- All About My Mother
- Beau Travail
- The Talented Mr. Ripley
- Time Regained
- Being John Malkovich
- The Insider
- Three Kings
- The Straight Story
- The Colour Of Paradise
Mike Leigh took time away from creating riveting looks at the British lower classes in the modern day for something one never would have expected from him: a period piece. Topsy-Turvy examines the creation of The Mikado (Leigh turns out to be a Gilbert & Sullivan fanatic) and lording over it is a brilliant Jim Broadbent as one half of the musical team responsible for it. He blusters, he boasts, he suffers the worries of waiting for inspiration to come, and when it does, he is on fire (but not without admitting a few regrets in between). It’s an exquisite film that could go on forever with no complaint from me, and Broadbent’s performance is pure pleasure.
I went and saw The Thomas Crown Affair three times in the theatre and it was all to enjoy the pleasure of seeing Rene Russo tear a hole in the screen as the sexy, brainy heroine of the film. She gets no end of pleasure from catching wealthy bad guys, and in this case, the fact that wealthy Pierce Brosnan is turned on by wasting money gives her no limit of excitement. It’s one of the most enjoyable Hollywood movies made in the last half-century, particularly for those who love to think while being entertained, and Russo achieves her peak in it.
He might be one of the strangest cases of stardom in history, and he rarely makes a film that I’m envious of, but I get no end of pleasure from watching Tom Cruise expose the bad side of his charisma in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. Male insecurity becomes a moneymaking operation when his shyster guru takes to the stage and tells guys that the reason they’re not getting laid is because they’re allowing women to victimize them; then watch as he crumbles under April Grace’s intense gaze when she interviews him off stage. It’s the star at his most captivating, and the scarier he gets, the more believable it is.
Every performance in Topsy-Turvy is an absolute gem, but the standout among them, other than Broadbent in the lead, is the gorgeous Lesley Manville as his patient and supportive wife. Manville is most famous for her portrayals of sharp-edged, frustrated women in Leigh’s films (witness All or Nothing and Another Year), but here she gives just as much impressive strength to the patient spouse. Then she gives her speech about a dream she’s had that reflects all her life’s disappointments and she breaks your heart into a million pieces while giving the film its emotional closure.
After years of outrageous comedies, Pedro Almodovar followed the bombastic failure of Kika with his first turn to melodrama, the soapy The Flower Of My Secret. It wasn’t his strongest work, but two films later he achieved a masterpiece of sorrow with All About My Mother, a film which went on to become the most awarded movie in history. For a film that doesn’t have a very strong plot to it (it basically just watches women react to their life’s circumstances) it has a hell of a lot of dramatic impulse, style and sympathy, and the performances are all exceptional.