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5. Kathy Adamson in “Little Children” (Todd Field, 2006)

Sarah (Kate Winslet) is living a boring life. She is dissatisfied with her marriage and when she finds out the weird obsession her husband Richard (Gregg Edelman) has with a porn star, she becomes even more disappointed. She feels alienated from the other women her age.

Brad (Patrick Wilson) doesn’t feel happy with his marriage, either. He is married to a beautiful woman, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), who is a documentary filmmaker. She has high hopes from him but he has already failed twice to pass the bar exam. Every day he is supposed to study in the library, but instead, he watches kids skateboard in the park.

Sarah and Brad meet in the school’s playground, and after Sarah suggests that they should hug each other so the other mothers become jealous, they start kissing. What started as a joke becomes a serious relationship and they are seeing each other and even having plans for the future.

At the same time, Ronnie J. McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley) gets out of prison after having served for two years for indecent exposure to a minor. His mother May (Phyllis Somerville) is the only person he has to take care of him. But society in the American suburbs is harsh and no one is willing to forget what Ronnie did. Larry (Noah Emmerich), a retired cop, will make the sole purpose of his life to harass Ronnie, with unexpected consequences.

The film is based on the book by the same title by Tom Perrotta, who also takes part in screenwriting with director Todd Field. We see again glimpses from the American dream that are shattered to pieces. The two main heroes of the movie are gasping for air in the small suburban society, where everyone seems to be interested with other people’s jobs instead of trying to focus on their own life. Why do you have to be successful and make lots of money? Do you really need them in order to be happy?

Maybe it is the economy’s fault that people feel so competitive or maybe it would have happened with another financial model or a different society, too. All the actors and actresses are very good, and Jennifer Connelly is in a role that is too normal for her standards, in comparison to her previous filmography. But the apocalypse of the film is Jackie Earle Haley, who was nominated for the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.

The film was also nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Kate Winslet) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Tom Field, Tom Perrota).

 

4. Maddy Bowen in “Blood Diamond” (Edward Zwick, 2006)

There is a civil war in Sierra Leone in 1999. The bloody clashes between the government forces and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) are an integral part of everyday life. To finance their fight, the rebels are exchanging diamonds with guns. Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) is a peaceful fisherman of the tribe Mende, who dreams of one day seeing his son becoming a doctor.

But their life is violently interrupted by the rebels that arrest Solomon, sending him as a worker in diamond mines, while his son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) is recruited by force from the Revolutionary Front. The only way for him to find his son is by giving information to a smuggler and former mercenary, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), about a big and rare pink diamond that he found while he was working.

Solomon is willing to do anything to find his son and Danny is also willing to do anything to leave this “godforsaken place”. On their trip, they meet the young and idealist reporter Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), who help them accomplish their goal for different reasons. She is one of the few voices of logic and sensitivity in this cynical and bloody trip.

Edward Zwick’s film shocked the audience with some brutal scenes, especially the way the rebels handled the ones who couldn’t fight and how they trained children to become killers. Although the movie contains some clichés about the main hero and the war, it is far more honest than others and dares to speak about a subject that has not been touched before.

Djimon Hounsou, who was born in Benin in West Africa, is very convincing in showing what a desperate father would do in order to find his son. He was nominated for the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role and Leonardo DiCaprio, for his outstanding performance, was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (surprisingly he was not nominated for “The Departed”).

Jennifer Connelly is once again great and she keeps the balance between Hounsou and DiCaprio. Her innocence and her idealism brings to the film a humanitarian element it was lacking.

 

3. Kathy in “House of Sand and Fog” (Vadim Perelman, 2003)

Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a woman with emotional problems, is living alone after her husband’s abrupt abandonment. She is in the stage of recovery from addiction when suddenly her house is being taken from her. The state, for a tax evasion of just a few dollars, confiscates the house and sells it very cheap at an auction. Kathy feels this is unfair and she is not willing to give up.

She seeks legal advice on how to handle the situation but her financial means are poor and she finds herself living in a hotel and then in a car. Lester (Ron Eldard), the sheriff’s deputy, wants to help her, not just because he feels sorry for her but also because he discovers that he has feelings for her.

The new owner of her house, Behrani (Ben Kingsley), a former Iranian colonel, moves into it with his wife and son. After he spends some money to renovate it, he tries to sell it at triple price. But Kathy and Lester start to harass them, first more implicitly but as the movie goes on, Lester starts to use unlawful means to take them out of there. It won’t take long before the situation escalates into a disaster.

Based on the famous book by Andre Dubus III, Vadim Perelman (director) creates a movie that on a superficial level is just a dispute between a broken girl and a foreign family. But it is something more than that when we look at it symbolically. Kathy’s life is not the perfect American dream, but at least she is living in a house and leads a decent life. The dream is threatened by immigrants from Iran, who want to take what she considered to take for granted.

The state just wants to earn more money, so it is helping them to take her out. Is this fair? Do they have a right to the American dream? Racism, love and addiction are just some of the themes the films touches upon. Ben Kingsley is exceptional and he was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the Oscars.

The film was also nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Best Music, Original Score (James Horner). Jennifer Connelly again portrays an addict and her downward spiral is devastating. Although her performance is not as intense as it was in “Requiem for a Dream”, the infinite sadness in her green eyes is just enough to show how lost she is feeling.

 

2. Alicia Nash in “A Beautiful Mind” (Ron Howard, 2001)

John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe) is a mathematical genius. He has been accepted to Princeton University in 1947 to studying mathematics. He got into the famous Ivy League, the prestigious team, without any preparatory studies or money. Most of the other students don’t like him very much. He seems socially awkward and arrogant at the same time. He thinks that he is superior to the others and he is not afraid to show it. Charles (Paul Bettany) is his best and only friend.

John’s purpose in life is to find an original idea. Only then, his life and studies will matter. He doesn’t seem to accomplish it until one day he joins the other students to go out to a bar. When they are discussing the best approach to speak to a beautiful girl, John comes out with his original idea.

This observation will lead him to an important breakthrough in “game” theory and “competition mathematics” that will overthrow 150 years of theory in this field. He will get a research position at MIT, where he will meet the young student Alicia (Jennifer Connelly).

They fall in love and after some time and they get married. But at MIT, John will also meet the mysterious William Parcher (Ed Harris). Parcher asks for Nash’s help with a national issue, but what are his real motives? John feels lost and quickly the limits between reality and illusion become blurry.

Director Ron Howard created a spectacular film for a genius of a man. Unfortunately, the real John Nash and his wife died in a car crash on May 23, 2015. The film shows scenes from his life and his battle with schizophrenia. Many critics have accused Howard of making a “feel-good” movie by omitting some important facts from Nash’s life. For example, the fact that he had a child with another woman, his homosexual tendencies, and his anti-Semitic stand.

Nevertheless, the film is an interesting portrait of the way he developed his mental illness and his love for Alicia. Russell Crowe proves with his performance that he is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood (after “The Insider” and winning the Oscar for “Gladiator”). But Jennifer Connelly is so good that she even outcasts him in some moments in the movie. Her down to earth role is without exaggeration, and is simply one of the best roles in her career

. The husband’s struggle and the stoic way she deals with it shows a depth of a various emotions during the film. She easily won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Ron Howard also won the Oscar for Best Director. The film won two more Oscars and was nominated for another four, including Best Actor in a Leading Role (Russell Crowe).

 

1. Marion Silver in “Requiem for a Dream” (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)

The future seems bleak for the heroes of this movie. They live in Brooklyn, in Coney Island and they are dealing with the same problem: addiction. Sara’s (Ellen Burstyn) life is meaningless. She watches TV all day or stays out in the sun with her friends simply because they don’t have anything better to do. Her life changes when a phone call informs her that she won a competition and that she is going to be on TV. “It’s a reason to get up in the morning,” she tells her son Harry (Jared Leto).

The only problem is her weight. She won’t be able to wear her red dress if she won’t lose some weight fast. She starts taking some pills that a friend of hers suggests, but quickly she takes more and more. Her son is an addict and there is a mutual love and understanding between them. He becomes devastated when he realizes that his mom is taking pills. He knows firsthand the consequences of addiction and the scene in the cab with him crying is him facing the reality: his mom is an addict, too.

His girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) has never received love from her parents. Instead of love, she only got money. Is she getting high in order to fill her emotional gap or just to have fun? As the movie goes on, and the seasons are passing, she will realize that she will do anything to get her fix, even things that seem so appalling that they make her sick. Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) just wants “little peace and happiness from life” as he admits to his girlfriend. Will anyone find little peace in the end? The end of the movie will be one of the most memorable finales in film history.

Probably one of the most famous films in the list, “Requiem for a Dream” made Darren Aronofsky known worldwide, and it was praised by both critics and audiences. It talks about all sorts of addictions (drugs, TV, food, fame) in a brutal but honest way that shocked most of the people who watched it for the first time. He just states the facts about drugs and addiction and we can interpret them in the way we want.

The extreme close-ups of the people taking pills and the gradual degradation of their lives is so tragic that it’s simple too difficult to leave someone untouched. The music by Clint Mansell is combined wonderfully with the theme of the movie and turns it into a mesmerizing experience.

The performances of all the actors are excellent. Jennifer Connelly is simply superb. The movie would have not been the same whether another actress was in her place and she proves that she has matured immensely as an actress. But even more impressive is Ellen Burstyn. Her stellar performance (deserving of an Oscar) is so unique and scary that it will leave you with a knot in your stomach and emotions that are too difficult to analyze.

Author Bio: Kostas Kapantais is a 28-year-old psychologist and he has been watching movies for a long time. He likes noticing details in movies that haven’t been spotted by a wider audience.

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