December 31, 2009

Favorite Movies from 2000 - 2009

There are 30 movies here. I trimmed it down from 40 but it's hard for me to cut any more. I tried to make it using the following criteria:

a. I have to think the movie is great. Even today.
b. I had to remember watching it and how I felt when I watched it.
c. I have to have a desire to see the movie again. Must have potential to hold up to repeat viewings. For example, I loved "Brokeback Mountain" but I don't think I could watch it again.
d. It had to influence me artistically or personally in some way.

1. Children of Men (2006) - In the top 5 of the best movies I have ever seen in my life. The cinematography blew me away. The acting and story engaged me completely. I still speak of this movie with awe and reverence, almost in a whisper.
2. Amélie (2001) - This movie opened my eyes to so much ... how movies could be made and how movies could make me feel. There have been many movies since that have tried to capture everything this film was but none have succeeded.
3. Finding Neverland (2004) - Broke my heart, sewed it up and broke it again. It's a gorgeous film and the script is impeccable to me.
4. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) - Wes Anderson is an artist in every sense of the word. Made me wish I owned a track suit and liked the Rolling Stones. Also made me want to write movies.
5. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-03) - Epic. Especially Return of the King. You can't do fantasy better than this. Sorry, boy wizard.
6. Dark Knight (2008) - The only movie I've seen on IMAX and the best "comic book" film ever made. It's fun, scary, exciting, sad and beautiful. It's bottled chaos.
7. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004) - Heart wrenching and funny and visually amazing. Michel Gondry knows how to create a world where anything can happen at any time and still make it seem like real life.
8. Kill Bill 1 and 2 (2003-04) - A bloody good time. This super badass heroine cuts through equally badass villains blocking her from achieving one clear goal. A pair of visual and technical masterpieces.
9. Up (2009) - Perfect. As it goes along, it just keeps getting better and better. It's such a simple message: "It's less about where you end up and more about how you get there and who you get there with." It's also really funny.
10. Shaun of the Dead (2004) - Comedy and horror and romance have never been done so well together. It made me want to write witty horror movies. I think it influenced the horror genre immensely. I could watch this movie once a week for 5 years in a row.
11. Casino Royale (2006) - The best Bond movie ever made. The opening 10 minutes leave my jaw-dropped open every time. It is amazingly shot and full of action and, for once, James seems more vulnerable which I think makes him more dangerous.
12. Memento (2000) - One of the most unique movies ever made. Great noir with a great device. Blew me away. Still does.
13. No Country for Old Men (2007) - Going to this movie felt special. Like an event. I ate up every frame of film and replayed it in my head for days. Love it or hate it, it has one of the best villains ever. I happen to be someone who loves it and gets it. Jealous?
14. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) - Made me like Matt Damon. The best one of the three and one of the best-directed action movies ever. Strangely, watching this makes me want to be a better prepared actor.
15. 3:10 to Yuma (2007) - There's not a better modern Western. A Western should make you feel like you want to be a cowboy. "Yuma" does this. "Unforgiven" can suck it.
16. United 93 (2006) - If you haven't seen this, you need to rent it. It's important, well-done, reverent, cathartic and heartbreaking.
17. Hot Fuzz (2007) - Yes it was hilarious and I smiled the whole time but I couldn't stop being amazed at how exact Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright got the buddy cop genre. I kept looking at Amelia like, "Huuuhh? Right?"
18. 28 Days Later (2002) - Two words: fast zombies. This is the mother of all modern horror movies. A game changer.
19. Once (2006) - I knew I was in love with this movie within the first five minutes. We still sing that song a cappella around our house when the urge strikes.
20. Half Nelson (2006) - I don't exaggerate when I say Ryan Gosling's performance in this movie could be the best male lead performance of the decade.
21. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) - The comedy that defined the 00s and brought absurd comedy into the mainstream. Probably the most quoted movie of the decade.
22. About a Boy (2002) - Ok, I admit it. This made me cry like a baby. It probably prepared me, however slightly, to take on a role as instant dad when the time came.
23. Incredibles (2004) - Splentacular. I think Ratatouille may be "better" but this movie is here because of the awe it gave me when I watched it at the time. It showed what was possible with animated movies (again) and it happened right before my eyes. I watch it every chance I get when it comes on TV. I never tire of it.
24. Hamlet 2/Tropic Thunder (2008) - I cheated. But I loved these movies so much for the same reason. They made me pee myself with laughter and they both feature Steve Coogan. In "Hamlet 2" there is a moment that was the most brilliant acting I think I have ever seen in a comedy in my lifetime.
25. The Hours (2002) - Crushed my soul and filled me with hope at the same time.
26. History of Violence (2005) - This is how you protect your family. (If you are a former mobster, that is.) I still can't quite put my finger on why I love this movie so much. But I do.
27. Almost Famous (2000) - Full of delightful characters, one-liners and the right amount of drama. Just so you know, music journalism isn't like this anymore.
28. Road to Perdition (2002) - My favorite gangster movie of the past 20 years. The cinematography, editing, direction, acting and score are all perfect.
29. Minority Report (2002) - One of Spielberg's minor efforts for some but this was my favorite action/sci-fi movie for quite a few years ... at least until "Children of Men" came out. It holds up too.
30. King Kong (2005) - Knock it if you want but this was a pretty darn good movie. It pushes a few others off the list (Spiderman 2, Star Trek, Batman Begins) because it was the first movie I saw with Amelia. Walking through the parking lot to get our tickets I was hoping and praying she thought I was as funny and cool as I knew she was beautiful and strong. I held her hand through the whole thing and my life has been better ever since.

Late additions: Signs (2002), Mouin Rouge! (2001), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), Before Sunset (2004), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Do you have any that you think I forgot? What are your lists?

December 29, 2009

My Top Movies of 2009

I see a lot of movies. Now that I have children, I see even more. Ones that I would normally skip. It's a good thing that 2009 was such a great year for animated films. Now, you may find a few omissions here. It may be because I have yet to see some of the movies on many other Top 10 lists (The Hurt Locker). Or it may be that I didn't think certain movies were as good as everyone else thought they were (A Serious Man). And, I still haven't seen Blue Pocahontas. But whatever the case, these are the movies I did see and enjoyed thoroughly. I hope you get something out of it.

The Ones that Amazed:
1. Up - A near perfect film in every way. Great story, well-acted, exciting, tender and a joy to behold in each frame.
2. Inglorious Basterds - There may have not been a better first 15 minutes of any film this year. The rest of it is pretty damn good as well.
3. Star Trek - If you must "reboot" a series, this is how it is done. I hope there are at least two more of these so I can sink my eyes into them. The action was exhilarating. The dialogue was witty. The characters were perfect. I love J.J. Abrams.
4. Drag Me to Hell - I don't think I've ever grabbed the arm of a chair so hard in any movie in my life. Definitely scary and genuinely funny too. (I assumed because I liked it that Amelia would too. We rented it on DVD. I think she was with me until the ending. Then she almost divorced me.)

These Were Great:
5. District 9 - Proved that originality still exists in Hollywood (via South Africa).
6. (500) Days of Summer - Proved that great romantic movies don't have to just be full of silly jokes and fat best friends or end the way you think you want them to.
7. The Hangover - Proved that what happens in Vegas should never stay there if it is this funny. Just don't watch the credits.
8. Taken - Proved that dads with military training should never be f---ed with. A fantastic surprise at the movies this year and a technically great film as well.

Better than Most:
9. Sherlock Holmes - I had problems with the length and the ending but everything else was delightful: acting, direction, costumes and the action/fights.
10. Zombieland - Best cameo ... ever. This movie is splendid exercise in horror-comedy-road-trip movies. After the success of "Shaun of the Dead" it's hard to be original with the horror-comedy genre but this movie is.
11. Fantastic Mr. Fox - I still like most of Wes Anderson's movies better but this was entertaining from start to finish. I had more fun than my kids. Why didn't more people see it?

Very Good Indeed:
12. I Love You, Man - Say what you want about Paul Rudd. But don't say anything negative around me. I love him, man. It's nice to see a raunchy comedy explore brotherhood instead of machismo.
13. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - I was surprised how good this movie was. Great to look at, funny in all the right places and a great moral without being heavy-handed.
14. The Blind Side - I kind of wanted to hate this movie. I did. But I can't. It is really, really, really good, ya'll. I wish Sandra Bullock would pursue these types of films instead of trying too hard to make us laugh and failing.

Honorable Mentions

Better than I Thought They Would Be: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, Land of the Lost
Animation is King: Coraline, Ponyo, Astro Boy, The Princess and the Frog
Found Myself Completely Immersed: The Informant!, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Food, Inc.

There you have it. If I get enough courage I may attempt to figure out what my favorite movies of the decade were (like Chris did) as well as share my favorite music of the year (and decade).

What were your favorite films?

Note: I have now rearranged this list twice. I reserve the right to reorder it again if I see fit. This isn't the Times.