Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Alternate Five: Great Movies You'll Probably Only Watch Once

If you feel too good about your life, if things are going well and you'd like to feel bad, watch these movies. We can almost guarantee you'll only want to watch them once. Unless you enjoy being depressed, then by all means watch away.

In no particular order, we have compiled a list of movies that, while not judging the quality, seem almost created for the sole purpose to effect us on such a deep level, we never want to experience them again. They're all artistic feats that should be commended and definitely viewed if you love movies. However these films, at least for us, have left us devestated once the end credits roll.

The key reason why these films are so tough to repeat is that they provide an experience for the audience that is exhausting. By the end of the story you are physically and mentally drained.

Most Depressing Moment = MDM
Reason to Watch Again = RWA

Requiem For A Dream (2000)
This is probably the movie on the list that most of you have seen at least once. Famous for its depicition of how heavy drug use can help you lose weight in all sorts of creative ways, Requiem for a Dream is Daren Aronofsky's devastating tour de force. The focus is on four characters: Harry Goldfarb, his mother Sarah, his girlfriend Marion, and his best mate Tyrone. Harry and Tyrone have the classically brilliant idea of selling heroin to make mucho money and live the easy life. However, things go awry, let's say, and hilarity ensues. While this is going on, Sarah Goldfarb is feeling a little self-conscious about her weight, wishing she could fit into an old dress, and she takes a few prescription pills to help her simultaneously lose weight and clean at an alarming rate. Marion is an addict who is more or less along for the ride. While the laughs come easy with Requiem, there are a few scenes that are difficult to get through, especially the ending (no spoilers, don't worry). But if you haven't guessed by now, this isn't actually a very fun movie and is possibly one of the toughest on the list. We absolutely recommend it though - especially to heroin addicts.

MDM: While the ending montage is like being in a boxing match without arms, it's a toss up for us between Ellen Bernstien's psychotic trip on the subway and her monologue to Jared Leto about becoming insignificant. Both are wildly mezmerizing but just about the most pathetic, hard-to-watch scenes on the entire list.
RWA: It's Aronofsky's relentless directing style that might bring you back.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
This is a perfect example of the difference between never watching a movie again because it's bad, and never watching a movie again because it's downright depressing. Yes, despite his recent run of sub-par choices, Nicolas Cage did make fantastic movies back in his heyday - Leaving Las Vegas being one of his better performances. In it, Cage plays an out-of-work writer with the determination to drink himself to death. No food, no water - just alcohol. The effect the process has on his body is hard enough to watch, but the way it affects his relationship with Elizabeth Shue's character is even more difficult. Both are desperately pathetic people and sadly never reach that moment of redemption, making the audience feel like although they went through shit, the character's reach a point of innocent happiness.

MDM: "I'll stay with you, but you can never ask me to stop drinking."
RWA: Cage's Academy Award winning performance.


Antichrist (2009)
This is a movie that isn't so much depressing as it is gruesome. Take away the subject matter and one might call the film beautiful, but alas, this movie is far from a love story. Lars Von Tier is known to shock. To go places most normal-minded people won't even go in the darkest parts of their minds. He puts those images on film and then tops them. Antichrist is just one of those movie watching experiences that you have to watch once, not just to say you did, but to immerse yourself in the most disgusting parts of human emotion. The film centers on two characters (the only ones in the film) 'He' (Willem DeFoe) and 'She' (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as they travel/stay at their cabin in the woods after the accidental death of their infant son. What follows is an abyss of despair, horror and mutilation as He tries to bring his wife back from the depths of despression. While von Tier says he failed at making a horror film, anyone who has ever seen Antichrist know he succeded. 

Most Gruesome Moment: The many instances of mutilation, espeically the self-mutilation by 'She' done at the end.
RWA: The cinemetography. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful films we've watched, most notably the first scene rendered in black and white. However, with that said, the irony in this choice is that the most disturbing content we've seen is filtered through the most elegant images.  

Buried (2010)
 Ryan Reynolds, we love you, but god damn, Buried is a hard movie to watch. The plot is simple: Paul Conroy is buried alive. That's about it. There are some political overtones and a bit of a hostage taking, but other than that it's just Reynolds for 95 minutes. The camera never leaves the makeshift coffin that surrounds Reynolds for the duration of the film, so we really only get to hear someone else's voice and see someone else's face very briefly. The difficulty with watching Buried is just how many times things don't work out for Conroy. And we've tried to think of a moment in the film where you actually become happy for Conroy, but haven't found much. We wish we could say more about this movie, but we've decided to not give any spoilers in this post, just in case. All we will say is this: yes, the plot does seem simple and it may be entirely clausterphobic to watch someone trapped in a box for 90 minutes, but there is a reason to watch this movie that takes so many risks in its production. And yes, while being buried alive is probably one of the biggest fears for most people reading this, it shouldn't deter you from watching this at least once. 

MDM: Scene where he finds out he is no longer employed, so his family is no longer covered by his possible death. It is this that leaves the whole film without much, if any, redemption.
RWA: While Reynolds' performance is outstanding, the intimacy of the film, taking place all in one very small area, is unlike any other movie we've seen.

United 93 (2006)
It's difficult watching a movie when you know the ending and still feel like you've recived the entire experience. United 93 has that burden, yet instead that is what makes this film so excrutiating to watch. We all know the story (the fourth and only flight of the 9/11 attacks that didn't reach its target) and we all know how this ends, and how tragic it is. Yet that's exactly why watching this film is not only depressing and exhausting, it's just 110 minutes of dread. You know what's coming, and the more you get to know these people the harder it is to continue watching, knowing these are the last moments of their lives. No movie on this list, of that year or even since then, has done such an insane job at putting you right there. The director Paul Greengrass gives you no room to breathe. For most of the experience it feels like you are right there, on the flight, with these heroes. You know the plane is going down, and there is nothing you can do about it.

MDM: The last ten minutes might be one of the most intense expereinces ever in cinema, but the phone calls placed to loved ones when the passengers are about to try to take back the plane are beyond heartbreaking to watch.  
RWA: The great use of the docu-drama style. (But even that might not be enough).

Honorable Mentions
Hard Candy (2005)
Naked (1993)
Blue Valentine (2010)

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