Posts Tagged ‘leonardo dicaprio’


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)

SUBJECT: Idi Amin

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.

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