Tuesday, February 02, 2010

533 - You Aught to Know - Danny Baldwin

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Peter Jackson, 2001-2003

2. Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood, 2004

3. Grizzly Man, Werner Herzog, 2005

4. Little Children, Todd Field, 2006

Jackie Earle Haley's return to acting, portraying a tortured pedophile, was by itself enough to make Little Children great. But that Todd Field was able to keep him in his place a supporting character -- a show-stopper, certainly, but not the heart of the film -- shows just how much directorial control he had and what a great story he had to tell. Adapting with Todd Perrotta (from his novel), Field's film about the difficulties of suburban American life was not so much an unwarranted critique of suburbia (as was the case in Alan Ball's American Beauty) as it was a pointed exploration of the issues of the upper-middle class WASP lifestyle. Grounded firmly in the extramarital relationship between Kate Winslet's Sarah and Patrick Wilson's Brad, the film is expertly performed and told. Unflinching, messy stuff wrapped up in the tidy, but cold narration its setting would allow.

5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, 2007

6. A Beautiful Mind, Ron Howard, 2001

7. Adventureland, Greg Mottola, 2009

This year, writer/director Greg Mottola showed us he could bring a lot more to the table than the straightforward gags that made up his debut, Superbad. Harkening back to John Hughes' 1980s pictures about young adulthood in terms of style and setting, Mottola eclipsed anything his late predecessor made in terms of wonder and emotion. Working dead-end summer jobs at the titular Pittsburgh amusement park, college students James (Jesse Eisenberg) and Em (Kristen Stewart) deal with the superficial drama and very real sense of wonder that the season always brings. Adventureland is a romantic, funny, relatable ode to what it means to be these characters' age. I was swept up in it, and those older than me connected almost as intensely on a nostalgic level. The film is what I'd call a TRUE romantic-comedy.

8. The Pianist, Roman Polanski, 2002

This personal, heartbreaking, and epic Holocaust story is one of Roman Polanski's best. As Wasaw Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman, a pianist who escaped the death camps only to fight battle for survival in what was left of his home city, Adrien Brody gave a breakthrough performance that was well-deserving of the kiss he laid on Halle Berry before accepting his surprise Oscar.

9. Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola, 2003

10. The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan, 2008

Danny Baldwin is a film critic and student at USC. He can be read online at Bucket Reviews, his fine website.

Previously on You Aught to Know: 31-32

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