403 Forbidden

403 Forbidden


Film top twenty-one

by CSLi on April 4, 2009

CComing up with a Top Ten movie list is impossible. Bah! Here’s the best I can do — movie titles link to a scene clip, review or trailer.
HAVE A GOOD RECOMMENDATION FOR ME? Tell me what I’m missing — Always looking for a good flick!

1. La Graine et le mulet (Secret of the Grain): The winner! Following a community of Tunisian immigrants in Sète, a French port city on the Mediterranean coast. The boundaries of love, sacrifice and family are explored in this beautiful film.

2. shortbus: Close 2nd for this gorgeous, honest movie about Better Living through Sex. Prepare for all types of bodies to be demystified. One of the most humane, forgiving storylines I’ve seen…and fun!

3. Babel/Before the Rain The link between these two movies is structural (as the reviewer states), but tonal as well. I love both of ‘em. Try to watch “Rain” first, if possible? It’s the grandfather of the two in its scope and narration.

4. Dancer in the Dark: (see clip above) Between my two von Trier picks (the other is “Breaking the Waves“), this one inches ahead due to Björk’s incandescent portrayal of a Czech immigrant living in 1960’s America. This heartrending tale is delivered as a musical featuring the most oddly exquisite soundtrack ever.

5. Oasis: A social misfit and a young woman with cerebral palsy form a friendship in the face of their abusive families. Hailed by many as the turning point of the Korean New Wave cinema.

6. Freeway: Wacky, subversive, trashy and smart. Love this movie! You’ve never seen Reese Witherspoon like this! The girl can ACT! (when she’s not trying to be a sweetheart…)

7. Ben X: Belgian film about a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome who tries to navigate his harsh reality through an MMORPG avatar, “Ben X”. Powerful and sad.

8. Lilja 4-ever: This 2002 film by Lucas Moodysson is set in Estonia, then Sweden. Based loosely on the story of Dangoule Rasalaite, a Lithuanian girl who jumped off a bridge in Malmö in 2002, Lilja 4-Ever depicts the trafficking and forced sexual slavery of a sixteen-year-old girl. Tough to watch, but important.

9. Marat/Sade: A “play within a play” depicting a fictional conversation between the French revolutionary, Jean-Paul Marat, and the Marquis de Sade. Based on a 1963 play by Peter Weiss and performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, this is one of my all-time favorites.

10. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: This third installment of Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy is its most delicate. Fellas might prefer Oldboy, which is just as deft, but as an adoptee I will always think of “kind-hearted Geum-Ja” as my birth mother. If only! With characteristic violence, plot layers and music like a tapestry, Lady Vengeance delivers Park’s final blow.

11. Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? I saw this when I was 20, and it put me off marriage for a decade. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton are classic, but Sandy Dennis just makes me giddy.

12. Tian mi mi (Comrades, Almost a Love Story): Yes, another sappy love story…almost. This is one of HK’s best movies, fairly sweeping all the trophies at the 1996 Hong Kong Film Awards. Starring the amazing Maggie Cheung.

13. 28 Days Later: Zombie flick re-packaged as social critique. Love it! (NOTE: avoid the sequel “28 Weeks Later”, it’s terrible.)

14. Vicki, Christina Barcelona: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall are all involved in a love quadrangle. Fortunately, it’s far more entertaining than that sounds. Cruz steals the show!

15. Paris, Texas: Moving at its own pace, like a dream. A haunting portrayal of the trappings of life, and of love.

16. Moulin Rouge: A simple, idealistic fairytale about the love between an aspiring young writer and a hooker with a heart of gold, set in Fin de siècle Paris. An Australian movie with lots of great music!

17. Amores Perros: a friend once told me that this title means “Love’s a Bitch,” and not “Dogs of Love”. Is there a difference?

18. Heavenly Creatures: A phantasmagorical tale, based on a shocking, true story. This film adeptly handles the intensity of female friendship, proto-lesbian attachment and murder in a charming, “night-before-christmas-ish” way.

19.Battle Royale: The premise is preposterous, but I love these armageddon-esque movies! BR has a huge cult following who adore the gore and sensationalism; these are definitely present, but if you look carefully, you’ll find a touching, poetic and insightful coming-of-age tale…with a Japanese twist.

20. Jackie Brown: This opening scene of Jackie on the airport walkway always gets me. Narrative pacing at its best! Go on Jackie, get yours.

21. Maze: Rob Morrow plays a NYC sculptor with Tourette’s. He falls for his best friend’s girl, played by Laura Linney. This is a sweet “period piece” that has New York 90’s all over it.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


PKpk 04.04.09 at 9:04 pm

The Sheltering Sky


Chong-Ho 04.04.09 at 9:33 pm

“Do the Right Thing,” “Battle of Algiers”, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The commonality among all three: NYC, Tunisia, and Pottersville are the centers of the known Universe. Can’t wait to watch your list ;)


PDawg 04.11.09 at 12:18 pm

Short bus looks good I’ll have to check that out!

Movies that deserve special considerations:
American Beauty
The Matrix but only the first one not the third and especially not the second.
Citizen Kane
and the Incredibles
Shawshank Redemption
yea that should do it for now :)


Diane 04.12.09 at 9:06 pm

Love #16 too! I would add Baraka (breathtaking) & City of Gods. Your name post was beautifully written and I linked to it before the firestorm started! So moving.

Older post: Guest blogging at 8asians.com