At this point, I've developed an ability to look for more than just the popular film. I'm looking for movies that challenge me on some level.
5. Motorcycle Diaries
I can't say I knew anything about Che Guevera and after this film, I'm still not sure I can say I know much about him. But the situation, the ideas, the ordeal, those I can certainly relate to. "The Motorcycle Diaries" tells the story of an 8,000 mile trip by motorcycle, raft, truck and foot, from Argentina to Peru, undertaken in 1952 by Ernesto Guevara de la Serna and his friend Alberto Granado. Since I haven't studied his life, his legend doesn't hold much sway over me. What did affect me was the sweeping cinematography and the story of two men searching for who they are and what they are to be.
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I'm sure this was a tricky proposition. For those people who like their stories told in a clear, linear way, this film isn't for you. I enjoy films that force me to pay attention. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" imagines a scientific procedure that can obliterate whole fields of memory -- so that, for example, Clementine can forget that she ever met Joel, let alone fell in love with him. "Is there any danger of brain damage?" the inventor of the process is asked. "Well," he allows, in his most kindly voice, "technically speaking, the procedure is brain damage." Joel, in revenge mode, decides to do the same thing, but mid-process decides that he doesn't want to go through with it. The movie is very romantic and basically boils down to the idea that memories, regardless of good or bad, are important and make us who we are.
Sideways is about two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment, embark on a week long road trip through California's wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle. The journey is heartfelt, funny, ridiculous, tragic and romantic. A simple four person tale that has all the richness that the wine country has to offer. The acting is superb all around and is essential to you wanting to continue the journey. There is no action or real pratfalls in the film. It's about the personalities of the characters and the damage that's been done to them. Paul Giamatti holds the compulsively depressive Miles up to the light for inspection at every possible angle, making what could have been a tiresome bore into a loser one can still root and hope for. The chance to turn around a life with no hope is appealing.
I had to wait two hours in the RUSH line for this film at Toronto. I didn't know anything about the movie or the director. But the cast.....wow! Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser and Terrance Howard. There wasn't any other film that evening that appealed to me. I got in with no problems and watched the film. In silence, save for a few gasps. Loved the film. Was moved by the film. When the movie came out a year later, the critics came out. "Oh, another film about racism. Just what we need." It was a polarizing film. You either loved it, or hated it. Nothing wrong with that. That's what movies can do and it's healthy to spur debate. What I hated was those that disliked the film began namecalling those that did. "Simple minded." To me, the movie succeeds as a moving reflection of social alienation and paranoia. Does it give a solution? No, but why does it have to? The movie presumes that most people feel prejudice and resentment against members of other groups, and observes the consequences of those feelings. It was a powerful film for me not because it told me something I didn't know, but because it introduced characters that I could identify with, care for and understand.
1. Hotel Rwanda
2004 was a banner year for Don Cheadle. This film was one that I picked up once I was at the festival. The buzz had been very good for it, so I decided to check it out. I then had to try to get all of my friends to see it. The film embarassed me that I knew nothing about the tragedy. I read about sports and movies. Everything else was blinded to me. This movie awakened me to the real world. A world where madness can easily take control. I now keep up with national/world news so that I can stay abrest of what's going on. Don Cheadle stars in the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsis refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. The real Paul Rusesabagina and his wife were there at the screening and hearing their accounts only added to the impact of this film.
You were witnessing pure evil. Not Hollywood fiction. "You don't believe that you can kill them all?" "Why not? We are halfway there already." In 1994 in Rwanda, a million members of the Tutsi tribe were killed by members of the Hutu tribe in a massacre that took place while the world looked away. We were more interested in the OJ trial. The film succeeds as a riveting drama by showing how in the face of evil, good people can still maintain their righteousness.
The real Paul Rusesabinga speaks.