Posted tagged ‘aughts’

Decade in Review – Random Awards

December 29, 2009

Having already covered the best and most overrated films of the decade, I’ll use my decade-ending post to offer a few specialty awards.  The specificity of these categories makes a long list of films a little unnecessary, although there were multiple contenders for some of them.  I’ll start with the most dubious award of all:

Worst Film of the Decade – Birth (2004)

This one almost went to Catwoman.  After all, any film that features Halle Berry in fetish gear and yet still bores me is a pretty retched movie.  But, in the end, Catwoman does boast that aforementioned fetish gear, while Birth just features Nicole Kidman molesting a child.  Add to that a ridiculous and completely implausible plot, some of the worst film music ever (seriously, it made me want to gouge out my ear-drums), bad acting, and bad directing and you have the worst film of the decade.  It was creepy when it was supposed to be moving, boring when it was supposed to be tense, and funny when it was supposed to be dramatic.  Awful.  Just awful.

Biggest Disappointment of the Decade – Spiderman 3 (2007)

Following a solid first movie and a genuinely excellent second installment of the franchise, it seemed that Spiderman 3 had all the makings of a spectacular ending to that rarest of breeds: a quality comic book movie trilogy.  Instead, the trilogy ended with a spectacular, Superman 3 sized turd.  The action sequences were completely incomprehensible and extremely, mind-numbingly long.  Meanwhile, the plot never cohered into a compelling story.  By the time Black-suit Spiderman/emo Peter Parker showed up I was ready for the whole affair to be over, but, alas, it went on for another hour and a half.  All of the actors looked bored out of their minds and who could blame them?  They should have walked off the set just like I should have left the theater.

Worst Repeat View of the Decade – Iron Man (2008)

I really liked this movie the first time I saw it.  So, when I got my first Blu-Ray player and thought about what movie would really benefit from the 1280p that I had just invested in, Iron Man jumped to mind.  But upon further review, something occurred to me: this movie focuses way too much on building super-suits.  First, Tony Stark makes a suit as a hostage in a terrorist camp.  Then he makes a suit in his lab and becomes Iron Man.  Then his nemesis, Dr. Evil Iron Man Suit Guy makes a suit.  Then they put on their suits and fight.  The superior acting and interesting special effects carried me through the film the first time, but the second time all this suit building added up to a giant bore.

Most Needlessly Overblown “Epic” of the Decade – King Kong (2005)

Fresh off the beautifully epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson apparently felt compelled to follow with another epic movie.  The problem was, his subject simply wasn’t epic.  The plot of King Kong is, in fact, disarmingly simple.  Not to be deterred, Jackson did everything he could to make the movie feel a lot bigger than it was.  During the excruciatingly long journey to Skull Island, Jackson used foreshadowing, dark music, wide camera shots, and tons of over-acting in a vain attempt to build tension and suspense.  The problem was, we all knew what was on that island: a giant ape.  And we all know what happens to that ape: he climbs the Empire State Building and gets killed by some airplanes.  It doesn’t take two and a half hours to tell that story.

Most Likely to Make Me Kill Myself – Dancer in the Dark (2000)

 

I left the interpretation of this category open – it could have been a film that made me want to kill myself due to its awfulness, due to its being disgusting, due to guilt, or whatever.  In the end, Dancer in the Dark was the runaway winner for just being a gut-wrenchingly depressing and emotionally brutal movie.  Watching this movie was like getting punched in the gut for two hours… by Bjork (in other words, I felt like that reporter in Thailand).  In the end, I think it’s a great movie, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever put myself through watching it again.

So far these awards have been pretty dark – so I’ll end the decade on a more positive note.  Here are a couple of more affirming categories:

Most Underrated Film of the Decade – King of Kong (2007)

When I ask people if they’ve seen this movie, far too many answer “no.”  Any documentary that can make its viewers actually care who holds the title of Donkey Kong Champion of the World is clearly the work of a rare and exceptional talent.  Seth Gordon pulls it off while always maintaining a sense of the absurdity of it all.  Not to mention, this movie introduces the world to one of the most intriguing villians – ne human beings – in all of film: Billy Mitchell.  The free Donkey Kong machine in the lobby was the icing on the cake.

Most Pleasant Surprise of the Decade – Burn After Reading (2008)

I’ve had so many issues with Coen Brothers movies that it was nice to finally feel like I was in on the joke.  Rather than the usual cleverness of Coen Brothers films – a cleverness that overwhelms their potential funninessBurn After Reading really went after the humor of the script, and all of the actors followed suit.  Any film that features a dildo chair and that can make me laugh at someone getting brutally murdered by a hacksaw is a film worth seeing.

And so ends the decade.  I’d feel a little sad except that I’m sure the studios are already hard at work on another decade of bad movies for us all to spend our money on.  When they do, I’ll be sure to point out their awfulness.

Happy New Year!

Decade in Review – 5 Best Films of the Aughts

December 28, 2009

Having just vented about the 10 most overrated films of the decade I will now attempt to actually say something positive for a change.  So here goes – my list of the 5 best films of the decade:

#5.  Hot Fuzz (2007)

In a decade full of smirks and chuckles, Hot Fuzz delivered genuine, deep, gasping-for-air laughter.  The beginning is admittedly a bit slow, although it is punctuated by perhaps the funniest single moment of the past ten years.  When the top of a steeple falls down on top of a reporter, not just killing him but obliterating the top half of his body (and yet the bottom half stumbles around a bit before keeling over) the result is so unexpectedly violent and hilarious that I laughed long after the scene had ended.  And then, of course, there are the film’s final forty or so minutes, which are so uproariously funny that my side ached by the time they were over.  Unlike so many comedies of the aughts, Hot Fuzz didn’t try to be clever.  Instead, it tried to be funny, at it succeeded at every turn.

#4.  The Dark Knight (2008)

In an era of crappy comic book movies, this film proved once and for all that the drivel we had come to expect from the genre is inexcusable rather than inevitable.  Heath Ledger’s Joker will go down as one of the iconic performances in film history and deservedly so.  Having said that, it’s too bad that his performance ended up garnering so much attention because it tended to obscure the fact that this film’s excellence went far beyond a single outstanding performance.  Despite entering a crowded and clichéd genre, The Dark Knight was surprising at every turn and every minute of its two-and-a-half hour running time felt both compelling and necessary.

#3.  Wall-E (2008)

In ten years Pixar did more for digital animation than Disney did for traditional animation in the entire 20th century (and that’s no slight to Disney).  Wall-E is Pixar’s crowning achievement.  The first thirty dialog-less minutes give us some of the most elegant filmmaking of the decade.  Sure, the second half feels a bit more like the usual Pixar blend of physical gags and tight storytelling, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Wall-E is such a flawlessly executed film, and is so full of genuine heart, that the keen social commentary lurking under the surface is just a welcome added bonus.

#2.  The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)

So often directors seem to think that making a movie really long and filling it with special effects is all it takes to make something “epic.”  Fortunately, Peter Jackson remembered that story telling and character development are important, too.  As a result, every minute of the nine hours that this trilogy occupied the screen (and even the twelve hours of its extended DVD versions) felt like a gift.  This is one of the rare cases in which the movie was far better than the book on which it was based since Jackson managed to capture all of the magic of Tolkien’s imagination while replacing the woodenness of his prose with a visual style that was dynamic and compelling.

#1.  Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

It seems that everyone either loved or hated this movie.  I am firmly rooted in the “loved” category.  Everything in this film worked – the visuals, the music, the story-telling.  The narrative style was completely unique and yet easy to follow, and the story stayed true to Maurice Sendak’s book without feeling slavish or derivative. I saw it in the theaters twice and liked it even more the second time.  It’s dark.  It’s melancholy.  It’s moving.  It’s brilliant.

So there we have it – proof that I don’t hate every movie.  In my next post (the last one of this decade) I’ll give a few random awards in a “one-off” format.