March 9, 2009
Byron F. Graham
How cool was the Matrix when it first came out? Remember that Super Bowl teaser ad with Keanu Reeves? I do. I also remember The Matrix Reloaded. And The Matrix Revolutions. Larry and Andy Wachowski did a bad thing with those sequels. I pretend that they don’t exist so I can enjoy this movie and recognize the influence it had on every action film made since ‘99.
The film responsible for sending thousands of misguided frat boys to the emergency rooms across the country (I admit that claim is entirely unverified) tops my list. Controversial from the first frame, this film is likely the most misunderstood by its legions of fans; there are so many slack-jawed meatheads that will quote this movie; unaware of how self-parodic their fandom is. Even though “Fight Club” boasts whimsical performances from its talented cast, David Fincher’s bleak mise-en-scene, witty dialogue, iconic costume design and cauldron black humor, it’s easy to lose sight of the movie’s merit when compared to its zeitgeist status. Give it another look. It’s even better than you remember.
“Magnolia” remains Paul Thomas Andersen’s pièce de résistance, which isn’t to say that his other films are unexceptional – far from it. Andersen’s five films have each been masterpieces in their own regard, but none parallel the emotional tempest of this, his third picture. From the meandering, Altman-esque narrative structure to its gorgeously surreal, frog-raining, Aimee Mann sing-a-long climax, this film is unlike any other. One of my personal favorites of all time, “Magnolia” never fails to evoke new emotions.
“The Sixth Sense”
This movie scared the whizshit out of me when I first saw it, and apparently I wasn’t alone because “The Sixth Sense” made enough money to fund the rest of M. Night Shyamalan’s barrage of inferior, insufferable flicks. For a director with so much visual fl air who wrote such an accessible script and has such a way around a twist ending, it’s really disappointing that he didn’t just stop with this one. He could have gone down in history as the next Spielberg instead of a punch line. The years have not been particularly kind to this film either – too many parodies and the fact that the creepy girl from under the bed grew up to be Marissa on the O.C. have just zapped the scares right out of it. Also, I’m no longer 14, so maybe I don’t scare as easily.
“Being John Malkovich”
I have no idea how Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze received financing for this movie, but I’m glad they did. “Being John Malkovich” is another unprecedented and unequaled 1999 tour de force. In what has to be the most unique premise for a movie before or since, this film is about a puppeteer who finds a portal between two floors of a NYC skyscraper that will beam him into John Malkovich’s consciousness for 15 minutes before spitting him haphazardly at the Jersey turnpike. Kaufman, who wrote the brilliant screenplay, has been working steadily since “Malkovich.”