Tag Archives: Mickey Rourke

Top Ten Films of 2008

What a fascinating year in film. Although it is questionable whether or not this list will have any impact, here are my top ten movies of a very fruitful and rewarding year in film with a snippet or two about their greatness when necessary.

1. Synecdoche, New York – By far the most ambitious film of the year. Charlie Kaufman has come close to doing what Caden never managed to do. Most assuredly, it is not for everyone but delving into the despair at its heart yields immeasurable joy.

2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – The best mainstream film of the year, rife with deep sadness. Fincher and Pitt continue to put out excellent work. An instantly classic American epic.

3. Milk – This movie oozes style and talent. Gus Van Sant seared the feel of the 70s into every frame. His impressionistic, empathetic camera combined with Sean Penn’s tour de force were a spectacular combination.

4. Rachel Getting Married – Jonathon’s Demme’s seemingly simple hand held cinematography and unaffected performances all around yielded a near flawless, naturalistic masterpiece.

5. Waltz With Bashir – completely redefines the documentary format with visuals that are near revolutionary.

6. The Wrestler – Aronofsky is much more subtle but just as great. Mickey Rourke brings out his demons and hits exactly the right note of bittersweet.

7. The Dark Knight – Imbued with far more depth than it had any right to have. The Dark Knight was an example of the greatness that can result when artists are allowed to tackle a mainstream film. Heath Ledger is simply stunning.

8. WALL-E – Animation is no longer for the kids. Although wrapped in a layer of sweetness, it is deeply affecting satire that is near perfectly crafted.

9. The Wackness – A perfect portrait of 90s New York City. Levine takes stylistic risks and they all pay off, creating the overlooked gem of 2008.

10. Burn After Reading – The best comedy of the year. The Coen Brothers berate their audience with darkness and constantly push boundaries, making you laugh and cringe simultaneously.

Honorable Mention (in order of Honor attained): Frost/Nixon, In Bruges, Hancock, Funny Games, Mongol, Australia, Pineapple Express, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Iron Man, W., Tropic Thunder, Religulous,

-Vman

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Review: The Wrestler

Film fans seeking to appreciate the remarkable range of Mickey Rourke, who plays aging wrestler Randy “The Ram” Ramsinski in Darren Arnofsky’s The Wrestler, should view Barry Levinson’s classic debut Diner and note Rourke’s charming performance as Boogie, the charismatic sweet talker always prepared with an anecdote and a wry, knowing smile. Now, Rourke’s face has traded its fresh, handsome luster for lines, scars and wrinkles galore. In fact, Rourke looks like he can now almost play his character in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, Marv without make up. Of course a weathered countenance does not a great performance make. Rather it is Rourke’s protean talents and his aforementioned incredible range. Rourke can effortlessly createpathos for Randy, by suggesting the simplicity and purity at the heart of the character yet still hint at a lost intelligence. His Randy is a man seeking lost glory who is willing to man the deli counter at ACME  and endure all the indignities that entails for his rapidly fading dream. He is an oddly gentle character, preferring to inflict pain upon himself rather than others. He tells people he’s alone and washed up but does not beg for their pity. Rourke imbues Randy with far too much grace for that.

The film, though centered on Randy’s turbulent personal and professional lives, is driven by the juxtaposition between Randy and an aging stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). The implication being that they play similar roles in show business, displaying their bodies and  their souls in return for meager compensation and adoration. Unfortunately for them, they are largely becoming obsolete and unnecessary. While her colleagues are gyrating to hip hop, Cassidy is stripping to classic metal. Randy enters to the ring greeted by Guns N Roses. The comedic highlight of the film is a joint rant on how much the 90s sucked. Their stumbling relationship is simultaneously beautiful and painful to watch. Rourke’s easy charm, most evident in his terrible dancing to his adored hair metal, combined with the wounded humanity he exudes with every teary glance, bring unexpected resonance to an otherwise cliched courtship. Likewise, Randy’s reconciliation with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) works in the larger context of the film, simply because it refuses to take the easy way out, unflinching in its simple, messy honesty.

That last phrase could apply to Arnofsky’s work in the film as well. Abandoning the expressive, technically masterful style of previous films such as Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain,  Arnofsky shoots for subtly drawn realism and succeeds. Eschewing metaphorical visual odysseys rife with a variety of lenses and surrealist effects, Arnofsky empathetically frames Rourke from behind with a shaky, imperfect handheld camera. Using largely close ups, the camera generally remains trained on Rourke, refusing to miss a second of his tour de force as it brings the viewer directly into contact with every cut, crushing blow and searing staple. Essentially, Arnofsky filmed the movie the way Randy talks, starkly, sweetly and bluntly. The Wrestler finds poetry in its titular subject’s life without artifice or cynical calculation, a fact that makes it a rarity among Hollywood biopics and easily of the finest films of the year.

-Vman

Do not doubt The Wrestler‘s ambitions. A fine film, steeped in the depression of life we all know.

– R.H.

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