Requiem for a Dream (2000) by El Bicho
Although I don't watch films to purposely feel down, I know this title will take me there because writer/director Darren Aronofsky created one of the most disturbing, visceral experiences I've ever had in a movie theater. Based on Hubert Selby, Jr.'s 1978 novel of the same name, Requiem for a Dream is a brutal examination of drug addiction through the lives of four characters.
Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) is an elderly widow in Brooklyn who dreams of being on TV. When the opportunity to appear on a game show arises, she begins a regimnent of weight-loss pills, but the amphetimines lead her to take sleeping pills at night. Sara's son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly), and Harry's friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) are all heroin users. The three think that they can make enough money selling drugs over the summer to start new lives. All four become consumed by their drug addictions, which take over their thought processes, and make decisions that have tragic consequences.
Burstyn delivers a stellar performance that deserved the Oscar over Julia Roberts in Erin Brokovich, one of the greatest injustices in the history of the Academy Awards. Wayans shows amazing depth as an actor, considering he usually plays the buffoon in movies. Aronofsky's camera work is excellent and helps transmit what a character feels to the viewer. If you want to feel down, I prescribed Requiem for a Dream.
All That Jazz (1979) by Dusty Somers
In yesterday's entry, a musical seems intuitive for a feel-good choice, but I've also selected a musical for my feel-bad movie. Bob Fosse's supreme achievement, All That Jazz, is an autobiographical telling of the pitfalls of fame and the fleeting nature of artistic fulfillment. Roy Scheider stars as Fosse stand-in Joe Gideon, who's heading to the grave with an impeccably practiced showbiz smile on his face.
The film is blackly funny and packed with incredible choreography and self-aware razzmatazz, and yet it pulls no punches when it comes to the bleakness of its ending. Feeling down never felt so good.
Moulin Rouge! (2001) by Amanda Salazar
There are definitely a few films that I can think of that I watch just to get a few tears; I love being able to feel some sort of release. Don't get me wrong, I was thinking about Titanic but when it comes down to it my guilty pleasure for this category has to be Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge!. Again, I would like to warn anyone that has not seen the film, even though it is now over ten years old, that there is a spoiler coming, but then again every sad movie has someone die in it...
Ewan McGregor plays a penniless writer named Christian, that falls for the high-class hooker, Satine (Nicole Kidman) when he is commissioned to write a play that stars her. Satine is to woo the Duke that is paying for the production but ultimately falls in love with Christian.The film is a musical, being that its characters sing to modern songs throughout the film. What gets me about this movie is that it is so much fun to watch and the music allows for the characters to come together in heartfelt, meaningful ways. The relationship that is developed between Christian and Satine is intensified by their duets together; a favorite scene is him courting her while they sing snippets of different songs, climbing around on the rooftops of an exaggerated Paris. This forbidden love story ends tragically when Satine gives her final performance and dies as the curtain falls, and every time I am left in tears. They were supposed to run away together, they were supposed to love each other forever.
This two-hour long movie forcefully brings you into a colorful, vibrant and loving world but quickly strips it away. As Christian writes in his apartment at the end of the film I cry for the loss of his great love and the cathartic power of the last lines "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return."
Raging Bull (1980) by Shawn Bourdo
I guess this is the opposite of yesterday's thinking - a movie that will instantly ruin your good mood. Well, not really ruin your good mood but put you in a more serious way. The boxing movie is usually quite the uplifting piece. But not Raging Bull. You can enjoy the beautiful B&W filmmaking. But the dying of a dream is a powerful message. It's hard not to be in your own Middle Agedness and not find something to identify with in the Jake LaMotta character. DeNiro is a true "bull" of a character and facing that reality of a dying dream will suck the fun out of any good mood. But you'll relish every step down the ladder.