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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Best "Intelligent" or "Challenging" Movies (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Best "Intelligent" or "Challenging" Movies
Aros
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Okay, so not all movies are made alike. There are mass market movies and niche movies. Certain movies are written / produced toward the intelligentsia.

What are some of the best "intelligent" movies? I'm going to go on a limb and include a few that have very intelligent subtext but can be appreciated by the masses (Shaun of the Dead).

Here's my top picks:

12 Monkeys
A Clockwork Orange
Baraka
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Eyes Wide Shut
Good Night and Good Luck
Howl's Moving Castle
The Fall
The Fountain
The Science of Sleep
Moon
Prometheus
Shaun of the Dead
Source Code
The Royal Tenenbaums
Where the Wild Things Are

Special Jury "Too Smart for Its Own Good" Prize:

Primer

My "to-watch" list:

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel
Pi

[ July 26, 2012, 05:25 PM: Message edited by: Aros ]

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Szymon
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What do you think about Cosmopolis? For me it's a typical example of a over-intelligent movie.
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Aros
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
What do you think about Cosmopolis? For me it's a typical example of a over-intelligent movie.

Do you mean Metropolis? Cosmopolis isn't out yet in the US. But based on the early reviews (that include descriptions such as didactic, vapid, and boring), my guess is that it isn't very good (regardless of how smart it purports to be).

As long as a film's entertaining, I don't think it can be "over-intelligent". I mock Primer a little, but it's one of the best time travel movies ever made.

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GaalDornick
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Donnie Darko.
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Phillyn
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2001: A Space Odyssey
The Graduate
Airforce One [Wink]

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by GaalDornick:
Donnie Darko.

Second.
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Samprimary
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Transformers 2.

It's so deep, and there's so many complicated and interwoven layers, that typical people without a mind for these erudite sorts of cinema can't really tell it apart from a noisy, disjointed, poorly written action film.

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Strider
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Adaptation
Huckabees

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ZachC
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Rush Hour
Billy Madison
Die Hard
The Notebook
8 Mile
Anchorman

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capaxinfiniti
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Fight Club
Requiem For a Dream
Memento
Inception

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Szymon
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ZachC, you almost got me. This is called trolling!

Capax, I completely disagree with Inception. I really don't get it why it's so high on IMDb. As if casket dream composition was something new and exciting.

I say:


Dogville
Blade Runner
Apocalypse Now
A Clockwork Orange

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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
Capax, I completely disagree with Inception. I really don't get it why it's so high on IMDb. As if casket dream composition was something new and exciting.

The movie doesn't necessarily have to be new and exciting to be intelligent or challenging.

I would also add The Prestige

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AchillesHeel
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I second The Prestige, the pacing is so exact that it keeps you from seeing the obvious.


The Machinist
The Lookout
One Hour Photo
Secretary
The Orphanage
Dark City
Lars and the Real Girl
American Me
Pandorum
Freeway
Cube series
Matchstick Men
Preaching to the Perverted
Paper Moon
Stranger than Fiction
Hard Candy
Paper Man
The Perfect Host

And just because no one else has said it yet, Smart People.

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Aros
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Ooh, I did enjoy Smart People . . . forgot about that one (getting a little further into indie territory). I didn't enjoy The Secretary, but I agree that it was a well made, smart movie. Stranger than Fiction is another good add. I'd disagree with Lars and the Real Girl.

I think I'll side with Szymon on Inception. It had a good idea, but most of the "thinking" was just that plot points were omitted. That isn't intelligent. Sure, it'll make people think, but that's not the same thing. It's interesting, yes, but I don't think simple omission of an ending or some cool ideas makes it intelligent. I'd make a similar argument as to why Fight Club shouldn't be included -- it had some intelligent aspects, but it wasn't challenging and relied too heavily on a twist to make it worthwhile. Though the book, on the other hand, was astounding.

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Xavier
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quote:
Though the book, on the other hand, was astounding.
For what it's worth, the author actually thinks the movie is better than the book:

quote:
Now that I see the movie... I was sort of embarrassed of the book, because the movie had streamlined the plot and made it so much more effective and made connections that I had never thought to make.
Also see the DVD commentary track he did.
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SteveRogers
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I'll have to make a more comprehensive list of my votes later, but I can only think right now of the films Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Network.
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Szymon
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I would compare Fight Club to The Sixth Sense. Same kind of twist. And I agree it makes neither of those movies, however great they are, and they are, intelligent.

Inception, on the other hand, is like Matrix. Makes you think about stuff, but it isn't an intellectual challenge.

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Aros
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Was The Network really that challenging? I might have to rewatch. I do remember some really great dialogue, but the plot itself was mostly by the numbers.

I might want to add David Fincher's remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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Szymon
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I haven't watched the American version, but I watched Swedish and read the book- now, that's crime, nothing else. But maybe I don't quite get what we are voting on [Wink]
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AchillesHeel
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It is my understanding that the American version was a frame by frame remake of the original, but Let Me In is still a very smart movie.
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Aros
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
I haven't watched the American version, but I watched Swedish and read the book- now, that's crime, nothing else. But maybe I don't quite get what we are voting on [Wink]

I just thought that the subject matter, as portrayed by Fincher, was edgy. The performances (especially Rooney Mara) were very multilayered. The crime portion was good enough (though rote), but all of the aspects of the production were very intelligently done.

I don't know. I guess my criterion would be a film that a casual viewer would miss many important elements of the artistic production. This could be a multilayered genre film (Shaun of the Dead or Donnie Darko) or a challenging adult film (Lolita or American Beauty) or a brainy thinkpiece (The Fountain or Primer) or a challenging art piece (The Fall or The Science of Sleep) or an experimental / experiential work (Baraka or The Tree of Life).

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Speed
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I loved the book of Let The Right One In, and the original version of the movie was pretty good too. They took out a lot of the complexity, as they had to, but they kept in enough of the interesting stuff, and made it well enough, that it was worth watching.

The American version (at least to my recollection, having only seen it once right when it came out) was a much less interesting film. I remember enjoying it while I was watching it. They did a good job of transferring the atmosphere of the book, and it was pretty well paced. But after the movie ended it occurred to me that every single thing that made the book special was cut from the screenplay.

I understand why they did it. Too many movies lose the feeling of the source material by trying to cram a bunch of mythology into a 2-hour run time. I'm glad they didn't fall into that trap. But when the movie ended, it kind of seemed like a very generic vampire story. It didn't feel like there was any special reason for it to exist, except as an exercise in film making.

The original film did a pretty good job of balancing story and atmosphere. But I think the book is still the definitive version of that story.

That's just my impression, based on soft memories, though. So feel free to correct me.

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AchillesHeel
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I haven't read the book, but in the end I didn't feel that Let Me In was a vampire movie. More of a lonely child finding his way in a dark world story, the scene where the girl bleeds from her eyes was fascinating but the boy leaving his childhood behind was far more interesting.
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SteveRogers
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quote:
Originally posted by Aros:
Was The Network really that challenging? I might have to rewatch. I do remember some really great dialogue, but the plot itself was mostly by the numbers.

I'm talking about the 1976 film Network. Not The Social Network.
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Aros
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Has anyone seen Head, the film that effectively ended The Monkeys' career? I hear it's amazing.

Oh, and for (super) indie productions, I might add The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising, The Pirates of the Great Salt Lake, and . . . equivocally . . . some of the output of RedLetterMedia.

SteveRogers: My mistake--trust me to bring the stupid. I'll add it to my watchlist.

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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
I ordered a shot of cold gravy with a hair in it, where is the hair?

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Szymon
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quote:
Originally posted by Aros:


I don't know. I guess my criterion would be a film that a casual viewer would miss many important elements of the artistic production. This could be a multilayered genre film (Shaun of the Dead or Donnie Darko) or a challenging adult film (Lolita or American Beauty) or a brainy thinkpiece (The Fountain or Primer) or a challenging art piece (The Fall or The Science of Sleep) or an experimental / experiential work (Baraka or The Tree of Life).

All right, that's comprehensible.

My list then, including the previous:

Dogville
Blade Runner
Apocalypse Now
A Clockwork Orange
12 Angry Men
Matrix
Cube
Minority Report
Flying Over Cuckoo's Nest
2001: Space Odyssey
Pursuit of Happiness
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Joke


[ July 27, 2012, 03:11 PM: Message edited by: Szymon ]

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Szymon
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Although I completely don't get it what people like about The Tree of Life. Yawn.
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Aros
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Harry Potter? Really? Maybe I'd include Super or Cannibal the Musical, Orgazmo, or Pee Wee's Big Adventure even. But Harry Potter?
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Szymon
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Yeah, that was together with the next movie [Wink]
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Aros
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Oh. I thought you meant 1969's The Joke, one of the more important films of the Czech New Wave.

I was like . . . did I miss some hidden subtext? Do I need to rewatch Harry Potter for dirty innuendo?

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Godric 2.0
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Brazil
Henry Fool
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (actually most films by Werner Herzog)
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (again, probably most films by Jim Jarmusch)
Underground (1995, Emir Kusturica)
The Widow of Saint-Pierre (and other films by Patrice Leconte: Girl on the Bridge, The Hairdresser's Husband, Man on the Train are all good)
The Big Kahuna
Magnolia (although I prefer Punch-Drunk Love)
Wings of Desire (and other films by Wim Wenders: Until the End of the World, Faraway, so Close!, Paris, Texas, etc.)
Groundhog Day
Solaris (Tarkovsky's version, although Soderbergh's is more immediately accessible)
The Quiet Earth
Wild at Heart (funny selection, I know, but yeah, anything by David Lynch)
A Serious Man (I'd say the Coen Bros. headiest film)
...

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SteveRogers
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Part of me wants to add Natural Born Killers to this list. But sometimes I hate that movie and other times I love it.
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Lyrhawn
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I'll admit I don't much care for Fight Club anymore, but I think it's hard to argue that it's merely a twist or gimmick that makes it interesting.

Fight Club has a lot of heady themes mixed up in it. It's about the internalization of oppression and anti-commercialism that builds until you get to the end, where the only way to escape that internalization is to literally blow up the system. The smartness of it isn't just the "OMG, it's the same guy!" It's all the other stuff.

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SteveRogers
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Yeah, it's the subtext of Fight Club which makes it a valuable film and novel more so than it is the twist ending.
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Szymon
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Then Sixth Sense is an example of a movie where only the twist make it a good movie. While rewatching it's like: "aaah, yeah", "oh God, how come I didn't get it from that!"
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Kwea
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The Royal Tenenbaums may be the worst movie I have ever seen. YES-I got it. I just thought it was stupid, poorly acted, and a waste of time.
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SteveRogers
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
The Royal Tenenbaums may be the worst movie I have ever seen. YES-I got it. I just thought it was stupid, poorly acted, and a waste of time.

Which is odd. Because I would put that movie in my personal top 10 all time list. Easily.
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Bokonon
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Eraserhead.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
The Royal Tenenbaums may be the worst movie I have ever seen. YES-I got it. I just thought it was stupid, poorly acted, and a waste of time.

Which is odd. Because I would put that movie in my personal top 10 all time list. Easily.
I think I have to side with Kwea on this one, but then, I have a hate/meh relationship with most Wes Anderson movies.
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Szymon
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Okay, now I've watched Donnie Darko and I liked it although I cannot say I understood all of it. But it certainly is well made, so it doesn't matter, it's worth watching as an artistic picture. I liked the sounds and the music and acting.

I liked it how he just rolled on the bed and laughed in the final scene.

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SteveRogers
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
The Royal Tenenbaums may be the worst movie I have ever seen. YES-I got it. I just thought it was stupid, poorly acted, and a waste of time.

Which is odd. Because I would put that movie in my personal top 10 all time list. Easily.
I think I have to side with Kwea on this one, but then, I have a hate/meh relationship with most Wes Anderson movies.
I've loved every single one of his movies. [Dont Know]

quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
Okay, now I've watched Donnie Darko and I liked it although I cannot say I understood all of it. But it certainly is well made, so it doesn't matter, it's worth watching as an artistic picture. I liked the sounds and the music and acting.

I liked it how he just rolled on the bed and laughed in the final scene.

Which version of the movie did you watch?
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Szymon
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Director's cut. Why, do they differ significantly?
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AchillesHeel
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Has anyone else watched S. Darko?

It is equally as strange as Donnie Darko and follow his little sister's adventure in a small town.

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SteveRogers
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
Director's cut. Why, do they differ significantly?

There's a pretty big divide between fans of the film who debate the merits of one over the other. Having seen both, I prefer the Director's Cut primarily because of the different songs they were able to use in some places in the film.

But my understanding is that the theatrical cut is a lot more ambigious and leaves a lot more to the imagination. Which is something a lot of people valued highly in that version of the movie.

quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
Has anyone else watched S. Darko?

It is equally as strange as Donnie Darko and follow his little sister's adventure in a small town.

As for S. Darko? I have literally no interest.
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Szymon
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I never pay attention to written text in movies. Here, apparently, it was vital. I'm a little frustrated.
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Teshi
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This thread intimidates me. What if my contributions aren't intelligent enough?

2001: A Space Odyssey I vote against, however. It wasn't intelligent. It was five minutes of poor prediction spread out into thirty years, or something. I watched it fully expecting something amazing, and was disappointed.

*

It's not my favourite film, but Billy Elliot I think has a lot to offer.

I agree with Groundhog Day

The King's Speech I loved, and I thought it was intelligent in a quiet way, and not flashy. Beautifully understated.

A Hard Day's Night is probably one of my favourite films and while it may seem not an intelligent film I listened to a radio program about how much went into it and I am fully convinced it is of the highest order of intelligence because it took an absolute ton of intelligence to make it so amazing and fresh even a zillion years on.

Bugsy Malone is another sleeper intelligence film that lets you join the dots-- or not. It brings it home in thirty seconds at the end of the film.

Now, I don't think that Inception counts as "intelligent" but I was and still am impressed by the cleverness of the concept and the use of music in the film.

At the TIFF once I saw a French film that was an homage to The Red Balloon called... "The Red Balloon". It was improvised and I may have just been tired or open to suggestion, but I really enjoyed it. Perhaps I was seeing things that weren't there.

Not in terms of original storytelling, but in terms of background intelligence I think Lord of the Rings is one of the most intelligent films I've seen. Storytelling goes on not only in the script or the film as a whole but behind the scenes.

Finally...

One of my favourite films is the absolutely stunning The Railway Children. Again, it's not a blinder of a plot, but it's a blinder of a film. Sometimes I think that the simplest plots are the most difficult to pull off but absolutely everything in this film works together to tell the story.

I haven't seen that many modern films. I have a tender constitution.

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Strider
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
Director's cut. Why, do they differ significantly?

There's a pretty big divide between fans of the film who debate the merits of one over the other. Having seen both, I prefer the Director's Cut primarily because of the different songs they were able to use in some places in the film.

But my understanding is that the theatrical cut is a lot more ambigious and leaves a lot more to the imagination. Which is something a lot of people valued highly in that version of the movie.

I was super frustrated by the music changes in the director's cut of donnie darko. The Killing Moon was a perfect way to start that movie, and it doesn't have the same feel with the INXS song.

I'm also one of the ones that liked that ambiguity. After the seeing the movie I went out and did some detective work on the website, and read the philosophy of time travel book, etc...and pieced together some things myself through that and rewatching. I enjoyed doing that.

But in the director's cut, I didn't like being hammered over the head with the time travel book, I didn't like the camera views from the aliens' perspective, and I didn't like the cheesy fireworks/applause ending.

I did really love having the deleted scenes reincorporated into the movie though.

I generally tell people not to watch the directors cut.

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BYSOAL
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Hmm, did I overrate the depth of Gattaca? I'm shocked not to see it at least mentioned yet.
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Glenn Arnold
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Jungle Fever
Shrek
2001
The Last Temptation of Christ
Walkabout
Blazing Saddles
Blade Runner
Modern Times
The Birth of a Nation
Butterfly Effect
Brazil
Memento
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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