The year is standing on its last legs, and for the life of me I can't remember half of the movies I saw this year. The entire first half of the year is completely gone to me; the earliest film I recall seeing in a theater is PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST which can't be right, 'cause didn't that come out in the summer? I forgot six months? Damn!
One of the problems was that many of my most-anticipated films simply haven't come out in wide-release yet. So no decisions or thoughts on PAN'S LABYRINTH, PERFUME: STORY OF A MURDERER, THE HOST, TIDELAND, CHILDREN OF MEN, or CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER.
Add to that the films that, for whatever reason, I just did not get a chance to see, including THE DEPARTED, FEARLESS, VOLVER, BABEL, BORAT, THE PROPOSITION, INSIDE MAN, HARD CANDY, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, or TENACIOUS D AND THE PICK OF DESTINY. I'm trying as fast as I can to catch up with those that have come out on DVD, but with 12.5 hours left in the year (as of this moment), I don't see much progress being made.
So, instead of a Top 10 list or anything, I'll present a few films that really caught my eye this year (not including films I already reviewed on this blog), and maybe post a few links to other people who watched way more movies than I did this year.
In no particular order:
CASINO ROYALE - Damn! What a way to re-invent the Bond franchise! I make no bones about it, this was simply the best Bond movie in 20, 25 years. It takes a while to become that, but when you watch the final moments of the film, you'll see what I mean. A lot of early pot shots were taken when it was announced that blond Daniel Craig was taking over the helm as opposed to early front-runner Clive Owen, and that the franchise was being updated to coincide more with a 21st century style of action film. Who would've thought that meant "place character development over action, and ground the film in a gritty reality while still providing eye-candy galore?" Great action, sexy women and laugh out-loud moments play against deep emotion and tension to provide a great movie.
BRICK - Someone forgot to tell writer/director Rian Johnson that movies about high-school kids solving a murder are suppose to either suck or run weekly on television. BRICK is film noir for the new century: rapid-fire dialogue that doesn't apologize for its rhythms, characters that rise out of shadow and smoke to play archetypes rather than roles, and a protagonist that embodies all the markings of some of the genre's best: Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, and Lawrence Tierney. Joesph Gordon-Levitt shines in yet another role, and finds in BRICK a small movie that should have a large impact on the way films featuring kids are made in the future. This was definitely one of my favorite films of the year.
CLERKS 2 - Did you forget that Kevin Smith, besides making jokes about pop culture and blow jobs, can actually write with heart and compassion? Because if you did, chances are you missed CLERKS 2, which brings Smith back to the his most popular film and provides a chance to show the warmth and heart he brought to both that first film and CHASING AMY. CLERKS 2 doesn't shine because of the humor, or the outrageous comedy, or the always scene-stealing antics of Jay and Silent Bob. It shines because of the small, tender moments that play in between the laughs, the woes and worries of people coming into their 30's and realizing they have no idea where they are or what they're doing, and for having a scene between two friends that plays more real, more heartfelt, and more genuine than anything I've seen in a buddy movie in years. Like CLERKS, this came out at the perfect time for me, right in my early 30's and wondering where I am and what I'm doing. A great Book-end to Smith's Askewinverse.
LADY VENGEANCE - Speaking of book-ends, wow! Off the heels of two powerhouses like SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE provides the first hint of relief and closure to Chan-Wook Park's Revenge trilogy of films. Whereas the first film deals with the question of who is more deserving of revenge, and the second one tackles the moral question of casting stones (is our revenge justified in light of our past actions), the third film looks at the results of vengeance. Visually stunning and full of the tricks and moments that make watching any Chan-Wook Park film worthwhile, LADY VENGEANCE serves as a fitting end to an amazing chapter of a director's life.
JUST MY LUCK - I know you're looking at and wondering if I've lost it completely. Don't worry. This is included for a very justifiable reason: this, to my memory, was the WORST film I saw all year. I admit to watching it on an airplane during a trip where the satellite television went on the blink and I finished my book. It would be hard to think of a worse performance this year (did Paris Hilton appear in any movies this year?) - those people who praise Lindsey Lohan for her small role in A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION are wrong. She was merely adequate, and her role could have been played by dozens of more deserving actresses. Please do yourself a favor and bypass this film even if it causes you physical pain to do so. You'll thank me later.
And that's it! There are some more movies I didn't get a chance to write about that were also worth mentioning (and not in a JUST MY LUCK kinda way) - be sure to check out RUINNING SCARED, THE DESCENT, THE PROPOSITION, and, of course, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. Just not for the Lindsey Lohan performance.
Be seeing you!