Drama Films, A-G

*** About Schmidt
** Adaptation
** Agnes of God
*** A.I. - dir. Steven Spielberg
*** All About Eve
** All I Wanna Do
**+ All Is Lost
With a dialogue that is actually a monologue of one expletive, an experienced sailor deals with the disaster that befalls his yacht while on a lonesome journey amidst the high seas. Resourceful, he is, but one wonders if that will be enough...
*** Altered States
***+ Amadeus - dir. Milos Forman
Saltieri, the court composer for the Austro-Hungarian emperor, reflects from the madhouse on his not-quite-protege, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The genius, the ego, the bombast, the clown, one can only hope life was this colorful back then courtside. But the music, of course, lives on.
*** American Beauty
*** American History X
**+ American Hustle
It's stylish and slick, and indeed there is hustle in this New York centric 70s time capsule. Every performance is there as the money changes hands and influence is peddled, but somehow it never fully lifts off in taking you there. Which is not to say you will mind the effort in the process.
**+ American Made - dir. Doug Liman
A somewhat dramatized version of the story of an commercial airline pilot who tries to play all sides of the game of drug and gun running, CIA surveillance, and getting rich in the process. Tom Cruise pulls off this one, much as I hate to say it.
*** The American President
** American Psycho
*** American Splendor
** Amigo - dir. John Sayles
A very overlooked part of American history - the occupation of the Philippines after the U.S. war with Spain - is given a look here. Sayles has a touch with pathos, but also with melodrama, and there is no exception here. For anyone unaware of the history, however, this is well worth a look.
*** Amistad - dir. Steven Spielberg
** Anywhere But Here
**** Apocalypse Now - dir. Francis Ford Coppola
*** Apocalypto
*** The Apostle
*** Argo
The 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis had a side story in six Americans who were able to hole up in the Canadian Embassy in Tehran. Here's how they got out.
**+ Arrival - dir. Denis Villeneuve
A take on what might happen if aliens suddenly showed up on Earth, with each government and people reacting as survival instincts kick in on various levels... while trying to communicate with the aliens somehow as well to find out what they want and why they've come.
*** As Good As It Gets
*** The Aviator - Martin Scorcese
** Bandits
*** The Ballad of Jack and Rose
** Barfly
**+ Battle of the Sexes - dir. Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
A dramatization of all of the silliness that surrounded the actual events that brought a former men's champion and current women's champion of tennis onto the court together. A worthy slice of history on both the feminist and LGBT fronts.
*** A Beautiful Mind
**+ Before Midnight
The third and likely last installment of the "Before..." series, again with Hawke and Delpy. Now they're middle-aged and grumbling about the state of their marriage and the choices they've made. But that's what these ones are all about, the long conversation between these two.
*** Before Sunrise - dir. Richard Linklater
*** Before Sunset - dir. Richard Linklater
*** Beyond Rangoon - dir. John Boorman
* The Big Blue
*** The Big Chill
**+ Big Eyes
A dramatization of the real story of a painter who's career is hijacked by her husband, ultimately leading to his falsely claiming her work as his own while she suffers in near-anonymity. The viewer hopefully knows where this is going...
*** Big Fish
**+ The Big Short
We all know that we are mere pawns in the greater economic system of capitalism, putting our money in manipulated investments that we can only cross our fingers over. This movie proves it, in detailing the housing-banking crisis of the mid-aughts.
** Bird - dir. Clint Eastwood
**+ Birdman - dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
A former superhero actor in the world tries to validate himself on Broadway. While not making the theater scene feel filled with any redeemable characters, this is still an interesting ride.
*** Black Rain
***+ Blade Runner - dir. Ridley Scott
The gritty movie, set not so far in the future, where some robots are so humanlike that they're a bit more than simply useful. Style points out the wazoo.
***+ Blade Runner 2049 - dir. Denis Villeneuve
A truly worthy sequel of the original, continuing the storyline of what makes humans different from the advanced robots they've created.
** Blair Witch Project
*** Blow
**+ Blue Jasmine - dir. Woody Allen
Cate Blanchett is the lead, a spoiled brat of a bitch who's fallen off of her throne of NY splendor. It doesn't help that her husband leaves her with nothing when his corrupt empire falls to pieces. So it's off to her sister's place, all the better to rekindle a long-simmering sibling discord.
*** Blue Velvet - dir. David Lynch
** The Bodyguard
** Bonnie and Clyde
**** Boogie Nights
*** Born on the 4th of July
* Born Yesterday
** Bottle Shock
** Box of Moonlight
*** Boyhood - dir. Richard Linklater
Filmed over twelve years, a boy turns into a young man as his parents and sister likewise change. Beautiful, engrossing.
***+ Boyz N the Hood
*** Breakfast at Tiffany's
*** Brick
**+ Bridge Of Spies - dir. Steven Spielberg
This is a recounting of the prisoner swap that was handled under CIA wraps via a private citizen, obtaining the release of U.S. spy plane pilot Gary Powers. It starts with the arresting of a Soviet spy in New York and culminates on a bridge in the wild west that East Berlin was in the early 60's (when The Wall was young).
*** Brokeback Mountain
The coming out movie of sorts for a completely gay story. Literally, as two men struggle with their relationship in an unforgiving time and place in the U.S. (the mid-20th-century U.S. West).
*** The Brothers McMullen
*** Buffalo 66
** Café Society - dir. Woody Allen
Allen takes on L.A.'s movie studio life - in the days when the studios and their bigwigs owned the actors - plus the similar high society world of Jewish mobsters in New York at the same time period - which seems to be the '20s or '30s.
*** Cape Fear - dir. Martin Scorcese
*** Capote
*** Captain Phillips
When a container ship is overtaken by pirates off of the Somali coast, the captain quick-thinks himself into the mess of being the sole hostage taken off of the behemoth. Instead he soon finds himself in a tense situation aboard its lifeboat, as the various pirates argue about how best to use him to get money. Ostensibly the true story, but apparently with no shortage of (perhaps massive) embellishments - a disappointment, that, although not the movie.
**+ Carol - dir. Todd Haynes
The idea of lesbian relation in the 40s/50s America is taboo enough to cause problems for Cate Blanchett's Carol, a liberated woman in an un-liberated world.
**+ Casablanca - dir. Michael Curtiz
Rick's staying a step in front of the Nazis in French North Africa, as are many of the regulars and recently-arrived who hang out in his bar. Things get testy when the former love of his life wanders in needing help... with her husband.
*** Casa de los Babys - dir. John Sayles
** Cast Away
*** Catch Me If You Can - dir. Steven Spielberg
*** The Cat's Meow
** Center Stage
*** Chasing Amy
*** Chinatown
*** Cinderella Man
*** Citizen Ruth
** City of Hope
*** Close Encounters Of The Third Kind - dir. Steven Spielberg.
A classic for so many reasons, UFOs in the middle of nowhere lead to wonder and then something more. Dated in some ways, but far less so in the magic it still projects.
*** Closer
*** Cocoon
** Cold Mountain
*** The Color Of Money - dir. Martin Scorcese
*** Confidence
*** The Constant Gardener
** Contagion
Another influenza-styled panic movie as the world begins to end. It's that damned Gwyneth Paltrow!
** Cookie's Fortune
** The Cooler
** Crash (2002)
*** Crash (2005)
*** Crazy Heart
Jeff Bridges is a singer-songwriter dealing with his mucked up past and drinking problem. Chances at love and stardom are in the offing as he struggles to keep it together.
*** Crimes and Misdemeanors - dir. Woody Allen
*** Crooklyn - dir. Spike Lee
** The Dancer Upstairs
*** Dangerous Beauty
** Dead Man - dir. Jim Jarmusch
Visually arresting at times, in part because it's shot in black in white in picturesque western U.S. landscapes, I nevertheless can't say I understood this movie. What I DO know is that death is apparently everywhere, and nowhere more than in Johnny Depp's protagonist, who is dying by a steady turn due to first one then another gunshot. Here's a western with a New Age twist, one that roams from the well-trodden Wild West of a frontier town all the way to the ocean of a Pacific Northwest that seem to still be under native control.
*** The Dead Pool
**** The Deerhunter
Friends from a small town in the Appalachians head to Viet Nam for their unfortunate slice of the war, from which no one will return the same. A ground-breaking, tough movie.
*** The Deep End
**** Deliverance - dir. John Boorman
*** The Departed - dir. Martin Scorcese
*** The Descendants
Not the happiest flick, to be sure, but this Clooney-driven drama dishes out the poignant moments in dealing with an imperfect loved one who is dying. Closure and all come to mind, naturally, and this is fortunately done with the backdrop of Oahu and Kauai.
** Desperately Seeking Susan
*** Devil in a Blue Dress
*** Django Unchained - dir. Quentin Tarantino
Shockingly, Quentin Tarantino takes great liberties in taking on the subject of slavery in the U.S. back in the day. As always, blood, humor, and a variety of facts get cleverly mangled and entertainingly displayed.
** Dogma
* Dogpark
*** Dogville
*** Donnie Darko
*** Do the Right Thing - dir. Spike Lee
** Down By Law
** Dracula
** Dreamgirls - dir. Bill Condon
A dramatization of trying to break into the music scene of Motown in what looks to be a telling of the story of The Supremes.
** Dune
** Eight Days A Week
*** Elegy
*** Elephant
*** Empire of the Sun - dir. Steven Spielberg
*** End Of Watch
A better than average cop buddy movie, trying to strain out the grit of patrolling the rougher, race-focused streets of L.A.
*** Eraserhead
*** Erin Brockovich
**** Erotica
**** ET - The Extraterrestrial
- dir. Steven Spielberg
*** Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
*** Eve's Bayou
*** Everything Is Illuminated
** Everything Must Go
Another try by Will Ferrell to take on a more serious role, but he's still, well, Will Ferrell. The character never seems to fully go away, even if the content takes a more mundane route. His wife's left him, and his stuff has been put out on the lawn. Time to pick up the pieces and get off the drink.
*** Evita
*** Existenz
*** The Exorcist
*** Falling Down
** Family Man
** Fantasia
** Fantasia 2000
** Far From Heaven
*** Fast Food Nation
*** The Fifth Element
*** Fight Club
** Final Destination
*** Finding Forrester
*** Fire Walk With Me - dir. David Lynch
** Five Easy Pieces
*** Flash Gordon
Something of a send-up of the old TV show and character, this one works as Earth gets caught in the crosshairs of evil emperor of the universe Ming. Music by Queen.
*** Floundering
** Focus
** For Love Or Country
A dramatization of the trumpeter Arturo Sandoval's defection from Cuba with the help of Dizzy Gillespie.
** Four Rooms
** Frances Ha - dir. Noah Baumbach
Livin' the hipster dream in New York, bouncing between pads while trying to do something creative that'll actually make ends meet. Poseurs, trust fund kids, and some real deals, one supposes.
*** Frankie and Johnny
** Friends With Money
**+ Funny People
A better Sandler flick than usual, if surprisingly long. A stand-up comic seems to be fighting for his life just as he takes on an assistant to do the mundane tasks that even include writing jokes for him to deliver. More nuanced than it might've been guessed to be, plus lots of random cameos of stand-ups that by and large work.
*** The Game
*** Garden State
** Gas, Food, Lodging
** Get On The Bus - dir. Spike Lee
**+ The Ghost And The Darkness
A fictionalization of the true story of the two vicious lions of Tsavo, who almost nightly attacked the work camp set up for laborers building a rail line and bridge in East Africa. Between 30 and 120 people were killed over their reign of terror, finally ended when the man in charge of the construction took them on until the finish. Starts a bit melodramatic but settles in as the lions do the same in a rather more bloody way.
** Ghost In The Shell - dir. Rupert Sanders
A flashy take on an illustrated novel, where a women doesn't know her full story but is one hell of a weaponized assassin. A bit high on the comic book for the storytelling for me, but a visual feast at times.
** The Ghost Writer
A writer (Ewan McGregor) stumbles on more information in writing a former Prime Minister's (Pierce Brosnan) autobiography than he's supposed to. Doesn't quite click.
*** Ghost World
** Girl, Interrupted
*** Glengary Glen Ross - dir. Coen Brothers
*** Go
*** The Godfather
** Gods and Monsters
*** Goodfellas - dir. Martin Scorcese
*** The Good German
** The Good Girl
*** Good Night, and Good Luck
*** Good Will Hunting
*** The Graduate
** Gran Torino
*** The Grand Budapest Hotel - dir. Wes Anderson
Yet another visual and verbal feast from Mr. Anderson, about a concierge of some unnamed hotel in the old, grand style, ostensibly taking place between the world wars somewhere in Europe. The plot, such as it is, takes a back seat to the style. And that's perfectly great.
** Gravity
Space debris puts a shuttle mission first in risk and then quickly disaster. The remaining astronauts try to figure out how to save themselves in what ultimately feels like a tried-and-not-quite-true formula.
*** Greenberg - dir. Noah Baumbach
A social misfit comes to stay with his brother after a bad psychiatric episode; His brother's personal assistant proves something of a remedy.
*** The Green Mile
**** Grifters
*** Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
*** Gummo

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