“25th Hour” (2002) dir. Spike Lee / scr. David Benioff

One of the best films of the 2000s, one of director Spike Lee’s best films, and one that is … sadly … almost completely forgotten these days, “25th Hour” is a tremendously powerful drama about the last day of freedom for a drug dealer, played by Edward Norton, before going to prison for 7 years.  Based on David Benioff’s novel (who also wrote the screenplay), “25th Hour” is an incredibly complex look at family, friendship, morals, the legal system, and culture … specifically a post-9/11 New York City. The performances by Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Brian Cox, and Anna Paquin are all extraordinary and Oscar-worthy.  The editing is superb, the script is intense, and the ominous music composed by Terrence Blanchard is one of the finest scores I’ve ever heard for a dramatic film.

Despite how great this movie is, I can understand why it’s not that popular.  Despite many moments of dark humor, it’s an extremely troubling and depressing film.  Because it’s about guilt … it’s about regret … its about that feeling where you wish life had a rewind button for actions or inactions.   But this is truly an amazing film and worthy of your attention.

Probably the best scene in the film is when Norton’s character delivers an angry, beyond politically incorrect 5-minute diatribe about every social, ethnic, and economic groups in New York City.  It was part of the original novel, and ironically, Benioff said it was inspired by a similar rant from Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.”  However, when he wrote the original draft of the script, he sheepishly left it out because he was afraid of what Lee would say.  However, Lee loved it and insisted it be put back in.  The rant may be considered highly offensive, but you must watch it until the end when Norton’s character turns the anger back on himself and realizes he’s the one responsible for his fate.  Again, powerful stuff.

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“ABC” – The Jackson 5 / “Clerks 2” (2006) dir. Kevin Smith

Here’s a very cool use of (arguably) Michael Jackson’s finest music moment (“ABC”) in a film where you wouldn’t necessarily expect such a cute scene.  Don’t get me wrong.  Despite the crude jokes and language, Kevin Smith movies always have a lot of heart.  However, the comic highlight of this film does involve a donkey show that goes WAAAAY further than the one in “The Godfather Part II” or the Tom Hanks film “Bachelor Party” ….  so take it for what it’s worth. Rest assured, dear lurkers, this is a sweet scene where the lead character Dante is nervous about his upcoming wedding and his good friend (and recent one-time lover) Becky is teaching him how to dance for his wedding … despite some misgivings that she’s having trouble admitting to herself.  It’s not entirely safe for work due to some brief nudity of some large man’s ass who seems to be dancing and urinating at the same time (trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds). And yes, I have a little crush on Rosario Dawson, the actress who plays Becky. Dawson always struck me as a more down-to-earth J-Lo.  Why Dawson’s not a bigger star is God’s private mystery. Aside from “Dogma,” “Clerks 2” is Kevin Smith’s best movie.