Mona Lisa Smile. This semi-chick-flick is about a group of college age girls coming to terms with their place in society in the 1950's. A bohemian art history professor from California comes to an ultra-conservative east coast small town and learns pretty quickly that the girls are in school only to bide their time until they get married and become housewives. Through looking at art beyond the facts (title, artist, date), and her strong vocalizing of opinions, she shows the girls they can be more, and should always strive to look at the world differently. Features some excellent supporting characters acted by Marcia Gay-Harden and Topher Grace.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I re-watched this, and in doing so, realized that I really missed the point the first time I saw it fourteen years ago. Yes, it came out in the year 2000, and the special effects have held up surprisingly well, probably because the actors were really doing all the flying around and dancing on tree tops. The special effects were only used to erase the wires holding them up. It is a beautiful depiction of a culture and time period that is not explored enough (in film and American history classes). Interesting trivial fact: the actors of the four main characters all spoke Mandarin, but with different accents. Chow Yun-Fat had a Cantonese accent, Michelle Yeoh had a Malaysian/English one, Ziyi Zhang's was Beijing, and Chen Chang had a Taiwanese accent. Even though we would never be able to tell a difference, apparently, in some Chinese markets, they had a dubbed version with standard Mandarin.
American Hustle. I was a little underwhelmed by this Oscar nominated juggernaught. Though it was entertaining, and well-acted, it seemed very surface. I didn't really care about the characters and the plot kept getting more convoluted with everybody conning everybody else, and I just knew in the end exactly who would win. It could've been about thirty minutes shorter and gotten the same thing across. That being said, the details and costuming were impeccable, and Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence all nailed it. Bradley Cooper was a bit over the top, which he was probably going for, but it made him immediately unlikable, and you just knew he was going to get screwed in the end. Fun fact, this movie tied with Gangs of New York and True Grit for second highest number of Oscar nominations at ten, and not winning any.
(photos collected from googleimages)