Not too long ago, a friend of mine was asking for movie recommendations because she hadn't watched anything in the last five years being busy with raising her family. So I wrote this for her.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Sort of a comedy film noir with Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. People like to trace RDJ’s comeback to Iron Man, but it was this movie that first got me to reconsider him.
Documentary about paraplegics who play a version of rugby.
Two Palestinians are chosen to be suicide bombers. I didn’t think I was going to like this movie because I'm not very politically interested in the issues at hand. However I was won over by the daily details of the human story.
Man Push Cart
A heartrending story of a guy who owns one of those hot dog type places just trying to make good in difficult circumstances.
The Cave of the Yellow Dog
Very similar to The Story of the Weeping Camel by the same director. A quotidian look at Mongolian life with the barest pretenses of a plot.
Tiger and the Snow
I love Roberto Benigni. I’m not just saying that for no reason. He directed and acted in this movie. It is an homage to the power of love and poetry and Tom Waits in a cruel and war-torn world.
Little Miss Sunshine
I think I loved this movie because it stars such a panoply of failures. “Divorce? Bankrupt? Suicide? You’re fucking losers!” as Paul Dano’s character succinctly puts it. And despite that, it is funny and charming and a total sleeper hit.
I think Dayna Papaleo [movie critic] described this movie as being a cross between Wizard of Oz and The Princess Bride. She probably said other things about it but the basic idea of storytelling and mythical surrealities are what drive this movie.
This is pretty much the only Pedro Almodovar movie I can stand. And I’m not even sure why. Penelope Cruz was excellent.
If you’re not on drugs when watching this movie, you won’t need to be. A cornucopia of color and surrealism meant to tap into the subconscious language of dreams. Don't worry about plot. Just sit back and let your mind bake.
Documentary footage of people actually committing suicide off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. At first blush it sounds unethical. And probably at twenty-fifth blush it still seems like a bad idea to make and release such a movie. And yet here I am recommending it.
No Country for Old Men
I wasn’t going to see this movie but a friend of mine, David Langley, called me a bad name and told me to just do it. Ok, David, you were right.
Blades of Glory
After watching NCforOM, you may need to lighten up a bit and why not go for a Napoleon Dynamite (whatever his real name is) and Will Ferrell tag team comedy about a male-on-male figure-skating duo?
Eagle vs. Shark
Speaking of Napoleon Dynamite, here’s another movie along the same lines. Starring Flight of the Conchord’s Jemaine Clement, this dead-pan comedy is definitely quirky.
Underappreciated Wes Anderson flick. I saw it nine times in the theater. Maybe that’s what’s required to start picking up on how cool it is, but I don't think so.
Lars and the Real Girl
Mislabeled as a comedy, on paper it sounds funny. Shy guy orders sex doll and passes it off as a real woman. But this isn’t a funny movie. It is good though.
Further plunging down the depressive hole is this not exactly bio-pic of Joy Division. Not only is it interesting for “factual” info regarding a cool band, but it’s a decent movie film-wise.
King of Kong
Ok, let’s have a little levity again. This documentary follows players of that classic arcade game, King Kong, trying to establish a new record high score. It is both pathetic and fascinating.
The Dark Knight
To all those fools who said that Heath Ledger only got an Oscar because he died, I pose the following question: where was Bernie Mac’s Oscar for Soul Men? There are some things about Dark Knight that make it less than perfect but Heath’s performance more than makes up for them.
Let the Right One in
Going up directly against Twilight, this vampire movie has (at least) one thing Twilight doesn’t: it’s Swedish!
I really liked this movie but I can't quite specify what I liked about it. It had a sort of Little Miss Sunshine feeling (same producer, same Alan Arkin) but different.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman had a nice little run and this movie may have killed it. This was Charlie Kauffman's (writer of Being John Malkovitch, Adaptation) directorial debut and you can tell he really wanted to make a splash without diverging from his typical themes of existentialism and navel-gazing.
I've never found Bill Maher to be funny. More annoying. However in this documentary, I think he’s really trying to reign it in just a tad (not always successfully). He takes a look at the big three religions (Xianity, Jewdiocity and Muslimism). It’s both insightful and funny.
Here’ an underrated movie that slipped under the radar. Filmed in low-budget Blair Witch style, this meta movie documents the filming of a low-budget Blair Witch style horror movie. There’s a lot of sitting around and talking but it also has a pretty cool denouement.
I read one review calling this movie a fat Bourne Identity. Be that as it may, Matt Damon has some really great lines in this corporate espionage (maybe a bit misleading) I-wouldn’t-call-it-a-thriller.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson breaks the mold by not only making an adaptation (of a Roald Dahl book) but also by using stop animation instead of live actors. Despite these breaks from tradition, Anderson manages to completely own this movie. It is simultaneously nothing like and exactly the same as everything else he has made.
Quirky faux documentary about an awkward girl searching for love in all the wrong places (not really). I heart Michael Cera.
Sort of a surprise for me because I was expecting a Hollywood effect-a-thon (which it was), but it also managed to be The-Office-like funny. And on top of that there was a kind of post-colonial social commentary.
Somehow managed to both heavily reference the original Star Trek oeuvre without clinging to its coattails. I have to admit, I had long, nerdy talks abut the ramifications of its plot points.
What better person to round out this year’s deluge of awesome science fiction than the Star Man David Bowie’s son? This debut has conscious nods to such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris. But, once again, paying tribute without being completely unoriginal.