On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life. (IMDb)
Combines the accessible emotional punch of a mainstream drama (without getting sappy) with the unconventionality and boldness of an indie; the wonderfully edited timeline-jumping of the first half creates a uniquely compelling character set-up while the longer dialogues to follow solidify and bring to a tear-jerking climax the powerful yet nuanced redemption arc (see the return to those adorable skate kids). Phoenix is expectedly great, but it’s Hill who’s simply magnetic in a supporting role.
Two best friends living on the streets of Portland as hustlers embark on a journey of self discovery and find their relationship stumbling along the way. (IMDb)
Artistically, it’s a marvel, with an abundance of creative captures: The talking magazine covers, the sex motion-picture-stills, the stunning nature time-lapses, the bar shot half indoors, half window reflection. Story-wise, it’s a mixed bag: The outsider characters are unique and refreshing (Phoenix shines), but the narrative is choppy and often hard to follow. The Shakespearean second act drags, but the separation of Mike and Scott in the third act is poignant (see the contrasting funerals).
Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life. (IMDb)
Powerful turns all around deliver scene after scene of raw and potent dialogue, seen most notably in Will and Sean’s widely varied but always intense emotional moments in therapy, but also in each of their secondary relationships with Skylar and Gerald, respectively. Mixed into the moving character studies that arise is thought-provoking discourse on dealing with the past, fulfilling potential, and finding purpose. This rich script is iced nicely with a beautiful acoustic soundtrack.