Category Archives: 2000s

2003 Best Movie Bracket

Sorry it has been so long since I’ve posted. I want to get back on track with my Best Movie Bracket. 2003 was a bit of a weak year for film. There were some memorable gems which floated to the surface, but overall it left avoid that would be filled by a fantasy film. These films generally get very little credit, but 2003 was the perfect year for this film to take home far more awards than it normally would.

Before I can get to that film though, I need to let you know about my runners up.  Honorable mentions include Kill Bill: Volume 1, Oldboy (the good one in Korean), X2: X-Men United, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and Dogville. With that being said, here is my top 3 of 2003. You may have others that you adore from this year that I left off the list. But that’s why it’s my list. I’d love to hear your opinions, and then I will tell you to go make your own site where your opinions can reign supreme.

#3 – Mystic River

Mystic River is a sad movie. It is about three boys who grow up to be damaged people. Jimmy (Sean Penn), who is a former convict, Sean (Kevin Bacon) who’s wife recently left him and Dave (Tim Robbins) who… Have you seen the film? I better keep my mouth shut about the plot.

The acting in this movie is phenomenal, especially from Tim Robbins who very much deserved his supporting actor Oscar. Sean Penn is fantastic as well in his very best performance. Kevin Bacon is also very good, though he does get overshadowed by the other two leads. They are flanked by a very capable supporting cast including Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and even Eli Wallach also shine in this movie.

The story is very well told, tense, and dramatic. The writing is very good as well. Brian Helgeland, who penned L.A. Confidential and A Knight’s Tale, elevates the novel by Dennis Lehane who is no stranger to film adaptations (Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, and others). It also has great cinematography and excellent music. I haven’t even mentioned that it is directed by the inimitable Clint Eastwood. In fact, along with Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, this may be Eastwood’s best directed movie.

If all of that is true, then why is this #3. It is my main problem with all of Dennis Lehane’s stories. I tend to figure out the ending before the big reveal. Maybe it is because I’ve seen so many movies, but I pretty much see it right away. Also, I like a little more ambiguity in my endings, so I wish the movie had ended about 10 minutes earlier. It’s not the ending is bad, it’s just if it had ended earlier, I just feel like it would have been more powerful.

#2 – Finding Nemo

Not since 1995 and Toy Story had Pixar done something so revolutionary. They tackled so much with the visual textures and light patterns that we only see underwater. This film was a visual feast, but it is also funny and emotionally rich. I also believe this film has the absolute best sound design of any Pixar film.

This film deserves acclaim for more than its audio visual achievements. Marlin (Albert Brooks) goes down in my book as one of the best fathers in cinematic history. I mean, they essentially stole the plot of this film to make the entire Taken series. Marlin traversed the oceans over thousands of miles filled with sharks, jellyfish, angler fish, and ravenous seagulls, battling all his own fears, just to rescue his son. His adventure is filled with some of the most memorable moments and quotable lines of any film I’ve seen, and I still love it to this day.

As a father myself with 2 sons, it teaches me the undying love a father will have for his son, and the distances he will go to ensure his utmost protection. It helps to understand just how much a father cares for his son, no matter how harsh he may seem to be. It just goes to show how universal Pixar films really are.

#1 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Extended Edition)

As far as I’m concerned, Return of the King can be as long, as indulgent and end as many times as it wants to. It deserves it. This 263 minute monster of a film manages to round out an epic trilogy by bringing all the characters and plot lines to a gripping and joyful conclusion. It takes the emotional resonance of the first film and marries it to the epic warfare of the second. When all is said and done, we get something as close to perfect as a film can possibly get.

The scope of the film is staggering. Combining fantasy politics, multitudes of different species for our imaginations to go wild with and stunningly vast geography. This is an epic in every possible sense of the word. The assault on Minas Tirith and the ensuing Battle of Pelenor Fields is visceral action-cinema at its very pinnacle. It is very hard to find fault in this film because of my inability to criticize Tolkien’s phenomenal source material and because of the sheer spectacle of it all.

This is Jackson’s true labor of love, and you can tell that he’s poured his heart and soul into every second of it all. He has an evident adoration and respect for the story and characters. That is what marks Lord of the Rings out from the other blockbuster franchises as a true and heartfelt film that effortlessly elevates itself to legendary status.

You can tell that the actors are clearly in love with the material too. The relationship between Frodo and Sam, while undeniably sentimental, is always touching and pleasant without descending into obvious schmaltz. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin are remarkable here, with Wood in particular maneuvering nicely out of the tricky spot of becoming evil while under the influence of the Ring. There’s some scene-stealing from John Noble as the emotionally-imbalanced Steward of Gondor, Denethor, while Theoden (Bernard Hill) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) make the most of their meaty inspirational speeches.

And as I said before, I don’t have any problem with the endings. Why would you not want to stretch out your goodbyes with the dense and lovable characters you’ve just spent 11 hours of your life with? There is no problem with how the trilogy closes, as every character is given their little moment to savor. It’s touching and a good way to close this series.

2004 Best Movie Bracket

In 2004, we saw a number of successful sequels like Kill Bill: Volume 2, Before SunsetHarry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban, Spider-Man 2, The Bourne SupremacyShrek 2, and Oceans 12. We have been riding a sequel wave since then. I think, read hope, that this year the wave might have finally crashed. Any of the films that I mention in this write up are somewhere in the top 25 of the year, but there are only three on the top of that list.

Before I really get into it, I will note that I have not seen Before Sunset, Downfall, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, or Million Dollar Baby (gasp). I know that those four get a lot of respect. I have seen Before Sunrise, and I thought it was a good Richard Linklater film, just like I’m sure that Million Dollar Baby is a good Clint Eastwood film and Life Aquatic is a good Wes Anderson film. Sadly, I can’t judge films that I have not seen. Now, let’s get down to business.

Win – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Michel Gondry made his mark on Hollywood by directing this funny, quirky, touching film. He shaped a very malleable actor like Jim Carrey into a serious role that makes up for a half a dozen Ace Venturas. Kate Winslet in her multi-colored hair and perfect bi-polar personality. Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and Kirsten Dunst having their crazy “memory erasing party” on top of Jim Carrey’s sedated body. It is a movie about love, fate and memory and it is still one of the most unique science fiction love stories you will ever see.

Place – The Incredibles

That’s right… I picked a Pixar animated film over the sexy choices like The Aviator, Hotel Rwanda, Layer Cake, or Collateral. I did it because Brad Bird was able to pull off a better superhero movie than Spider-Man 2, which is the best Spider-Man we have seen to date. He created a completely original and fully realized world of colorful superheroes, political realities, and family dynamics and made it accessible to anyone from five to 95. I don’t simply consider this the best Pixar movie to date, even with Marvel’s success, I would say that this is one of the best superhero films ever made. I know that they have finally announced a sequel to this beloved film. I’m happy for that, but I would also love to see him take the reins of a struggling property like the Fantastic Four and breathe some new life into them.

Show – Mean Girls

I was really close to giving Shaun of the Dead this spot, but I honestly like Hot Fuzz more and I cannot deny the cultural impact of Mean Girls. it is incredibly rewatchable, crazy quotable, and really well done.

Alright, I’ll stop trying to make fetch happen. I’m going to go shopping with Glen Coco, get in loser! No? Boo, you whore. It’s not my fault you’re like in love with me or something! It’s been fun looking back at 2004 with you. Don’t forget to wear your pink shirts on Wednesdays.

What do you think? Did I totally miss the mark somewhere? Is butter a carb? sound off in the comments below.

2005 Best Movie Bracket

If you forgot about my Best Movie Bracket, I’m looking at each year individually and picking the best movie. Each of those winners will face off against another years winner in a bracket style tournament. But before I get to the tournament, I have to complete the seeding. I try to look objectively at the films, which means I need to study them from a couple of different angles. For 2005, let’s see which films come out on top financially, critically, and popularity.

Financial (Box Office Mojo)

1 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith Fox $380,270,577
2 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe BV $291,710,957
3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire WB $290,013,036
4 War of the Worlds Par. $234,280,354
5 King Kong Uni. $218,080,025
6 Wedding Crashers NL $209,255,921
7 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory WB $206,459,076
8 Batman Begins WB $205,343,774
9 Madagascar DW $193,595,521
10 Mr. & Mrs. Smith Fox $186,336,279

Critical (Oscar Nominations)

Nominations Film
8
Brokeback Mountain
6 Crash (Best Picture)
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Memoirs of a Geisha
5 Capote
Munich
Walk the Line
4 King Kong
Pride & Prejudice
The Constant Gardener

Popularity (IMDb)

Movie Rating
1. My Father and My Son (2005) 8.7
2. Batman Begins (2005) 8.3
3. V for Vendetta (2005) 8.2
4. Sin City (2005) 8
5. Serenity (2005) 8
6. Walk the Line (2005) 7.9
7. Pride & Prejudice (2005) 7.8
8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) 7.7
9. Brokeback Mountain (2005) 7.7
10. Match Point (2005) 7.7

Ultimately, however, this is my list and the final vote comes down to me. Here are my top 3 from 2005.

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3. Walk the Line

I have a soft spot in my heart for Johnny Cash. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon did a fantastic job of becoming Johnny and June Carter Cash. The music is infectious and the man in black’s story is worth telling well. I almost put Crash in this 3rd spot, but I think it has had enough press with its unearned Best Picture win over…

Poster for the movie "Brokeback Mountain"
© 2005 River Road Entertainment − All right reserved.

2. Brokeback Mountain

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger pour out a lot of emotion in this very moving drama from director Ang Lee. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway put in remarkable supporting roles as the pained wives of the men who are inflamed for each other. I just watched this for the first time a few months ago and it took me a while to process.

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1. V for Vendetta

I can’t say enough about this film. It is infinitely rewatchable and quotable. Natalie Portman is my favorite actress and she is stunning as she peeks behind the fascist curtain. Just a few weeks ago I celebrated the 5th of November as one should. I didn’t blow anything up, but I’ll put that on my calendar for next year. It is stylized and poetic. Despite it not topping the stats anywhere, it is my favorite of the year.

Brokeback Mountain – Review

As I look ahead to my Best Movie Bracket for 2005, I had to acknowledge a blind spot that I have missed over the years. Back when Brokeback Mountain was released in 2005, I was just beginning my stint as a youth minister after finishing my Bachelors of Theology. I was definitely into movies, but I was not watching them with the same eyes or frequency that I see them today. I would have likely been in the camp of Christians who followed their conscience and decided to completely abstain from the film and sadly to avoid even the discussion of its themes, happy to be cloistered away with other likeminded people.

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I am a different person than I was then. Life as a pastor, manager, father and husband for over a decade has changed my perspective. I won’t say that it has changed for the better because I can certainly see where my conservative Christian brethren are coming from. However, I believe that I have the responsibility as a Christian to see the film and to offer my opinion on it from a biblical perspective. I’m afraid that most of the reviews that I read in those days were in two camps. Either reviewers loved the film and sang the praises of the cinematography, bucolic setting, and powerful performances, or they condemned the film as immoral or dirty with little explanation as to the reason behind their emotional response except for “the Bible says it’s wrong.”

As a Christian and a movie critic I have a set of lenses that I view every film through. But let’s not act like this is a unique scenario. Everyone who shares their opinion of a film sees it through the lenses of their life. Those lenses could be republican, democrat, liberal, conservative, racist, sexist, feminist, black, white, rich, poor, urban, or rural. The list is as long as the human experience. We don’t generally see movie critics come out sharing their particular lenses. Instead, we have to reverse engineer the way they see the world through the reviews they give. My point is that no one comes to a film as completely objective. We all have preconceptions, experiences, and beliefs that shape our opinions and color our world. How boring would things be if we were all cookie cutter copies of each other with the same passions, interests, and desires?

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However, we must also understand that many (if not all) dramatic filmmakers are trying to say something with their film, not just providing 2 hours of celluloid to entertain the audience. As a theology student and later as a pastor, I spent years studying the Bible for meaning and interpreting its words to teach believers how they should implement the words and lessons that they encountered. I approach films in much the same way. There is a lesson to be found. If I walk out of a film the same as I walked in, I feel cheated. It’s as if I dove into a pool only to find that there is no water.

However, film works almost imperceptibly at times. Because of the medium, the message comes through almost so well that it hits us directly at an unconscious level. This is unlike the Bible that is often shrouded in mystery because of thousands of years of changes in culture, location, and language. The Bible often takes time and study to uncover meaning. We have to pull the meaning out of the text. That is the same with film. However, in that case, we are pulling the meaning out of ourselves to see things through the eyes of the writer, the characters, and the filmmaker.

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As a Christian, there are behaviors which I believe are sinful. However, if I limited my movie viewing only to this without portrayals of sin, I would never enter the theater or turn on the television. Because every person besides Jesus that enters the frame is a sinner in some form or fashion. So I have no trouble looking at this film and calling out the sinful behaviors that I see. However, the presence of these behaviors does not make the film any worse or any better. Whether it is the dishonest way that Aguirre is having them tend his sheep, the premarital sex that we see between Jack and Lureen, or the consistent lying that surrounds their illicit relationship, there is plenty of sin to go around. This film could have just as easily left out the homosexual relationship and had the two men destroy their relationships by being inattentive and selfish (which they are). But that would miss the message that Director Ang Lee is trying to communicate.

The basic premise is that two cowboys, Jack and Ennis, take a job tending to sheep in the Brokeback Mountains of Wyoming. The two grow close on the trip and on a particularly cold night they share a tent and things get physical. After this summer job they go their separate ways to their own lives. Ennis gets married to Alma as he planned before the summer and she has two girls rather quickly. Soon, four years have passed and Jack finds Ennis and they have a sordid reunion. Ennis insists that they cannot be together and Jack settles down with Lureen, a fellow rodeo professional, and they soon have a son. Jack and Ennis however keep up their relationship under that pretense of hunting and fishing trips. However, they retreat to the place where their relationship began and argue about whether or not they can leave all that they have tied themselves to in order to be together.

Brokeback Mountain is trying to say, if these two men were allowed by society and their own consciences to love (and consequently have sex with) whomever they chose, then they would have been happy and their wives would not have had to suffer through loveless marriages. But I have heard some who make it sound like the solution is to have them forget all about their one-time fling and go home to their marriages and focus on their wives and families. However, I would disagree with this as well. Sure it would be great for these men to treat their wives with love and respect and to care for their children, but doing these things would not be any more redemptive than their “fishing trips” which don’t feature any fishing. In fact, the natural setting of their very unnatural relationship is probably the most insidious and disturbing part of the film. The wives do not push their husbands away, yet home is seen as a trap while their “forbidden love” is shown as peaceful and natural.

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Before I say anything else, I should say that I believe this film deserved the praise that it received. It was a difficult film to make, though Ang Lee never felt that until after it was released and started to gain traction. The performances specifically from Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger are spectacular.  Ledger is so stoic in his portrayal that when he does peel back the layers to reveal emotion it is very effective. Williams crushes it with one scene in which she discovers that her husband’s fishing buddy is more than a friend. Her eyes show all the betrayal that she dare not utter. She knows it to be true but keeps it locked away hoping that maybe she was just seeing things. I think the biggest flaw of the film is that we don’t get to see enough of the families. We are so wrapped up in the affair of the two men that we are left guessing about what is going on at home. I would love to see the exact same story told through Alma and Lureen’s eyes. I believe that it would be an even more engaging and heartbreaking tale. From a technical standpoint I would give this film high marks but the story seems to be lacking.

In an interview, when Ang Lee was asked if he practices any particular religion, he said,

No, my mother is a baptized Christian, so she made me go to church every Sunday, and I prayed four times a day until I was 14. And at lunchtime kids at school would giggle at my praying…I stopped praying. And two weeks later, nothing happened to me, so I didn’t pick it up again.

I am not particularly religious. But I think we do face the question of where God is, why we are created and where does life go, why we exist. That sort of thing. And it is very hard to talk about it these days, because it cannot be proven. It is hard to discuss it rationally.

Given his experience with organized religion, I’m surprised we don’t see it play more of a role in the film. We are given 3-4 hints of the religious culture of the late 60s and 70s that they are living in. On their first summer together Jack and Ennis discuss their upbringings. Jack speaks of the Pentecost as if it is the day of judgement, and Ennis is just as ignorant saying that his parents were Methodist. Alma and Ennis are married in a religious wedding and we hear of church events that Alma and the girls want to attend. Ennis calls them “that fire and brimstone crowd.” This tells us a lot about both Ennis and the religious people who surrounded him. He characterizes the church people as a judgmental group, but we have no way of knowing if this is because they truly are or because they don’t make him feel good about himself because of his behavior.

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I will be wide open in saying that I believe homosexuality is a sin, but I also believe adultery and premarital sex are sins. However, none of these sins are unforgivable. That is the beauty of Christianity. It is not all about guilt and judgement, but grace and redemption. I believe that Brokeback Mountain is a harsh and stark image of sin in a fallen world. In Ang Lee’s world where God is an absentee landlord who makes threats but doesn’t really have the power to carry them out, this life is as good as it gets. If that is the truth then I would say that Jack and Ennis should run off together and live with passion and do everything they want because one day they will die and that will be the end.

That is where I believe Jack is coming from. That is why we see him going so hard after Ennis and holding onto dreams longer than he really should. But I think Ennis at least has some sense that this life isn’t all there is. He is fighting with the physical urges that he has. It seems that Ang Lee is trying to push us towards a societal solution, but that solution only solves a physical problem. If Ennis did not struggle with the fears and doubts and societal norms then he would have been the same as Jack and they would have probably both ended up dead. But if society were more tolerant towards their beliefs then perhaps they would have started their ranch together and lived there the remainder of their days. But the question that the Christian asks is but what happens after that?

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If they are resolute in their belief that God does not exist or that their god is okay with their relationship then I am fine with them doing whatever their heart desires. Alma and Lureen would have been better off in the meantime. As a Christian, I don’t care about disrupting what is going on in their bedroom. I care about God disrupting what is going on in their hearts and souls. I want to see a realistic portrayal of that kind of faith in a film. I would have loved to see Alma broken by her husband’s sin. I wanted to see her confront him and tell him that she still loves him. I wanted her to share her faith with him. The realistic response would have been for him to curse at her and storm out and then we could see the divorce happen just as it did, but instead we get the bigotry and disgust without any of the real love that Jesus commands. The closest we get is Jack’s mother loving Ennis in their shared grief and asking to see him again. I want to think the best of her, maybe she thought better of sharing her beliefs about Jack and Ennis’ lifestyle at this time but planned to do so soon after fostering a relationship.

Lee is right that we live in a very complicated world where talking about religion is difficult to do rationally. But that is just what we are called to do. Jesus wanted us to be salt and light. Salt, as in the stuff that we put on meat to preserve it. We are called to come into contact with the dirty and corrupt things of the world in order to bring the preservation of life. And where does a light shine? Do you use a flashlight in the middle of the day? No, the light’s purpose is to reveal what is hidden in the darkness. But that means that we must first be in the darkness in order for our light to be seen. Is this easy? Is this safe? Is this the kind of life that fits a stereotype? No, but we are not promised a good and comfortable life with all that we could ask for here. We are pilgrims passing through. This world is not our home.

In the end, Brokeback Mountain is a painful reminder that this world is broken and that sin is rampant. I wish we could have seen our protagonists have an opportunity for redemption, but in our nearly post-christian society perhaps the absence of a coherent voice of faith was the most realistic aspect of the film. It features some beautiful cinematography, and most likely some of the best acting of the year. However, I doubt that you will see it on my Best Movie Bracket for 2005. I hope that you can see that it isn’t because I’m a religious wing-nut or because I think God hates gays, but because I feel like there is so much missed potential in the film.

Good Night, and Good Luck – 2005 – ★★★★

“Good Night, and Good Luck” feels almost like a documentary of real events from the 1950s. How stunning it must have been to watch TV journalist Edward Murrow and his confrontation with Senator Joseph McCarthy. It is a political film, but it doesn’t feel preachy. It is a spectacular movie about television and the role of media in the communication of the news. It should stand side by side with other classics like “All the President’s Men”, and “Network”.

Murrow, played chillingly by David Strathairn, was there at the dawn of television journalism and he cast a mold that all serious news reporters have tried to fill ever since. This film was nominated for Best Picture in 2006, and received five other nominations but criminally went home with nothing. George Clooney was Oscar nominated for his co-writing and direction, his portrayal of the CBS studio is made even more realistic by the film being entirely in black and white.

I am a skeptic by nature and I agree with the film’s premise that we must learn to question things. Television can be a tool in this cultural skepticism when real journalism is taking place, but everything from advertising to our own shrinking attention spans has turned television into just another entertainment device. As Murrow says at the end of the film, “There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful. The instrument can teach, it can illuminate. Yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely lights and wires in a box.” The same could be said of the silver screen and the films that are produced by Hollywood. I’m glad that movies like “Good Night and Good Luck” still exist to do more than entertain but educate and enlighten.

Vía Letterboxd – mauldin8302

2006 Best Movie Bracket

What was the best movie of 2006? I’m going to change the way I do this a little bit. Normally I would share some information about the year and other movies that are honorable mentions in the first few paragraphs. However, I’m afraid that most of you are clicking away before you even get to the #1 pick.  So, I’m going to start with my top picks and I’ll try to pepper in more information about the year and other possible choices throughout my reviews.

3rd – Pan’s Labyrinth

From the innovative mind of Guillermo del Toro comes Pan’s Labyrinth. It is a coming of age tale of innocence and imagination. It is a story about a young girl who is other worldly. Like a crystal vase in a sea of tupperware, she doesn’t match her surroundings. Del Toro creates a fantasy world that is draws us in and leaves us feeling like a child who just heard a fairy tale for the first time.

A warning to my more language challenged readers, this film is in Spanish. It is subtitled. I don’t see that as a problem. I would like to hear why you do if you do. The story is set in Spain in 1944 following the Spanish Civil War. So really any language besides Spanish would feel forced and inauthentic. If you claim that you don’t go to the movies to read, then that is just laziness and you need to get over it. The story centers around Ofelia who is traveling with her pregnant mother. They are moving to a fascist command centre in rural Spain led by the fiendish Captain Vidal  who happens to be the father of the mother’s unborn child. Ofelia is the type of child whose imagination feeds her energy. Unfortunately, it is also her imagination that causes Ofelia’s disconnect with the real world.

Ofelia’s exploring leads her to meet a faun. This is the Pan of the English title of the film (del Toro has told us that that is not actually the faun’s name). The first interaction between Ofelia and the faun is revealing because Ofelia doesn’t draw back in horror at the sight of this creature, in fact she seems more comfortable in his presence that with her own mother. This fantasy is her reality and it becomes ours. Ofelia learns the fact that every little girl steeped in fairy tales has yearned to hear, that she is a long lost princess separated from her kingdom.

Half of the story plays out in this ominous and sometimes frightening dreamland. However, del Toro is using the other half of the story to give us a picture of good and evil. The real monster of the film is Captain Vidal despite his normal outward appearance. Let me be quick to say that this is not a kids movie. With the young protagonist and presence of fairy tale creatures it might be tempting to present this to a child, but violence play an important part in this film showing the harsh, unwanted situation that Ofelia’s real life presents her with and blood, guts, and broken bones are all present in this reality.

El Laberinto del Fauno (or Pan’s Labyrinth) is a gorgeously detailed and styled story with characters and creatures to love and despise. Del Toro gives me hope that imagination is not dead. However, it wasn’t the only imaginative film of the year. I would also check out: The Prestige, Little Miss Sunshine, Borat, The Fountain, Paprika, Stranger Than Fiction, The Fall, A Scanner Darkly, Idiocracy, Perfume and Science of Sleep. Perhaps there is still hope yet.

2nd – Children of Men

Children of Men is a near future science fiction film based on a 1992 P.D. James novel and directed by the ever versatile Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Gravity). It is set in 2027, but there is nothing special about that date. It could just as easily be 2050, or 2019. It feels like it is just a breath away. Forget giant asteroids or alien invasions, Children of Men conveys a doomsday scenario that is realistically frightening and contemporary.

Mankind has become infertile, there has not been a new birth recorded for over 18 years. Devolving into chaos from the ticking clock facing everyone, the world has resorted to violence. Britain, the only country that still “soldiers on,” has closed its borders to the swarms of refugees (sound familiar?) Those that make it through the cracks, called “fugees,” are captured and deported. The country is now a completely totalitarian state with state police and surveillance cameras everywhere.

The war-torn atmosphere and the mayhem that seems to erupt out of nowhere convey the urgency and danger of the situation. All of it is captured brilliantly by Alfonso Cuarón and the incomparable Emmanuel Lubetzki. Without hope, people are resorting to their base instincts ad lust for survival. Theo’s quest to protect Kee becomes the only thing that matters. The revelation that she is pregnant means that she is fighting for the future of all mankind.

Clive Owen plays Theo as a very ordinary man. With the action in this film, he could have easily become a 007 knockoff, but instead we are left in the frightening mess with him and allowed to feel his fear. In the same way, it would have been easy to write the appearance of this pregnant woman as a miracle, but Cuarón never makes that mistake. It’s hard to categorize this film as either a rich thematic drama when it elevates into a high-octane action film. That is one of the best things about it. It is a great dystopian thriller that is one of the best things that we have seen from a talented young director.

There were a couple of other Science fiction or dramas that almost made this list, but came up just short. Other films to add to your watchlist for the year are, The Lives of Others, Babel, Blood Diamond, Apocalypto, Last King of Scotland, and Little Children.

1st – The Departed

This is why remakes shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The legendary Martin Scorsese with his screenwriter William Monahan have taken an okay Chinese film, Infernal Affairs, and breathed new life into it, framing it as an American epic crime drama. This is Scorcese’s best since Goodfellas and it deserves mention alongside Scorsese’s other most celebrated films Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

I don’t want to go into the plot too far. The trailer goes a bit too deep in my opinion. I will just say that it is a high stakes game of lies, secrets, and hidden identities. This is among the greatest of ensemble casts of all time. We have headliners like Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg (Oscar nominated), and Alec Baldwin turning in superb supporting roles while Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon shine under the leadership of a premier director. This was the role that skyrocketed DiCaprio into the stratosphere. He and Scorsese work so brilliantly together, this was the best work he had done at the time. This is an amazing return to form for Jack Nicholson. He relishes every moment before the camera with this diabolical confidence and intensity. I think it was criminal that he wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar.

Speaking of Oscars, The Departed did go home with four awards on that night. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing. As far as crime dramas go, this is one of the best. Take note, this is a gangster film by Scorsese so there is a fair amount of violence and profanity. However, The Departed is somewhat tame in comparison to some of the director’s other films. It is entangling and highly entertaining, truly the best of 2006.

These posts are getting pretty long as I can’t help but write a full review for the film instead of just a quick snippet, so to help with this, starting with 2005, I will be posting my reviews separately and the Best Movie Bracket post will fairly short. It will link to my full reviews and will help explain why I chose one film over another.

2007 Best Movie Bracket

As I mentioned in the last post, 2008 was the beginning of the Comic book adaptation explosion. This march through the years to determine the Best Movie of all time really shows that themes come out in particular years. 2007 was loaded with amazing movies that almost no one saw. They were so good that I may have my first year with multiple winners. I say that no one saw them because the top 3 highest grossing films of 2007 were Transformers, Shrek the Third, and Spider-Man 3. All were panned by critics and had lackluster performance at the box office. This was a year for those Superbad movies and others like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Wild Hogs, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Bee Movie, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Norbit.

That being said, the ugly performance of popular films in 2007 really made the gems shine. We had an artsy Bob Dylan biopic with I’m Not There, and one of the coolest, nerdiest documentaries ever in King of Kong. There was a great entry from one of my favorite directors Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Network) who gave us Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. We saw a minor resurgence of good westerns with a 3:10 to Yuma remake and my pick for best long title movie, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. On the musical front, there were several solid entries from Sweeney Todd, Across the Universe, August Rush, and the hauntingly beautiful Once. There were also two emotionally shattering foreign films in Diving Bell and the Butterfly and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.

Other must watch films from the year include: Hot Fuzz, Ratatouille, Juno, Into The Wild, I Am Legend, Sunshine, Atonement, Gone Baby Gone, Lars and the Real Girl, American Gangster, Persepolis, and Michael Clayton. Charlie Bartlett is the film that sticks in my mind for the late Anton Yelchin, It is not a perfect film, but it is very entertaining with a great cast. However, all of these good films should wait if you haven’t seen any of my top three. I consider two of them modern classics that are almost perfect films.

3rd – Zodiac

Zodiac is a woefully underrated film from David Fincher, the same director that gave us Se7en and Fight Club. Roger Ebert said in his four-star review, “Zodiac is the All the President’s Men of serial killer movies, with Woodward and Bernstein played by a cop and a cartoonist…. What makes Zodiac authentic is the way it avoids chases, shootouts, grandstanding and false climaxes, and just follows the methodical progress of police work.” The cast (Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Robert Downey Jr.) as well as the tone and script are all so tight and precise. It’s a delightful movie and immensely frustrating and entertaining. Now, onto the two films which I will be including in the Best Movie Bracket Competition.

Continue reading 2007 Best Movie Bracket

2008 Best Movie Bracket

As we continue to march backwards through the years to fill our Best Movie Bracket, we come to 2008 which was an historic year especially when it comes to Superhero movies. We have had superhero movies for decades all the way back to 1966 with Batman: The Movie, but I believe that the current Superhero craze took hold in the summer of 2008.

This fervor took root 8 years earlier when we saw a team of mutants take form in X-Men, and Spider-Man in 2002 confirmed that audiences were ready for more spandex and secret identities in their summer movie going diets. Both of those franchises had lost some of their steam releasing sub-par sequels in 2006 and 2007. That could have been the end, but two things happened in 2008 that changed what our summer movie seasons have looked like ever since.

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First, Christopher Nolan captured the attention of a generation with The Dark Knight in part due to a disturbing performance of the Joker by Heath Ledger who died earlier in 2008 before he could see his creation come to life. The Dark Knight was the highest grossing film of the year by a long shot and Ledger was awarded with a posthumous Oscar for his performance (unheard of for a superhero movie).

The success of The Dark Knight may have been enough to keep the Superhero genre going, but in that same year Marvel Studios created an interconnected cinematic universe which we are still seeing built today. Marvel released Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk about a month apart from each other along with their promise to continue to bring other second and third tier properties to life.

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2009 Best Movie Bracket

What was the best movie of 2009? I could have easily listed a top 3 with nothing but animated features. We saw traditional live action directors like Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are) make a leap into animation and childhood adaptations with great success. The Secret of Kells came out of Ireland and is available on Netflix. It is well worth your time. Also, Pixar gave us one of the most painfully beautiful wordless montage that I have ever seen. I cannot watch it to this day without tearing up. If Up ended after the first hour it would probably be my favorite of the year, but I think it falls apart a bit in the 3rd act.

We had solid releases from directors like James Cameron (Avatar) and Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds). And real surprises from newcomers like Duncan Jones (Moon), Neil Blomkamp (District 9) and Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth). All of these are great pictures and could qualify as the best of the year in their own rights. But let’s see my top 3 movies of the year.

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If You Liked… Independence Day

As we prepare for the sequel that has been 20 years in the making, lets take a look back at this alien invasion film. Independence Day is a 1996 American epic science-fiction disaster film co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich. The film stars Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, Vivica A. Fox, and Harry Connick, Jr. The film focuses on a diverse and interesting group of people who converge in the Nevada desert in the aftermath of a destructive alien attack and, along with the rest of the human population, participate in a last-chance counterattack on July 4th.

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Has anyone not seen Independence Day? Seriously? I want to meet you if you’ve never seen it. I would be highly surprised if you could find anyone between the ages of 30 and 50 in the United States who hasn’t seen Independence Day.

That doesn’t mean everyone loves it. In fact, according to icheckmovies.com, only 2.6% of those that have seen the the movie listed it as one of their favorites, and 1.1% disliked it. This is one of those guilty pleasure movies for me. I saw this film in the theater on opening weekend during the summer between 7th and 8th grade. If you can find a more formative time in a kid’s life I don’t know what it is. It was then that I decided I really liked Jeff Goldblum’s stilted speech and acting style and found out that the Fresh Prince could do more than dance.

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If you are like me and like Independence Day you might be looking for some other movies to watch while you wait for Independence Day: Resurgence to be released next weekend. I told my oldest son (12) that he could only see the sequel if he watched the original with me, so he obliged his old man and we sat down and watched this movie a few nights ago. Time has not been great to the effects on this film. Director Roland Emmerich loves to destroy New York City and threaten the annihilation of all mankind (Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, 2012), it will be nice to see what he can do with the technology that 20 years has given him. In keeping with the guilty pleasure nature of Independence Day, all of my selections will also be selections that I might not often openly admit to loving.

Continue reading If You Liked… Independence Day