Black Sheep Reviews will be ending its 10-year run before this year is out. As a way of honouring that time and all the incredible experiences that came out of it, as creator, editor and chief film critic at BSR, I give you my favourite 100 films from what I am lovingly calling The Black Sheep Era, which is a fancy way of saying films released between 2005 and 2015.
This series will run every weekend, showcasing 10 films at a time. It will finish in December, just a couple of weeks before Black Sheep Reviews will run its final review. I hope some of these films mean as much to you as they do to me.
# 50 RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (2008)
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED is a turning point film for me. I had come into to Toronto to catch it at TIFF before I moved here. I was so affected by the naturalistic style of the film and the very real emotions the actors conveyed that I didn’t know where to put myself after seeing it. I left Roy Thompson Hall and found myself in a city I barely knew and just had to sit down. I had another film to get to but I needed a minute to collect my thoughts. Sometimes you can’t fully explain why a film has such an impact on me but as I sat there and pondered my experience, I decided it was time for a change in my life. And so I decided to move to Toronto.
Mouton d’Or Award nominations: Best Little Movie, Readers Choice Award, Best Looking Movie, Score/Soundtrack, Supporting Actress (Rosemarie DeWitt), Actress (Anne Hathaway), Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Picture
Mouton d’Or Award wins: Score / Soundtrack, Supporting Actress (Rosemarie DeWitt), Actress (Anne Hathaway), Best Director
# 49 HALF NELSON (2006)
Ah, more movies about drug addicts. You don’t have to be as far off as Ryan Gosling is in HALF NELSON to know how it feels to be trapped by the choices you have made in your life. As complicated as we can make our own lives though, we can still fight to find a way back. And while this frank and honest film doesn’t provide any solutions for its hero, or present life in any light that could be described as satisfying, it does serve as a reminder that sometimes salvation can come in forms you would never expect. Gosling may have broken out in THE NOTEBOOK but this film is where he announced himself as one of this generation’s greatest actors.
Mouton d’Or Award nominations: Best Little Movie, Supporting Actress (Shareeka Epps), Original Screenplay, Actor (Ryan Gosling)
Mouton d’Or Award wins: Actor (Ryan Gosling)
# 48 CAPOTE (2005)
While CAPOTE may not be a movie about a drug addict, it does feature an actor who sadly lost his life to his addictions at far too young an age. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a standout from the very start of his career but his turn as Truman Capote was transformative and will remain the definitive performance of his life. This film, which I remember seeing at the Angelika in New York, also ushered in a new brand of biopic, where the story focuses on one slice of the subject’s life to make a grander point about their entire existence. Also, if you haven’t read In Cold Blood, do so. It’s brilliant.
Mouton d’Or Award nominations: Best Little Movie, Screenplay, Actor (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)
Mouton d’Or Award wins: Actor (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)
# 47 AN EDUCATION (2009)
I do so love when the prim and proper get down and dirty. Everything on the surface of AN EDUCATION is so classy and so well put together but while everyone is trying to be so polite, they still cannot hide the seedy underbelly of their actions, no matter how hard they try. This film, thanks to a breakout performance by Carey Mulligan, truly demonstrates the complexities of how society sees a woman’s role in the world, and how that in turn makes the women themselves question themselves as well.
Mouton d’Or Award nominations: Supporting Actor (Alfred Molina), Adapted Screenplay, Actress (Carey Mulligan), Best Picture
Mouton d’Or Award wins: Adapted Screenplay
# 46 NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)
NIGHTCRAWLER is an incredible debut feature. It plays on a level that many established directors cannot seem to achieve. I’d like to say this is all thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal’s seriously disturbing performance as an accident and violent crime chaser but director Dan Gilroy is just on point throughout this intense film. Gyllenhaal is gaunt and oddly hollow inside, which allows us to be truly disturbed by how early he figures out how to exploit our obsession with pain and suffering. If it bleeds, it leads, and this film bleeds all the way.
Mouton d’Or Award nominations: Readers Choice Award, Supporting Actress (Rene Russo), Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), Original Screenplay, First Feature, Best Picture
Mouton d’Or Award wins: First Feature
# 45 SKYFALL (2012)
I’m still trying to get over my disappointment in SPECTRE but maybe it isn’t fair to be so hard on the latest James Bond film. It did have to follow SKYFALL, which is not only a stellar Bond picture but also a great damn film, period. This series is decades old but somehow, director Sam Mendes managed to make the franchise feel fresh again, and he did so by actually going back and reintroducing elements from Bond’s past in a whole new way. He also injected some depth into a character known for keeping everything on the surface, proving that there is room for development and action in the same movie.
Mouton d’Or Award nominations: Best Big Movie, Readers Choice Award, Best Looking Movie, Best Ensemble
Mouton d’Or Award wins: Best Big Movie
# 44 AMOUR (2012)
AMOUR is such a bold film. It is unflinching in its approach and never allows the viewer to look away from the horror and the beauty it exposes. Love is not something we often associate with the elderly; instead we usually associate them with decay and loss. Michael Haneke’s Oscar nominee shows us these things as well but it does so to remind us how fleeting love can be and how it can be taken away from us in an instant. In a world where love seems almost impossible to find, let alone grow for fifty years, we may need to be reminded just how powerful the emotion can be.
Mouton d’Or Award nominations: Best Little Movie, Best Actress (Emanuelle Riva), Original Screenplay, Best Director
Mouton d’Or Award wins: Best Little Movie, Best Actress (Emanuelle Riva)
# 43 MAN ON WIRE (2008)
Before Robert Zemeckis fictionalized the story of how Philippe Petit walked across the twin towers on a wire, an Oscar winning documentary had already done half of the work for him. As very little footage exists of Petit’s daring stunt, James Marsh recreated a great deal of the action leading up to the event and presented it as a perfect caper, with Petit himself providing the details for authenticity. The result is a thrilling experience that pays tribute to the great twin towers by recounting how they got there to begin with.
Mouton d’Or Award nomination: Best Little Movie
# 42 ATONEMENT (2007)
I’ve always been a sucker for a good romantic epic and ATONEMENT by Joe Wright is a real beauty. I was immediately transfixed from the opening shot and hypnotized by Dario Marianelli’s Oscar winning score. This film features some of the most palpable sexual tension I’ve seen on screen. To be honest, when James McAvoy and Keira Knightley kiss for the first time in the study, I was so consumed, I didn’t even realize I was holding my breath. Also, who could forget the incredible breakthrough performance by Saiorse Ronan? I know I can’t.
Mouton d’Or Award nominations: Best Looking Movie, Score / Soundtrack, Supporting Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Picture
# 41 MELANCHOLIA (2011)
I will admit freely that I am not a Lars von Trier fan but even I cannot deny the genius masterpiece that is MELANCHOLIA. From its epic opening montage depicting the end of the world as we know it, through the two very distinct acts that followed, the film is mesmerizing. It is one of the most extreme depictions of depression I can think of but yet, in its absurdity, it finds a truth on the subject that eludes so many filmmakers. Perhaps this is because von Trier puts so much of himself into this film, and not in an obnoxious way but rather with great vulnerability.
Mouton d’Or Award nominations: Best Little Movie, Best Looking Movie, Best Director
Mouton d’Or Award wins: Best Little Movie
Thus concludes the sixth instalment in our BSR Top 100 series. We will be back next weekend with ten more films, including one about a fighter, one about a wrestler and one with the many Bob Dylan’s.