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Well......there were so many great movies this year, each special or surprising in some way in their own right. So much so, it has cost me a fortune (getting to the hundreds of dollars, now) just to get through them all this season before Oscars. (Still need to see Revolutionary Road and The Wrestler, they haven't released here yet. Otherwise I think my choices are fairly unbiased- at least on the call of ignorance to other films. Oh, and I skipped Doubt. )
I've seen some shiners and some stinkers, and have come up with a list. Instead of spending a solid hour picturing and reviewing each film, however, I'll start simply with a list and a short-short sentence or two for 'likes' on each film. This year, the top 20- as there were so many different films I liked in extremely different ways this year that couldn't be said for this year. Anyone that needs justification for any of my choices, I'd be glad to provide it.
Well, here it goes:
A terrific dark comedy/drama. Coming out in March, I had to will my friends to see it. We all came out in shock at how perfect it was. After a year of great movies, I still stand by it and it still stands ahead in my book.
As much as I normally dislike Danny Boyle, there's something fascinating to this movie. The premise is silly, the filmmaking sometimes too avante-garde, but for whatever reason- it all works perfectly together. As Ebert said it, I've never seen a movie work so effortlessly simply through the way it is edited to 'tell itself'. I agree, can't explain this movie, and feel everyone should see it.
Precise, graceful, and an amazing showcase of acting on the part of Frank Langella- this would-be boring movie about an interview is so intense, so edge-of-your-seat intrigue you'd think you were watching a boxing match. Ron Howard and his actors firing on all cylinders.
Easily one of the most beautifully-shot and directed movies I've ever seen, The Fall is another early year-started that remains on my list after months of other movies. Beautiful, simply beautiful beyond belief. Couple that with some excellent assisted-suicide-catalyst drama, and you've got a 'best picture' film that sadly won't get acknowledged as a 'best picture'.
Similar statements to 'The Fall' go with this one as far as the cinematography goes. Benjamin Button was, perhaps even disappointingly, a victim of overexpectation from me. For that, I mean it didn't end up being the best movie I've seen all year. But as this list shows, it was still up there. The big points here from me don't go to David Fincher or Eric Roth (the screenwriter), but to Brad Pitt and the visual effects artists. Stunning work from both. Just......stunning.
Fast, fun, colorful, outrageous. If you passed this movie up to begin with, go back and watch it. The ending most especially is one of the greatest, most perfectly-edited endings in a movie I've yet to see.
Dramatic, poignant, and surprising in every way. W. wasn't a masterpiece, but it painted our President in such a restrained and empathetic way- played perfectly in essence/likeness instead of satire/mimicking by Josh Brolin- that I found my self.......fascinated by it all.
Easily one of the funniest movies of the year in my book, Tropic Thunder takes everything I loved about Zoolander (high production values and ridiculous technical values in, well, a farce/comedy) and pulled them even further in an absolutely excellent film. Complete that with the two standouts of the movie: a blackface Robert Downey Jr. and a trash-talking, show-stealing cameo by Tom Cruise.
Some people might wonder about this one, but really there's no other way to say it. I loved this movie. I cried during it, it connected with me on every level. Perhaps this is because I'm a 'dog person/owner' but whatever. I found the movie very reserved and genuine, and rarity in 'romantic comedies' the way I supposed Marley & Me was supposed to be. Instead, I felt real care for the family in the film, and real heartache and sorrow by the end of it all. Genuine, no other way to put it. Not in a very, very long time has what looks like a generic movie so effortlessly and deservingly pulled at my emotions and made me feel such passion for a character- even if it is a dog.
As much as I may feel it has been ridiculously overpraised and overhyped (I know, SC Karma ) Nolan's grizzly caper is an excellent film. Well-directed, acted, shot, and edited- this movie may not be the best film of all time in my eyes; it may not be the best film of the year; it may not even be the best comic book movie ever (newsflash: it isn't). But you know what? Why does it have to be? The Dark Knight was a superb summer action-drama, all-around, and worthy of the last spot in my 'top ten'.
Hilarious. This year's Knocked Up. Forgetting Sarah Marshall right from the get-go appealed to me with an excellent trailer and a sense of humor and acting that wasn't quite the Frat Pack, wasn't quite to now generic 'Apatow' formula. Instead, this was something less social-issue-y but somehow more heartfelt. And, once more, absolutely hilarious.
Guy Ritchie's return-to-form, firing on all cylinders. Somehow this mish-mash of tired 'british gangster' ideas- jumbled in such a convoluted way I couldn't even begin to piece them together with all that cockney jibberish-speak () found quite a witty, winning resolve. Good, not-so-clean, fun.
An unexpected delight of a film. Perfectly suspenseful and dramatic and a smile-to-your-face nod to the not-so-crumbling career of Tom Cruise. Bryan Singer and Tom Cruise, accompanied by an excellent cast, make this movie work wonders. I really felt they were going to succeed in assassinating Hitler. The movie worked extremely well in this regard, and kept me literally on the edge of my seat for the first time in years.
Three words: ROBERT. DOWNEY. JUNIOR. That is all that was needed for this movie to go on my list. No bigger star or role has been in the making longer than Downey as Stark, and the big payoff did just that- paid off.
Another indie hit I normally wouldn't have liked that somehow found its way deep into my heart. Be Kind Rewind wasn't just funny beyond belief, but demonstrated in it an enduring spirit in art (the movies they make in the movie at least) and had such an indescribable 'heart' to it- it left an impression on me, even memorable 9 months later.
If Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Tropic Thunder were just 'Hilarious', consider this one 'F*cking Hilarious!!11!'. Sexdrive really didn't set out to do anything special, but was able to succeed heftily in the no-holds-barred, gross-out, profane, raunch-tastic comedy it delved into. I saw it twice, and spit out my drink, sides-splitting laughed throughout the entire thing. Both times.
The absolute most unexpected film of the year. This movie looked terrible. I'm talking ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. And yet, I still saw it......and fell in love. Somewhere in the midst of European directorial choices, Angelina Jolie, and those crazy 1930s and 1890s sets of golden weaponry Wanted took hold; shamelessly stealing from Fight Club and The Matrix and liking itself way too much to admit so. Loved it all.
Another surprise of the summer. Kung Fu Panda is what I would consider the new Shrek series. A terrific, non-Pixar CG kid's film that not only works on an adult level, but deserves the praise it has and will get. Only a real shame Wall-E will kill it in the Oscars. This one deserves the best-animated award.
A fun, badass movie. Plain and simple. People talked so much trash about this ambiguous reboot of the boring Hulk character to begin with. But this movie didn't care. It was loud and actiony and badass, and didn't care about any of it. Badass.
These next two are tied, because they came to the last place on my list, but I simply couldn't rule one out over the other for my top 20. So here they are, tied:
Coen Brothers once again at their best. Really remarkable and hilarious here, I thought, wasn't just Brad Pitt but George Clooney's hilarious paranoid secret agent character. Tied up with a convoluted-for-the-sake-of-convoluted plot, and this movie became what I could see as a future cult classic.
A mix of cheesy 80s action flicks, stoner comedy, and a buddy film- Pineapple Express wasn't exactly what I went in expecting from such an excellent trailer- and for this reason perhaps it was even somewhat of a letdown- but it was close. And the movie gets merits for that. That, and being ridiculously, uncannily representative of my friends Tyler and Roland. Both of whom act, walk, talk, look, and breath like Seth Rogen and James Franco in this movie.
And that's about it. Any questions or further comments on my choices I'm happy to explain or justify in greater depth, as I know last time I got some static for putting Disturbia higher than Bourne. And finally:
Disappointments, terribly overrated, and just plain terrible (movies and) cases of over-expectations or false hype. Aka, movies I didn't like or thought were 'bad movies' that I'm bound to get flak for:
-Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of Crystal Skull
-You Don't Mess With The Zohan