Domino (Scott, 2005)

Relentless, eye-gouging mise-en-scene. Paints the entire world as a flickering lightbulb, consistently unpredictable and always threatening to extinguish. Climactic gunfight far more coherent and effective than I remember. Narrative is purposefully ludicrous, constructed to hide the economic concerns/motivations of fringe characters and subplots, the real heroes of this film. Still, a part of me hates DOMINO because Scott relishes his own stylistic show-boating over character and theme.

The Wrestler (Aronofsky, 2008)

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Things fall apart for Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke), the breaking blond Adonis at the center of Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, and the consequences range from unsettling to dire. As the possibility of romance, employment, and wealth crumble away, The Ram, for better or worse, consistently looks to professional wrestling as his one rock solid. In this sense, The Wrestler deals with a complex battle between family and work, but more importantly one concerning courage and weakness. The Ram struggles to endure, battling through both personal mistakes and doubts, but also coming to terms with those of the outside world. For effect, The Wrestler constructs a visual parallel; The Ram’s body continues to get sliced, dislocated, and mangled, forcing his inner demons to represent themselves in subtle and nuanced ways. Aronofsky masterfully captures The Ram’s slow disintegration not through his typical flashy aesthetic but with a sly combination of long over-the-shoulder camera takes (a la Gus Vant Sant) and haunting close-ups. Thankfully, Rourke brings the goods as advertised, but is far more moving in the tender moments than the few outbursts of anger and violence. This is a furiously gentle man on the verge of collapse, one who takes two steps backward for every one forward, suffering under the deafening silence of his lost love ones and the hypnotic roar of his extended family. In The Wrestler, joy and anguish share the same name.

– After a few days, this film begins to take on greater meaning, and is most assuredly one of the best of the year.