Archive for the ‘Top Lists’ Category

Movies like “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Schindler’s List” (1993), “The Elephant Man” (1980), “Braveheart” (1995) have provided one of the greatest cinematic experience Hollywood has produced. Real life offers an infinite number of structural and cinematic possibilities, and it is the films that best take advantage of this fact that this list is designed to celebrate. The ten films here take a wide range of approaches in portraying an equally diverse array of lives of the last decade (2000-2009), but for me, they all pass the principal test of the great biopic: defamiliarizing the familiar. By creating living, breathing characters out of figures best known from history books and pop culture annals, they make real life as revelatory and surprising as fiction. Most of the listed movies have won number of awards and recognition whether it’s in the acting category or the directing category.

10. Monster (2003)

SUBJECT: Aileen Wuornos

Charlize Theron just about disappears into Wuornos, a prostitute who murdered seven men — who she alleged tried to rape her — over 12 months in 1989 and 1990. The actress gained weight and went through extensive makeup for the Oscar-winning role, but Theron’s real feat was capturing Wuornos’ damaged rootlessness, communicating a lifetime of abuse and rage in a burning blink of her  eyes.

9. The Aviator (2004)

SUBJECT: Howard Hughes

Director Martin Scorsese made a sprawling, messy film for a sprawling, messy man: Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) hopped from movie producer to aviation mogul with the lighthearted, restless zeal of a boy unable to sit still, and, indeed, the man’s powerful obsessive- compulsive disorder nearly toppled his empire.

8. La Vie en Rose (2007)

SUBJECT: Edith Piaf

Perhaps the most popular French singer of the 20th century, Piaf is best known for the songs ”La vie en rose’’ and ‘‘None, je ne regrette rien.” Although her life included numerous hardships — four years of childhood blindness, the death of lover Marcel Cerdan, and an extended addiction to morphine — Piaf cherished performing on stage, and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard was miraculously able to channel that artistic fervor.

7. Ray (2004)

SUBJECT: Ray Charles

Jamie Foxx won a well-deserved Oscar for playing the pioneer who powered through physical limitations and crippling addictions to invent the music that we’d call soul. Taylor Hackford’s film manages to be honest about both Brother Ray’s genius and his demons, while also taking us on a grand tour of some of the 20th century’s greatest music.

6. Milk (2008)

SUBJECT: Harvey Milk

A fixture of 1970s San Francisco politics, Milk was  assassinated in 1978, less than a year after winning a  seat on the city’s board of supervisors as the first  openly gay man elected to major office in the U.S.  Director Gus Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, though, wisely and poignantly focus on Milk’s life, on his uncanny ability to make politics personal and the personal political. Aided by Sean Penn’s transformative performance, the film delivers a remarkably timed homily on the vital importance of community organizers.

5. The Last King of Scotland (2006)


After taking control of Uganda by force in 1971, Amin ruled as the nation’s president for eight years. During that time, the dictator’s regime murdered at least 100,000 people, many of whom supported the overthrown president, Milton Obote. The movie worked because Forest Whitaker, who won the Oscar for Best Actor, managed to present Amin as both a ferocious tyrant and a charismatic leader capable of wooing millions.

4. Walk the Line (2005)

SUBJECT Johnny Cash

From his signature opening line (”Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”) at concerts to his iconic black attire, Cash lived life with style. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter was constantly in the public eye, whether it was for his drug use or his advocacy of prison reform. James Mangold’s take on the Cash legend delves deep into the ups and downs of his rise to fame, and Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon’s harmonious covers of Cash’s tunes are worth the price of admission alone.

3. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

SUBJECT: John Forbes Nash

Nash’s mathematical brilliance was severely hindered by mental illness, and Russell Crowe nailed the confusion and humiliation of a veritable genius bedeviled by the voices in his own head. Though the film was criticized for whitewashing elements of Nash’s life, Crowe’s ability to juggle the real and imagined illuminates Nash’s internal struggle.

2. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

SUBJECT Paul Rusesabagina

Maybe it’s an overly sanitized depiction of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda — and arrived 10 years too late — but Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda was still a wake-up call to an American public that new little about the events it depicts, even when they were happening. Don Cheadle plays savvy hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan Oskar Schindler who in real life sheltered 1,268 Tutsis from the Hutu militias who killed over 800,000 people.

1. Downfall (2004)

SUBJECT: Adolf Hitler

There have been countless portrayals of the darkly  charismatic leader of Nazi Germany, stretching from  deeply serious to downright silly, but none as  mesmerizing nor as chilling as this portrait of Hitler’s  final days in a Berlin bunker. Actor Bruno Ganz (The  Reader) flat out nails the man’s gripping bark,  commanding a room even while seized with paranoia,  hubris, and seething anger — often within the same  minute. In fact, the scene in which Ganz as Hitler finally, explosively loses it has become fodder for many YouTube parodies about spectacular failure.

It’s no real secret that the Academy is partial to the biopic. Big or small, intimate or epic, celebratory or critical, they never seem to tire of the allure of actors channeling real-life figures, past and present. A lot of more of these biopic movies will be made in the future too and also will likely win many awards. 2010 Oscar winners prove this fact. The King’s Speech won almost all the major awards including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture. Who’s complaining unless you get to watch these epic movies.


Every year, brilliant movies are utterly ignored by the Oscars. The Searchers, Groundhog Day, Persona, Breathless, Hoop Dreams, King Kong, Caddyshack — the Academy has a long history of overlooking comedies, action movies, horror flicks, artsy foreign films, and documentaries that aren’t about World War II. While it makes a lot of great decisions, often it overlooks certain genres or stories that don’t appeal to them. This year, we’ll be taking a closer look at films that were too small, too weird, or perhaps simply too awesome for the Academy Awards.

With that in mind, here are the five major films that the Academy undervalued in 2011. Although some of the films on this list received a few Oscar nominations, overall the Academy did not give them the credit they are due. Instead of a nod or two, these films deserved much greater recognition and appreciation from the Academy.


50/50 received zero Oscar nominations this year. The film tells the story of a young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is diagnosed with cancer and given a 50/50 shot chance of surviving. Yes, the film includes some crude humor and off-putting jokes, but it’s a great film with its heart in the right place.

In a lesser year, Gordon-Levitt would have been nominated for Best Actor for his performance, but the abundance of strong male performances in 2011 ruined his chances. Regardless, I still believe that either Anna Kendrick or Anjelica Huston should have been nominated for their brilliant supporting performances. And without a doubt, Will Reiser – who faced cancer in real life – should have been nominated for his honest and heartbreaking screenplay.


Unlike a few of the films on this list, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II did receive a few Oscar nominations. It was nominated for Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects. But this epic finale to the “Harry Potter” series deserved more. It was an elegant and visually-stunning conclusion to a masterful series of films.

Many have argued that Alan Rickman deserved an Oscar nod for his supporting performance. His performance wasn’t nominated and I can understand why in this year of great supporting male performances. I can’t, however, understand why this film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. It was a critically-acclaimed blockbuster that appealed to adults and children alike. To not give it a best picture nod is an insult to those who loved the film as much as I did – and ignores the epic achievement that the series, as a whole, represents.


Drive, a dark film about a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver, was a thought-provoking and brilliant film. Instead of relying on a lot of dialogue, its story was mostly told through great performances and unique direction. Critics will be talking about this movie for years to come. But how did the Academy recognize it? With one single nomination for Best Sound Editing.

This is the most surprising film to be on this list because not only did I think that it should be nominated for more awards, I also thought that it should win a few of them. Nicolas Winding Refn directed this film with an awe-inspiring fierceness and intelligence, Albert Brooks delivered a brilliant performance as the story’s malicious villain and of course, Ryan Gosling who delivered a splendid low-key performance. All these men should have been nominated and in my opinion, all three should have returned home with statues. May be the movie was too stylish for the academy voter where most of them are past their 60s. The lack of nominations is beyond disappointing.


Shame, Steve McQueen’s haunting drama about a tortured New Yorker named Brandon Sullivan (a revelatory Michael Fassbender), a sex addict whose life begins to unravel even more when his equally self-destructive sister Sissy (a fragile Carey Mulligan) arrives in town. Yes, there are explicit sex scenes (plenty of them) and yes, there are shots of the breakout actor’s highly-publicized package (plenty of them), but it’s the harrowing story of a man struggling with his demons and an unforgivably snubbed performance by Fassbender that made it one of the most talked-about films of 2011.  Fassbender’s performance will be remembered by everyone for a long time in the future. But this engaging drama was applauded with how many nominations? – NON.

Shame is a great, though by no means a perfect film, but there’s one big reason that this movie will stand the test of time and that’s Michael Fassbender’s… star-making performance. At least the academy voters should’ve nominated him.


Every so often you’ll come across a combat sport movie that manages to find just the right balance of drama and action – that is, more drama than action. When fights are justified with backstories full of crushing emotion, they become all the more intense and gratifying. Warrior is one of those amazing movies. The fighting was almost an extension of the drama and connected the dots of this film beautifully. The combat that takes place in the ring was brutally real, vividly authentic, and in your face genuine.

Through the incredible acting talents of Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte, this confused and passionate chemistry really comes alive. All three actors put up some of the most convincing and heartbreaking performances of their careers; and seeing as how The Fighter garnered so many Oscar nominations last year, I was sure this one too would get at least get nominated for many categories or even win in some. But to my disappointment, only Nick Nolte got nominated for the best supporting actor (thank god for that)…At least some more nominations would’ve brought little gem of a movie a little more attention.

So though the show, as boring as it was, a round of applause to all the winners but don’t forget that some of the best films of the year weren’t recognized at all. Perhaps next year, the Academy will be better. Let’s keep our fingers crossed…

As much as blockbusters can thrill us, beyond the well-tended flowerbeds and spacious corner offices of Hollywood there’s a world bubbling with creativity, free spirits and up-and-coming talent. Some of the heroes of American indie cinema have gone on to try their hand at multiplex fodder; some have stayed resolutely outside the mainstream. The list below ranked according to their greatness, celebrates both, as well as some of the names that didn’t achieve the acclaim they deserve this past year.

 6. Another Earth


Mike Cahill

On the night of the discovery of a duplicate planet in the solar system, an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer cross paths in a tragic accident.

When someone is being truly honest you get a film like Another World.  It is someone like you and me, bringing up thoughts and concerns that we all feel in a cinematic way. Questions about identity, life, its meaning and purpose as well as all the things the film elicits from you: the watcher. The core of the movie is largely philosophical. Forgiveness. Rebirth. The first time director Mike Cahill has beautifully woven the two opposite genres sci-fi and drama. An odd little sci-fi-leaning tragi-drama that would possess nothing worth noting at all if not for star/co-writer Brit Marling and her breakout performance.

 5.  Pariah


Dee Rees


Dee Rees


Adepero OduyeKim Wayans and Aasha Davis


A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression.

I don’t think it’s fair to say that PARIAH is this year’s Precious, but I don’t blame those who try to make the comparison. PARIAH does have themes about staying strong in the face of adversity, but just like Brokeback Mountain and Albert Nobbs, this film is also about being true to oneself and about acceptance. PARIAH is a bold, courageous feature debut by writer/director Dee Rees and a noteworthy performance by lead actress Adepero Oduye. This independent movie is not worth missing out.

4.  Melancholia


Lars von Trier


Lars von Trier

Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with the Earth.

A planet called Melancholia is nearing planet earth, and it is feared it might hit the earth, or it might just fly by. In this back-line story the family tensions unfold between Justine, her sister (and husband) and her mother. A brilliant movie by Lars von Trier. While not for everyone this is a challenging film that gets what depression is really like and takes us on a thought provoking and unpleasant ride with it   and I for one was really glad about that.  Kristen Dunst is marvelous.

3. Martha Marcy May Marlene


Sean Durkin


Sean Durkin (screenplay)


Elizabeth OlsenSarah Paulson and John Hawkes


Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.

Atmospheric and unpredictable, “Martha” was the clear standout among Sundance’s narrative features. Starring Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley) in a stunning breakout performance as Martha, a young woman who escapes from a dangerous cult, the movie also marks an incredibly assured feature debut for writer-director Sean Durkin.

Shifting effortlessly between Martha’s experiences with the cult (led by Oscar nominee John Hawkes in a sinister turn) and her difficulties adjusting to a “normal” life with her older sister (a magnificent Sarah Paulson), the film emerges as a slow-burning psychological thriller of the highest order.

2.  Project Nim


James Marsh


Bob AngeliniNim Chimpsky and Bern Cohen


Tells the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in a brownstone on the upper West Side in the 1970s.

Oscar-winning “Man on Wire” documentarian James Marsh finds another incredibly true story from the recent past—this time the tale of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who was raised by scientists like a human child for the first few years of his life. The purpose was to determine whether or not animals could be taught to communicate with and live like humans. The results are fascinating, funny and frightening, but the power of this excellent documentary comes from Marsh’s interviews with the colorful characters involved in the (mis)handling of Nim.

1. Midnight in Paris


Woody Allen


Woody Allen


Owen WilsonRachel McAdams and Kathy Bates


A family travel to the French capital for business. The party includes a young engaged couple who are forced to confront their differing views of a perfect life.

Continuing his Euro flavored adventures, Paris seems to have brought Woody Allen to life in one of his best efforts in years. Opening with sweeping shots of Paris from morning to night set to jazz, the latest from Allen almost seems spun from his own dreams and inspirations.  This one has a great lead in Owen Wilson, who can deliver Allen’s dialogue without turning himself into a caricature. It’s a nostalgic valentine to Allen’s greater films, to a long-gone Paris, to an intellectual fantasy, to everyone’s youth and ambition. Delicious.

After all these said, movies listed above are all brilliant in their own way. Along with these, there are also other Indi movies that came out last year like “Win Win”, “Take Shelter”, “Terri”, “Like crazy” and many more. Though most of them are low-budget, released with limited prints, low-grossing in the box-office, that will definitely not change the fact that these are some of the best movies Hollywood has ever produced. I will not recommend these movies to everyone. But to those who are into drama and indie movies, these movie are definitely not less than a treat.

Top 7 Christmas Movies of Our Time

So what if Christmas movies can be a bit sappy? So what if the Christmas movies can be full of Hollywood clichés? They warm our hearts, bring a smile to our faces, restore our faith in humanity and generally bring joy to the world. The season isn’t the same without them. So below is the list of top 7 big-screen Christmas flicks of our time, all the way down to No. 1. A thing to be remembered is the list below will neither have “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Story”. Great movies, but we’re tired of seeing them ranked and/or compared at the expense of others.

7. The Santa Clause (1994)

Director: John Pasquin

Writers: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick

Stars: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold and Wendy Crewson

When a man unknowingly kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place.

Tim Allen is actually, uh, jolly in this fun family tale about a guy who accidentally kills Kris Kringle — whoops! — then has to take his job, unwillingly at first but then growing to love it. This is a truly magical film that will continue to enchant children and adults for years and generations to come. The simple premise is executed well and Pasquin excels in making a film that appeal to all ages.

Tim Allen plays his part to perfection and has never been funnier. He captures all the heart that the film needs as well as having an excellent on screen rapport with young Eric Lloyd.


6. The Grinch (2000)

Director: Ron Howard

Writers: Dr. Seuss (book), Jeffrey Price (screenplay)

Stars: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen and Jeffrey Tambor

Based on the book by the famous Dr. Seuss, The Grinch also known as How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a big budget remake of the classic cartoon about a creature intent on stealing Christmas.

It’s a delightful family flick that both adults and children can enjoy (mostly with each other). Price’s screenplay is brilliant as he cleverly manages to include some adult humor. Who can not enjoy a Jim Carrey comedy? He is simply fantastic as he immerses himself entirely into the character. It’s a role that has Jim Carrey written all over it. The actor has immortalized the Grinch on screen. The world of Whoville is beautifully constructed and created, full of color, life, energy and spirit. The vivacious characters are full of positive energy and while it is over the top, it is all done within the context and none of it appears out of place. The CGI team and makeup crew deserve full credit for making the characters and settings so lifelike, bringing out a lot of detail and appearing authentic. The set designs are stunning and the cinematography is just as energetic as the characters. No wonder the movie won an Oscar in the category of Best Makeup.


5. ‘The Polar Express’ (2004)

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writers: Chris Van Allsburg (book), Robert Zemeckis (screenplay)

Stars: Tom Hanks, Chris Coppola and Michael Jeter

On Christmas Eve, a doubting boy boards a magical train that’s headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus’s home.

A simple story . . . beautifully told . . . magnificently visualized. Sure, the performance-capture technology may not have been much developed then (at least it improved dramatically with ‘Beowulf’), but there’s still plenty of joy to be had in this fast-moving adaptation of the beloved children’s book starring an ensemble of Tom Hanks”es”.  While the humans are kinda creepy, the rest of the visuals are so good that it makes you forget about them.


4. ‘Elf’ (2003)

Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: David Berenbaum

Stars: Will Ferrell, Edward Asner and Bob Newhart

After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity.

Frank Richard. Ron Burgundy. Ricky Bobby. They’re all unforgettable Will Ferrell personas, but the role he might be remembered for most in 50 years is Buddy the Elf (what’s your favorite color?) from ’03’s instant holiday classic. This non-stop laugher exemplifies all-ages entertainment.


3. Die Hard (1988)

Director: John McTiernan

Writers: Roderick Thorp (novel), Jeb Stuart (screenplay)

Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman and Bonnie Bedelia

New York cop John McClain gives terrorists a dose of their own medicine as they hold hostages in an LA office building.

You must be wondering why this movie is even listed in the top christmas flicks. Though the movie is not the typical-family-christmassy movie, and christmas is only used as the secondary backdrop, I just couldn’t not include the movie in the list. There’s no better way to get in the Christmas spirit than watching a superhuman-kickass Bruce Willis single-handedly decimate a skyscraperful of terrorists on Christmas Eve. The well crafted story, brilliant performances, classic one liners, the genre-redefining action, the genius use of a Run-DMC holiday tune — it’s like a gift from Santa himself. It’s not a movie you will soon forget. Though there are no twists or curves thrown, you can be assured you will be treated to two hours of non-stop action from beginning to end.


2. Love Actually (2003)

Director: Richard Curtis

Writer: Richard Curtis

Stars: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Kiera Knightley, Bill Nighy, Martine McCutcheon and Liam Neeson


Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely and interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.

So you love rom-coms? Try eight in one. Though some storylines (Liam Neeson helps his son woo a classmate) work better than others (horny Brit has American threesome), even the grinchiest among us will find something to heart here. The several plots(which usually turns out to be a chaos) ranging  from filming awkward sex to children being so deeply by love to prime ministers not being able to figure out their feelings for somebody they loved, is brilliantly weaved together here. It’s a valentine to love all wrapped up in a Christmas bow.


1. ‘Home Alone’ (1990)

Director: Chris Columbus

Writer: John Hughes

Stars: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern

An eight year-old, who is accidentally left behind while his family flies to France for Christmas, has to defend his home against idiotic burglars.

Who can forget the cute little boy Macaulay Culkin who became the biggest child star on the planet? The movie reigned at the box office for 12 straight weeks and grossed $533 million worldwide, but the best thing about this holiday staple is watching an 8-year-old kid toss burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern a good old-fashioned Christmas beat-down. It’s a Holiday classic. Another great point about Home Alone being a cult classic is the musical score provided by legendary John Williams. He gives the film the final emotional touch that allows us to forever remember Home Alone as being a classic film and never forget Macaulay’s performance. ‘Somewhere in My Memory’ has always been a favorite track of millions by Williams and it’s just a great piece of music on top of a great film.


So, as the Christmas is in the air, choose your favorite one either from the list or any one of your own choice and mood and watch it with your family friends, your loved ones. Have fun..Stay warm…Merry Christmas…Ho…Ho…Ho…:)