BREAKING THE WAVES (Lars Von Trier)
BREAKING THE WAVES is one of those rare occasions where the emotional impact of the film seems to be in direct opposition to the structural elements of the film itself. That is to say that Von Trier’s insistence on his handheld camera and the almost sepia-toned pallette (from film to video to film again) and the cold northern Scotland location and Von Trier’s frequent “chapter heading” interruptions (accompanied by early 70’s rock music) should defy any audience’s efforts to stay involved with the narrative. But alas, it is simply not the case. If anything, at least on subsequent viewings, all of this tends to even enhance the experience.
Emily Watson was not Von Trier’s first choice to play the simple, too pure, too loving heroine, but it is hard to imagine anyone else inhabiting that role. With his dark Danish sense of humor and take on life, Von Trier often comes off in interviews and in person as a pessimistic, atheistic cynic. But his films belie that persona, revealing a spirituality and a yearning for answers. Nowhere is that more evident than in BREAKING THE WAVES.
FARGO (Joel & Ethan Cohen)
High on everybody’s “Favorite Cohen Brothers Movies” list, FARGO just seems to have it all. Sure, it’s quirky, bold, off-center, funny, stunningly cinematic, brilliantly written…..cuz that’s just what they do. But this one has some gosh-darn good acting in it, too. Wait, some of the other ones do too. Well, anyway……
CITIZEN RUTH (Alexander Payne)
The delightful Laura Dern in Alexander Payne’s first film. There is some risk-taking for everyone involved in this one, but if you’re not too PC or crouched down too low in your “safe space”, this thing is a hoot.
THE ENGLISH PATIENT (Anthony Minghella)
This film’s reputation took a hit from that hilarious Seinfeld episode, but it seems to have survived quite well. Yes, it is too long but it is also deliciously literate. And one can wallow in the sumptuous trappings of it all. Not to mention the exquisite agony of the ill-fated lovers………that is if you’re so inclined.
JERRY MAGUIRE (Cameron Crowe)
Cameron Crowe reminds me of another writer-director, Billy Wilder. He likes big, original stories with people in high-profile jobs, witty dialogue and a love story at the center. He also likes to skirt the edges of sentimentality and, just like Wilder if he doesn’t fall in, the results can be golden. JERRY MAGUIRE really is a delightful film with lots of heart. Crowe hasn’t been able to match it since.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (Brian De Palma)
I wouldn’t have thought that De Palma would be able to pull this off. As much as I like the guy’s early stuff, I thought that his very uniqueness and insistence on stylization would sink this franchise before it got off the ground. Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong. MISSION is simply a fine job well done. It’s a genre film that covers the bases, keeps you interested and doesn’t make you hate yourself in the morning. That’s not as easy to do as it sounds.