Saturday, January 2, 2010

Things I've Loved This Decade, Pt. 2

Oh, how I love movies! Seriously. I do. I love seeing them in the theater. I love watching them at home (and I really wonder why Netflix hasn't given me some sort of prize after my years of service - or at least going a few months without returning a DVD).

To celebrate my love of films, big and small, I've compiled this list. I am certain that, like my list of TV shows, I will leave out something. Please remind me. You don't even have to rewind me. I've just put the list in alphabetical order. I couldn't possibly rank them in the order I love them - that'd just be mean. And I'm not. Well, not in this case.

Warning: If you haven't seen these movies, it's possible I will give away the ending.

(500) Days of Summer
I am not a lover of romantic comedies. There was something about this one that made me say, "Go to this." So, I did. I am so glad I listen to the voices in my head (well, I don't always listen). This love story is told out of sequence. It is set to a fantastic soundtrack. Oh, and a little dance number to a Hall & Oates song doesn't hurt either. It is sweet and briefly sad. I really wanted Tom to wind up with Summer (or Summer to love Tom the way he loved her). But in the end, I know that it doesn't always work out that way. And these two seem to be OK with that, so why shouldn't I?

Almost Famous
Kate Hudson. Usually, I see her and think, "There's no way I'm going to like this." I'm usually right. Except with this one. I cannot imagine any mother - whether it's in the 70s or today - letting her teenage son follow around a band on a cross-country tour. But little William Miller does it. Cameron Crowe is a great story teller. He's also fantastic at letting music tell part of the story. I wish he'd do another film like this one - only without Kate.

Band of Brothers
OK. I know this was a mini-series, but it counts as a movie in my book (oh, and the book by the same name is really good, too)! I had never heard of Damian Lewis before this. I now love him. Ron Livingston as a drunken paratrooper - pretty good, too. Oh, and who would have thought a former boy-bander (Donnie Wahlberg) could act so convincingly? And David Schwimmer playing a guy more annoying than his "Friends" character - fantastic! I cannot wait for "The Pacific" this spring. Bring it on, Tom Hanks & Steven Spielberg! And thank you for bringing us real heroes!

Borat
Totally un-politically correct. Totally funny. From the second I saw "Da Ali G" show on HBO, this guy with the bad mustache, suit and accent made me giggle. A lot. The thought of him making a cross-country road trip to find his soul mate, Pamela Anderson, was funny. Even funnier: that America had no idea it was getting played by one of the funniest men on the planet. How he stayed in character even when people clearly wanted to hurt him still stumps me. And I'm still disappointed in those bar patrons who sang along with "Throw the Jew down the well." Shame, shame. You deserve to have people laugh at you. They certainly weren't laughing with you.

Casino Royale
This may shock some of you, but I had never seen an entire Bond film until this one. I know. There was something about Daniel Craig. I'm gonna say it's the fact that his super-strong Bond was flawed. He knows his actions have consequences, it's just that he doesn't always feel the need to let that stop him. I also like that when he kills, he seems to pause and acknowledge that he's taken a life - even if it's a guy who really had it coming. He doesn't just shake it off and go back to his perfectly-tuxedoed self. Truth: every time I see Bond ruin a perfectly fine sports car, it makes a bit sick to my stomach. I will stick with the franchise as long as this is the Bond I get.

Chicago
I love a musical! Renee Zellwegger, not so much. But her turn as Roxie Hart was surprisingly good! And I had no idea Richard Gere could sing (before this, the only thing about his performances I could remember were his squinty eyes and "I got nowhere else to go!"). Still, I loved every bit of this - from the costumes to the dancing to the songs. And all that jazz.

Dreamgirls
I never saw this musical on the stage. I knew very little about it. But, oh my Jennifer Hudson! What a HUGE break! With every single note that came out of her mouth, I didn't dare look away from the screen - or even breathe. When she sings, "I am telling you - I'm not going," I was sitting there thinking, "Why are you people pushing her away? She's a freaking STAR!" Then, I realized it was a movie and there was a good chance her time to shine would come. Beyonce was good, too, though I forgot about her through most of the film. Nothing against her (because I do love her), but Jennifer Hudson deserved every single accolade that came her way.

Elf
Oh, Will Ferrell! If all of your movies had you play some boy-like character, I'd be on board every time! Don't get me wrong, I have liked some of your more adult movies (don't get too excited - "Bewitched" isn't one of them). But playing a man-boy who was raised by elves and comes to New York to find a father who is easily at the top of Santa's naughty list.... well, I like it! It's no wonder this has become a holiday classic (at least in my book).

Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind
I'm hot and cold with Jim Carrey. I usually prefer him to be silly. I made an exception here. The thought of being able to wipe your mind clean of all the painful memories was at first appealing. But then, I realized you need those hurtful times in your life. It's what makes you YOU. Sometimes, I wish I could go back and undo things, but in my, um, old age, I've learned that all things - good or bad - are part of life. All you can do is consider it another life lesson. If it's something that's bad for you, you hope to not let history repeat itself. And if it's good, you just cross your fingers and hope that it happens again. Just a little food for thought.

Gladiator
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott are one amazing team! If an entire movie of dudes wearing skirts and fighting to the death isn't your thing, I totally understand. However, how could you not check this out? When Crowe's Maximus says, "At my signal, unleash hell!" I was like, "Hell, yeah! Bring it!" Fantastic fight scenes. I even forgive this movie for making designers think ladies should rock gladiator sandals (um, no). Note: I learned the other day there is another "Gladiator" starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. It's not even close to being half as good as this one.

Gone Baby Gone
This movie made me decide Casey Affleck does not get enough work. And Amy Ryan, my God, how she made me wonder what she had to do with her daughter's disappearance while feeling sorry for this mother who missed her child? Unforgettable. Ben Affleck should stick to directing movies. He hit a home run with this one!

Hotel Rwanda
Believe it or not, I don't just read about pop culture. I am fairly well-informed on the troubles in Africa. But seeing them played out by the amazing Don Cheadle in this film made me wish I had the time and money to go there to help end the suffering. I so want to live in a world where genocide does not exist. I would say this is Don Cheadle at his best, but I know he will do something else to make me say that this decade. This is no light movie, but it is worth every second of your time.

Julie & Julia
Meryl Streep - do you need another reason to see this? She is fantastic as Julia Child! And Stanley Tucci - OMG! Love him!! Amy Adams as a woman who decides to cook a Julia recipe every day for a year (brave, brave task) is cute, too. I wish I had realized this was a movie about food before I got settled into my seat at the theater. Within half an hour, my stomach was growling. By the end of the movie, I wanted chocolate cake. Thankfully, the theater was next to a restaurant with wonderful dessert options!

Juno
At first, I was all "Comedy about a teenage mother who wants to give up her baby? Yeah, sounds hilarious." Then, I gave it a shot and I am so glad I did. Ellen Page is snarky in her own sweet way. I cannot imagine how scary it must be for a teenager to learn she's pregnant, then to make the very difficult choice to place her baby with adoptive parents. This movie does not make light of that. But it should serve as a reminder to everyone that no matter how you plan your life, it will take an unexpected turn or two. I just hope everyone is as lucky as Juno to have supportive parents and friends to help you make the right decisions.

Little Miss Sunshine
Oh, how cute is this movie? Abigail Breslin plays the cutest kid named Olive (a name I haven't heard unless it was attached the last name "Oyl"). She has one messed up family. They take a road trip for her turn in a beauty pageant - which looks a lot like "Toddlers and Tiaras." Clearly, Olive is special. She's different. And dammit, a girl like her should win those pageants every now and then! I will never hear the song "Superfreak" without thinking of her performance. I will also wonder when I see a yellow VW van if this crazy family is headed to some pageant. FYI: I don't see VW vans often, so forgive me for stereotyping.

Lost In Translation
This falls in the "Romantic Drama" genre - whatever that means. What I do know about this movie is that Bill Murray can do drama as well as he can do goofy. I still don't get the whole Scarlett Johansson thing, fellas. I do think she was really vulnerable in this movie. Not hard to do when you're in Tokyo and you don't speak the language. Part of me wishes I knew what was whispered in her ear at the end of this film. The other part says I hope I never know. It was between them. I was just lucky to see their relationship - or whatever you want to call it - grow.

Love Actually

I'm not even sure how I found this little romantic comedy, but I am so glad it has become a part of my life! I love every single story in this movie. I love that even though their lives aren't perfect, they all learn to make happiness their priority (some day, I will, too). And even though it winds up being like so many rom-coms that I have rolled my eyes at, it all works out for everyone in the end. Oh, and I also love that it's become part of my holiday must watch list!

Mean Girls
This is the only Lindsay Lohan movie I have ever seen - probably the only time I'll ever pay to see one of her movies. I am perfectly OK with this statement. This smart little movie, penned by my "sister" Tina Fey, is so mean and funny that I couldn't help but love it. It reminds me of "Heathers," only without the death. I mean, there was imagined death, but no one drinks drain cleaner and there's no set up homoerotic death scene for a couple of football players (maybe there's a sequel?). Sure, I wasn't the target audience for this movie, but I can totally relate (go ahead, call me a mean girl and I'll teach you a thing or two).


Memento

Confession: I have loved Guy Pearce since "L.A. Confidential." So, when I saw he was in this Christopher Nolan movie, I knew I had to see it. Then, as I watched Guy play this character that has no short term memory, I realized it was possible he was playing me! If only I had a polaroid camera that I could use to photograph the little things so I could remember them later (oh, wait - that's how I use Twitter). This little movie didn't get much play, but I love it so much, I sometimes forget it's part of my DVD collection! Um, hello, irony!

Moulin Rouge
I'm not a huge fan of Nicole Kidman's, so I was surprised that I saw this and that I loved it. Baz Luhrmann's ability to weave classic songs with pop hits in period costumes and can-can dances was magic! It was like seeing a comic book come to life - or what I imagine it must have been like to sleep after taking hallucinogenic drugs in the 70s. It was a sweet little trip!

Napoleon Dynamite
I really don't care if Jon Heder never does another movie. This will always be my favorite film he's done. From his crazy hair to his weird boots to the fact that he puts tater tots in his pocket - I loved this. Loved Uncle Rico, too (I even bet on a dog at the track because he shared the same name). Uncoordinated kids everywhere should not be afraid to dance in public after seeing this. I think this is a little movie frozen in time.

Ocean's 11
Movie full of hot guys AND it's a slick crime caper? Steven Soderbergh knew how to get as many bodies into the theaters for this one! While George Clooney and Brad Pitt carry most of this film, I have to say it is Casey Affleck that made this movie funny. He's by far the more talented Affleck (sorry, Ben). And the way they pulled off this heist - wow! If real criminals were that clever, think of how poor Vegas would be! I know how they do it and I still watch every moment of it when it's on TV.

Old School
Let's see... Three guys start a fraternity full of misfits just to have something to do. What about this sounds like a good idea? Nothing, until you realize the two troublemakers in the bunch are Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Between Beanie and Frank The Tank, I don't know who made me laugh more. It's possible I laughed at Beanie's dialogue (Vince being Vince, right?) and Frank's physical antics (seriously, Will Ferrell, no more nudity). I haven't said much about Luke Wilson because, well, I'm not a fan of his. He just doesn't do the silliness as well as everyone else. That aside, I can watch this over and over again - and still laugh.

Shrek (1 & 2) Who knew ogres could be so lovable? Mike Myers as Shrek made me think of "Fat Bastard," his character from the "Austin Powers" movies. I got over that once Eddie Murphy's Donkey appeared. Cameron Diaz as the Princess and Antonio Banderas as Puss - well, let's just say I would be perfectly OK with those four doing voices for animated films instead of doing actual film work. I am not such a fan of the third movie in the series, though that won't keep me from seeing the fourth one this year. It's clean, happy fun (and you probably thought I didn't like that)!

Superbad

I thought I might be too old for this movie. Then, I realized you're never too old to laugh. And laugh I did. Every time something bad happens to Jonah Hill's character, I laughed out loud. If I had been drinking while watching this, I would have left the seat in front of me a big, sticky mess (spit-takes, perverts). And "McLovin'!" The name is silly. I laughed the hardest seeing him get punched in the face (yes, I find that funny - want me to show you why?). It is one long, crazy night - much like "Dazed And Confused." It's funny every time I see it!

The Bourne Series
I love a good spy movie. The paranoid part of myself likes to think there are spies all around me. When I'm by myself in a public place, I like to look around and wonder who's got the fake nose and mustache (seriously, who has a real mustache and isn't up to no good?)? And Jason Bourne has a very tough life: he doesn't know who he is, but he knows he's a spy - for whom, he doesn't know. It soon becomes clear he must have been good at what he does for a living. Why else would people want to catch/kill him? Each one of these movies has had me glued to my seat. I'll take one more of these.

The Dark Knight
Christian Bale made me believe in superhero movies again. I like my superhero to be real and flawed. His Batman struggles with protecting good people from evil at any cost. When he kills a bad guy, he understands he has taken a life. It weighs on him. And I cannot talk about this film without mentioning the late, great Heath Ledger. His dark, twisted Joker was his finest performance. I am glad it was one of his last. Any actor who dies too young should be lucky to have work like this be his legacy. If, years from now, some other director takes on this series, he or she would be wise to find any villain other than the Joker to challenge Batman. Because no one could smile and be vile as well as Heath Ledger.

The Departed
Matt Damon? Check. Martin Scorsese? Check. That was all I needed to know. Then, the rest of the cast and their wicked accents set in a dark crime story? Is there any doubt that I'd watch this? Matt Damon is one of a handful of actors who plays bad so well that I hate to root against him. But I did. This is not for anyone who is afraid of foul language. I haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure there's an obscene word uttered every three minutes. I have no problem with that - or this movie. I actually have my fingers crossed that there's a sequel to this (and I almost never hope for that)!

The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
Foreign film based on an autobiography about a guy who has a stroke and is paralyzed - trapped inside his own body. This, my friends, is one of my biggest fears. This, mother, is one of the reasons I told you to pull the plug (NOT when the doctor explains I'll be on a ventilator during surgery - that was temporary). Not being able to ask someone to scratch your nose or be able to tell them they need to apply a heavy dose of deodorant, I mean, that is the ultimate in horror film to me! But this is a story about life and finding quality of life even in times that seem impossible. Plus, it was a good refresher course in French. I surprised myself with how much of that silly language I actually remember! Now, if only I could remember how to say, "Suck it!" in French...

The Hangover When I saw the trailer for this movie, I thought, "Oh, great. Another movie that's for guys." Then, I saw Mike Tyson singing and dragged myself to the theater. I don't think I went more than five minutes without laughing. Yes, those three guys and the baby on the poster were the "stars." But Tyson easily had the best part of this whole movie. I'm not even sure he was acting. If he was, that man needs a sitcom! If he wasn't well, I have learned two things: if Mike asks me to sing along, I won't and never, EVER, take his tiger. I would point out that even my parents liked this one, but they also liked "Wild Hogs," so that creates some balance.

The Last King of Scotland

Forest Whitaker usually plays the smaller parts in the big films. If he was waiting his whole career for a major role in a huge movie, well-played. I didn't know much about Idi Amin before I watched this. After his performance, I went online to watch clips of the real bad guy. Oh. My. God. Forest blew my mind! It is a rare thing to see an actor lose himself in a real character. He did that and more in this one. I hate that there are leaders in this big world of ours that rule with such an iron fist (yes, I get the irony that I tend to behave the same way - however, I'm not having people killed to prove a point - yet). If it takes movies like this to get people to care about what's happening in the world and realize that is is their problem, then I want more of this please. And Forest, I promise to never underestimate your talent again.

The Notebook
I resisted this one for a while. When most of the girls you know insist that you see it because it will make you cry, that, for me, is not a ringing endorsement. So when this finally arrived in the mail, I hesitated. I think I let it sit next to my DVD player for a few weeks. Then, I gave in. I can totally see how Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling fell in love while making this. It is a love story that will hold up for generations. It's the story of the kind of love fairly tales have led girls to believe will come their way. Oh, I cried. I cried hard. And if this is on TV and I'm in the right frame of mind, I'll watch this. And drink. Because that's what sad, single girls are supposed to do (What? That's what I learned from "Bridget Jones!").

The Reader

Yes, there is a whole lot of naked Kate Winslet in this movie. Once I got over that, I realized I was seeing magic on the screen before me. Her role as a cold German woman had me staring at the screen, sometimes turning my head the way my dog does when I ask him questions. Is she good? Is she bad? Does she love this boy who so clearly loves her? Seeing her stand trial for Nazi war crimes, I wanted to believe she had done no wrong. She seemed to believe that. And I really wanted this love story to pick right up where Kate and the amazing Ralph Fiennes's boy-turned-man had left off. This was worth the cost of admission and then some.

Traffic
What a fantastic ensemble cast! This film about the "war" on drugs was so wonderfully told - and I'm not just talking about the script. The fact that the Mexican scenes, with Benicio Del Toro at his best, shot in yellow; the legal scenes with Michael Douglas, doing some of his finest work since "Wall Street," shot in blue - it all made this movie seem like a slice of real life. You know, the parts that most of us never see or want to believe happen outside our pretty, happy reality. Oh, and Don Cheadle can do no wrong. No matter how large or small the part, I will watch that man, even if he's just painting a wall.

Training Day
Denzel, I love you! I love that even though you often play the good guy, you went bad - in all the right ways. It was the first time I saw Denzel play a character that I wanted to root against. It was the first time in nearly a decade I rooted on Ethan Hawke. This movie is dark and full of profanity - two things I like. What? I can't help myself! If you didn't know I have a potty mouth, you don't know me at all. I refuse to resolve to clean up my act - unless someone pays me. Um, Denzel, I'd do it for you (hint, hint). Now go back to making movies that draw me to the theater!

Up
I had my doubts about this little animated film. But it didn't take long to realize it was more than just a cartoon. It was a love story. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. They grow old together. And then, one of them dies. It takes a very persistent little boy to make a closed-up old man let down his guard and find his heart along their crazy adventure. I laughed. I cried. I wished I wasn't sitting in the same aisle as a family with kids that kept running around and didn't seem to understand the magic that was happening on that colorful screen.
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