movies, music and everything else

This blog is about pretty much what the title implies... movies, music and everything else.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

2005 HUMBY'S: director

10. Ron Howard – CINDERELLA MAN

This is one of Ron Howard’s very best films and it is a testament to his directing. After RAGING BULL (1980), it has become really difficult to make a boxing movie and make it fresh and at all original. Clint Eastwood put a fresh twist on the genre last year with MILLION DOLLAR BABY (in addition to the simplicity of the filmmaking it added a moral question of mercy killing). Now with CINDERELLA MAN, Howard juggled the boxing underdog story of James J. Braddock with the more pressing issue of a country going through the great depression. The drama of a family struggling through poverty is handled really well here. The acting is great. The balance that is handled between the family story, the boxing journey and the social climate is all due to the maturity of the filmmaker. There is an energy to this film that makes the boxing scenes fresh. You feel the danger as Braddock steps into the ring. The camera work and editing makes it so that you can almost feel each hit. This is a great story, and it is a pleasure to be lead through it by a great storyteller.

9. Craig Brewer – HUSTLE AND FLOW

What a debut from a very talented filmmaker! I have already mentioned Brewer’s achievements as the writer on this film, but I was even more impressed with the way that he handled the direction. This is a world that I had little to know idea about, and through the acting, photography and camera movement, Brewer acted as a guide. He is from this area in Memphis and made it come to life in every frame of this film. You don’t judge, you just experience this fascinating world. There are certain movies where the passion of the filmmaker came across on the screen. When this happens, it is hard to explain, but unmistakable. That is HUSLTE AND FLOW… Brewer’s blood, sweat and tears. John Singleton is someone that must be mentioned… His faith in Brewer and in the script compelled him to make this movie by any means necessary. When financing kept falling through, Singleton paid for the movie himself. That is passion… and it paid off.

8. Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller – SIN CITY

Rodriguez withdrew from the DGA in order to make this movie the way that it needed to be made… co-directed by creator Frank Miller. That type of commitment is evident throughout this film. This is a comic put on screen in a way that I never thought possible. That credit goes to these two men. Just the technical achievements alone deserve recognition. Almost this entire movie was filmed against a green screen. Most everything on screen was put there by use of CGI, and other forms of special effects. To do this effectively requires real skill and knowledge. The other thing is that Rodriguez is a man of many trades. Not only did he write and direct… he wrote the music, edited the film, did the visual effects and photographed the film. To do any of these thing well is difficult, but to do all of them well is almost impossible. Miller added a jolt of energy and creativity that helped guide Rodriguez and vision in order to be able to capture Miller’s comic. Great film and monumental achievement.

7. Stephen Gaghan – Syriana

Dozens of characters, three main story lines, over twelve subplots, and filmed on locations all over the world. This would be a daunting task for the most seasoned filmmaker. The movie was SYRIANA and the man behind the film was first time director Stephen Gaghan (no I don’t count ABANDONED as a film). He is the writer behind the Oscar winning TRAFFIC, but I didn’t think he had a chance with this movie. I was wrong. He not only pulled it off, but also made one of the very best movies of the year in the process. This movie is complex, not only because of the stories and characters, but because of the issues discussed. The questions raised about the world’s dependency on oil and what they will do to get it are tricky to say the least. To make this movie in today’s climate without coming off as preachy is difficult. This is a lot to juggle and Gaghan did a remarkable job. Top to bottom, this movie is great, and the credit goes to him.


There were many movies this year that dealt with the repercussions of vengeance, but not one was more personal and heart breaking than SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE. Park is one of the best directors working today and he is just beginning his career. He is not big or flashy. His style is not about cool shots or tricks (although he uses both at times), it is about the emotional truth that is going on, no matter how brutal or painful that may be. This is a film about enormous loss and it is the little moments that Park is able to capture that make him stand out as a real talent. He has a patience and seems to know just how to let the audience in with out being over-manipulative or going too far. He is a master of subtlety. I had the chance to see his next film (SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE) while at Toronto and it is his best film yet, so watch out for this director. The future of cinema is here. The next wave of directors is beginning to emerge and leading the way is Chan Wook Park.

5. George Clooney – GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK

When Clooney made his directorial debut a few years back with CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, he showed that he could master the camera, use tricks, and tell a visually fascinating story. With GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, Clooney shows his restraint as a filmmaker. The important part of this story is the story and knowing that, he didn’t get in the way. While Clooney chose a more classic approach, he still makes this film dynamic and exciting. The film is beautifully shot and the composition is well planned out and orchestrated. It is the acting and the rhythm that makes it impossible to look away. This is a tight and well-crafted film. Nothing is wasted in this film. Another accomplishment in this movie is the use of real footage from the time period. It is so flawlessly integrated that it envelops you in the time period and the story so that you feel like a fly on the wall during one of the most important moments in the history of broadcasting. With just two movies, Clooney has proven himself as a director to watch.


Every five years, Ang Lee makes a great film. 1995 – SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 2000 – CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and… 2005 – BROKEBACK MOUNTIAN. The movies just get better. This is a movie that is all about the directing. This is a difficult story, a tricky subject matter and requires the touch of a subtle hand. This is a movie that is about the silences and things that are not said. It is a beautiful film, not only with the stunning visuals, but also with the love story. Using an unconventional set-up, Ang Lee succeeds in creating a classic story of loss and love.

3. Wong Kar Wai – 2046

His style is unconventional, but the results are incredible. Wong Kar Wai takes an organic approach to filmmaking. He writes as he films, including the actors in the creative process. The result is natural, real, and some of the best films in recent years. His films might take longer than most to film and then to edit, but they are worth every minute. With 2046, Kar Wai creates a story of love lost and examines the effect on a man. In a way, it is a movie that starts where another love story leaves off. This film captures real emotion better than most any I have seen. This is a film of raw emotion. Teaming up with long time collaborators like Tony Leung (actor), Christopher Doyle (cinematographer), and William Chang (editor, art director and costume designer), Wong has the relationship established to work together as one, creating a masterpiece. There is no mistaking a Wong Kar Wai film because there are no other directors like him. Truly one of a kind.

2. Stephen Spielberg – MUNICH

Many people say that MUNICH does not look or feel like a “Spielberg film”. That is because he got out of the way and made this film the way that it had to be made. He changed his style and put the story above everything else. This is more ambiguous than any of his other films and his most bold film. This is a morally complex film and will make you think days and weeks after walking out of the theater. Through MUNICH, he raises questions that have no answer, but are questions that we should all be asking in today’s social and political climate. Spielberg is a master storyteller. Now that he is 30 plus years into an amazing career, being a great storyteller is not impressive anymore. That might not be fair, but because of his career, I expect a great deal from him and his films. This is the first film in a long time where he has surprised me. This film is so well done and the issues that could easily blow up in his face are handled with a delicacy and expertise that make them even more compelling. There is a confidence to his storytelling that makes him such an important filmmaker. It all seems effortless. MUNICH will stand aside Spielberg’s finest films as an example of why he is truly one of the greatest directors of all time.

1. Fernando Meirelles – THE CONSTANT GARDNER

It was so hard for me to pick a favorite between the top three. All of them are unique, powerful and important filmmakers. Two years ago, Meirelles came out of the gate with CITY OF GOD, my favorite film of the last 15 years and one of the greatest feats of directing I have EVER seen. How do you follow that up? He followed it with the heartbreaking and wonderfully crafted THE CONSTANT GARDNER. There is an energy to his direction that is unlike anything I have seen. He succeeds in capturing the freshness of a documentary, but infuses it with the energy of a music video and then injects raw emotion. The core of THE CONSTANT GARDNER is the love story. Love motivates all. Using a series of flashbacks, Meirelles sets up a full relationship, making you fall in love with this dead woman (Rachel Weiz) and propelling Ralph Finnes through a journey of discovery (not just of his wife’s death, but one of self-discovery). There is more to this film though. The backdrop is a picture of social injustice that we read about in the New York Times, but never get to see. As with CITY OF GOD, Meirelles presents this world to us so that we are there with him and the characters. This is a sign of a master director. This is his second film and in my mind he has already proved himself as not only one of the great working directors, but could be one of the greatest of all time.


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