Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Favorite Films of the 00's Countdown: 2003

1) American Splendor

When people talk about "comic book" movies they usually are referring to superhero movie. This decade saw an uptick in quality not only in regular, superhero-centric comics, but also in adaptations of smaller, more personal (indie?) comics like Ghost World and American Splendor. Obviously, they all aren't slam dunks, but this one captures the spirit of Harvey Pekar's life and comics pretty perfectly. I think its a testament that you can make a movie so interesting out of such a sad sack. Paul Giamatti is amazing as Pekar. Its a performance that goes past just mimicry, since the real Pekar actually shows up here, and it never seems like Giamatti is just copying him. Even the visuals help to bring this to life-its one of the better ways not only to capture the work and life of an artist, but a truly original way to approach the biopic.

2) Bad Santa

Not for every taste, but Billy Bob Thornton's gleefully profane take on the typical Christmas story. Amazing in its audacity.

3) Elf

Two really good holiday movies in one year? That hasn't happened since, maybe, 1947. This is probably the exact opposite of Bad Santa too. Wears its heart on its sleeve. You have to be a robot not to be caught up in its relentless drive to push its agenda of christmas cheer.

4) Kill Bill Vol. 1

The first in Quentin Tarantino's two-part revenge epic. This is probably the more "chop-socky" actioner of the two parts. Boiled down to its essence, its a pretty elaborate valentine to a lot of Quentin Tarantino's influences. But he takes that pastiche approach, and makes something that is quintessentially his own. Also, it just might be one of the best action movies of the decade.

5) Lost In Translation

I could watch Bill Murray sing "Whats so Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding" all day. I think what works besides the cinematography and the performances of the two leads is that this film actually threw people for a loop. It was less of a romance that one might think would develop, but an actual friendship between two people who really really needed that at the time they met up. Maybe at another time in the characters' lives it could have been a straight up romance-but it wasn't to be at this particular time. They just needed a life raft. Or someone to show them they could keep pressing on. What it ends up being is beautiful.

6) Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

I was always sort of sad that this didn't do better, because it seemed like they were on the verge of maybe having an interesting series on their hand. Alas, it wasn't meant to be, so thats why we should savor this one entry. Not only does it look fantastic, but Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe at the center of it make for good friends-written nicely in that way that good friends actually interact, they like eachother but they also annoy one another and get on eachother's nerves. Especially as they both try to pursue their individual passions/obsessions.

7) Oldboy

Oldboy is the middle movie of Park Chan-wook’s “vengeance trilogy”—three unrelated movies about obsession and the destructive pursuit of revenge—but it’s definitely the best of the bunch. Park's insane story follows a man who was imprisoned in a single room for 15 years by mystery people, then set free to try and try and track down what happened to him and why. Its dark, but it has a strange thread of black comedy running throughout. Almost worth it just for the huge, long-take hammer fight in the hallway, but there is so much more here.

8) School Of Rock

Yeah, I know, this is probably the apex of Jack Black's jack-blackness, and the story might be too predictable and too cute. But there's something about this story of shlubby, loser who lies his way into a substitute teaching job and gets a bunch of fancy kids to form a band. He learns to live and love again, of course, but its all in the journey. The restorative power of Rock N Roll!

9) Swimming Pool

Conservative, English writer Charlotte Rampling decides to head down to the South of France to stay at her publisher's house. Everything starts to unravel when her publisher's wild daughter shows up. What follows is a pretty delicious little mystery.

10) The Station Agent

Written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who played the reporter who faked the stories in the last season of The Wire. I like this is a nice, leisurely indie movie that doesn't force its hand with quirkiness and knowing hipness. I like that it takes its time in allowing the relationships in the movie grow in an organic way, and the reasons for all of them for being where they are come out naturally as the movie goes on. I like that it isn't a forced look at "outsiders" coming together, but, sort of like Lost In Translation, people who do indeed need other people coming together at the right time in their life.


  1. Mike and I just watched Oldboy a week or so ago. Trippy!! But definitely entertaining. We rented it from Netflix. It was in our instant que and it was only available dubbed :( I think it would have been much better if we had the option to watch it subtitled.

  2. I have to admit that as a general rule I try to avoid anything dubbed. Usually the dubbing, generally, is pretty bad and it takes you (or me) out of the movie. There have been times when I haven't enjoyed something as much as I should have because the dubbing was so distracting.