Flickchart.com – My Big Undiscovered Obsession

With the past having had MySpace and the present currently being Facebook, it’s interesting to note that Flickchart.com has been causing more laziness out of me in the last nine months than I’ve ever anticipated.

So what is Flickchart exactly, you might ask? Well, it’s a site that starts simply enough. After you sign up (which is absolutely free by the way), you are given a matchup of two movies and the object is to pick which one YOU think is better. If you haven’t seen one or the other, all you have to do is click that button below and a new matchup is brought up. An example would be something like Ghostbusters vs. Back to the Future or even Gone With the Wind vs. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The winners and losers of these matchups will combine to make up a list of all of the movies you’ve seen from best to worst. If you get impatient, all you have to do is search for a particular movie and immediately add it to your list. As quickly as you get the handle of it, the more addictive it can get.

Right now, I’m more addicted to Flickchart.com than ever! So far, as of tonight, with 40,100 rankings netted, I’ve been asked if I have seen exactly 32,519 movies since I started this back in March and I have seen 2,904 of those movies. Judging from some of the people I’ve met on this site, I’m guessing that’s about normal for a movie buff, although I’ve found some who have seen close to 5,000 or more, but at least I know it’s about a normal number, especially if you’re like me and try to avoid as many of the bad ones as possible. So I just wanted to tell everyone about it since it seems that people are slow to catching on to it, but it can become something that can help one make a definitive list of your favorite movies. The list takes a while to get right, but if you have patience with it, and manage to get as addicted to it as quickly as I’ve been able to, the list can become a good approximate of your true favorite movies of all time.

So to show where I’ve come from in the last nine months, I’m willing to show you my current list of my Top 100 (Citizen Kane is not here, but it ranks at #297, so I still love it greatly). Some of these movies are childhood faves, but some are just flat-out great, and some are just here because my original Top 100 had inferior movies in it, but that means that the list is still a work-in-progress, but my Top 20 is just about set in stone. so without further adieu, here is the list, counting backwards from 100:

100. Joe Versus The Volcano (1990)
  99. Dark City (1998)
  98. The Apartment (1960)
  97. Dave (1993)
  96. West Side Story (1961)
  95. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
  94. Lost in Translation (2003)
  93. WarGames (1983)
  92. Die Hard (1988)
  91. The Godfather Part II (1974)
  90. Titanic (1997)
  89. American Graffiti (1973)
  88. Back to the Future (1985)
  87. Vanilla Sky (2001)
  86. In Bruges (2008)
  85. Young Frankenstein (1974)
  84. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  83. Dirty Harry (1971)
  82. Contact (1997)
  81. Network (1976)
  80. Greenberg (2010)
  79. Deep Impact (1998)
  78. Little Children (2006)
  77. RoboCop (1987)
  76. Pinocchio (1940)
  75. Roxanne (1987)
  74. Airplane! (1980)
  73. Casablanca (1942)
  72. Thank You For Smoking (2006)
  71. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  70. The Hangover (2009)
  69. Romance & Cigarettes (2005)
  68. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
  67. Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
  66. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  65. Rushmore (1998)
  64. L.A. Confidential (1997)
  63. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
  62. Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked) (2009)
  61. The Sting (1973)
  60. Gone With the Wind (1939)
  59. Jaws (1975)
  58. The Dark Knight (2008)
  57. Poltergeist (1982)
  56. The Great Dictator (1940)
  55. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  54. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
  53. The Artist (2011)
  52. Jackie Brown (1997)
  51. Hugo (2011)
  50. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
  49. Time After Time (1979)
  48. North by Northwest (1959)
  47. The Fisher King (1991)
  46. The Notebook (2004)
  45. The Social Network (2010)
  44. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
  43. Snow Angels (2007)
  42. Across the Universe (2007)
  41. Ghostbusters (1984)
  40. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
  39. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
  38. Arthur (1981)
  37. Toy Story (1995)
  36. Moonstruck (1987)
  35. The Stunt Man (1980)
  34. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  33. Super 8 (2011)
  32. Wonder Boys (2000)
  31. Say Anything… (1989)
  30. Broadcast News (1987)
  29. Strictly Ballroom (1992)
  28. Matinee (1993)
  27. Nashville (1975)
  26. Heaven’s Gate (1980)
  25. Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  24. Inception (2010)
  23. Schindler’s List (1993)
  22. The Godfather (1972)
  21. Manhattan (1979)
  20. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
  19. Fantasia (1940)
  18. Mystic River (2003)
  17. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  16. Being John Malkovich (1999)
  15. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  14. Brazil (1985)
  13. Children of Men (2006)
  12. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  11. Trading Places (1983)
  10. Chinatown (1974)
    9. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
    8. The Accidental Tourist (1988)
    7. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
    6. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (1989)
    5. Amelie (2001)
    4. Once (2006)
    3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
    2. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
    1. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

See, it can get addictive really quickly. If you consider yourself a movie buff, I would absolutely recommend that you give this a chance. Especially if you want to rank the movies you’ve seen in your lifetime. What’s even better is that if there are movies you haven’t seen and you end up seeing them, all you have to do is go to that movie’s page and click the button to add them to your list. Simple as that. Once again, I absolutely recommend that if you love movies, you give this a chance. Just go to www.flickchart.com, sign up and start ranking your favorite movies today.

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Underrated Movie Memories: Strange Days

Strange Days
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

It’s funny to note that long before she made The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow was an expert director of truly entertaining action films. In 1986, she made her debut with Near Dark. Five years later, she joined forces with her then-husband James Cameron to direct the cheesy but truly entertaining Point Break with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. The success of that movie was what led to her next, and probably best movie as a director. The film was Strange Days.

Although the credit of this film goes primarily to Bigelow, it should be noted that this film was conceived and co-written by none other than James Cameron himself. Although they had unfortunately divorced by the time the film went into production, Cameron knew that Bigelow was more than capable of handling the story of a man named Lenny Nero, a man who dabbles in selling the ultimate in experience: the Wiretrip.

Lenny Nero is played by Ralph Fiennes, in a performance far removed from almost anything else he has played in his career. Set in Los Angeles, California on the last couple of days of the 20th Century, the economy has essentially gone into the toilet. Gas prices are at an all time high, the cops are more dangerous than ever before, and many believe the world is on the verge of ending. For Lenny, his world has been crumbling for quite some time. Ever since his girlfriend Faith (Juliette Lewis) dumped him for rock star Filo Gant (Michael Wincott), he has been desperate to get his life back on track. Also once a great narcotics officer, he was fired for dealing The Wiretrip, the ultimate drug that gives someone the chance to be anyone. A murderer, a backstabber, a bank robber. You name it, you could be it. Now a freelance Wiretrip dealer in the underground, he makes quite a good income on it. On December 30, 1999, he is given a “snuff” tape of a close friend who is raped and murdered, and not long after, he is given another tape of a murder that could result in the biggest riot in the history of Los Angeles if it gets out to the public.

Trust me, this plot synopsis does nothing to give away any of the film’s big secrets. There are plenty of them to go around. At 145 minutes, Strange Days takes it time in developing all of its major characters, as well as setting up all of the elements that will all come together before its final 20 minutes unfold. Although Lenny Nero is a truly wonderful character, my favorite character of the film is Mace, played wonderfully by Angela Bassett as a strong independent single mother who can easily snap the neck of anyone who gets in her way. This is a truly strong performance by Bassett, made even better by her final moments when you think she might be done for until an incredible thing happens (which I can’t give away without spoiling the moment).

I remember my first experience watching this film when I was in high school. I had heard about this film dating back to around 1996 or so, thinking it was some kind of generic and horribly over-done action film (You know how a lot of them were around that time). It was around 2000 that I finally saw the film late one night on HBO and my initial impression was a very good one, but I remember having reservations about it. Although I liked the film a great deal, I also thought the film was a little slow for my tastes. As the film ended, my reaction was a surprising one. I expected to be bored by this movie, and yet, it held my interest all the way through.. The slow pace had in fact worked for the film’s benefit. It gave the movie time to develop its characters and situations in a way that you felt as if you were getting all of the information you needed to know without feeling cheated or feeling that you knew too much. This can be attributed mainly to the film’s screenplay (by James Cameron and Jay Cocks), which doesn’t miss a beat in developing its characters or ideas. In many ways, although it has set pieces that we have seen before, it is surrounded by original ideas that have since come to fruition or can still occur in the coming years. Although the time the film was set in has passed, it has proven a number of things that have actually happened (High gas prices, crippling economy, and advanced technology among other things).

The movie also includes a slew of interesting and stellar performances by its supporting players, including Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Glenn Plummer, Vincent D’Onofrio, William Fichtner, Richard Edson, and Josef Sommer. Each actor brings something interesting to the table with each of their roles, and their isn’t a beat that feels  misstepped in any of them. The only role that feels a little off-kilter (and I say this in a good way) is Richard Edson. He plays the character of Tick, Lenny’s supplier of the Wiretrip clips, and his performance is one of craziness. It works well for the character, but I can see him being an acquired taste for some, as he can be a little too crazy for them.

In many ways, the same complaint can probably be made for Tom Sizemore, who plays Max, Lenny’s best friend. Unlike Edson, though, his performance is one of layers upon layers. Just when you think you know who he is, the film surprises us by making him a truly quirky character. In fact, I think he gets many of the film’s best and funniest lines. In fact, he gets what I think is the film’s most memorable line. I refuse to spoil it for anyone who has not seen the film.

Because of James Cameron’s name and the film’s terrific marketing, you would think that Strange Days was poised to be a box office smash when it was finally released. When the film was released on October 13, 1995, it turned out to be a box office disaster. Some attributed it to the fact that there had been too many movies about technology that had already been released that no one was interested, while others actually complained that the marketing was terrible (You can judge for yourself at the end of this post). What I think is really funny is that none of the film’s previews highlight the fact that the film was a James Cameron production. I have a theory that if the film was willing to go out with James Cameron’s name plastered all over it (It was released a year after True Lies), it would have drawn many moviegoers to the theater on its opening weekend. One thing is certain: It would have made at least $50 million if this had actually happened. What actually happened was that it had the misfortune to open while Seven was the top movie in the country for its third straight week. To add insult to injury, both Jade and The Scarlett Letter (with Demi Moore taking a lot of baths) opened the same week, and both films managed to outgross it. When the film left theatres, its final gross was only $8 million.

In the end, some films are box office flops for a reason: They are just waiting to be discovered on home video. On home video, Strange Days was a huge seller, and since its 1996 home video release, now has quite a cult following. All I can say is that if you haven’t seen Strange Days, then it is my feeling that the time has come to give it an overdue chance. After having watched it again tonight, I was reminded why I fell in love with the film in the first place. This is a first-rate action flick with a brain to match its figure. Even if you think it just a generic action flick, you should see it for yourself and you might be surprised to find what an entertaining film it really is.

On a quick note, now all I want to say is that I can’t wait to see the film on Blu-Ray. Although no date has been announced yet, this is one film that will look amazing on that format when it finally does come out.

Rated R, 145 minutes. Now available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Posted in 1995, James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, Strange Days | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Lottery Ticket

Lottery Ticket –
Directed by Erik White

We’ve seen many films like this one over the years. Films that are geared primarily toward black audiences. But only a handful of them transcend and cross over, and Lottery Ticket is one of those films. It’s just entertaining enough to succeed, and more importantly, by the end of the film, I found myself won over by it.

The story starts out fairly simple. Bow Wow plays Kevin Carson, a recent high school graduate who lives in a run-down apartment complex outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Although he has a few friends, and is currently working only at Foot Locker for the summer, he seems to be the only one in his complex that has his head on straight. Sadly, the day hits a low point when he is fired from his job for something that wasn’t his fault. With numbers from a fortune cookie in hand, he goes to the local liquor store and plays those numbers on a lottery ticket. It isn’t until the next morning that he has discovered that he has won the lottery, worth $370 million.

Now here is where the plot gets interesting. Trying to keep the information under wraps, he goes to the lottery office in Downtown Atlanta (with his best friend Benny (Brendan T. Jackson) in tow), only to find that it is closed for the Fourth of July weekend. Now he has three days to keep it to himself before he can claim his winnings, however, when the whole apartment complex finds out courtesy of his grandmother (Loretta Devine), everything goes crazy. The sexpot neighbor (who Kevin has had a crush on throughout high school) starts coming onto him, the entire neighborhood wants a piece of the pie, and to make matters worse, a thug named Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe), fresh out of jail, wants more than just a piece, he wants the ticket for himself.

Lottery Ticket is not exactly a laugh-out-loud film, but it gets by on the strength of its strong cast. Bow Wow by himself carries the movie with impeccable ease, and his chemistry with Brendan T. Jackson (who you might know best as Alpha Chino in Tropic Thunder) is one of the real highlights of the film. And Ice Cube’s supporting turn as the recluse neighbor is one of his better performances in quite some time. Of the supporting characters, he is the only one who feels fully developed. And yet at the same time, I think one of the reasons why the film achieves more than it does is because it has a positive message buried inside of it, and that is that money might change you, but it also changes the people around you too.

If I have any real complaints about the movie itself, there are really only two: The first one is how the film starts. Although I do realize that it is quite important to introduce the huge cast of characters, it starts out very, very slowly as a result. Thankfully, about 15 minutes in, the film picks up and starts moving at a very consistent pace. My only other complaint would be that the film is just a little more violent than I think it needs to be. There is not a lot of it but yet when there is violence, it feels just a little more extreme than it needs to be. Neither compliant fully detracts the film of its charms, for which I found plenty.

In summation, Lottery Ticket is not a great movie, but it is a pleasant enough diversion for 99 minutes. This is the kind of movie that cult movies are made of, and I could easily see this film having a cult following over time. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. It’s funny, pleasant, and entertaining, but more importantly, it works.

Rated PG-13, 99 minutes. Now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
– ****
Directed by Edgar Wright

The idea of a comic book movie can sometimes be a blessing or can sometimes be as excruciating as any other bad movie in the bunch. But with Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, he has done something that I initially thought was impossible. He has taken the ideas of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Oni Press graphic novels and has literally transformed it onto the big screen as a live-action video game. In a summer where routine is usually the order of the day, this is one of two movies that will have you walking out of the theater saying these words: “It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.”

The title character of Scott Pilgrim is played by Michael Cera in a performance that seems tailor-made for him but unlike some of his previously similar roles, this is the one that requires him to be a dick to a number of other characters. It is this trait that sets this character apart from some of the other roles he’s played and I think it works out fantastically well.

The story of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World centers on Scott’s precious little life. As the story opens, he is dating a high schooler named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) much to the chagrin of everyone around him. For a while, he thinks this is quite a good thing (especially since he’s been getting over a bad break up that occurred over a year earlier) but all of that changes when his eye catches the beautiful Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and he becomes obsessed. Once he is able to ask her out, it’s about this time that he discovers that she has seven evil ex’s and that if they want to date, he’s going to have to finish them off himself or else he might not live to enjoy Ramona’s company.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a live action Super Mario Bros. with so many in-jokes and references interspersed in-between that it kind of feels like Edgar Wright’s TV series Spaced. At the same time it comes across as something so mind-blowing that it completely redefines what a movie can be in your eyes. As long as you are willing to accept that this movie lives in its own World that is actually somewhat outside our real one, then you’ll be eating up every frame you see.

One of the other great things about the film are the terrific supporting performances that are seen throughout. Anna Kendrick (as Scott’s sister), Allison Pill (as Kim, Scott’s first ex-girlfriend and current drummer of his band), Jason Schwartzman (as the big boss), and Aubrey Plaza (as girl-with-issues Julie Powers) all have moments that they steal and make their own (especially Plaza, who manages to do something terrific with her mouth that is just hilarious), but the true scene stealer is none other than Kieren Culkin, who plays Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells. Every little line or moment is one that he manages to steal and make it his own. It’s a terrific supporting performance and he and Cera do have wonderful chemistry too. You actually believe that these two are roommates who understand their boundaries. He even has one of the film’s best lines: “What a perfect asshole. Forget what I said earlier. Finish him!”

And speaking of the dialogue, the screenplay (by Wright and Michael Bacall) is flat-out fantastic. There are so many winning lines throughout the film that it just boggles the mind on how good some of them are (and oddly enough, a lot of the lines come from the source). Some of my favorite lines come from Schawartzman (There’s just something about the way he says a line like “Music to my ear holes” or even just expressing how he feels about swallowing his gum that is just flat-out funny). A standout scene though takes place in the third battle (which is with Todd Ingram, played by an almost-unrecognizable Brandon Routh). It has to do with how he is a vegan and what consequences lie when you don’t act like one. Be sure to be on the lookout for a couple of cameos in that scene that take it to another level entirely.

Mention must also be made about the music throughout the film. Since Scott is part of a band called Sex Bob-omb, the movie would be nothing without its songs. Their songs are written by Beck and every single one of their songs are winners. My personal favorite of theirs is a song called “Threshold” which is just a rockin’ great track that feels so in line with all of the action of the film. But it’s not the best song on the soundtrack. That honor goes to a spectacular love ballad called “Ramona.” Even though you hear a little bit of the song about halfway through the film when Scott plays it for Ramona, all you hear is the chorus and that’s it. Her line “I can’t wait to hear it when it’s done” is made true when you hear the song come to life late in the film with orchestra and drums. It’s just a perfect complement to the rest of the film. 

I will admit that the film is not for everyone though. Even if you love video games it is all possible that the film might wear you out by the end of it. It is a mind trip that will take you into its world and you’ll either like it or hate it. Still though, I think we can all agree on one thing. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and for me, it ranks among the best films of the year. In a summer full of disappointments (not including Toy Story 3 and Inception), it stands tall as the best film of the summer and also the best film of the year.

Rated PG-13, 113 minutes. Now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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The Top 25 Films of the Last Decade!

This blog entry was originally written on Facebook last year on January 18, 2010, as it was about the Top 20 Films of the Last Decade but I thought this would make a great first post, considering that I’m wondering if anyone else cares at all, but it also gives me an excuse to add the 5 films to this list that I did when I posted the list one film at a time on Facebook last summer.

So without further interruption, here are my picks (slightly modified)!

The Top 25 Films of the Decade (2000-09)

25.Little Manhattan (2005) (Directed by Mark Levin)
First love tales are weird beasts. They either work really well or they don’t work at all. In the case of Little Manhattan, it’s a case of a first love tale that works so well that it reaches a level where these kinds of films rarely ever reach. Released in 2005, and disappearing almost immediately, I was taken with the film when I bought the film blind after positive word-of-mouth and I discovered what a sweet, lovely fable it really was. It was also a star-making turn for Josh Hutcherson, now one of the most in-demand young actors around. The final minutes of the film brought me to tears and made me relate more than any other film of this type. What a winner! The film’s best moment is the film’s ending, with Hutcherson’s voice-over narration reflecting on what has transpired throughout this story and how it changed his life.

24.The Boat That Rocked (2009) (Written and Directed by Richard Curtis)
Released in this country trimmed by 20 minutes and under the title Pirate Radio, Richard Curtis’s sophomore directorial effort after Love Actually works best in the film’s original 135-minute International cut (Advice: Buy a Blu-Ray player and import it. This should be the only way you watch this film). Just an all-around fun film, made with the same spirit and ideals present in Robert Altman’s 1970 black comedy M*A*S*H and also featuring a great soundtrack full of great ’60s tunes and excellent performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rhys Ifans, The Boat That Rocked is one hell of a great time at the movies. The best sequence of the movie is one that wasn’t featured in the American recut, and that is the stag night held off the boat the evening before Simple Simon (played wonderfully by Chris O’Dowd) marries an American woman. Just an awesome montage and a reminder of how fun the film is.  

23.The Departed (2006) (Directed by Martin Scorsese)
A first-rate action film based on a foreign film entitled Infernal Affairs. Scorsese himself would not only receive a long-overdue Oscar for Best Director but the film itself would also prove to be a triumph as well. Although the film is extremely violent, it is also fun, tense, and exciting. It’s hard to say more about the film when it is best experienced first hand. The film’s best sequence is its entire conclusion, where DiCaprio and Damon confront each other on the rooftop, and that’s just the setup for a shocking yet wonderfully violent ending much in the same vein of the conclusion of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

22.The Dark Knight (2008) (Directed by Christopher Nolan)
If you had any doubts about Christopher Nolan before seeing this film, they were all displaced the moment this film became the most deserving blockbuster of the decade. Batman has never been as entertaining or as astonishing as it is here (and Christian Bale disappears wonderfully into both roles of the caped crusader and Bruce Wayne). Aaron Eckhart makes Harvey Dent his own, but obviously the thing that makes the film what it is is of course the performance of the late Heath Ledger as The Joker. He becomes him in a performance of true unpredictability and insanity. It’s a tour de force of acting but the film also has thrilling action scenes in the middle as well. If the last 20 minutes were as great as the rest of the film, it would be in my Top 20 of the decade, but as it stands, there’s finally a great Batman film. The film’s best sequence is the one where the Joker forces two ships to make a choice of killing the passengers of one boat or the other. A truly tense sequence that stands out of a terrific picture.

21.Up (2009) (Directed by Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson)
Of course, the real true success story of the past decade was the success of Pixar Animation Studios, who released one great film after another (and continue to do so even now), but for my money, Up was the best film they released this decade. The main reason this was the case the film’s opening 15 minutes, which set the bar for all animated films to come and also reminds us of something else: It’s okay to cry during an animated film. While the rest of the film does not quite reach this same height, I nonetheless continued to enjoy everything that was presented to me, as I fell in love with Carl Fredrickson, Dug, Russell, and Kevin the Bird. I also fell in love with the main villains of the film (Charles Muntz and his dog Alpha). As fun as the film is, it pulls at the heartstrings more than once, and does it well. The film’s best sequence comes towards the opening of the film, when we get to see the marriage of Carl and his wife Ellie. If you are not crying after that sequence, you need to check your pulse.

20.Little Miss Sunshine (2006) (Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris)
The Hoovers still remain one of the most dysfunctional families I’ve ever seen on screen. How they ever managed to make it through the events of this film is a testament to how strong they can be if they put their mind to something. The realization that they are all they have is the main reason the film works as well as it does. I do think the film has lost little of its power since its release, but the film still takes me every time I watch it, whether it’s the performances (I still think Alan Arkin deserved his Oscar) or it’s the music (The movie introduced me to the music of DeVotchKa), it manages to succeed in making me laugh every time I watch it. The moment where the grandfather (Arkin) gives his grandson Dwayne (Paul Dano) some advice still manages to be one of the funniest moments of the entire film.

19.Slumdog Millionaire (2008) (Directed by Danny Boyle)
Through the course of two hours, I had been taken on a spectacular journey of one man’s life from young boy to confused but confident young man. Danny Boyle’s masterpiece of a film centers on him being on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and him hoping that the woman he loves is watching. Every question has something to do with his life and it unveils another story that is as good as the last. Marked amazingly well by both Boyle’s direction and Simon Beaufoy’s (The Full Monty) script, not to mention Dev Patel’s star-making turn as the story’s hero, there are almost no flaws to speak of (and it was a film that deserved its Best Picture Oscar). Of the movie’s incredible scenes, it will always be the final dance sequence (done in the style of a Bollywood movie) that will cap off the movie and send you out feeling all good inside.

18.(500) Days of Summer (2009) (Directed by Marc Webb)
All guys (including myself) can relate to this movie. Mainly because we have all fell in love with someone who was never sure of what to think of us. Even when we are in a relationship, none of us know how it will end up. But (500) Days of Summer manages to pick up the euphoria and the wonder that comes along with the territory. It also does something more unexpected: It tells it like it feels, so as a result, it hit me at its hardest. Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel play their respective roles of Tom and Summer absolutely spot-on. The film’s best moment is the film’s most painful: A split-screen sequence of a party that shows Tom’s expectations and the actual reality. As the reality kicks the expectations off the screen, the sadness really sets in and the very last image of the sequence (set to Regina Spektor’s “Hero”) turns from real into a drawing.

17.Minority Report (2002) (Directed by Steven Spielberg)
Intelligent sci-fi is hard to come by, but this action film came out of nowhere and surprised me when it came out in the summer of 2002. I had never thought that sci-fi could be done as well as I was seeing it, but it was right there in front of me. Spielberg crafts a tightly wound tale of running for your life when you haven’t done anything wrong. At least not yet. Still, it is the strength of Tom Cruise’s performance that the film manges to keep us on the edge of our seats. And the supporting performances (from Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Max Von Sydow) also make for a film with real power and raw emotion. Minority Report actually has a story to tell, and its finale is undeniably strong. The film’s finest scene comes late in the film, when Danny Witwer (Farrell) goes to Commissioner Lamar Burgess (Von Sydow) to tell him what he thinks is really going on. Every time I watch that scene, I am so caught up in the beauty of it that I always forget the end of that scene, which makes me jump every time.

16.Love Actually (2003) (Written & Directed by Richard Curtis)
For years, Richard Curtis was one of the best screenwriters in the business. So when Love Actually came along, he made his directorial debut and proved he had it in him to full invest himself in this story of love being found all throughout London. In 135 minutes, he managed to put together one of the best romantic comedies of the decade. Some of the stories are predictable, but a lot of them are also left uncertain. It’s how love should be told in the movies. Curtis understands this and as a result, the results are truly effective. And the finale is just a tour de force of editing, music, and acting.

15.Lost in Translation (2003) (Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola)
On one hand, you can say that Sofia Coppola’s story of two people in Tokyo and not understanding a thing is ripe for solid comedy. However, on the other hand it could also be done as something deeper. Coppola has managed to pull off both and the film works all the better for it. It’s an amazing feat that both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson have real chemistry as the two strangers, and it’s a film that is still as strong as it was when it came out. The final moments, when Murray meets up with Johansson in the middle of a crowded Tokyo street and whispers something in her ear is a moment that stays with you long after the movie is over. It stays with you forever.

14.Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004) (Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino)
In my opinion, Kill Bill only works as one whole four-hour saga, even though both volumes are tonally different. The first volume looks at the story as a martial arts movie, but the second volume plays it more like a classic western with great dialogue. Kill Bill is the perfect saga. Yes, it might be gory, and yes, it might be very vulgar, but it always terrific entertainment. My favorite moment comes in Vol. 2, during the final confrontation between The Bride (Uma Thurman) and Bill (David Carrideane) as he talks about superheros and their alter egos. That dialogue has me glued to the screen every time I watch the movie.

13. Where the Wild Things Are (2009) (Directed by Spike Jonze)
Until I saw this film at the end of November 2009, I never thought it would be on my best of list let alone my best of the decade list, but the film resonated with me. Jonze dives headfirst into the psychology of Maurice Sendak’s Award-winning children’s book and makes us reveal truths about our childhoods. It’s a truly great experience, fluctuating between heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. And special mention must be given to the music (by Karen O and Carter Burwell) which is beautiful in its own right (In my opinion, “All is Love” is the best song of the 2009!). Like all of the films on this list, there are many great moments to be had, but the one that got to me so perfectly was the last scene. If you have read the book, the last lines have never conveyed as much as they do in the film’s final 3 minutes.

12.United 93 (2006) (Written & Directed by Paul Greengrass)
The story of the fourth plane that was hijacked on 9/11 is a film that only gets better over time. Initially, I thought it was a great film, but wasn’t sure how great. It got lost at the end of the year on my list, placing at #10, but every year, it seems to resonate more and more. Although it’s doesn’t make my Top 10 of the decade, it shouldn’t discredit the fact that the movie is a must-see. For those who thought it was too soon for this movie to get made initially, it needs to be seen at least once. It’s a movie that will stick with you forever. The last sequence, where the passengers fight back against the terrorists is one that gets stronger with each viewing of the movie. It stays with you for a long time afterwards, and it’s one that still stays with me today.

11.Little Children (2006) (Directed by Todd Field)
Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, this story of infidelity gone wrong in Suburbia only manages to get better on subsequent viewings. It was an excellent film on its initial release, but it has only managed to get more powerful and stronger as the last few years have gone by. It’s a film that’s not just about infidelity, but also about marriage, life and how the return of a convicted sex offender trigger off a similar set of emotions. It’s truly heartbreaking stuff, and it’s also the film where Kate Winslet should have won her Oscar. Her performance is so top-notch it elevates the film to a whole other plateau. The script remains simply terrific, and Thomas Newman’s score as usual carries the dark, ominous moments better than ever. The film’s best scene comes early in the film, when a bet for Sarah (Winslet) to get a father’s (Patrick Wilson) phone number ends up going much farther than expected. The shock the other mothers feel make that moment a keeper.

10.Wonder Boys (2000) (Directed by Curtis Hanson)
A love letter not only to the idea of writing, but also to the city of Pittsburgh as well. Curtis Hanson’s film adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel shows how one uneventful weekend can become crazy with a series of mishaps. Here is a comedy of manners that makes me laugh out loud everytime, whether it involves the headmistress’ dog or the writer’s agent, or the writer’s protegé. It’s also the only great movie to come out of the first year of the decade, with Michael Douglas giving a performance of a writer too obsessed in his own work to begin with. The rest of the cast (including Frances McDormand, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes, and Robert Downey Jr.) steal many scenes along the way as well. It’s a tour de force of acting, direction, and writing. My favorite moment involves what the main character of Grady Tripp (Douglas) does with the headmistress’ dead dog toward the end of the film. And I haven’t even mentioned the greatness of the film’s theme song “Things Have Changed” by Bob Dylan, which is just a great song in general.

9. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) (Written & Directed by Guillermo Del Toro)
A story of innocence lost and broken both at the same time is the stuff only nightmares are made of. Guillermo Del Toro’s story of a girl’s escape into her imagination is one full of power, fear, fright, and hope. Although the film is presented in Spanish (with English Subtitles), it is still as strong as it was when it was first released back in 2006. The villainous character of Captain Videl (played frighteningly well by Sergi Lopez) still stands as one of the great villains of all time, and the film’s final 20 minutes remain as tense, exciting, and as sad as they were on my initial viewing of it.

8.Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) (Written & Directed by Miranda July)
A picture so simple, yet so daring it is hard to keep your eyes off of it. It’s so beautiful in its subtlety and so bold in its execution that you are taken with the whole film (even with its moments that take disturbing to a brand new level). It also helps that Michael Andrews’s music score is beautiful and haunting. There are many great moments in the film, but the one that always resonates with me is the one where the main characters Richard (John Hawkes) and Christine (director Miranda July) pretend that their walk to their cars is a progression of their life together.

7.In Bruges (2008) (Written & Directed by Martin McDonaugh)
An uncompromising and totally politically incorrect gangster picture that gets funnier and more biting ever time I watch it. This is more than just a beautiful film to look at, it is also filled with some of the most unbelievably wonderful dialogue of any film I’ve seen in a long time. Many classic scenes abound throughout the film, but my favorite is the one where the hitman Ken (Brendan Gleeson) tells his boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) how he really feels about him and his family. The dialogue there is so wrong, it’s hilarious!

6. Amelie (2001) (Directed by Jean-Pierre Juenet)
If you had the opportunity to change someone’s life, would you? That’s the question posed by this wonderous and magical French romantic comedy that no matter what I do, I end up under its spell. It’s so magical and so captivating that you end up in its World and never want out of it. And as Amelie herself, Audrey Tautau gives a star-making performance that hits all the right notes. And Yann Tiersen’s music expresses both the happiness and the sadness that’s contained throughout the film. The film’s greatest moment is albeit a simple one: When Amelie sees the guy she is secretly in love with, he looks and expresses shock. The next shot is of Amelie as it pans down to her chest where we can see her actual heart beating really, really fast.

5. Mystic River (2003) (Directed by Clint Eastwood)
A powerful and truly gut-wrenching drama that holds up just as well as it did when it was released. The story of how three friends are reunited by the murder of one of their daughters is a supremely well-told and well-played film with performances by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins that wholeheartedly deserved the Oscars they received. Clint Eastwood’s direction has never been as good as it’s been here, and the film’s final 15 minutes are as sad and as profound as they were when the film was released. And not to mention Clint Eastwood’s music score is so simple yet so truly effective and beautiful.

4. Once (2007) (Written & Directed by John Carney)
“I don’t know you, but I want you all the more for that…” So begins the lyrics to the song “Falling Slowly,” which has become synonymous with this film’s two main (and unnamed) characters. The simple story of these two people hanging out and making beautiful music together is one that has captivated me from the very first time I saw it, and it never fails to hold my attention on all subsequent viewings. Not only is it a great story about two sweet people, but it is also one of the best musicals I’ve ever seen. And the end of the film…well don’t even get me started or I’ll be feeling sad for the next few days. It’s just so enchanting!

3. Children of Men (2006) (Directed by Alfonso Cuaron)
Imagine if all of the women in the World was infertile and you had in your hands the one hope that could save civilization. That’s the essential idea of this 2006 post-apocalyptic tale that only gets better on repeat viewings. What dazzles the most besides both the performances and the script are the long tracking shots (The film was shot by Emmanuel Lubezki) that are both dizzying and hypnotic at the same time. Speaking of that, its near impossible to take your eyes off of the film in the last 30 minutes when the protection of the pregnant woman becomes imperative. And the original music (John Tavener’s “Fragments of a Prayer”) gets more and more haunting every day, and it’s complimented nicely by rock/pop music like John Lennon’s “Bring on the Lucie (Freda People)” and Jarvis Cocker’s “Running the World,” which describes the world of 2027 in this film perfectly. The film’s best moment comes when the character of Luke (Chiwetol Ejifor) tells Theo Faran (Clive Owen) that he had forgotten how adorable babies were as the tears pour down from his eyes. That’s a perfectly played moment.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) (Directed by Michel Gondry)
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman burst onto my radar with 1999’s Being John Malkovich and I knew he would be one to watch. So when this movie’s first preview showed up in the fall of 2003, I had never been more psyched to see a movie than I was then, and ever since it’s release in March 2004, it ended up under my spell and never let go. Almost six years later, the feeling remains. It is still the most original film I’ve ever seen, and also one of the best love stories ever told too. Jim Carrey gives the performance of his career as Joel Barish, who discovers the process of eliminating troubling memories. Kate Winslet is Clementine, the girlfriend who made the impulsive decision of going through the process already to get rid of him (Her performance is a truly unique one). And then there is the film’s structure, which tells the relationship from its worst moments to the first moments, where Joel realizes that those old memories were worth keeping. The movie continues to have me in its grasp. When it ended, I wish the movie had lasted forever, as to me, it was more than a movie, it was one of the few experiences that I’ll never forget as long as I live.

1. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) (Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
I have a confession to make: I will never stop defending this film, and no one’s ever going to stop me. From the fact that it still remains Adam Sandler’s best performance to the fact that its love story is one that continues to put me in a state of both happiness and sadness at the same time. It’s a simple flat-out masterpiece that only gets better watching it again and again. And Emily Watson (a terrific actress in her own right) shines as the woman who captures Sandler’s heart. This is unlike almost any other film I’ve ever seen, which might explain why I kept coming back to it throughout the decade. Not to mention that the film’s score introduced me to the works of Jon Brion, and my idea of film music would never be the same again. And the use of Shelley Duvall’s “He Needs Me” from the 1980 film Popeye makes a surprising but truly affecting choice. It’s as close to perfection as any movie I’ve seen. It is the best movie of the decade!

Posted in The Top 25 Films of the Decade | Leave a comment

Introduction: Welcome to Nicholas Vargo and the Movies!

So after all the pestering from family and friends, I have finally created a blog to get all of my ramblings about movies out there. To all of those who were this persistant, I humbly thank you!

So this first entry will be very short, but here’s what I intend to do with this blog. Here, you will see movie reviews, occasional insights about the movies in general, and anything else related. Occasionally, there will be a personal blog but more often than not, the topic will always be about movies, and that is the intention of this blog. So take your seats everyone! The show is about to begin!

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