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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

AFI Top Ten Films of the Year

 2000 - 2003

About a Boy (2002): A cute and funny but fairly forgettable film.

About Schmidt (2002):  The pacing was a little slow for me, but I still liked this.

Almost Famous (2000): I'm not terribly interested in the 1970s or rock music and this film is entirely too long.  I still didn't find this too terrible, mainly because of the terrific cast.  Frances McDormand is always great.

American Splendor (2003):  I didn't care for any part of this movie from the weird format to the actual content.  More than anything, I found it painful to listen to Pekar's voice.

Antwone Fisher (2002): A really good movie that has some really disturbing and sad parts.

Before Night Falls (2000):  In certain respects, this is almost like a gay version of Antwone Fisher.  Very good, but also very sad.

Best In Show (2000): A terrifically funny movie.

Black Hawk Down (2001):  Fine for what it is.

Frida (2002): Pretty good.  She had a crazy life.

High Fidelity (2000): Bloated, cliched, and pointless.  While the performances were good, I didn't care for anything else.  I think watching this soon after About a Boy made it suffer by comparison.  Ultimately both of the movies are about guys who are jerks, but About a Boy does it so much better.  John Cusack is mildly charming (in his own way), which is too charming to play what seemed to be the 90s version of an incel.

The Human Stain (2003):  This is not good.  The cast does as well as can be expected, but they're miscast and the story is boring.  I suspect the book was better and didn't translate well to film.  If the other movies in 2003 were worse then this they should have considered having only nine films on the list rather than including this.

In America (2003): Everything about this movie should make me hate it: it has a really sad premise, it's a slice of life film with no real plot, and two of the five leads are children.  Any one of those is usually enough to make me hate a movie, but I really enjoyed this.  It's sweet without being saccharine and actually funny in a really genuine way.  Recommended.

The Last Samurai (2003): Boring, overly long, white savior trash.

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001): So boring.

Monster (2003): I can't say I enjoyed watching this because the subject matter is so disturbing, but I still thought it was really good.  Charlize Theron gives an amazing performance as the most sympathetic serial killer I've ever seen.  It's also a scathing indictment of our failed social safety nets and the police.

Monster's Ball (2001): Another movie that's good in a disturbing way.  The good and bad thing about it is that the performances really make you feel what they're going through, and that's uncomfortable.

Mulholland Drive (2001): Bizarre and convoluted, just like everything else David Lynch has done.  That's not to say I minded watching it, there's always a sense of fascination about how these situations can become even weirder.

The Quiet American (2002): This was fine.  Michael Caine was great, but the story never really drew me in.

Requiem For a Dream (2000): I'm conflicted on this one.  On one hand, I can't help but feel that this is an adventurous method of telling a story that holds strong messages about...something.  Maybe drug abuse.  I don't know.  But on the other hand it feels a lot like those movies that are weird for the sake of being weird, and I hate those.

Wonder Boys (2000): To me, the only thing this film has going for it is an excellent cast, and even that doesn't help much because they seem ill-suited to their roles.  I love Frances McDormand, but I was bored with her character.  Tobey Maguire as a psychopath just seemed silly.  More generally, the attempts at humor were halfhearted and there isn't really a plot to speak of.  I've heard you should write what you know, but it always seems self indulgent to me when a script is entirely about how hard it is to be a writer.

You Can Count On Me (2000): Sort of like a depressing, not funny take on Office Space.  I was mainly bored.

2004 - 2007

The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005): This has some really clever writing at times, but they can never resist reverting back to lazy obvious jokes.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007): The subject matter of this movie is pretty unpleasant, but I still found the story interesting.  The movie is constantly going back and forth in the story.  I'm sure that's supposed to build suspense but I mostly found it distracting and disorienting. 

Borat (2006): I'll be the first to admit that this movie made me laugh a good amount, but I still don't know how I feel about it.  The entirety of this movie is him making people uncomfortable, usually by belittling them.  I don't love that, but I also can't help but think that a lot of his targets had it coming.

Collateral (2004): This movie is fine and entirely unremarkable.  It might be a good choice if you're looking for a crime thriller that isn't focused on violence, but that same trait makes it feel like it's meandering at times.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007):  This is a fine movie about a very scary condition, but it does seem to drag at times.

Dreamgirls (2006):  Pretty good.  Sad and uncomfortable at times, but that seems depressingly standard for any story about performers who are women or people of color.

Friday Night Lights (2004):  Not bad, but I prefer the book and TV show.  The fact that there's a media franchise entirely about football that I've enjoyed in all of its forms is pretty remarkable.

Half Nelson (2006):  I understand this was based on a 19-minute short film.  I feel like you could have cut this move down to 19 minutes without losing much.  While I'm sure it was trying to be very deep, it really left me bored.

Happy Feet (2006): Why does CGI age so poorly?  It seems unique to the medium.  Spielberg, Henson, and Disney have used animatronics, puppets, and animation so effectively that their works are still masterpieces today.  But when I look at CGI that's more than a decade old it always looks bad to me.  That being said, this a cute movie with a star-studded cast that's fun to watch, even if it can't decide whether it's fun and silly or carrying an important message about the environment.

A History of Violence (2005): Boring and unremarkable.

Inside Man (2006):  Wildly contrived, boring, and pretentious.  Such a waste of a cast that must have cost a fortune.

Into the Wild (2007):  I knew I was in for trouble when I saw Kristen Stewart's name flash across the screen, but for once her performance wasn't the worst thing about a movie.  That says far more about the movie than her acting.  I hated this.  Two and a half hours of people having conversations that might seem deep or meaningful if you're a stoned philosophy major cut with crappy indie music set over extended shots of panoramic vistas.  But don't worry, there's also a relentlessly droning narrator and text on the screen, because they really want you to feel like you're reading a book, except for the fact that there's no story or enjoyment.  This gave me flashbacks to Twilight and Catcher in the Rye and, in case there's any confusion, that's not a good thing.

King Kong (2005): I have never seen the appeal of franchises like King Kong or Godzilla, and this hasn't changed that.  In fact, what this movie did most effectively was change my indifference toward King Kong into active dislike.  It's way too long and way too boring.  It's like doing Lord of the Rings made Peter Jackson think that all movies had to be well over three hours.  The CGI already looks kind of bad, even though I'm sure it was the best available when it was made.

Kinsey (2004): It's really weird to see Tim Curry portraying a prudish, abstinence only educator.  A weird movie, but fairly interesting. 

Knocked Up (2007): This is a funny, fairly cute movie that has generally aged well, with a couple of notable exceptions.  I didn't appreciate the part where the movie, with no warning, shows the baby crowning.  I would have been perfectly okay going my whole life without seeing that.

Maria Full of Grace (2004): Well made and very depressing, but it never really drew me in.  I think it would have made a bigger impression if I hadn't just finished Orange is the New Black.  This movie just seems shallow by comparison.

The Savages (2007): It's like they thought that having Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman would make people miss the fact that their movie about dementia was stale, cliched, and pointless.  There's nothing to be found here except sadness.

The Squid and the Whale (2005): Laura Linney seems to be in everything I've watched lately.  I don't see anything about this movie that's new or different from the hundreds of movies that have already been made about divorce.  Essentially this movie is about four people with no filters being completely unpleasant to everyone they encounter.  Billy Baldwin as a long haired tennis pro that calls everyone "brother" is its own special form of awful.  Their incredible awkwardness made me feel uncomfortable for 90% of the movie.  Jesse Eisenberg really seemed at home in this environment.  I did appreciate that it was only 80 minutes long.  Modern directors seem to think movies are legally required to be at least two hours long.

Syriana (2005):  This is one of those movies where the charitable explanation is that the director wants to leave you confused.  That makes me hate him, but it's more complementary than thinking he made this a meandering muddled mess on accident.  

United 93 (2006):  I think this is the most emotionally draining movie I've ever watched.  Even though we're 20 years on this made me feel like it all happened yesterday.  Well made, but so hard to watch.

Last Updated October 17, 2021

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