All films listed: 47-53, 14 points each
About Schmidt, Alexander Payne, 2002
Okey Smokes! Alexander Payne captures the charms and flaws of his characters in a way that few directors can. His movies are always about people, the essential element of film. Even with a seemingly plain story that can be summed up as: Widower retiree travels to Colorado for his daughter’s wedding, the minutes of this Midwestern tragicomedy are never long, never boring. Jack Nicholson simultaneously exerts pathos and hilarity, and for it he earns our sympathy. About Schmidt is second on my list because it held my interest throughout, I was smiling or laughing almost constantly, and because I felt sorrow and intimacy with the plight of a character in a situation far outside what I have known. - Dustin Lilleskov
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Andrew Dominik, 2007
The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson, 2007
Before I talk about this film, I just have to say something. I’m not a particularly huge Jason Schwartzman fan, yet he appears in three of my picks. Why is this? I cannot answer that question. I guess he just takes roles in films that appeal to me, and acts well enough that he doesn’t annoy me. I have no other explanation.
I heard a critic say that Wes Anderson’s movies are too precious for his taste. I understand. One must accept two contingencies in order to enjoy Anderson: auteur authority, and Anderson’s particular breed of auteur authority. If you happen to accept these, his work is marvelous, a dazzling array of sound an image that is enriched by wild characters that react to one another in jubilant bursts of hilarious conflict.
This is how I felt about this film. What makes it perfect for me is that none of the conflicts are ever really resolved—only more deeply (and mystically) understood. The symbolical mother, rendered with religious symbolism, escapes the grasp of her adult sons. The father, appropriately, is absent (though he might be alluded to by Bill Murray’s cameo in the film). The plight for religious truth falls flatly farcical. Sex and love are only ornaments on the mysterious and comical altar of that which escapes our knowledge.
Well-built (i.e. the magnificent train set ornamented with an infinity of hand-made crafts) and well-shot, this buddy movie about three-brothers is tenderly hilarious. Its characteristic Wes Anderson inter-textual touches (the short film which serves as both independent piece and introduction to the entire film, the short-story writing that Schwartzman’s character does to enhance the emotion [reminiscent of Salinger’s Franny & Zooey]) only heighten the experience for me. - Aaron McNally
The Descent, Neil Marshall, 2005
Everything Will Be OK, Don Hertzfeldt, 2006
Since the late nineties, Don Hertzfeldt has been the reigning prankster of American animation, hand-crafting little wonders like the Oscar-nominated Rejected. Yet there’s always been a wealth of ideas behind his work, and these ideas came to the fore most prominently in Everything Will Be OK, a meditation on mortality and circumstance that feels like the cartoon cousin to Raymond Carver. That’s not to say Hertzfeldt has lost his sense of humor- far from it- but that it’s become load-bearing, in the service of some surprisingly profound issues about life. - Paul Clark
The Fast and the Furious, Rob Cohen, 2001
Cops and robbers. Lots of Japanese cars. Vin Diesel. Some of the best action of 2000. What else can be said? - Eric Mohling
Juno, Jason Reitman, 2007
Previously on You Aught to Know: Introduction