Monday, February 1, 2010

The Aughts in Movies: 80-76

Apologies for the delay.  To make up for it, I'm gonna bombard you with the rest of the list right now.  If you need a refresher, check out #85-81.  Let's get to it.

80. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
(Garth Jennings, 2005)
A lot of people complained that the film version of Douglas Adams' book wasn't faithful to the original, completely forgetting that each adaptation of the story is fundamentally different from the last.  What Garth Jennings manages is to take Adams' story and use it to satirize some of the more ridiculous conventions of modern sci-fi cinema.  It's a damn shame the film didn't make any money, because this was a franchise that could've only gotten better.

79. Stranger than Fiction
(Marc Forster, 2006)
On the outside the film feels like a poor man's Adaptation, but underneath cursory similarities, Stranger Than Fiction is a sobering reminder of just how confined we are to routine, the mundane, and the blandness of the real world.  While the central conceit is pure fantasy, the only magic in Harold Crick's life is the magic he has to create himself.  This is easily Will Ferrell's best performance.

78. The Village
(M. Night Shyamalan, 2004)
People love to dump on Shyamalan lately, and despite the fact that The Happening is easily his worst film, I still don't understand all the hate for The Village.  It's less about the scares than most would have liked, and the twist is pretty easy to see coming.  Despite that, this is a remarkably deft film about how we handle our fears, and the performances by Bryce Dallas Howard and Adrien Brody are some of their best work.  Screw the haters, I love The Village.

77. Speed Racer
(Andy & Larry Wachowski, 2008)
Speaking of 'screw the haters', Speed Racer is awesome.  After the disappointing double-whammy of the Matrix sequels, I was eager to see how the Wachowskis would bounce back.  I never expected a live-action remake of a classic anime series.  The sheer amount of energy and aggressive effects wizardry on display here is infections.  Sure, it's a big, silly cartoon, but it's one of the most purely entertaining films I've ever seen.

76. Clerks II
(Kevin Smith, 2006)
Clerks II is the sequel nobody asked for, let alone expected.  As it turned out, there was still material to be mined from Dante and Randall ten years after the fact.  In a sense, it's basically the same as the original Clerks.  Where this film shines is in creating a long, slow burn that eventually explodes in one of the strangest third acts I've ever seen.  It's equal parts disgusting and poignant, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

The Aughts in Movies: 85-81

You know the routine.  Click here for 90-86.

85. Bowling for Columbine
(Michael Moore, 2002)
Sure, Michael Moore is an exploitative blowhard, but when he gets it right, he really gets it right.  He raises a number of difficult questions over the course of the film, like "Why is America so gun crazy?"  The answers ultimately become "That's just the way we are," and it's a sobering admission.

84. Best in Show
(Christopher Guest, 2000)
While I prefer A Mighty Wind, Best in Show is clearly the better film.  The characters in this film just feel a bit more realistic, and at the same time utterly ridiculous.  It's hard to pick a standout performance from the bunch, though Fred Willard's dog show commentator is easily the funniest. 

83. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
(George Clooney, 2002)

It's one of Charlie Kaufman's lesser scripts, but as directed by George Clooney, the story of Gong Show host Chuck Barris' stint as a government assassin is as warped and twisted as it is fascinating.  Sam Rockwell's performance is one bright spot out of half a dozen great performances.

82. Crank / Crank: High Voltage
(Neveldine/Taylor, 2006/2009)
I realize I'm cheating by choosing both, but the two fit together so well that they almost demand to be seen back to back.  Whereas the first Crank was a frantic attempt to become the ultimate cinematic video game, the sequel manages to up the ante by offending just about every sensibility in the book.  Statham is a blast to watch in both, and the third act of Crank 2 has to be seen to be believed.
81. Idiocracy
(Mike Judge, 2005)
Mike Judge's third feature was criminally dumped onto DVD by 20th Century Fox, but since then it's gained a sizable cult following.  Judge's vision for the year 2505 is a bleak one for the human race, where everyone is an idiot and smart people are labeled 'fags'.  We may never get to see the original cut of the film, but what we've got is still one of the sharpest satires of the decade.

Next up, five that you'll probably think I'm crazy for including.