Darren Aronofsky is far and away one of the greatest directors of the young American wave. In 1998 he took a guerrilla crew through New York City and took the Independent film world by storm with his directorial debut, Pi, a Sci-fi thriller about...math. His follow up was nothing short of a genuine masterpiece. Requiem for a Dream showed a skill for the technical side of film making that is truly first class, and he had the vision of a born story teller. Well, Aronofsky is back ten years after his debut with his fourth feature, The Wrestler, this is the kind of film that comes along only a couple of times a year.
Although it is guised as a wrestling film, it is only such as much as Scorsese's Raging Bull or Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby were boxing films. There is plenty of in the ring action going on here, to be sure, but it is not Rocky VII; because, unlike the Rocky franchise (which I mean starting with Rocky II) the heart of this film is not found in the ring, but outside. Wrestling is what Randy "The Ram" Robinson does, and in many ways, it is who he is; it does not, however, define his entirety.
Randy has an estranged daughter, beautifully portrayed by the angelic Evan Rachel Woods, and a stripper would-be girlfriend played masterfully by Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei. The drama of the film revolves around Randy's incapability of being an everyday, normal human being. Coupled with an ailment that may not allow him to wrestle forever.
The Wrestler may very well be the best film of 2008, and Mickey Rourke's performance is one of the best of the decade. It is nothing short of a force of nature. He may not win an Oscar for the role, though he should; but, he will undoubtedly be nominated for it. And, I hope that he wins.
Today, I went with a friend of mine for a good old fashioned home made double feature. We went down expecting to see some good movies and have a good time, when we left the second movie we both realized that we had seen two of the best movies that this year had to offer.
The first film was David Fincher's Coming (and Going)-of-Age Tale, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the film is beautifully woven together by Fincher, who is quickly becoming a Grade-A director. On top of that the cast is pitch perfect from Brad Pitt to Cate Blanchett to the find of the year, Taraji P. Henson. There is only one flaw in the film, but if you see the film you will recognize it yourself. I didn't find it to be a true detractor, just a slight distraction.
The second film, Frost/Nixon, tells the story of the David Frost interviews with Richard Nixon. The film plays slightly more like boxing film than a political thriller, but it works. Ron Howard's direction is slight and down played perfectly for the David versus Goliath story he was weaving. And, speaking of Goliath, Frank Langella's powerhouse performance as the 37th President of the United States was nothing short of the giant's stature.
These two films are two of the best films released this year, and I had a ball watching both of them.
What an endearing little musical this is. More simple than most Jesus movies and more sound than Jesus Christ Superstar. Godspell takes the Biblical book of Matthew and puts it in the context of 1970's New York. Somewhere between a normal Jesus movie, Hippies and The Lost Boys (of Peter Pan fame, not the vampires of the 1980's Corey's) mixed in with some of the best movie musical music I've heard in a long time.
For fans of movie musicals this is right near the top of the list. It is about the life of Jesus, but it treats his teachings as teachings not as commands and merely suggests that maybe this is a better way to go. For fans of theological and Jesus movies, its near the top of this list as well. It is very articulate in its discussion of Jesus and a lot of the dialogue comes straight from The Gospel of Matthew.
Well worth the watch, and if you can't find it in the local video store it is available in parts on YouTube.