Friday, June 22, 2012

The Year in Paul: 2002

What I’ve Seen

40 Days and 40 Nights
Austin Powers in Goldmember
Big Fat Liar
Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary
Catch Me If You Can
Gangs of New York
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Ice Age
In America
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist
Like Mike
Lilo and Stitch
Men in Black II
Minority Report
Mr. Deeds
Orange County
Pokemon 4
Punch-Drunk Love
Red Dragon
Reign of Fire
Return to Never Land
Snow Dogs
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams
Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones
The Bourne Identity
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Emperor’s Club
The Lord of Rings: The Two Towers
The Master of Disguise
The Powerpuff Girls
The Rookie
The Santa Clause 2
The Time Machine
The Tuxedo
Treasure Planet
Tuck Everlasting
Two Weeks Notice
Van Wilder
44 Total

2002 is the first year in a unfortunate time that will last for another few after this, during which I was finally old enough (12, for most of the year) to start seeing a lot of movies but not old enough to recognize when a movie is going to be, y’know, good. Consequently, I’ve seen a ton of terrible movies from 2002, and not a whole lot of good ones. I mean, look at that list above again. Yikes.

The Best of What I’ve Seen

For the first time here, I’m listing two runners up, mostly because I’m not totally enthusiastic about picks four and five on this list. Either Catch Me If You Can or Red Dragon easily could have substituted in for those two spots. Ultimately, I decided to go with the two films that exceeded my expectations over the two that were somewhat disappointing, although really all four are pretty interchangeable in terms of quality.

5. Treasure Planet—While not as criminally underappreciated as Atlantis, this is another forgotten Disney gem (albeit one with a goofy premise—Treasure Island…in SPACE!!!!). While it has a solid story and a nice central relationship (between Jim and Long John Silver, natch), what really stands out is the film’s absolutely gorgeous animation. Treasure Planet may well have the best 2-D animation ever made, by anyone. I also like that it remains surprisingly faithful to the source material, dispensing the with usual Disney tropes like a perfunctory love interest for Jim or musical numbers. The only real changes—other than the obvious—are a gender change for the captain (which is pretty inconsequential), and the unfortunate addition of a comic relief sidekick, annoyingly voiced by Martin Short.

4 Hero—Wuxia films, Crouching Tiger excepted, are rarely embraced by Western audiences, but this is one that really should have been. A little-known (at least in the West) but historically important story and a genuinely interesting central conflict (what would, or should, you sacrifice for revenge?) provide a nice frame for a spectacularly pretty movie with several beautifully choreographed action scenes. Not unlike Treasure Planet, it’s a gorgeous movie that had a hard time finding an audience.

3. Minority Report—Steven Spielberg’s best movie of the past fifteen years (at least as of this writing—Lincoln comes out later this year), this is also my favorite Tom Cruise performance. A smart, impeccably made, and exciting action movie that centers on a tremendously compelling central mystery, and deliciously thought-provoking idea of “future-crime”. Smart sci-fi thrillers are some of my favorite movies, and its always nice to see them done right.

2. Gangs of New York—While it has its problems (such as Cameron Diaz’ character), there is not denying Gangs’ ambition. Scorsese’s great period piece is anchored by Daniel Day-Lewis, in his first film after a half-decade sabbatical as a cobbler in Venice. His Bill the Butcher is one of my five favorite film performances ever, by anyone—just the right amount of over-the-top charisma combined with smaller touches of subtlety. It’s a delightful movie, and has one of my favorite ending sequences ever, as we see the growth of Manhattan over two slowly fading graves. Suck on that, Woody Allen.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers—Probably my least favorite LotR movie, but that’s like picking the least deserving Nobel Peace Prize winner (Henry Kissinger…hmm, bad example) or the ugliest Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model. You really can’t go wrong. So even though on balance I’d say The Two Towers is the worst of the series, it still has so many great moments that it’s pretty irrelevant. The battle at Helm’s Deep remains, to me anyways, the single best battle scene in any movie ever not named Saving Private Ryan.

And yes, even though for the rest of the series, I’ve had the picture at top reflect the number one movie of the year, I changed it up for this installment. If only because I didn’t want three Lord of the Rings pictures in a row. Uh, spoiler for 2003.

What I Haven’t Seen

8 Mile
About Schmidt
Bowling for Columbine
City of God
Death to Smoochy
Eight Crazy Nights
The Hours
Lilya 4-Ever
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
One Hour Photo
Panic Room
The Pianist
Road to Perdition
Super Troopers
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Whale Rider

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