This is going to be LONG, so I'll put behind one of those
20. Snakes on a Plane (2006): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link First of all, let me say that this is not a movie to watch alone. Not because it's especially scary, but because it's hysterical and best viewed with friends. This is, truth to tell, a highly campy "popcorn" movie and therefore it was perfect the way that I saw it: as a midnight movie surrounded by friends, including many of my former co-workers at FYE, at the movie theatre with all of us shouting callbacks ala "MST3K" or "Rocky Horror". Otherwise, I'm sure it would have been close to landing on the other list (though it's saved by it's lack of pretensions about it's own quality).
19. The Happiness of the Katikuris (2001): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link I found this one on pomobarney's list on Netflix and was suitably intrigued. I watched this with our friend Jarvis and we both laughed heartily throughout. Basically, it revolves around a family running a bed and breakfast hotel off the beaten path. Unfortunately, they become plagued by a series of deaths at the hotel...and the fun begins there, including strange musical numbers. I would describe it as a Japanese Bollywood-style horror comedy. Strange, yes, but SO worth seeing.
18. Kamikaze Girls (2004): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netfilx Link This is a great chick flick from Japan, based on a novel and shojo manga of the same name. It revolves around the friendship that blossoms between two very different teenage girls. One is a rough and tumble motorcycle gang member and the other is a "Lolita Goth". The visuals here are stunning and there's lots of funny AND touching moments.
17. Cut Sleeve Boys (2006): IMDB Link, Movie Trailer on Official Website (not yet on DVD - coming to theatres in March 2007). After the death of their hopelessly closeted friend from college, two gay men decide it's time for them to settle down and find love. One by finally embracing his inner drag queen and the other by trying to end his catting around "Brian Kinney" style ways. I really liked the portrayals in this movie, which rose above the standard gay stereotypes (unfortunately still found in even gay made movies) and found characters that felt like real people. I also especially liked the story arc of Ash (played by Chowee Leow) who fell in love with his man while in drag and was afraid that being seen in male drag would cause him to lose his affection/attention.
16. The Lost Room (2006) IMDB Link, Torrent For Part 1 on TorrentSpy, Torrent For Part 2 on TorrentSpy, Torrent For Part 3 on TorrentSpy This was a welcome treat in this time of year when there's NOTHING on television but reruns. It ran for three nights on the Sci-Fi Channel and will likely be available on DVD before long (I included the torrent files above, just in case you can't find it via Tivo). Peter Krause plays a police detective who has found a mysterious motel key that leads to a room that may not exist in our world. Travelling to the room allows teleportation to any other door in the world (as long as you can imagine it). There are other seemingly ordinary objects scattered throughout the world and there are various collectors and a pair of cults trying to track these objects down to use their powers. Trouble starts when his daughter disappears in the room and he must find the right combination of "objects" that will help him to get his daughter back. Great premise. It kept me on the edge of my seat. I also appreciated that they set up the ending to allow for more adventures in this particular universe, answering enough questions to satisfy the viewer and still leaving us a few to keep us wanting more. I would definitely want to see more of this series and other series from these same creators.
15. Scanner Darkly (2006): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link This is probably one of the best movies based on a Philip K. Dick story since Blade Runner. While I can see how the rotoscoped animation style may be off putting for some (and I know that many may scoff at the acting abilities of Keanu Reeves), this is a surprisingly engaging film. I had one small disorienting moment while watching this movie though...at one point, my glasses slipped down and I saw above my frames. When the movie was out of focus, it felt as if I was looking at the actual live-action (in focus). Very weird. The plot revolving around a group of drug addict friends cut a little too close to home after this past year's family problems, but it was interesting to look inside the minds of the people doing the drugs (which was enhanced by the look of the film).
14. Colma: The Musical (2006): IMDB Link, Movie Trailer on Official Website (not yet on DVD). One major point about musicals: when I walk out of the theatre I want to still be humming songs from the show (a couple of days ago, I downloaded a bootleg of the recently closed Broadway musical adaptation of "High Fidelity" and after I was done listening I found myself humming...but I realized I was humming a song from the Broadway musical version of "Hairspray" which most of that show sounded TOO much like). This show didn't disappoint. I'd seen four movies that day, this being the second of four. Even after the next two movies, I still had songs from Colma in my head. I immediately ordered the CD soundtrack. This film revolves around a trio of friends living in a small town in the shadow of San Francisco (in fact, Colma is where most of the citizens of SF bury their dead). While I think it would appeal to many of the fans of Rent, it found it's own rhythms (pun intended)...it doesn't feel like a pastiche of the more famous show. Also, being about small town kids instead of the jaded artists living in NYC, it should have wider appeal for today's youth. I've also got to give props to the creators for making a completely ORIGINAL movie musical. When was the last time we had one of THOSE?
13. The Spanish Apartment (2002)/Russian Dolls (2005): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link / Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link This is the fictional story of seven strangers picked to live in an apartment and see what happens when they start getting real. Xavier, played by the "ugly sexy" Romain Duris, is a French college student attending classes in Barcelona who ends up in an apartment with an odd assortment of international roommates. He has an affair with a married woman and also juggles his romance with the "girl next door" that he left at home (played by Audrey Tautou). The second movie finds Xavier five years later, now a television writer, entering into a new romance with his former roommate Wendy. The performances in both movies are all wonderful as is the fantastic cinematography.
12. Munna Bhai (2003): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link This Bollywood movie starts with a fun premise: Munna, the local mafia don, hasn't told his parents what he does for a living. When his parents visit, he transforms his house into a "clinic" and passes himself to them as a doctor. When his parents discover his deception, he enrolls in the local medical school (at the university/hospital where the man who was almost his father-in-law in a botched arranged marriage is the dean/chief of staff). With the help of his mafia cronies, he hopes to prove himself a capable doctor and win over the beautiful doctor he meets there (who he doesn't know is the woman he was betrothed to). It started out as a silly confection, but ended up fairly touching. There were the typical huge Bollywood musical numbers, but they were kept to a minimum. Actor Sanjay Dutt gives a wonderfully rounded performance as the mafia man who truly wants his father's approval/pride. I just discovered that there is a brand new sequel to this film and it's on the top of my Netflix qeueu. I can't wait.
11. 7 Up (1963)/7 Plus 7 (1970)/21 Up (1977)/28 Up (1984): Amazon Link, IMDB Link (1), IMDB Link (2), IMDB Link (3), IMDB Link (4), Netflix Link (1, 2), Netflix Link (3), Netflix Link (4) Both Paul and I have discussed this series in our journals. This series follows fourteen British children from the time they are seven up to today (with visits with them every seven years to catch up). It's absolutely fascinating to see how the people change (and how much they ARE still the people they were at seven). We still have a few to catch up on (35, 42 and 49 Up), but I couldn't wait to place these movies on this list. I would recommend watching them with at least a week or two weeks between sittings (well, the first two are on disc so you might as well watch them together) since there are many "flashbacks" with clips from the earlier movies to show how attitudes have changed amongst the children. It's interesting to see that those that seemingly had less opportunities in their lives have done more for themselves and are happier while the richer kids all seem so unhappy. I'm looking forward to continuing with the others in the future and can't wait to see what happens to these people next.
10. Inconvenient Truth (2006): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link Highly recommended to everyone regardless of their politics. I can't see how protecting our planet could be a partisan issue. We all have to breathe the same air and drink the same water. Presented in an easy to follow manner by former Vice President Al Gore, this is a thought-provoking (and hopefully action provoking) film. 'Nuff Said.
9. Ferpect Crime (2004): IMDB Link, Netflix Link (for some strange reason, available to watch on DVD via Netflix, but not currently available from Amazon!). I recently sought this one out because I quickly became a fan of Mónica Cervera when I saw "20 Centimeters" (see below). I wasn't disappointed by this one. This movie follows Rafael, a handsome ladies' man who runs the ladies department in the largest deparment store in Madrid. When he is looked over for a promotion, it leads to a scuffle and ("accidental"?) murder. Rafael discovers to his horror that Lourdes, the only woman in the store he hasn't slept with, was a witness. She blackmails him into dating her. He now has to plan the perfect crime in order to escape her. Again, the performances here are all stellar. Both the leads command the viewers attention. The film walks a fine line between slapstick comedy and suspense incredibly well.
8. 3 Needles (2005): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix "Save" Link (Not yet currently available on Netflix) This movie, revolving around a trio of tales involving fateful needles laced with the AIDS virus, is unbelievably moving. I saw it way back in the summer and I still find myself haunted by all three stories. The stellar cast includes: Olympia Dukakis, Sandra Oh, Chloe Sevigny, Lucy Liu and Stockard Channing. I think that the description I gave above should imply this, but I can't stress enough that this is an extremely HEAVY movie. While I recommend it because it is a very important, well acted piece, I can't recommend more strongly that you watch it when you have time to watch a comedy immediately after or at least watch it with someone you can discuss it with afterwards to exorcize the demons from your brain that this movie may leave behind.
7. Frida (2002): Frida, IMDB Link, Netflix Link I'll admit I wasn't very familiar with the work of Frida Kahlo beyond some of her self-portraits, but my GOSH, I am a BIG fan of her body of work now. Here's hoping that there is a tour of her paintings similar to the one a few years ago focusing on Salvador Dali at the Philadelphia Museum of Art soon 'cause I'd be first in line. Well acted by the underrated Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina, with great cinematography. What a story. The life of Frida Kahlo should inspire many other artists to reach for their dreams.
6. Love Life (2006): IMDB Link (not yet on DVD). I've been a fan and friend of Damion Dietz since I first saw "Fag Hag" way back in 1998. While I've enjoyed his body of work to date, I'd say that this film may be his best to date. This was an unflinching look at the disintegration of a marriage. When I first saw it, I compared it favorably to the work of Arthur Miller, William Inge and the dramatic films of Woody Allen. I'd stand by this comparison. Stephanie Kirchen as Mary was a revelation. I'd previously enjoyed Ms. Kirchen as Destiny Rutt in the comedy "Fag Hag", but I was pleasantly surprised by the depth here. I wrote at the time: "there are many shots of Mary wherein no dialogue is being spoken but volumes are being shown by the expressions on Mary's face and the visible sadness/loneliness in her eyes". I look forward to more movies of this ilk from Damion (as well as his sublime comedies) in the future.
5. Flags of Our Fathers (2006): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix "Save" Link I've not yet gotten the chance to see "Letter From Iwo Jima" (director Clint Eastwood's companion piece to this film), but this film stands up on it's own. I continually look forward to the work of Mr. Eastwood. This is a look at the men in the iconic photo of the raising of the flag in Iwo Jima. It juxtaposes the gritty grim reality of the actual battles on that island with the aftermath for the men in the photo when they are faced with (for some unwanted) fame. It certainly made me think about how we as a people tend to be more attached to symbolism/propaganda than we are to truth. There are plenty of great people who stand out in this cast, but especially Adam Beach as reluctant hero Ira Hayes. He deserves a nomination for this performance and more mainstream exposure as an actor (may I nominate him for a future year's "People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive"?).
4. Paper Clips (2004): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link Wow. If you ever feel that today's kids are just rotten brats...watch this documentary and you'll feel better about the future of America. Someone please tell me there are more kids like those that attend middle school in Whitwell, Tn. The story follows a small-town school that, faced with a homogenous student body, comprised of primarily white Christian students having to learn about diversity/prejudice. It's decided that they will create a class focusing on the holocaust. The students can't visualize the shear numbers of people dead in the holocaust (six million jews and roughly eleven million dead total) and they decide to begin collecting something small to help. It's decided they will collect paper clips and they begin recieving paper clips from all around the world. This is one of the MOST moving movies I've not only seen this year, but in a long time. I CRIED like you wouldn't believe throughout this movie (especially when the students are visited by a small group of survivors and when...well...I want you to discover it for yourself).
3. Grey Gardens (1975): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link This is another fascinating documentary. I'd heard of this movie for years, but hadn't seen it. It was one of the first things I put on my Netflix queue. I wasn't disappointed. It focuses on the Beales. Mother Edith and daughter "Little Edie" live at a mansion in the Hamptons that was once opulent but is now dilapidated. This wouldn't have caught the country's notice if they weren't cousins of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. The women are packrats. They also are highly reclusive. It's possible that there was something mentally wrong with Little Edie, exacerbated by her long time spent at the mansion with only her (mostly) bed-ridden mother for company. It's recently inspired a Broadway musical and will soon be adapted in a fictional movie starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, but nothing beats the original. It cut very much too close to home for Paul and I, as it wasn't far from watching his grandmother and mother...
2. 20 Centimeters (2006): Amazon Link, IMDB Link, Netflix Link Mónica Cervera stars in this Pedro Almodóvar-esque film directed by Ramón Salazar as Marieta, a narcoleptic trannie prostitute hoping to save enough money to afford her final surgery: the removal of her penis. She is surrounded by colorful characters including Miguel O'Dogherty as her hunky roommate, a dwarf who dreams of learning to play the cello (though it's too big for him). Oh...and every time Marieta succumbs to her narcolepsy and passes out where she stands, she is transported into a world of Busby Berkeley musicals (with the songs commenting on the storyline). For much of the year, this was my #1 movie...then I saw:
1. Dreamgirls (2006): IMDB Link, Netflix "Save" Link I've been waiting for twenty five years to finally see this movie be made. I wasn't disappointed. While I miss a couple of the songs from the original which were excised I understand that they either slowed down the pace of the film (the intro to the song "Cadillac Car" and "This Ain't No Party"), felt out of the pace with the realism of the film (the "Press Conference" since on stage it's easier to believe the reporters singing as well) or repeated sentiments stated elsewhere in the piece ("This Ain't No Party" again which was unnecessary with the rest of Jimmy's breakdown scene and the break up of Lorelle and Jimmy (though I'd have wanted to hear Anika Noni Rose tear the roof off with that moment) and Deena's half of the song "When I First Saw You"...now replaced by an entirely new song "Listen"). Otherwise, it was a great movie experience. I would compare this film with the Judy Garland version of "A Star Is Born" in tone and style. I got goosebumpe/chills through much of the movie as I got to see favorite moments from the soundtrack finally come to life. There were three moments when the audience burst into applause and cheers: the end of the song "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going", the end of the song "I Am Changing" and during the end credits when the words "And Introducing Jennifer Hudson" appeared on screen. This may have made her into a star. It also should bring newfound respect for Eddie Murphy who is fantastic. I would say too that the camera LOVES Ms. Beyonce Knowles. I want to see nominations for the technical crew too: cinematography, art direction, set design, costume design, hair and make-up, etc. I'd also imagine that the new song "Listen" will get a nomination and will likely win. I can't wait to see this one again and again. It was FAR superior to many of the Broadway-to-Screen musicals in recent years (including the flawed "Rent" adaptation).