Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I've Been Dreaming of A True Love List: The Sickness' Cinema's Top Twenty Films of 2007

Here are my top twenty movies. The criteria here is a combination “best of” and “favorite.” What I was really looking for were movies that were memorable, technically impressive, well realized and touched me in some way (sometimes not in a good way but provided a visceral reaction). So we’ll be starting at twenty and working our way up to number one. Now get ready:

20. The Savages-Nearly ten years after the fun Slums of Beverly Hills director Tamara Jenkins roars back onto the scene with a knowing, sharp dramedy that deals with subject matter that doesn’t regularly appear in movie theaters. There are no Hallmark moments here, no moment of redemption between Philip Bosco’s Leonard Savage and his screwy academic children who for all their intellectualism can barely keep their lives together. Alternatively touching, brutal and hilarious this is an above all honest drama with spectacular acting throughout.
The Sickness Scene: Jon (PSH) confronts sister Wendy (Laura Linney) in the parking lot of the upscale senior-care center.
The Sickness Performance: Hard to say but for this one, but I got to give it to Linney whose character runs the emotional gamut as she eventually inches her way towards personal and professional growth.

19. Charlie Wilson’s War- Mike Nichols gives a very polished directing job to Aaron Sorkin’s buoyant comic script that keeps things fun but never completely lets the spectre of Afghanistan and the Taliban out of the room. Tom Hanks has loads of fun as the morally ambiguous, but exceedingly crafty senator who with a small team including heiress Julia Roberts and disgruntled CIA company man (PSH-AGAIN) manage to aide Afghanistan in defeating the Soviets. The film's ultimately delivers just the right amount of optimism as it looks toward an uncertain future with two simple words "we'll see." It's deceptively simple but oddly compelling. Why couldn't all the current-event inspired fiction films that came out this year be this much fun?
The Sickness Scene: Meet Gust Avrakotos, better hope you’re not a window.
The Sickness Performance: Philip Seymour Hoffman bulldozes his way through the film chewing scenery like it’s taffy.

18. No Country For Old Men- The Coen Brothers return to form with this excellent (but lamentably rote) take on Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic western. It’s thrilling to see McCarthy’s characters and bleak scenarios come to life and exhilarating to see the mastery at which the Coen’s create this world where a set I his ways sheriff must witness the ultimate evil as he tracks a hired killer (Javier Bardem) chase a good man (Josh Brolin) who has stumbled into a bad situation. The chase that follows is alternatively thrilling, terrifying, heartbreaking and on rare occasion quite funny. Brilliant performances abound across a landscape beautifully shot by Roger Deakins.
The Sickness Scene: Josh Brolin’s Llewlyn thinks he has a moment of rest at a hotel, then the light goes out in the hallway…then things get REALLY bad.
The Sickness Performance: Javier Bardem plays the embodiment of evil itself. Oh and evil has a Prince Valiant haircut, just FYI.

17. Beowulf- The breathtaking innovation of Robert Zemeckis made this a spectacle to savor in 3D, but what puts it on the list is the fiercely clever script by the unlikely duo of Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman. This is myth-making the way it deserves to look: big, impressive and bold to the point of ridiculousness. It takes the time to have its characters consider things like legacy, parenting, desire, religion and getting older. Even with the occasional technical gaffes (the ladies aren’t particularly accurate likenesses, except for Angelina) the film remains a remarkable achievement and by far gave me the most bang for my action buck of any film this year.
The Sickness Scene: Beowulf retells the story of how he lost a swimming contest and it’s AMAZING!
The Sickness Performance: Crispin Glover speaking in olde English despite looking like the spawn of a mole and a half eaten fish still gives an amazing performance as Grendel.

16. The Darjeeling Limited- People knock Wes Anderson at this point for his films being stylistically similar but I think it’s a fairly foolish criticism as filmmakers rarely have it so together by their fifth film. Anderson should hardly be penalized for having a recognizable voice and vision, especially when tackling something that he’s never dealt with before in his films, religion. Through the familiar prism of a family on the outs Anderson tackles has his brothers attempt to find spirituality and manage to find it in a variety of ways and modes. While the film may only be dealing with one specific sector of practice it nails the complex duality between the superficial practices involved in ritual and the depth that can be found in tackling these rituals in the right context.
The Sickness Scene: Got to be the pivotal scene on the bridge that prompted Terry Wunder to ask “Save a boy?”
The Sickness Performance: After working very hard to get me to find him completely annoying in Hollywoodland and King Kong, Adrien Brody remind me why I enjoy him in the first place. He’s capable of hitting the wry comedic beats and then seamlessly transitioning to devastating melancholy.

15. Zodiac- The style informs the content in David Fincher’s obsessive tale about obsession. Turning the standard police procedural on its head, Finchner’s film practically bombards you in minutiae getting you as invested in the case as the characters themselves. There’s so much material that one viewing may not be enough to absorb all the characters, scenarios and theories. The case starts and stops, goes cold and then resets itself making the proceedings sometimes seem rocky but I wouldn’t be surprised that each time I watch it my fondness for it grows. It may not be as fun as Seven but Zodiac certainly ramps up the thrills as well as its predecessor does. Its not often that a movie makes you feel smarter for having watched it.
The Sickness Scene: The Zodiac killer ruins a picnic way worse then any bunch of ants could.
The Sickness Performance: My heart says Downey Jr. but my head cries out for Ruffalo as David Toschi, who starts the movie confident (he is after all the model for Bulitt) but by the end is left a shaken hollow man.

14. Superbad- I know I’m hardly the only webmaster/blogger/hipster-d’bag on the web to sing hosannas to Judd movies. Guiding us into this wild night of growth are Michael Apatow but damn it the man just deserves it. He’s given me so much joy and so many laughs and he’s only the producer here. The real brain trust is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg working with director Greg Mottola who made this the smoothest, best-looking of all the ApatowCera and Jonah Hill as believable best friends. The two work out their issues of co-dependence and independence (and learn a bit about the opposite sex). While their story is played in basically a real world with real consequences the film gets its zany fix from McLovin and his wild ride with Officers Slater and Michaels. While McLovin starts the film a geek and a joke he ends it a legend. It’s invigorating to watch each time you revisit it and gives the film a nice sense of balance. If I make this all sound fairly deep it’s because the emotions are, but the film never once lets you forget that it’s a comedy and you laugh from beginning to end and “That’s good shit, huh, Hiroki?”
The Sickness Scene: One word, three syllables (sing it with me) PAN-A-MA!
The Sickness Performance: The temptation is to put newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse who wears McLovin like a glove, but the real emotional weight, the heart of Superbad is Michael Cera who ushers the film into both its darker and sweeter moments.

13. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street- Like I said, on paper this thing looked like a mess. One of my favorite musicals of all time as interpreted by the man who has become the Hot Topic (the store, not the concept) auteur with a cast of non-singers. Blech! But Burton brings all his skill to the fore as he cuts and slices around the songs with the deft touch of his titular protagonist turning Sweeney makes rivers of sumptuous blood flow from the necks of his victims and its so much fun (in a dark, sick sort of way). The proceedings are most exhilarating when our odd-ball couple is on-screen as and into its own uniquely marvelous experience. In the monochromatic town where "the vermin of the world inhabit it." Depp and Bonham-Carter create a grand guignol sort of nuclear family unit along with newcomer Ed Sanders, that all falls to shit as secrets and lies are exposed on that all too convoluted path of revenge. The pair are so fascinating that when the film centers on their pretty boy Anthony and their dreary Johanna I found myself wishing to be back with Sweeney and co. Oh sure I'd have liked a slightly livelier rendition of "A Little Priest" but otherwise Burton makes good on the promise aided by his first rate material.
The Sickness Scene: Having just missed his opportunity to take out one of his enemies Depp brings all his singing skill to bear and Burton shoots the hell out of "Epiphany." The audience cheered.
The Sickness Performance: Shock of shocks I must give it to Helena Bonham Carter who upchucks my expectations and turns Nellie Lovett into the maternal wannabe from Hell. Her "By the Sea" is pretty damn delightful.

12. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters- There are documentaries that expand your world view and spark your interest in a subject or stimulate you intellectually or boil your blood until its bubbling under your skin (No End in Sight did all three) but how often does a documentary actually touch you? How often does a documentary put all your soul behind a guy who not only has the skill but is just a nice guy who keeps getting screwed? Sounds like the fodder for a pretty damn good sports movie doesn't it? Well this little gem is about the world of Donkey Kong players. Yes, Donkey Kong, the original, the widow maker of arcade games. As this doc explores the world of competitive arcade gamers your first instinct is to laugh, hard. But as the story of perpetual underdog Steve Wiebe and larger than life (more mulleted than life too) Billy Mitchell unfolds you find yourself sucked in and completely invested in the film's final outcome. Ever thought you'd find yourself clawing at your seat at the prospect of Mario narrowly avoiding a fireball? This is the movie that will have you standing up and cheering by the end. Or chuckling contentedly.
The Sickness Scene: Billy visits the arcade Steve is playing at AND NEVER SAYS A WORD TO HIM! Bastard! I'm still mad about it.
The Sickness Performance: That the producers want Nathan Fillion to play Steve Wiebe in the fictional version of the story speaks volumes about the guy's integrity, but the real heartbreaker is Mrs. Wiebe who wants to be supportive after years of seeing her love almost succeed time and again. Except, you know, he's playing Donkey Kong.

11. Enchanted- AHHHHHH! "Why isn't it higher?" cry the dozens of regular readers Well I'll let you in on a little secret. I can see the flaws in my great cinematic love of the year. Oh yes, I know the third act is hampered by an inconsistent CGI dragon and a performance by Susan Sarandon (who I typically enjoy) that doesn't match what else is on screen (and her dialogue gets almost Shrek-y in places). But now that's out of the way let's get to the heart of the matter. This film is pure bliss. I mean it, so well intentioned, so clever, so fun, so perfectly skewering the ridiculousness of being a fantasy princess while at the same time underlining what makes the fantasy so popular in the first place. Director Kevin Lima keeps things just as bright and colorful in the real world as he does in the film's gorgeous animated sequence and there is more then enough Disney minutiae to keep even super-fans looking like it's the greatest trivia challenge ever.
But this is a film about discovery, the exquisite Princess Giselle discovers that given the choice of perfect contentment as a princess finds that there is a much greater depth and reward in the messier adult world of New York City. But it's also a movie where the LARGE audience discovered the twin joys that are Amy Adams and James Marsden. These two are so perfect, so hilarious, so honest that it's difficult to remember the perfectly enjoyable supporting cast of stand outs including Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, McWhatsisname, Rachel Covey and Pip (adorable). But come on, watch this movie and tell me that Adams and Marsden aren't perfect animated characters made flesh. God I wish I could run through the street shouting how great they are but the block captain of Underhill avenue has already given me a stern waring not to do that again.
The Sickness Scene: Can't I just say everything up until the moment after Marsden says, perfectly straight-faced, "I don't know what melodramatic means." Oh all right, I suppose it's a toss-up between the opening animated scene to "True Love's Kiss" (Haha! We shall be married in the morning!) and the amazing "That's How You Know." FACT: Watch the scene where the prince finally sees Giselle in the middle of "That's How You Know" right after he calls her name he half bites his fist. I laugh so hard every time (EVERY TIME) I see that because it is AWESOME! It's like "Oh man, I finally see her and now I'm going to bust the greatest most romantic move anyone has ever seen in song" and then he is hit by cyclists.
The Sickness Performance: Have you been paying attention at ALL?!?!?

10. Knocked Up- To say that expectation were high after the instant classic 40 Year Old Virgin would be an understatement. Did Apatow's second directorial outing meet expectations? Damn right it did. Using the same perfect alchemy of manly bonding, raunchy good times and emotional honesty Apatow delivered one of the two great comedies of summer. Seth Rogen as Ben Stone showed that he had the chops to lead the way for generations of "beta males" to follow as a night of passion forces him to grow up (slightly) a lot faster then he was planning. here has been plenty of hullabaloo that this movie advocates the couple's behavior but I am strongly of the opinion that the film gives no guarantees. Ben and Alison never have that big "I love you" moment but they are committed to each other and their child. It's actually a rather bitter-sweet pill to take, though the spoonful of sugar that helps this medicine goes down is that the movie surounding this rather desperate situation is devastatingly funny. Absolutely hilarious. It would be criminal to neglect the tremendous comic ensemble present especially stand-outs Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann's less than Hollywood ideal marriage. The film's run-time is hardly an issue as its such an incredible joy to hang out with these characters.
The Sickness Scene: "Fuck you, hormones!" everything that is great about this film in one simple scene.
The Sickness Performance: Leslie Mann, hey somebody ought write about that.

9. I'm Not There-Todd Haynes newest film is a bold, exciting portrait of an artist that swim in the possibilities of cinema. How anyone could ever go back to to watching conventional bipoics after this film is beyond me. Mercurical, avant-garde and exceedingly thoughtful, the film approaches it subject with the concept that no person is truly knowable, but in showing all the facets of Dylan the viewer leaves with a much broader picture of the artist then they did when they came in. With loads of inside jokes and references for Dylan-ologists, the movie may be difficult for some viewers, it doesnt hold your hand ad is sometimes deliberately evasive, but then again so is Dylan. The film's central conceit in having Dylan played by six wonderful, decidedly different actors works perfectly and as I mentioned before nicely underlines the film's thesis. This is solid heady stuff and one I will really enjoy returning to in order to scrape up new insights I missed the first time around. Having a soundtrack made up of some of the best songs in all of popular music probably doesn't hurt it much either.
The Sickness Scene: Jude (Cate Blanchett) is driving along, annoyed by the constant media hounding when who should show up but Alan Ginsberg (David Cross) on some sort of bizzare jalopy. It's a moment that is so surreal that even Jude can't believe it.
The Sickness Performance: Everyone has been going ga-ga over Blanchett (and rightly so) but I found myself incredibly moved by the tender, earnest work of Marcus Carl Franklin as "Woody Guthrie."

8. Juno- My friend Peter PERFECTLY summed up this movie when he caught it in an early
preview screening, "That movie gave me a hug." It's true, for all the criticism about the "cloying", "cutesy" dialogue this movie has a deep and earnest heart. The movie beautifully juggles two lovely stories both of which illustrate the maturation of Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page); the more obvious one is here giving her baby to the the too-good-to-be-true Lorings (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) and her growing awareness of her love of Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Both stories inform one another as Juno, for all her worldly wisdom and oratory savvy learns to let her guard down and let other people in. The movie has such a deep and abiding love for all its characters and this completely carries over to the audience which explains why people seem to be responding so strongly to the film, you can't help but connect to it. These aren't indie-quirky cartoons, they're people, maybe a little more interesting then average people but they are wonderfully written, dynamically performed people. And I can't wait to see them again, thank you so much Ms. Cody.
The Sickness Scene: "
'Cause you're, like, the coolest person I've ever met, and you don't even have to try, you know..." "I try really hard, actually." And the tears started flowing.
The Sickness Performance: Frank is right, for all the hoopla over Ellen Page, Michael Cera and Jennifer Garner, the unheralded stalwarts of this film are Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons as Juno's frustrated but supportive parents.

7. Persepolis- Marjane Satrapi's adaptation of her acclaimed graphic novel is a glorious emotional whirlwind and while superficially couldn't be more different from Juno the films does bear a thematic resemblance. Both films feature young women overcoming adversity to discover their identity. But to say that Marjane had to go through a BIT more to go through is an understatement. In a backdrop that regularly features revolutions and war, Marjane deals with family romantic relationships, fashion, assimilation, religion, art, ideology and finding a true home. In one beautifully animated scene after another, Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud tell heir story in a variety of moods in a deceptively simple graphic style that is capable of conveying a wide array of emotions. Persepolis is a movie that has you pulling for Marjane every step of the way. Beautiful.
The Sickness Scene: Marjane, after a difficult emotional period, decides she's not going to sit around and mope anymore and you will never look at "Eye of the Tiger" the same way ever again.
The Sickness Performance: There's a lot of powerful voice work here, but the person who made me shed my first tears in the movie was Catherine Deneuve as Marjane's mother.

6. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le papillon)- The story of Jean Dominique Bauby (played in the film by Mathieu Amalric) is overpowering stuff but not in the way one might expect. Under the careful eye of painter/director Julian Schnabel the true story of the Italian Elle editor who's stroke causes him to suffer from the incredibly rare locked-in syndrome. The once vibrant man in the prime of his life is rendered a parapelegic who can only move one eye but has his complete mental faculties. It would be simple for Schnabel to play this like a Lifetime movie that courts sympathy for "Jean-Do" but the film opts to be much more. The film begins with Jean-Do waking up from his coma and the film is shot from his POV and with us hearing Jean-Do's thoughts. We're not sympathizing Jean-Do, WE ARE Jean-Do. His frustration become the audiences frustrations, his desires become the audiences desires, we never pity him. We empathize, we don't sympathize. Also because of Jean-Do's limited range of vision the edges of the frame are blurred giving a good chunk of the film the feel of a water-color painting. When we do eventually see Jean-Do he is revealed gradually and even Jean-Do can't believe seeing his reflection "I look like something born in formaldhyde." As Jean-Do struggles to make even the slightest movements and re-learn to communicate we examine the totality of his loss and the new insight his condition has given him. It is in his mental exploration that the film gets his title. When shut-in he is like a man in a deep-sea diving suit, completely sensory deprived, unable to move, but through his limitless imagination he can traverse time and space he is as free as the butterfly. It's an amazing journey that everyone should go on.
The Sickness Scene: Jean-Do is taken to the beach to spend time with his wife and child. Jean-Do watches his children be strong and play for him as his wife watches appreciatively. Then the Tom Waits soundtrack kicks in. Devastating.
The Sickness Performance: Mathieu Almaric hindered by make-up and bound to his chair gives an amazing voice-over performance and tells the entire story with just a flicker of his eye. Though he doesn't get off easily cause Max Von Sydow demonstrates in a few short scenes why he's been a living legend of the cinema for over sixty years for his brief moments as Jean-Do's father.

5. Once- For all the big musicals that came out this year (a lovely sentence to be able to type)
the one that hit me in my sweet spot the hardest was this tiny independent film. Once is so simple, so straightforward that it seems surprising no one has done anything like it before. Think Before Sunrise with an alt-folk-rock soundtrack. But here the characters don't talk, the sing. This is a film about the joy of making art, specifically making music, even more specifically the joy that comes with finding that perfect collaborator. It's this rare idea that you don't often see in movies where one person's counter-point is just shining out of the other. It's the kind of thing that all the McConaughey-Hudson team-ups in the world never even get CLOSE to achieving. It's amazing to see the attraction grow into love and respect, especially considering these aren't professional actors. They are however amazing musicians. Glen Hansard's voice as this unforgettable keening quality that when he howls its with all the force of his soul and Marketa Irglova conveys such tenderness and precision. The film may be small but it takes up space in your brain and I can foresee it as a movie a lot of couples fall in love over.
The Sickness Scene: "Falling Slowly" in the music store just knocks you off your ass.
The Sickness Performance: This is a beautiful duet of two performers and I can't in good conscince pick one over the other, so props to both Hansard and Irglova.

Hot Fuzz- As naturalistic and free flowing as Once is Hot Fuzz is a tight, controlled comic
masterpiece. Exquisitely directed by Edgar Wright this homage to the glory days of American buddy cop action films is the ultimate gift to the ten year old boy in us all. Though the subject matter may be juvenile the handling is something for grown-ups to appreciate. Wright's script (co-written by star Simon Pegg) perfectly pokes fun at the tropes of the genre while at the same time underlining what makes them so fun in the first place (hmmm this is starting to sound familiar). The script also immaculately sets up its gags. There is no fat in these movies, EVERYTHING gets a pay-off and the more you sit up and watch the film, the more you are rewarded with laughs. Additionally, this movie has the most fun ensemble of any movie to be released this year, a joy for both anglophiles and genre fans (LOOK: JAMES BOND! BELLOQ! SGT HOWIE!). Everyone looks like they're having a ball. At the center of it all is the friendship/romance of Simon Pegg's Nicholas Angel and Nick Frost's Danny Butterman. These two men are best friends in real life and shows in every frame of this film. This film is pure fun from start to finish and I will never get tired of watching it. It makes you want to demand more from your comedies AND your action movies.
The Sickness Scene: Ugh, put a gun to my head why don't you? I guess when Sgt. Angel rides back into town.
The Sickness Performance: Simon Pegg steps it up as a sexy man-good as perfectionist Angel who doesn't know how to switch it off.

3. Ratatouille- Where to even begin? Should I sing the praises of Brad Bird's brilliant direction
that makes this film alternatively thrilling, thoughtful and hilarious? Maybe the sumptuous visual palette of the Pixar animators? How about the playful vocal work of the cast headed by Patton Oswalt? What about the exquisite scoring by Michael Giacchino? The way the film discusses art through the device of cooking, while equally giving the nature of criticism a good shake? My god, this movie is glorious. I realize that ostensibly Pixar films are family films that play to children but why do I feel they ultimately end up touching more adults? Especially Bird's material that not only demands the most of its characters but of the audience watching. Time and again the movie calls for raised standards but with the noted caveat that not everyone can be the best at everything. Linguini may be a nice kid, but he's a lousy cook and he suddenly doesn't become a great one by the end of the film. Not only that but there are consequences for his actions in the film and it gives the piece a real weight not often found in these types of films. Also its pretty amazing to think ina time where ration seems to be giving way to faith that we can find an exchange like this in a children's film: "This is the way things are; you can't change nature." "Change is nature, Dad. The part that we can influence. And it starts when we decide." Now that's some perspective for you.
The Sickness Scene: Ego's review. Breathless stuff.
The Sickness Performance: Peter O'Toole's Anton Ego is quite simply my favorite character of the year.

2. Into the Wild- As I mentioned way at the top of this article (seemingly days ago) that a large contributing factor in creating this list was how much I was touched by a given film. Had I been touched by Into the Wild anymore I would've had to taken it to court and shown on a dummy where it touched me. The film is guided with a propulsive energy by its director (Sean Penn), its star (Emile Hirsch) and its environment (breathtaking). In cracking open Jon Krakauer's account of the travels and end of Christopher McCandless, Penn reveals what made the wilds of America so appealing for young Chris. What's astonishing is that as beautiful as the scenes are Penn and Hirsch aren't afraid to let McCandless come off as less than likable from time to time. He could be stubborn, myopic, terse and extremely self-righteous. He may have some valid points about wanting to make his own way and find himself but his method is all wrong. The people he encounters along his way try to convince him, but he's not having it. It's what makes it so frustrating ut oddly compelling to watch. This fim is not about death but ultimately tells the story of a life, that if pushed a few inches in another direction, could have been extraordinary. In tapping into the potential Penn moves us (or at least me) to want to be something better, make something better, do something better then we did when we entered the theater. That is a truly rare and beautiful thing.
The Sickness Scene: Hanging with retiree Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook), Chris encourages the old man to go for broke and run up a hill. It may not sound like much but this scene is a killer that has to be seen for a master class in screen-acting.
The Sickness Performance: Hirsch brings the goods but Holbrook is heartbreaking in his limited screen time.

1. There Will Be Blood- I fought long and hard with myself before I went with this one. Anything you see between here and eleven was at one point or another a contender. At the end of the day though Paul Thomas Anderson's masterwork won out. The simple reason being is that ultimately the film is a boxing match between the two central character. A simple almost stage bound premise, but, because this is a film, from this simple premise out gushes a geysers worth of material. Like a Rorschach Test made of oil this conflict works on an infinite variety of levels. It can be seen as an allegory regarding our nations twin corrupt bulwarks: big business and religion. It can be seen as a haunting historical epic. It can be a story about fathers and sons, or one of brothers. A story of identity; about the masks we wear in public and the brutal truth that lies beneath. It's about consumption and capitalism, about madness and brilliance and ecah pair is constantly in competition. It is so many things (though unfortunately it is not a woman's story, though the story's LACK of women is very telling). One could even read this a text about our disposable society, wherein we cast aside that which is burdensome, bothersome or no longer pleases us. While the meaning is up for grabs the steadfast aspect is the work as a technical achievement. From it's gorgeous percision cinematography by Robert Elswit to the haunting Bernard Hermann-on-crack score by Johnny Greenwood this film is a feast for the eyes and ears. Then there are the performances, the central performances I should say (though Ciaran Hinds, Kevin J. O'Connor and newcomer Dillon Freasier do very fine work) the movie belongs to Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. Day-Lewis' Daniel Plainview is a monster in capitalist clothing. Beneath his convincing and confident manner lies a seething contempt for all humanity set to boil at a moments notice. He is a terrifying creation and we instantly get him. It is because that Day-Lewis opens up so immediately that you think you know how the character will react and it gives every scene a nice underlying tension. Except when Plainview bucks your expectations and goes completely nuts or bone chillingly cold. Then there is Dano, whose lithe frame belies a firey anger and frustratio that he too can call upon to alternatively rally or distance others. One look at this acting match-up and you'd think that Day-Lewis would wipe the floor with his scene partner ad bucking that expectation is part of the fun of watching these two work. Dano's calm, cool composure gives way to something as sinister as anything Day-Lewis can cook up. Though the end is never really in question (though it's execution is pretty jaw-dropping) there's only one way this thing is ending. Look to the title and the brace yourself for whatever Anderson is doing next.
The Sickness Scene: "I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!" My. God.
The Sickness Performance: Game. Set. Match. Day-Lewis.

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