Yes, be ready for grammar mistakes, odd references, actor bashing, actress whoring, and me explaining how every film is actually a metaphor for 9/11. Because they all are.
114. THE BENCHWARMERS
One of the worst movies of the decade. I get the feeling Adam Sandler and his friends ask a studio for $40 million, go off somewhere for 3 weeks and make a home movie using the cheapest crew available.
113. FAILURE TO LAUNCH
In this case, the producers ask a studio for $40 million, hire a test audience and ask what they want to see in a film then just randomly slap some shit together: how else do you explain a pairing like Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey, an entire subplot revolving around two characters trying to kill a mockingbird, Terry Bradshaw naked, animals attacking Matthew the Cable Guy, and Transamerica Parker looking the absolute worst she's ever looked?
Harrison Ford - ATTN: This type of film died in the beginning of the 90's. Much like your film career. Either get an indie (not another Indy) or just spend the rest of your days nailing Ally McBeal. And what the hell is with Mary-Lynn Rajkub's character?
So apparently when the end comes, putting red tape on your windows can save you. Not the metallic kind! The red kind. This movie's washed out look gave me a massive headache. And everyone in it appears to live in a crack house and not bathed for 2 weeks. Yup, that's styple in the J-horror remake field, people.
110. BASIC INSTINCT 2
Here's a chance to make a really awful, campy horrible movie. Instead, they just made a horrible movie. The worst thing a bad movie can be: boring. Sharon Stone is somewhat fun to watch.
The third project Greenlight movie, produced by Wes Craven, is one of those horror films where at random the movie decides it can't be scary and tries to be funny. Hey, it fails at both.
108. TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY
People: This movie is NOT FUNNY. I'm starting to consider Adam McKay to be the Michael Bay of the comedy genre. Characters walking around talking nonsequitors for 110 minutes was old 4 years ago.
107. THE LAKE HOUSE
This movie is actually #102 for the year. Can this really be happening? Another test audience movie: What do you people like? Love stories. Time travel. And that couple from Speed.
106. THE LAST KISS
Here goes: Zach Braff has NO TALENT outside of Scrubs. When the show ends, his career is over. Poor Jacinda Barret and Blythe Danner - good performances completely wasted.
105. THE OMEN
The best scene in this movie is when Julia Stiles awakes in the middle of the night and goes down to the kitchen to see baby demon making (GASP!) a PB&J sandwich. And she freaks out!!?!?!?
See #114. But throw in Kate Beckinsale and Christopher Walken. And more product placement.
103. THE GRUDGE 2
I hope this and Pulse may have officially killed off the J-horror remakes?
102. THE DA VINCI CODE
Tom Hanks, Tom Hanks' hair and the screenplay are soooo bad.
101. ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN
I think it took 40 minutes of watching this to remember I was watching a movie? Yawn.
100. THE SENTINEL
I'm pretty sure this movie was made in 1992 only they CGI'd in Eva Longoria.
99. WHEN A STRANGER CALLS
I'm sure this idea could have effectively worked in skilled hands. Alas, this movie has none.
98. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
This movie is offensive: I can't be the only person who noticed how every minority in the film (except Will and his son) are the most downright despicable stereotypes seen in any film. The message is clear: If you're black, you're only ever going to make it in the world if you act completely white. I can't believe the conservatives didn't cream themselves over this film. I guess there wasn't enough God? You saw it coming - The Pursuit of Crappyness.
Why do people love horse movies? They love horse movies as much as they love movies about the mentally challenged and movies where people dance. If you combine the three, I'm pretty sure it would be a huge blockbuster. Throw in Matthew McConaughey and SJP and it would be a huge! And don't forget Adam Sandler as the funny sidekick. This movie gets a particularly low placing for wasting talented actresses like Alison Lohman and Maria Bello.
Eli Roth - your movie isn't scary or funny. Watching people get tortured for 90 minutes may be disturbing, but disturbing doesn't create any tension or fear. Why don't you join Adam Sandler, Adam McKay, SJP & Matthew, Tom Hanks' hair and Tim McGraw's awful song for a movie in which all those people get tortured for creating such awful films this year? Now that's entertainment!
95. AN AMERICAN HAUNTING
I barely remember this film, which I'm guessing is a good thing? Oh, Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek - fire your agents!
94. FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
War is bad. Young actors are hot. Clint Eastwood recycles almost everything he's done for the past decade with this horrible war film. I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Hilary Swank just so she could be put out of her misery. I mean, that's how I felt while watching this. At this point in my review, I will have a flashback to when I wrote my thoughts on #110. Ok, back to FOOF - it goes poof. Wasn't the scene when the guy pours strawberries over the ice cream the funniest thing in any movie all year? And Adam Beach may be the most embarassingly awful Oscar-baiting scene ever! Hold on - flashback to #101 coming. Oh wait, much like how this movie looks for an ending for the last half an hour, I'm not sure how to end my thoughts on this. So I'll just flashback to 3 seconds ago when I wrote "flashback to #101 coming".
93. 16 BLOCKS
How do movies like these get released when they feel like things that were dumped into the direct to video bin 10 years ago?
92. FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Now this is just a wasted opportunity. It feels like a bunch of deleted scenes from a much better Christopher Guest movie strung together. Catherine O'Hara looks freaky as the plastic surgery'd version of herself.
91. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST
This felt like watching 17 hours of nothing but special effects crammed into a 2.5 hour movie.
89. RUNNING WITH SCISSORS
Hey, much like flashbacks in FOOF, let's just insert a song anywhere! That'll solve all my narrative problems and weaknesses as a director. Though the sight of Gwyneth Paltrow with cornrows was a hoot.
88. STICK IT
Yeah, really. Missy deserves to be a star. Jeff Bridges - call your agent.
87. THE WOODS
Such a disappointment!
86. SILENT HILL
It's really fun watching Sean Bean and Radha Mitchell try to out-badact each other. Ugh, if there ever was great production design wasted an awful script, it's here. I think there are filmmakers out there who could have made this great. Sadly, none of them set their minds anywhere near this film.
85. SCARY MOVIE 4
Has some laughs. Has some long stretches of non-laughs. Anna, baby, time to move on. You deserve better.
Forgotten seconds after its over. Completely nonoffensive as its running, which isn't such a bad thing when compared to most comedies of this year.
OMG - this is the most fun bad movie of the year. The dialogue is riotous - "We have to get out of here!" "If we don't get out of here, you'll die!" "We didn't get out of here, and now she's dead!"
82. HAPPY FEET
Why did people think this was any good? Darren takes a nap. If they would have stuck to just dancing penguins, it would have been fine. But no!
81. AMERICAN DREAMZ
Oh, wasted premise! Weitz seems to have no idea what to do with it and everyone is downright unlikeable. Mish-mash of tones doesn't help. I did love Shohreh Aghdashloo as the OC-housewife.
80. DON'T COME KNOCKING
Really, don't. Ugh, reteaming the creators of "Paris, Texas" should have been a dream come true, but this just meanders. What a good cast, though!
Maggie Gyllenhaal gets stuck in indie hell. Greatest bad scene #1,542 of the year: Maggie randomly sings "Eternal Flame" at the dinner table.
78. DOWN IN THE VALLEY
Edward Norton as a cowboy and Evan Rachel Wood as a lonely San Fernando Valley teen looking for a way out. This should have worked. It did not.
Booby. Hey, Sharon Stone is actually really good here! Emilio can't direct to save his life and trying to cover it up with a well-meaning liberal message and a rather odd cast didn't help.
Kinda the opposite of Pirates 2. A funny joke for 5 minutes stretched over 90 minutes. Ugh, I really want Mike Judge to do a character based film, like his show King of the Hill, and not something that's just conceptual.
75. INSIDE MAN
Fun and stylish for about 30 minutes. Then wears out. Then won't end. Thank god Clint Eastwood didn't direct it or we'd have to endure lots of flashbacks. Jodie Foster - a magnificent cunt here. Clive Owen - his face is covered. Therefore, I can't recommend this movie.
74. THE WICKER MAN
Nicolas Cage might have been a big mistake. Neil should have gone with Aaron Eckhart (who has a cameo in this?) and then taken another stab at the script. I don't think this is nearly as bad as some say, but it's nowhere near the original. And, yes, Nic in the bearsuit kicking Leelee Sobieski is a sight for the ages.
73. OPEN SEASON
Hey, more animated mediocrity!
72. THE NIGHT LISTENER
I'm not even sure what this movie was about? Was it a thriller? A character study? An excuse for Toni Collette to act weird next to a subdued Robin Williams?
71. SHE'S THE MAN
Amanda Bynes rules! Channing Tatum is hot and has a weird name. These are the things I thought while watching this film. Alas, I knew them before watching it.
70. JUST MY LUCK
Poor, Lindsay. Get back on track, girl. I'm rooting for you.
Bryce Dallas Howard proves herself to be no Nicole Kidman in this tedious sequel to Dogville.
68. STRANGERS WITH CANDY
LOL - Sarah Jessica Parker almost redeems herself for Failure to Launch in her small role in this. Amy Sedaris brings the funny, but it works better as a series.
67. SOMETHING NEW
This looked fun, but ended up just being a bunch of cliches.
66. MAN OF THE YEAR
Hey, let's make a movie with a great premise then slowly turn it into a political thriller! Then again, let's not.
65. THE BREAK-UP
Brangelina has more chemistry than Vaghniston. I think there's a good Woody Allen movie in here somewhere, not too far below the surface.
64. NANNY MCPHEE
Cute, but fluffy forgettableness. It's a word in my world.
63. LAST HOLIDAY
Queen Latifah downplays it and is oh so charming! Okay movie.
LOL - the Seabiscuit/Cinderella Man of musicals. A movie made for no other purpose than to win awards. Oh yeah, none of these movies have a soul. Completely hollow. And I think Beyonce is way better here than Jennifer Hudson, who can sing but can't act. In fact, I think everyone in the cast is better than Jennifer. Though no one is particularly bad. It has every element of a good movie except for one thing - it's not a good movie.
61. EIGHT BELOW
Snow doggies are, like, inspirational. As if a poster with a bunch of cute dogs and Paul Walker wouldn't draw people in?
I really love the way I seem to be the only person who notices that Pixar really isn't that great? Or the way they keep recycling common stories, but when you do it with cars or superheroes or toys, no one will care and they'll all think it's clever. I'm that great.
59. LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN
I really thought we were done with the Tarantino knockoffs. Apparently, they are so out they are in. I don't get it? Lucy Liu needs a romantic comedy. Stat. Hey, let's just do whatever tone we feel like doing for any given scene.
58. JACKASS: NUMBER TWO
The Jackass boys continue their shenanigans, but in an age of Borat, couldn't they at least have had a point for their tomfoolery this time?
57. THE PRESTIGE
The Illusionist is better. And it really must be when you consider this movie has Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. How can Darren say no to that?
56. OVER THE HEDGE
Some cute fun, mostly forgettable.
55. MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND
Another movie that had it had the right touch could have been really good. A very funny sex scene and the wicked fun casting of Uma Thurman as "G-girl" can't save the rest.
54. THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
This works for about half an hour. James McAvoy > Forest Whitaker. Whitaker's performance = a page right out of the Oscar Winning Performances for Dummies Books. Eventually, the director (I beleive this is his first non-documentary feature) can't handle the material and it falls back on turning too obviously into a thriller. Kerry Washington was actually good!
53. IMAGINE ME AND YOU
Lesbian romantic comedy that's pretty much just like every other romantic comedy. But this has Piper Perabo with a British accent, quite convincingly a might add! The shock!
52. WORLD TRADE CENTER
It's 9/11 - The Lifetime movie. Some of it works, some of it is lame. I love how Jesus appears with bottled water.
51. MIAMI VICE
I love how some people are defending the fact this movie never lets its audience know what is going on as being part of the point and that "we're in a world so deep they can't bother to explain! Brilliant film! Watch me blow Michael Mann!" Very stylish at times, though.
50. THANK YOU FOR SMOKING
Aaron Eckhart is a great actor and gets a chance to shine. As do most of the actors in this film, but the problem lies in the script not ever being fully realized. Is it defending these people? Is it a satire? Either would be fine, but it can never decide.
49. MONSTER HOUSE
This should have been a live action film. Kinda shrewdly entertaining for youngen-aimed film.
Scarjo proves she can do Woody comedy as well as she can do Woody drama as well as she can give audiences a woody. (Oh, Darren!) Surprisingly fun, probably one of his best comedies in a while, which sadly isn't saying much. Hugh Jackman, again. Not that I'm complaining.
47. FLUSHED AWAY
Hugh Jackman! Kate Winslet! And best of all (surprise surprise): SLUGS! I don't know why they showed up, but the slugs rule! SLUGS SLUGS SLUGS.
46. DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY
I think more people wanted this to be like his TV show, which is probably why a lot of people didn't care for this. It's very fun nonetheless.
45. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3
Despite being insane, Tom Cruise is still a more reliable movie star than Tom Hanks it appears. Probably the best of the three.
44. THE BLACK DAHLIA
The best uninentional black comedy ever? Okay, so a lot of this film doesn't work. In fact, some of it is quite bad. But I think it's oh so watchable. I love Swank here. Such a fun vamp! As for Fiona Shaw - that may be the most enjoyable bad acting in ages. De Palma was trying to hard to make a movie about the Dahlia instead of making a movie about the Dahlia. (That made sense to me.)
43. LITTLE FISH
Cate Blanchett is a reformed drug dealer trying to lead a normal life. I think I've seen this movie 24 times before, but it's Australian so that makes it original?
42. HARD CANDY
Ellen Page cuts off Patrick Wilson's balls. Or does she? Definitely disturbing, and I love Sandra Oh in her funny cameo.
41. THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED
"Muckracking" doc about the MPAA rating system. Very entertaining and it's great to see some filmmakers step up and say the system needs massive revising.
40. SNAKES ON A PLANE
Only adding musical numbers would have made this film more perfect! Suggestion for a Broadway show: Snakes on a Plane - The Musical.
39. TWELVE AND HOLDING
LIE director examines the lives of three preteens after the one's brother is killed. Zoe Weizenbaum is the most affecting in one of the best and most forgotten performances of the year as the tomboy dealing for the first time with her sexuality. Sadly, the other two stories nowhere near live up to hers. Not an easy watch.
38. THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP
Michel Gondry will never live up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so let's get that out of the way. But this is a charmer, and far better than this debut film, Human Nature.
37. THE HILLS HAVE EYES
So here's what this film has over Hostel, Saw 1-3 and whatever other torture-horror film you're going to throw at me: It saves it all for a single scene. When you try to disturb the audience, spreading it out and making every scene try to top the last won't frighten them, it'll just bore them. It's almost like those other horror films are some kind of Jackass version of the slasher genre. So with this film, you have one of the most horrifying and truly disturbing scenes of the year, but it's just one scene. The first half hour builds up to it, and the last hour of the film is spent coming off of it and creating a catharsis from it. It ultimately turns into a revenge film. And that single scene (involving 3 brutal deaths,2 rapes and a kidnapping) has power because we actually care about the characters. It's almost like the filmmakers are laughing at the audience saying "you honestly want these people to be brutaly killed? Well, okay...." On second thought, maybe you should stick with Saw 3. And plus, we all know this film is a parable for 9/11. :-)
I like the suggestion brought about at the end of the film, that no single reason can be contributed into the death of George Reeves. Solid work by Brody, Lane and Affleck.
35. THE PROPOSITION
Aussie western written by rocker Nick Cave? Surprisingly cool, and probably something I want to see again. I wasn't as high on it the first time, but I've been thinking about it.
34. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
A little indie crowdpleaser. NOTHING more. Repeat: NOTHING more. You want a better example of a dysfunctional family on the road: Flirting With Disaster. Terrific ensemble work. But again, it's just a little indie crowdpleaser. NOTHING more.
33. THE ILLUSIONIST
Whodathunk this would be better than The Prestige? Far more romantic and classic, though neither are great films.
A stylish exercise - NOTHING more. (haha) Joseph Gordon Levitt is destined to be a great actor, and Rian Johnson is destined to be a great filmmaker. This is a nice stepping stone.
31. THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE
Delicious biopic almost feeling like the real Bettie Page made it herself. Gretchen Mol is absolutely sublime and proof you can live up to being an It Girl 8 years later. Though the black and white is nice, the color sequences really pop.
Surprisingly worthy sports film keeping its characters, not the games they play, first.
29. CATCH A FIRE
Sadly, a box-office dud. Well made dramatic thriller with Derek Luke as an Apartheid-era factory worker in South Africa carrying out terrorist attacks.
28. THE HOLIDAY
As if I wouldn't like this movie? Though NANNNNCY's last film had me worried. Charming, too long, but charming. Let's face it though: I'd watch Kate, Jude and Cameron read the phone book.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's followup to 21 Grams doesn't live up to that film because of it's too ambitious, broad storyline. He works better with intimacy, which is why the fairly standalone story of the deaf, Japanase girl works best and would have made a great film on its own terms. Very good, but also very noticably flawed.
26. CHARLOTTE'S WEB
Even though it was an okay-sized hit, it was better than most every family aimed film released in 2006. Dakota Fanning takes a backseat to the pig and his spider friend (voiced perfectly by Julia Roberts.)
25. AKEELAH AND THE BEE
A box office disappointment, how can that be? A winning tearjerker about a South Central LA girl and her desire to be the national spelling bee champion. Great to see Angela Bassett, too!
24. THE PAINTED VEIL
Romance about the conflicted couple in Shanghai with a whole lot of cholera. Terrific turn by Naomi Watts and good, but stilted, work by Edward Norton.
Proof that there's more than one way to tell a story. Filmed almost at the same time as Capote, I never got why people dogged this film before its released. Seemed very unfair. While Capote is the better film, this is still a very good film examining aspects of Truman's life that the other film passed on, mostly his New York circle of friends. We get a better sense of the period here. There's overlapping details, but both films combined present a fascinating view of the writer's life.
Steven Soderbergh returns to his more risky, low budget era with this film about a bizarre love triangle set in a factory in a small town. Released in theatres and on DVD at the same time, the experiment's results seem still to be up in the air.
21. CASINO ROYALE
Daniel Craig takes over the role of James Bond in what is easily the best of the Bond films that I've seen (not too many.) Throwing in a little Jason Bourne-ish angst, it's a sexy, thrilling espionage adventure.
I'm still holding out that this becomes a cult classic. Packed with aliens, bugs, zombies and blobs, it's a gore-happy, shrewdly funny midnight movie about a small town's efforts to battle an invasion of aliens. Sexy combo of Elizabeth Banks (doing a deft, stylized parody of Hitchcock blondes) and Nathan Fillion (the next Bruce Campbell) star, and look for a cameo by the director's wife: The Office's Jenna Fisher playing, surprise!, a secretary.
Penelope Cruz is sensational in Pedro Almodovar's study of females (really? from Pedro?) dealing with the return of their dead mother. I still think Talk to Her is his best film, but I'd like to see some of this other stuff. I haven't seen too much. I officially renounce anything bad I've ever sad about Miss Cruz.
18. AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
This film is, like, important. You should see it. Then, you should change your life. But mostly, you should just change your life. Elisabeth Shue's husband directs this documentary following Al Gore in his efforts to teach people about the effects of global warming. Very powerful with a portrait of something quite rare: a politician trying to make the world a better place and actually getting up and doing something about it.
17. V FOR VENDETTA
I'm surprised there was so little controversy about this film upon its release. We've got: people rising against their governments using terrorist attacks, gay holocausts, fascist leaders. Surprisingly deep stuff for a popcorn thriller, and despite it's heavy subject, it is first and foremost a popcorn thriller. A well made one, and a smart one.
16. HALF NELSON
A part time drug dealing student becames an unlikely friend to her drug addicted teacher. Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps are a great pairing with terrific performances from both in this indie, which does what indies should do: take characters that aren't cookie cutter, throw away cute contrivances and formula and allow the characters to live and breathe on screen, ultimately accepting each other for who they are regardless of their flaws. And not what My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Little Miss Sunshine might make you believe indies are.
15. BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
Isn't it sorta brilliant that you have a completely uneducated character from a third world country who comes to America and meets entitled Americans who have every opportunity given to them and - GASP - they are just as ignorant in some of their beliefs as he is. (Though, in their and Mel Gibson's defense, they were drunk and completely out of control of their mouth holding back how they really feel.) And isn't even more brilliant that in Sacha's film, the ones being put down repeatedly - the blacks, the jews, the gays, the women - are the ones who most embody the American spirit Borat comes to learn about. And isn't it kinda funny how the people in the film who were embarassed because of how the film portrayed them (not by their own actions, mind you) and because they said some things they didn't actually mean (instead of being pissed that they got caught) and because they are now being ostracized where they live (oh, you mean EXACTLY like the people you bashed in the film have been for years) that they did the most American thing of all: They sued. Isn't this film kinda brilliant? Yes, and it's funny. Very very funny.14. NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Tis a great shame that a grand dame (har har) like Judi Dench finally gives the performance that for once actually deserves the Oscar nomination she seems to get for anything she does, and is then pitted against another great dame (Mirren, that is) in the best performance of the year. Dench is absolutely wicked as a sixty-something lesbian teacher who is an outsider that becomes entangled in the affair between the new art teacher (Cate Blanchett, solid as always) and a much younger student. Patrick Marber (Closer
) wrote the acidic screenplay for this absorbing and tense drama.13. UNITED 93
I'm sure it could be debated till the cows come home what purpose one has in watching the final moments of the lives of the passengers and crew aboard the doomed Flight 93 that crashed outside of Pittsburg. But watching United 93
, I was reminded that 9/11 only happened 5 years ago and yet it seemed like we had already forgotten. However, Paul Greengrass brings such skill, the film should be shown in every film directing class. It's painfully real and harrowing and respectful with a you-are-there intensity, exactly how a movie about this day should be. 12. STRANGER THAN FICTION
Think of it as Charlie Kaufman meets Frank Capra. Will Ferrell (proving he can play it straight) plays a completely bored man named Harold Crick who one day suddently starts to hear a woman narrating everything that happens in his life, which leads him to change his life. Emma Thompson is an author struggling to finish her latest book, about a man named Harold Crick who she plans on eventually killing to teach the reader a lesson about life. The line blurs and soon neither can explain how or why it's happening. I'm sure there's many people who will hate the film's ending. I was reminded of how many times I've been watching a film and thought a character should be killed off cause it enhances the moral and creates a balance for the remaining characters. Stranger Than Fiction
dares to ask 'What kind of person does that make me?'11. LITTLE CHILDREN
Is it a necessity now that when doing a suburban satire (American Beauty, Desperate Housewives
) you're required to have someone narrate? Little Children
has an advantage with it's narrator: the person providing it isn't a character in the film about to die or already dead. And the man's voice adds just the right touch of sarcasm to proceedings. A great ensemble (who you can actually see) is used in Todd Feild's followup to In the Bedroom
in which a pedophile moves into a quiet New England neighborhood, an affair begins between a freethinking woman improsined by suburbia and a failed wouldbe lawyer, and a bored former cop trying to oust the pedophile. It's nothing we haven't seen before, yet it's fully involving with just the right human touch by the characters and that sardonic voice of the narrator proving we all need to grow up at some point.10. SHUT UP AND SING
In between burning flags and Bibles, performing abortions on each other, discussing the merits of communism, smoking pot, plotting the destruction of federal buildings, being witnesses to numerous gay marriages, spitting on soldiers, and spray painting churches, the Dixie Chicks apparently had time to have a movie made about them. In Barbara Kopple and Celia Peck's documentary, we follow Natalie, Emily and Martie from the height of their popularity, to the fallout after Natalie's notorious Bush-bash, to attempting to regain their cred while leaving behind most of their original fanbase with a new album. It's an inside look at the music industry, but most importantly the struggle of three tiny women against the odds. Think a documentary feature that would fit right beside the likes of Silkwood
, Erin Brockovich
and Norma Rae
. And it also happens to be the rarest of rarities: a crowdpleaser of a documentary and a thoroughly American story.9. SUPERMAN RETURNS
Long before Tim Burton introduced a dark Dark Knight, Bryan Singer (and only him) used mutantism as a metaphor for homosexuality in X-Men
and Sam Raimi combined genre love with post-adolescent angst for Spider-Man
, there was Superman, arguably the most romantic of the superheroes. I think everyone remembers Superman flying Lois Lane high above Metropolis with the wind slowly blowing hair from their face as the moonlight shined on them and the swelling score of the film was downplayed for a more lush romantic theme. Much the same way, Bryan Singer brings back Superman (Brandon Routh, charasmatic but classy) and lets him sweep the audience off their feet. Superman Returns
is as old fashioned as superhero movies get, from its 40's themed production design to the very entertaining bad guys (watch Kevin Spacey get eaten alive by a deadpanning Parker Posey) to its stylized (no method here) acting. (Yes, I'll stick with that theory to explain the passable Miss Bosworth.) As someone who loves the grayness of the modern world where nothing is ever entirely right or wrong, there was something transcendent about a completely black and white superhero movie, something that took me back to childhood when I fully believed a man could fly. And he would save us from the evil in the world. 8. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
Wow - you mean a comedy can be good and not involve pie-humping, Wilson brothers, Ben Stiller, former SNL
cast members and bodily fluids? Opting out of exploiting all those (way) overused trends of current comedy, director David Frankel (a Sex and the City
veteran) relies more on the women-in-the-workplace comedies of the 1940's, and the fluffy, fabulous New York City set comedies of the 1960's to tell the story of a naive girl (Anne Hathaway, one step closer to officially being the new Julia) who takes a job as the assistant to the dominating editor of a top fashion magazine. As that editor, Meryl Streep is fully human, but still Satan in stilletos. It's amazing to watch an actress having so much fun by looking so bored by her surroundings. Her nuances and delivery can't fully be appreciated till repeat viewings. And equally amazing - a discovery opposite her: Emily Blunt - the finest young British actress since Kate Winslet - who dares to do the most sinful thing of all: completely pull the rug out from under everyones' Mahnolos and run away with the movie in a gorgeous Hermes bag. 7. FRIENDS WITH MONEY
3 of the 4 characters in Friends With Money
would have no problem affording any of the costumes in The Devil Wears Prada
, and the amazing thing about Nicole Holofcener's third film (following up the gems Lovely and Amazing
and Walking and Talking
) is that all four - regardless of monetary value - are equally interesting. These aren't just some stereotypical, priveleged fourtysomething white bitches. They are living, breathing women. Jennifer Aniston is the odd woman out, a former school teacher turned maid, and she seems right at home playing dowdy, lost Olivia as she did with as the together Rachel on her long running sitcom Friends
. The other three are Catherine Keener as half of a screenwriting husband and wife team who find that she has nothing in common with her spouse - not even work. Joan Cusack is the worryfree one, with enough money to get her through life and then some. And Frances McDormand is the standout, as the bored Jane, who creates conflict just because she doesn't have any. Nicole's films are comforting, and work even better on the small screen. 6. MARIE ANTOINETTE
A delicious cocktail of a biopic. Biographical pictures usually rely on a system of focusing on one historical event, detailing the person's reaction to it, then moving on to the next point. Sofia Coppola throws history out the window, and yet we get every sense of what it was to be Marie Antoinette. Yup, it's all about the emotion, the feeling, the mode of Marie. Embodying her is Kirsten Dunst, who is the perfect pick to play someone who has been under intense public supervision her entire life and a result retracts inward to her own world of girlish glee with cakes, champagne, shoes and shallow friends. Versailles = high school, making this the first film feeling like it's fully set in the Masterpiece Theatre world, but written by John Hughes instead of vice versa. 5. THE DEPARTED
After more Oscar-friendly films like The Aviator
and Gangs of New York
, Martin Scorsese returns to his old favorite: the cops and criminals genre. That seedy societal underbelly. His third collaboration with Leonardo Dicaprio marks the actor's grittiest work as wouldbe cop Billy Costigan who goes undercover in the Boston mob to keep tabs on the ringleader Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson, now that's how you ham up a performance!) and to get information about a potential rat in the Boston police working - that would be Matt Damon's character, Colin Sullivan. William Monahan's tight screenplay creates brilliant layers that a terrfic cast more that aptly steps up to. And what a cast! Scene-stealers and terrific character actors abound to even the tiniest of parts. Scorsese is fully at home here, creating a movie that exists fully within the frame. Every thrilling, gloriously violent frame. The film pulls out tricky twists in its final act, as the filmmakers walk a tight rope with the audience. It all pays off in the end leading to one of the most satisfying, yet completely fucked endings any movie in recent memory has pulled off. There's something dangerous about this, and it leaves you completely high.4. CHILDREN OF MEN
The future is bleak. In 2027, no woman has given birth for more than 18 years. A former activist (Clive Owen!!!!!) has lost all hope in the world but finds that changing when he's found by his old love interest (Julianne Moore) to transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a team known as the Human Project, who will safely harbor her and the baby from the outside world. So kicks off a journey with an unlikely hero. I shudder to think what more mainstream filmmakers would do with this material (I somehow picture Harrison Ford in the lead role - UGH!) but thank god studios are giving people like Alfonso Cuaron big bucks (this film cost over $70 million) to create a vision as dreary as this one. The streets and cities are rundown and dirty, the cars aren't futuristic rather just fixed up versions of older models, terrorist attacks occur at random moments, people walk through the streets with no hope and on TV stations there are ads reminding citizens that immigrants need to be turned in. This feels entirely real and there is so much detail to this world that has been created. There's no slick design. Emmanuel Lubezki (The New World) served as the film's cinematographer and uses a grainy film, but his and Cuaron's true victory for the film comes with two sequences: the first a chase sequence in which a car full of people are caught in the middle of a mob weilding guns and fire. There's also a disgusting ping pong ball trick in this scene. It runs a few minutes and is done in a single take - completely inside the moving car. The second of which is the best scene of the year, and one of the few scenes I've ever seen in a theatre where I had to remind myself to breathe. See it for yourself.3. A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
During the production of this film, there was a small concensus brewing that this would be Robert Altman's swan song. After accepting his honorary Oscar, it seemed we were wrong. Then, in November, the cinematic world lost one of if not the greatest. But what a way to go out! This bittersweet, fictionalized tale of the last night behind the scenes and on stage of Garrison Keillor's long running radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, is a funny and poignant picture of eccentric performers and harried crew members trying to make the show go on one last time before a big corporation comes and tears the theatre down. They talk and sing a lot, with bluegrass music going hand in hand with dry humor and old stories. As the events of the evening unfold, a woman lurks in the background. An angel of death. In the end, we may not know which character she came for, but we know exactly why she was there. Death is inevitable, but artists and their art never truly die. Altman's last film may have been his least cynical, but it still has the remaining trademarks associated with him (lingering camera, overlapping dialogue, great cast, a deep rooted sense of Americana) and stands among his best.2. THE DESCENT
Horror fans have it rough. Not only do we see just about everything the genre has to offer - this is often a dreadful task - but we're consistently told that our favorites of the genre don't deserve to stand alongside the genuinely great films of cinema (Citizen Kane
, if you will). So it makes it all the more annoying when a truly great horror film like The Descent
comes out, gets positive ink from critics, then underperforms at the box office. (More people saw The Grudge 2 than this. Saw 3 made more money in its opening weekend than The Descent.) The one true advantage of a disappointing box office run for a solid horror film is that it almost always finds a following on video. And I hope that more people will see director Neil Marshall's second film (the first being a Scottish werewolf variation on Night of the Living Dead
titled Dog Soldiers
) which shows what happens when six European women spelunkers go in a cave in the Appalachians, get trapped way below ground, and end up having to battle a high evolved form of cavemen with bat-like characteristics, and perhaps also battle each other. Marshall expertly uses some illustrious genre tactics here that had those who did see it comparing it to Alien
. There are also elements of The Shining and a few cleverly placed film references that movie junkies will love. As one of the women, the lead Sarah (Shaua MacDonald), slowly begins to emotionally deteriorate, The Descent
moves from being an exhilerating horror ride to a disquieting character study. In other words, it ceases being just a great horror film, and becomes a great film. 1. THE QUEEN
If Marie Antoinette
took us behind closed doors for a perspective of royalty that was total eye candy, The Queen
is the companion film that is for the intellect. And in the biggest surprise: for the heart as well. Both sympathetic and satiric, loving and vicious, it's a completely hypothetical portrait of the relationship between Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth in the days following the death of Princess Diana. It also happens to be one of the most original, odd films I've seen in ages. Something like a play or a TV movie, but done in such a style all of its own that it absolutely demands the big screen. Something from another era. Helen Mirren deserved every bit of gold and ink that was thrown her way for her portrayal, which blends so seemlessly into Stephen Frears work. Equally as compelling though receiving nowhere near any of the attention he deserved is Michael Sheen as the younger, optimistic Tony Blair. Matching the film's tone is the great composer Alexandre Desplat's ethereal score, which hits every dramatic and comic note the film offers at just the right time. Considering people seemed ready to actually make Miss Mirren the real Queen, I figure I should draw the line and explain what the real star of the film is: Peter Morgan's tight screenplay. Only Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind screenplay is better when ranked with all of the other genuinely original work that screenwriters have released this decade. As much as I love that aforementioned scene from Children of Men, my second favorite comes from this film, in which The Queen spots the large stag that hunters are about to claim. She looks at it slowly, says "You're a beauty" and gives it a nod. I can't think of a better way to sum up the film.
#1-6 are very close. Like right on top of each other. Like The Queen can actually smell the champagne on Marie's breath. And regarding the entire top 10, HOLY GIRL POWER??? Who said there are no movies for women?
I make no apologies for my own taste.