7. Into the Wild (2007)
Based on a true story, the film is about Christopher McCandless and his trip around North America and the interesting people he meets before going to Alaska and camping in a discarded bus, while admiring the beauty of the area, until the desolation and the ruggedness of the country get to him, leading to a unexpected denouement.
Overall the film was very well received by critics with much praising of the script and direction of Sean Penn, and the well-chosen cast, including Emilie Hirsch as Christopher, Marsha Gay Harden and William Hurt as his parents and especially Hal Holbrook as an adding hippie Christopher meets in California on his travels.
It broke even at the box office and appeared on many critics Ten Best lists for the year, but despite two Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor for Holbrook, and Best Film Editing, it was not nominated for Best Picture.
6. The Prestige (2006)
Magicians Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) are working as shills for Milton the Magician (Ricky Jay) who explains there are three parts to every magic act, The Pledge, The Turn and The Prestige.
Also working for Milton is John Cutter (Michael Caine) the stage engineer, and Angier’s wife, Julia (Piper Perabo). When Julia is drowned during an underwater escape trick, Angier blames Bordon and they go their separate ways. They are now rivals, intent on revealing each other’s trick. The rivalry leads to murder and a twist ending.
The reviews were respectable, although many critics felt the two leads were woefully underwritten, though all agreed the acting was splendid. Nolan was considered to have done a very good job to make the story as understandable as possible, despite the twists and turns and surprise denouement.
The author of the book, Christopher Priest, thought the movie was well done, and wished he had come up with some of the ideas the screenwriters used. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, namely Cinematography and Art Direction. Many critics believed the sci-fi and fantasy elements of the film prevented a Best Picture nomination.
5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
A man and a woman of very different personalities meet and form an attachment on a train from Montauk, New York. Introvert Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and extrovert Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) seem to have instant chemistry, despite their different approaches to life. What they don’t realize is that they were former lovers for two years, now separated.
Clementine had hired a firm named Lacuna, Inc. to erase all memory of Joel. Joel decides to do the same. The memories are erased while he sleeps but he desperately tries to hold on to the good ones, but they are erased as well. Lacuna, Inc. is not being altruistic. They are using the memories for their own ends.
Mary, the receptionist had been having an affair with the married doctor at the head of the firm. She had her memories erased also, but when she finds out she takes the company patient records and sends them to the patients. When Joel and Clementine discover this, they agree to try their relationship again.
The reviews were ecstatic, it was one of the best reviewed films of the year. Kate Winslet received raves and the script and direction were praised as well. The cast all received good notices and it had many names that would go on to major careers, including Kristen Dunst, Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood.
While winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and Kate Winslet nominated as Best Actress, the film was marketed as a Sci-Fi film, which has never gone over well with the older voters, so there was no Best Picture nomination.
4. Memento (2000)
Leonard (Guy Pearce), who has a brain injury and cannot make new memories, tries to piece together information he has such as photos and tattoos to try to help him find the man whom he believes killed his wife. The twist and turns in his investigation lead him to get new tattoos to help him remember.
Christopher Nolen and his brother Johnathan created the story for this cleverly plotted film. In essence, it is two films joined together, the black and white scenes occur chronologically, while the color sequences play in reverse order, so by the end of the film, the stories meet up.
The film is brilliantly acted by Guy Pearce (plays the character’s mental problem especially well), Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, and a fine supporting cast made this a critical and fan favorite and one of the best reviewed films of 2000. However, since it was very low budget and released by Nolan’s own production company, it was nominated for screenplay and one other Oscar, but was snubbed for Best Picture.
3. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Four people struggle with drug addiction in different painful ways which leads to tragic endings and regrets. One woman (Ellen Burstyn) deals with amphetamine addiction, while 3 others including the woman’s son are battling heroin addiction while trying to raise money to live out their dreams.
This film graphically shows the effects of addiction and the ways people use drugs because they believe they will improve your life. Ellen Burstyn plays Sara who abuses Amphetamines and sleeping to get down to a weight where she will fit into a favorite dress, so she can be on her favorite TV show. Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans play three friends who sell and use drugs to improve their lot in life. Jared plays Harry, Sara’s son.
This film has more cuts than usual in this type of film. As the film progresses, Aronofsky shoots shorter and shorter takes to give the film the sense of the out of control alienation of the characters. Made on a small budget, it was independently released and was never played in many theaters. Despite Ellen Burstyn being nominated for Best Actress, the film was considered too small and depressing to be nominated for Best Picture, though it received great reviews.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
The film starts with a bank robbery where the robbers kill each other and shoot the bank manager. Finally there is one clown left and he removes his mask to prove he is the Joker (Heath Ledger). Batman (Christian Bale) and Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) are working together to stop the mob and they include DA Harvey Dent. The Joker abducts Dent and his girlfriend (Maggie Gyllenhall) and places them in separate rooms full of explosives.
The girlfriend is killed and half of Harvey’s face is blown off which creates a new villain, Two-Face, who makes life and death decisions on a coin toss. The joker has a plot to blow up the citizens, Batman stops him and puts him in jail. Dent kidnaps Gordon’s family and threatens to kill them unless Batman reveals his identity, he shoots Batman and tries to kill Gordon’s son, but Batman, wearing body armor kills Dent.
The reviews were excellent. Many critics claimed it was far more than a superhero genre film. Heath Ledger got the lion’s share of the reviews as he played the Joker with so many nuances, he transcended the character. All the elements of the film received praise.
The film received eight Academy Award nominations and won two. Best Supporting Actor posthumously for Heath Ledger, Sound Editing. The six other nominations were for Art Decoration, Film Editing, Cinematography, Makeup, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. Despite all this, it did not receive a Best Picture nod. Most critics believe that since the movie was perceived as a “popcorn” movie, it was not strong enough for Best Film.
1. Mulholland Drive (2001)
The film opens with three people dancing a jitterbug, a young woman (Naomi Watts), and an elderly couple. While this is playing out, we see a young woman in bed (Laura Harring), dreaming about escaping her murder. She has a car accident on Mulholland drive. Injured, she heads to LA.
In the meantime, the young woman in the first scene, now known as Betty Elms, arrives at LAX with the couple. They leave her there. Betty goes to her Aunt’s apartment and finds the dark haired girl there. Betty assumes her Aunt has rented the apartment to the young woman. She has amnesia, but calls herself Rita after seeing a poster for the film Gilda. Adam Kesher, a director finds mobsters have taken over his film, and they are forcing him to hire an unknown actress for the film.
Betty comes for an audition, which is highly praised but the unknown actress gets the part. Having remembered the name Diane Selwyn, They break into her apartment, but find a woman who has been dead for several days. They go back to Betty’s apartment and make love. Diane Selwyn wakes in her bed, she looks exactly like Betty, but is a failed actress who is in love with Camilla who looks like Rita.
The reviews were very good, with some critics like Roger Ebert saying it was Lynch’s best film. There was a small vocal minority who hated the film, knowing it was supposed to be the pilot of a television series first, and calling it too “open ended” for a feature film. It went into a limited release and did not earn back its costs.
It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, but did not receive a Best Picture nomination, with speculation that the voters at the Academy found it too difficult to follow and not cohesive enough.
Author Bio: Michael Giffey lives in Denver, Colorado. His family and friends say he is full of “useless information”. you can follow him at @giffeymichael on Twitter or on Facebook.