Best of Break

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Raj, Sam, and Ryan chat about break's best films.

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(dir. Tom Ford)

Tom Ford's film "A Single Man" is by no means perfect, but as a poem of the moment, having little structure, it's gloriously free from decay. Colin Firth plays George Falconer, a middle-aged professor mired in an existential crisis after receiving news of his lover's death by car accident. The film weaves through the most difficult day of Falconer's life, crafting lush sketches of 1960s Los Angeles through a series of flashbacks and encounters. Scenes like an alcohol-fueled reunion with an old flame and a rendezvous with a spirited pupil brim with fleeting splendor. World-weary yet fearless, Firth's protagonist channels such authenticity that we leave the cinema feeling like we've become acquainted with him. And that is the achievement of "A Single Man"-through Firth's breathtaking performance and Ford's assured direction, the film attains poignant universality.

-David Liu


(dir. James Cameron)

"Avatar" is not a "great" film. It's good, but not great. The plot is a bizarre intersection between "FernGully" and Disney's "Pocahontas" in space. The acting is nothing special and almost irrelevant considering the majority of the film is animated.

What "Avatar" is, however, is important. Extremely important. Avatar is 3D's "Killer App," if the software term can be applied to film. It's the film that made 3D no longer just a gimmick, but a real grown-up way to go to the movies. Theaters have been losing the battle against home video for a long time now, since it's becoming cheaper and easier to duplicate the theater experience at home.

Movie theaters have been looking for an edge that you need to pony up ten bucks to see. 3D is the edge, and Avatar brought it home.

-Daniel Kronovet


(dir. Pedro Almodovar)

It would be an understatement to call Penelope Cruz director Pedro Almodovar's muse. In "Broken Embraces," Almodovar lights and frames her in a perfect, almost loving manner. However, her character, an actress named Lena, is a memory, envisioned entirely in flashback by her lover, the filmmaker Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar). But the past doesn't go away as a visit by an old acquaintance reignites Mateo's obsession with her. Thanks to Almodovar's beautiful direction, we too become obsessed with this obsession: We can't help but be drawn to the allure of Lena's-and Cruz's-star image. "Broken Embraces" is about the fleeting pleasures and lingering pain associated with memory. The cure? Creativity, and more specifically, film. The medium is Mateo's saving grace, the thing that resurrects a blossoming romance cut tragically short.

-Max Siegel


(dir. Terry Gilliam)

Mad auteur Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is an exercise in sensory overload. But the movie's visually bombastic CGI dreamscapes are only one piece of the puzzle. Central to this whacked-out film's appeal is Tom Waits' flawless turn as Mr. Nick, a sort of lounge-lizard Lucifer. He is locked in a series of bets with the immortal mystic Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), who now owes Nick his daughter as payment. Model Lily Cole is mesmerizingly strange as daughter Valentina; also of note is Heath Ledger's sinister final performance, creatively finished after his death by Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp. The movie peaks early with a mind-blowing set piece featuring a gargantuan Eastern temple. Parts of the plot feel unpolished, but this meditation on art and imagination is easily Gilliam's best in over a decade.

-Sam Stander


(dir. Jason Reitman)

Both a topical examination of contemporary mores and an intimate character study, Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" gets its name from a man who doesn't spend much time in any one place. George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man who flies around the country to fire people. As if he were some 21st century anomaly, he's actually happy this way. There is a poetic duality in the way this film treats its haunting characters, as Reitman's screenplay is witty yet unaffected, harnessing a message that speaks to our times.

This is a lonely, sad film with a gingerly measured dose of hope. Clooney's performance brims with subtlety and subtext. As his love interest and wake-up call, Vera Farmiga is an equally charming counterpart who reminds him that his time on Earth, and in the air, is precious.

-Ryan Lattanzio


(dir. Clint Eastwood)

Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" is a biopic wearing the mask of a sports movie. If sports were really the point, 39-year-old Matt Damon would not be playing the tough captain of the Springboks, South Africa's national rugby team. Rugby instead acts as a spyglass for viewing President Nelson Mandela's (Morgan Freeman) effort to inspire the team to win the 1995 World Cup on their home soil and unite the country. Appropriately, Freeman dominates on screen, his soft eyes bearing heavy burdens and his soothing voice cooling boiling blood. Freeman also allows glimpses into Mandela's pain from being alienated from his family, injecting needed fallibility into a superhuman figure. As a true story, there aren't any twists, but the performances and other elements-the score and some beautiful sequences, in particular-make "Invictus" worthy of its source material.

-Rajesh Srinivasan


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