American Beauty (1999) - dir. Sam Mendes

After years of hating this film for its overt symbolism, thinly veiled characters, and being yet another film to rely heavily on the importance of the color red… I finally came around. It wasn’t Kevin Spacey’s Oscar-winning performance, nor was it the commentary on beauty and life and death. It was the fact that, as a screenwriter, I’m a bit jealous. Alan Ball really knocks it out the park.

While I’m still a bit upset about the things that have always bothered me (there’s a subtle misogynistic glaze spread evenly throughout the film), I’ve come to appreciate the film for all of its good qualities. Each character has a complete arc. Each piece of information given is important. Chris Cooper is positively terrific. Conrad L. Hall’s cinematography is flawless. There’s a lot of greatness here. Even if any of Carolyn’s (Annette Bening) decisions don’t make that much sense.


Watch on

The first time I watched this film was 10 years ago in the cinema, I remember it like it was last week. And I think I’ve seen it once every year since then. It’s beauty and achievement remains timeless. It has some of the best gun fight scenes ever captured on film and one truly original montage amongst many other unforgettable scenes. Unfortunately the film marked the final work of two screen legends - Paul Newman and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall. This opening sequence with Thomas Newman's amazing score is just cinematic ecstasy. 

Road to Perdition (by Sam Mendes, 2002)