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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1999

Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the 10 films on this list is the abundance of directing newcomers on it. 7 of the movies were made by people who made their feature film directorial debuts, and while not all of these film-makers would go on to lasting greatness, it still makes for an impressive class of 1999. The other three films are made by two well-established masters and one quickly rising star. There’s also, as usual, a lot of comedy on here. This shouldn’t surprise you with my lists any more.

So far in this series of blog posts, I have chosen to largely abstain from making honorable mentions. This has largely been due to a stubborn adherence to principles; if one sets out to make a list of 10 films, one should not name 20 films. I have now realized that this is counter-productive to the aim of these lists, which is to give people an idea of what movies I like.

With that in mind, here are some 1999 films I really like that didn’t quite make my list. Honorable mentions, if you will. In alphabetical order:

Arlington Road, Beyond the Mat, Bringing Out the Dead, Girl Interrupted, The Green Mile, In China They Eat Dogs, Magnolia, Office Space, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Toy Story 2

Now on to the list proper. As usual, I’m going by IMDB’s year of release.

10 – EYES WIDE SHUT (Stanley Kubrick)

“No dream is ever just a dream.”

Equal parts nightmare sightseeing tour through New York City and meditation on infidelity, Stanley Kubrick finished off his career in great fashion with Eyes Wide Shut. Impeccably designed and shot – as is to be expected from Kubrick – and with one of Tom Cruise‘s best performances in the lead, this film is also helped by having a strong story, one that might seem simple and straight-forward on paper but that reveals more layers with each watch.

9 – THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez)

“I’m afraid to close my eyes, I’m afraid to open them.”

While this movie didn’t invent the found footage genre of film (Cannibal Holocaust from 1980 seems to be the agreed-upon originator), The Blair Witch Project popularised it, paving the way for films like REC, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity and many others. When I first watched it at home alone one night as a teen, it had me rattled to the core. Even today, it remains a highly effective horror film by making us fear what we can’t see, rather than throwing a monster right in our faces. A picture might say more than a thousand words, but in horror, so does a sound that shouldn’t be there.

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Posted by on 5 March, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2000

The 10 movies on this list might not average out as the best movie year of all time or anything, but it is extremely top-heavy. The top three films here are ones I really truly adore for different reasons, and would all have a good shot at making the grade were I to compilea Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time list. They’re that good, and they’re all from the same year.

As this list series of mine now gets set to leave the aughts and head into the 90s, we’re entering years where more films I saw for the first time back in the day will show up more. As I talked about in my post on how I became a movie lover, the 2000s were largely a dead zone for me in terms of film-watching, and the majority had to be caught up with in the last few years. I watched more movies in the 90s, many of which still hold up to this day. This presents interesting dilemmas with determining how much of my appreciation for these films is due to nostalgia. In some cases, just remembering the films can be tricky. For instance, #8 on this list is a film I think I saw in theater at the time and later bought on VHS (remember those?), but I haven’t seen it in over 10 years. Can I be certain that #8 is the right spot for it on this list? Sure I can. My memories of the film places it above #9 and below #7 at this moment in time. Opinions and likings always change, sometime from day to day. But this list reflects what I feel today. And today, I look back on #8 very fondly indeed.

Note: This list goes by the release years listed on IMDB.

10 – BEST IN SHOW (Christopher Guest)

“Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

All of Christopher Guest‘s mockumentaries are worth seeing, but Best in Show is the sharpest one in my book. This film revolves around a dog show, and we are introduced to a number of the off-beat characters who compete in it. It’s a laugh riot, and since most of it is improvised, the whole movie is imbued with a fairly naturalistic feel. Cast stand-out: Fred Willard as a spectacularly incompetent commentator.

9 – CAST AWAY (Robert Zemeckis)

“Hello! Anybody?”

The opening part does drag a bit, and while I personally love the ending, some have decried it as being overly melodramatic. What most everyone agree on is that the middle part, the real meat of the movie, is superb. It’s just Tom Hanks being forced to survive on a desert island by himself. It takes skillful hands both behind and in front of the camera to keep things interesting despite only having one character on screen, and Robert Zemeckis and Hanks pull it off masterfully. Cast Away also accomplishes the significant feat of making audiences care deeply about… a volleyball.

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Posted by on 8 February, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2001

Time to set the time machine to 2001, a year that like many others had a great deal of great films to offer. There’s a nice mix to be had with this list, I think. Sure, it leans slightly towards comedy as my lists tend do – although there’s nothing here that i’d classify strictly as a laugh-out-loud type of movie – but there is some international variety. USA, France, Spain and Norway are all represented in one way or another.

I don’t normally do honorable mentions for these lists, but I do need to give a shout-out to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The trilogy as a whole is a remarkably ambitious cinematic accomplishment which does such a great job of bringing the world of the novels to life. Both The Two Towers and The Return of the King barely missed out on spots on their respective year lists. The Fellowship of the Ring – my personal favorite of the three – was sitting at #9 on this list at first draft. Then along came a movie I hadn’t seen before (#7), and Fellowship got bumped down. And then I realized a teriffic film I thought belonged to 2000 was actually released in 2001 (#2), and just like that, Fellowship dropped off. So an honorable mention goes out to that film and, by extension, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

On to the list proper. As always, this is 2001 as listed on IMDB to avoid confusion with international release dates.

10 – HUMAN NATURE (Michel Gondry)

“Remember: when in doubt, don’t ever do what you really want to do.”

The most overlooked of the films written by Charlie Kaufman, Human Nature is a movie of many questions about – of course – human nature. What’s fun is the strange ways in which it goes about asking them. The central characters are a scientist (Tim Robbins) trying to teach mice to have a formal dinner, a man (Rhys Ifans) who grew up in the wilderness thinking himself to be an ape, and a woman (Patricia Arquette) who voluntarily abandoned civilization as an adult due to feeling out of place because of her thick body hair. This story proves to be a good fit for Michel Gondry, here making his feature film debut and immediately establishing his unique style – how many directors would go with a sudden Disney-esque song number in a film like this? Human Nature is both funny and thought-provoking, and it deserves more attention than it tends to get.

9 – A KNIGHT’S TALE (Brian Helgeland)

“Now that I got their attention, you go and win their hearts.”

Wikipedia describes this as an action-adventure film. This is false. A Knight’s Tale is very much a sports movie, with all the familiar story elements and tropes associated with the genre. It just so happens to take place in medieval times, with the sport in question being jousting. What makes the film stand out even more is the anachronistic music. Here we have a dance scene in at the royal court set to David Bowie’s “Golden Years”, and joust audiences clapping along to Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Heath Ledger makes for an effective protagonist, Shannyn Sossamon is as radiant as ever as his love interest, and Paul Bettany and Alan Tyduk as comedic sidekicks take turns to steal the movie. Often hilarious, always feel-good. A Knight’s Tale never fails to put a smile on my face.

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Posted by on 25 January, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2002

After the somewhat weak year that was 2003, we come to 2002. What is there to say about this year? Not much. It was a good year, thus making for a solid top 10. So with little to pontificate about regarding 2002, I’d like to take this space to talk about the fleeting nature of these lists.

I am by no means done with any year film-wise. Not yet, and I don’t think I ever will be. There are always more movies to see, from critically hailed modern classics to gems that have gotten lost in the shuffle and are waiting to be discovered. So it’s no wonder that the lists can get slightly dated with time. Not just in terms of the ranked order (which can change from day to day), but also in which films are included. For example, I hadn’t seen A Single Man when I made my 2009 list, but if I had, it would definitely have made the cut. The same goes for the wonderful documentary Best Worst Movie. Rather than going back to updating the lists when necessary, I’m fine with just leaving them as they are. All lists are windows into brief moments in time. “This is how Emil felt on this day”, is what they proclaim. Even if I see some 2002 movie later this week that would make the cut for this list, it doesn’t change the fact that this here is a collection of 10 movies I really enjoyed. To offer a general view of what kind of films I like has always been the purpose of these lists, and this goal is still accomplished by leaving them as they are.

So now, on to the list for 2002. As always, this goes by the release dates listed on IMDB.

10 – CHANGING LANES (Roger Michell)

“I can live with myself because at the end of the day I think I do more good than harm. What other standard have I got to judge by?”

Two strangers collide in a traffic accident. One is a lawyer at the cusp of his big break, the other a recovering alcoholic trying to gain custody of his children. The meeting causes a delay for both of them, setting them off on a spiralling path through the day where both will try to exact revenge on each other and struggle with determining who is right and who is wrong. A cleverly written film where we can sympathize with both sides of a conflict. Ben Affleck puts in one of his best performances, while Samuel L. Jackson is as fun as always.

9 – ONE HOUR PHOTO (Mark Romanek)

“No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”

A thriller that really gets under your skin, through a protagonist who’s troubled both psychologically and socially. Loner Sy (played expertly by a subdued Robin Williams) lives through the photos he developes for his customers, experiencing their joys that he himself has none of in his own life. But when he discovers that injustice is done to people he care about, he gradually snaps. It’s a story of morality and a reminder of how little we know of others, of the things we keep from them ourselves, and of how the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

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Posted by on 9 January, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2003

Would it be unfair of me to say that 2003 sucked movie-wise? Yes, of course it would. Not even going into how I’ve only seen a small percentage of all films released all over the world during the year, just looking at what I have seen tells me that there were plenty of good movies out there and no disproportionately large number of stinkers. I’m sure the average 2003 movie I’ve seen isn’t much worse than the average of most other years.

But this list is still… weak? No, not weak. These are all very good films. That might be the problem, though. Most of these are indeed very good. It’s just that there are few truly great ones on here. Movies I love. Compared to most other years from the decade, 2003 was a bit lacking at the upper section. Some of these films would have a hard time finding spots on previous top 10 lists I’ve made.

It’s all good, though. I’ll gladly take more years like 2003 as long as I get one film as good as what’s at #1 here.

As usual, to avoid international confusion, I go by years listed on IMDB to determine what is and isn’t “a 2003 movie”.

10 – AMERICAN SPLENDOR (Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini)

“Why does everything in my life have to be such a complicated disaster?”

Two things are key if you want to make a good biopic. 1: Find an interesting character to make a film about. 2: Find the right actor for said character. American Splendor accomplishes these two steps with gusto. Paul Giamatti plays Harvey Pekar, notorious underground comic book writer. A complicated character with plenty of odd quirks and a vitriolic personality, Giamatti nevertheless finds the human being within and offers a nuanced and believable performance. A lot of the film’s success is due to the actor. Without him, the movie might have been just as interesting, but probably not as good.

9 – MATCHSTICK MEN (Ridley Scott)

“She said you were a bad guy. You don’t seem like a bad guy.”

Of course Roy (Nicolas Cage) doesn’t seem like a bad guy. He’s a conman. It’s his job to appear trustworthy. And he’s doing good for himself, despite having to combat his OCD and other mental hang-ups. But then his daughter (Alison Lohman) whom he has never met before enters his life, and things get complicated. Matchstick Men tells an entertaining story with twists and turns a-plenty and features one of Cage’s better performances of the decade. Also: Pygmies!

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Posted by on 20 December, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2004

Where my 2006 list featured lots of comedies and my 2005 one had a disproportionately high number of documentaries, this one doesn’t really feature any remarkable trends. Indeed, as great as all the films on this list are, perhaps the most noteworthy thing about these ten is what a homogeneous collection it is. All of them are fictional movies, and they could all be said to be American (though three are by directors from other countries, and a fourth takes place solely in Europe). As I’ve said before, I make no concious effort to either infuse or stamp out variety in these lists of mine. It just so happens that my favorite films of 2004 just happen to be these ones. And there is at least genre diversity within the specific subgroup here, with drama, comedy, action, animation and romance all getting their time in the spotlight.

As usual, this is 2004 strictly as listed on IMDB (which is the reason why there can be two Best Picture Oscar winners on here). And it’s merely a list of my favorite films, and nothing more than that.

10 – THE INCREDIBLES (Brad Bird)

” ‘Greater good’? I am your wife! I’m the greatest good you are ever gonna get!”

This is my favorite Pixar film, and a large part of it is due to its relatable characters. Sure, the family of superheroes all have their superpowers, but their problems are all human and recognizable, from Mr. Incredible’s longing for his old glory days in the spotlight to his shy daughter Violet’s feelings of inadequacy. Having a bunch of cool action sequences helps too, of course.

9 – CRASH (Paul Haggis)

“That’s good. A little anger. It’s a bit late, but it’s nice to see.”

Some love it, some hate it. I’m among the former. Crash‘s strength doesn’t lie in what it has to say about racism (someone in my Twitter feed once suggested that’s it’s actually less about that than about grace). Rather, what I appreciate in this film is the power of its individual scenes, helped along by strong performances by Michael Peña, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton and others.

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Posted by on 6 December, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2005

Just as the 2006 list featured plenty of comedies, this one has a surprisingly high amount of another genre: documentaries. Four of them appear on this list of ten, which, while not dominating, is certainly disproportionate if one looks at the amount of fictional and nonfictional movies I’ve seen from that year. Does this mean that 2005 was a weak year for “normal” movies? No, not really. The documentaries that made this list are all excellent and would have had a good shot of making the top 10 no matter what year they’d been released in. It just so happens that they all got clumped together in 2005. The ten films here are all 5/5 in my book, which is more than I can say for most other years.

I’m perfectly fine with this. Documentary films are often overshadowed by their fictional brethren, and I know some people who don’t even consider them movies at all. Which is ridiculous. Of course they are movies. They have the same power to move us, thrill us, shock us and make us laugh and think as any other genre of film. They deserve as much attention as anything, so I’m happy that four of them have found their way onto this list of mine.

As usual, this is 2005 as listed on IMDB.

10 – MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (LA MARCHE DE L’EMPEREUR, Luc Jacquet)

“There are few places harder to get to in this world. But there aren’t any where it’s harder to live.”

What always strikes me about this documentary is how much work it must have taken to shoot it. Showing the remarkable mating cycle of the emperor penguins of Antarctica, a lot of time was spent to capture every phase of the long process in a truly inhospitable climate. The result of the crew’s labor is a wonderful documentary that’s both informative and charming. The English-language version also plays the trump card of having Morgan Freeman as its narrator (though the Swedish one with veteran comedian Gösta Ekman behind the microphone is nothing to sneeze at either).

9 – THE WEATHER MAN (Gore Verbinski)

“Nothing that has meaning is easy. ‘Easy’ doesn’t enter into grown-up life.”

Here’s an oft undervalued film that Gore Verbinski put out inbetween the two first Pirates of the Caribbean films. Nicolas Cage plays a Chicago weatherman who’s unhappy with his life. His flaws are twofold: he takes no pleasure in his work, and he tries too hard to patch things up with his family. He can’t get over his ex-wife (Hope Davis), his kids struggle with weight issues and drugs, and his father (masterfully played by Michael Caine) is quietly disappointed by his son. It’s a comedy of the glum kind, where the laughs have to fight hard to break through the clouds but feel well-earned when they do. One of Cage’s best and most overlooked performances of the decade.

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Posted by on 23 November, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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