Friday, November 13

The CDP's Top 30 Movies Of The Decade (5-1).

"So you lie to yourself to be happy. There's nothing wrong with that. We all do it."
- Memento

Here we are; the conclusion to the Film portion of the CDP Decade In Review, and the selections for my five favorite films of the decade. Enjoy.

Before we get into the Top 5, I will be crowning the Actor/Actress Of The Decade. I wanted to take a second to recognize an actor or actress that had an amazing decade, raked in a ton of cash for themselves and their respective studios, made some great movies, and also someone that seems to be universally praised. This decision took me less than three seconds.

Actor Of The Decade - Johnny Depp

Honestly, has any actor had a better decade than Johnny Depp? The man's films have grossed over 2 billion dollars, he's starred in over 20 films over the past 10 years, girls love him, guys love him; he's one of the few actors on this Earth who's movies you'll see based on his presence alone. The man owns an island. His Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy was a success in every facet of the definition; Depp is one of these rare acting talents that can seemingly do everything. Therefore, he is bestowed the honor of Actor Of The Decade. Your statuette is in the mail.

#5 – The Ring

The Ring was an anomaly in nearly every regard. For one, it spearheaded a massive movement when it came to American remakes of Japanese horror films (The Grudge, Dark Water, Pulse, One Missed Call, Shutter and The Eye, just to name a few). However, what sets The Ring apart- and what will probably get me slaughtered by J-Horror fanboys- is that the remake was better than the original. Gore Verbinski did it right; it was masterfully shot, masterfully marketed and genuinely scary. Don't get me wrong, I love the original (I own two different copies, actually), I just believe that The Ring was one of those rare moments that only added positively to the original (despite weak casting, which I fully admit).

Also, The Ring earned some massive cash (it earned over 8 million in just two weeks in Japan, compared to the total 6 million that the original made), started a new sub-genre in Hollywood, and essentially changed the way that horror movies have been filmed in America ever since. Easily the scariest mainstream film of the decade, The Ring has arguably done everything it needed to do to become an instant classic.

#4 – Fahrenheit 9/11

"While Bush was busy taking care of his base and professing his love for our troops, he proposed cutting combat soldiers' pay by 33% and assistance to their families by 60%. He opposed giving veterans a billion dollars more in health care benefits, and he supported closing veteran hospitals. He tried to double the prescription drug costs for veterans and opposed full benefits for part-time reservists. And when Staff Sergeant Brett Petriken from Flint was killed in Iraq on May 26th, the army sent his last paycheck to his family, but they docked him for the last five days of the month that he didn't work because he was dead."

Had John Kerry won the 2004 Presidential Election, Fahrenheit 9/11 would have been #1 on my list for global impact alone. But he didn't, so I didn't. When this film was released, I was 22 years old, on the verge of voting for only the second time in my life, and as you could imagine, I was pretty fired up. We all were; the 2004 Presidential Election was the craziest, most larger-than-life piece of history we had ever seen on a political scale up to that point. Everyone had an opinion, nobody was playing nice, and it felt as if almost everything was riding on either A) Getting this dude out of office, or B) Making sure this dude could finish the job that he started.

In the end, we got neither. If what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, opponents of George W. Bush became superheroes on November 2, 2004. It's a shock I can't time-travel or reverse the orbit of the planet to stop a terrorist attack.

It's no secret that I never liked Bush. To this day, the mere sight of that guy in the luxury box of a baseball game makes me want to learn kickboxing in the rare circumstance I could meet him in person and roundhouse kick his head off. But in retrospect, I never liked John Kerry, either. And you know what? In 2000, I wasn't even sure that Al Gore was the guy to take me to the Promised Land. The only guy I ever voted for that I actually respected is the man that's currently in office. So often, we're fed a two-party shit sandwich, and the only thing we can do is take a bite out of the side that stinks the least. But what can you do? Not vote? Go third-party?

I'm always stunned by the difference in standards that we've given to Barack Obama in contrast to George W. Bush. By the time Bush left office, our economy was obliterated, we were fighting two wars and the shadow of 9/11 was still fairly heavy on our minds. And now, just a little over one year in the term of Obama, there's a fairly loud buzz concerning why everything isn't awesome again, and what's taking him so damn long.

Perhaps this is because we expect such big things from him. If you're a detractor of Obama, you'd claim that you merely want him to keep all of the grandiose promises he made during the campaign. If you're me, however, you're patient enough to give the man some time, and take a little bit of solace in the fact that he's trying, which is something I never saw nor felt in eight full years of Bush's tenure. Obama inherited a house that was chock-full of feral cats and soiled food that had been breeding and rotting for nearly a decade; don't fault the man if the place still smells like piss a year after he signed the lease, know what I mean?

#3 – No Country For Old Men

Getting back to instant classics, it seems that the Coen Brothers are capable of nothing less than perfection. It seems that since 1984, we could always expect another amazing film by these guys every two years. Borrowing heavily on Hitchcock and adding their own genius through dialogue, casting and location, the Coen Brothers represent that rare talent that you wish could be bottled and saved for future generations.

No Country For Old Men instantly reminded me of Fargo before I even watched it. Fargo (probably my #2 favorite film of all-time) was slightly more lighthearted, where No Country was pitch-black and nearly hopeless. The 2007 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, No Country introduced us to the Hannibal Lecter of the 21st Century with Anton Chigurh, played masterfully by Javier Bardem (who also netted an oscar). Personally, I found myself captivated by the understated-everyman performance of Josh Brolin; following him around felt like being in real danger, and- as we see as the film moves along- these feelings are understandable.

One of the best compliments I can give to any director is to say that their films always feel relevant and I could watch them a dozen times in a row without getting sick of them. With the Coens, and No Country For Old Men in particular, this proclamation is easy to bestow. The universe they create is brilliant, the story they tell is as deep as anything they've ever written, and No Country For Old Men will always be remembered as one of the best dramas of the last decade.

#2 – The Dark Knight

(This is what I wrote immediately after viewing The Dark Knight in July of 2008:)

It doesn't happen very often, but every once in a great while, Hollywood and the mainstream get something right. Absolutely, 100%, right-jab-straight-into-the-pant-bulge spot-on. I can say without a shred of uncertainty that The Dark Knight is one of those rare moments.

For the first time in over a decade, the biggest and most lucrative movie on Earth is also the best and most worthy of praise. The Dark Knight is nearly perfect; a film that is so above and beyond any 'Superhero' or 'Comic Book' film that it's almost an insult to call it one. Christopher Nolan and his ensemble cast of performers created a picture that, while I'm sure it will receive one or two, should never be followed by another sequel under any circumstances. They've put the finishing touches on a once-tanking franchise by devising the most perfect send-off of all-time; a movie that is on par with Titanic and the LOTR trilogy in terms of its cinematic experience and brilliance. It deserves to be followed-up by nothing; it's magnitude will be impossible to replicate in the Batman universe.

I'll say no more about the plot, scenes, tone, performances or storyline. It simply needs to be seen, and apparently, it's been seen by quite a few people, smashing opening weekend all-time box office records (suck it, Spider-Man 3!). The IMAX footage is breathtaking, Chicago as Gotham City is beautifully filmed, and Oscar nominations will surely follow for Heath Ledger and various other cinematic creations spotlighted in The Dark Knight. I'm also extremely proud of Christopher Nolan; a guy that once shot Following for a few thousand dollars is now at the helm of a film that could gross over a billion dollars. Good for him; he deserves it.

I'm fresh out of adjectives and descriptive paragraphs, so I'll close the book on this rant by posting the following photo, which accurately represents my unspoken feelings towards The Dark Knight:

And you know what? I still feel the same way.

#1 – Memento

When I started compiling this list, I didn't think that Memento would place very highly on the list. In a decade that saw blockbuster smashes, critical masterpieces and two Jackass movies, it seemed that this little psychological character piece would slip through the cracks and be forgotten. But as I started re-watching movies and doing research, I began to remember not only how perfectly original Memento was, but how nothing else this decade came close to matching its creativity and brilliance. Eventually, there was nothing more interesting, entertaining, enthralling and mesmerizing than Memento this decade.

The story alone was special. The way that it was shot was unlike anything ever seen before. The way that it ended threw yet another monkey wrench of a mindscrew into the mix. There were plenty of good movies released this decade, yet not many of them could raise such philosophical, ethical, psychological and moral discussions. Nothing was this deep. Nothing was this interesting, yet it still captured the noir-elements from which Christopher Nolan found his roots. The fact that Christopher Nolan would go on to create one of the biggest films of all-time (with The Dark Knight) is wonderfully fitting and deserving. He's a genius, plain and simple, and Memento is my favorite film of the decade.

Sound off in the comments section, rake my tastes mercilessly over the coals and enjoy your weekend. On Monday, the CDP Decade In Review begins a week of hodgepodge, miscellany and general flim-flammery. Tally-ho!

Thursday, November 12

The CDP's Top 30 Movies Of The Decade (10-6).

John Nichols: "I sleep at night with a gun under my pillow."
Michael Moore: "Aw, come on. Everyone says that."
- Bowling For Columbine

Here is the first half of my Top 10 Films Of The Decade. Not the greatest set of celluloid ever compiled in the history of Man, but certainly plenty decent nonetheless. Enjoy.

#10 – Best In Show

Next to Spinal Tap, the funniest mockumentary ever made.

#9 – Spirited Away

I didn't know what to expect when I checked out Spirited Away (I typically don't see movies like this), and I was absolutely floored.

#8 – Hot Fuzz

What Shaun Of The Dead did for zombie film homages, Hot Fuzz did for buddy cop films, and what resulted was one of the funniest, smartest and most violent movies of the decade.

#7 – Bowling For Columbine

I grew up with a hunting, trapping, animal-murdering man's man in my father. I've been around guns, and killing things with guns for most of my life. That being said, they've always scared the shit out of me, regardless of what my political beliefs are. Bowling For Columbine attempts to understand America's fascination with guns, and in the process, made Michael Moore an infamous household name.

#6 – WALL-E

I had heard a lot of positive buzz about WALL-E from a lot of people that didn't seem to be the Disney/Pixar type. When I finally got around to watching it, I saw a beautiful love story, a solid sociopolitical statement, an amazing landscape (unquestionably the most beautiful Pixar film), and a very un-Disney-like movie (the entire first act is done without dialogue, and it's remarkable). WALL-E is just one of those movies that succeeds on just about every possible level, and I don't think I'd have a problem recommending it to anyone. Amazing.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. The conclusion of The CDP's Top 30 Movies Of The Decade will round out our week.

Wednesday, November 11

The CDP's Top 30 Movies Of The Decade (15-11).

"Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon." - 'Rorschach,' Watchmen

Welcome to the second half of the Top 30 Movies Of The Decade, courtesy of the CDP Decade In Review. Enjoy.

#15 – Juno

Diablo Cody will never make another good movie ever again; we all know this. Juno was a beautiful moment in time, a perfect snapshot taken at just the right opportunity. The cast, the story and yes, that screenplay that gets more and more ridiculous as the decade draws to a close, Juno deserved all the praise and indie recognition it got at the time, which is all we can fairly judge it on. I even went into the film with a bad attitude, and still emerged happy; although I still hate the Moldy Goddamn Peaches.

#14 – Watchmen

Whenever a new Harry Potter movie comes out, I have to listen to all of the hardcore fans bitch about the movie straying from the near-Biblical brilliance of the books. My advice to them is always "Stop reading the book for the tenth time right before you see the movie. It wrecks your perception." I mean, I haven't read the books, and I generally think that every film was decent in its own way. This is why I was a hypocrite when I read Watchmen (for the first time) just before checking out the film adaptation. However, I'm glad I did, because unlike Potter, Watchmen complimented the graphic novel perfectly (and in a good way). The cinematography was insane, the cast was near-flawless (should have re-casted Ozymandias), and Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach will probably give this guy more awesome roles than he'll know what to do with.

#13 – Shaun Of The Dead

The funniest zombie movie ever made (you hear me talking, Zombieland?), this movie is the first in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's 'Blood And Ice Cream Trilogy,' which was followed by the wonderful Hot Fuzz and will conclude with 2010's The World's End. Any fan of zombie movies, comic books, British humor and movies in general will probably dig this movie. My personal favorite scene is when they're fighting off zombies in their backyard, fending them off by throwing records at them, and they're taking the time to rifle through the albums to pick which ones they want to keep. This is something I would do, zombie apocalypse or not.

#12 – Monsters, Inc.

I may be overdoing it, but I don't know if Pixar is capable of making a truly bad movie. I mean, looking back, their weakest production was probably Cars, and that still raked in about $120 million, so I'm sure they're not too sad about it. The idea of a parallel 'monster' world that's fueled by the 'scares' of real-world children is absolutely brilliant, and Monsters, Inc. is that fantastic combination of laughs (for the kids and grown-ups), voice casting and beautiful animation that made Pixar the forefront of the animation movement for the last decade.

#11 – Batman Begins

When I heard that Christopher Nolan (my favorite active director ever since Following) would be helming the Batman franchise, I about messed myself. I knew he'd take it exactly where it should go, shunning the cartoonish films of the past and starting fresh with an almost real-life tale of the masked vigilante. While I knew he'd do Batman right, I was concerned at how financially successful it would be. After all, Nolan was going to create a franchise that was void of plastic toys, fast-food merchandise tie-ins and probably not even really for kids at all. Could a Christopher Nolan Batman be successful and still satisfy the core following?

I'd say he succeeded. To the tune of over a billion dollars.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. The Top 10 begins tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10

The CDP's Top 30 Movies Of The Decade (20-16).

"I ain't never seen a one-legged stripper. I've seen a stripper with one breast. I've seen one with twelve toes. But I ain't never seen one with one leg...and I've been to Morocco.
" - Planet Terror

The CDP Decade In Review continues with #20-16 of our Top 30 Movies Of The Decade. Enjoy.

#20 – Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

Goblet Of Fire, the only Harry Potter film to make my list, blew me away when I first watched it. As a man that has been dragged to every Potter film at least two, maybe even three times each, I was starting to grow weary of our wizard friends; mainly because I've never read the books and have no plans to. So when I saw Goblet, I finally saw a stand-alone movie; a film that required no knowledge of the book series or the films that proceeded it. It was entertaining, full of action, as violent and dark as any Potter film had been up to that point. From that point on, I became a fan of the series, and Order Of The Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince haven't disappointed.

#19 – Good Night And Good Luck

Nominated for six Academy Awards, Good Night And Good Luck follows the true story of the conflict between veteran journalist Edward R. Murrow and Joe McCarthy during the height of the Red Scare. Beautifully shot in black-and-white, directed by George Clooney and subtly tense and brilliantly-acted from beginning-to-end, this was a movie that I'm really glad I jumped at the chance to see.

#18 – Planet Terror

I didn't see Grindhouse when it hit theaters in 2007, but I finally caught it on HBO a few months ago, and loved the hell out of it (I mean, you either get it and adore it, or you hate it and are confused). Death Proof was run-of-the-mill, but Planet Terror was- and I'm serious when I say this- probably the most fun I've ever had watching a movie in my entire freaking life. Had I seen it in the theater, I would have probably geeked out to the point of annoyance (I was laughing the entire time). If you're ever looking for a modern Zombie movie that throws absolutely everything at the wall and goes completely for broke, it begins and ends with Planet Terror.

#17 – Paranormal Activity

Forget it. I'm not giving anything away. There's a reason it's the most profitable movie of all-time (surpassing The Blair Witch Project, and for good reason). This movie has been selling out theaters for months now, finally opening to a wide release last week and taking the #1 Box Office spot (over Saw VI!). We caught a midnight showing, and there were people so frightened that they were swearing at the screen. Someone threw up and ran out; no kidding. Loved the hell out of it, but chances are that the hype machine might be too loud to enjoy it on any sort of mysterious level nowadays. Worth a shot, though.

#16 – Cloverfield

Remember what I said about Planet Terror being the most fun I've had watching a movie? Well, Cloverfield was the most fun I've had at a movie theater all decade. Sure, some people threw up and passed out because of the way it was shot, but man, JJ. Abrams knows what he's doing when it comes to people having a good time at the movies (and on television). If you're a fan of classic monster movies (Godzilla and The Host are prerequisites, too), and the 'found footage' twist that we've seen with Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch, Cloverfield is an absolute blast.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. The second half of the Top 30 Movies Of The Decade continues tomorrow.

Monday, November 9

The CDP's Top 30 Movies Of The Decade (30-21).

"This is not an occult science. This is not one of those crazy systems of divination and astrology. That stuff's hooey, and you've got to have a screw loose to go in for that sort of thing. Our beliefs are fairly commonplace and simple to understand: Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. You would make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store."

- A Mighty Wind

Welcome to another week of the CDP Decade In Review, and onto another pop culture subject: Film.

I will be completely honest with you; I don't consider myself to be a film junkie whatsoever. I see my share of cinema and possess a ridiculous amount of knowledge on films I've never even seen (which helps me to appear cultured on many different occasions), but I'd probably put Movies way lower than Music, Television, Sports and Sealpoint Felines on my list of Things I Know A Lot About. Just laying it out there for you.

So, why don't I see as many movies as the average consumer? For one, going to the movie theater usually always gives me a panic attack, causing me to argue and subsequently neck-punch the loudest person within my wheelhouse. The mere thought of sitting in a darkened room with rude strangers practically assures me that I will not see any more than five new movies a year. I will not subject myself to such stress to see the latest Jennifer Aniston flick, and pay ten bucks a ticket to boot. Why would I? Why would you?

At home, I stick to the classics, and generally don't buy anything new. Also, as a Television guy, I don't really have an extra three hours a night to take in a new movie. So, due to time constraints, anxiety and the fact that 99% of movies are really, really bad (really), they just get lost in the shuffle for me. I don't take any sort of isolationist pride in my decision; that's just the way it has to be for now.

Nonetheless, I did manage to see at least 30 movies over the last 10 years, and I will be counting them down for you all this week. First, a disclaimer. I tried to keep this list to mainstream, widely-released films that showed up at some point since 01/01/00. No obscure, art house stuff here. Also, I tried to make the list of only films I actually saw in a movie theater (with a couple of exceptions). Let's go.

#30 – Signs

Okay, so the ending was ridiculous, I'll wholeheartedly admit that. But the ratcheted tension built through the movie was expertly crafted; there were seriously some moments of anxiety in this film that I would actually describe as 'unbearable' (in a good way), and I'm really never the kind of guy that feels this way about moments of anticipation. Furthermore, I liked the idea of Mel Gibson's character struggling with his faith, and I also tend to give Shyamalan the benefit of the doubt at times (I think Unbreakable is on par with The Sixth Sense). I'll probably never see Signs again, but I enjoyed it when I did.

#29 – The Simpsons Movie

Any fan of The Simpsons was almost contractually-obligated to see this movie, and as a self-admitted superfan (who casually watches The Simpsons, anyway?), I couldn't wait to finally see the big-screen adaptation of the Greatest Television Show Of All-Time. Most of knew going in that we shouldn't expect too much, and if you truly felt that way, I believe The Simpsons Movie delivered in spades. The family dynamic hadn't been so strongly reinforced (and deconstructed) since the early years of the show; I especially loved Bart's character really doing something interesting and (gasp!) possessing some depth. And can you ever go wrong with Albert Brooks?

#28 – Monster House

Also known as 'The Animated Movie That Nobody Saw,' Monster House was a really unexpected delight. Funny and spooky on a kids level. Humorous and dark on an adult level. Honestly, the climax of this movie in about on par with any episode of The Twilight Zone. If you're ever looking for something in this vein to watch with the family (or just some friends that are into Pixar-esque entertainment), Monster House is truly something special.

#27 – 300

There's nothing inherently wrong with 300: Wall-to-wall violence. Groundbreaking cinematography. A cinematic representation of a (sort of) true conflict. It's just that after a couple of hours, you realize that...yeah, this is going to be the entire movie. And hey, that might be the reason why 300 is the most awesome movie ever to you, right? Can't blame you for that.

#26 – Super Size Me

If it wasn't for Fahrenheit 9/11, Super Size Me would have probably amounted to nothing more than a blip on the radar the year it was released, but Documentary Fever was sweeping the American landscape! In retrospect, there are a lot of debatable and obviously-arguable points to Super Size Me, but Morgan Spurlock makes great company, and his inevitable descent into the absolute worst shape of his life is a highly entertaining journey.

#25 – Frailty

Did anyone else see Frailty? If so, was it as good as I remember it being? Because I remember thinking it was freaking awesome. I even thought it was awesome despite having it star Matthew Freaking McConaughey, for Christ's sake. For about a year after seeing Frailty, I heard nothing more about it, leading me to believe that I dreamed the entire thing during a tough week spent with pneumonia.

#24 – A Mighty Wind

The final film of the Christopher Guest Holy Trinity (Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show being the other two), A Mighty Wind follows the reunited Folksmen (a folkified Spinal Tap) as they prepare for their first nationally-televised gig in years. Featuring the Christopher Guest cast and crew you know and love (essentially the funniest improv actors in America), I remember playing this film for my cast and crew the night before we attempted (and failed) to shoot a mockumentary screenplay that I had written in 2004. It was supposed to be for inspiration. It did not work. Someday I'll go back and film that bitch, you mark my words.

#23 – A Beautiful Mind

Don't give me that look. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four of them (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress). It was a damn good movie, even though I've since grown to despise Russell Crowe and will probably never watch it again. That Jennifer Connelly still has to be one of the most beautiful women alive, though.

#22 – Unbreakable

After The Sixth Sense, people were expecting huge things from M. Night Shyamalan. What we got was Unbreakable, a Sixth Sense-esque film about a man slowly discovering that he is a real-life Superhero, tracked down by the man who would be his arch-nemesis. I think that in retrospect, this movie becomes better the more you distance it from the hype, anticipation or pretty much any other move that Shyamalan has ever made. It's shot beautifully (storyboarded just like a typical comic book), the story is amazing (this was years before Heroes was created), and the twist is...damn, why did so many people poop on this movie? It's awesome!

#21 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

The Missus hated this movie, which upset me greatly. One of things that originally brought us together in our teen years was Kung-Fu movies; whenever I would call her house, I would typically interrupt a Jackie Chan movie marathon on TBS. But her distinction is that she likes 'real' Kung-Fu movies: Nobody flying around a forest, landing atop of tree limbs and skipping across rooftops. Raw, intense and well-choreographed violence. How she considers any Jackie Chan movie to be anything even close to 'real' is beyond me, but I'm picking my battles on this one and giving up. I, on the other hand, thought it was beautiful.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. More Decade In Film tomorrow.