Hedwig and the Angry Inch
A beautiful story of a man (or a woman, however you want to look at it), searching for lost love and stolen songs. This rock musical of gender questionable character started as an off-Broadway play and can still be seen on stage in certain locations. It includes edgy music and an even edgier subject matter: an East Berlin transvestite who tries to capture fame in the United States after an ex-lover steals her music. The film was not a box office hit but scored big with devoted fans and was even considered the next Rocky Horror Picture Show. Whether that is true, only time will tell. — Olga Robak
The film gives the true story of Stephen Glass, a reporter for The New Republic who fabricated more than two dozen articles. Shattered Glass is a straightforward drama balanced with solid direction and a cast of talented actors. Peter Sarsgaard’s performance was one of the best supporting roles of 2003, perfectly capturing the essence of Chuck Lane, then-editor of The New Republic. The film excellently demonstrates the heights Glass achieved and showed how it all began to unravel because of Forbes’ Online magazine. Shattered Glass beautifully captures an infamous event in the history of journalism and Glass’ fictional brand of the news lead to his subsequent humiliation. — Pablo Saldana
The Red Violin
(Le Violin Rouge, Canada,1998)
An intricately woven story about a famous musical instrument that switches hands over the span of three centuries. Without overrmoralizing it discusses the demise of music and its transformation into a purely profitable medium rather than an artistic outlet. The film makes elegant transitions between the several locations in which the action takes place. The plot is linked by flashbacks to a young mother who learns her fate through a tarot reading. The Red Violin stars Samuel L. Jackson in one of his softer roles but also one of his stronger ones. — O.R.
In the Mood for Love
(Fa yeung nin wa, Hong Kong, 2000)
Wong Kar-Wai stands alone on a particular perch in the cinematic pantheon. His contributions thus far have been flattened by their meandering tone and lack of any manageable attempts at humor. Happy Together was wrecked by its insipid conception of what can drive an erstwhile lover to retreat from socialization. That said, its characters did possess wit and thereby hint at Kar-Wai’s potential as a director, which comes to fruition with In the Mood for Love. It is easy enough to outline a film involving a man and a woman whose spouses have an affair and involve themselves in a illicit relationship with each other, it’s a different matter to experience it. — Adrian Dowe
Waking Life is less a movie and more a philosophy class. The film’s animated look pulls viewers into a 140-minute lecture on life and what it all boils down to. In the film, a man encounters a multitude of characters with their own perceptions and views on the meaning of human existence. Waking Life dares to make viewers think and is in stark contrast to most films, which are only taken at face value; the film demands more and delivers many scenes that should deepen the average viewers understanding of life. The visuals are filled with bright, bold colors that underline each character’s own self discovery. — P.S.
Run, Lola, Run
(Lola Rennt, Germany, 1998)
Subtitles are never fun, especially for audiences with short attention spans or college students looking for a break from the insane amount of reading assignments, but Run, Lola, Run is the exception. This suspense thriller comes to life with vibrant direction and engages audiences despite the difference in language. Lola strives to raise money to save her boyfriend’s life, but the plot is far secondary to the clever images and a great cast. Sure, Run, Lola, Run is in another language, but the film is simply the best German export since the Volkswagen Bug hit U.S. shores. — P.S.
East is East
(United Kingdom, 1999)
When Bend It Like Beckham came out, the American audiences went Brit crazy, completely overlooking a cleverer production from only a few years back. Beckham’s Sikh family has its quirks, but it’s the traditional Pakistani father of the Khan family and all his children in East is East that gives edge and humor to the culture shock. Set in the ’70s, the film deals with issues relevant at the time, such as women’s empowerment and homosexuality, all in its own comical way. — O.R.
Though director Gaspar NoÃ©’s tribute to the mores of revenge makes for a brutal assault upon the senses of the average viewer, there is something to be said for a film whose plot arc unfolds in reverse from the fulcrum of a one-take rape scene. While it is easy to sympathize with Vincent Cassell’s character after his sister is raped and to hope that everything is meant to be a protracted dream sequence, the movie’s moral context serves as a reminder of how horrid the real world can be at times. NoÃ© achieves the unthinkable here as anyone managing to be forewarned can never be prepared for a face-off with what could be tomorrow’s leading story on the evening news. — A.D.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu garnered universal praise and a Best Foreign Picture nomination for his visually stunning flick, Amores Perros. Inarritu and writer Guillermo Arriaga created a complex story in which all the characters are connected by a tragic accident. The film explores the dark depths of love, redemption, revenge and loss with an eye on each character’s progression through a wide range of emotions. Think 21 Grams, without big name stars, a multi-million-dollar budget and English. The first time was the charm as Amores Perros is a piece of motion picture perfection with no flaws, and a directorial vision of something uniquely real. — P.S.
Buena Vista Social Club
This documentary follows a group of Cuban musicians reunited by Ry Cooder, a legendary American guitarist, trying to bring the group to life. The Cubans, living in near poverty and almost forgotten by the same people who enjoyed their music in previous decades, reminisce about their musical endeavors while the film artfully shows their world. The musical journey takes the Cubans from Havana to Amsterdam to Carnegie Hall in New York City. All the while, director Wim Wenders uses his artful eye to bring out the beauty of the music and the atmosphere that surrounds it, accentuated by the antiquated feel of Havana. — O.R.
No Man’s Land
(Nicija Zemlja, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2001)
The film won the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in the same year that the French darling Amelie was nominated, causing an uprising among the yuppie art film lovers. But most of those people missed this film, an important piece of art both politically and socially. It takes place in no man’s land, literally, between the Bosnian and Serb frontlines, while the Balkan war is being fought. Two soldiers of opposite sides are stuck in a trench and must survive each other and everyone else’s attempt to rescue them. The film is an important commentary that blames everyone for the trouble in former Yugoslavia through a cynical, sometimes even funny, script and poignant filmmaking. — O.R.