This film came out of nowhere at the festival. There was so much buzz going out about it that I made it into a screening. Wow!!! This ended up being the film that made me start ACTIVELY seeking out foreign films on any subject when I made my lists up. Before, for me to seek it out, a foreign film had to be one of three types - martial arts, horror, action.
The story begins with the early stages of the City of God, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (in the 1960's) showing where many of the problems stem from- the extreme poverty, overcrowding etc. Here, in the early stages of the favela, we meet our main characters, along with the supporting cast. The story revolves mainly around two characters living in the favela, Rocket and Lil Ze, and how they take two different paths through life. Rocket's dream is to become a photographer and to escape the City of God while Lil Ze becomes a powerful gang leader and drug dealer.
There is a lot style to how Fernando Meirelles shot the film and you become invested in Rocket's fate.
Never much cared for horse racing. I have ridden a horse and didn't feel my life was missing anything if I never did it again. But I do love underdog stories. Seabiscuit is an ultimate underdog story that makes it impossible for you to not root for the horse.
The story of `Seabiscuit' is actually the tale of four long shots: Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), a wealthy self-made man and natural salesmen who's suffered both personal and financial loss through the Depression, Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), an aging horse trainer unsure of his place in the world with the ending of the frontier, Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), a short-tempered jockey with various handicaps against him, and Seabiscuit, an undersized mustang whose been mistreated his whole life.
The final race is so well shot and scored that any time it's on TV, I will stop what I'm doing to watch it.
3. Love Actually
This was the first film I ever saw in digital. The film wasn't ready so they brought it in on disc. I'm still in disbelief that this film didn't do better at the box office over the holidays. I know the R rating hurt it. But this was the perfect feel good romantic holiday movie. Despite the clearly fantastic story lines, I like the characters, and the amazing A-list cast does a great job. I loved all the storylines (eight) and would not have minded spending more time with them.
2. LOTR: The Return of the King
The finale to what ended up being the best trilogy on film of all time. The 7 hours of film that leads up to the Return of the King is only precursor though, when you sit and watch this film. It's just plain brilliance. Everything about the film is wonderful. Return of the King dispatches its characters to their destinies with a grand and eloquent confidence. In a way new to the trilogy, the emotional momentum surges along with the physical action. After early ambivalence over his responsibility for the Ring, Frodo grows into the job; after long dodging his royal inheritance, Aragorn finally rises to the occasion; Sam, especially, emerges as a three-dimensional character of intense devotion to Frodo even after he has been tricked by the Iago-like Gollum and exiled by his closest friend; and the ineffectual Hobbits Pippin and Merry take on some size, figuratively if not literally. A tremendous achievement.
Where "City of God" got me invested in foreign films, "Spellbound" got me invested in documentaries. I don't know how they did it, but they made me sweat in a film about a spelling bee. The eight kids they focus on are all interesting, and they spend just enough time on them before heading to Washington D.C. that we are invested in them. Now I admit, part of the tension once they get there may be because I couldn't even begin to spell ANY of the words they are given. So I have no idea whether they are spelling them correctly or not. I have to wait for that dang bell to sound.