarantino casually changes history with his version of events. It’s a lot of fun.

8. The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Starring Irène Jacob and Philippe Volter

This film won’t appeal to everyone. It’s subtitled and tells the story of two women; one French and the other Polish. They look alike and have similar interests. Kieslowski’s story has several different layers of meaning and it’s something for viewers who like to reflect on what they have seen. It’s not a traditional narrative and there’s no obvious plot. This is not a Hollywood production. We never learn why the two women look identical or why they seem to share some of their feelings and experiences. That’s for us to decide and everyone will have a different answer. Irène Jacob, who later starred in Three Colors Red, is stunning in the role and plays it with a lot of emotion. The film is also about relationships and music. In fact, it explores several kinds of love. It’s shot beautifully and watching it is like entering into a fantasy world. If you like to think and find your own meaning, this might appeal to you. If you don’t like subtitles or prefer things to be neatly explained, skip it.

7. No Country for Old Men (2007)
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones

Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) finds a suitcase full of money while he’s out hunting and decides to take it and go on the run. It’s a weird choice considering he could have left the country and never be seen again, but all of his other actions make sense. We see how he hides, fearing that he’ll be pursued. His caution is justified when Anton Chigurh discovers his identity and tries to recover what he claims is his money. The story is told from the viewpoint of the local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Jones) and the resolution isn’t an obvious one. Chigurh is an interesting character and is afraid of nothing. There’s always tension whenever he’s on screen. The Coens picked up Oscars for Best Directing, Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay, while Bardem won Best Supporting Actor. It’s a unique film.

6. Fargo (1996)
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy

It’s tough choosing between Fargo and No Country for Old Men, but there’s so much to love about Fargo. The acting is excellent and the characters memorable. It’s full of dark humor and witty dialogue, and the story moves along at a brisk pace. The setting suits the mood of the film and Roger Deakins captured the desolation of Minnesota perfectly. I have a lot to say about the film, so feel free to check out my recent review if you want to know more.

Here’s the full review.

See #16-20 on my list here.
See #11-15 on my list here.
See #1-5 on my list here.
I’ll reveal the final five films 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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