Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Year in Paul: 2003

What I’ve Seen
A Mighty Wind
American Wedding
Brother Bear
Bruce Almighty
Cheaper By the Dozen
Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat
Finding Nemo
Freaky Firday
Goodbye Lenin!
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Intolerable Cruelty
Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Mystic River
Old School
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
The School of Rock
Shortcut to Happiness
The Animatrix
The Corporation
The Fog of War
The Haunted Mansion
The Italian Job
The Jungle Book 2
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
Touching the Void
36 Total

A mild improvement over 2002, if only because there are more good movies. The amount of crap remains pretty high, and will for a few years after this, I’d imagine. I feel much better about my top five though, and don’t feel the need to name any runners up.

The Best of What I’ve Seen

5. Elf—While not my favorite Christmas movie (that would be Nightmare), I still try and watch Elf every year around the holidays if I can. Maybe Will Ferrell’s gentlest film, his superhuman innocence and optimism is both appreciated and very funny.  This is also notable as Zooey Deschanel’s breakout movie, though it is odd now seeing her as a blonde.

4. Old School—Movies don’t come much funnier than this delightfully corrupt take on the college experience. The second Will Ferrell film on the list, this is the best comic performance he’s had as a real person (as opposed to a cartoon like Ron Burgundy), and he meshes impeccably with Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson. I also like that the movie doesn’t even try to have a heart—while that can certainly work in a raunchy, R-rated comedy (as Apatow has proven)—it can be just as funny when the characters don’t ever learn their lesson.

3. X2—For my money the best comic movie ever other than The Dark Knight, X2 pulls off an impressive ensemble story. Expertly paced and excitingly choreographed, X2 also manages to easily have the most sophisticated take of the series on the mutants-as-discriminated-minority allegory that runs through all the films. X2 introduces some great new characters—Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler and Brian Cox as William Stryker are especially memorable—without marginalizing the important characters from the first film.  Other than Nolan’s masterpiece, this is the only superhero movie that I would describe as essentially perfect.

2. Finding Nemo—I’ve always hated it when someone dismisses a film as a “kid’s movie”, using it as an excuse for shoddy filmmaking. It is completely possible to make a movie appealing to all ages and simultaneously make it a truly great film, and I will always thank Pixar for proving that beyond a shadow of a doubt. The first of two true masterpieces by the studio, Finding Nemo is so outstanding in every way that it’s hard to write only a paragraph extolling it. But maybe the clearest sign of its greatness is simply how compulsively watchable it is.  It’s been the go-to film for parents to distract children with for the better part of a decade now, which would work perfectly except it’s just as apt to distract the parents as well if they make the mistake of staying in the room.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King—You knew this was going to be here, and here it is. The final Act in the greatest story ever committed to film, The Return of the King’s grandeur and majesty swayed even the stodgy Academy, leading to one of my favorite TV-watching experiences ever: the 11 for 11 sweep at the 76the Academy Awards. It’s still an amazing experience to watch almost ten years later—I was lucky enough to be able to watch the extended edition in a theater in 2011, and was thoroughly enraptured for four hours, despite the fact that I’d already seen the movie upwards of ten times. Does it have one finale too many? Sure. But as the conclusion to a sweeping 12 hours epic, it’s tough to hold that against what is either (depending on how one looks at it) the best final Act of all time or the single greatest movie ever made.

What I Haven’t Seen:

21 Grams
Big Fish
Cold Mountain
Gigli (just kidding)
Lost in Translation
Love Actually
The Station Agent
Tokyo Godfathers
The Triplets of Belleville

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