By Lisa Fary
Yesterday, John commented that part one of my “best of” list was. . . well. . . odd. Things are about to get weirder. Here is part two, number 25 through number 1.
25. Spider-Man 2
Origin complete and first villain vanquished, Spidey could get down to business. I loved that Sam Raimi and Co. didn’t bulk up Doc Ock – he was just flabby old Alfred Molina.
24. 28 Days Later
Seven years later, 28 Days Later still haunts me. I slept with the lights on for a solid month after seeing it in the theater, and every now and again, John will make some horrible snorting/ slobbery sound in his sleep that wakes me up, sending me into a heart pounding tizzy. Or worse, the snort will work its way into my dreams and whatever the dream is, no matter how pleasant, is transformed to an infected night terror. Damn you, Danny Boyle.
I cheered when I read that the Will Smith adaptation of Oldboy was killed. Not that I don’t love Will Smith; it’s just that I love Oldboy and there’s no way an American adaptation would be as powerful as the original Korean film (some aspects are simply too icky for a general American audience).
22. Stranger Than Fiction
One of the most underrated, overlooked movies of the decade. Will Ferrel shows real acting ability as a guy who suddenly starts hearing his life narrated by a British woman and seeks out a literature professor to help determine if the story is a tragedy or a comedy.
21. Lord of the Rings
(Counting this trilogy as one movie) Epic in the true sense of the word. LOTR was a stunning achievement that will haunt Peter Jackson for the rest of his career.
20. Monsoon Wedding
Mira Nair’s story of an arranged Punjabi wedding weaves together five different subplots, two weddings, and a musical number. It’s a stunningly beautiful film.
19. Almost Famous
A coming of age film set in the world of 1970s rock, told as only Cameron Crowe could tell it. Something about that man is just magic.
One of the few film adaptations that I actually liked better than the source material. Laurie wasn’t annoying and whiney. Zack Snyder got rid of the giant squid thingy. It maintained the spirit of the book and didn’t kowtow, dumb down or sanitize to make it appropriate for kids.
17. Mystic River
A sucker punch of a movie. You will not feel good when it’s over, but it’s so powerfully acted and directed that it doesn’t matter.
16. Inland Empire
When we got home from seeing Inland Empire at the local art theater, all I could do was lay on the living room floor and stare at the ceiling fan for thirty minutes. John leaned on the kitchen counter, staring at the floor tiles. David Lynch knocked us out; I’m amazed we were able to even drive home. It’s a murder mystery. It’s a psychological thriller. Like Mulholland Drive, it’s about women in Hollywood, but Inland Empire removes MD’s clear delineation between what’s real, what’s dream, and what’s maddened fantasy.
15. Hot Fuzz
Simultaneously a spoof of action movies while being an awesome action movie, Hot Fuzz was among the best movies of 2007. For some reason, I always want to watch it while waiting for a plane. Or during breaks between sessions at my work conferences (gotta do something other than stand in line for the bathroom, scowling at people).
14. Star Trek
Never have I dreaded a movie so much. Never have I been happier to have my expectations dashed. JJ Abrams’ Star Trek is a different Trek for a different time in our lives that still maintains the fun, adventure, and wonder of the original. I just watched it and I want to watch it again.
13. Kingdom of Heaven (director’s cut)
Ridley Scott’s Crusades-era epic likely would have done better in the United States box office if Muslim-world relations weren’t under such a microscope here. Anything showing Muslims in a remotely positive light, as anything other than fanatical monsters is considered dangerous, a detriment to the war effort, and comfort to the enemy. Anything that shows the ugliness of parts of Christian history gets a boycott effort. Once you shove past the propaganda of groups with their own agenda, Kingdom of Heaven is a brilliant, thought-provoking film.
12. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Bear with me: it’s a murder mystery/ buddy film for English language arts and writing nerds. The two main characters argue about proper adverb usage. Robert Downey Jr.’s character breaks the fourth wall and complains directly to the audience about Hollywood happy endings and exposition; he also keeps forgetting to tell us stuff. It’s an incredibly funny, smart ass of a movie.
11. Moulin Rouge
It doesn’t matter that the love story is flawed – all love stories are flawed. Moulin Rouge captures the mania of new love and places it in a Bollywood musical aesthetic with modern songs that perfectly fit the events.
10. Batman Begins
While The Dark Knight is widely hailed as the better of the two recent Batman movies, I prefer Batman Begins. It had hope and light, and the promise of a mortal hero in dark of times.
Whenever I recommend Wall-E to people with kids, I’m secretly trying to indoctrinate the kids; to covertly teach them that consumerism isn’t just wasteful, it can destroy the planet.
8. O Brother, Where Art Thou
A sort of Southern Gothic/ comedy/ musical adaptation of The Odyssey with all the expected eccentricity of the Coen Brothers.
Am I the only one who was thrilled to see so many proper screen musicals this decade? After a few big-budget musical duds in the 1980s, the form slunk away until Moulin Rouge dusted it off in 2001. What Baz Luhrman dusted off, Chicago polished up and improved, ditching the traditional method of stopping the movie so everyone can sing in favor of cutting between the real world and the fantasy world where musical numbers happen.
6. Big Fish
Big Fish was the last great Tim Burton film, where he was actually made a film that told a story instead of an event in the Burton style. When I first saw it in the theater in 2003, I didn’t even know it was a Burton film until his name appeared at the end. I can’t even think about Big Fish without tearing up like a little girl.
5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
There are two kinds of people. Those who think Eternal Sunshine had a happy ending where Joel and Clementine got a second chance to make love work, and those who think it was a miserable ending because the two, having had their memories erased, are just going to run through the same cycle. Guess where I fall?
4. Lost in Translation
Who knows what Bob Harris whispered to Charlotte at the end? I suppose it doesn’t really matter, anyway. This quiet, sincere movie touches on being a stranger in a strange land, being a stranger in your own life, and the unexpected connections we make when we’re out of our own little ponds.
3. Royal Tenenbaums
Everything about the Royal Tenenbaums looks like an artifact of the 1970s; some well cared for like Margot’s ever present fur coat, others beat up and falling apart like every Gypsy Cab that pulls up. Wes Anderson’s third movie is a quiet, steady tale of being stuck in your own past, unable to live up to yourself.
2. Mulholland Drive
Like most of David Lynch’s work, Mulholland Drive is pliable when it comes to interpretation, but behind the non-linear narrative I see a movie about what Hollywood does to women: uses them up, breaks them down, and throws them away. Consider two minor roles: Ann Miller (as Coco) and Chad Everett (as Jimmy Katz). Miller was a prolific actress in her youth, but had hardly worked at all until Mulholland Drive and didn’t work again. Contrast that to Chad Everett who never stopped working; in MD, his character is still able to play a romantic lead in his old age. Every time I watch Mulholland Drive, it’s a different movie, but that theme remains.
1. Pan’s Labyrinth
I cried in the theater. Later, we watched Pan’s Labyrinth on DVD at a friend’ place and I cried at the beginning about events that wouldn’t happen for two hours. It was the sort of thing I fantasized about as a kid: that I was really a fairy princess hidden away in this boring real world. If there were woods nearby my house growing up I would have tried to get lost in them in the hopes that something like the Faun would find me and take me home. Guillermo del Toro tells a fairytale in the old, dark tradition and seamlessly ties it in to Franco’s rule and the Spanish Maquis. Pan’s Labyrinth is truly a flawless film.
Lisa Fary is a graduate of the creative writing program at Florida State University and holds an advanced degree in Special Education. Her earliest influences are Princess Leia, Rainbow Bright, Astronaut Barbie, and her 6th grade teacher, Ms. Palmer. She’s angry that it’s almost 2010 and she still doesn’t have a hovercraft, but will accept a jetpack as consolation. That jetpack had better be pink with a rhinestone monogram.
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