Category Archives: 2000 Movie reviews

Stranger Than Fiction-2000

Stranger Than Fiction-2000

Director-Eric Bross

Starring Mackenzie Astin, Todd Field, Dina Meyer

Scott’s Review #1,298

Reviewed September 14, 2022

Grade: B+

An interesting note about Stranger Than Fiction (2000) is that it stars director Todd Field in a dual-acting role. The director is not a household name, at least not yet, but is known for directing two gems-In the Bedroom (2001) and Little Children (2006). Rewarded with Oscar nominations for both, he acts too.

This is not a set-up to a joke that he should not act and stick to directing because he does a decent job.

The irony is that he doesn’t direct the featured film Stranger Than Fiction, Eric Bross does.

The film has its share of intrigue which carries through until the end when the plot gets messy and ridiculous. I mean messy and ridiculous.  I’m all for twists and turns in a good film but sometimes a speeding train can derail and that’s what ultimately happens with Stranger Than Fiction.

But for most of the running time, it’s solid entertainment, black humor, and thrills.

I was immediately interested in the story when an author named Donovan Miller, with hours to kill at an airport bar because of a delayed flight, explains the story of his novel, Stranger Than Fiction, to a curious patron.

As I drifted off to the world of Salt Lake City where the events of the book take place I anticipated juicy drama.

An interesting bit of advice is to pay very close attention to this first bar scene.

Four twenty-something friends, Jared (Mackenzie Astin), Austin (Todd Field), Emma (Dina Meyer), and Violet (Natasha Gregson Wagner) meet for drinks at the local bar. They pull a prank on Violet’s boss for fun and call it a night.

Later, Jared shows up at Austin’s place injured and covered in blood, declares he’s gay, and spews a strange story about a dead guy in his apartment. The foursome investigates and things get interesting.

The cinematography has a muted, dull style that feels sort of like an independent film but also looks amateurish and made for television. Even though it was made in 1999 it feels quite 1980s to me.

Unclear is if or why this style was used or if the budget was just low. I love independent filming but this didn’t do Stranger Than Fiction any favors.

None of the characters are particularly interesting and writers Tim Garrick and Scott Russell unsuccessfully try and give the camaraderie between the four principals a television sitcom feel. The constant bantering and bickering get tired fast.

It feels like NBC’s Will and Grace meets Friends.

Where Stranger Than Fiction excels is at the twists and this makes me forgive the other mistakes and forced chemistry between the actors. I salivated for the next plot reveal and couldn’t wait to see how the events would pan out.

Once the friends agree and make the foolish decision to dispose of the dead guy instead of calling the police, I knew I was in for hijinks or a caper.

As the gang gets deeper and deeper into shit like hitting a homeless guy with their car and parking illegally and getting their car towed, more characters are introduced and threaten their plans.

This is all well and good until things spiral out of control with a dizzying explanation of events that involve blackmail, suicide, backstabbing, and jealousy. Since the author is explaining a fictitious novel this might have been okay until it’s revealed that the events might have occurred.

By that time I didn’t care anymore.

Nice effort for a while by Stranger Than Fiction (2000) and fans of black comedy should take notice. With a strong premise and mostly good build-up, the follow-through fails and I was left bewildered and confused rather than completely satisfied.

Unbreakable-2000

Unbreakable-2000

Director-M. Night Shyamalan

Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson

Scott’s Review #1,260

Reviewed May 29, 2022

Grade: A-

Following the brilliant and massive critical and commercial success of The Sixth Sense (1999), M. Night Shyamalan hit his stride and became a household name known for mixing supernatural and psychological elements in his web of good storytelling.

Following 2002’s Signs credibility tapered a bit but Unbreakable (2000) is an overlooked gem falling in the shadows of The Sixth Sense which everyone remembers best when they talk about the director.

The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are also strong counterparts because they both star Hollywood legend Bruce Willis who it can be argued started to gain respectability within the industry with the former.

He continues his superior acting and calm character approach.

Unbreakable is part thriller, science fiction, and superhero film, so I have categorized it accordingly. It’s part of an Unbreakable film series and was followed by Split (2016) and Glass (2019) which took years to develop and were decent if underwhelming projects.

Unbreakable is by far the best of the bunch.

David Dunn (Willis) is a regular guy who works as a college football stadium security guard. He is a former star college quarterback whose dreams of stardom never materialized because of a car accident. He lives a somewhat melancholy yet decent life with his wife Audrey (Robin Wright) and son Joseph.

One day David boards a train. The train experiences a devastating derailment with an enormous casualty number. David awakes in the hospital to find that he is the sole survivor of the wreck. He is left unscathed.

Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) arrives on the scene as a mysterious comic book expert who takes a liking to David and his experience. He offers a bizarre explanation as to why David escaped without a single scratch that counters Elijah’s health- he is a frail man who is constantly at risk of breaking his bones.

Elijah and Joseph begin to believe that David is a superhero. At first, David rebuffs this notion but slowly begins to realize he has extrasensory perception.

What is the link between David and Elijah?

I’m not always a big superhero fan and sometimes the storylines are riddled with cliches, stereotypes, and predictability.

But, Unbreakable is fascinating and unpredictable. It’s also dark, cerebral, and contains a surprise ending leaving me summarizing that it’s a different sort of superhero film with layers of cool elements.

It’s a non-traditional superhero film and I love that quality.

There’s a suspension of disbelief of course. How one character can rig a train accident and other crimes is a bit of a stretch but the characters of David and Elijah are compelling enough for me to forget those pesky little plot holes and enjoy the experience.

If the story sometimes falters, the riveting train sequence more than makes up for it. We see David quietly enjoying the train ride until all hell breaks loose. The shattered glass, derailment, and chaos are fabulous entertainment as well as wonderment of what comes next and what the sequence means to the rest of the story.

There are plenty of twists and turns in Unbreakable.

Almost as riveting but in a different way is the opening scene of Unbreakable which will immediately grab the viewer. It is 1961 and an African American woman is told that her baby’s arms and legs are broken. This is later a key to the story but at this time we know not what this intrigue has to do with anything.

Unbreakable (2000) is incredibly fresh and original. It can easily be watched in a double-feature with The Sixth Sense but is nothing like that film except for its director and actor.

But, they are M. Night Shyamalan’s best films, and Unbreakable provides tremendous thought and conceptualization while creating daring camera work long remembered after the first viewing.

The Convent-2000

The Convent-2000

Director-Mike Mendez

Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Joanna Canton, Megahn Perry

Scott’s Review #1,246

Reviewed April 16, 2022

Grade: C+

I debated whether or not to reward Adrienne Barbeau with top billing recognition for The Convent (2000). After all, she doesn’t even appear, save for a quick silhouette scene that probably wasn’t even the actress, until the final third of the film.

Since I am a fan of Barbeau’s work, mainly the television series Maude, and films like The Fog (1980), and Escape From New York (1981), I decided to throw caution to the wind and cement her star status.

The film itself is terrible and needs all the help it can get. It’s campy beyond belief, amateurish, hokey, and acted poorly, suffering from enough ridiculous one-liners for me to wonder whether director Mike Mendez was purposely trying to make a bad film.

But before I get all curmudgeonly and smack this film in the face with an ‘F’ rating I’d like to justify my more than generous ‘C+’ rating.

If The Convent had tried to take itself seriously and produced shit like this I would have gone for the jugular in my review but it knows it’s a silly film and instead embraces this fact wholeheartedly.

Still, I kept wondering if the film was some sort of nod to the slasher film genre that took over the world from the late 1970s until the late 1980s, or if it feebly tried to merge this genre with the zombie genre and produce something fresh.

If made in say 1985, The Convent would have fit snugly amongst the heaps of other similar themed films that were patterned after superior feasts like Halloween (1978) and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

The film opens impressively enough when a young woman named Christine walks into a convent and goes batshit crazy shooting every nun she sees and burning the place to the ground.

I grinned because Christine looks exactly like Uma Thurman’s character in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction with bright red lipstick and dark shades. Even her outfit looks the same.

Unfortunately, that’s where any parallels end.

From this point, the plot is basic and uninspired. A coed named Clorissa (Joanna Canton) joins her best friend Mo (Megahn Perry) and a group of college students on a dare to venture into the aforementioned convent (now rebuilt) and tangle with nun and priest spirits rumored to be inhabiting the structure.

After Mo is left alone and the rest of the bunch dine at Denny’s the plot goes from standard to wacky as the returning students are bitten and become possessed by Satanists who want to beckon Satan back to earth. There is an attempt to sacrifice any virgin among the group to help with this.

Conveniently, Christine (now older) lives down the street after spending a thirty-year stint in the loony bin. The badass woman comes barreling to the rescue with her motorcycle and an arsenal of machine guns to kick Satan’s ass.

The fun begins when Barbeau finally appears. With her dangling cigarette and macho talk, the actress is in her comfort zone. The dialogue uttered by her and the rest of the characters is so bad that once again I wondered whether this was the intent. I truly hope it was.

The robotic head twitching and glowing green eyes by the now possessed students align perfectly with the gimmicky art direction and juvenile special effects. I’ve seen better on a 3 pm daytime afternoon soap opera.

The most irritating character is easily played by rapper Coolio in a ridiculous role as a loud policeman. This attempt at comedy fell completely flat and I was more entertained by the gay satanist who cleverly decides that if he and another virgin boy have sex they will be spared.

Once the credits rolled I was happy not to have to endure any more of the one-hour and twenty-minute experience. Upon my five-minute reflection, I decided to interpret the film as a comical satire over anything more.

The Convent (2000) isn’t distinct enough to get the ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ award because it lacks any sort of identity. However, for a midnight movie that is so goofy and over-the-top that there is plenty to mock the film is a fun time.

And, it’s always a joy to see Barbeau in anything she is willing to appear in.

Final Destination-2000

Final Destination-2000

Director-James Wong

Starring-Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith

Scott’s Review #1,186

Reviewed October 16, 2021

Grade: B

Following the commercial success of Wes Craven’s Scream in the mid-1990s, the horror genre was now a hot ticket item once again. New Line Cinema capitalized on this financial goldmine by creating the popular Final Destination franchise in 2000. Five films were created in total.

The Final Destination films all have the same premise. A small group of people escapes impending death after one individual sees a sudden premonition and warns the others about the mass-casualty accident that is about to happen. Their luck is unfortunately short-lived.

After avoiding their foretold deaths, the survivors are systematically killed off one by one in bizarre accidents caused by an unseen force creating complicated chains of cause and effect. In other words, there is no way they can cheat death and the bastard will have his way with them.

The upside is that the deaths are highly creative and oodles of fun for the blood-thirsty horror viewer to feast upon. Instead of a knife-wielding maniac, the protagonist is an evil force which at the time was a neat little add-on that made the film unique.

The victims are mainly teenagers or twenty-something characters which are the target audience for these and most other horror films.

In Final Destination (2000), high school student Alex Browning  (Sawa), is about to embark on a fabulous trip to Paris for his senior class trip. He is joined by a group of his schoolmates. Just before takeoff as the group is settling in for their eight-hour journey from New York to Charles de Gaulle Airport Alex experiences a premonition and sees the plane explode moments after leaving the ground.

Alex becomes unruly and insists that everyone get off the plane and seven people including Alex, are forced to disembark. All watch as the plane explodes in an enormous fireball, killing everyone on board. He and the other survivors have briefly cheated death, but will not be able to avoid their fate for very long. One by one, these lucky survivors fall victim to the grim reaper.

I have seen each one of the Final Destination films and enjoyed them all. Atypically, the first film is not the best. I may argue that part 2 is the best but that is irrelevant to this review.

The premise is extremely clever and instantly absorbing. Instead of the dated “final girl” one assumes that Alex will be the last survivor and that may or may not be true as a twisted game of figuring out which order the seven survivors will be killed is based on their seating arrangements on the flight nearly drives Alex mad.

It’s the perfect engagement for the viewer.

As a clue, director James Wong who co-wrote the screenplay creates stock characters like the dumb jock, Carter Horton, with the muscle car, played exceptionally well by Kerr Smith, and the douchey Billy Hitchcock (Seann Williams Scott). There is a teacher and FBI agents thrown in for good measure so it becomes obvious who is going to be killed off.

The fun is watching how they are killed. Delicious deaths like being run over by a bus, embedded by flying knives, and a good old-fashioned decapitation by flying shrapnel are to be enjoyed.

The final sequence, ironically set in Paris, is exceptional as three survivors are left and they feel safe. They are not safe at all as one of them suddenly realizes resulting in a clever final kill followed by sudden end credits.

This is narrowly usurped by the brilliant plane crash premonition scenes as Alex teeters between reality and premonition. The plane explosion is highly effective and is shown from inside the fuselage. The visual effects which used a miniature Boeing 747 are wonderful to watch with heart-racing detail and excitement.

At times during Final Destination, the action lags and Ali Larter who plays Clear Rivers is not the greatest actress. Her silly battle with electric sparks while sitting in a car is not the film’s finest sequence.

Final Destination (2000) is a fun popcorn film with some admirable unexpected turns. It stays true to the horror formula while offering some unique additions that feel fresh. It’s a roller coaster ride meant to be enjoyed and not overanalyzed. The innovation suitably balances the fun.

U-571-2000

U-571-2000

Director-Jonathan Mostow

Starring-Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton

Scott’s Review #1,126

Reviewed March 25, 2021

Grade: B-

U-571 (2000) is a film that entertains. It’s got excellent cinematography, some thrills, and clear good guys vs. bad guys mentality with machismo for days. It’s an American film if there ever was one and will please American audiences seeking cookie-cutter material with loud noise and a satisfying ending. It’s also got some scenes of guy peril that will please a certain type of audience demographic- think blue-collar males.

The modus operandi is that all the Americans are good and the Germans are bad. It is World War II after all. It wasn’t that simple folks but according to the film, it’s pretty cut and dry. But that’s entertainment and a box-office hit.

It’s not a bad film at all but a beer and pizza style film, not a martini and avocado dip film.

For those seeking something more authentic versus formulaic and riddled with cliches, U-571 will disappoint. It’s also shamefully inaccurate and severely muddies waters. The film does not portray a historical event so there is a lot it gets away with.

But it’s a fictionalized film and is meant to entertain so my suggestion is to sit back, grab some popcorn (or beer and pizza), and enjoy it for what it is. Don’t look for any rationale other than the studio wanting to make a ton of money. And there is the exceptional cinematography and cool locales to keep us marginally happy. The story is inane but the trimmings work.

When a German U-571 submarine (hence the title of the film!) with a sophisticated encryption machine onboard is presumed lost and buried during a World War II battle at sea, the Allies send an American Navy force led by Lieutenant Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) to retrieve it for study.

Boarding the German ship, the Americans’ cover as a rescue force is quickly blown. Forced to take the crew hostage, the Americans lay their explosives and prepare to destroy the German vessel before the Nazis can send naval backup. It’s a race against time routine seen frequently in masculine thrillers.

About those historical inaccuracies. The American portrayal is horribly skewed and slanted to be pro-American and this point offended many of the British military and public. Even Prime Minister Tony Blair got involved. The Allies captured Enigma-related codebooks and machines about fifteen times during the War; all but two of these by British forces. Watching the film one would think the Americans did everything and the British were incompetent.

Let’s ponder for a moment why filmmakers, especially screenwriter David Ayer and director Jonathan Mostow would embrace such inconsistencies. My hunch is that they were attempting to target their film to male American moviegoers. The tactic worked and the film was a hit.

A cool tidbit is the casting of rock star Jon Bon Jovi in the supporting role of Lieutenant Pete Emmett. At this time launching an acting career that included a role on television’s Ally McBeal, it’s impressive to see him on the big screen and not playing himself. I’m not sure he totally pulls it off but as a fan of the 1980’s hitmaker, I enjoyed this aspect.

McConaughey carries the film well and is his usual dashing and charismatic self. Before the actor started doing more quality and character representative films nearly a decade later, he would later state that several roles he took he disliked and did completely for the cash payday. One wonders if U-571 is one of those films.

Bill Paxton and Harvey Keitel have little more to do than to act tense and play second fiddle to McConaughey.

From an inclusive perspective, and I kid because there is nary a strong female to be found, there are no strong women characters. A shame because being the year 2000 Mostow should have known better. Couldn’t one of the high-ranking majors or lieutenants have been a woman? If nothing else it could have added some sexual tension. Or perhaps a same-sex relationship. The film does nothing for diversity.

It’s a very intense and exciting war film that accomplishes what it sets out to do. It’s well-executed and a crowd-pleaser, U-571 (2000) doesn’t contain much more than that and will be remembered as a slick entertaining thriller with a big movie star.

Oscar Nominations: Best Sound Editing, Best Sound (won)

Fantasia 2000-2000

Fantasia 2000-2000

Director-James Algar, Various

Starring-Steve Martin, Bette Midler

Scott’s Review #535

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Reviewed December 4, 2016

Grade: B+

Fantasia 2000 is a visually stunning remake of the 1940 Disney film. The modern version is produced by Roy Disney, nephew of the famous Walt Disney.

There are nine segments in total, each set to a classical music piece. Masterpieces such as Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven and Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin are featured. The Rhapsody piece is a gorgeous story of four individuals who dream of a better life in 1930’s New York City. The four do not know each other, but their lives intersect uniquely.

Each segment is introduced by a celebrity: Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury, Bette Midler, and Quincy Jones appear, adding helpful thought and interpretation.

The final piece, in particular, is both moving and breathtaking. Firebird Suite-1919 version- by Stravinsky tells of a sprite (an ethereal entity), awoken by her companion, an elk, as a volcanic spirit has erupted in the peaceful forest, burning it down. The sprite must work to rebuild the peaceful land. It is an earnest, heartbreaking piece.

Being somewhat of a film traditionalist, I prefer the original slightly, but this version is great. Fantasia 2000 is wonderful to look at.

Dancer in the Dark-2000

Dancer in the Dark-2000

Director-Lars von Trier

Starring-Bjork, Catherine Deneuve

Top 100 Films-#95

Scott’s Review #365

60002276

Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Dancer in the Dark is in my opinion one of the most important, inventive films of the 2000s and proudly is one of my favorites of all time. However, the film is not pleasant to watch, and really quite painful and depressing, if truth be told. But the relevance and sheer emotion the film elicits is more than enough reason to be exposed to it- if only, but perhaps, once.

Director, Lars von Trier, is a master at creative and disturbing, dream-like films that are either odd, non-linear or otherwise open to interpretation in some way. He has directed such gems as 2011’s Melancholia and 1996’s Breaking the Waves, to name but two.

With Dancer in the Dark he uses handheld cameras which add much grit to the film so it almost feels documentary style, and a grainy, shaky look. The addition of musical numbers mostly written and performed by the star, Bjork, is a wonderful touch.

Speaking of Bjork, words cannot express what a brilliant performance she gives in the film, and the raw emotion she expresses in her starring role is awe-inspiring. So much was the stress of filming Dancer in the Dark, that she, to my knowledge, has never made another film.

She was shamefully overlooked in the Best Actress Oscar category- an omission that is one of the biggest fails in Oscar history.

Tensions were reportedly high on the set of Dancer in the Dark, as Bjork reportedly despised her director, never missing a chance to tell him so, disappeared from the set for days on end, and spat in his face. Co-star Deneuve, a former French mega-film star, reportedly did not get along well with Bjork. Despite all the drama, the stars managed to pull together a masterpiece.

Bjork plays Selma, a Czech immigrant, living in Seattle with her young son. The year is 1964. Selma is poor, struggling to survive by working in a clothing factory along with her best friend Cvalda (Deneuve).

Selma and Cvalda escape their dull lives by watching classic musical films at their local cinema. To make matters worse, Selma is suffering from a degenerative eye disease causing her to gradually lose her sight. She struggles to save enough for surgery for her son, who is sure to suffer the same fate without it.

Selma frequently imagines musical numbers in her day-to-day life involving friends and co-workers. When a tragic turn of events occurs and Selma is accused of a crime, the film goes in a very dark direction.

The conclusion of the film will always require handkerchiefs as it is powerful as it is gloomy.  The aspect I love most about Dancer in the Dark is that it smashes barriers about what film art is and throws all of the rules out the window.

Lars von Triers, certainly famous for this and create a dreamy, independent hybrid musical and drama, a dynamic, tragic, emotional experience all rolled up into one great film.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Song-“I’ve Seen It All”

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Foreign Film (won)

Traffic-2000

Traffic-2000

Director-Steven Soderbergh

Starring-Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio del Toro

Top 100 Films-#78

Scott’s Review #333

60003243

Reviewed January 8, 2016

Grade: A

Simply put, I adore this film. I loved Traffic when it was first released in 2000 and I still love it in present times. During an age where the overlapping stories with hefty casts were still in the infancy stage (Crash and Babel, similar films, would not be released for several years), Traffic was groundbreaking, compelling, thought-provoking, and just a damned good drama! With drug use still a continuing problem in the United States, the film remains both relevant and important.

Featuring three main, intersecting stories with a central theme of drug trafficking, each is told from various perspectives: users, political figures, law enforcement, and criminal traffickers. Traffic also wisely shows how the drug problem knows no specific classes- affluent, middle-class, and poor are all represented in the film.

A strong political story is represented- led by conservative Ohio judge Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas), who is appointed “drug czar” as the President’s Office of National Drug Policy leader, he vows to end all drug trafficking and is the moral center of the film. However, his prep school daughter, Caroline, (played exceptionally well by Erika Christensen) and her equally affluent friends are dabbling in cocaine, heroin, and other drugs, so much so that their lives are slowly spiraling out of control.

The Mexico story involves the riveting tale of Mexican police office Javier Rodriguez (played convincingly by Benicio del Toro). He becomes heavily involved in a web of deceit, money, and drugs. His partner, Sanchez, makes a deal with the devil and his fate is thereby sealed. Javier has moral questions to ask himself and only wants to do right by some local, neighborhood boys.

Finally, San Diego is the setting for a story of corruption involving the DEA’s investigation of a drug lord, Carl Ayala. After being arrested, his wife Helena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) faces a moral dilemma- either carry on the illegal proceedings or come clean. She,  up until this point unaware of her husbands business, faces enormous pressure, both financially and through threat of violence.

My favorite aspect of Traffic is that all of the aforementioned stories are fascinating in their own right- and could make terrific films on their own, but as the film progresses they begin to intersect and keys to the puzzle slowly unlock themselves. I love how many of the central characters (Helena, Javier, and Wakefield) begin as “good” people only to have their moral intentions challenged, and in some cases, threatened. They are each conflicted in some way.

The film poses an interesting, crucial question of what can be done about the United States drug trafficking problem? The answer at the end of the film is a disappointing and perhaps even depressing realization. Drugs will never stop being a problem and Traffic wisely explains how drugs show no barriers when it comes to either wealthy or more financially challenged individuals.

How wonderful to see a stellar cast, even in smaller roles (Dennis Quaid and Amy Irving immediately come to mind) with all of the characters having a purpose in a wonderful example of how a mainstream Hollywood film can achieve a true ensemble effort that works. Great job Steven Soderbergh!

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Steven Soderbergh (won), Best Supporting Actor-Benicio del Toro (won), Best Adapted Screenplay (won), Best Film Editing (won)

Requiem for a Dream-2000

Requiem for a Dream-2000

Director-Darren Aronofsky

Starring-Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto

Top 100 Films-#51     Top 10 Disturbing Films-#3    

Scott’s Review #172

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Reviewed September 21, 2014

Grade: A

Requiem for a Dream is a disturbing film and, at times, very difficult to watch, but it is also a brilliant masterpiece, visually as well as from a storytelling perspective, that I appreciate more and more with each painful (in a good way!) viewing experience.

The film is easily one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen.

The subject matter is drug trafficking/addiction that affects more than one character in the cast- this subject has been tackled by a myriad of different films- think Traffic, released around the same time period as Requiem for a Dream for a comparison.

At the risk of directly comparing Requiem for a Dream to Traffic, which is unfair, I will say that as gritty as Traffic is, Requiem for a Dream makes it look like a kid’s film. Director Darren Aronofsky’s direction is superb.

The story revolves around a young man (Harry) from Brooklyn, played by Jared Leto, his girlfriend Marion, played by Jennifer Connelly, Harry’s mother Sara, played by Ellen Burstyn, and Harry’s best friend Tyrone, played by Marlon Wayans.

Each individual falls into a trap of drug addiction in their own way, but all are written sympathetically so that the audience cares about them and feels their sorrows intensely. Harry and Tyrone are involved in drug selling but aspire to be successful and both love their mothers and their significant others- in Harry’s case that is Marion.

Marion (Connelly) falls in over her head and is forced to turn tricks to feed her heroin habit. She is an intelligent young woman from an affluent family, which makes her downward spiral into prostitution all the more shocking.

The standout among the central characters is Sara Goldfarb, who is a lonely widowed woman obsessed with a television game show. She develops delusions of grandeur of becoming a contestant and is tragically determined to lose weight to fit into her favorite red dress. She becomes dependent on diet pills and begins hallucinating that her refrigerator is attacking her.

Aronofsky perfectly mixes in fantasy sequences showcasing Burstyn’s real attractiveness contrasted with the desperation of Sara. Sara is a sad character and Burstyn is mesmerizing in the role. How she lost the Oscar to Julia Roberts in 2000 is and always will be one of the biggest Oscar travesties in my opinion.

The special part of this film is the visual and cerebral aspects. The film is dreamlike in its texture and extreme, fast-paced close-ups of the diet pills or heroin being consumed. The viewer feels the highs and lows that the characters feel and there is immediately a sense that all of the characters are doomed and hopeless.

Besides, this film has one of the most effective and haunting scores I have ever experienced, right up there with John Carpenter’s Halloween.

The slow-motion sequences combined with frenetic images make this quite cerebral to watch. I cannot watch this film very often as it is too disturbing and upsetting, but I sure am glad it was made at all.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Ellen Burstyn

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Director-Darren Aronofsky, Best Female Lead-Ellen Burstyn (won), Best Supporting Female-Jennifer Connelly, Best Cinematography (won)