The end of the year is traditionally a time for lists, at least for the sort of people who make lists (And sadly, I find myself being one of those people...), so I have decided to throw together a list of my own. But this is not simply an "end-of-the-year" list, because the end of this year is also the end of a decade, one that began this century, so I plan to make it somewhat more substantial. Or at least longer than usual.
What is my list, you might ask? A quick summary of my favorite films made since the turn of the century (The year 2000, for those of you who are left wondering.). These are not the "best" films, and there are probably plenty that I have left out, because I am only listing movies that I have seen, and I have most assuredly missed out on a lot of good films. There are no documentaries on the list, because I wanted to concentrate on dramatic films of the last ten years, but I must admit that several of the best films I have seen during that time have been of the documentary format.
These are in no particular order, and some may offer a lengthier description than others. It is, of course, based upon blatant favoritism. Here goes:
"Dark Knight" - Possibly the best movie ever made involving a comic character, and Heath Ledger deserved all of his posthumous accolades. What can Chris Nolan hope to do to top this film? I don't know, but I wait anxiously and expectantly.
"There Will Be Blood" - Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson. There will be awards.
"No Country for Old Men" - Coens. Bardem. Brolin. McCarthy. Greatness.
"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" - Shane Black is known for great action and buddy movies, and this, his directorial debut, is no exception. Robert Downey, Jr. is great, and Val Kilmer gives one of his best performances as Gay Perry, a flamboyant private detective.
"Lord of the Rings" Trilogy - Amazing. Peter Jackson. Greatness.
"Gladiator" - Ridley Scott made Russell Crowe even better than usual with this sweeping epic, and Oliver Reed's last performance makes it that much better. Classic cinema, and seamless effects.
"The Salton Sea" - Val Kilmer is amazing in this film, as are Debra Kara Unger and Peter Sarsgaard. Luis Guzman and Vincent D'Onofrio steal their scenes as well. Check it out.
"Lars & the Real Girl" - Offbeat and wonderful. Ryan Gosling is first-rate.
"Requiem for a Dream" - Disturbing and gritty, this film takes an open mind and a strong stomach, but it is well worth it. Aronofsky pops up on this list a couple of times, and for good reason.
"Gangster No. 1" - Violent, brutal, graphic, and wonderful. Paul Bettany and Malcolm McDowell both deliver career-defining performances, and it is very well done.
"Crimson Rivers" - Great story, and Jean Reno and Vincent Cassell are very good. Don't watch this French film on a first date.
"Apocalypto" - Mel Gibson is a visual genius, and his follow-up to the "Passion of the Christ" was much better, in my opinion. This movie was very underrated when it came out, but I think it will one day be remembered as a classic.
"Open Range" - Kevin Costner and westerns go together like peanut butter and bananas, and this is no exception. Best gunfight ever captured on film.
"Nightwatch/Daywatch" - These Russian films by director Timur Bekmambitov are amazingly well done, and refreshingly original. Great movies - watch them when you get the chance.
"Man On Fire" - Denzel Washington is a force to be reckoned with in this film, and Christopher Walken is, as always, classic. Good story, great action, and Tony Scott's visual style make for a darn good motion picture.
"Layer Cake" - Daniel Craig and a great supporting cast make this British crime caper a standout. I love British crime flicks, which brings us to...
"Sexy Beast" - Want to see Ghandi turn into a physically imposing psychopath? Then watch "Sexy Beast", as Ben Kingsley flexes his muscle and delivers a major performance. This film also introduced me to Ray Winstone, who is about as good as it gets. Check it out.
"Brick" - Film noir set in a modern high school, complete with radio-era dialogue. Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves his mettle in this little film - he will be a major player for years to come.
"The Proposition" - Nick Cave wrote this one, and also did the soundtrack. A rather bleak, brutal Australian western, Danny Huston and Guy Pearce make it worth seeing. Ray Winstone again as well.
"Children of Men" - Speaking of bleak, this movie introduces us to a future that has no future - no children, no hope, and plenty of dreary pictures of what's to come.
"The Wrestler" - Mickey Rourke in his best role ever, and Marissa Tomei showing more than just her tremendous acting ability. This film had classic written all over it, and delivered on every level.
"Oceans 11" - A feel-good romp. Great actors having a good time, and a soundtrack to die for. Soderbergh does good work, and this is probably my second favorite of his, after "Out of Sight". Or "Traffic". Or "The Limey". Any of those, I guess. A definite guilty pleasure.
"Welcome to Collinwood" - Funny, cool, and so un-hip it is ultra-hip. Great cast (William H. Macy, Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Luis Guzman, Michael Jeter, Isaiah Washington, Patricia Clarkson, Michael Jeter, Jennifer Esposito, etc...), and a very funny, offbeat storyline. Good stuff.
"Chopper" - Based on the life of Australian criminal Mark "Chopper" Read, this film gave Eric Bana the opportunity to shine, and he completely fills up the screen. One of my all-time favorite performances.
"Hustle & Flow" - Terrence Howard made his career on this movie, and deservedly so. There are a lot of good performances in this Craig Brewer film, but Howard is the stand out. Worth watching just to see the bar scene between his character and Ludacris.
"Dead Man's Shoes" - British indie written by the film's star, Paddy Consadine, who turns in a tour de force performance and creates a character for the ages. I love this movie, which has a sad, somber tone woven into a tale of revenge and loyalty (And, ultimately, embarrassment.). Watch it, and you won't soon forget it. A very good and haunting soundtrack as well - especially M. Ward's "Dead Man".
"30 Days of Night" - Good horror flicks are hard to come by these days, but I thought this film pulled it off. Good stuff, and a fresh take on the vampire genre. Read the graphic novels that continue the story - very interesting and cool.
"Snatch" - Guy Ritchie's best work. Love this film.
"28 Days Later" - Danny Boyle may have made the Best Zombie movie ever made, in my opinion, were it not for...
"Shaun of the Dead" - Zombie comedy at its finest. The Brits do Zombies better than anyone, it seems, and can make you cringe, cry, or guffaw while you're watching. This one falls into the latter of those three, and it is amazingly good and refreshing. I have watched this film many times, and have always felt better for it in the aftermath.
"Amores Perros" - Great Mexican film interweaving three seemingly random stories that come full circle in the film's final act. Gritty and real, this movie pulls no punches. Don't watch this if you are an animal lover with a weak stomach.
"Ghost Dog" - I love Jim Jarmusch, and his weird and offbeat sense of humor. This is his "action" movie of sorts, and Forrest Whitaker plays it for all it's worth. Great flick, great soundtrack, and great character. Get it quick.
"Y Tu Mama Tambien" - Another Mexican film, this road movie makes you want to travel south and see the world through our neighbors' eyes. At times beautiful, and at times a tad disturbing, "Y Tu Mama Tambien" is a masterwork of Latin Cinema.
"Donnie Darko" - Richard Kelly can only go downhill from here on out. He created a classic on his first time up to bat with "Donnie Darko", and now he can do nothing but disappoint in comparison. I really liked his follow-up film, "Southland Tales", but it is nowhere as good as "Darko". Watch this film and see why Kelly has developed a dedicated cult following.
"High Fidelity" - Top five John Cusack movies ever.
"The Departed" - Scorsese and the mob. 'Nuff said.
"Team America: World Police" - Puppets doing things they shouldn't. Songs that cause belly laughs. No one is safe from ridicule or parody. This is a classic film.
"District 9" - How could this movie be made on the shoestring budget that it had? How could it seem so real, and be so raw, and tell the story that it does? I loved this movie, and I am very much looking forward to the proposed sequel, "District 10". On the other end of the spectrum...
"Avatar" - The most expensive movie ever made, and it was worth every penny. An amazing, amazing movie. See it again and again. Just don't expect much of a plotline - it is heavy on the cliche.
The "Bourne" Trilogy - Matt Damon is a pretty darn good action hero, and I never expected it. He more than pulls it off, and has a great storyline to follow as he does so. Tremendous supporting casts, and good direction make this one of the few movie series that will last. Looking forward to the reported fourth installment.
The "Harry Potter" Films - I have blogged about them before - these are great movies, and not just for kids. Very, very good stuff.
The "Spiderman" Films - I am not a huge fan of these films, and I don't care much for Tobey McGuire, but I definitely respect what Sam Raimi has done here, and Alfred Molina made for a great villain. Good stuff.
"Star Trek" - As re-boots go, this is the real deal, and has completely re-invigorated the franchise. Looking forward to the future of the series.
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" - A new direction for martial-arts films. Hand-to-hand action has never looked so good, or been so large in scope.
"Kung Fu Hustle" - This one took me by surprise, and I fully expected it to disappoint beyond belief - turned out to be really funny, really interesting, and really good.
"Juno" - I was drawn in like everyone else by Diablo Cody's characters and dialogue, but it was the emergence of Ellen Page that made this one so memorable. Plus, there's Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, and Allison Janney to boot. Good flick.
"Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World" - Russell Crowe is really good in this nautical adventure, but it is Paull Bettany who once again shows off some highly underrated acting chops. This film should have gotten more attention.
"Munich" - Good Spielberg film, and Eric Bana is pretty darn good again.
"Tropic Thunder" - Really good comedy directed by Ben Stiller - would have been worth it just for Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance. Classic.
"Adaptation" - Charlie Kaufman is just a bit crazy, and this movie captures that as well as any other he has done. Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper are terrific, and Nic Cage refrains from ruining this film - his performance is actually pretty respectable. Maybe more than respectable - maybe pretty darn good.
"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" - Will Ferrell should have stopped here, because most of what he has done since has started to wear thin. Very thin. This film is classic, however. Many great lines, and Christina Applegate and Paul Rudd, perhaps the funniest man in Hollywood.
"Iron Man" - Jon Favreau made the best casting decisions in the history of comic book adaptations by putting Robert Downey, Jr. and Jeff Bridges in this film and it paid off in a big way. Looking forward to the next film in the series, and Mickey Rourke as Whiplash.
"Old Boy" - South Korean suspense/revenge movies are something to behold, and this is by far the best I have seen. Chan-woo Park is a cinematic treasure, and I now have his follow-up film, "Thirst" in my collection. Just need to make time to watch it.
"The Prestige" - Christopher Nolan again, with the second of three films on my list. Great performances, a very cool plot device, and amazing cinematography. Definitely watch this film. And make sure to watch...
"Memento" - Nolan again. One of the best scripts to land in Hollywood during our generation, and one of the best performances you will ever see. Guy Pearce deserves all the accolades you could possibly bestow upon him - and he may hopefully be recognized one day for the work he has done.
"300" - Zak Snider created a world of bleak landscapes and sculpted warriors, and somehow made it remarkable. Plenty of chances in this film to go cheesy and comical, but he somehow more than pulls it off, and never once veers from the original Frank Miller material. This is one of those movies that sets you on your heels, as was his follow-up film...
"Watchmen" - This is truly an amazing achievement in film. I was a big fan of the book going into this, and I know that "true fans" were split and upset with the liberties taken in the end of the film, but I thought it was great, and I didn't mind losing the alien angle. Great, great cinema, and Jackie Earle Haley is a real gem as Rorschach.
"Audition" - Crazy Japanese torture cinema, but with a story and plot that shocks and surprises. Takashi Miike is a visual and cinematic risk-taker, and it doesn't stop with this one. Tread lightly.
"Once" - Great music film, with wonderful songs, performances, and characters. This is a beautiful little film, and I would watch it over and over - give it a try.
"A History of Violence" - Viggo Mortensen really shines in this David Cronenberg character study, and he makes what could have been a somewhat cut-and-dry role very human, sensitive, and intense. And Maria Bello. Ed Harris and William Hurt. And Maria Bello.
"Traffic" - Where to start? All the great performances? The ridiculously entangled storyline and plot that continually changes and keeps you wholly engrossed? The amazing camera work and gritty cinematography? How about just Benicio del Toro. You could cut everything else out of the movie, and just show the scenes he is in, and it would be worth watching. Actually, just show his silent reaction shots, and it is worth watching.
"Elephant" - Gus Van Sant took a real chance with this movie, as the Columbine shootings were still a very touchy subject, and he tells the story in a fashion that might upset many folks. His risk paid off, though, because this is a very engrossing film.
"The Royal Tenenbaums" - Wes Anderson is the king of hip and eccentric, and this is a great film. I loved "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" as well, but the Tenenbaum clan is one of those great casts that will remain ingrained in your memory for years to come.
"Casino Royale" - Best. Bond. Ever. Daniel Craig takes the mantle, and should never give it back. And this from a man who loves Connery.
"Good Night, and Good Luck" - George Clooney deserves all the attention he gets, and he is the epitome of cool. His directorial debut shines, as does leading man David Strathairn, who will also pop up in my list of vastly underrated actors.
"Pan's Labyrinth" - Guillermo del Toro is very original, very good, and very prolific. I love this film, as I have loved all his work that I have seen. Alright, I'll throw "Devil's Backbone" and the "Hellboy" and "Blade" movies into this list as well.
"Kill Bill 1 & 2" - Tarantino is good. I try to dislike him, but I can't, because he makes really good movies and works with really good people. These films are no exception, as is...
"Inglourious Basterds" - One of the guys I work with, whose opinion I hold in the highest regard, says that he thinks this is Tarantino's best film. I don't know if I would go that far, but I definitely put it in the top three.
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - Strange and wonderful. Gondry is a visual icon and continues to impress. Kaufman again creates a strange and amazing world to work from.
"Gangs of New York" - Scorsese's ode to the origins of modern New York, this might be my favorite Daniel Day Lewis role, and that is saying something. I truly loved this movie.
All of the movies produced by Pixar ("Monsters, Inc.", "Finding Nemo", "The Incredibles", "Cars", "Ratatouille", "WALL-E", and "Up"). The Pixar folks just keep making the best animated motion pictures ever, and they do so time after time after time. How can they keep up their string of well-received hits, you ask? They seemingly go into each film with the intent of making something steeped in quality and imagination. Hollywood should catch on.
This is a very long list, I know, and I could keep it going on and on. I think I'll stop here, though, and spare you all the pain.
Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. Take care, and have a wonderful holiday season. Hope your Christmas was all you ever hoped for.
|Space Capone at Capone's|
|Space Capone made a landing and performed at Capone's in Johnson City, TN.|