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The Best Films Of The Year, So Far
The Best Films Of The Year, So Far
Those that know me know I'm a movie buff. And those who don't know me know I'm a movie buff after they read the first sentence. As such, I make an effort to see as many movies as possible, usually once a week. I've actually seen 14 new movies this year, which is just over one a week, but bear in mind some weeks I bought DVDs, and on two weekends, I saw films from last year that were up for Oscars. In fact, I saw "Brokeback Mountain" the night my truck died.
*Side note: A real good way to determine where you fall sexually is to watch "Brokeback Mountain." There are straight and gay sex scenes, with female frontal nudity. Watch the film, and be mindful of your crotch. If that special something happens during a particular scene, you know what side you bat for.*
So, in the interest of sparking debate, and to just write something, here are the movies I've seen so far, ranked from worst to first (though none were altogether bad), and my justifications for them. True, there are a few days left in the first half of the year, but I won't have a chance to see a movie before Saturday, at which point it will be July, and half two of 2006.
14 - Art School Confidential - The movie isn't bad, just confusing. The advertisements and trailors painted it (pardon the pun), as a quirky college comedy, even bringing in one of the guys from the short lived "Undeclared," as well as Ethan Suplee from Kevin Smith movies and "My Name is Earl." There are some decent jokes early on, but about halfway through, the story seems to lose its place, wrapping itself up in an "American Beauty" air that it doesn't deserve. Kind of like an art/film school project, it gets a bit pretentious, and we in the audience are left guessing, plus the murder subplot was a bit macabre for an otherwise light-hearted film. Oh well, at least there's some tasteful nudity, and a stellar performance from John Malkovich.
13 - Inside Man - Spike Lee's latest joint (a term he uses cause he's high on weed when he takes on projects, I suppose, either that or the film reels are smokeable) centers around the perfect bank heist. Clive Owen gives a remarkable performance, and Denzel's his usual awesome. Jodie Foster's basically wasted, and the Nazi diamond subplot is a bit pretentious in a film that was a real departure for Spike, in that race plays almost no factor in the plot.
12 - Nacho Libre - There is absolutely nothing redeeming about the style of this film. It plays on Mexican stereotypes, the acting is terrible except for Jack Black, and the plot is basically an extended SNL sketch. That being said, Black's over the top performance made me laugh non-stop, despite everything bad with this film.
11 - X-Men 3: The Last Stand - I liked this movie, but there was always something that bothered me about it, and it took me a while to put my finger on it. And then it hit me, back story. The first two films focus on two things: Rogue trying to lead a normal life while dealing with her powers, and Logan/Wolverine trying to discover his past. In the third installment, Rogue's story is resolved, if only in the background, and Logan's back story isn't explored at all. Standing alone, it's a great movie, but for the fans who followed the trilogy from the beginning (leaving comic book canon out of the equation), it's kind of a disappointment that story was left behind in favor of special effects and awesome fight sequences.
10 - The DaVinci Code - I saw the movie for two reasons: One, I love Tom Hanks. Two, the same reason I read the book, I'll look into anything that pisses off a billion Catholics without watching/reading it for themselves. It was decent, but in an attempt to be true to the page, they crammed too much into two short hours, then took liberty with the plot towards the end anyway. Still, better than "National Treasure."
9 - A Prairie Home Companion - Two words: Robert Altman. Hollywood hates him, film purists (and actors) love him. Actors chomp at the bit to be a part of his latest project, despite the fact that the Academy never gives him the credit he deserves. The film brings together a brilliant ensemble cast to act out the scenario of Garrison Keillor's final radio show, where GK is emotionless, yet everyone else feels the need to go out with a bang. The only downside is Lindsay Lohan. Her acting was fine, but it was clear that her scenes were filmed during her anorexic phase, and when she sings at the end, it's nowhere near what her character was like, nor is it anywhere near the timbre of the music throughout the film. Kevin Kline is classic as Guy Noir.
8 - American Dreamz - The premise that launched the film: More people vote for "American Idol" than the presidential election. The film doesn't really follow that line, but it's still a delightful satire of pop music culture, and takes some well deserved, but good natured shots at our dullard of a Commander-in-Chief. However, there was a better satire this year, which I'll get to later.
7 - Cars - Funny, cute, good message, jokes and outtakes in the credits, and a lame, pseudo-political scene, all in all equals your standard Disney fare. The best parts were the celebrity cameos from Darrel Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Richard Petty, Bob Costas, and Michael Schumacher.
6 - Find Me Guilty - Another brilliant director comes back into the limelight. This time, Sidney Lumet directs the dramatization of the largest mafia trial in New York's history, with Vin Diesel taking center stage to defend himself, with pluck, moxy, and grit. Who knew? Vin Diesel can actually act? It's true. Despite Lumet's directing skill, his style has always been to let the actors be the stamp on the work, not him (see Henry Fonda in "12 Angry Men"), and Vin Diesel takes that stamp and brings it right on home with a nomination worthy performance.
5 - Dave Chappelle's Block Party - Before he fled to Africa for a scheduled nervous breakdown, Dave Chappelle threw a free concert in Bedford Stuyvesant, inviting some of the biggest names in comedy and hip-hop and R&B music, along with the folks from his hometown in Ohio. It's sweet, it's funny, and the music is great. Sometimes it's fun to see a documentary, especially when it's about one day of pure fun.
4 - V for Vendetta - One of my friends tried to convince me that this film was nothing but liberal propoganda, but he's a dumbass. This film, however, does have a charismatic anti-hero in V (Hugo Weaving), amazing character development in Evie Hammond (Natalie Portman's finest performance to date), massively cool special effects from the Wachowski Brothers, who basically made this film as an apology for "Matrix: Revolutions," and some good references to Thatcher's England (not Bush's America).
3 - Over the Hedge - "Cars" got all the press, but this is the better cartoon. If you've ever read the comic strip in the Sunday paper, you'd get this movie, and most likely love it. The all-star cast blends in perfectly (only Gary Shandling, William Shatner, and Wanda Sykes are distinguishable based on voice alone), and they play their characters to the hilt. The animation's better than "Cars" and the film's jokes can appeal to a wider audience.
2 - Thank You for Smoking - I have not laughed this hard in years. Aaron Eckhart plays a tobacco lobbyist who talks fast, lives faster, and advances the interests of those that truth dot com tells us are trying to kill us, all the while trying to be a successful single father. The film has no agenda, and takes an equal amount of pot shots at lobbyists that call themselves the MOD Squad (Merchants of Death), the press (Katie Holmes is tolerable, probably because she filmed this before Tom Cruise scrambled her brain and uterus), Hollywood (Rob Lowe works for an ad agency whose anagram is EG, and the government (William H. Macy as the crusading anti-tobacco Senator). Funny thing worth mentioning. In a film that lambasts all sides of the smoking debate, not once do you see anyone smoking.
1 - United 93 - This is not a pro-war film. This is not an anti-war film. This film has absolutely no agenda. With the permission of the families of the 40 people on the fateful flight, director Paul Greengrass gives us the first cinematic look at 9/11. Using no named actors and some of the real people involved on the ground re-enacting their actions that day, the film seeks to take a documentarian look at the events that happened that day. The camera is merely the fly on the wall. While the film admits that everything on the plane itself is pure speculation, intensive research and interviews were conducted with the families, phone calls analyzed, etc, so a believeable dramatization could be portrayed. It would have been so easy to depict the passengers as brave heroes out to protect the country, and the terrorists as pure evil incarnate monsters. But instead, Greengrass took the harder, yet more honest route, and showed us human beings, regardless of thier agendas and intentions, and just tried to show what he (and we) believes happened before Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania. All 40 people on board are honored, and someone was cast to play everyone, terrorist, crew, passenger, all, whether they had lines or not. It is, far and away, the best film of the year so far, and it will be hard to beat at the end of the year.
7/2/2006 5:37 pm
I actually can't watch "United 93." Between my gf and I, we lost 19 people in WTC, and I'm just not ready to relive any part of that day.|
"Thank You for Smoking" was brilliant....probably the best movie I saw all year. The satire was so subtle you honestly thought you were watching a 90 minute smoking ad.
"Find Me Guilty" I went to with a friend unwillingly and convinced it would be a waste of two hours. I was suprisingly wrong. Vin can act, although the accent grated on me at times. He nailed Jack DiNorscio.
I was gonna mention "Inside Man," but you actually echoed my thoughts, especially about Jodie Foster....Spike could've done so much more with her.