There are a bunch of movies I’ve liked, over the years, in different genres, from different times. But there is an unusually large cluster of them around a single year, 2006 (about fourteen years ago now).
Among Darren Aronofsky’s movies (I still haven’t seen Black Swan (trailer), but I remember the revelatory feeling of watching Pi (trailer) a long time ago), I like this one the most (perhaps The Wrestler (trailer) would be a close second).
The trailer isn’t as bad, but (with the explicit dates and sections) it gives an overly structured view of what is (or feels like) a layered, mixed up, overlapping, interwoven something.
I’m pretty sure I saw a poor-quality, poor-audio version all those years ago, but I’d recommend watching it at night with good headphones, alone1.
The trailer for this movie was terrible; it makes the movie sound very gimmicky, focussed on merely some inter-personal drama between magicians (why should anyone care about that?) And yet, of the movies in this list, it is my favorite, and the one I have re-watched the most.
It is not at all, in my opinion, about the particular details in the story (though Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Michael Caine give a magical performance), but something more. Of Christopher Nolan’s movies, I like this more than Inception (trailer) — if the latter is “a movie like a dream”, this one is “a movie like a magic trick”.
Fun fact: the novel it is based on won the World Fantasy Award2.
It seems as though Borden (Bale) and Angier (Jackman) embody two different paths. I suppose part of the reason I like this movie is that I identified with one of them.
This one is technically from 2005, but I watched it a few months late, so it gets to be in this bucket.
It was one of the first Blu-ray movies I watched3 on a then-new-and-exciting 1080p 50” TV, and it felt tailor-made for a giant screen.
Gorgeous visuals, a sense of history (that moment when Sibylla watching4 from the castle wall whispers, “Salah ad-Din!”), and a great soundtrack (I like all the instrumental pieces, but especially the song5 at the end.
I think I like this for its “period feel” (Vienna, pre-WW1-ish) and high production quality more than the story itself. Also, I had first seen Paul Giamatti in The Lady in the Water earlier that year, which was a disappointment, and he was excellent in this.
(BTW if I had to drop a movie from this list, though, it’d be this one; not because it’s lacking anything, but because I like the others more)
One of my all-time favorites, both for the movie and the soundtrack, I’ve tried to find “more like this” — as in literally trying to Google for “movies like Little Miss Sunshine” — but failed to find anything. It is a one-of-a-kind, sublime experience. It feels fresh every time I watch it.
This has the most accurate trailer of this list, in the sense that it conveys exactly what the movie is all about 🙂
(I had missed this previously, updating this post now)
The movie is fifteen years ago, today, and the book it’s based on was published about forty-five years ago, but the themes of paranoid self-surveillance feel newly relevant.
That, and the style of the movie is quite unforgettable.
In those days I used to track movie reviews actively, and also watch movies immediately after release. These days, a year or more frequently elapses between release and viewing, and it’s very common for me to never watch and also never intend to watch the popular or critically acclaimed movies (or, tv shows) for a year.
It’s quite possible, then, that the reason these movies still appeal to me is simply because I was more engaged with movies at that time.
Still, it is my subjective list, and I do end up re-watching these, and re-listening to their soundtracks, so at the very least, I’m sure they are not bad movies.
- or not. I don’t actually know if it makes a difference; I think it does require some concentration ↩︎
- 1996 winners of science fiction and fantasy awards (scroll down to ”WFA”) ↩︎
- Rented from Blockbuster, back when they (a) were around, and (b) had the same rental rate for DVDs and Blu-Rays 🙂 ↩︎
- the meeting between Baldwin IV and Saladin ↩︎
- ”Light of Life” by Natacha Atlas; here is a version set to a montage of scenes from the movie ↩︎