Righteous Indignation Edition
Alejandro González Iñárritu is one of the most mind-numbingly talented directors working in film today, which makes his so-so batting average pretty disheartening. 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful all have their sterling moments, but none prove fully operational from start to finish, made lopsided by the wonderment of some sections, and the head-scratching of others. But fret not: All those who want to see the man actually nail his target need look no further than his 2000 debut, Amores Perros. One of the most passionate, fiery works I've ever seen put to film, AP segments its story into three distinct sections, following a young man trying to make it as a dog fighter (Gael García Bernal), an injured model forced into seclusion (Goya Toledo), and a drifter with far more on his mind than his words alone illuminate (Emilio Echevarría). Like the rest of Iñárritu's work to date, Perros is epic, expansive, pulse-pounding, and comes to involve a myriad of characters who connect each of the disparate plot-lines. But the flick stands-out from the rest of the Mexican auteur's catalogue by virtue of the sheer sincerity and ringing, poignant clarity with which he brings the tale to the screen. Gorgeously shot, marvelously acted, and brilliantly plotted, Amores Perros is one of the most criminally under-rated movies of the 2000's, and deserves to be seen by any and every measure.
Young love is known to take its twists and turns, but something tells me your last torrid romance pales in comparison to what goes down in Evan Glodell's directorial debut. Bellflower positively exploded onto screens last summer, gaining staunch advocates and determined detractors with its array of bold, often unsettling choices. Besides helming the film, Glodell also produces, writes, edits, and stars as Woodrow, an unassuming twenty-something who spends his free time building flame-throwers with his best buddy, Aiden (Tyler Dawson). Their harmonious lives receive a jolt in the form of Milly (Jessie Wiseman), a free-spirit who invigorates Woodrow with her devil-may-care attitude, but when things go awry, trust, faith, and sanity are put to the test. Bellflower follows up its summer-love postcard of a first act with a feverish nightmare of anger, violence, and searing self-relaization. Glodell created the movie to help him get over a bad break-up, which should give any and all future women in his life tremendous pause, though the same cannot be said for the Hollywood higher-ups who've likely been blowing up his phone for the last year-plus. Besides possessing crystal-clear, unwavering conviction, Bellflower is also a feast for the eyes, Glodell having literally invented the camera with which it was shot, turning strolls down suburban sidewalks into blurry, surreal, technicolored events. Shocking and extreme, Bellflower is an intense, sweaty-palms movie experience that announces Glodell as one of America's most exciting young film-makers.
Much like Amores Perros, Traffic is a 2000 release with an enormous cast, and globe-trotting ambition. That's about where the similarities end. Where the foreign wonder strings its players together using both dogs and a single life-altering event, Traffic is an enormous, multi-faceted look at the world of drugs. Benicio Del Toro won Best Supporting Actor for his turn as Javier Rodriguez, a jaded Mexico City police officer who is shaken into action. Across the border, Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) toils away as a conservative judge appointed the US drug czar just as he learns of his daughter's ever-growing heroin addiction. There are many other players, including chip-on-shoulder FBI agents (Don Cheadle), oblivious housewives (Catherine Zeta-Jones), smarmy lawyers (Dennis Quaid), mysterious hitmen (Clifton Collins Jr.), and fast-talking grad students (Topher Grace), but delving too far into their functions would strip the movie of its surprise. Traffic is a dense, novelistic movie, asking difficult questions, and avoiding easy answers. It's a robust and unfettered look at one of the most complicated problems facing our world today.