Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Films of the 2000's: #40-21

Previous installment: #60-41


40. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly

Like many people, Requiem for a Dream has scarred me for life. If I was ever likely to try heroin at any point in my life, that was squashed right at the moment Jared Leto revealed his blackened arm. My God, I just think about that image and get shivers.

39. Borat (2006)
Director: Larry Charles
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen

A sociological study of Americans as they truly behave that I laughed my ass of throughout most of the runtime. How many movies can you say that about? In any ordinary studio film, Sacha Baron Cohen's schtick would have gotten old ten minutes in. Thankfully, the decision to shoot the film documentary style keeps Cohen engaging and on his toes, ready and willing to do nearly anything to get a laugh. My brother and I were nearly on the floor we were laughing so hard during the naked fight scene.

38. Julia (2009)
Director: Erick Zonca
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Kate del Castillo, Aidan Gold

Tilda Swinton is a goddess. The rest of the movie ain't too shabby either. If only all kidnap-gone-wrong movies were this exciting, unnerving and oddly touching all at the same time.

37. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, David Strathairn

I've admitted my action movie bias before, but I was able to overcome it with The Bourne Ultimatum. After the end credits starting rolling, I just sat in my seat completely dazed by what had just transpired. The film is a pure adrenaline rush--"Godard on crack" I believe I once called it--that makes its cheap imitators look calm and subdued with every jarring jump cut and the so-shaky-I-don't-know-who-I'm-following cinematography.

36. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Catherine Keener

Judd Apatow's first film is still his best. Even at two hours, the film remains fresh and never feels bloated or overlong unlike his two follow-ups.

35. Spirited Away (2002)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

The most beautiful animated film I've ever seen.

34. Legally Blonde (2001)
Director: Robert Luketic
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Coolidge, Luke Wilson

The moment Reese Witherspoon became a legitimate bankable star. And I've done the "Bend and Snap" way too many times even for a gay man.

33. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Director: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Starring: Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin

The little quirky indie comedy that could. I'm sure it is popular now to hate on this movie in the wake of it's immense success (hello, Juno!) but I still adore the Hoover family, their multitude of (mental and physical) crises and their bright yellow Volkswagen bus. As an added bonus, Abigail Breslin's unpretentious and unaffected performance as the eponymous Olive is one of the very few child actor performances I can stomach. And you have to give her props for pulling off that musical number; I roared with laughter when I saw this at the theatre.

32. Bright Young Things (2003)
Director: Stephen Fry
Starring: Stephen Campbell Moore, Emily Mortimer, Fenella Woolgar

If Gossip Girl had taken place in 1930's Britain, it would look exactly like Stephen Fry's Bright Young Things. Not especially deep, but the film is frivolous, fast-paced and fun, with an incredible cast consisting of old timers (Stockard Channing, Imelda Staunton) and then up-and-comers (Emily Mortimer, James McAvoy).

31. Adventureland (2009)
Director: Greg Mottola
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Wiig

Whereas Mottola's Superbad was crude, crass and balls-out funny, Adventureland is nostalgic, achingly sweet and even a bit melancholic at times. Two moments stick out for me like I had just seen the movie yesterday: the bodacious Lisa P.'s enticing dance and Kristen Stewart blankly staring out the windshield with the wind blowing through her hair while 'Don't Dream It's Over' plays dreamily over the background.


30. District 9 (2009)
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley

I wanted to vomit. I wanted to cry. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to hide. I'm pretty sure I felt every possible human emotion throughout the course of District 9. I loved every minute of it.

29. WALL-E (2008)
Director: Andrew Stanton

The idea of an animated film about robot wandering a post-apocalyptic planet Earth, I must admit, was a bit of a hard sell. However, it didn't take much convincing after the Chaplinesque pathos of the first half, which I was immediately taken by. Who knew the romance of two robots could be so beautiful?

28. Bad Education (2004)
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez

I seem to have a thing for movies where Gael Garcia Bernal makes out with men. That's so unlike me, I know. Bernal sexiness aside, this is my favorite Almodóvar film. The mystery is fascinating and keeps you engaged throughout the entire runtime. And Bernal works overtime playing three different roles, remaining an impossibly indecipherable enigma.

27. Memento (2001)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie Anne Moss

It's been 3 1/2 years since I first saw Memento, and I'm still working out what it all meant.

26. The Pianist (2002)
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Adrien Brody

Not just another Holocaust movie. Frighteningly realistic, downright grimy and all too horrific to believe, it's the Holocaust as we don't like to think about. The fact that Roman Polanski lived through the horrors makes it all the more discomforting to watch; it's almost as if watching his experience first-hand.

25. The HSM Trilogy (2006-8)
Director: Kenny Ortega
Starring: Zac Efron, La Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Vanessa Hudgens

My increasing fascination with the tween subculture can be credited to one summer day in 2007 when I decided to see what all this fuss about High School Musical was about. I wasn't crazy about the first, aside from La Tisdale's epic performance of course, but I couldn't deny there was something about their inherent badness that hooked me. I caught the second film when it premiered later on that summer and, while it was technically even worse than the first, I couldn't deny my rising infatuation with La Tisdale's divaliciousness or Zac Efron's beautiful face. By the time the third installment came, it was preceded by a 6+ month anticipation that could barely contain itself by the time it premiered in October of 2008. Who would have guessed that the third would not only be the best of the series but also a legitimately good film in its own right? If nothing else, the HSM Trilogy proved to me that some of the greatest actors around are hiding in the Disney Ghetto, just waiting to be discovered and make it to the big time. Without this trilogy, just think: I probably wouldn't have encountered Demi Lovato, Sterling Knight, Tiffany Thornton or the JONAS girls. Scary thought, indeed.

24. In Bruges (2008)
Director: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrel, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson

In retrospect, a dialogue-heavy, (black) comedic meditation on life, death, guilt sounds right up my alley. Initially, however, I was a bit skeptical. Imagine my surprise when the movie ended and I thought to myself, "Damn, everything about this movie just worked." There aren't many movies out there that you can say that about.

23. Dreamgirls (2006)
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy

All of my favorite things combined into one movie: black female belters, divas, glitter, showstopping musical numbers, the early 60's, Beyoncé wearing ridiculous fashions. You can't ask for much than that, can you? Oh yes you can. How about a showstopping, jaw-dropping performance from American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson that earned at least three rounds of applause in the theatre I saw it in (all of which I joined in enthusiastically)? Or a much maligned performance from Beyoncé that only looked shallow and undercooked because the character required it? Haters to the left (to the left)--I don't need to hear it anymore.

22. Monster in Law (2005)
Director: Robert Luketic
Starring: Jane Fonda, J. Lo, Wanda Sykes

To this day, I do not understand all the venomous hatred that has been spewed toward this film. Sure, as the first Jane Fonda film in 15 years it is a bit on the fluffy side, but so what? She's vibrant, full of life and, what else, funny as hell as the future mother-in-law hellbent on trying to split up her son (Michael Vartan) from his new fiancée (J. Lo at her breeziest and funniest). Monster in Law is a romantic comedy without all the gushy romantic garbage, replaced with hilarious one-liners (provided mostly by the always great Wanda Sykes) and fast-paced slapstick comedy. If I'm a cinematic neanderthal for liking this movie, then so be it. I will never back down.

21. Bring It On (2000)
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Bradford, Eliza Dushku

It has been ten years and whenever someone around me says, "Brrrr," I still have the urge to finish with "...It's cold in here! There must be some Toros in the at-mosphere!" And there are so many smaller moments that I remember quoting endlessly in junior high when my Bring It On fanaticism was at its peak that still make me giggle with fondness whenever I think back on them (my favorite: "Jan got spirit, yes he do/Jan got spirit, how about you?" "Dude, you just lost" *silence*). This was the sports movie made for gay men: no bullshit clichés and inspirational moments, just good old-fashioned wit, bitchiness, clever one-liners and highly choreographed routines. You can't ask for much more than that.

3 comments:

Robert said...

Great choices! It's nice to see "Bright Young Things" not being forgotten...and "Spirited Away", which is my favorite movie of all time.

Castor said...

Spirited Away: "
The most beautiful animated film I've ever seen." So true!

Also nice to see Legally Blonde getting some love, it was a really funny movie and I'm a guy.

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