Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2009

The Brothers Bloom: Rian Johnson's second film is populated with superb acting, phenomenal writing, and a story that features multiple layers. A con movie with heart, this is not to be missed.

Drag Me To Hell: Sam Raimi's return to horror could also be hailed as a return to comedy - the gross-out moments are far funnier than they are scary. That said, this was the most intense theatrical experience I've ever had. Thanks to Raimi's decision to ramp up the volume at the "jump scare" moments, this movie almost literally shocked me out of my seat several times, and the tension involved (even in ridiculous scenarios) is top notch.

Avatar: While it certainly wasn't the perfect film some make it out to be, this was the "Event Movie" of the decade and it more than lived up to its insane reputation. James Cameron's return to feature length fiction was something to behold, especially in IMAX 3D. The legendary director sure hasn't forgotten any aspects of filmmaking in the twelve years we waited to see this movie, and now that the tech behind it is already in place, expect at least one Avatar sequel in the next three or so years.

(500) Days of Summer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers more solid work in this picture, and I'm glad the guy is getting a little more high profile roles these days. The script was funny, heartbreaking, and real - that's more than can be said about almost any other film this year. Music video director Marc Webb made a great debut and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing his next project.

Star Trek: The ensemble cast took the world by storm, especially Chris Pine as James T. Kirk. The story of how the Enterprise gained its most famous crew was in good hands with J.J. Abrams, who, in only his second feature film, created a clearly defined universe filled with humor, action, romance, and - most importantly - fun. This was a blast, and (again, unusual for me to say) I'm really looking forward to the sequel.

Up In The Air: Jason Reitman's third film features George Clooney in one of his best performances. You can read my review here, but suffice it to say that I really enjoyed this movie.

District 9: One of the most original sci-fi movies I've seen in years, Neill Blomkamp's directorial debut (man, there are a lot of directorial debuts in my selections!) announced his presence in a big way. This guy has a bright future ahead of him, and District 9 proves his ability to work well with both actors and CGI.

Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning: Tony Jaa's masterpiece, this is the best action movie (of any kind, mind you) that I've ever seen. The bone-crunching martial arts on display are absolutely dazzling, and there are scenes in this movie (ex: two guys fighting ON TOP OF A LIVE ELEPHANT) that you'll probably never see in film again.

Inglourious Basterds: Tarantino's best film so far, this revisionist WWII story is expertly told by a man who truly loves cinema and translates that love into a palpable enjoyment on screen. This may well win the Best Picture of 2009.

Likely to see on everyone else's "Best Of" lists: The Hangover, Moon, The Hurt Locker, In The Loop, Where The Wild Things Are

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2008

Rambo: Stallone's return to his iconic character of John Rambo remains the most brutal film I've ever seen in a theater. His commentary on the atrocities in some third world countries may be a bit heavy-handed, but you've gotta admit: the dude can shoot an action movie. The final 40 minutes or so features Rambo mowing people down with a .50 caliber machine gun, so you can imagine what kind of mayhem you're in for if you missed this one last year and plan on checking it out.

Speed Racer: Another unpopular choice, but this is definitely one I'll defend until I die. The Wachowski's succeeded in creating a fun kid's movie that is almost as enjoyable as playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64. I'll admit the story was cheesy (that was the point!), and the kid and his monkey were almost enough to kick this movie from the list, but the madcap races reminiscent of old Penelope Pitstop cartoons were enough to keep my attention and keep a smile on my face. The visuals were insane in this movie, and I loved almost every minute of it.

Cloverfield: Not quite my favorite movie of the year, but this one came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me by actually turning out to be a great film. The monster movie genre is a bit old and worn out, but J.J. Abrams and director Matt Reeves breathed new life into it with their allegory of September 11th masked in a story of a destructive creature who tears New York City apart. The main reason why this movie worked? The characters. Hmm...maybe Hollywood should catch on to this pattern for their next big budget spectacle.

The Fall: This is another one you might not have seen, but since it's on this list, you'll rightly assume that I'd recommend checking it out. A whimsical story of adventure told featuring a "story within a story" structure, Tarsem's follow-up to The Cell is much more visually striking and emotionally satisfying. This movie conjures images of strange lands and wild and weird fairy tales, shot in 20 countries over four years. The characters are likable, the story is well-written, and the costume design (something I almost never mention) will blow your mind.

Slumdog Millionaire: Like 2003's City of God, this movie swept me into a world I'd never seen and I loved every second of it. The writing is freaking brilliant: the main character Jamal is playing Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and each time he answers a question, the film flashes back to the point in his life when he learned the answer. Powerful, visually arresting, and extraordinarily directed by Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire had me reeling for weeks after I saw it. This is a fairy tale love story of the best kind.

In Bruges: Colin Farrell delivers the best performance of his career in this black comedy/action thriller set in Bruges, Belgium. One of the most original movies I've ever seen, I really hope writer/director Martin McDonagh gets behind the camera again soon. This movie almost defies explanation, so I'd urge you to see it for yourself if you haven't had the chance.

Iron Man: Talk about coming out of nowhere. Jon Favreau made the most seamless transition I've ever seen from indie to huge budget movies, and did it with style and class. Iron Man caught almost everyone by surprise, and ushered in the Era of Downey. Perfectly capturing the tone and essence of the comics, this movie was one of the few origin stories that didn't seem like they were simply going through the motions because they were required to. The story was fun, the characters felt like real people, and the all-star cast was clearly having a great time making the movie. It's hard to define that kind of feeling on a set, but it certainly translated into a fantastic final product for the rest of us to enjoy. And, while I'm usually wary of sequels, I'm excited about this one.

The Dark Knight: Like almost everyone else, I'd put this at my favorite movie of the year. You all know the drill - Heath was awe-inspiring, Bale's Bat-voice was the only real flaw, and Nolan freaking dominates. This is one of those movies where if I catch a few minutes of it on TV, I have to finish the whole thing. And you know what? I'm never disappointed. The only real crime is that Aaron Eckhart gets so little credit for his portrayal of Harvey Dent, which I legitimately think was award-worthy.

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2007

Wristcutters: A Love Story: My favorite film of the year. This is criminally overlooked by the critical community and the occasional moviegoer alike, and it's a crying shame. Featuring a brilliant script by Goran Dukic (he directed as well), along with pitch-perfect performances from Patrick Fugit and Shannyn Sossamon, this movie deals with some heavy material but is ultimately uplifting. I hesitate to use the word "transcendent," but that's how this movie made me feel. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Gone Baby Gone: Ben Affleck's directorial debut was startlingly good, a moody detective story about the kidnapping of a young girl in Boston. Based on the book by "Mystic River" author Dennis Lehane, Affleck creates a unique atmosphere and urges solid work from his younger brother Casey, who plays the lead role. Supporting work from Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Adams, and Michelle Monaghan make this one unforgettable in my eyes. It's not the easiest movie to watch, but I think it's a great film.

3:10 to Yuma: Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are upstaged by Ben Foster, who plays one of the best crazed henchmen in recent memory. Director James Mangold crafts a successful western, one that recalls the genre classic High Noon and racks up the tension thanks to an excellent script. Even though Ben Foster's Charlie Prince is the most memorable character, Crowe and Bale put on an acting clinic: reserved and contemplative at the same time, the two actors never try to outdo each other and they are both fascinating to watch in this film.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters: One of my favorite documentaries, The King of Kong follows a middle school science teacher as he faces off against one of the most memorable nonfiction villains in recent memory: Billy Mitchell, the Donkey Kong world record holder. This is an incredibly entertaining movie even for those who haven't ever played Donkey Kong. If you have even a slight interest in video games and the subculture surrounding their players, this is the doc for you.

No Country For Old Men: The Coen's bleak take on the western genre features enough nihilism for the biggest cynic out there, but Javier Bardem's work as the terrifying Anton Chigurh and Tommy Lee Jones' turn as the one-step-behind Texas sheriff makes this worth watching. The film won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, so I'm obviously not the only one who dug it. The ending may have been unsatisfying to some, but in retrospect it was a stroke of brilliance by the immensely talented Brothers Coen.

There Will Be Blood: Paul Thomas Anderson tackles religion and capitalism in his epic period drama. Nothing more needs to be said about how amazing Daniel Day-Lewis was as Daniel Plainview, and I was psyched when "I'll Drink Your Milkshake" fever swept the nation, albeit for a brief time. I've still only seen this movie once, but even with that one viewing I know it's one of my favorites of 2007. I plan on seeing it again soon to try and decipher some of the more complex messages Anderson embedded, and I'd recommend a second viewing even if you didn't like it the first time around.

The Bourne Ultimatum: I was so disappointed when I heard that Hollywood was interested in a fourth Bourne film, because I think this one is a perfect capstone to a pretty excellent trilogy. Damon embodies the character with just the right amount of emotional distress, and is completely believable in fight scene after fight scene. Paul Greengrass dialed the shaky cam down a little from The Bourne Supremacy (which I disliked because of the nausea induced by the aforementioned camera style) and really let the story take the reins in this installment of the franchise. This was one of the best sequels in a year littered with big screen sequels, and I'm honestly hoping that we never see a Bourne 4 hit theaters.

Likely to see on other people's "Best Of" lists: Juno, American Gangster, I Am Legend, Atonement, Eastern Promises, Rescue Dawn, Sunshine

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2006

The Departed: Scorsese won his first (long-overdue) Oscar with this flick, and his movie deserves every accolade it received. Inspired casting, an awesome script, and great direction kick this movie into a realm some films can only dream of reaching. The twisty storyline left everyone wondering how it would play out, and the shocking ending was the only satisfying way this story could have ended. Easily rewatchable.

The Prestige: Like The Sixth Sense before it, I wanted to see The Prestige again immediately after walking out of the theater. I keep mentioning casting, but I can't oversell its importance in a film, and they really knocked it out of the park here. The pairing of Jackman and Bale with supporting turns from Scarlett Johansson and Michael Caine made for an incredibly entertaining battle that wouldn't have been nearly effective with lesser actors. The script was fantastic, and although the story delves slightly into the supernatural, it still feels plausible within the world Christopher Nolan and his team created. This is hands down one of my favorite movies of the decade.

The Fountain: This one doesn't get enough love, and I'm doing my part to change that. Another intense performance from Jackman, solid work from Rachel Weisz, and brilliant direction from Darren Aronofsky add to the emotional core of this movie, one which connected with me on a personal level. It's very ethereal, and definitely not for some, but for those who stick it out and don't mind considering some heavy concepts like death and the afterlife, The Fountain is sure to pay off.

The Protector: Tony Jaa's follow-up to Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior, The Protector is a Thai action film that sees Jaa evoking the days of early Jackie Chan, and then smashing those memories with an elbow drop. The story is simplistic (Jaa's pet elephant is stolen, he must get him back), but the action is so heavy that it's hard to pick out a favorite scene. Whether it's the four minute continuous long shot up a massive staircase or the scene where Jaa's character takes on fifty guys singlehandedly, The Protector offers loads of badassery and is a must-see for any action junkie.

Crank: Nevaldine and Taylor made their mark with this high octane thriller. Injected with a lethal poison, Jason Statham's Chev Chelios must keep his heart pumping long enough to enact revenge on the men who poisoned him. Spoiler alert: he does, and it's ridiculously entertaining. It's a shame the sequel didn't capture the same amount of fun that this one did.

V For Vendetta: Something about this movie really stuck with me, and I'm not entirely sure what it is. Perhaps the whole picture - Natalie Portman's strong performance, Hugo Weaving as the charming and mysterious V, the political allegory in a movie based on a comic book - made an impact, but I really dug this movie and harbor no apologies for liking it.

Lucky Number Slevin: The trailer for this movie undersells the hell out of it, and I came out of the theater pleasantly surprised. The dialogue is incredible, sharp and witty, and this film completed the unlikely task of turning me into a Josh Hartnett fan. Even Lucy Liu, whom I normally despise, was shockingly watchable here. The script is fantastic and the one-liners fly left and right in this story of betrayal, assassination, and a man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Casino Royale: The reinvention of the Bond franchise caught me off guard, especially Daniel Craig as Bond. I was a vocal detractor of his, but this movie caused me to place my foot squarely in my mouth. Much of the credit for the success of this movie must go to Martin Campbell, who also gave the dying franchise a shot of adrenaline with Goldeneye back in 1995. If only they'd bring him back for the sequel to the dismal Quantum of Solace...

Mission: Impossible III: J.J. Abrams' directorial debut was a spectacular action movie with some amazing set pieces. Philip Seymour Hoffman's nefarious villain was not physically threatening, but the madness behind his eyes made him the biggest threat Ethan Hunt has yet to face. Cruise, whom one might assume would be getting a little old for the role at this point, carried the character without a hint of aging, and I'm definitely interested in seeing another Mission: Impossible movie in the next few years if it's anything like this one. And that bridge sequence? Excellent.

Likely to see on everyone else's "Best Of" lists: The Science of Sleep, Thank You For Smoking, Letters From Iwo Jima, Pan's Labyrinth, Children of Men, The Good Shepherd, Curse of the Golden Flower

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2005

Wedding Crashers: Probably the only romantic comedy on this list, this movie definitely earned its spot. I feel like this film is underrated for some reason, and I can't figure out why. The cast is awesome, Owen Wilson has rarely been funnier, the writing is sharp and sweet at the same time, and it's got something for everybody. Plus, you've got the Christopher Walken factor. What else do you want?

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Talk about underrated, this movie never gets the love it deserves! Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer in a pulp noir comedy written and directed by Shane Black? For my money, it's hard to find a better time at the movies. This movie concentrates on characters and story, something I think big budget blockbusters sometimes lose track of among the special effects. This was before Downey's big comeback, so I think it's not on many people's radar, but I'm urging everyone to check this out if you haven't seen it. I loved it, and I can't wait for Shane Black's next directorial effort.

Batman Begins: You didn't think we could make it through a whole year without a superhero movie making the list, did you? Christopher Nolan changed the game with this ultra-realistic take on the Batman mythos and gave us a look into a Gotham City that we've never seen before. There's not much to be said about this one that everyone doesn't already know, so let's just take a moment to recognize how badass this movie was before we move on.

Serenity: 2005 must be my year for hyping underrated flicks. Joss Whedon's feature film debut was a continuation of the brilliant sci-fi/western series "Firefly," a show cancelled prematurely but with a large enough fan base to warrant this film. The movie serves as a great companion piece to the show, and also a really effective introduction to the characters for those who haven't seen the show before. I watched this movie, fell in love with the characters, and decided to check out the show; in retrospect, I wish I would have seen the show when it was on the air and given it a better chance of survival. Regardless, Serenity is a fun sci-fi flick that has some incredible action sequences and is filled with enjoyable characters.

Sin City: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino gave audiences a visual treat unlike anything we'd ever seen (OK, maybe except Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow). Each vignette was entertaining, violent, over-the-top, and funny. I love the film noir genre, and this movie takes the conventions found in those old movies from the 30's and 40's and kicks them into overdrive, courtesy of Frank Miller's influential source material. And that cast is something directors dream of.

Transporter 2: As far as cheesy action movies go, you'll be hard pressed to find one that combines utter cheese with fantastic action quite as well as Transporter 2. This is my standard for Jason Statham movies, and, outside of Tony Jaa films, I don't think you'll find a more entertaining action sequence than the one here in which Statham's Frank Martin dispatches bad guys with a fire hose. If that sounds intriguing to you, trust me: there's more where that came from, and it's all epically ridiculous.

Brick: This one isn't exactly "underrated," but Rian Johnson's indie noir set in a high school is without a doubt one of my favorite movies of the decade. Johnson's writing evokes hardboiled novelists like Dashiell Hammett, the dialogue seems straight out of a Bogart flick from the 40's, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives one of his best performances as a high school detective trying to solve his ex-girlfriend's murder. Watch The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon, and then throw on Brick - if you like the first two, you'll love Rian Johnson's movie.

The Island: Seems like there has to be an unpopular choice on every year's list from me, but I'm taking a stand. I really dug Michael Bay's The Island. Yes, it's incredibly derivative of Logan's Run, and yes, it's slick and stylized and glossy as hell. What can I say? I think it's Bay's best-executed film, and the performances from Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, and Ewan McGregor were pretty entertaining. The highway chase was a blast, Scarlett Johansson has never looked better, and it delivers on all fronts with the exception of providing an original storyline. All I'm saying is if somebody had to make this movie, I'm glad it was Michael Bay.

Green Street Hooligans: As I mentioned in regards to Shattered Glass, I'm a sucker for journalism movies. This one is a variation on the genre, featuring Elijah Wood as an American who gets sucked into the lifestyle of English soccer hooligans. This one doesn't disappoint and it's one you can watch with a group because chances are you probably haven't seen it. For all you brawlers out there, don't worry - there are plenty of bare-knuckle fight scenes between hooligan firms and enough action to keep you going strong the whole way through. A phenomenal movie about loyalty, brotherhood, growing up, and belonging.

Likely to see on everyone else's "Best Of" lists: Match Point, Cinderella Man, Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Walk the Line

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2004

Spider-Man 2: I know, I know. You must be getting tired of superhero movies making these lists. But honestly, Spidey 2 is still the gold standard for some people when it comes to the genre. It was Sam Raimi at the absolute top of his game, crafting a better film than the original and populating this one with a relatable, believable villain and utilizing the best technology at his disposal to create the best (OK, the only) Doc Ock we've ever seen on the big screen. Great flick.

Troy: I minored in Classical Studies (aka Greek and Roman mythology) in college, so naturally I was stoked when I found out an epic adaptation of the Trojan War was hitting the silver screen. Needless to say, this movie isn't the most well-respected among critics or the most accurate portrayal of the quasi-historical events, but that doesn't mean that I can't love the hell out of it. The casting was pretty great (standout performance? Eric Bana), and the solid direction from Wolfgang Petersen makes this one a movie I certainly don't mind rewatching.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy: I'd argue that 2004 was the best year for pure comedy in the entire decade. With Anchorman and Dodgeball coming out in the same summer, audiences everywhere were busting their guts at the antics of the Frat Pack, a comedy crew that dominated the decade. Will Ferrell delivers his career-defining performance (to me, at least) as the buffoonish San Diego anchorman and spits out so many quotable lines it's unwieldy to list them all here. I'd almost guarantee that you still hear at least one Anchorman quote a month.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story: I spent years battling myself in my head over which was funnier between Dodgeball and Anchorman until I finally realized that it truly doesn't matter - both films are spectacles of hilarity, infinitely quotable, and laugh out loud funny almost all the way through. They hold up on repeat viewings (especially well if there's some time between viewings so you forget the small jokes), and redefined the comedy landscape of the aughts. Vince Vaughn has never been better; after a string of holiday-themed movies and average comedies, I'm still holding out hope that he reaches his peak yet again in the years to come.

Collateral: Michael Mann enthusiasts may hate me for this, but I like this movie more than Heat. Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx were fantastic, and Jada Pinkett-Smith did an admirable job not making me hate her character (an unfortunate pattern from the actress and her son). The style, tone, and execution of this movie are flawless, and Mann's digital filmmaking is on masterful display here. I can't wait until this movie comes out on Blu-ray, because I'll be first in line to pick it up.

Garden State: It seems cliche, but this movie affected me in a very personal way. Zach Braff is astoundingly confident behind the camera in his directorial debut, and characteristically charming in front of it as the lead actor. The emotional beats this movie hits are powerful and genuine, and Natalie Portman secured her spot as one of my favorite actresses with her performance as the "manic pixie dream girl" against which all others must be measured.

The Village: Another unpopular choice, M. Night Shyamalan's The Village had me from the get-go and never released its grip. I bought the entire story, never once complaining about predictability or ridiculousness; this movie captures an eerie sense of the unknown, and the spectacular Pennsylvania locations add to the heightened tensions of the woods surrounding the village. Complain about the "twist" ending all you wantm but the climactic shot where Ivy Walker is alone in the woods and the camera reveals that she is, in fact, NOT alone - I was on the edge of my seat. More than anything, the uneasy vibe that the film emanates is what keeps me coming back. Also, this movie was my introduction to Bryce Dallas Howard, and for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Choose a Side



"Avatar Wars" by Black20

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2003

X2: X-Men United: Bryan Singer topped his original X-Men movie with this one, which held the esteemed title of "Best Comic Book Movie Ever" for a short time among those who argued such things, myself included. The opening scene with Nightcrawler was extremely well done, and the Cerebro storyline with William Stryker hell-bent on destroying all mutants made for a fascinating action film that was unafraid to tackle some complex philosophical questions. The ending, hinting at the Phoenix saga, was enough to have even the most passive X-Men fan clamoring for more; unfortunately, Brett Ratner and Bryan Singer switched franchises (Ratner to X-Men, Singer to Superman) after the release of X2 and everything started heading downhill fast.

Mystic River: I've only seen this film once, but it instantly became one of my favorites. Powerhouse performances from Sean Penn (whom I normally dislike) and a supporting cast of Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Laurence Fishburne, and Emmy Rossum make this worth seeing, even if it wasn't directed by Clint Eastwood (which, you know, it is). Check out my review of it for more on this flick, and don't forget to catch up on the comments section of that post where I recant basically everything bad I said about Eastwood's directorial ability.

Big Fish: This is not only my favorite film of 2003, it's in my All Time Top Ten. I love this movie so much, which is surprising considering I'm not the biggest Tim Burton fan in the world. Perhaps it's not that surprising after all; Burton shies away from his typical darkness in this film and presents an emotionally powerful story of a man and his son wrapped in a fanciful tall tale of wonder and romance. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and rectify that situation immediately.

Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of The Black Pearl: Who could have predicted that a movie based on a theme park ride could be so much fun? Launching Johnny Depp into the mainstream star he is today, this movie's rewatchability is incredibly high. The script is fantastic, the story is tight and purposeful, the performances are great all around, and most importantly it's freaking FUN. I have yet to meet someone who dislikes this flick, and I don't foresee it happening any time soon. The sequels were a dreadful mess, each getting worse as they came out, but this one was a blast.

Shattered Glass: I'm not going to pretend like I watch this movie all the time, because it's just not true. I've seen it a couple times, but I don't really plan on watching it again for at least a year. Why? Because there are too many other things to catch up on in the world. That said, Shattered Glass is, for me, one of the absolute best journalism movies ever made. Journalism movies is a genre I have a particular fondness for, and I think this movie deserves more recognition and respect for both Hayden Christensen's performance (he gives a good one - shocking, I know) and the fact that it's based on a true story. This flick also introduced me to Peter Sarsgaard, whose other work almost demands to be seen thanks to his work on display in this movie.

The Italian Job: The ensemble cast and lighthearted pace makes this a perfect companion piece to Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven. Another fun movie that doesn't need a full dissection, this one is equivalent to a comfort food: I know what I'm getting, and I like how it tastes. I'll be surprised if they can ever reconvene this cast again for the long-rumored sequel, The Brazilian Job.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar

It's been twelve long years since James Cameron's last live-action feature narrative (Titanic) took the world by storm, and his newest film is finally upon us. Starting about four or five years ago, a steady growth of anticipation filled the online film community, especially after learning that Cameron and his team pioneered new technology to tell the story of Avatar the way it was intended.

Pushing 3D technology to its most advanced point yet, James Cameron has created a film that is unlike anything you've ever witnessed. If you plan on seeing this movie (which I'd ultimately recommend, even with its many flaws), it absolutely must be seen in a theater in 3D. The IMAX part is up to you, but 3D is absolutely essential to your viewing experience. The film is being offered in 2D across the country, and I can only imagine the drastically different (probably negative) reaction one would have upon a 2D viewing. So I implore you: shell out the extra cash, and you won't be disappointed - at least with the visuals.

Avatar
Writer/Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver


As I sat in the midnight screening on opening day, I was completely overwhelmed at the sheer prowess of the visuals in this movie. Cameron almost literally opened a door to another world, and I happily stepped through without question, completely inundated with the staggering attention to detail and the audacity with which he realized his ideas on screen. There are rumors that this film is the most expensive movie of all time (I've heard whispers of everything from a $250 - $400 million dollar price tag), but it was some of the most well-spent money in cinema history. The overall effect of Avatar is astonishing, and when the film reaches it's halfway point and we're flying alongside Jake and Neyteri on the back of winged Banshees through mountains floating in the clouds, it's very easy to forget you're watching completely rendered 1's and 0's. Even in more reserved scenes set in the wildlife of Pandora's level ground, I would sometimes have to remind myself that this wasn't filmed live on location.

I should give a brief plot synopsis in case you're unfamiliar with the story. It's the typical Pocahontas/The Last Samurai/Dances With Wolves/Ferngully archetype: in the future, paraplegic marine Jake Sully heads to the planet Pandora for a research mission. The planet is home to an alien race called the Na'vi, a ten-foot-tall blue allegory for Native Americans. Jake joins their culture by inhabiting the body of his avatar (a creature synthetically created with human and Na'vi DNA) and essentially enters the Matrix, embodying this creature while his human body is plugged in back at their base camp. He meets Neyteri, the free-spirited Na'vi daughter of the chief, and simultaneously falls in love with her and undergoes training to become accepted into their society. Surprise, surprise - the big, bad U.S. military wants to use Jake's newfound status to relocate the Na'vi away from a large supply of Unobtanium, a rare and incredibly expensive element that the humans wish to mine from Pandora. And if you've ever seen a movie before, you can guess where all this is heading - Jake switches sides and leads the Na'vi into battle against his former employers to protect their people and their world, for which, coincidentally, Jake now has a profound respect.


Listen, I don't want to be the guy crapping on this movie when everyone else seems to love it, but there's a certain level of pressure associated with a huge "event" movie like this to draw a line in the sand and take sides: did you love it, or hate it? There seems to be no room for middle ground in this particular battle, but that's precisely where I found myself. I realize it doesn't make for the most interesting viewpoint available, but I have to be honest - aside from the incredibly engaging visuals and the rip-roaring final half hour, I didn't feel as emotionally connected to these characters as the supporters of this film evidently did. I'm not going to dismiss the story simply because it shares elements with other films, and I'm certainly not going to dismiss Cameron's directorial choices when it comes to executing this astounding vision, but at the same time, I'm not going to tell you that this was the best movie I've ever seen. In fact, it's not even the best movie I've seen this year. The one with the most tactile implications on the future of the industry? Sure. The biggest visual feast? Definitely. But I think when people eventually buy their DVD's and Blu-rays and are removed from that admittedly magical 3D theatrical experience, they'll be left with the bare essentials of a story and characters which, frankly, we've seen many, many times before.


What amazes me most about Avatar is such incredible detail is devoted to the minutiae of the landscape but the script is approached with not even a quarter of that same zeal. Some of the story beats feel unnaturally rushed, like when Neyteri gets "Jersey Shore"-pissed at Jake, then falls back in love with him about 15 minutes later. And Sigourney Weaver's scientist character, Dr. Grace Augustine, is almost as one-dimensional as Stephen Lang's hard-nosed Col. Quatrich, who revels at each chance to destroy another member of the Na'vi and seek vengeance on Jake for switching sides. There are some other things I could nitpick. This film doesn't know the meaning of the word "subtle," with the most obvious example coming in the form of the Na'vi's biological ability to literally connect with their world and the animals that inhabit it. (Worried we wouldn't get the point, James?) Some of the philosophical questions the film could have dealt with were left unasked (what happens when a human is connected to an avatar and the avatar dies?), and by the end I was wishing I had gotten a little more meat from the story instead of just immersive visuals.


Giovanni Ribisi's performance was a highlight for me; he was great as the weaselly corporate lackey pulling the strings on the human side. Sam Worthington was charming enough and showed a little more of the promise hinted at in Terminator Salvation, but never fully reached "iconic action hero" status. Zoe Saldana, however, was fantastic as Neyteri, and even though we never once saw the actress herself, her performance shone through the blue skin and bioluminescent dots so powerfully that she demanded our full attention whenever she was on screen. Still, the dichotomy between obsessive design complexity and broad film-making appeal struck me as unjustifiably uneven; this is especially the case considering so much time went into world creation (Cameron worked with a USC linguistics professor to create the Na'vi language from scratch) and it's obvious that the paper-thin characters were either an afterthought, or, more likely, character templates which were never fully fleshed out.


But even with all those faults, this movie still delivers a great balance of thunderous action, wide-eyed wonder, and fun-filled fantasy. The final half hour I mentioned before? Unbelievable. Cameron keeps his editors on a tight leash (so tight, in fact, that he co-edited the film himself), and his eye for action and pacing can't be praised enough. Michael Bay and Paul Greengrass should take note: this is how you edit an action scene. Cameron chooses wider shots and slightly lingering shots over intense close-ups and fast cutting because A) that's historically been his style and B) it provides him another chance to show us the world of Pandora, even while its inhabitants are engaged in battle above ground as well as on it. The first scene in which Jake uses his avatar immediately conjures that child-like wonder we all hoped to experience when seeing this movie, and Cameron repeatedly takes your breath away with his beautiful virtual cinematography throughout the movie.


Make no mistake - this is the work of a master, and while Avatar is drawing ridiculous comparisons to the original Star Wars, this film is certainly a turning point in the history of film that will be studied and discussed for years to come. At least, that is, until the sequel is released. Until next time...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

If you asked me my opinion about Inglourious Basterds a year ago, I would have told you that I had very little interest in it. In fact, I might have told you that I was against the movie before it even came out. This was a time when I resented Tarantino for his "knock off" directorial decisions, still had the bitter taste of Death Proof in my mouth (which I still despise, by the way), and was doubtful this project would ever see the inside of a movie theater, let alone make his one-year delivery date promised at Cannes '08.

After seeing Jackie Brown, I had a massive shift in opinion about Quentin Tarantino, but was still unmoved by this particular project. I had heard rumors that the film consisted of long "talky" scenes, and obviously after Death Proof this was not a cinematic road I was particularly excited to retravel. Let me be clear - these rumors were absolutely true. My apathy, however, quickly turned to total immersion the second I pressed play. This movie was fantastic.

Inglourious Basterds
Writer/Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent

From the opening scene until the final minute, this film had me sucked me in and held me captivated. (I find it interesting I said this about both Basterds and Before Sunrise, a film also heralded for its massive amounts of dialogue. I suppose I really enjoy films with good dialogue.) Something I want to stress: the main difference between the long spans of dialogue here and the long talking periods in Death Proof is that in Basterds, the words serve an almost palpable purpose - they hover over situations as tensions rise, heightening the scene subtly and effectively until the inevitable burst of violence that finishes the session. Death Proof's "girl talk" seemed wildly unnecessary to advancing the storyline; it was as if the characters just took a break from the movie and were sitting around talking. If that was the intent, then congrats to QT - I didn't "get it" until just now. And no, I don't plan on revisiting that film (ever) to see if I'm right or wrong.

Inglorious Basterds was incredibly well-received in the critical community, but one of the most rampant complaints involved Brad Pitt's accent. I had no problem whatsoever with it - in fact, I thought it was one of the best parts of the movie. Sure, it's ridiculous. But late in the film when his character says he can speak Italian, and then does so without attempting to hide his Southern accent, I was cracking up. If that scene alone was the sole reason for Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt's character) to speak like that throughout the whole film, then the whole thing was worth it because that scene worked perfectly. This was one of Pitt's most memorable roles, and one I think we'll be talking about for a long time.

The film's final line - "I think this just might be my masterpiece" - is a heck of a ballsy statement to end on, but considering the auteur behind the camera, it's one that makes perfect sense. Oh yeah - and I forgot to mention that it's absolutely true. This is unlike any other Tarantino film, a reserved work of art that, for me, transcended a normal movie-watching experience. I must see this movie again before I can attempt to talk about it with any authority. There are so many aspects of this film I want to discuss: the meaning of identity, QT's thoughts on the cinema and what exactly that translates into in the final product, connectivity between characters who have never even met, the implications of violence, and much more.

I'll keep this little discussion short (and admittedly lacking in overall quality, so I'm not even going to refer to it as a full review), but Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, his self-proclaimed WWII spaghetti western (evident with little touches like the homage to The Searchers in the opening scene) is probably his most intellectual film, and one that demands to be seen multiple times. I intend on accepting that demand, and hopefully reporting back to you afterwards. Until next time...

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.]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2001

Ocean's Eleven: Director Steven Soderbergh put on his casting pants and filled this movie with the best ensemble cast to hit the big screen in recent memory. The chemistry between the characters was great, Julia Roberts didn't make me want to kill myself, and it's a heist film wrapped in slick visuals: any one of those things normally warrants a view from me, let alone all three in one package.

Swordfish: This is one choice of which the online film community (and possibly the community, in general) will most certainly not approve. But that's the point of this series - to let you know what my favorite movies of each year were, and not which one's are going to make everybody else's lists. The opening scene to Swordfish is one of my favorite ever put to screen, and each person in the cast plays their character to perfection. They completely commit to the material, even though it ludicrously features a climax where a bus is lifted by a helicopter. This is modern action-tech at its most fun, and needless to say, it's director Dominic Sena's best film.

Super Troopers: One of my all-time favorite comedies, this movie just freaking dominates. The one-liners are endlessly quotable, and the rewatchability is incredibly high; it seems like every time I revisit it, I come away with a new favorite scene. Little things from the confusion about which "biker" to dress like, to Farva's "liter of cola" line, to the "soap in the coffee" gag makes this one required viewing for anybody who likes comedy. Any day is a good day to revisit Super Troopers, so go ahead and get to it, OK meow?

Mulholland Drive: David Lynch's failed ABC television show was reworked into this feature film, and holy crap - it blows some minds. I've only seen it once and it was my first Lynch film, so it's safe to say it's changed the way I view the cinema landscape. It's so incomprehensible that it can't be explained.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: To me, this was the best of the LOTR movies because it was the introduction into the massive world that Peter Jackson created. The scope of this movie was unlike anything I'd ever seen, and I think this part of the story is the most interesting part of the overall adventure. Seeing how these characters come together was (and is) more interesting to me than seeing the inevitable conclusion (plus a tacked on 40 minutes of run time just for the hell of it in Return of the King). A Beautiful Mind won Best Picture in 2001, and in retrospect we can easily see which of these two films is still in the public's memory.

Likely to see on everyone else's "Best of" lists: Amelie, Vanilla Sky, Monsters, Inc., Donnie Darko, A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Bicentennial: Ben's 200th Post!

I don't have any big announcements or anything, but I greatly appreciate your readership. Seriously - I wouldn't be writing these if you weren't reading them. Well, actually I probably would - but regardless, the fact that you read them proves that they exist. So keep on rockin' in the free world, and I'll see you back here soon with the next in my "Favorites of the 2000's" series.

I have no new ideas for Photoshopped banners commemorating the event (currently, all of my Photoshopping skills are being put to the test in an epic battle with The Solar Sentinel and my other blog, Media Consumed), so I'll redirect you to the Branzy Award-winning glory that is the Centennial Post picture for you to reminisce. If the mood strikes, leave thoughts of your favorite review in the comments section or nominate new films for me to review. Until next time...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2000

Snow Day: I never had snow days as a kid (I grew up in Florida), but this film totally captures the essence of what that experience must be like. A great kids movie, but one that I honestly enjoy (free of irony) to this day. Look for an early appearance from super hottie Emmanuelle Chriqui.

Gladiator: Russell Crowe stormed into the action hero's handbook in Ridley Scott's sword-and-sandal epic. Winner of Best Picture at the Academy Awards, this one will most likely be on everyone else's list: but that's for good reason.

Memento: The world's introduction to Christopher Nolan (aside from the little-seen Following), this masterpiece of cinema is a mindbending story expertly told. A sign of the great things to come from one of the most talented directors working today. Guy Pearce was fantastic, and the cinematography is so good it looks as if it were shot yesterday.

American Psycho: Mary Harron's ultra-sharp satire of 1980's culture went over my head the first time I saw it, but has since become one of my favorite flicks. The ambiguous ending (was it all in his head? Or did he actually do those things?), the business card scene, Huey Lewis, kittens and ATM machines - hilarious comedy and disturbing violence collide to impressive results.

Remember the Titans: This wasn't the first great sports movie, but I don't think one has topped it in the years since its release. The subject matter wasn't new, the genre archetype wasn't new, but this movie accomplished its goal with style, class, emotion, flair, and fun.

X-Men: Inspired casting and the novelty of seeing some of my favorite cartoon heroes on the big screen overshadowed a too-small budget and some slow pacing here. This movie wasn't the first comic book film by a long shot, but it started off this decade with a bang and its success laid the groundwork for everything that came after. I'm still pissed Cyclops was shafted in this series, though.

Mission: Impossible II: I wrote a review of this over at The Solar Sentinel a couple years ago, and while I don't agree now with everything I wrote then, this movie still rocks. I've become very fond of MI:III in recent years, but I still think this one has the edge over it. Visit that review, watch the motorcycle chase scene at the bottom, and tell me that isn't awesome. Plus, it's John Freaking Woo.

Before Sunrise/Before Sunset

I normally wouldn't break up my flow by inserting a random review when I just promised a series of themed posts, but today I watched Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and its sequel, Before Sunset, and these movies demand to be discussed.

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset
Co-writer/Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy


I'm going to address a fairly obvious topic for a second, but this subject is rarely contemplated and I think deserves mention: the age at which a viewer sees a film has a profound impact on his/her overall reaction to that film. Someone can see the same movie at age thirteen and again at thirty-five and have vastly different responses to it. Our personal experiences bring with them a deeper understanding of life, and those experiences color our perception in ways we (most of the time) don't fully realize, let alone talk about.

Enter Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, a 1995 film about two twentysomething strangers who meet on a train and spend one night together in Vienna. I imagine this type of movie says something different to each generation: older people may reminisce about their youth, younger people might aspire to be like the two main characters, and viewers equal in age to the characters (read: me) could possibly see the movie's depiction of love in a much more serious light, not merely written off as "young love" by the old or romanticized as a potential future by the young.


I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not normally gung-ho about seeing movies with plot summaries like this one's. I'd heard some good things about this series, and I wanted to check it out for myself. I certainly don't want to over-hype the effect this film had on me, but I can honestly say that I was completely engrossed from start to finish. So engrossed, in fact, that I almost missed the incredible actorial achievements of the movie - Hawke and Delpy give some of the most engaging performances I've seen in a long time, and because the story is so insanely character-centric, I was so entranced that I almost forgot I was watching a movie. And I don't mean in a literal way ("are those people actually IN MY TV?!?"), but I'm sure you know what I mean. Finding these rare experiences is the reason why I love movies, and why I'm on a never-ending quest to find films that evoke these kinds of reactions within me. Back to my point - I almost didn't notice some of the super long takes (many minutes in length) of pure conversation between the two actors, and this is a testament both to the naturalistic writing and the actors' nonchalant delivery and palpable chemistry.


I'm not sure if the structure of the film "works" or not - I was so captivated by every word that I didn't view it with an overly critical eye. Some might complain of aimlessness, the characters wandering around lost in random conversation and accuse the movie of having no direction. That may be true (I haven't truly thought about it, so I'm not sure if it is true or not), but I honestly don't care. The movie does such a good job of fleshing out these characters and giving the audience a close look into their lives, it feels as if I actually know these people. The conversations they have, touching on everything from consumerism to distrust of the media to notions of life and death, are so true to life for people of that age. Anyone my age (especially college students or college grads) will vouch for hearing conversations like that on any campus across the country.

Suffice it to say that I really, really enjoyed Before Sunrise and would recommend it to almost anyone.

[Please note: if you have any interest in what I've said so far, I'd suggest going out and renting Before Sunrise and watching it before you read the rest of this post. The very nature of discussing Before Sunset means that I have to touch on the ending of the first film. That said, I suppose it's necessary to impart my advice on this series here and now: if you watch (and like) the first movie and want to see what happens in the second film, I'd recommend not watching the sequel immediately afterwards. I watched them back to back and now I wish that I'd put some time in between viewings - even something as little as a few days might make a difference. If you don't care about any of this and aren't going to see either movie, read on.]

On to Before Sunset. This 2004 sequel takes place nine years after Jesse (Hawke) and Celine's (Delpy) first encounter, this time in Paris instead of Vienna. Jesse is at the last stop of an international book tour (he's written a book about his meeting with Celine) and happens to be making an appearance at the bookstore Celine frequents. They reunite and go out for coffee, and the movie essentially unfolds in real time as they catch up and discuss, among other things, their thoughts of their night together nine years prior.


The reason I suggested putting some time in between viewings is that I didn't care for Before Sunset nearly as much as Before Sunrise. The passion between the two characters wasn't nearly as epic in the second movie, and while I never felt cheated, the whole thing seemed to be a retread of familiar territory. Keep my previous warning in mind: age has everything to do with perception, and since I'm 24 years old right now, I'm obviously relating more to the younger versions of the characters in the earlier film. They are in their early thirties in the sequel, and I'd wager that I might like the second film a lot more if I were closer to that age when I first watched this series. If you wait a few days to watch Before Sunset, perhaps this sense of being slightly let down would be outweighed by an appreciation to see these characters again, now old friends after the first movie.

Linklater shared writing credits with Hawke and Delpy for this movie, and the film was shot in an astounding fifteen days. Before Sunset shares many similarities to the first film, the most obvious being the low budget aesthetic featuring long tracking shots of conversation [reaching up to eleven minutes long (!) in this entry]. Also notable is the restraint of time in both films: in the first, Jesse is flying out of Austria early the next morning and asks Celine to accompany him until he has to leave; in the second, Jesse has to catch a plane out of Paris later that afternoon and essentially the same thing happens. The continuous long takes and real-time aspect heighten the immediacy of this movie moreso than the first, providing a ticking clock effect that is subconsciously driving the film forward.


The "aimlessness" argument could be employed against this movie as well, albeit to a lesser extent: the topic of their feelings for each other is hanging heavily in the air as they go through the small talk of politics and the environment before eventually making their way to more intense subject matter. Generally speaking, though, I think it's safe to say that if you liked the first one, you'll like this one. That may sound like a "duh" kind of sentence, but the recent Crank 2: High Voltage has proven that this statement isn't always necessarily true.

Overall impressions: Before Sunrise was pretty freaking masterful. I have no idea if the flick works as a movie, but I know it had an impact on me. Before Sunset was not nearly as effective in the visceral way that Sunrise was, but it was a satisfying sequel that raised my appreciation of the series. The ambiguous endings in both movies are excellent, and I love the clever way they discussed that very topic in Sunset (the bookstore interviews in the opening scene). Collider recently did an interview with Linklater asking about a possible third movie, and the director revealed he's been talking to Julie Delpy about it, but they won't commit to a third movie just for the sake of doing it. They need a great story and a real reason to return to these characters, and that is something to be respected whether you like this series or not. Until next time...

Trivia: The waltz that Celine plays for Jesse at the end of Before Sunset was written by Julie Delpy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Introduction: My Favorites of the 2000's


Any critic with a keyboard to their name is jamming out "Best of" lists right now - both "Best of 2009" and "Best of the 2000's (a.k.a. - the Aughts)" lists. Listen, I enjoy reading lists as much as the next guy, but let's get real for a second: they're a pretty blatant way to get hits on a website. Inherent to their very existence is the fact that they will going to cause controversy; ranking one thing above another is a sure-fire way to get people talking (in both good and bad ways).

Since I don't get paid for writing on this blog (or anywhere, for that matter - hopefully in the future), and this site isn't exactly getting Pete Rose-esque hit numbers, this should be proof enough to you that I'm writing this for nobody but you and me. I'm not going to pretend to be able to put together a "Best of the Aughts" list, and I'm sure as heck not going to start a "Best of 2009" list when the year isn't over yet.

So what AM I going to do? Glad you asked. I'm joining the mayhem and creating a list - "My Favorites of the Aughts." Each year from 2000 to 2009 will garner a post in which I'll remember my favorite films of that particular year. Take heed - these will not necessarily be the best films of that year, or the most popular, or the most profitable: simply my favorites of each year. I went back and forth deciding whether I should write from my POV within that year ("When I was 16 in 2001, I really liked Zoolander!"), but I've decided to go with my modern self's retrospective opinion of movies from those days ("I appreciate American Psycho now, even though I didn't see it when it came out in 2000").

Get ready to turn back your clocks, because we're starting with Y2K. I'm not sure how often these entries will be posted (I'm still writing for GeekTyrant, after all), but rest assured that the series will be over right around the beginning of 2010. So for now, enjoy those Thanksgiving leftovers - I'll be back soon. Until next time...

[One final note - I'm going to be hitting my 200th (Bicentennial) Post in the midst of this series, so don't be alarmed if some insane Photoshop nonsense breaks up the order. And speaking of insane Photoshop nonsense, check out the "Puns of CBS Television Shows" battle going on between Media Consumed and The Solar Sentinel.]