Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movies That Aren't Terrible


I've written about a movie I didn't like, and I've written about some books that I do like, but I haven't really written about any movies that I love. I thought I would take some time write about a few movies that I really love. In no order whatsoever, here's a list of my favorite movies at the moment:

  • Garden State: This 2004 film stars the usually funny Zach Braff and the ever-adorable Natalie Portman. Braff, who is best known for his television role as the goofy but loveable young doctor J.D. in Scrubs, both wrote and directed this film. In his movie debut, Braff does an excellent job with a very different sort of script. Andrew Largeman (Braff) goes home for the first time in a long time when his mother passes away unexpectedly. While there, he struggles to find his place in the world and to make some sort of amends with his estranged father. He also meets the delightful pathological liar Sam (Portman) with whom he develops a relationship. The action includes a high school reunion style party in someone's parents' house, a trip to a quarry in which a scientist and his family live, and many other uninteresting-sounding adventures. I promise, however, that this movie is a cinematic wonder. The soundtrack alone is worth purchasing, with or without having seen the movie. Sam's eccentric mother and household are also a winning addition to the film. While it deals with some depressing subject matter, Garden State entertains and ultimately is uplifting at its end. Just so you can get a taste of how wonderful the film is, the following is a scene from the movie with Braff and Portman:


  • 21 Grams: This movie is a strange one in the style of the Academy Award-winning Crash, in that it connects seemingly-unrelated characters with a common theme and plot. It bounces from past to present tense seamlessly, without indication to the viewer. The film is therefore difficult to piece together in the beginning. However, after catching on, I found it a well-put-together form of madness. A controlled chaos, if you will. The fractured timeline mirrors the frustration and disconnect inside the characters' minds. Starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, and Benicio del Toro, the movie features a veteran cast of actors well-versed in their trade. We see each of them endure their own private torture as the movie progresses. Don't look for a happy ending to this one; it doesn't happen. But it is a beautifully made film, and one well worth seeing for other reasons than a happy ending. It makes the viewer think, and sometimes that's all you can ask for. Not to mention the ongoing mystery behind the title. Just what does "21 grams" refer to? Watch the movie, and you'll find out.
  • Big Fish: I always showed this movie to my students when I was teaching ninth grade English. I felt so strongly about it, I felt it a necessary piece to show them. However, Big Fish isn't exactly included in the Tennessee state standards for English I, so I had to work to make it fit. Thankfully, Big Fish is so fabulous that it fits with almost any literary theme you could think of. I chose to focus on the epic hero aspect of the film, and especially its protagonist Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor). Bloom tells the primary plot of the film as stories from his youth and life to his grown son Will (Billy Crudup). He goes on adventures that cross the globe, many of which Will considers complete lies. Through this family drama, I introduced The Odyssey to my students. By showing this film to my students prior to our reading that Greek myth, I began discussions on epics, epic heroes, "tall tales," oral histories, family conflict, and much more. Tim Burton directs this movie based on the book Big Fish; in addition to McGregor and Crudup, the cast includes Burton's partner and children's mother Helen Bonham Carter, Albert Finney, and Jessica Lange.


1 comment:

  1. The movie Cold Mountain (starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law)has been compared to The Odyssey. It, too, is a journey of epic proportions about a Civil War soldier who is weary, wounded from battle, and disenchanted with the whole idea of fighting for "the cause." While his journey back to his sweetheart is long and arduous he trudges on to be with her again. He is the hero of the movie and encounters many conflicts and strange people along the way. Renee Zellweger and Philip Seymour Hoffman give this movie its flavor and offer some much needed comic relief from an otherwise somber test of the human spirit.

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