At first it seemed like a great idea as I've seen a few films in the theatres this year, but it made me sad to think about my movie going habits as of late. When I was a younger lad I lived for the art house flick, the one that was made seemingly outside the studio system. Films that challenged my brain and ones that offered quirky, unconventional plots were my bag and I reveled in watching them.
For a couple years I worked at a movie theatre and me and my cohorts would often look down our noses at the massive audiences who bought into the studio hype and believed the tripe they just saw was the greatest thing to ever hit celluloid. Most of our customers didn't want a film to challenge their beliefs, or make them think at all. They simply wanted to be entertained. We laughed at them as they came out of 'The Saint' all joyous about what they just witnessed.
As I thought more about the films I chose to see in the multiplex this year I realized that God forbid I'm turning into those people. I'm burnt on art house dramas that are supposed to seem profound. I'm bored by quirky comedies that are supposed to be clever, but really just the same joke for an hour plus. Small 'indie' films are no longer this cinema buff's hero, but rather the genre really seems to have been getting stale. So many are just one trick ponies that after the first ten minutes the film becomes predictable and lifeless. Maybe I enjoy them less because of my own life becoming more and more yuppie and far less introspective.
Remember the time you recently watched something you loved in your youth and you accepted the realization it's nothing more than a big block of government cheese? Yeah that's how I felt when going over the list of films I watched this year.
Enough about my own personal reflection. Lets get to the good stuff, which is a list I know most of you will disagree with. Favorite films in no particular order:
1. United 93 - I asked many people to come watch this with me. Everyone flat out said no. No one himmed and hawed, but everyone quickly denied me their company and of course had to give their reason why without my asking. Some said it was too soon to be making a film about this subject. Others claimed it was exploitative. There were also those who just didn't want to relive the emotions they felt on that tragic day. All are good reasons not to go see this film and I understand their sentiment. I do; however, feel that the story of the passengers on that flight does need to be told and the sooner the better.
I finally saw it when it came out on DVD and kick myself for not watching it on the big screen. The acting, pacing, cinematography, and direction was done so well that I found myself on the edge of my seat through out the last half of the film, which was ridiculous when you consider I knew how it was going to end. This film is a glowing tribute to those who gave their lives so others may be saved. It wasn't hammed up. It wasn't sappy. There were no big name actors. You didn't get to know the characters well. It simply was a great telling of ordinary people reacting to an extraordinary circumstance.
2. The Departed - I can't remember the last time I walked out of a theatre asking myself if a film couldn't get any better. All of the elements of this movie were superbly crafted. This is the result of a director who's a master of his craft and it's just amazing how he made a simple cops and robbers concept into a masterpiece. I could go on for pages about each and every detail that made this film unique. It's simply a work of genius.
3. Clerks II - I have a love/hate relationship with the work of Kevin Smith. There are many who blindly worship at the altar of pop culture's favorite slacker geek turned icon, but I, like many passive fans, find myself disappointed in a lot of his work. This film; however, is a much more mature telling of the View Askew universe and unlike the first movie it gave his characters a soul. To somehow who sometimes feels they've heard every joke I found myself genuinely laughing at this. It's not highbrow cinema by any means, but it's one of those comedies where not one chuckle I gave seemed forced. This is a far superior ending the the Jersey Chronicles than Jay and Silent Bob.
4. Superman Returns - The villain's plot is hockey and makes no sense, they still can't get a Lois Lane who can act well, and the man in tights is no Christopher Reeves, but there's one moment that made me love it. I watched it on IMAX with my nephews in 3-D and there's a sequence with the man of steel flying through the clouds soaring off the screen into the sky. That moment made me feel just as childlike as the seven year old sitting next to me and for that reason I love this film. For a few seconds I believed a man could fly.
5. Why We Fight - Usually when you hear the words 'Industrial Military Complex' people normally associate it with some far fetched conspiracy theory. This film though takes us into the real world of the mass manufacturing and selling of death and it's effect on our world politics. The result is terrifying. I almost find it depressing that heavy handed documentaries such as Fahrenheit 9/11 get such praise while this arguably more important and intelligent film will soon be forgotten.
Whew I think that's enough. Now to the worst. I never saw anything really terrible this year as you won't find me shelling out dough to see Big Momma's House 2, but the bad films on this list was more disappointing than anything. 1. The DaVinci Code - Yes the book was so poorly written it almost made the works of Dean Koontz seem like Pulitzer material, but the concept was interesting enough to make any screenwriter abandon it's flaws and make a compelling story with characters that actually seemed human. Sadly the book has so many fans they chose to stick too close to the source material and the results suffered. If one thing good can be said about this film it's the fact that it exposed the books numerous weak points and will hopefully result in the material being soon forgotten. 2. The Break Up - I wanted this movie to be good and now I don't understand how it could've been. You've all been in the car rides or the dinners where you watch your friends bicker with their significant other. It's uncomfortable all the while sad as you watch them go through the misery of not being able to put their emotional houses in order. This film is like that except they're not your friends. They are simply selfish, manipulative, and trivial people inflicting pain on each other because of their frustration at the failed relationship. We may have been those people once, or still for that matter, but watching that on screen was hardly entertaining nor as enlightening as the filmmakers thought it was.
What a huge post for a really short list. I need an editor.
“Films don't change the world, but they can make people talk. And they can make you look at the world with fresh eyes. This movie provides a credible, authentic portrait of that day, and it allows us to draw some wisdom from it. Wherever you sit politically, we are all in that same stage of being wounded and trying to figure what to do next. Those people on United 93 had the courage to confront what we're all dealing with. The question is, do we?” - Paul Greengrass