Let’s talk about perfection for a moment. For one thing, it’s not possible. It just can’t happen. When it comes to reviews, it’s harder to justify a ‘perfect’ score when you have a granular, percentage-based scale than if you used a ten-point or five point scale. That said, while I’ve never given out a 10 review during my time here, these films easily deserve them. They are that close to perfection.
It’s unbelievable, the director has actually torn up a huge section of my music. They say I have to rewrite the opera. But it’s perfect as it is! I can’t rewrite what’s perfect!
– Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as played by Tom Hulce)
Based on a Tony-award winning play, Amadeus plays fast and loose with history (in much the same way The Social Network does), but as you’ll see, it’s all in the service of an amazing story. The film begins as a priest visits an aged Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham in his Oscar-winning role) after he attempts to take his life. Salieri was the most famous composer in all of Europe! He wrote over 40 operas! And yet, as he plays off a few notes, the priest doesn’t recognize any of his work. When he performs a particular jingle though, he recognizes it immediately. It wasn’t his, he smirks, it was Mozart’s. The film plays out via flashbacks as Salieri reflects on his burning jealousy of Mozart: an impish and vulgar composer that played concertos for royalty as a child. We watch as Mozart fumbles in slow motion, primarily because of his own hubris, and Salieri ultimately takes advantage of him. This is my favorite film of all time.
Up In The Air (2009)
Last year, I spent 322 days on the road, which means I had to spend 43 days miserable at home.
– Ryan Bingham (as played by George Clooney)
It’s amazing that Jason Reitman is doing better films than his pops (Ivan Reitman, Ghostbusters) ever did. I couldn’t quite get into Juno, as much as I enjoy Ellen Page and tolerate Michael Cera, because of Diablo Cody’s tacky script. As soon as I saw the first trailer for Up In The Air (or as it should’ve been named: Pity the White Collar), I had flashbacks to the nearly 15,000 miles I flew a few years back as a business traveler. Would I have liked this film as much if it wasn’t such a nostalgic sucker punch? Impossible to fathom, but I’d wager I probably would. Ryan Bingham loves his job, which keeps him flying across the country on contract to fire people. He’s an expert, his script is perfect, airport security isn’t a problem (although this is pre-back scatter…) and he’s about to approach ten million flyer miles (only seven people have done this, fewer people than have landed on the moon, he states). When an up and coming college grad (played by the absolutely adorable Anna Kendrick) suggests they cut out the travel expenses by doing the same job via webcams, he quickly feels like an endangered species. He takes her around to show her the ropes, get her used to the craft, and she realizes she’s in over her head. He tries to find some greater meaning to his life than airports, hotels, and frequent flyer miles, and finds himself in over his. A glorious film. Also, George Clooney.
A History of Violence (2005)
How… do you fuck… that… up?
– Richie Cusack (as played by William Hurt)
When I think of David Cronenberg, I think of the stuff nightmares are made of. Twenty years after he brought us the freakish VIDEODROME and The Fly, he “settles down” with what seems like a very casual flick. Based on the graphic novel (who reads graphic novels?), we find ourselves in the blissfully perfect life of diner owner Tom Stall, his wife Edie, and their wonderful children. When some transients cause some violent trouble in his restaurant, Tom reverts to murder mode and fucks them up. It’s not long before the press coverage of his heroism lures some genuinely shady characters to town that seem to recognize him. Despite their insistence, he doesn’t recognize them. Or does he? Featuring plenty of the titular violence and its history, not to mention a sex scene on a stairwell (!) the film quickly develops a split personality against its portrayal of a warm, loving family that is both jarring and mind-blowing. Not to miss: William Hurt’s all-too-brief role that got him an Oscar nod.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it…
– Willy Wonka (as played by Gene Wilder)
The quote above was actually one of the last lines of my high school graduation speech, the one I gave before 2,500 of my peers, their parents, and the faculty. Except I didn’t, because despite coaching from one of my favorite teachers, I didn’t get to give it. Jerks. The first time that I saw this movie, I thought it looked old. It has a kind of soft, film-y look and it was shot in Germany, where everything is classic. The movie was scary, too: the menacing Slugworth is a ghoul. As a kid, it was such a joy to see such the menagerie of colors, the strange sets, incredible characters, and hum the songs as each bratty kid met their self-prescribed fate. As an adult, Willy Wonka is easily one of the funniest movies ever made. It’s got something for everyone and it’s odd that despite the talent that went into creating Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory thirty five years later, it comes off as little more than over-thought with far too many special effects and far too many forgettable songs. There’s something so genuine, so verisimilitudistic about this film, that “old and rooted” feeling, that makes it feel like something far greater than the sum of its parts. If I had a golden ticket…