The 2000's: A Retrospect
Part III of X
Gosh, I totally didn't mean to do this. Set a goal, and not come through on it for almost two weeks. I am sincerely sorry about this. Its been a busy time in my life. I am planning a wedding, I am preparing to move into my first house. I also work forty hours a week. Life suddenly got busy, and my plans for this site got sidelined momentarily. But now, I am ready to crash back into this. I can't wait to get going on 2002.
The year 2002 was a year where more movies were released than any year previous. It was a year where over a dozen movies made over $100 million worldwide. Whether by mere coincidence, this was a year of foreshadowing for the upcoming 2010's. Maybe I am crazy, but it was the year where I feel the seeds were planted that gave birth to the motion of film series deciding a studios revenue for an entire decade, where genres were stuffed down our throats because what inspired them made money. The business began to take a radical change, but through it all, people were still working overtime to deliver experiences we've never seen before.
1. Minority Report
Visually stunning, brilliantly ambitious, and terrifically polarizing, "Minority Report" is something that I feel still holds up today, and has been deep inside my mind and psyche for over a decade now. Living in a world where there are violent crimes on the news literally every single day, it seems like a world where murderers were caught before committed would be a paradise for humanity. The thing is, what would humanity sacrifice in order to gain something of a utopia? The film presents a story that plunges the audience in this shade of grey and refuses to give us an easy answers. It creates a world were a world of the brink of perfection being built on corruption. The film also happens to be a brilliantly crafted action film, filled with the cutting edge of special effects. Also, the film is just plain funny, I mean it called just how agitating product placement and advertising would be in the future, am I right?? The performances are rock solid, and just like with every good science fiction film, holds a mirror to our society and culture and begs us to question it.
2. Catch Me If You Can
It must have been a great year for Steven Spielberg, and when people still feel burned by the whole "Kingdom of Crystal Skull" albatross, I casually point them to the year 2002, when Spielberg pumped out these movies in rapid session. Much different from "Minority Report," this film tells the story of Frank Abagnale, who pulled off cons worth millions of dollars before his 19th birthday. Leonardo DiCaprio soars in this film, and this was the year when I began to see his potential and when he turned from a teen heartthrob to respectable actor. Tom Hanks seems determined to be as good as him, thoroughly succeeding. The film is packed full of actors we recognize, and they all do splendid work here. While Spielberg is most often known as the sci/fi, action adventure junkie, sometimes he gets a hold of a celebratory script like this and he moves mountains with it.
3. The 25th Hour
While I have enjoyed several Spike Lee "jointz," he's never quite made anything like this, and when I say that, I say it with authority. He's a guy who usually deals in African-American culture and African-American themes, here is a brutally beautiful crime drama about one man's last night before going to prison for seven years. Its funny to me reflecting back on this movie, because I only saw bits and pieces of it throughout this decade, never seeing the movie in full until (no joke) a couple months ago. The ending is one of the most heartbreaking conceits I have ever seen in a modern movie, moving me to heartache every time. Its also a powerful outlook that holds up today. No matter how divided our nation is right now, I always remember that for better or worse, we are in this together. Because, well, "you're a New Yorker."
This was a film I watched quite a bit. It was a slow burn of a space movie and I still don't know if I have it all quite figured out. But its such a fun mystery, such a lush fall into the rabbit hole that it literally becomes addicting the more you watch it. George Clooney has never been this alive this entire decade, and that's an actor who put worth lots of good work this decade. He is guided well by Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies and a wonderful performance by Natascha McElhone. The eerie silence of Steven Soderberg's direction only adds to the sheer power of this motion picture.
Crucify me if you wish, but M. Night Shymalan's haunting masterpiece (yep, you read that right) is a robust experience. There are moments here I still anticipate, moments I still can't believe somebody pulled off. I see something like this and it makes me wonder how somebody like Shymalan could have been blown so disastrously off course. I have heard many critics chime in on why the movie doesn't work, and how they refer to the "aliens" and the "water." What I'd argue is that the film is much more layered and deeper than one would anticipate at first glance. Sure, there are signs and usually those are connected to aliens, and yes there are lights in the sky. But the movie is also about a religious man finds his faith, and I have always harbored the suspicion that there is more to this movie than meets the eye at first. It may just be me, but the conversations I have had due to this movie have been some of my favorites.
6. The Pianist
There are several Holocaust movies, and it seems like in this day in age, how could we see another Holocaust movie and still be moved? Well, the answer is quite simple. Tell a bold, powerful movie, fill it with compelling characters and create something unforgettable. "The Pianist" does all of these things, but it takes those aspects all to the next level. Adrian Brody is absolutely mesmerizing here, and its a performance that I believe has defined his career. When making a good Holocaust movies, you have to be willing to go all the way, or not at all. This movie goes all the way.
7. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
It was a powerful year for George Clooney too, and he proved that he's just as provocative behind the camera as he was in front of the camera. He made his directorial debut here, telling the story about a game show host who apparently was also an assassin for the CIA. Its a richly dark, and slickly satisfying film and its a brilliant showcase for Sam Rockwell, who quickly became one of my favorite actors this decade, and he continued his dominance in my mind.
8. City of God
A completely engaging motion picture, filled with eye-popping visuals and slick, engrossing story. "City of God" is a "Goodfellas" for a new generation. Even though there are some differences, I can't help but agree with all the parallels this film makes to "Goodfellas." But the movie simply being a parallel to antoher movie is NOT the reason I love it so much. I love the film because it does such a remarkable job telling its story, making it feel fresh even though its anything but, and continues to stick in my mind as the days go by.
While I find this movie absolutely brilliant, its not a movie I can return to very often. Actually, if I am being completely honest, I have only seen it once. I can't watch this movie, its hard. It left scars that have never been able to properly heal. Director Gasper Noe is a fucking monster, and he makes movies that stick in your brain, even if you'd wish the images away forever. Much like "Memento," this is a movie that starts at a certain point and goes back in time, going from a place of horrid darkness and moving towards something innocent and beautiful. Its such a shocking reversal that it left me breathless. If you are truly wondering why this is a movie I can't return to, well just Google the movie, the horrifying scene comes up immediately. Enter at your own risk though.
10. Punch Drunk-Love
There are several comedy actors who seem to slump into familiarity with every single feature. Actors who are only capable of being the same character over and over again. There are several directors who have publicly said that they can unleash the unchecked talent hidden inside Adam Sandler. So far, there is only one director who has been able to do that, and its Paul Thomas Anderson. Sandler plays a man who overly punishes himself with his own anger, and he finally meets a woman who has a chance to tame him. Its brilliant work, a performance you would have never guessed could come out of Sandler and its something that has become a watermark in his career.
1. Gangs of New York
Round two of Leonardo DiCaprio's decent into a respectable actor, and it just so happens that he was able to share the screen with the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis, both of whom seem to bounce off of each other in unsuspecting yet vital ways. This is a rousing, epic film, something that feels gigantic in scale and performance. Its something big, daring, and boldly told. A different kind of gangster movie that could only be brought to life by the skill of Martin Scorsese.
2. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Just freaking wow! Blockbuster magic that can only exist through the landscape of Peter Jackson. We barely get blockbusters this good. We don't deserve blockbusters this good. But somehow we got a whole trilogy full of them. There are not a lot of blockbusters that can fill an entire half of a movie with an epic battle scene, and still keep the characterization, development, empathy and emotion intact. But somehow, Jackson made it all look easy. Someday, we will be discussing this trilogy in the same conversation as the classic "Wizard of Oz." Oh yeah, that conversation is coming. get ready.
A good, old-fashion, kick-ass police story. Something that is gritty to the bone. I am just not sure why Joe Carnahan didn't hold onto this gritty anesthetic he masterfully created here. He is more of an action picture director now, and that's too bad.
4. Blade II
Pretty much the best modern sequel ever. Well maybe not the best modern sequel. But a sequel that does the nifty job of expanding the mythology, world and characters of the first film, not exactly treading water. It creates a bigger world and fills it with more action and thrills than one could shake as stick at. This represents the very best of what can happen when sequels aren't just a pointless retread, but an opportunity to tell a bigger, better story.
5. The Ring
You are not going to find many horror films pop up in my best lists for this decade. That seems to be because there weren't alot that really defined the genre for me. Not too many that were honestly, truly scary. "The Ring" didn't feel like a mainstream studio release. It wasn't full lots of blood and gore for "scares." It didn't compile a bunch of cheap thrills and it didn't sneak in nudity for the sake of it. It was a movie that was trying wholeheartedly to scare you. Let me tell you, it scared the shit out of me. The mood and atmosphere of the film is something we rarely see these days, and it made me crave more horror films by Gore Verbinski, which sadly never came until recently. If more horror films were made in this style, we'd have nightmares for centuries.
Worst of 2002
1. Die Another Day
Pretty much the most preposterously stupid James Bond movie ever? How do I know? I own every single Bond film ever made, except for "Spectre" (Which I am not rushing out to own any time soon.). I have seen them all, some of them several times. The Connery era is my favorite, I think if Connery starred in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" instead of George Lazenby, it could have been the best Bond ever. I liked, but didn't love the Dalton era, and thought the Moore era was laughably silly. I loved each Brosnan Bond film until this. What went wrong? How about the entire "parachute surf" scene after getting blown out of the air? How about hiding behind the invisible car even though he'd be seen since the car is invisible? How about that horrendous Madonna cameo? Or the equally horrendous performance by Bond girl Halle Berry? Why all the callbacks to previous movies? Just to make sure we didn't forget? These movies are classics, of course we didn't forget. I thought the franchise would be dead after this, I was so glad I was wrong.
Another remake gone wrong. The original film was at least interesting due to its social and political overtones. Those are sidstepped in the remake for a cliched "thriller" about a promoter who will do anything to keep his sport popular. It features two of the worst performances by any actor(s) this year in the form of LL Cool J and Chris Kline. The costumes look like they came from a bad YouTube series and the thrills of this thriller are never thrilling. The story is a massive mess which makes less and less logical sense as it wears on. Honestly, what was the point?
Instead of showcasing a silly yet insightful look back what made the original cartoon so memorable. This adaptation focused on getting white people to speak ghetto, to take the characters from this beloved cartoon and turned them into somebody else, and I mean, man, Scrappy Doo a villain? What? Dumb. This one is a given.
4. The Adventures of Pluto Nash
We are living in a time where Eddie Murphy just isn't who he used to be anymore. I don't know what happened to him. I don't know if he just doesn't feel inspired anymore. If somewhere his vision and dream died. I don't know if something bad is happening in his personal life. All I know is I want him back badly, and I would do anything.
5. Men In Black II
The first film in this trilogy was great because it took something familiar and made into something original. This sequel just tries too hard to be cute. tries to take too many cues from the first film. This is all a distraction though from the big problem, that this sequel does nothing more except tread water, just with bigger things to do.
6. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever
I like Antonio Banderas. I like Lucy Liu. I am just wildly confused as to why they would sign on for something like this? Did they need the money that bad?
7. Fear Dot Com
The internet a scary place? Oh joy. This is exactly what I meant when "The Ring" felt like a movie that didn't come from a studio, this however does all over the place.
There is only one "Scarface" and ONE Tony Montana, don't rip him off.
9. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
I don't think this movie does anything offensive, but it certainly was not a good movie. It was too much of a cliche, it was too cute. It wasn't funny ever. The "jokes" dragged on and on for far too long and it got to a point where I just wanted the wedding to come and go already. The acting is all fine, I think they did exactly what they were hired to do, I just wish I liked the final result better than I did. This is just another bleh romantic comedy.
10. Maid In Manhattan
Did Jennifer Lopez make a good movie all decade? I honestly don't think so. She happened to star in a bunch of crap that came out over the decade. We are all the poorer for it.
Daniel Day-Lewis, "Gangs of New York"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Gangs of New York" and "Catch Me If You Can"
Sam Rockwell, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"
Adam Sandler & Emily Watson, "Punch Drunk-Love"
George Clooney & Natascha McElhone, "Solaris"
Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Ferrell and Samantha Morton, "Minority Report"
Catherine Zeta-Jones & Renee Zelwiger, "Chicago"
Adrien Brody, "The Pianist"
Diane Lane, "Unfaithful"
Mel Gibson, Abigale Breslin, Rory Culkin and Joaquin Phoenix, "Signs"
Ray Liotta and Jason Patric, "Narc"
Nicholas Cage, "Adaptation"
Sean Astin, Ian McKellen & Andy Serkis, "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"
Colin Hanks, Jack Black and Catherine O'Hara, "Orange County"
James Caviezel & Guy Pierce, "The Count of Monte Cristo"
Robin Williams, "Death To Smoochy"
Edward Norton, Rosario Dawson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Brian Cox, "25th Hour"
Tim Allen, Renee Russo & Stanley Tucci, "Big Trouble"
Samuel L. Jackson "Changing Lanes"
Mike Myers, Mike Myers, Mike Myers, "Austin Powers In Goldmember"
Ice Cube and Cedric The Entertainer, "Barbershop"
Eminem, "8 Mile"
Jack Nicholson & Kathy Bates, "About Schmidt"
I'll be back later this week for 2003. Enjoy!