Monday, January 20, 2014

My Top 25 Films Since 2000

Some friends & I have been (and will continue to be) counting down our favorite movies by decade... and I thought I'd share my lists with you, my faithful readers. Of course, this time it's actually a 13 year time span - but who cares?

#25: High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Yes, the final installment of the much-derided HSM franchise. Except for a mistaken attempt to start a new crew of HSMer's, this is a really nice distilling of everything that makes these goofy films the 21st century equivalent of a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland "hey, kids, let's put on a show" musical. (I took no end of ribbing from my "so-called friends" about including this one.)
#24: Unbreakable
IMHO, the best of M.Night Shyamalan's films... not so much for the requisite twist as for doing a brilliant job of answering the question, "What would it look like if someone really got superpowers?"
#23: Oceans 11
An homage to caper films and to the Rat Pack that actually looks like they had fun making it. (This is substantially more fun to watch than the drunken slog that was the original Oceans 11.)
Take my advice: Avoid Oceans 12 at all costs... Oceans 13 is pretty good but not up to the level of the first one.
#22: Despicable Me
In which somebody besides Pixar proves that they can use computer animation for good rather than evil. The "three kittens" scenes are delightful.
I just saw the sequel and enjoyed it - though not nearly as much as the first film.
#21: X-2: X-Men United
I was always more of a DC Comics guy... I haven't ever really read much of the X-Men comic books. But this movie manages to tread the line between "comic book faithful" and "real characters & feelings" in ways that push all the right buttons for me. (You should watch the first movie as well - but avoid the 3rd one.)
#20: School of Rock
Evidently, to make a good movie w/Jack Black, you need to include music. (And, no, I don't think Nacho Libre is a good movie.)
 #19: The Bourne Identity
The first film of this action/thriller series is still the best - though the others are good. Less Paul Greengrass hand-held motion sickness camera, tighter plotting, excellent performances from both Matt Damon & Franke Potente.
#18: Bolt
And this is what happens when John Lasseter is made Chief Creative Officer at Disney - an animated film that could have been another throwaway becomes great quotable fun.
Interesting trivia: the voice of Rhino (the hamster) is actually the animator who laid down the original scratch track - he was so good they didn't go find anyone else.
#17: Hitch
I think the movie falls apart a bit at the end (Hitch's revelation that he "didn't do anything" isn't true)... but the chemistry between the four leads is sweet & funny & makes me want to hang out with them.
#16: The Passion of the Christ
Yes, those of you who know my religious background might suspect that this would be ranked (higher/lower/later/whatever)... but while I appreciate the searing portrayal of what I consider the pivotal moment in history, it's not a film I want to watch over & over.
I'm still flabbergasted at how well it did at the box office - I said at the time that the number of people who went to see it couldn't all be evangelicals & Catholics... and I'm just not sure how someone could pull off, "hey, let's go see Jesus get crucified and then we'll go back to my place and I'll try to get lucky."
#15: Wreck-It Ralph
Another great entry from the John Lasseter era at Disney Animation - chockfull of video in-jokes, great voice work, and a wonderful plot. ...
"I relate to you, Ralph. When I hit bottom, I was crushing man's skull like sparrow's egg, between by thighs... and I think, why you have to be so bad, Zangief? Why can't you be more like good guy? Then I have moment of clarity... if Zangief is good guy, who will crush man's skull like sparrow's eggs between thighs? And I say, Zangief you are bad guy, but this does not mean you are *bad* guy."
#14: Crash
Yes, I know it's not perfect... but it knocked me to the ground when I saw it. It veers from heavy-handed to achingly painful - and managed to cause conversation about race & racism & expectations.
#13: Up
The first ten minutes nearly reduced me to a quivering, blubbering mass of Jello... and then a wildly inventive & sweet story came rolling out of that beginning. (Note: cut that 10 minute opening out & the movie would NOT work - you'd hate Mr. Fredrickson.)
#12: Star Trek
The lens flares don't bother me as much as some other folks - and this was a good movie even if you didn't know Star Trek. If you did, it was chockfull of smart callbacks to the films and to the original series.
#11: Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Tony Stark... the SFX were great but this film lives & breathes because of the convergence of character arc and personal story arc of the actor.
#10: Monsters, Inc
This is what happens when you're willing to follow a great story idea down whatever road it leads... and then you cast great vocal actors to go with you.
"Wasteland? You mean wonderland!"
#9: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
With only minor alterations, a beautiful & moving visual realization of Tolkien's incredible story.
The second two films of the trilogy take more liberties - sometimes for good & often for ill. As a set, they're amazing - but you should still read the books.
#8: Cars
On first viewing, a little slow & long... on repeated viewings, the pace & style are purposeful choices to get us to slow down and join the residents of Radiator Springs in living the good life.
Driving across Arizona & New Mexico last year (during our first of two moves in 2013) was like stepping into the story when we got off the freeway.
And, if you love this movie, you owe it to yourself to go to Disney's California Adventure & experience Cars Land... it's darn near perfect.
#7: Captain America: The First Avenger
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Marvel... for making non-ironic period superhero movie - Cap deserved this rather than some kind of cynical wink-fest.
#6: Wall*E
It would be a personal favorite even w/out the Hello, Dolly songs. And, yes, it's slow in getting started. And, yes, the film pace radically changes once we get into space. So what? It works.
#5: Enchanted
Amy Adams manages to infuse the proceedings with an incredible joy & innocence that changes everything around her - this performance should have won lots of awards.
#4: Marvel's The Avengers
Joss Whedon knocked this one out of the park - great casting, smart script, amazing SFX, and paced perfectly. Even if you're not a comic book fan (aka - my wife), you can fall in love with this film. (And she did.)
#3: Toy Story 3
The cryfest continues with yet another Pixar miracle - that the THIRD movie in a series could have so much originality, so much humor, and so much genuine emotion. Hats off to you, Mr. Lasseter, and your band of geniuses.
#2: Minority Report
Never thought an action/thriller could have so much philosophical/theological depth... brilliant. I'm not a big Tom Cruise or Colin Farrell fan - and they both are perfectly cast here.
#1: The Incredibles
It's, well, incredible. The best superhero movie every made is also the best animated movie of the 2000s AND my favorite Pixar film.


Scott Rushing said...

1. I wish I liked Crash as much as you did. I couldn't wait for it to end.

2. I loved about 80% of Minority Report. That middle section where Cruise goes blind just slowed down the movie to a crawl.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Growing up in the suburbs of L.A. probably made it easier for me to warm to Crash.

I wasn't bothered by the slow middle section - it felt like it was setting us up for breakneck pace of the end of the film.

Clay B. said...

Interesting list. I'll have to work on mine.