Wasn’t it only yesterday that lists were used solely for the purposes of food shopping or as something Santa checked twice? A simpler time when breezy summer days passed to the static sounds of the counted-down top 500 rock songs of all-time on the radio; the only real list that mattered? Drift away, for a moment, into the welcoming grasp of childhood nostalgic tranquilities past, before I rudely slam you with the reality of today: lists are everywhere and like Gremlins fed after midnight, they are multiplying, fast. Every magazine, network, website, blog, man, woman and child categorizes something according to their “expert” opinion. It’s gotten so that I made an actual entire outfit out of paper containing these little monsters and nobody looked twice. Ok, I’m lying. But making a list has become, along with owning a gun and drinking moonshine, an inalienable American rite. So without further ado, and while VH1 subjects me to the Top 100 Red Carpet Moments…again, I present to you my top ten and worst bottom-feeding three movies of the year (and a few other goodies thrown in as well). Enjoy!
THE TOP TEN
10. SHAUN OF THE DEAD
The most fun I had watching a movie (released in 2004) on DVD at home. Even if I didn’t get all of the zombie movie references, this horror film spoof is well made, lively (no pun intended) and highly entertaining. Hail Britain!
9. (TIE) INTIMATE STRANGERS/RED LIGHTS
The best from the foreign “art house,” both films hail from France. Both films are crafted beautifully; Patrice Laconte’s STRANGERS a comic, quirky, romantic tale while Cedric Kahn’s RED LIGHTS is a darker treatise on modern adult manhood in an unraveling marriage.
8. FAHRENHEIT 9/11
Putting politics aside for a moment, the film is most intriguing as an op-ed piece; an expensive, visual op-ed piece that gathered unique footage and a boatload of heated, but known, argument points in one package. To the large mouth and body that spurred a documentary renaissance, I pay homage.
7. THE BOURNE SUPREMACY
The most fun I had in a theater this year. Paul Greengrass's (BLOODY SUNDAY) true popcorn action thriller has a simple, agile plotline and an actions-speak-louder-than-no-words hero in Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). A summer action flick that all others who come after it should learn from.
6. METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER
Kind of like going to a rock 'n' roll zoo and intimately studying the inhabitants of the heavy-metal cage for two hours, if that were possible. Not just for Metallica fans, but an insightful portrait worthy of any music fan’s attention.
In a year that has produced a thickening haze of biopics, this was the best. Simultaneously and deftly portraying its protagonist’s traits and accomplishments, it treats an often still-taboo subject, sex, frankly and maturely.
4. MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Like RAGING BULL and a few others, this is a boxing movie less about boxing and more about the boxer. Director Clint Eastwood, on a bit of a roll, has effortlessly created a superior heartfelt tale of determination and bravery in what feels like handmade cinema.
3. BEFORE SUNSET
Richard Linklater’s eloquent tale of true love lost and true love found again is a rare instance where a sequel is even more charming and fulfilling then its excellent predecessor, 1995’s BEFORE SUNRISE. An exceptional instance where the main characters, along with the audience, have grown more worldly and weary in the intermittent real time.
2. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Spare. Poetic. Beautiful. One of my favorite films of the year. An amped-down Jim Carrey shines along with Kate Winslet in director Michel Gondry and noted screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s twisty story of amour that will tug at anyone with a beating heart and warm blood flowing through their veins.
Alexander Payne’s triumph gives, in ample supply, what I love about any great film: true, yet flawed characters who shed that restrictive skin and become people; several moments of subtle, sharp humor; and moments of gripping emotional depth that cause serious personal contemplation; the film sticks with you for days, long after its last credit has lifted up towards the sky.
HONORABLE MENTION: TOUCHING THE VOID; GOOD-BYE LENIN; SUPERSIZE ME; COLLATERAL; CLOSER; HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS; SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER…AND SPRING AGAIN.
THE BOTTOM 3
Cliché-drenched, non-scary horror thrillers with creepy kids are bad enough. Cliché-drenched, non-scary horror thrillers with a non-sensical, dim storylines are absolutely dreadful.
2. THE BIG BOUNCE
Even getting to stare at Sara Foster’s unquestionable beauty for 88 minutes (which felt interminable!) couldn’t save this stale, half-assed, boring, half-baked “comic” caper remake.
1. SURVIVING CHRISTMAS
Good luck surviving this unfunny bit of trash. This is the kind of movie they should hand out merit badges to the three leaving audience members who sat through CHRISTMAS in October (one of whom was presumably James Gandolfini’s mother). Ben Affleck’s smarmy, self-aggrandizing, annoying, cutesy character may just be the real reason why the rest of the world hates us.
Guiltiest Pleasure (THE DAY AFTER TOMMORROW): I know the CGI wolves looked terrible and were pretty pointless. I know director Roland Emmerich made GODZILLA. I know the Dennis Quaid’s trek was as realistic as that leprechaun who tells me to burn stuff. I know that Sela Ward’s character’s sub-plot was totally manipulative. But, what can I say? I…got…sucked…in. Guilty as charged.
Most Overrated Movie (NAPOLEON DYNAMITE): At the risk of taking heat on this (it is selling like hotcakes on DVD), I am not in love with Napoleon or his Liger. Yes, I laugh at these characters because, like P.T. Barnum’s freak show, it’s easy to point and chuckle. But this was less a film then a series of skits with emotionless vessels that left no impression, good, funny, or bad, on me.