Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2002

Spider-Man: I was arguing with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago about the status of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. He feels that it's still the best superhero film out there, and while I've spoken at length about that notion before, I think my friend is right to some degree: the essence of the character was captured so well by Raimi, and the use of technology was expertly utilized to bring us the first truly breathtaking comic book film of the decade. I must also take this moment to thank this film in particular for singlehandedly leading me into the world of upcoming movie news on the internet. I was just a lad when I first heard Spider-Man was actually coming to the big screen - not the long-rumored James Cameron version, but a real version - and I was just becoming comfortable enough with the internet that I put two and two together: perhaps I could learn a thing or two about the production before the movie came out. And thus began a curious streak that has only strengthened in the ensuing years. So thank you, Spider-Man. You've given me more than you'll ever know.

Brotherhood of the Wolf: I came across this film much later in the decade (somewhere around 2008, I'd wager), but I'll tell you what - this movie kicks ass. It's a French film, but believe me when I tell you it's worth enduring the subtitles. Blending mystery, martial arts, murder, werewolf mythos, and historical fiction, Brotherhood of the Wolf has become one of my favorite foreign films of all time.

City of God: Speaking of foreign films, let's knock those out quickly, shall we? The previous sentence should in no way diminish the quality of City of God, since this 2003 movie had about an equal impact on me as Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire. A Brazilian crime film, this movie provided a look into a culture I never knew existed, and it did it with a visual flair that was as technically impressive as it was viscerally thrilling. I had never seen a film like this before, and after years of watching bad movies and cookie cutter Hollywood formulas, City of God was a breath of fresh air that I would recommend to just about anybody.

The Count of Monte Cristo: I'm almost certain you won't find this one on anybody else's list. But for my money, this adaptation of the classic novel is the best revenge story on screen. I'm a sucker for revenge movies in which the protagonist spends years researching the most effective ways to enact his/her master plan, and Monte Cristo delivers that in a big way. The performances were top notch (especially Guy Pearce's weaselly villain), and the feeling of satisfaction at the end is only comparable (for me, at least) to the end of The Shawshank Redemption.

Minority Report: Spielberg has two spots on this list, which means he remarkably put out two stellar films in the same year - a fact I hadn't fully realized until creating this post. Minority Report was released in June, and it's one of the best science fiction movies I've ever seen. The world (specifically, the technology in that world) that Spielberg and his team created (based on a short story by Philip K. Dick) was groundbreaking at the time, and the desaturation of the film gave the movie a unique look that separates it from others in its genre. I think this is also one of Tom Cruise's most enjoyable, if not necessarily iconic, performances: John Anderton, the down-on-his-luck detective emotionally crippled by his own inability to care for his child, who then takes on the role of surrogate father to Agatha, the "precog" who predicts Anderton himself will murder someone. An underrated movie that deserves revisiting.

Catch Me If You Can: The much more breezy of Spielberg's one-two punch of 2K2, CMIYC was released in December of that year. Again, fantastic performances by Hanks and DiCaprio (not to mention the bevy of small parts for actors like Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner) coupled with a great story make this one of the most rewatchable movies of the year for me. The Barry Allen gag gets me every time, and the Walken speech about mice churning cream into butter has been an intermittent running story in my personal relationships with friends.

Orange County: Speaking of personal, this film is the most personal to me of all the ones on this list. In fact, rarely has a film spoken to me on a deeper personal level than this one. I've always enjoyed writing, and there wasn't a film that spoke to my generation of writers quite like this one did. Check out my review for more on why I love this flick, but for now I'll leave you with the one thing YOU probably remember from it - CrazyTown's "Butterfly."

The Transporter: My introduction to Jason Statham was punctuated at first by outrage that the missile-deflection featured in the trailer was nowhere to be found in the actual movie, but soon gave way to utter appreciation for the ass-kickery that was on display during the film's short run time. The simple premise was extremely well directed by Corey Yuen, and the movie features fight sequences (the bus terminal) and car chases (the opening chase) that still make me shake my head and smile at their sheer awesomeness. Sure, the plot is threadbare and derivative - but it doesn't matter when it's done with as much style as this, and Statham plays the role so straight we almost miss the joke.

Likely to see on everyone else's "Best Of" lists: Punch-Drunk Love, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Bourne Identity, 25th Hour, Adaptation. [I must admit, though - I still haven't seen 25th Hour and it's popping up on a lot of lists that I've seen so far. I dig Ed Norton (although clearly not as much as my sister), so I'll have to check this one out and maybe come back to revise this post later.]

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