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2002 was a movie year packed with rich, dense films. Rather unusually, I think, it was also one where all the primary Oscar contenders were the very best of the year. At the top of the list for me was Stephen Daldry's beyond elegant and extremely moving Virginia Woolf-through-the-ages story. Shortly behind were top efforts from Scorsese, Jonze, Mendes, Spielberg, and Polanski, not to mention the second brilliant installment in Peter Jackson's trilogy and Miyazaki's most imaginative and sprawling animated feature yet.
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2004, yet another wonderful year for film, and interestingly enough one where sequels and blockbusters were among the best of the pack. Although while I was watching some spectacular superhero films (one from the comics, one from some very creative minds at Pixar), the Oscar season would soon present some of the films that would help form my cinematic taste, including the irresistible grand spectacle of what was then my new favorite Scorsese picture. Also included was perhaps the most singularly original work of the decade, a gut-wrenching tearjerker from Clint Eastwood, and two terrific pieces of Eastern Asian cinema.
The Best Films of 2004
01. The Aviator
02. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
03. Million Dollar Baby
05. Kill Bill Vol. 2
06. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring
07. House of Flying Daggers
08. The Incredibles
09. Finding Neverland
10. Spider-Man 2
11. A Very Long Engagement
12. Vera Drake
14. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
15. Being Julia
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on July 1, 2011 at 3:45 PM||comments (0)|
2005 gets rather unfairly dismissed as a poor year for film. Why this is, I have no clue. For it was a year so unusually rich in socially resonant, zeitgeist-y filmmaking, from the politically charged American films to an abundant indie scene, excellent foreign language cinema and equally worthy Academy-bait (yes, I like Crash!). I was 14 in 2005, and perhaps the year also struck me on a more personal level, too. This was when I was really getting into cinema in a major way, discovering aspects of it beyond the action blockbuster, and so it was kind of revelatory to me. Still, my #1 on the list definitely speaks to that early teenage mentality - even as I can well admit there were better films that year, none wowed my senses as much as Jackson's Lord of the Rings follow-up. I still adore the picture today.
The Best Films of 2005
01. King Kong
02. Brokeback Mountain
08. The Constant Gardener
09. A History of Violence
11. Good Night, and Good Luck.
13. Walk the Line
14. The Squid and the Whale
15. The New World
The Overrated Award of the Year: JUNEBUG. A magnificent star turn from Amy Adams didn't change the fact this was a dull, humdrum southern soap opera with an overtly indie sensibility. Critics loved it - I was unmoved.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on January 17, 2011 at 10:00 PM||comments (2)|
Sweet, handsome, well-acted biopic.
Fluid, lively animation paints a world filled with beauty and melancholy.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD / Edgar Wright
When I saw this wildly energetic comic book adaptation back in August, I certainly didn't expect it to pop up on my year-end Top 10 list. But here we are, and here it is, in all its frenetic, kinetic, Gen Y-charged glory, at spot #10. Michael Cera has perhaps never been better matched with the material at hand than he is here, perfectly embodying the dorky-yet-empowered title character with brio. His bouts with his girlfriend's Seven Evil Exes perfectly utilizes the manic aesthetic of video games while always remaining wholly original, and the visual stylizations surprisingly never grow old; this is fresh, inventive teenage cinema the kind rarely bestowed with such quality.
127 HOURS / Danny Boyle
Almost equally as fast-paced as the previous title, 127 Hours manages to make an immobilized individual's experiences enthralling and sensationally moving. Based on the true story of Aron Ralston, who after having his arm pinned under a boulder for over five days managed to amputate himself to freedom, the film is a heart-pounding 90 some minutes of unfettered human will power overcoming nature's physical limitations. The very premise doesn't necessarily lend itself to the cinematic form, it would seem, and the entire film hinges on the performance of the guy who for the last half of the picture is the only one to occupy the frame. But with sprightly direction from Danny Boyle and powerful work from James Franco, it becomes a thrilling and life-affirming journey into a particularly life-altering situation.
TRUE GRIT / Joel and Ethan Coen
Ever the defiers of expectation, and ever the masters of offbeat, pitch black eccentricity, I was initially a little bit befuddled with the Coen brothers' latest. It wasn't weird, it wasn't goofy or dark, and it wasn't especially profound or deeply insightful either. It was just a well crafted, solid adventure film that harkened back to the classic American western of the past. But as the days passed, it stayed in my mind. Jeff Bridges' towering, grueling Rooster Cogburn; a bright and natural performance from newcomer Hailee Steinfeld; the gloriously expansive, bleached cinematography of Roger Deakins; and that ending, subdued and haunting, as Mattie Ross disappears slowly out of sight to the hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." It may not feel like a Coen brothers film on the surface, but their touch still rings throughout; from the deliciously spiky dialogue to the sharp spurts of violence, this is perhaps more traditional work, but none the worse for it.
RABBIT HOLE / John Cameron Mitchell
In Rabbit Hole, a mother and father mourn the loss of their young son. That's what we know from the start, and it honestly reads rather overdone, clichéd even. We come into it expecting a certain thing, but in the case of this one it astounds us with how much it isn't like that thing. No: as the film unfolds ever so gracefully and with as little sentimentalism as possible, a fairly complex portrait of human coping tactics blossoms out of a beautifully layered script. Nicole Kidman is vulnerable and heart wrenching, and through her we see a wounded woman gradually change as she comes to understand - and even accept - the sadness around her. By avoiding antagonism and sappy manipulation, the movie succeeds by being a fully compassionate, exceedingly humane portrait of people who merely need the support of each other to confront their greatest pains.
BLACK SWAN / Darren Aronofsky
With the vérité textures of Aronofsky's previous The Wrestler, the woozy surrealism of David Lynch, and the sense of Kafka-esque entrapment exhibited by, well, Kafka, Black Swan is a swirling nightmare into the obsessively driven pursuit of artistic "perfection." Natalie Portman gives one of the finest, most memorable performances of the year as ballerina Nina Sayers, who from the start we see is already on shaky mental ground. Her mind wandering between the suffocation of her oppressive stage mother and the constant threat of replacement by a rival dancer, she becomes the increasingly unhinged psyche to which we are unrelentingly made a part of. The resulting experience is by turns horrific, opulent, even funny, and the climactic moments of transformation simultaneously show the dizzying heights of artistry, while also balancing the innate torment of the craft.
TANGLED / Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
I didn't have more fun in a movie theater all year. The lastest Disney animated film - rendered in miraculous, plush CG animation that can easily stand up to the visual class of any of the studio's traditional 2D outings - is an insanely enjoyable and hilarious musical comedy with a real emotional punch. And how affecting it is; with some of the most pitch-perfect voice work since Jeremy Irons became the snarling Scar in The Lion King, Tangled works its acting skill to a state of elation. The expressiveness of the bright fluid animation and the ace line deliveries of Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore, among others, turns this into something truly special, and by the end we've become so invested in these three-dimensional characters it's hard to believe they're not flesh and blood. The showcase sequence, a romantic interlude between our two heroes among a sea of floating lanters, is the scene of the year.
INCEPTION / Christopher Nolan
If it's at times irritatingly literal-minded or unnecessarily expository, Christopher Nolan's twisty sci-fi action heist caper is still a hell of a time, as heady as it is completely riveting. His direction of a very elaborate script is something to be in awe of, taking the elements of this high concept universe and bending them into something both intelligible and exciting. But let's focus on what really makes this thing work, outside of Nolan's precision and the outstanding technical virtuosity. The film ultimately achieves greatness not because of its original premise or its labyrinthine narrative, but because inside of the high-velocity action scenes are compelling philosophical ideas wrapped around a human core. The film is all about the dazzle, but it doesn't forget where its real interests lie.
THE FIGHTER / David O. Russell
The greatest ensemble cast of 2010. Made up from a marathon of rambunctious, colorful near-caricatures in a poor Massachusetts town, the picture is practically flowing over with people who can't seem to be contained. The electricity created between the actors is so terse, so tense, natural and free-flowing, it starts to ride up your spine and send chills through your body. The relationships are venomous, just as they are hysterical in their unexpected moments of levity. We can't help but delight from afar at the familial circus antics, but somehow we find room for empathy too. The Figher is so satisfying, finally, precisely because the world and people it enlivens are injected with such rousing life, culminating in a final knockout punch that's a stand-up-and-cheer worthy moment.
TOY STORY 3 / Lee Unkrich
The two most moving films of the year happened to both be animated Disney flicks - who would have thunk it? The one that takes the cake, however, is the one that brought such fun and poignant closure to the beloved trilogy of Toy Story. With this third outing, Woody and the gang once again find themselves in crisis, first at the mercy of a tyrannical daycare center and its maniacal tots and then contemplating real adult issues like the transience of time and growing up. It's that last part that makes the film almost unbearably emotional, as we see protaganist Andy ready to leave for college and no longer in need of his toys. Both parties must come to terms with moving on, and the way PIXAR deals with the departure is through a galvanizing finale that hits you square in the chest. An ode to childhood while also one that recognizes its inevitable passing, Toy Story 3 is as sweet and heartrending as they come.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK / David Fincher
I don't CARE how boring this choice is. I don't care that every critic in the known world (and probably the unknown ones, too) chose this as the best film of the year. I don't care because I personally didn't see a better film all year, none as intelligent, probing, or masterfully crafted as The Social Network, and I knew right from when I saw it in early October it would be a tough act to beat. And it was. With a top-drawer script, lean, confident direction, moody atmospherics, and brilliant performances from some talented young performers, the (*fictional*) story of Mark Zuckerberg comes to pulsating digital life in a cinematic work that really does having something to say about the times we live in. At its heart it's an elemental story of betrayal and greed, however it manages to take these human failings and update them to a modern domain through the guise of Facebook, something over 500 million people can relate to.
So what has the internet done to us? I'm not sure if it's changed us, really, but it's certainly changed the way we react (or don't) with each other. It's changed the environment we live in. It's changed how we communicate (or, again, don't), how we work, and how we conduct business. But I think The Social Network argues it hasn't actually changed the people. It says that humans are frail, susceptible to great destruction but also great success. It says that social networking, being yet another construct of man, has taken with it all the natural foibles of humankind and funneled them through an outlet of worldwide exposure. It shows us how interconnected we can be while also being so desperately alone.