Sunday, December 22, 2013

He's Back To Looking Back

My friend Jesse Walker (whose excellent book The United States Of Paranoia is available in bookstores and online) is back with his yearly top ten best films list. But instead of 2013, he's looking at 2003.  And he'll be going back every decade ending with a 3 back at least to the beginning of the talkies.  (He's been doing it for over a decade, so he'll soon be going over old lists and seeing how they stand up.)

So what does he think of 2003? Here's his top ten:

1. The Wire 2
2. Tarnation
3. The Saddest Music in the World
4. Osama
5. Lost in Translation
6. Saraband
7. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
8. Good Bye Lenin!
9. Looney Tunes: Back in Action
10. Capturing the Friedmans

As Jesse knows, I don't agree with putting TV shows on film lists.  First, episodic television is simply a different medium. (I don't even include made-for-TV movies).  Second, if you put them on the list, over the past decade of so I can envision top ten "film" lists mostly made up of TV shows, and somehow that can't be write.  That said, The Wire is one of the greatest TV shows ever (though I think season 2 is the weakest except for season 5).

Tarnation should be on the list. Probably the same for The Saddest Music In The World.  Haven't seen Osama or Saraband. Lost In Translation I don't get--very little happens and I don't really care about any of it. Kill Bill I has some nice set pieces, but overall I think the KB films are Tarantino's weakest, and wouldn't make my top ten. Good Bye Lenin! should at least be top twenty.  Looney Tunes: Back In Action isn't bad, but not top ten material.  Capturing The Friedmans should probably make the list.

11. The Triplets of Belleville
12. Swimming Pool
13. The Agronomist
14. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring
15. A Mighty Wind
16. All the Real Girls
17. Hurt
18. Code 46
19. My Architect
20. Cunnilingus in North Korea

11 would make my top ten list (and just missed Jesse's).  12, 14, 15, 18 and 19 should all be at least top twenty. The rest I haven't seen.

And I agree with Jesse--the year's biggest hit and winner of the most Oscars ever, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King--is a huge snooze.

Here are some films Jesse doesn't mention that might make my top ten:

American Splendor (which I just watched last weekend by chance)

The Barbarian Invasions



The Station Agent

The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill

Here are other films from 2003 I thought were good:
Bright Young Things, Broadway: The Golden Age. (parts of) Coffee And Cigarettes, Dogville (if it were half as long), Finding Nemo, The Five Obstructions, Freaky Friday, Girl With A Pearl Earring, Japanese Story, Kitchen Stories, Pieces Of April, School Of Rock, Sky High

 Other films of note:
2 Fast 2 Furious, 21 Grams, Aileen: Life And Death Of A Serial Killer, Alex & Emma, American Wedding, Anger Management, Anything Else, Baadasssss!, Bad Santa, Basic, The Battle Of Shaker Heights, Battle Royale II, Big Fish. Breakfast With Hunter, Bringing Down The House, The Brown Bunny, Bruce Almighty, Bulletproof Monk, Calendar Girls, Casa De Los Babys, The Cat In The Hat, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Cheaper By The Dozen, The Company, The Cooler, The Core, D.E.B.S., Daddy Day Care, Danny Deckchair, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Le Divorce, Down With Love, The Dreamers, Duplex, Elf, The Fog Of War, Freddy V. Jason, From Justin To Kelly, Ghosts Of The Abyss, Gigli, Grimm, Guru, The Haunted Mansion, The Hebrew Hammer, Holes, Hollywood Homicide, House Of 1000 Corpses, House Of Sand And Fog, How To Deal, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, Hulk, The Human Stain, Identity, In The Cut, The In-Laws, Intermission, Intolerable Cruelty, The Italian Job, Johnny English, Ju-on: The Grudge 2, Just Married, Kangaroo Jack, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life, The Last Samurai, The Last Supper, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Levity, The Life Of David Gale, Love Actually, Madeleine, Malibu’s Most Wanted, Mambo Italiano, Masked And Anonymous, Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World, Matchstick Men, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Mayor Of The Sunset Strip, The Medallion, Melvin Goes To Dinner, The Missing, Monsieur Ibrahim, Mystic River, Northfork, Old School, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Open Ranger, Open Water, Out Of Time, Owning Mahowny, Party Monster, Pauly Shore Is Dead, Paycheck, Peter Pan, Pieces Of April, Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl, Radio, The Real Cancun, The Reckoning, The Recruit, Robot Stories, The Room, Rugrats, Runaway Jury, Saw, Seabiscuit, Secondhand Lions, Shanghai Knights, The Singing Detective, The Sleeping Dictionary, Something’s Gotta Give, Spy Kids 3-D, The Statement, Stealing Rembrandt, Step Into Liquid, Stuck On You, S.W.A.T., Sylvia, Tears Of The Sun, Terminator 3, The Man Of The Year, Thirteen, Timeline, Touch & Go, Twentynine Palms, Under The Tuscan Sun, The United States Of Leland, Uptown Girls, Veronica Guerin, View From The Top, What A Girl Wants, Wonderland, The Yes Men, Young Adam


Blogger Jesse said...

I like American Splendor, Oldboy, and The Station Agent. I didn't care for Elephant, though: It's absorbing as you watch it, but in retrospect it just amounts to a litany of moral-panic explanations for the Columbine massacre. I haven't seen The Barbarian Invasions or The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.

As for your second list: I like Finding Nemo quite a bit, and I thought School of Rock was predictable but fun. I strongly disliked the Freaky Friday remake though. Haven't seen the others.

9:10 AM, December 22, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has there been a backlash against the Lord Of The Rings films? No one talks about them anymore, and no one seems to like The Hobbit.

11:57 AM, December 22, 2013  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I don't think Elephant has anything to tell us about Columbine, just as Dogville has nothing to tell us about America. Once you ignore any message you think one might get from these films, they become much more interesting.

12:10 PM, December 22, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you combined all the top ten films I bet they still didn't make as much money as Elf.

7:35 PM, December 22, 2013  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Wow, this is one of my least favorite lists from Jesse. Admitedly, I wasn't seeing many of the adult-intended films of 2003, but even from subsequent DVD viewings, my list looks nothing like his.

My top ten would go:

1. Finding Nemo (in top 5 of all animated films)
2. Peter Pan (the best adaptation ever, I think)
3. Mystic River (I found a lot to think about in this film, especially the question whether some people are fated to be victims)
4. Pirates of the Caribbean (How much more entertaining can you get?)
5. Bruce Almighty (my favorite Jim Carrey comedy)
6. LOTR Return of the King (I even like the extended version)
7. Big Fish (big fan of quirky)
8. Hulk (I'm alone I think in holding this out as the best Hulk, even if the CGI has gotten better since this one)
9. Haunted Mansion (I'm really alone on this one, but I think Eddie Murphy did a great job capturing the Disney version of ghost movie).
10. Secondhand Lions (big Duval & Caine fan).

Honorable Mention: Johnny English (really, a very good Bond parody if you ask me - maybe not appealing to AMerican tastes).

And "Lost in Translation" leads my list of "2 hours I wish I could get back in my life" films.

9:29 AM, December 23, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you combined all the top ten films I bet they still didn't make as much money as Elf"

I think the point of the list is that hits are crap with some exceptions, that viewers don't know quality and the capitalism doesn't create great art (at least not directly)

9:46 AM, December 23, 2013  
Blogger Jesse said...

I think the point of the list is that hits are crap with some exceptions, that viewers don't know quality and the capitalism doesn't create great art (at least not directly)

Well, no. Free markets allow niches to flourish: HBO's direct-payment system, for example, let The Wire survive for five seasons even though the show wasn't a monster hit.

Also, there's a big space between "great art" and "crap." A hit film can be a fun diversion without attaining (or trying for) greatness. (I though Old School was a fun and funny film, but I don't think it was one of the 20 best movies of the year.)

10:08 AM, December 23, 2013  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Here's what Denver Guy said about Mystic River: "I found a lot to think about in this film..."

So did I, stuff like "should I buy gas or will that wait for another day," "it may rain today, did I leave my window open?" and so on.

Also, it's interesting you think so highly of Bruce Almighty since I bet if you polled Jim Carrey fans it wouldn't even make the top five.

What I remember about Big Fish is there was this annoying father who pointlessly lied about everything.

10:55 AM, December 23, 2013  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Admitedly, I haven't seen Mystic River in a long time. Maybe it's my own personal nerosis, but I am always interested in films dealing with leaders/bullies and followers/victims.

I like most of Jim Carrey's films, though I've missed a few. The Mask, the Pet Detectives, and Liar Liar I own, along with Bruce. Evan Almighty was terrible, but I thought Bruce Almighty is superbly structured, with a decent message, theology and comedy rolled up into one.

Big Fish is another one I own and come back to every couple of years. Again, I value structure perhaps more than some others. Nothing is wasted in Big Fish - everything ties to apoint of the film, and I enjoy seeing the connections. It's sort of like a jigsaw puzzle you can come back to periodically.

12:24 PM, December 23, 2013  
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