What can I say, it's a compulsion. I make lists because that's what one does in January. My list of the best DVD's is here
, but I didn't make a list of my favorite movies, because there are so many that I haven't seen. I don't think I can even begin to evaluate the year without having seen The Fountain, The Departed, Babel, Borat, Hostel, Tideland, Inland Empire, The Good German, The Good Shephard, Dream Girls, Old Joy
or The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
. And I probably ought to see Marie Antoinette, The Queen, Notes On A Scandal, Volver, Half Nelson, Cars, Talladega Nights, The Illusionist, The Prestige, Prarie Home Companion
and those Iwo Jima movies. Then there's Superman Returns
, which I feel some obligation to see, even though I have absolutely no interest in it, and Miami Vice
, which a lot of people praise, but I can tell is just not my cup of tea. Oh, and that District B-13
But I did see some movies this year, and these are my favorites:
1. Pan's Labyrinth
- This is such a beautiful movie. Guillermo Del Toro has finally reached this level that I feel like he's been striving for through his career, and I'm so excited to see what he does next. If he can bring this level of artistry to his next Hellboy
-type movie (which I guess would be Hellboy 2
), he'll have a geek classic on his hands equal to Jackson's Lord of the Rings
, Raimi's Spider-Man
or Tarantino's Kill Bill
. And he is so ready to make At The Mountain's of Madness
, it's not even funny. I really can't wait to see what he does over the next decade.
2. Children of Men
- This is another one where the director is just hitting such heights that I can't wait to see what he does next. Mind you, I still like Y Tu Mama
better. In fact, if we're being totally honest, I'll probably watch Prisoner of Azkaban
more times over my life. But this is just an amazing movie. I really hope he does Harry Potter 7. I'd be a very happy camper if he did both 6 and 7. But seeing what he's capable of here, I can't wait to see what he does next. These two directors are inspiring the hope in me that seeing a film like Pulp Fiction, Dazed and Confused, Do The Right Thing
or Heavenly Creatures
inspired, so I can only imagine what the future might hold.
3. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
- OK, I'm lying. I actually like this movie more than Children of Men
. First of all, just the concert alone, what is very probably the greatest hip hop concert ever performed, made up of the cream of the second-generation Native Tongues posse, is enough to land this on my top 10, and I hope that it won't be long before a deluxe edition DVD comes out with the entire concert included. But the bits with Chappelle himself send it over the top. This whole movie is the embodiment of Chappelle's personality, a grinning, lazy, stoner of a movie, from the music on down. This is neck-in-neck with Wattstax
for my favorite concert film of all time at this point.
4. Lady Vengeance
- A tarp being drained of blood. A perky girl holding up a bar of soap. A ghastly smile holding out a white soy cake. These are the images that will most stick in my mind from this year at the cinema. Lady Vengeance
isn't quite as good as Oldboy
, director Park Chan-Wook's previous vengeance film, but that's like saying The Magnificent Ambersons
isn't quite as good as Citizen Kane
5. The Descent
- This movie scared me silly. The last time I was this scared by a movie was The Blair Witch Project
, and I'm not entirely sure that wasn't an unreplicable theater experience (I haven't gone back and watched it since). I love movies about strong women, and this is a movie about strong women, but not kickass, superhero women like Buffy or Beatrix. The things these women do would be totally unremarkable if they were men (at least in movie terms). But having them be women just makes it "a hair more interesting" (paraphrasing David Lynch
6. This Film Is Not Yet Rated
- Not only a great expose of what must be one of the most annoying beuracracies in America, but a jolly good detective story!
7. The Host
- I may have overhyped this film just slightly in my review, but it really is one of the loopiest genre offerings in recent years. Imagine Little Miss Sunshine
if, instead of entering the girl in a beauty pageant, they were trying to rescue her from a slobbering giant lizardfish (actually, now that I've typed that, it seems like I plagarized the comparison from somewhere, but I can't remember where). Only with some political stuff added in.
8. Duck Season
- Looking at the box, you'd think this was a Mexican version of a Kevin Smith movie, but it's much closer to Jim Jarmusch's style. One of those great little off-beat movies that you can't really describe--funny, charming, maybe even touching.
9. United 93
- As intense as moviemaking gets, a ripping You Are There adventure. Paul Greengrass took this movie after the Watchmen
movie he was on disintegrated with a change of leadership at Paramount, and with United 93
's release, Greengrass's Watchmen
took its place in geek folklore alongside Gilliam's Watchmen
- Yeah, the premise is cute--a film noir (or, more accurately, a Raymond Chandler novel) set in Southern California High School (and the fact that that premise yields both Brick
and Veronica Mars
should be enough to make you shut up the next time two movies with similar premises show up), but the visual style here is pretty amazing. This is one of those movies that almost makes the list on the strength of the potential it illustrates for first-time director Ryan Johnson (uh-oh...that's what I thought about El Mariachi
!), but I guess that ties it in to my top two choices, doesn't it?
As for the blockbusters, I'll side with the majority and say that Casino Royale
was the highpoint of the year in this category. Unlike some people, I'm not quite prepared to say it's the best Bond movie ever. It's such a different animal that I don't even know how to compare it to something like Goldfinger
or The Spy Who Loved Me
. But what it is is pretty great. I'm very interested to see where they go from here. Will familiar Bond elements work their way back in, or will it become more of a purist spy series? How will the next chapter fair without the references to previous Bond movies (the martini, the Astin Martin, the buildup to "Bond. James Bond.")? I'm actually anxious to see, for the first time since I was, I dunno, 12 maybe.
I liked Pirates of the Carribian 2
(whatever it was called), but there were times when it felt like it was just working too hard to entertain me, like an underconfident vaudeville performer. V for Vendetta
was pretty great. I also liked Apocalypto
and Jet Li's Fearless
.An Inconvenient Truth
is a pretty great documentary, but Who Killed The Electric Car
may be even better, and ranks with my favorite recent political doc, The Corporation
And I loved Shortbus
, Inside Man
and Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That
I like Beck's new album, The Information
. Building on his last album, this seems to be an attempt to further integrate the "funky Beck" sound with the "folky Beck" sound. I like El Guero
better, but this has some amazing stuff on it, including "Strange Apparition" and my favorite Beck rap track, "1000 bpm." The Dresden Dolls' Yes, Virginia
doesn't get annoying after a few listens like their previous album, and contains enough catchy hooks to keep you humming it for months. Quantic's An Announcement to Anwer
is an inventive infusion of hip hop with Brazillian, Cuban and jazz styles. And I just downloaded the first disc of Tom Waits' Orphans
collection. I figure I'll get one disc a month for the next three months, but so far so good.
I meant to write more, but I'm so busy, I might not get around to it until next week. Wait up for me, OK?