“City of God”
Released: January 17, 2003
It is incredibly unusual for an eventual Oscar contender to debut in January. Still, it is a testament to the unparalleled skill of the Brazilian crime drama that it stuck around a full calendar year. The film chronicles three decades in the life of street gangs in Brazil starting from childhood. What begins as a rivalry between children evolves into a sprawling battle. There are few characters as simultaneously frightening and heartbreaking as Li’l Ze. Played as an adult by Leandro Firmino, the self-conscious boss is a live wire ready to erupt at any moment. Fernando Meirelles’ direction is something to behold. The scenes move at rapid fire, but the emotional linchpins of the story are always potent. The cinematography is something else, as the camera captures the vibrant and haunting City of God.